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The Archive 2003

Anne's View
With Anne deBondt

Well, that's another year done and dusted. But is it? Because, if I've endured one "Year in Review", I've endured a hundred. Regardless whether it's the good, the bad or the ugly, do we really need incessant, unrelenting month by month chronicles reminding us of what we've just lived through?
Not that there's anything wrong with the odd remembrance. Nor was this last year so bad that I am loathed to look back But enough is enough already!
Wouldn't it be much nicer to begin a brand new year clear of the past? Not exactly forgetting or disconnecting from previous events but with a clean slate, keen for another chance to get it right.
It's bad enough that television programming has become nothing more than a diary of better days gone by. All we ever see on the box these days is classics revived from yesteryear's talent or sitcoms from decades ago that still have no modern competitor.
Must real life suffer to the same fate?

Despite the constant stumbling blocks and setbacks, I truly hope one of the contraptions repeatedly blasted beyond the cosmos discovers an alternative life form somewhere.
Although as I write, the latest attempt, BEAGLE 2, is reportedly stranded in a crater on Mars, producing nothing more than another anticlimax.
But the amount of debris being flung into outer space or left on these exploration sites is starting to concern me more than anything we might find or advances we might make.
Still, if all else fails, the abandoned rubbish could eventually form its own organisms. In future we could pretend to discover that!

I just knew one day I'd regret not taking my mother's advice to learn a foreign language while I was in school. Although, at the time, I couldn't have known that one day I'd be living abroad. My life looked destined to be spent in sunny Arizona for ever. I was pretty confident that a gal from the West Coast of America wouldn't have the need for German or French and that a scant knowledge of Spanish was sufficient to see me through my adult years.
Also, I'm ashamed to admit it, but way back then I barely knew where these far-off places were, let alone appreciated the value of being able to converse with the natives.
But dear ole' mom's words have come back to haunt me as I am now travelling to locations that require me to say more than yes or no in a local dialect. And amazingly enough, in some places, English isn't all that easily understood no matter how loud you shout.
But there must be people who agreed with my mother's counsel because increasingly large family restaurants now indulge you with foreign language lessons piped into the restrooms while you tend to business.
And despite the din of hand dryers, water running and other female patrons chatting, I have even picked up the odd phrase or two in Italian in one such establishment.
However, as accommodating as the gesture is, I fear I'll need more than just a few rushed moments in between meals before I'm able to converse with confidence.
Then again, should I ever become fluent in another tongue due to my frequent dining excursions; I'm not too sure how I'd go about admitting where I picked up the patois. I mean, no matter how well you've adopted someone else's language; it can't be very flattering to tell them you learned it in a public loo!

And finally I would like to thank Charlie of County Durham for the lovely calendar he sent to me at Christmas. I have situated the charming annual in a place of pride and will happily keep count of my grievances, full cups of coffee and accomplishments as requested.

Have a Happy New Year!

Anne's View (18th Dec.)
With Anne deBondt

This is the time of year that prompts a frequent (and loud) Oh please! from me whenever I come upon yet another newspaper article or television programme recommending what we females should look like during the holiday season.
Women are unfairly bombarded with scheme after scheme of "useful" tips dedicated to helping us squeeze ourselves into smaller sizes than we've been satisfied with for the last 11 months. And have you ever wondered who told these gurus of the fashion industry that we are dissatisfied with our shapelessness in the first place?
I mean, I've complained under my breath while trying on a pair of jeans or attempting to zip up a skirt that refuses to cooperate but never out loud - lest anyone agreed with my whinging.
Moreover, I've never submitted or even filled out a magazine questionnaire bellyaching about my weight. So unless an omnipotent God has taken over the fashion trade, I fail to see how an entire industry could know of my frustrations despite my silence.
Even worse, how often do you find tips and strategies devoted to what a man can do to reduce his dimensions in time to enjoy the festivities? The answer … nowhere!
Since men don't mind not fitting into that slinky little black number or could care less about their wobbly bits at Christmas (or at any other time) they're let off the hook. Therefore there's no money to be made from demoralising a man and his bulges.

All this talk of illegalising cigarettes is a waste of time - we all remember how well prohibition worked for the consumption of alcohol in the 30's, don't we.
Anyway, not only is this unconsidered suggestion a waste of time, I can pretty much guarantee that a few smokers will be inspired to stock up and puff away even more so than usual before the hammer can be brought down on their bad habit.
But there are other more manageable ways to reduce a person's dependency.
For instance, if the government is serious about wanting to wean addicts off the dreaded weed, why don't they do what crisp manufacturers have done to us crisp-aholics?
Why don't tobacco companies make the individual cigarette smaller and smaller until the quantity of tobacco and nicotine in an entire pack is equivalent to what used to make up one cigarette?
I mean, I'm still on four or five packets of crisps a day, same as before, but that only amounts to about 10 crisp - 15 if some are broken!

Whatever happened to the everyday, ordinary horoscope where you read your predictions, ignored the unpleasant or unwelcome portion and then went about your day?
I couldn't tell you what star sign my children fall under and I have only read mine a handful of times in my entire life. So it isn't out of personal concern that I raise this question.
It's because I've noticed how the conventional horoscope is now followed by a "star line" (that costs almost as much to call as the new directory enquiry) for additional, more in depth insight into your impending doom.
Blimey, what more can there be to divulge? I mean, the vague, generalisation of "Something good will happen sometime for you or someone you know" should satisfy even the most hardened sceptics, huh!
It seems that one must now engage in a more personal tête-à-tête via the phone line so as to discover what really lies ahead - you know, because it would be wrong (or a waste) to put the vital stuff in print.
The present craze for psychoanalysis has got to be behind this nonsense. Reading your horoscope has become the poor mans therapy session!

A very Happy Christmas to you all and a Happy New Year!


Anne's View
With Anne deBondt

MPs to Grill McDonald's Over Obesity Levels! UK is preparing for a parliamentary inquiry into Britons' bulging waistlines!
Last week it was the children at risk and now it's the turn of adults! But do we really need all this scrutiny? I mean, is there anyone left on planet earth oblivious to the fact that fast food is fattening? Do we need MP's to waste their time protecting our waistlines when we seem unwilling to do that for ourselves?
And what if policies and guidelines are actually put into place to safeguard us from our lack of self-control? Just how will that work?
Will the likes of McDonalds, Burger King, the corner chippy or just about any other convenience food joint require an employee/customer consultation before allowing us to order?
Will patrons be made to produce doctor's certificates in order to obtain the Mega-Burger-Buster with fries and a large fizzy drink - otherwise settle for a low-cal salad and mineral water? And can the employees decline to serve anyone who fails the tubby test?
If anything has been learned from past experiences, it's that grown ups behave like unruly children when denied a choice, despite that the alternative choice may be in their best interest!
And chiefly because this issue targets the rotund, you can bet that there's going to be big demonstrations (sorry, no pun intended) aimed at anyone who dares to separate a man from his Big Mac meal.
I can already hear the placards being painted and lawsuits claiming prejudice against fatties being drawn up as I type.

I should state right up front that I do not attend church. Moreover I've never felt that my non-attendance was a great loss to any faith.
I'd also like to say that I have nothing against formal religions. Anyone wishing to worship a god or an icon is of no consequence to me. I neither believe nor disbelieve - to each their own, applies here!
Yet I was irked by an article outlining how public workplaces are to consider prohibiting employees from sending each other religious themed Christmas cards lest a recipient is offended by the holy connotations.
Had the anti-Christ article been printed any closer to April I would have thought it an April fool's hoax. But in fact it is a genuine issue being debated. There are actually people out there offended by Christmas being associated with religion!
Ok, let's forget for a moment that prior to the twentieth century and gross commercialism, greed and the invention of the shopping mall, religious belief was the only reason anyone would have celebrated Christmas in the first place. But more worryingly is just what such a bizarre ban will lead to ….
Are we to give all holy occasions the "store brand" treatment? No frills, no divine packaging and at a bargain price so that we aren't distracted by the pesky God thing whilst we party?
Are we to dumb-down all events, despite their sacred origins, so that in the end we can eat, drink and be merry without straining our scruples too much as to why we're actually eating, drinking and being merry?
Taking Christ out of Christmas is as outrageous as demanding that we no longer use the term Easter Sunday - preferring instead the more generic "Chocolate Egg Day" so as not to make too blessed an event of it.
And odd isn't it that I've never read where someone was offended by witches, ghosts and ghouls being plastered all over their Halloween card, therefore demand the event be boycotted until a less creepy theme could be adopted.

Anne's View
With Anne deBondt

Not that anyone who has just suffered a month of thunderous and booming explosives in their neighbourhood due to the Guy Faulk's celebrations needs to be told this, but society is getting carried away with the partying thing.
Proof of this is that almost all festivities are postponed until the weekend should an anniversary of an incident or event fall on a weekday.
Really, it's not all that difficult to honour someone or something and still observe the limitations of a school or work night. Yet, somehow we've got it into our heads that all commemorations warrant going wild and needing two days to recover! Hence the desire to weekend-ise everything.
So many public holidays are now deferred to a Friday or Saturday night, despite the actual day of the anniversary, that each year I am surprised to still find Christmas Or New Years observed on the day they fall on and not moved to the last Saturday in December giving - revellers a chance to really do the Yuletide season some justice!

This quote from a press release is just the sort of thing that men all over the world print off, cut out and send to their female relatives who have a fondness for shopping:
GERMAN scientists say a woman's rational thought disappears when she goes shopping.
Researchers at the University of Munster in Germany said female shoppers simply lose the ability to think straight.
Now, I could dispute the findings - although it does kind of explain why I would even remotely consider purchasing another pair of hideously expensive shoes that cause me more pain when worn than a tooth extraction (and so far I have five pair of the offending footwear).
But, more importantly, I am curious as to how the researchers got anyone to participate in the study?
I'm presuming that the state of mind these women were in was deduced by questioning them as they shopped or soon afterwards.
I don't know about other female bargain hunters, but I wouldn't be able to form a coherent sentence let alone answer daft questions about my mental condition if I were being interrogated by some smart-alecky scientist guy standing just outside on the pavement with a clipboard and an attitude! The next day, maybe …
Something tells me I should be seeing many copies of the article sent to me in a variety of ways!

So, the Tories have a new broom to sweep up after their old mess! How many does that make in the last few years?
Such delusional thinking behind changing the appearance rather than the policies reminds me of when a product or service is given a new name or logo in order to attract fresh customers or fend off bad reputations. When in fact neither really comes to pass, we're all just confused for a little while as we try to remember the new moniker and overlook the old disappointments ... The word "Consignia" comes to mind here.
And I'll say the same about the new and improved conservative packaging that is Mr. Howard that I said about my newly named cleaning product - It's wasn't what I called it that dissatisfied me. It's that it didn't do the job I was promised it would do that caused me to look for an alternative.
Instead of changing the wrapping or label, improve the performance and instil confidence. Otherwise settle for a name change and lose customers … or, as in Mr. Howard's case, lose the next election!

