Sunday, 19 April 2009

Question Time at Camberwick Green.

I spent the earlier part of last night, along with the family, at the Manx Radio Any Questions session at Ramsey Town Hall. We thought we could combine free family entertainment and simultaneously demonstrate an interest in community politics.
Actually, that’s not quite true. I’ve seen enough ‘meet the politician’ type events to enjoy the sheer inanity providing I can escape at the first hint of a teabreak, while I suspect my wife just wanted to know how long it would be before her boss, a cheery Boris Johnson clone and the token ‘business panellist’, would be reduced to a gibbering wreck. My daughter – well she’s happy to accompany her mum to any new experience, and you’re never too young to learn that local democracy in action usually isn’t any of the three things implied in the phrase.
So it was that we slipped in at the back behind a selection of the retired, retarded or otherwise unemployable loons who always attend such things, presumably because they haven’t mastered the On/Off switch on the TV yet and have no other friends or entertainment. Britain’s Got Talent was on at the time, so watching a roomful of clueless losers who can’t spell ‘ironic’ was similar to our usual Saturday night in, except it was live. Well, sort of.
How to describe our experience….
Imagine a radio version of Question Time at Camberwick Green, with the Education Minister as Mrs Honeyman and the leader of Liberal Vannin as Captain Snort, and you’d be close. I still don’t know what any of the actual questions were, as the careful arrangement Manx Radio had made for a wide-ranging selection to be read from cards got shouted down within seconds by a rabble whose only interest seemed to be (a) why the pier hadn’t been restored, (b) why Ramsey isn’t a lively metropolis and the hub of island life and (c) why the café in the new civic swimming pool isn’t as good as the old one.
The answers, though no-one dares to say, are (a) because only the senile want the pier restored (b) because almost anyone with a job works in Douglas and (c) because swimming pools are for swimming in, so any additional social function as an impromptu day care centre where the confused can sip tea and moan is a free bonus, now stop complaining.
It was interesting watching the panellists try to avoid this, and particular brownie points go to the token business panellist for, effectively, managing to intimate that before pier restoration takes place there first needs to be a town with modern facilities built close by for people to take their aged relatives around after 30 seconds reminiscing about the ‘good old days’.
We also enjoyed watching the ‘small business lobby’ complaining about local shops not being supported. As mentioned before, one reason for this is that hardly any Ramsey resident works there. So the town’s daytime visitors are the elderly, the disabled and mums with small kids -none of whom can get down the narrow, broken pavement in the main street because shopkeepers park their 4x4s with two wheels on the pavement.
Of course another reason for empty shops is that there’s only so much of a market for novelty mugs and scatter cushions bearing twenty year old jokes. If shopkeepers offered something their potential clientele need – say incontinence pads – then they might get some custom.
According to the Manx Radio website report which drew our attention to this hilarious night out: ‘Highlights from what is expected to be a lively evening will be broadcast on Manx Radio next month’.
Well, that’s another hour I’ve freed up for you then.

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