It is always fascinating to note how news items reflect the times in which they make it to the newspapers. There was a flurry of concern recently when it was announced that Wetherspoons were to open a pub on the M40. The licence granted to Wetherspoons allows them to sell alcohol at the motorway service area from 08.00 to 01.00. The road safety charity Brake said that the firm was "putting temptation in front of drivers".
Well, it's a sign of the times that this is the first pub on a motorway and it's another that there is general acceptance of the opening. Of course, Wetherspoons are as famous for their cheap meals as they are for being pubs and many consumers welcome the fact that there will be serious competition to the expensive fast food outlets currently in most service areas. But I wonder whether this really will be a temptation to drink. Shops selling bottles of wine are not uncommon in motorway service areas, which is a pretty strong temptation to me already, and of course pubs do exist just off motorway junctions where drivers can pull in when they want a break. Personally, I always make sure I've consumed my alcohol at home before I set out on a journey, so I have no need to stop at service areas. Although Wetherspoons are also well-known for their excellent toilets . . .
Down here, where I am at the moment, in the West Country, the urban seagull is a major problem – blamed for scattering litter, stealing food from picnics and café tables, damaging vehicles and even attacking humans. The debate between scientists and ornithologists over the best ways of dealing with the menace and checking a feared explosion in their numbers, including trying to disrupt their breeding patterns, continues.
But in the midst of this problem, Torbay Council has decided to halt the demolition of a building in Brixham, which was planned as part of a vital town centre road widening scheme, after discovering that a herring gull was nesting on its roof. Despite the problems that gulls in general cause, especially in these seaside holiday resorts, the herring gull is a protected species and the proposed redevelopment will now have to wait another year! The building has already been under demolition order for 3 years; the gull problem has been around even longer . . .
But the article in the local paper that really does reflect the age in which we live was the account of bouncers at an Exeter tattoo convention being jailed for attacking customers. The judge was shocked at the CCTV images. He said “the CCTV shows graphic, prolonged and intentional violence” and was some of the worst he had ever seen. But the significant factor wasn't that this incident took part at a tattoo convention, or that it was captured on CCTV, nor even that the footage was used in evidence in the trial to show how dreadful the attack was. No, the point was that the newspaper article ended with a QR code and a note saying, 'scan here to view the CCTV footage'. Of course having a smartphone with a scan app is another sign of the times . . .