Anne's View
With Anne deBondt

Recently, while corresponding online with a Stateside friend about some local babble, I received a reply from them that was clearly not meant for me.
It appears that my friend was also communicating with their other half at the same time and unfortunately in the throes of little spat via cyberspace.
Instead of the innocent, non-personal letter I was expecting, I received the script to a domestic argument familiar to every couple on the planet. Suffice it to say, all was not well in their household.
Naturally, I didn't read the dispatch. That would have been wrong (even though legally I am entitled to since it was sent to me).
No, I did the honourable thing and had my husband read it to me. That way I could deny all knowledge under cross examination.
But the computer-generated gaffe got me thinking...
The Internet is responsible for many, many developments. Some good, some bad. But when in the history of mankind would you imagine being able to sail your argument, to the wrong person, no less, across the ocean in a split second?
It's bad enough when you air your dirty laundry in public. It's bad enough that you might let slip a little more than was intended at a social gathering.
But at least in the past your audience was limited. You might be talked about at their dinner table that evening or perhaps when the spectators went on to gossip about your barney to their friends, but that was it!
Now in less time than it takes to scowl at your other half and with no more effort than the touch of a button the world can be made aware of your connubial set to's!

It's time charity members, casts of television programmes, sports teams and the public in general find a ploy other than stripping off as a way of fundraising.
The shock value has been exhausted - if there was ever one. We are all well aware that you don't have to be a member of the Chippendales, wearing nothing more than a bow tie and a smile, to pose naked on a calendar. And far from being inspired to donate money when I see such silly behaviour by folk who are most definitely old enough to know better, I am more resolved to hang on to my coins.
And, really, there's something a little tacky with exposing your wobbly bits as a way of boosting donations. I mean, if you were to do the same thing on a street corner you'd have a citation for scandalous behaviour to add to your contributions. Just because you intend to be benevolent with the proceedings doesn't make the deed noble!

Christmas is an odd time of year. Originally a celebration of Christian mythology, it now has more of a theme park appearance.
You can still find the traditional decorations amidst the modern day offerings. And there are families who still insist on honouring the initial purpose.
However, along side the "old fashioned" is the present-day perception of what to commemorate at this time of year.
For instance, I knew things were becoming confused when I saw a toy train and tracks circling around a nativity display. Now, don't get me wrong, the train was all decked out with tinsel and candy canes, and there was even a Father Christmas doing his ho, ho, ho bit on the caboose, so I know someone's heart was in the right place. But I don't recall ever having read where the three wise men caught the 11:45 to Bethlehem!

Anne s View
With Anne deBondt

As a young child I disliked my elementary school enough to pitch a fit  each day I was dropped off. I dreaded the nuns who taught me and feared the priests who visited our classroom once a week to ascertain whether we had been good or not. It puzzled me even then what they were looking for, crayon chewing? I mean, what sin could a 6 year old commit that required such vigilance?
Anyway, in the end my unrelenting fit pitching got so bad that the nuns caved in and asked my parents to seek my education elsewhere. It seems, they reasoned, that I wasn t parochial school material after all  I couldn t have agreed more! Consequently my other two attending siblings were hauled out of the school too, much to their delight.
Looking back, and in theory, I would probably have settled down nicely and obeyed the strict environment of a Catholic regime had I been older. But we ll never know because luckily my parents agreed to placate my defiant behaviour and enrolled me in a non- parochial school closer to home. Otherwise I dread to think of the misery that would have resulted. I can admit now that I was more than willing to intensify my protestations should the need arise.
My grounds for mentioning my brief period of discontentment isn t because I hold a grudge. It s because I completely identify with young children who suffer, for one reason or another, with separation anxiety. I ve never forgotten the feeling of being deserted amongst happier, better adjusted children than I. It mattered not a jot to me that my suffering was for my own good.
And any parent who is obligated to deposit their child at school, playgroup or a day-nursery, despite the child s upset also has my heartfelt condolences.
So you can imagine then how reading the article that boasted of the first Drive-in Nursery in Britain made me wince and at the same time grateful that I wasn t raised in such a rushed and hassled era. The thought of youngsters hardly given the time to have a last cuddle before being passed over like a baton in a relay race leaves me cold.
We ve seen the same concept applied to dry-cleaning, fast foods and even some Stateside alcohol sales, all under the pretext that it s progressive and convenient. Similarly, applying such a scheme here is meant to smooth the process of a parent having a dependant child, needing to get to work, and, you know, not wanting to waste too much time walking the tot into the playschool!
One child minder involved spouts, Business people can drop off their children and then come see them during their lunch break.  Oh yes, and the drop off area is undercover lest the parents get wet tending to the needy child! Whatever next, free home delivery of said tot for the parent too stressed after work to collect them?
Honestly, is there any amount of pretentious clap-trap that could hide the fact that this time the purpose of the drive-by concept is meant to facilitate only one person & the person too self-involved to give their child a proper good bye!
Don t get me wrong, I recognize the pressures of work. I know all about having to juggle the kids, a household and a job. But really, is time so short and work so important that it s necessary to treat our babies like a take away pizza order? How about taking a little less time with the grooming and a little more with the childhood?

Anne s View
With Anne deBondt

Along with cards, wrapping paper and traditional Christmas ornaments and trimmings, ladies festive fashions are all out in force. And I ve noticed a worrying swell in the varieties of low-cut, boldly see-through garments for the 2003- 2004 holiday season.
Outfits for this time of year have always been a little more daring. They are always a bit more seductive than the usual eveningwear because typically women want to look extra glamorous when celebrating Christmas or New Years. And on the rare occasion when a gal wanted to throw caution to the wind she could find a spicy little number discreetly slipped in amongst the modestly shorter dresses and slightly lower necklines  guaranteeing she d make an impression!
But now it s damn near impossible to find something without a cheeky thigh-high slit, a plunging neckline to the belly button, backless, strapless and revealing dress fronts that leave little or nothing to the imagination. And fabrics so sheer you can tell the time on your watch without having to lift your sleeve  and, might I add, available in sizes well beyond what decency should allow.
Hell, I m no Miss Marple. I m not quite at the stage of sensible shoes and hairnets despite the occasion. And I m all for ditching the hum-drum for a moment or two and letting go &. within reason. But the statements these rags are making would make it difficult to resume normal life once the party was over and one had to return to routine responsibilities!
How do you wear an outfit to the office do  that would cause Cher to blush and then go back to the practical skirt and blouse as if you hadn t just bared more than your soul to the entire workforce?

We have two blokes kissing on one sappy soap opera, two gals about to get it on  in Eastenders and Madonna and half the divas (actually, due to their tender age they re more divettes than divas) in the charts necking on national Television &
And as if all that tedious attention grabbing drama wasn t enough, almost every pop star and wanna-be rock chic is suddenly claiming to have had a same-sex relationship or flirtation.
Call me cynical but isn t it becoming increasingly more difficult with every scandalous (and well timed) disclosure to believe that these guys and gals just happen to notice this about themselves now? You know, as if hearing of a fellow pop star s gender revelation just reminded them of their own personal breakthrough. As though you could misplace such a life-altering detail!
I recall a similar trend a few years back when it was hip for entertainers to admit that they dabbled in hard drugs. Oddly enough it elevated them to God status to confess that they snorted half their earnings up their noses. Even entertainers who refrained from dope began confessing to a bad habit just to attract the fans!
Whatever next, tomorrow s singing teens declaring that they re closet muggers?

And lastly, I d like to inform readers that miracles do happen. I am capable of being nice, inoffensive, innocuous and downright pleasant when I put my mind to it!
I recently spent an evening at the Ely Ladies Discussion Group for conversation and discussion and left without once having to apologise for an ill-mannered comment or gesture.
To the best of my knowledge I managed to avoid insulting anyone or causing undue resentment during my presentation. The entire evening was most enjoyable and topped off by a much appreciated full cup of coffee.
I don t know who was more surprised, them or me!

Anne s View
With Anne deBondt

A few months back I heard a journalist/television personality claim that in the not-too-distant future we d be seeing reality television going to such extreme lengths to achieve larger viewing figures that soon the object of a contest would be to see someone die!
I had a chuckle at his radical statement and, not being a fan of reality TV, shared his opinion of the absurdity of today s penchant for such programmes and put it out of my mind...
I thought no more about it. That is, until I was stopped in my tracks by an advert for a forthcoming programme titled Russian Roulette  whereby (theoretically) a man inserts one single bullet into the chamber of a handgun and spins. I was so incensed at the repulsiveness and irresponsibility that I couldn t tell you the remainder of the set-up due to the blood rushing noisily to my brain! I presume, if the stupid people responsible for this latest fiasco follow the traditional rules of the game, he continues to play until ... thonk ...lights out (theoretically)!
How asinine. How utterly reckless! It s bad enough that programme makers have stooped so low as to screen staged sex acts between dopey contestants in their bid to improve ratings  what s worse is that it works!
But this has got to be a wind-up. Does no one else see the danger of copy-cat games taking place at home? Does no one else fear the consequences of planting the suggestion that you too can play and win? Or will the programmers spew their obligatory announcement prior to each show Please don t try this at home  and be done with their liability? Yeah, that ll work.
I mean, let s be honest, if you re thick enough to glean entertainment from such a TV show, you re thick enough to think you can re-enact the format in the comfy surrounds of your humble abode. You know, like when you invite friends over for a fun game of Trivial Pursuit or Monopoly  but with bloodshed.
I predict disaster. I foretell doom. But what the hell, it s bound to be a hoot, huh?

What exactly is a sale? I ask this because I seem to have a completely different understanding as to what I would consider a bargain and what the retailers consider a bargain.
For example, a massive poster adorned the entrance of a DIY store I recently visited. From the back of the car park I was informed that today  was 50 per cent off day! I actually felt goose bumps! I love a sale. However, as I approached closer I could read that the 50 per cent applied only to kitchens.
Now, not that I would ever consider upgrading the one room in the house I m less familiar with than the garage. And my purpose for being there in the first place was only to purchase a paint brush but, come on, a deal s a deal!
I maintained my enthusiasm until reaching the advertisement and was then able to read the small print ... well, small print compared to the three foot high lettering informing me of the sale.
Anyway, I quickly realised that it wasn t a sale at all. In reality the 50 per cent off kitchens excluded cupboards, sinks, taps, wall tiles, flooring (wooden or otherwise) and the nuts and bolts to hold it all together! How is that a bargain?
It s just as well I was only there for a measly paintbrush. There would have been mayhem had I been lured off the bypass for a cheap kitchen and found only the door knobs on sale!

