Perhaps the greatest pleasure I derive from reading my local weekly, the County Times, is that I can sit down with a coffee and rage at it. I still prefer this ritual to take place on a Saturday morning, as it did many decades ago, despite the paper now being published on a Thursday afternoon. This week's edition is a personal classic. If Mrs D's in the kitchen, and I'm reading in the Hall, she's learned to ignore my muttering and chuntering.
Front page of this week's edition carries a photograph of what the electricity substation at the end of a new 400kv cable into Mid Wales to serve wind farms will look like. A local Councillor has apparently "blasted it as a complete and utter nonsense". Absolutely right. We're expecting an announcement from National Grid next month about where this monstrosity is going to be built. They told me six months ago the location of the two short listed sites, in confidence, - so its still "No comment" from me. Of course this substation is going to be utterly horrible, surpassed only in its ugliness by the monstrous 400kv cable that is going to carried from it, on hideous steel lattice towers, all the way to Shropshire. "Its all very well to shout now" I muttered away to myself. "Why wouldn't they listen to me in 2005, when the National Assembly published its 'bonkers' TAN 8 document, which made the substation and the 400kv cable inevitable. When I attacked the then Government's proposals in the Assembly debating chamber, I stood alone, while the opposition condemned me. Montgomeryshire's AM, Mick Bates joined in with other Labour, Plaid Cymru and Lib Dem AMs as, one after another, they verbally assaulted me. That's when everyone should have been shouting - not when its too bl***y late. Or is it? I do have a little plan. Anyway, after a gulp of coffee, I turn the page. And its more of the same.
A full page under the heading "HANDS OFF OUR HOSPITAL SERVICES". Absolutely right. Over the last two weeks, 800 local people have attended three public meetings to listen to the Chief Executive of the Shrewsbury and Telford NHS Hospitals Trust tell us that he wants to move some emergency services (consultant led maternity and paediatrics) from the Royal Shrewsbury to the Princess Royal in Telford. I've been trying to generate interest in this issue for five years. Ironically, the one time there was a fair amount of publicity (including a huge local petition) fifteen months ago, it was in response to a previous consultation process, which we knew at the time was going to be postponed for at least a year! Six months ago I wrote a 600 word article for the County Times which was published as its weekly 'Politically Speaking' column. I put a lot of thought into it, and reckoned that it merited a big 'splash' but it generated almost no comment at all. Whatever, I hope its not too late to force a re-think. The three meetings have been terrific - telling Mr Cairns exactly what I thought they would tell him. I've been working with Shrewsbury MP, Daniel Kawczcynski over this issue, and I have a little plan - which will be disclosed in due course.
That's where the real pleasure of reading my local papers comes in. They help me come up with little plans which might create more headlines for me to mutter about in the future. Like planting a plum tree. The pleasure just keeps on coming.