I live in South Wales and my drive to work has been affected over the last year by the construction of a new bypass around Church Village. The last few months I noticed some metal structures being built over the roads (like posh goalposts), which I initially thought were for hanging road signs from. Then they became more elaborate and I thought they had been built for squirrels to use. However, in conversation with a work colleague yesterday I discovered they had actually been built for dormice to use, because they would not cross roads otherwise.
So, imagine my delight when I saw Richard Littlejohn’s column today: ‘A walkway for dormice is a bridge too far…‘, I just knew he had discovered what I had. Quite a feeling to know that thousands of miles away Richard and I shared a moment of discovery. However, I imagine the sharing ends there, given what thoughts I took away from the discovery and what he has managed to spew out.
His column begins – as so many do – with something that will be contradicted by the rest of the column. His claim that:
On the face of it, there’s something rather charming about the decision to build a special bridge to help dormice cross a busy new road.
It reminds us that there are more important things in life than constantly bickering about politics and spending cuts.
Britain is a nation of animal lovers, and our concern for the welfare of even the most humble forms of life is touching.
When I discover that a bypass has been delayed because its proposed route would involve bulldozing the natural habitat of the lesser spotted water vole, I find it strangely reassuring.
Eccentricity goes to the very heart of our identity as a nation. Any society which can be bothered to worry about the impact a new road may have on dormice can’t be all bad.
Is completely ruined by the rest of his column that Britain and the EU (for it is naturally their fault) is a screaming wasteland of insanity for building such bridges for dormice. It is all numbingly familiar, like the time when he claimed at the start of a column: ‘I don’t condone torture’… but then went on to demand that we attach electric cables to the testicles of every suspicious looking foreigner.
It’s a bit silly really and again he misses the whole point of his claim that we’re an ‘eccentric’ land of animal lovers. Surely his initial argument is that it is good that we spend time and effort ensuring that our society tries to work around (to some extent) some of the native inhabitants of our small island; such an argument must be aware that such eccentricity costs money. Furthermore, his use of the word eccentricity actually implies that the cost will not be insignificant.
Let me try and break it down for Richard (in case he ever reads this – you never know). Richard, you are a columnist who is paid around a million pounds a year for choosing around 1000 words twice a week and putting them into your column. You get paid an awful lot of money per word, so you really should be expected to have a mastery of language. The word ‘eccentricity’ is most commonly used in relation to money when someone is spending a lot of it on something considered by others to be wasteful (like: ‘John Smith is eccentric for spending his life savings on a luxury apartment just for his cat’).
This means, Dick, that you cannot then move onto the next part of your column and say the following:
In the scheme of things, a couple of grand spent building an underpass for frogs, in the context of a multi-million-pound motorway extension, is little more than a round of drinks.
Because, Dick, that is not eccentric in any way, is it? Eccentricity in financial terms would be spending £1000 on a motorway extension and £10 million on a underground underpass with escalator, calming music and central heating for moles.
But, you’re not finished, are you Dick, with displaying your fundamental stupidity as you go on:
when I learned that Rhondda Council, in South Wales, had constructed three walkways to allow dormice to traverse a bypass near Pontypridd.
I assumed a couple of workmen had strung a length of wire between two poles and dangled a piece of Welsh cheddar to encourage the dormice to use the makeshift bridge, instead of getting splattered beneath the wheels of an articulated lorry taking bananas from Barry docks to Britain’s greengrocers.
Then I saw the pictures and read about the cost. What should have been an afternoon’s work has escalated into a major engineering endeavour, consuming £190,000.
I mean, sure, they could have dangled a piece of string between two poles, but then that wouldn’t be eccentric, would it, Dick? I know I might be boring you all with what maybe amounts to not a great deal, but I just think that language matters, words matter, meaning matters and that if you’re being paid an obscene amount to string a few together you should at least consider what connotations your choice of words has – particularly if one word seems to completely destroy your argument.
Furthermore, his claim that he imagined the bridges would be cheap and ‘makeshift’ he is using a word that clearly has connotations of not being permanent. After an earthquake people create ‘makeshift’, temporary structures until they are able to rebuild something more solid and lasting in the future. The bypass around Church Village is now a permanent feature of the Welsh landscape, so why is he shocked that the bridges have also been constructed in the same fashion? Perhaps, once again, he is just stringing these words together without really thinking.
To put things into a little perspective, the overall project has a budget of £90 million, so £190,000 makes up just 0.2% of the overall project budget. Again, this is the complete opposite of eccentric spending. Consider it this way: a new bypass has been built and just 0.2% of the budget has been put aside to deal with the impact on local wildlife. Hardly seems like the kind of outrageous waste that should be written about by a columnist, does it?
Just one final point to demonstrate Dick’s complete lack of self-awareness is that he writes this in another segment today:
The world is full of sexually deprived saddoes with a laptop and a broadband connection.
Couldn’t agree more, Dick. Some of them are even paid obscene amounts by the Daily Mail, or choose to write extremely misogynistic, sexually confused ‘novels’ in their spare time.
You couldn’t make it up!