Anne s View
With Anne deBondt

When you read stories about thugs idiotically throwing beer bottles, immoral girls flashing their breasts, some lunatic trying to sever the water and support cords, crowds yelling vile abuse and all because David Blaine is starving himself in his harebrained plastic cubicle high above the ground, doesn t it make you wonder just who s the freak show and who s the audience?

I read an article that hailed a popular American hamburger restaurant for its experimental healthy alternative to the usual calorific burgers, fries and milkshakes.
Cautiously the omnipresent, multinational corporation decided to offer the trial run to just one State in the USA to sample its appeal before splashing out and going global. Some lucky residents can now try a revolutionary salad and a bottle of water instead of the usual butt-busting fare when they pop in for fast food.
I dare say the healthier life-style approach is meant to offset the ever-popular children s Happy Meal presently served to the younger patrons of this particular eatery.
How s that for covering your bets? Lure the juvenile customers in with a free toy and fattening grub and then, when they grow up to be overweight adults, appeal to their guilty consciences and urge them to try the low calorie option.
The next scheme will be to give away free vouchers for lipo-suction treatment when you order the mega-burger, mega-meal combo. How considerate is that? Americans think of everything!

What is it about a disgruntled employee s abrupt departure from their post that makes for fascinating reading? The public seems to be on tenterhooks waiting to see what emerges from the desk of recently exited spin doctor, Alastair Campbell. He s sparked rumours that he might write his memoirs of his Downing Street days.
Similarly it s alleged that Carol Caplin, the Prime Minister s modern-day Rasputin, could lift the lid  on No 10, prompting one sniffy spokesmen for the PM to assert, Just wait and see what happens .
Why? What could these two possibly tell us that we don t already know? What light could they possibly shed on our government that hasn t previously been exposed by one disastrous course of political action after another?
I don t know about you but I don t think Tony Blair should be too concerned with the threat of his family s personal mishaps, clandestine moments, or his embarrassing professional gaffs being bared for all to read. I, for one, don t give a flying fig how members of the cabinet, political spin doctors or even the relatives of these people run their own households. It s how their ruining mine that concerns me most.

I know it s ungrateful of me not to appreciate the free gift of a cute little recipe book (not to mention, the four glossy recipe cards and a promise of another 35) that came with my weekly magazine. But I m not.
And I might be alone in thinking this, but far from the freebie being a bonus, to me it s a little like getting a complimentary dusting cloth and then expected to crave for more.
I mean, really, isn t it just a tad cruel to be reminded of my household tasks while I m trying to forget them with a moment of escapism? Not to mention, expect that I could perform them to the standard of the professionals! Even if I were inclined to try a recipe or two  which would only happen when a certain hot spot froze over  who would I be kidding, the end result would never look anything like the glossy pictures provided.
Here s an idea... why don t the editors just lower the price of the magazine as an incentive?

Anne s View
With Anne deBondt

Wouldn t you have thought that a subject as important as the changing of our telephone information number would have been treated with a little more weightiness than the inane TV adverts we ve had to endure?
I was so immediately irritated by the two 70 s-style runners running around chanting figures that I chose to mute the sound each time the commercials appeared.
Now, I know advertising strategy allows for irritation as part of why you remember a product. In fact, some rely on it  think of the irksome "don't live a little, live a Lotto" approach. Evidently 83% of viewers could recite that gem, despite that it drove them nuts!
However I find it hard to believe that those responsible for this latest clanger intended audiences to switch off completely!
Many people I ve spoken with found the entire ad campaign confusing. Come the day of the actual change over, most still had no idea which number they should or could dial  or, in fact, that the previous one was soon to be obsolete.
This is an important service couldn t we have had a simple yet informative one minute infomercial bringing us up to date on the new numbers and leave the laughter and entertainment business to the comedians?

I was surprised to learn that in the past applicants applying for British citizenship didn t have to have a basic knowledge of their adoptive country! I presumed, obviously impulsively, that such a programme was already in place.
But according to last week s reports An academic was appointed by Labour MP Mr. Blunkett to plan a compulsory citizenship programme for the 115,000 immigrants a year - including some asylum seekers - who apply to become a naturalised Briton. The panel's recommendations will form part of a new programme under the Nationality, Immigration and Asylum (NIA) Act which says naturalisation applicants must demonstrate "sufficient English", Welsh or Scottish Gaelic, and display a "knowledge of life in the UK".
Dare I ask what the previous criteria were and how prior applicants managed to integrate themselves without such fundamental information?
And furthermore ... don t you just know that before this article reaches your breakfast table there will have been complaints, shouts of discrimination and unfairness and utter vilification at this honourable idea?

This is for the incensed Heidi Welch of Tennyson Place Ely:
... I have to say, my first thought when I read her letter in last weeks Ely Standard was ... Nanna, is that you? I had to look twice at the writers name to ensure that the old gal hadn t come back to reprimand me! She too would often scold me for having conflicting opinions to hers.
No, seriously, after careful consideration I ve made a few compromises concerning the important issues Ms. Welch raised...
First, I ll try to endure the weekly shop  but no more than twice a month, it wouldn t be fair to inflict me on Tesco s more often. Second, I ll limit my public preening to every other outing (and trust me, at my age it isn t preening, it s restoration). I ll also release my inner self from the shackles of vanity (can you unshackle vanity and yet not want to preen?).
Anyway, lastly, I promise never to call experts boffins  (out loud) again.

In return however, can I please, please not read books on climate? I d rather watch the hole in the ozone layer expand!
Oh yes, and generations ago the bof ... excuse me, the experts  also claimed that the world was flat! Generations from now I wonder what scientific theory our future generations will be laughing at!

And finally...
It s long overdue that I write about an incident that occurred a few months ago. It s not so much that I haven t had the time to relay the events ... it s just that I haven t dared to!
You see, I ve always prided myself on being many things to many people. To my children I am an affectionate parent, a stern policeman and a tough task master. To my husband, depending on which one of us you ask, I am a loving, kind, giving partner with the patience of Job. According to him though ... see above description!
Nevertheless, to the outside world, I easily change my demeanour from one extreme to the other without as much as a hiccough as the situation requires.
I have faith that whatever is called for I am capable. In tough predicaments I am calm. In fraught moments I am able. When all hell brakes loose I apportion the appropriate blame and then leave. I suppress my true emotions and act accordingly.
I take no credit for the proclivity ... I was born this way. I believe I inherited these attributes from my parents.
My mother was always serenity itself. In a crisis she could diplomatically put her point across no matter the circumstances or how she truly felt. My father, on the other hand, is, was and always will be the sledgehammer you send in to push a tack through the wall when a thumb just won t do!
So imagine my horror when I was informed by Mr. Paul Baker (AKA the Pistol), Sales Manager for an insurance brokerage firm in Arizona that my hand writing can give me away regardless of how guarded I am. No matter how carefully I outwardly cover up my true feelings or emotions, I only have to write a few words on a piece of paper and there it is ... the real me! A lie detector of the hand, if you will.
Evidently this technique is so reliable that it s now used in the hiring and firing of employees of some large companies.
However, always the sceptic, I refused to take him at his word and challenged Paul by copying a line or two from a random script he had on his desk.
In a matter of seconds he was blurting out my hidden characteristics. After reading nothing more than a sentence he was able to divulge traits that I thought I had eradicated years ago  at least on the surface! There was no stopping the man.
The sitting reminded me of those naive people who volunteer to be hypnotised in front of an audience  their protection shield down, their inner most persona laid bare for all to see ... and laugh at.
Now, don t get me wrong, Paul didn t have me barking like a mad dog by the end of the session, nothing so sinister. But I was grateful the only other person in the room was my sister Cathy. Although, she wasn t much help, she nodded and agreed without offering the least bit of shelter. My only solace came when I was told that she too had been given the acid test.
For two weeks I was afraid of making a shopping list lest I came across anyone else with the same training. I even worried about leaving post-it notes around the house as I was so previously fond of doing for fear of conveying a hidden message.
You know, I merely write Please get milk and bread . And with just a little tuition my other half is able to decipher that what I m really saying is, Since I ve walked the dog, cleaned the house, mowed the lawn and entertained your mother all in one afternoon, can you at least pick up these two items from the store? I don t even care if you don t get the right brand. JUST COME HOME WITH SOMETHING! 
I can see I m going to have trouble sending the Christmas cards this year.

Anne s View
With Anne deBondt

It has been a scorcher of a summer, a record breaking few weeks. And I could have put money on when the boffins would start blaming global warming for the rare heat wave.
To accuse our CFC s and automobile emissions for a long hot summer is as predictable as the today s exams are easier than when I was at school  drone at results time.
Whenever there s the least increase in temperatures we are lectured on what we humans are doing to the environment.
That might be so ... but what occurred trillions of years ago to alter those parts of the world that were once covered in impenetrable ice and are now today s desert wasteland?
I may not be a scientist but I m pretty sure dinosaurs didn t contaminate their atmosphere with hazardous aerosol sprays, vehicle emissions and harmful pesticides. To the best of my knowledge no one has ever unearthed a long since buried piece of equipment responsible for eradicating the existence of prehistoric animals. And according to primitive findings, the climate then was somewhat erratic and unpredictable, even more so than at present.
Could it be that sometimes  just sometimes, mind you  the weather has a mind of its own, regardless of human destruction or logic?

Here s a tale that clearly defines the day I realised I was old...
I and three other similarly aged women were standing at the mirror of a public loo making routine repairs to our appearance.
We were blotting and fluffing and generally attending to our hair and features when to our collective horror a young twentysomething creature approached the mirror, glanced at her image and without an ounce of humility or a trace of shame, did absolutely nothing before walking away!
Now, it wouldn t be ladylike for me to disclose the expletives we matrons simultaneous hissed at the offending infant but, suffice it to say, the Grand Canyon of an age gap between us and her was duly noted as we returned to our task  albeit a little less enthusiastically!

Despite that I don t often do the weekly shopping, I have noticed an alarming increase in the number of different types of trolleys today s shoppers have to choose from.
In my day  the era when I was trusted to deal with navigating and purchasing  there were only two sorts, the wobbly wheel trolley or the gummy handled trolley. That was it.
But now one is confronted with an endless range. There s the standard one seater, the two seater, the infant carrier, the infant carrier with child seat adjacent, the handicapped and the partitioned type for un-mixable items!
On a recent trip to the local  and newly improved  mega-store, it took me longer to select my trolley than it did to fill it! In the end I settled for the nearest available sort, an infant carrier with child seat adjacent.
And for my crime I endured mistrustful glances from other wiser shoppers as I pushed my chosen carriage around the aisles. I mean, it isn t as if I threw a child to the floor to get the contraption! I made sure there were plenty more in the trolley bay.
I was just satisfied that my handbag finally had somewhere to go besides being buried by all my goods. It s embarrassing to be digging items out of your purse as you load the conveyor belt.
No matter how hard I try, small things end up inside my handbag, forcing me to appear guilty as I discover them.
It s suddenly a little clearer why I m not allowed to do the shopping very often.

