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August 2008 - Going Out For a Spin

Well, after some pretty poor weather over recent weeks, could I be right in thinking that summer might have, at last, arrived?  Certainly, for the first time in many months, I'm sitting down to put fingers to keyboard for an edition of Comment with the sun shining in through my window.

It has become something of a tradition of late, to pick a rainy Saturday afternoon to write these legends of literary luminance, but meteorological clemency seems to abound today, both here in the writing room, in the depths of Wiltshire and, also, down towards the south coast, from where my second monitor is keeping me abreast of the latest in the twenty twenty cricket.

So, dear viewers, as Kent have just beaten Essex in the first semi-final, please accept my apologies if, from time to time, my eyes wander from the left hand monitor, showing this page of perfect prose, across to the right hand monitor, showing deeds of derring-do down at Southampton's Rose Bowl.

Of course, having already introduced you to the beautiful summer weather which we're experiencing today, I really ought not to be stuck here indoors, residing on my nether regions, but out and about enjoying the beautiful sunshine for myself.

Anyway, indoors I happen to be, tapping away at the keyboard I, most certainly, am, so perhaps now is the opportune moment to continue my recent period of politeness by warmly welcoming you all along to the August epic which is Nick Harvey's Comment.

Getting off one's nether regions and out into the wide world happens to also have a fairly close connection with the subject I have chosen for in-depth analysis under the jolly old, Acme microscope in this months exciting edition.

That's not me, personally, getting out and about, I should perhaps make clear at this early juncture.  It's getting out and about in general, for the general populace, or at least, a particular portion of the populace, as more clearly defined later on.

In any case, it probably wouldn't be a very good idea for me, personally, to get out and about at this, precise, moment.  Apart from missing Middlesex versus Durham in the second semi-final, it could mean the late arrival of this magnificent monologue on your screens.

Okay, I could probably manage a fairly energetic yomp across the Wiltshire Ridgeway, laptop in one hand, typing furiously with the other, but what, I need to ask, happens when the battery goes flat and I lose all those words of wisdom I've stored within the beast?

That's the trouble with portable energy supplies, you see.  They have this rather unpleasant habit of running out on you, just at the point where you've come to rely on them.  Which, dear viewers, rather neatly brings us to the other half of the in-depth investigation for this month.

Everyone else seems to be on the energy bandwagon at the moment, so far be it from Nick Harvey to turn down a golden opportunity to leap aboard with everybody else.

Well, it really is the subject of the moment, isn't it?  Do you remember good old the days, when little old ladies used to stand on street corners discussing the weather?  Now the only reference they ever make to the weather is to wonder whether it'll be cold enough to light the gas fire and spend another thirty quid on an evening's heating.

Back in my youth, you used to put a shilling (that's five new British pence, for all you youngsters out there) in the gas meter and it would last you for the best part of a week.

Now there simply isn't enough room in your average gas meter to store a week's worth of pound coins, so you have these silly energy key jobbies instead, to take down to the local corner shop and get reloaded with monopoly money.

In any case, if you still had the little man coming round regularly to empty your gas meter of all the coins, I'm sure somebody from dear old Health and Safety would put a stop to him doing it in case he broke his back carrying all that weight.

But, anyway, gas and electricity are only part of this whole energy problem.  The other half of the equation is road fuel.  That would be petrol and diesel to the bulk of us.  I've never quite understood why Her Majesty's Revenue and Customs insist on calling it road fuel.

Back in my days of having the dubious pleasure of filling in the VAT return every quarter, I always used to live in dread of receiving some hefty penalty if I accidentally described road fuel as petrol.  I think Revenue and Customs have imprisoned people for life for far less heinous crimes than that.

Yes, madam, we're on the subject of road fuel and the cost thereof.  Well, if there was still a mortgage to be had, anywhere in this fair land of ours, you'd need to take one out just to pay for enough petrol to get yourself down to the garage for another fill up.

The old idea of just going out for a spin in the country on a Sunday afternoon is long gone.  You only start the car up nowadays if it's absolutely essential that you get to somewhere, and if it doesn't happen to be a Thursday.

Thursday, just to digress for a moment, is the day you don't need the car, because it's market day, so the bus runs.  Much as our green Prime Minister might like to think otherwise, your average rural bus still only runs on market day.  One in the morning to take you into town and one in the late afternoon to take you back home to your village.

Heaven help you if you're stupid enough to want to do the journey the other way round.

Everyone's complaining, and quite rightly so, about the soaring cost of road fuel.  I won't go on at too great a length about the fact that increasing transport costs are increasing the price of everything else.  You know all about that already, no doubt, having had it dumbed down for your complete understanding by somebody on a Beeb news bulletin.

There is, however, one thing that's puzzled me greatly about all this fuel lark of late, and I really need to share it with you.

It's all about the operators of lorries, you see.  Now, some of these operators will just be drivers but some of them will be owners, either instead or as well.  Some of those owners will have just one lorry, but some might have a fleet or three.

They're rightly a tad miffed that our glorious government haven't seen fit to reduce the duty and VAT on their road fuel in order to help counteract the increasing wholesale costs.  So they've organised a campaign to complain about it.

Specifically, they're complaining that they're not making enough profit any more due to the high cost of the road fuel.  They say that they can hardly afford to fill up their lorries with fuel in order to transport all the essential goods around the country.

So they're making their protest by filling up their lorries with road fuel and driving, slowly, up and down our motorways, EMPTY.  Surely some mistake?  No!

Whilst I have every sympathy for their plight, and every sympathy for their wives, struggling to pay for the gas to cook their supper, I can't help but draw your attention, dear viewers, to the absurdity of the method of their campaign.

Why should they be just going out for a spin, up and down the motorways in their lorries, when I can't afford to take the rapid racer out for a spin in the country this afternoon?

I suppose I shall just have to stay in here, perched on my nether regions, tapping away at this indoor keyboard for your ultimate pleasure.

Still, at least there's the right hand monitor to keep me amused.  Middlesex have just gone through, at the expense of Durham, you know.  It could turn out to be a really exciting final.  You never know, Middlesex might just beat Kent on the final ball.

Isn't it lovely to be able to a re-edit on the following day, while you're doing the proof read?  It makes the whole thing sound quite topical, doesn't it?  They wouldn't have been able to do this back in the days of quill pens and putting shillings in the meter!

So there we go then folks, that appears to have been the August epistle.  You never know, I might just get round to writing September's in good time, seeing as I doubt I'll be able to afford to go out at all this month.

Make sure you're here promptly for the next one, won't you.  I'd hate you to miss it.  Right, I'm off, where's me petrol can?

Comment this month is dedicated to John Godfrey, Godot to his friends, who spent many a Sunday teatime playing out that little reel of tape that had Comment recorded on it.  Godot's, sadly, stopped waiting.

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