Toon and country

Lord help me, I think I'm turning into Willy Poole. I'm metamorphosing into Angry Old Manhood and I feel like blaming a) the Government, b) the European Union and c) those damned animal-loving, tree-hugging, earring-wearing townies.

Lord help me, I think I'm turning into Willy Poole. I'm metamorphosing into Angry Old Manhood and I feel like blaming a) the Government, b) the European Union and c) those damned animal-loving, tree-hugging, earring-wearing townies.

But I won't, dear reader. I can't, because my rage is not the result of a socio-geographic phenomenon: it's happening everywhere these days.

My son the chef, escaping from his job at Harrods for a few days of R&R in Paradis-sur-Tweed, started the rot when he told me over a welcoming cuppa: "Took delivery of a 16-litre catering pack of fresh, full-cream milk the other day and guess what was printed on the front? `Allergy Warning: Contains Milk'. . ."

"Huh!" I retorted, "That's nothing!" And I told him about the `iced dessert' I bought to satisfy the ice cream craving which threatens to derail my weight-loss pledge to the late, lovely Josie. No, there was no milk warning; in fact, my ice cream substitute had got no nearer than a soya bean to anything remotely resembling dairy. Instead, it trumpeted "Caution: While nuts are not used in its manufacture, this product may contain traces of nuts."

Why the hell should it contain traces of nuts? It's a phoney ice cream, for heaven's sake! Is it beyond the whit of the maker to use one machine to manufacture nut products and to keep another for non-nut products (and give both a damned good wash occasionally)?

As for a container labelled `milk' actually containing undiluted, uncontaminated quantities of, yes, `milk' . . . is it not unreasonable to expect that a consumer with an aversion to dairy would simply avoid all things lactose without requiring a warning prod from the Food Police?

Nut or dairy allergies - like bee stings, mushrooms and a host of other everyday items - can make some people very ill. They can even kill. And I have nothing but sympathy and concern for those who suffer from these rare reactions. But fatuous signs suggesting a virtually unquantifiable risk of harm protect no one but the manufacturers whose carelessness they are presumably intended to excuse.

Food labelling is now so detailed that all a responsible supplier need do is ensure that his product contains only what it says on the pack or suffer the legal consequences. Either that or we could all play the same game. How about these for starters?

* Attention! While your children are welcome at this nursery, kindly understand that paedophiles are everywhere.

* Please! Breathe the anaesthetic deeply, count to 10 and remember that even surgeons make mistakes.

* Caution! If your bus driver staggers, it need not necessarily indicate heavy drinking.

* * Welcome Aboard! Usually, this airline has a reasonable safety record.

* Vote For Me! Even though election pledges are sometimes inadvertently overlooked.

Maybe this way we all get off the hook.

"STAND by to come about!" is the nautical equivalent of the bon mot I once saw penned on a churchyard noticeboard: A man who never changes his opinion never corrects his mistakes.

So let me forewarn you that I may be about to change tack on the issue of wind farms, soon to supplant barley, oats and sheep as the prime cash crop of North Northumberland. Thus far, our attitudes toward renewable energy sources in the form of solar, wind and wave power are the only things that the young Tory Turk Cameron and I have in common.

He would like to harness his own power from sun and wind; so would I. There are more political windbags than the Two Daves jumping on the bandwagon, too. Suddenly, everyone is a greenie and wind farms up Northumbrian hill and down Durham dale are the new wannabe wonder weapons in the war on energy shortages...

But hold hard, shipmates, there's gold in them thar' windmills! I recently caught sight of a confidential letter circulated to Berwick councillors hard on the heels of Alnwick's rejection of the controversial Middlemoor wind farm.

It purports to explain the rush for riches which has led wind farm developers to offer incredible payments to entice landowners - at the taxpayer's expense - to make land available for forests of giant turbines.

The details need checking, the claims must be substantiated before someone either harvests a fortune . . . or reaps the whirlwind. Watch this space.

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