Anne s View
With Anne deBondt

It took awhile before I was able to write this week s column. Not because I couldn t think of anything worth writing about (that could never happen) but because first I had to stop gut laughing in order to see the keys!
You may recall past articles where I ve ridiculed, scorned and scoffed at the hilarious excuses given when someone s behaviour is less than acceptable until they re conveniently found to be suffering from ABCD or LMNOP or BS and then they re miraculously cleared of all liability. Just to refresh your memory, the last stay of execution to tickle me so was Post Traumatic Embittered Disorder (PTED) where adults get away with behaving like petulant schoolchildren in the workplace because they re suffering from too much work related pressure  you know, phones, typing, deadlines, yadda, yadda, yadda.
However, lest you worried all asinine pardons had been exhausted, there s another opportunity for future misbehaviour to be indulged.
A rare few holidaymakers have now jumped on the bandwagon of the man-made illness syndrome and claimed Pre-Holiday Tension (PHT) for themselves. And this one really takes the cake!
This most recent malady to surface is a compulsion to finish workloads and ensure things are running smoothly before leaving . And, evidently, causes the poor diddums to fret and fuss so much that they almost, almost, mind you, cancel their hols. This, according to the researchers into this latest boo-hoo, is a boo-boo. You see, one can only be cured when one takes the hols not abstains from one!
Oh please! Now we re to believe that carrying out your occupational duties is a condition worthy of medical attention? Being a good conscientious worker is an illness? And the prescribed treatment for this most stressful of stresses is a relaxing two weeks in the sun? It must have taken ages to come up with that gem.
And let me guess, anxiety caused by sickness requires a few days off and recuperation at home? Oh wait, better still ... weekend worry is cured by having two days off in a row? I see how it all works now.

Not to be too American about it, but here s a high-five to Name and address supplied in last week s Ely Standard for their spot-on comments concerning tractor drivers.
I understand the need for farm vehicles to get to and fro just like the rest of us, albeit, they in a vehicle made for dirt tracks and us in motorway worthy transportation....
But today s roads are overly congested, inadequately maintained and full to the brim with two and three car families, not to mention, road ragers, caravans and out-of-towners. Tractors are becoming a complication too far!
And just in case you think I m being unfair to the hard working, industrious farmers in our area, you should have heard my reaction when I had the displeasure of being caught by a farm vehicle slowing traffic to the point of standstill and an American trying to navigate a roundabout!
No sooner had we freed ourselves from the confines of an agricultural lock-up, when we were confronted by a serviceman going the wrong way around a roundabout. Had my other half not reacted so quickly disaster would have struck!
Even I yelled profanities and insults at the Yank and his fatherland  much to the amusement of my family in the car with me. Evidently, there s nothing funnier than the pot calling the kettle black, according to my reserved and very non-American husband.

Anne s View
With Anne deBondt

We are living in the middle of theme  hell! From grocery stores to petrol station to cinemas we re being bombarded with promotions of nearly new, larger than life character festooning food labels, billboards and non stop television advertisements.
It seems the humble brand name is no longer adequate. Evidently beef burgers, toothpaste, plasters and even soda sells much better if the packaging is adorned with the Hulk s hulking figure! And how will we do without the trio of Charlie s Angels adorning every page of every publication once the hoopla is over?
But what s worse, the people responsible for these attention grabbing crazes don t care that the majority of us over the age of ten aren t interested in their propaganda.
In days gone by it was easy to avoid this sort of overkill... I simply didn t buy cereal until the movie bombed, the book didn t sell or the toy faltered and things went back to normal.
But modern promotions and publicity machines are no longer content just to target the Cheerio s crowd; they ve taken over the entire world. It s now impossible to miss the incessant sequels of Harry Potter books, the movie version of every 70 s television programme ever broadcasted, Arnie and his terminating abilities and so on and so on. Even if you lived in a cave and didn t come out until sundown!
You know, just a point of curiosity, I occasionally watched the original Incredible Hulk television series and could never work out how the big green guy could burst out of his shirt and shoes yet his trousers  particularly the waistband  seemed to hold up....
Anyway, the nonsense doesn t stop with the exaggerated media blitz. The stores soon become stocked to the rafters with the latest merchandise whenever there s another opportunity to exploit a gimmick. Every bookstore I ve been to in the past month is overflowing with massive displays of countless Harry Potter hardbacks, despite that we were lead to believe we d practically have to sleep at the store in order to obtain our very own copy before they sold out! The ultimate hype, if you ask me.
Although, to be fair, I suppose the relentless puff and fanfare does serve a purpose, as a rule, you can guarantee that the greater the hyperbole, the more inferior the product.

I have never understood the attraction of tattoos. But at least, however unfair this is, on men, the unsightly things give the impression of rebellion, ruggedness, toughness? I m not sure, but all acceptable, nonetheless.
What I am sure of is that on women a tattoo is just downright bizarre. I recently strolled around a Sunday market and was stunned at the number of females, young, old, tall, short, skinny, chubby and everything in between sporting all sorts of peculiar designs on almost every part of their exposed bodies. From dragons to initials it was like being at a body painting exhibition.
No word of a lie, I actually saw one brazen gal with tattoos of large dogs paws starting at the top of her left shoulder and disappearing downward into the waistband of her shorts. She proudly wore a backless halter top in order to show off the artwork.
I spent the rest of the afternoon trying to figure out just what message she was sending. And no matter how I tried to be with it  or open minded, none of my interpretations were good! It s been three weeks and I still can t imagine why you d want people to think dogs walked on you?

Anne s View
With Anne deBondt

Youth-involved crime is a distressing issue plaguing our city centres and villages. Worse yet, the number of offences and transgressions are increasing to a worrying degree.
The solution has never been easy  if ever resolved! And I suppose, as in past generations, aside from activities, incentives and encouragements, the only other alternative is to hope that today s delinquent children eventually grow out of their need to break the law or cause upset to others .
However, as if the media coverage of rising statistics wasn t disturbing enough, I read a notice in a local shop that completely and utterly spelled out for me just how miserable a few of today s youths have made things for themselves an others.
The official looking notice stated that the store would no longer be selling flour and eggs to children in cooperation with the police and the neighbourhood watch scheme in their area.
Flour and eggs? Appallingly, along side solvents, cigarettes, alcohol and pornography, fundamental ingredients to the ordinary diet are now being denied to minors due to the potential for inappropriate use.
Whatever next, an age limit on the purchase of toilet paper? I mean, not wishing to put ideas into the minds of mini-mischief makers, but with a little ingenuity they could make a nuisance out of fruit. Dare I predict that the humble banana might be next on the exclusion list?
Wouldn t it just be easier for shops to forbid anyone under the age of 16 from entering all together?

Is it me or does anyone else think that celebrities of today  particularly females  are looking rather unattractive?
It might just be the magazines I subscribe to but in the last two weeks I ve spotted a picture of one major starlet with badly chipped polish on her uneven nails and some absurdly coloured (and clashing) hat upon her bonce at a mega-money, over the top movie premiere, no less! And then there was the 40 year old veteran superstar attempting another come-back by wearing an outfit that rivalled Ms. Aguilera for bad taste.
What s the point of Hollywood s best enduring tummy tucks, face lifts, botox treatments and food deprivation if they re just going to wear see-through rags to gala events? Why all the airbrushing and Vaseline-lens effects if they can t even manage a decent manicure?
It s a mystery to me why some of them are famous anyway. I can t think of a film I ve seen in the last ten years that s worth remembering (obviously), let alone achieving the status of Classic. Moreover, I can t think of a single star, male or female, to equal the talents and appeal of the late Katherine Hepburn or Spencer Tracey.
I know, I know, I m showing my age ... but at least I m not showing it despite employing a team of dressers, extensive cosmetic surgery and airbrush techniques trying to hide it!
I am a stickler for detail. I read small print on contracts or written agreements and scour a garment for flaws  inside and out  before purchasing it. I ve even been known to return the complimentary hanger once when it was less than satisfactory.
So you can imagine my disgruntlement whenever I am faced with the misleading word From  on sale signs and advertisement.
For example, an item is promoted as costing from £29.99. You can see this information a mile off, while the word from is almost hidden by comparison. Translated, this means you could get to the till and instead of paying near thirty, you pay as much as £50.00. Daylight robbery and there s nothing you can do about it  except refuse to buy the item.

Anne s View
With Anne deBondt

I know I ve written about this topic before but as annoying as it may be for you that I repeat myself, take I heart, I don t write about this as often as I complain about it!
Nonetheless, the word SEX is being used as retail bait even more often than usual and I feel its worth another mention  at least...

Everything from magazines to political documentation is being sexed up  to entice viewers, readers and passers by to take notice. Why? Why is the word SEX  such a selling point? What does it say about the human race that retailers, media types and even small-time traders need such false advertising to grab our attention? Isn t the merchandise enough?

One popular outlet emblazoned the word SEX in three foot high lettering on their shop front window. However, the miniscule print underneath revealed that the product attempting to be sold had nothing whatsoever to do with SEX. Evidently it s more profitable to deceive the clientele than advertise honestly. And does anyone really purchase from such a place just because they were tricked into ... what, thinking that they were going to have SEX with the staff? Is society so immoral that we actually tolerate such tactics without indignation?

And not even our high ranking government officials escape such treatment. If I hear the phrase sexed up  used once more when referring to the dodgy Iraqi dossier I ll scream! I don t know about you but it s enough that the report was controversial, divisive and allegedly fraudulent without the media trying to make an aphrodisiac out of it!

Whatever next, churches using this tasteless ploy by displaying the word SEX in huge print across the diocese notice boards only to accompany it with smaller print underneath, If you had it out of wedlock, get in here!  Actually, that might be the one time it accomplished something.

Ok, that s me done with this issue  for the time being!

And speaking of repetitive themes....
From the looks of things, I am not alone in my agitation that vehicles are still running into the Ely Railway Bridge, despite thousands and thousands of pounds having been spent on the structure and futile forewarnings put in place to prevent such occurrences. We re still being treated to one spectacular thumping after another. Actually, I ve only ever witnessed one of these incidents but the racket it created was tremendous. If that sound could be reproduced as a caution and warning instead of flashing lights each time an unsuitable vehicle approached, it would most definitely be a deterrent.

Anyway, far be it from me to offend those responsible for finding a solution, but it isn t exactly rocket science. The straight forward and simple answer is to employ an often suggested method of hanging chain-like devices from a framework somewhat prior to the fork in the road. Thus, the clatter and din created when chain met motor vehicle would duly alarm said driver in sufficient time so as to allow him/her to take alternative action.

Anyone with half a degree in structural engineering can see that the bridge isn t  too low, the road isn t  too high and the drivers aren t too savvy... therefore, the warnings are too ineffective! Anyone want to take bets as to how long it s going to be before the masterminds come to this elementary conclusion too?

Anne's View
With Anne deBondt

Each June I set aside time for Wimbledon. For two weeks I do little else in the afternoons but snack, sip lemonade (All healthy diet foods, of course. I figure the least I can do is not stuff my face with fattening munchies while I observe athletes compete) and watch the girls and boys thrash it out on the tennis court. And should there be the inevitable rain delay I contentedly reminisce along with the presenters as repeats are shown of former glory days - glory days when the tennis game consisted of a lot more than superhuman, bullet-like serves and fashion shows.
Let me add though that I haven't really enjoyed a match since the mega-brat John McEnroe retired. There was something about his tantrums that totally captivated me - probably because I would have been every bit as bad when faced with unfair or conflicting rulings.
Anyway, despite my initial enthusiasm, I am increasingly irritated by the time-honoured game. And it's taken me a while to realize what it is that's irking me so. Not until I overheard a distant radio playing at full blast did it become apparent to me ... the grunting and growling of today's tennis competitors sounds exactly like the grunting and growling of today's youthful music!
Honestly, force yourself to listen to one of the top ten chart R&B, Hip Hop or Rap selections - male or female. Tell me that it doesn't sound like one of the top ten tennis players returning a ball over the net - male or female!

Whilst accompanying my daughter through a local shop the other day I happened upon the most extraordinary gadget. I wasn't looking for a digital pasta spoon; in fact I hadn't the slightest idea one even existed. But there is sat, amidst old fashioned ladles, outdated wooden spoons and redundant manual whisks. Let me state for the record that I was in search of kitchen items for my daughter, rest assured my reputation for being the worlds most un-domestic of goddesses is still in tact!
But what so intrigued me about this particular item was that, for the life of me, I couldn't figure out why a pasta spoon required digital features. If memory serves me well, the only purpose a pasta spoon serves is to scoop the noodles out of the boiling water. I mean, granted, the last time I made anything that called for straining or draining it was 1975, BM (before microwaves) but what could battery operated gizmos achieve that manual efforts couldn't?
All was revealed when I took a closer look at the new-age cooking device. I guffawed out loud when I spotted the button for taste! Taste ...taste? Had my daughter not restrained me I would have been on my way to the manager to demand she explain just how a metal object was able to taste food!
But, as if that wasn't bad enough, as well as taste, there were other equally absurd buttons such as timer and weight. Apparently, the timer on the oven is now obsolete compared to the mechanisms of this uber-spoon! And, dare I speculate, one mustn't rely on past experience and just guess how many noodles to feed each member of the family now because there's a European kitchen law against it?
Do the manufacturers of these things need to be told that just because we live in a digitally controlled, radio-wave, push button world, it doesn't mean that everything under the sun needs to be digitalised?
I should have known things were going to get ugly when speaking bathroom scales hit the market.

Anne's View
With Anne deBondt

I've deliberately copied the following text verbatim so as not to overstate the findings...
Researchers have revealed that the workplace moaner who seems to plague almost every office in Britain could be suffering from a mental disorder similar to post-traumatic stress. Workers who whinge about their job and their boss, and spread vicious gossip while doing as little work as possible, may have fallen victim to 'post-traumatic embitterment disorder' it is claimed.

So, it's no longer enough that modern children with discipline problems are labelled as victims of Attention Deficit Disorder (commonly known as ADD) instead of owning up to the fact that most of them are just unruly imps that their parents need to come to grips with. Now we have PTED (Post-Traumatic Embitterment Disorder) - an all-inclusive, sure-fire excuse for when full grown spoiled brats throw their rattles out of the pram too.
Why are we so reluctant to brand a troublemaker a troublemaker? When clearly, more often than not, that's all they are! Why are we so hell bent on finding the psycho-babble explanation for what used to be considered nothing more than plain ole' anti-social behaviour? If we take any less responsibility for our actions we'll soon be making excuses for ... well, can you think of anything we don't make excuses for these days?
And doesn't this pretty much cover the spectrum of things? A person is no longer liable for their actions at all. From cradle to the work place they now have an airtight alibi for being a pain in the derrière. Although, realistically, it's only a matter of time before researchers are forced to come up with a condition that lets today's spoiled adults (yesterday's spoiled children) off the hook when they become tomorrow's pensioners on the rampage ... perhaps the final classification, something like Retirement Age Traumatic Stress - or RATS to you and me!

The debate concerning whether or not to smack children has reared its ugly head again. And I don't suppose we'll get a final judgment this time any sooner than when this subject was bandied about the headlines in the past.
But just for the record, parents don't need laws passed in order to define good parenting. Those of us who take our responsibilities earnestly already feel we know how best to handle a fraught situation. Where the government can be effective though is in meting out stiffer sentences when chastisement becomes abuse. This isn't a grey area. It's as clearly well-defined as day and night. A quick smack on the back of the legs is an attention getter at worst and a deterrent at best. Deliberately or systematically hurting a child as a way of control is abuse - period!
Approximately 80 children in England die from mistreatment each year - and although it's a tragedy of unthinkable proportion, the statistics don't justify penalising or scrutinising every parent in the country for the slightest act of reprimand - and it won't eliminate the real problem of victimisation. The government cannot employ a knee-jerk reaction to this very serious issue just to get it out of the way. It didn't eradicate gun crimes when handguns were banned - another rash response to a dire situation. And since this deplorable crime is almost always committed behind closed doors it's safe to say the chance of effectiveness here is even less.

Anne's View
With Anne deBondt

Every week I swear I won't give in and write about another celebrity bonehead and their latest attention-grabbing stunts. And, yet, every week another one of them has done something so outlandishly absurd that I just can't resist.

Although, to be fair, it is kind of earth shattering news that Ulrika Jonsson plans on being faithful to her latest spousal prospect. I mean, I'll remember for the rest of my days where I was and what I was doing when I heard that particular piece of historical news. I'm just thankful I wasn't doing anything important so that I could fully concentrate on the broadcast. Do you think there will be commemorative plates and mugs?

Anyway, before I could recover from my overexcitement, I was further blown away when I heard that Homer Simpson looks likely to beat former presidents George Washington and Abraham Lincoln, Civil rights leader Martin Luther King and Bob Dylan to the title of the greatest ever American in a BBC poll. Not that I don't appreciate good humour or that I begrudge others their convictions. But the animation is meant to be a bumbling oaf, a hapless dope and that's who we see as the greatest American? It isn't exactly the noblest of accolades we Yanks could have bestowed upon ourselves - to have imaginary computer graphics succeed over some of the finest thinkers of our nation's history.
However, on the bright side, I can say without a trace of embarrassment or doubt that I'd much rather have a oafish cartoon character win such a lofty title than run the country!

Obviously I have been out of the dating arena for a long time now. But when did grocery stores become the rendezvous destination that discos of the 70's or coffee houses of the 60's used to be? And why the grocery store? I am constantly inconvenienced these days by innumerable couples flirting with each other in the middle of the aisles while I try in vain to manoeuvre around them, dodge trolleys and beat other shoppers to the items I want. This is most definitely a new development.

Now, granted, I only carry a basket (incidentally, this is another restriction imposed on me by my other half, due to a little altercation with a stranger's shin I'm no longer allowed to push a trolley) but even so, I struggle to get any of the lovebirds to budge. There they obliviously stand, centre of the aisle, cooing at each other, no intentions of shopping. It's all I can do not to recommend they get a room!

It's bad enough that half of what I want isn't on the shelves because the big-shot who does the ordering can't do the math. Or that some mega stores (which shall remain nameless) don't seem to know exactly what the term 24 hours means. Honestly, if they state their opening times are 24 hours, then why are they closed between 4PM on Sundays and 8AM on Mondays? Is the ordering guy in charge of the opening times too?
Because this is not 24 hours, it's closed Sunday evenings!
But now I have to contend with googly eyed, love sick youths obstructing the gangway! One pair in particular will remember me ... I'm the lady who gave the lass unsolicited yet blunt advice. I may not be thanked later when she realises I wasn't thinking of her future happiness. And my suggestion wasn't exactly prudent, but it worked for me ... it moved them out of my way!

Anne's View
With Anne deBondt

Before David Beckham the pin-up footballer we had Andre Agassi and his golden locks the pin-up tennis player (incidentally, we still have Agassi - we're just deprived of his locks!). For a brief moment we had Anna Kournikova the female pin-up tennis player and her svelte figure and long blonde hair. You know, for the life of me, I can't recall seeing that girl play one professional game. I mean, I know she had to have played at some time, but I think the fact that her hair made more news than her tennis strokes says it all! Anyway, our current Anna Kournikova is Maria Sharapova (Anna's day in the spotlight has ended - sadly she's reached puberty).

It sounds as though professional sports are going through a bit of an identity crisis. It doesn't seem to be enough these days that a player is good at their game. It doesn't seem to hold much value any more for a sportsman or woman just to excel in their chosen field of play. Now they have to be clotheshorses and look like runway models while they swat, kick, run and jump. And am I totally alone in thinking that Beckham looks like a complete plimsoll in that headband he insists on wearing during a football game? Call me old fashioned, but that would have earned him the nickname sissy pants in my day!

And far be it from me to further offend our modern-day gladiators, but might it not help us to focus on their sports abilities a little more if athletes didn't pose for glossy magazines wearing the latest fashions? We might be spared the mind numbingly boring reviews about what couture label they are togged up in and how much bling bling they can drape around their overly muscular bodies if just before a match or tournament they weren't plastered across the pages of every sad celebrity rag mag.
I couldn't care less what colour Becks and his wife paint their toenails. Especially since I take even less interest in their professional lives - that's assuming Mrs. Becks has a professional life other than looking thick. And as for sex symbols in the tennis world, it's getting harder and harder to tell the difference between the men and woman as it is. Thanks to the pictures of the Williams sisters in oddly revealing designer wear I now know what Mike Tyson would look like in a dress and heels!

Sportsmen and women should leave the fashion world to the rake thin, mechanical models and just concentrate on being good at their game. After all, as far as I can tell, being pretty doesn't help your aim, no matter who designed your gown - or your hairpiece!

We English speaking folk are a strange lot. For the most part we refuse to adopt another language. Yet any product with a foreign label impresses us. Woman's cosmetics are a good case in point. Most of us gals can't even read the pertinent advice and information printed on the label yet we use the stuff faithfully, with the highest of expectations too!

And household cleaning products are another example. For all we know we're scrubbing our tubs with salt water! To be fair though though, garniture de récurage does sound a whole lot better than scouring pad. And I'm pretty sure my l'eau de toilette smells much better than my toilet water. It's just that I don't understand why then we English speaking folk are so resistant to learning more than our native tongue. Unless of course we're just arrogant ... No, I refuse to believe that's the reason!

Anne's View
With Anne deBondt

I'm not all together "on board" with the GM food controversy - not that I'm supportive of the folk behind the theory, quite the contrary. No, my reticence is that I haven't a clue what the naysayers are talking about.
Half the time there's noise about how potentially unhealthy the GM concept is for the individual and how prudent we should be when it comes to believing the government when they say a food item is safe (mad cow burgers and a certain foolhardy politician springs to mind). And at other times it's the environment that needs protecting from the evils of Genetic Modification, as though it's really the soil content that matters - humans can go whistle.
But conflictingly microwave meals, not widely known for their nutritional value, and most artificial sweeteners and harmful colourings liberally added to modern foods don't seem to bother anyone. Yet a crop of modified wheat can cause so much heated discussion! And, if we are so all-fired concerned with current methods of food production and the effects, long-term or otherwise, surely we'd banish all traces of the ominous sausage! Far from the ingredients of that particular item being healthy, safe or reliable, we aren't even sure they're edible!

I have just one comment - well, actually it's a question - for the newly proposed suggestion that fat people, smokers or fat smokers should have to fill out and sign a contract for healthier living in order to receive further treatment from their GPs....
Does this include asylum seekers, illegal aliens and transients or just tax paying, law abiding citizens? I'm just curious.

Either I am the unluckiest restaurant goer in all of England or there's a craze sweeping the country bigger than Reality TV - and just as daft.
Not twice, not thrice, but in four different restaurants on four separate occasions in a very short space of time I have had to endure a raucous chorus of "Happy Birthday" being loudly sung to a fellow diner. Bettered only when the hullabaloo is accompanied by poppers. You just can't beat the waft of gun powder and streamers floating about as you're trying to eat. After the ear-splitting hooping and hollering a server proffers a bap with a candle in it for the victim. Then the din dies down and the rest of us non-birthday celebrating customers are allowed to go back to our meals.
Now, I'm all for honouring the passing of another year. Whether that be a toddler or an old age pensioner, I am completely sympathetic to ones wish to enjoy the moment. Hell, I'm always proud to have endured the rat-race for another twelve months, who wouldn't be! But why does every Tom, Dick or Harriett have to inflict such uncivilised behaviour on the entire eating place? And, you know, I've never looked over at a target of these so called tributes yet and witnessed the gleam of pride on their face. In fact, they've unanimously looked hugely embarrassed by all the fuss and made it quite obvious that their one wish as they blow out the candles is that the ground should open up and swallow them whole. I mean, do you know of anyone who's actually asked for their family and friends to do this to them?
Call me a sourpuss, call me a kill-joy, but is it asking too much that these supposed revelries be confined to their rightful place ... like home where everyone assembled actually cares about the birthday boy or girl ... not to mention, gets a piece of cake!

Anne's View
With Anne deBondt

As I write this week's column I am reminded that today is the 50th anniversary of when New Zealander Sir Edmund Hillary and Sherpa Tenzing Norgay stepped onto the summit of the highest mountain on earth for the very first time.

Actually, for the past week there's been archive footage of yesteryear's fearless mountaineers, modern television coverage of today's confident climbers and interviews with eager young backpack fanatics. Each vowing the same dogged determination to follow the fêted duo up Mount Everest!
Why? What's so exhilarating about clambering up a mountain that has been scaled so many times now that there are probably road signs, street lights and McDonald's hamburger joints along the way? Where's the adventure? Where's the achievement? When Hillary & Co. attempted the feat they did it without the use of modern equipment, satellite navigation and the omnipresent mobile phone. Today's climbers have a slight advantage to say the least.

Now, before you bite my head off for not genuflecting at the feet of all glory hogs, let me acknowledge here and now that I am anything but energetic! I'm likely to wind myself pushing my supplies around a grocery store, let alone up a hill. And I get a head rush just from reaching up to close the windows. So it isn't that I don't appreciation the effort some folk put into their chosen sport. It's that I don't understand how continuing to conquer the conquered can be considered a sport. And let me also acknowledge the sombre news that a helicopter flying near Mount Everest crashed, killing three on board. But, while not meaning to minimize the wretchedness of such an incident, let me point out that that's likely to happen anywhere where there is man and machine - irrespective of location or inaccessibility.

I found myself paying closer attention to the sights behind the television reporters - the row upon row of tents, boots, bags, small bar-b-q type contraptions, etc. etc. - than what was being said. It looked more like a Butlins campground than a treacherous mountain base. There were so many people milling around that I half expected to see a vendor amongst the crowd flogging Miniature Mount Everest key rings.

And the litter! No offence intended to the occasional lifeless and icy climbers left to fossilize for all eternity, but there was enough debris to rival the streets of London.
Instead of this endless succession of copycat hikers and their new-fangled NASA gear (and non biodegradable clutter) wouldn't it be a more befitting tribute to the men who scaled Mount Everest the hard way to close it off now and allow the area to recover its dignity? Maybe erect a commemorative plaque recognizing the mountains significance in our time and leave it at that. You know, before Disney gets wind of the popularity of the place and opens a Disneyland Everest!

I would like to thank Mr. N C Cunningham of Littleport for his most heart warming letter. I enjoyed the sentimental account of how he met and fell in love with his wife Freda so much that I would like to invite anyone else to send me a letter (care of the Ely Standard) recounting their story.
Nothing touches me more than historical reminisces. The comparison of how romances developed in former times differs greatly to todays "power dating" nonsense and I would like to pay my respects to an era that has well and truly gone!

Please make your letters as long or short as you wish and include your name and address. And perhaps include a photograph of yourselves, if you would.

Anne's View
With Anne deBondt

I wondered what catchphrase would depict the millennium. You know, just as we had the term user friendly to describe a device any fool could use without complications in the eighties and the irritating substitution of the word concept for idea in the nineties?
And now we have the up-to-the-minute, equally artificial and nauseating term 'power dating' to define the state of romance in the 00's!
I fear I will grow to hate this latest slogan every bit as much as I do when I hear the word awesome used to describe an impressive person place or thing. Honestly, I cringe whenever I hear the adjective uttered. And after having just returned from another stay in America, I can tell you, I've done my fair share of cringing. Everything from children's nursery school work to a bargain at the supermarket to a good pitch in a baseball game merits an over used and over exaggerated aaaawsome from my kith and kin!
So, with the benefit of hindsight you'd think we'd have learned our lesson when adopting a new language or phraseology. You'd think we'd have learned to leave well enough alone and just stick to good ole' customs and terminology.
Obviously not! It seems that traditional dating is out and force courting is in. The soirées are intended to get a guy and gal through as many prospective mates in one sitting as time will allow. As far as I can tell the concept is to cram several interviews into one evening so as to avoid the inconvenient dating ritual.
And there I was thinking that that was the best part of a new relationship ... the wining and dining, the finding out about each other slowly, the looking and behaving your best so as to be appealing to the opposite sex.
Discontinuing the use of an inane expression or saying is easy enough - just stop saying it! But how on earth are future couples going to explain to their offspring how they met? Until this latest nonsense I thought the story of how I met, fell in love with and married my other half left a lot to be desired. He was my boss. He fired me. So I married him! But hell, even that sounds better than "We met at a cramming session for the bone idle"!

When did we as a society become such softies? How have we become so forward thinking when it comes to crime and punishment that we are practically behind where we were two decades ago? What foolhardy administration can actually give burglars the right to sue when things don't go alright on the night? Whatever next, drug pushers claiming extra income benefits to make up for a bad year's pushing?
Are we striving so hard to save the delinquents and felons from their own stupidity that we've overlooked the law abiding, considerate citizens? I believe so.
I read a ludicrous validation that burglars are people too. That they need protecting as much as the good guy! The question "Is a Television, VCR or DVD player so important to you that you are willing to kill to keep it?" was put forward ... as though the burden was on the humanitarians to keep the peace - to do the right thing.
Wouldn't it be far more effective to ask the thieves if their lives aren't worth more than a few store bought items? After all, they're the ones making the choice.

Anne's View
With Anne deBondt

What is it about parking spaces that baffle the developers? From Ely High Street to the Ely Train Station drivers are already expected to squeeze, cram and stuff their cars into inadequate gaps. But yet, expansions continue - minus the ever elusive car space, that is.
How can such a simple design be so complicated? I mean, what's the structure require, land neighbouring the city centre with sufficient access? Hell, even I can draw up the plans for one of those!
Furthermore the employees of some Ely enterprises are forced to park their vehicles at the crack of dawn in order to get anywhere near their place of work, let alone accommodating the customers. And anyone taking the train should park the night before their journey!
So I find it highly unlikely that the planners for Angel Drove Tesco's didn't foresee that their car park would be used as a spill-over by train travellers. Previously to the grocer giant setting up shop there, cars had been parked in all sorts of positions and locations, legal or not, just to meet schedules.
Constructing a spacious, conveniently adjacent lot and then penalize people for using it is just taking the Mick.
And wouldn't it have been a more generous gesture if, instead of handing over the £500,000 windfall (earmarked for everything but additional parking) in return for planning permission, the boys at Tesco's just shared their spaces and skip the parking fines?

I have been suspicious of ridiculously expensive cosmetics for some time now and equally indifferent to the manufacturer's claims that their concoction is capable of shedding years off our mugs with little more effort than it takes to bake a cake (obviously they've never seen me bake a cake!).
What the promoters don't tell you though is that for the most part, our youthfulness or not has already been decided for us by our genetic inheritance. In short, we will look like our mother, give or take a few environmental differences. And whether or not a £45.00 bottle of wonder-goop makes any difference at all is only ever a personal opinion, rarely is there scientific fact to back up the promise.
But this latest ploy to appeal to our (and by our, I mean a woman's) weakness for all things youth enhancing and appealing has risen to new heights!
Not satisfied with making the average woman feel like a dishevelled hausfrau for not owning the latest face-paint, now we are being subjected to a new and glamorous range of household cleaning products that are the 'have-to-haves of the millennium.
I read an article in an American newspaper that claims these eco-friendly products will not only enhance the environment, but they can boost the appearance of your skin while you clean!
No more hard-core scrubbing aids and build up of oily polishing sprays ... any woman of today, worth her weight in shake-n-vac, must possess the non-toxic cleaning products infused with sweet scents such as citrus, mint and ylang-ylang derived from plants and meant to sooth you while you slog. And hell, not only that, they smell delightful!
And, my scorn aside, evidently, these new household goods are selling like gold. Hard-working women everywhere are rushing out to buy them in order to keep up with progress, despite the costly price tag.
As for me, needless to say, I won't be partaking of the nonsensical fad either. It's not like I ever did much dusting anyway. And I'm perfectly happy to age gracefully without the help of toilet bowl cleaners or grime tacklers!

Anne's View
With Anne deBondt

It's not that I'm hell bent on singling out the fine young gals of today (or the lads, for that matter) for criticism. And anyone reading this space regularly would be forgiven for thinking I was an angry old coot, bitter at not being twenty-something anymore!

But you couldn't be further from the truth. In fact, I recently extended a generous gratuity and compliment to a waitress when she went out of her way to accommodate me and the group I was with - even though the restaurant was packed and we dared not to have booked in advance. And such was my gratitude that I even overlooked the fact that she wore a hilarious spiky hair-do and donned enough body piercings to jangle when she walked (and yes, one was attached to an exposed navel) ... That has to count for something!

However - and herein lies my latest rant - aforesaid young gal excused, in this day and age just being young and pretty seems to qualify a person for positions they really don't merit. I believe the expression is "eye candy".

Now, before you run to your word processors to pen your complaints, let me state now that being young isn't my objection. It's being too young to possibly know what you're talking about or that your "pretty" will sell the product despite your ignorance, yet you've been hired as the educator, instructor, coach, trainer or lecturer!
For instance, the young, blond and well-built lass awarded the prominent position of demonstrator at a nearby car show was just downright insulting to the intelligence.
I cheekily hovered while she was asked question about the particular vehicle by men who either already knew the answers and just fancied a thrill ( I believe the expression is "disillusioned old fool") or somehow got it into their heads that Malibu Barbie might just know what she was talking about. How I didn't burst into an open-mouthed guffaw a few times at her inane replies was a miracle. I lost count of how many times she admitted she'd have to ask the manager!

And obviously she'd spent the previous night doing her nails instead of brushing up on the owner's manual.

Bless her well-coiffed head; she hadn't a clue about the pertinent details her audience required. I'll give credit where credit is due though; she knew the car was metallic blue! And I have to say, her lack of all things engine-related didn't seem to lessen the crowd any.

I'm not against pretty young things getting a good shake at life. But I truly believe if the good-looking young blond really knew her stuff, and was qualified for the position, she'd have been wearing a tailored suit, not a skimpy bathing suit!

I had a little chuckle to myself when I read the open letter in last week's Standard asking for readers to nominate their neighbours for Kleeneze Britain's Best Neighbour contest.

Now, it isn't because I don't agree with such sentiments. I have really great neighbours on both sides and wouldn't hesitate to put forward either of them. Incidentally, I can always tell when summer is approaching (other than the obvious better weather) because tennis balls, footballs and odd balls begin to appear in our back garden by the dozen, indicating outdoor playtime!

No, my chuckle was brought about because the only truly good neighbour is one you don't know exists!

Wouldn't it be kind of odd to meet your candidate at the award ceremony?

Anne's View
With Anne deBondt

I've struggled futilely with a particular issue for a while. However, now that the warmer weather is upon us, I'm quickly losing the battle and it's all I can do not to approach each and every offending individual and harangue them for their transgression.

My problem? The bare belly as a fashion accessory!
Each time I see a young lass with half her abdomen hanging over the top of her low-waisted trouser band, I want to yell in a booming voice, "Pull up your pants!" So much so that you'd think the phrase had become my mantra. I walk around the towns and cities chanting it hundreds of times a day.

I blame the bellybutton-piercing craze. Once gals started mutilating themselves with a bolt through the navels it was only a matter of time before fashion catered to the stupidity and created clothing to accommodate it.

But what's brought my repulsion to a head is an incident where I was partaking of a meal in a local eatery and was astounded to have a bare midriff staring at me as I ordered my meal. The waitress was no more than a mere snip of a gal with a protruding tummy that rested at eye level - my eye level! Trust me, I had trouble concentrating on my choices as her wobbly bits hovered.

It wasn't even as though she had the figure of a perky teenager. In fact, had I not feared encouraging her, I would have suggested a sure-fire exercise routine to get rid of the paunch.

It was bad enough when Madonna began exposing her underwear. I mean, in my day, a bra strap on display rendered you red-faced. But once Ms Material Girl promoted the lingerie to daywear status, all hell broke loose. Women everywhere were wearing their tacky, ill fitting undergarments with unbridled abandon for everyone and his brother to see! I once saw a middle-aged woman wearing nothing but a red bra under an open blazer in Tesco's! Far from looking trendy and Madonna-like, the fashion victim looked as though she hadn't finished getting dressed!

What is it about women - young and old - that makes them blindly follow a fashion trend despite its unappealing effect on their figures or their dignity?

It's as though no one has a mirror in their house ...or a good friend in their lives!

I've shopped my entire adult life from America to here. Actually, I've always believed I was a closet shopkeeper!

Here are a few important details guaranteed to improve sales:

  1. If there are five tills in the store, have at least two of them manned with a cashier. Staring at deserted pay stations while I continuously wait is insult to injury.

  2. If merchandise falls to the floor, don't just hang it back up on the rack without first checking for damage. Nothing's worse than getting your item home only to find a footprint on the sleeve!

  3. It's always good practice for the staff to be more familiar with the goods than the customer. Two "dunno's" (that's' teen- speak for I don't' know) from a salesperson and I'm gone!

  4. Always remember that the customer is not only right, but the one spending the money.

  5. If the phone rings while you're tending to a customer, leave it ... chances are it wont be Tony Blair seeking your support, David Beckham asking for fashion advice or the Queen inviting you to tea... in short, you wont be missing anything important - except maybe a sale!

Anne's View
With Anne deBondt

We are, at long last, at war. Well, for those of us sitting in our comfy chairs, unrelated to anyone actually involved in the combat, watching the awfulness unfold on our television screens, in reality, our troops are at war, we're just the audience to the spectacle.

I dare say this campaign won't generate anything like the camaraderie and strength of spirit as World War II if the thousands of anti-war protesters in London and other major cities in England is anything to go by. Nor will it produce an imposing and treasured leader such as Winston Churchill.

Furthermore, should the unthinkable happen and an attack occur on our home soil, far from the victims stoically rebuilding their lives as best as possible and struggling on as in decades gone by, more likely there'll be a few civilians looking to sue someone for emotional trauma and compensation!

Just recently I visited the Waterside Antique shop in Ely and happened upon a few original newspapers from 1945. The headlines were confident and the attitude nothing but supportive of the action, soldiers and outcome of World War II - not to mention, full of editorial empathy and encouragement.

Perhaps that was the order of the day - stiff upper lip and no disharmony in print or spirit. Perhaps there was doubt amongst the public but if there was it was kept well veiled for fear of seeming disloyal or, worse, unpatriotic.

I wondered as I read what future generations will make of today's newspaper headlines. What they will deduct from dissention such as mine or the stirring pictures of the throngs of demonstrators marching in the streets?

The stark contrast made me pensive... I can't say that I suddenly agreed with the actions of this government just because of the obvious disparity in past opinions. Nor can I ever submit to the 'if you can't say something nice, don't say anything at all' adage. Hell, I'd be out of a job if I did.

But I can vow that from now on I'll keep my doubts and fears to myself in honour of our troops out there fighting for our welfare and well-being and their families back home.

What instigated their involvement in this conflict is now neither here nor there. I wish them all a safe and speedy return. And once they've made their return, no doubt, I'll resume my previous harassment of President Blair and his minions! Accepting a war I don't believe in is a hell sight easier than paying for a government I didn't elect or have any respect for.

Anne's View
With Anne deBondt

I am no dog lover. Actually, my aversion extends to all animals, I can't think of a creature I would be willing to own and care for. Let alone take with me while I'm trying to relax or escape the rigours of life.
However, not even with my dislike of the four legged kind could I comprehend the strange reasoning behind Searles of Hunstanton banning mongrels from accompanying their owners on their holiday site. Yet they allow pedigrees!

Not that I disbelieved Mrs. Frances Boulton when reading her letter in last week's Ely Standard, but I just had to call Searles and confirm that they only permit animals of a certain lineage to partake of their amenities before I pounced on the issue.
And blow me down if they didn't reaffirm their policy!

Evidently, mongrels misbehave and pedigrees do not. I resisted the temptation to ask if perhaps a blue blooded canine might foul the grounds differently to mutts or bark with a preferred accent. But I did risk asking if the restriction was due to a chance of cross breading ... you know, what with holiday romances and all ... I was assured that this was not the case. That the constraint is nothing more than an effort to allow only well behaved animals on the site.

My last enquiry was met with polite avoidance when I asked if only pedigreed children were allowed upon their hallowed grounds. Clearly that was a question too far. The uncomfortable representative demurred and bid me a good day.

Now, I have stayed at Searles. My family and I spent an interesting two weeks there one summer not that long ago.

And we encountered unruly adults in the bar area, disorderly children in the pool area and boisterous - albeit obviously bored - teens loitering about the grounds while their parents soaked up the short lived summer sun.

Not once do I recall ever seeing an offending mutt. Nor do I recollect antisocial humans being evicted due to a lack of good breeding.

Mrs. Boulton, regardless of my anti-animal attitude, I'm with you. I think Searles is being high-handed and more than a little snobbish.

Perhaps you shouldn't waste your time by writing a letter. You can be far more effective by simply boycotting the uppity place and taking your cherished pet on hols elsewhere in future.

As I am preparing this week's article it is being announced on the news that Mac Daddy Master DJ Rapper T-Blair is to appear on MTV. It would seem he is attempting to convince future generations of voters that war really is necessary.

Doesn't it speak volumes that our leader is now campaigning to an audience largely made up of unwaged, home in the afternoon, music lovers instead of the employed tax paying downtrodden?
Hell, since he's already lost the confidence of just about anyone over the age of 25, all he has to do to win the votes of these viewers is come up with a wak way to introduce the next scantily clad babe!
I mean, despite the appalling state he's got their country into, he can be da man with no more than a rap version of "My Way"!

Honestly, who advises Blair, Stock, Aiken and Waterman?

What this country needs is a person in command who can bring the youth up to a higher level of awareness and responsibility. Not stoop down and join the ranks of Eminem, Puff Diddy-Daddy and their crime laden, vulgar lyrics.

Anne's View
With Anne deBondt

I feel sorry for the grandfather involved in the recent FBI mix-up. His time spent needlessly in a South African jail must have been horrific. I can't imagine enduring such an ordeal myself. Something tells me I would have been released a lot sooner than Mr. Bond was though, just to relieve the guards of the strain I would put on them!

However, the unfortunate events that lead to the false arrest of Derek Bond aren't as calamitous or unprofessional as the media would have us believe. There are extenuating circumstances that iron out a few wrinkles.

Firstly, Mr. Bond's passport number was being fraudulently used by a known criminal. Upon embarking on a trip abroad, Mr. Bond was at the mercy of the data base once his information was entered into the almighty computer.

Secondly, his appearance - although this point is hotly disputed by Mr. Bond's family - does somewhat resemble that of the true offender. And thirdly, since we live in a world where computerisation rules, and human discretion doesn't, mistakes such as this are guaranteed to happen - and, no doubt will again.

But what exactly should have been done differently? Ok, perhaps the FBI or the South African authorities could have sped up the process of elimination a tad. And maybe a little less severity in the handling of Mr. Bond might have been wise considering that he hadn't been found guilty of anything yet. But the arrest itself was justified. We only know the wrong man was detained now because the details were checked and the error brought to light. Had it indeed been Derek Sykes enjoying a wine tasting vacation, it would have been a job well done.

Similarly, the call for a million dollar law suit is unfounded. The need to be over compensated smacks of lawyer interference. Unfortunate, frightening and never ending though it may have been ... there was a damn good reason for what happened.

This incident is comparable to when I stood behind a woman when attempting to board the plane home just after September 11th.

She was furious with the security guard for insisting that either she drank from the baby bottle she was carrying, allowed her toddler to drink from it or have it confiscated by the guard before she boarded the plane. She argued long and hard that the request was an injustice since it was breast milk she was carrying. The guard made no allowances. Over and over again she was instructed to make one of the three choices.

In the end, despite her demanding to see someone in charge, threatening to sue the airline or vowing to write letters to a higher authority, the woman, her child and the offending bottle of breast milk were denied their place on the plane. The rest of us continued on our way with shrieks of inhumanity ringing in our ears.

I would have had it no other way. I can say with absolute certainty that I am not a criminal, terrorist or a fraudster. But that's where my confidence ends. We may not like the inconvenience or the frightening episodes that occur and drag us accidentally down a particular path, but that's our world today.

I'm sure the woman meant no harm with her bottle and Mr. Bond would probably have given anything to avoid his fifteen minutes of fame. But in a world of heightened alerts, multi-billion dollar computerised thefts and harmless looking terrorists; we're a hell of a lot safer with tight security and long distance law enforcement than without it.

Anne's View
With Anne deBondt

During another recent stay in America I was relieved to see that my kith and kin are just as vehement about not wanting to go to war as so many protesters proved to be here in Great Britain.

In my absence I watched the international news covering the million-strong march through the streets of London and simultaneously the vast numbers of campaigners gathering in Washington to voice the same opinion.

I'm not a politician. Hell, I'm not even a clerk in an office serving coffee to a politician, but I, like millions of other apolitical folk, can see the glaringly obvious proof that war right now would be a devastating mistake. Why can't the professionals see it?

Presidents Bush and Blair may have something up their collective sleeves and they may even know something we don't. But isn't it time they either shared the compelling information or pull out?

To treat the public, their voting public, as though we aren't entitled to a valid explanation is down right condescending - especially since it's the sons, daughters, husbands and wives of the marchers who will pay the highest price for their insistence.

The weekly lottery jackpot has fallen to an all-time low. Despite the much-changed television format and razzle-dazzle style of advertisements, it seems that fewer and fewer people believe it could be you and are refraining from gambling in droves.

And how does Camelot go about luring chancers back to the bad?
They create new scratch card themes! More simply put, new ways to lose money.

Not that I want to encourage gambling or endorse the waste of money I think the lottery is, but if they really wanted to improve their business, shouldn't they have come up with a way to pay more money out, not pull more in!

I'd like to close this week's article by writing a heartfelt goodbye to my biggest fan.
A woman who read everything I ever wrote, critiqued every manuscript I handed in and wrote to and participated in many of the publications that carried my work.

Never once did she cloud her judgement with the fact that she loved me. If I was wrong, she let me know it. If I fumbled professionally she helped me with good, sound guidance to get back up. It was easy to remember that my desire to write came from her, she often reminded me of that fact!
She was one of the funniest, wittiest writers I knew. And her intelligence and talents still leaves me dumbfounded.

I feared the loss of her would leave such a gaping hole that I would be unable to continue working.
But something tells me I would regret not doing this every bit as much as I regret that she will no longer be here to guide me.

This coming Mother's Day is going to be all the more poignant for me and my siblings. Not because we have the opportunity to appreciate our mother one more time, but because we won't.

My mum passed away suddenly last month and left each one of her five children wishing we had made the most of last year's last chance to value her.

A mistake we often made and one she often forgave us for. Goodbye my dear mum. I just know you're still watching this space ... and editing it!

Anne's View
With Anne deBondt

I see Ely High Street is being throttled to death by road works (again) causing yet more chaos and loss of earnings for the shop owners. Honestly, how much more are these folks going to have to tolerate before they throw in the towel and do a bunk?

I mean, really! If it weren't for needing to buy my greeting cards in bulk or stopping to play count the charity shops, I wouldn't go into Ely either!

And then there's the new and improved Tesco's expansion. Just a minor ripple with this scheme ... aside from the fact that these mega-stores are known to be the death knell for smaller shops in their area, the present all singing, all dancing Tesco's on Angel Drove can't even manage to keep its existing shelves stocked, how is adding more shelves they can't or won't fill an improvement!
It's as though someone up there - and by "someone up there", I mean those wunderkinds towering aloft in their comfy council chairs, so removed from reality that they still think their interference is improving the City - doesn't like little ole Ely very much.

On the one hand we have the High Street - the main drag, so to speak, where businesses are desperate for the council to give them a break ... hell, I'm sure they'd even settle for a week's respite where someone wasn't throwing a spanner into the works, so that they can earn a modest living. And then on the other we are tantalised yet further away from said small businesses with a Goliath of a store sucking what little life there is left out of the city centre!

It's a good thing Ely (and Soham) are to get a new town centres coordinator. Congratulations on your new appointment Allison Callaby. Just one thing ... Ms. Callaby, when you're finished, would you mind turning the lights out when you leave!

I was inundated with more re-phrased words or titles by readers who agree with my boycott on all things politically correct.

Some reformed terms were side splitters and some were just plain daft. But I am putting the list on hold because I want to invite anyone else who has come across asinine safe-jargon to write to me at the Standard or e mail me at with their examples.

We need a good laugh and that's' all such puerile nonsense is good for!

This may come as a surprise to some - it most definitely came as one to me -President Blair is well thought of and actually quite popular in the US of A. The Americans think he's refined, well-spoken and tough! Tough, really?

Strueth! Although, I suppose when you're up against the likes of G W Bush and his gung-ho (or is that gun-ho?) approach, even Jim Royal would look cultured and sophisticated.
Nevertheless ... what with all the Yankee sentiments filling his head, and the fact that someone somewhere actually pays attention to what he says, wouldn't you think President Posh Tone could have mustered up enough fortitude to wear a suit jacket during a recent photo call? He looked as though he got dressed out of his son's wardrobe!

I mean, the man is about to pull the trigger on the starting flare of WW III, can't he just humour us less enthralled commoners by at least dressing as though he knows the importance of what he's doing?

Anne's View
With Anne deBondt

I was one of many, many voices to predict that the banning of all hand guns wasn't going to rid the country of gun related crimes - that it was nothing more than a knee-jerk reaction by the government to a growing and sinister trend, hot on the heels of America and its gun crime madness.
In fact, I even doubted whether the ill thought out prohibition would decrease the statistics, let alone effectively stop the killing and persecution.

In my opinion it seemed ludicrous to assume that an armed criminal would hand over his weapon just because his method of persuasion suddenly became outlawed. By the very fact that he was using a gun in the first place demonstrated a wicked lack of social conscience! And making the weapon liable for the crime was tantamount to making the bullet responsible for the wound!
So, with the latest news that gun crime has soared in this country despite the banning, I am again one of many, many like minded people to shake my head in disbelief.

I am not so arrogant as to believe that there is a simple answer. I can not even begin to formulate what approach would be successful in eliminating the dreadful crime. But taking a legal pastime away from thousands of hand gun enthusiasts wasn't the answer either. I do know this though...
Unless we have a government who fully support the police force, both financially and with hard-hitting legislation, the problem will escalate still further until we finally achieve American style headlines.

It's a well known fact that I have little faith in most charities - note I say most, not all. I wouldn't want to imply that they're all suspicious. And the festive season seems to bring out a plethora of both good and bad.

For instance, each end of November, beginning of December I brace myself for the increased line-up of rattling cans and jingling pots I am forced to walk through when going into town - any town. The causes are varied and the collectors each have their own approach for guilting passers-by into donating.
Some dress as Father Christmas, some opt for the fuzzy antlers ensemble, complete with a blinking Rudolph nose and some just wear their everyday apparel and allow the noise of clattering change to plead its case.

For the most part I decline to deposit my coinage and prefer instead to contribute to the charities that I've had a chance to investigate the procedures of.

Here's my one vital question when considering whether I want to donate to a particular charity: What type of car does the Managing Director drive? Trust me, the answer to that simple query speaks volumes about where your money goes.

But a charitable custom I always forget about (until it's too late) is the carol singing van and its gatherers.

Don't' get me wrong, I am pleased to donate to the Princess of Wales hospital - I give every year. But it's the glass rattling, earth shattering assault on my door accompanied by the deafening previously recorded Christmas music that causes me discomfort. And inevitably it's in the wee dark hours of the evening too.

Now, ok, its dark by 4:00 pm in December and that isn't late by anyone's description. But I'm the sort that once the sun goes down so does my social butterfly demeanour. It takes me a few beats to behave civilly and hand over the coins once I've twigged that it isn't an escaped convict. I'd prefer them to stand on the street with Rudolph and rattle a pot at me!

Anne's View
With Anne deBondt

It's not the first time I've planned to make light of a situation - take a little breather, so to speak after the festivities - by writing about the frivolous goings, maybe muse over a humorous incident - when a worthy issue catches my attention and causes me to forgo my plans and vent my spleen in a completely different direction.

And Barry Aldridge's letter in last week's Ely Standard has done just that. Just in case you missed his poignant comments let me put in a nutshell the gist of what he was calling attention to...
Freedom in this country obtained by previous generations of military armed forces is being made mockery of by a few youths in the Ely area that desecrated the war memorial and urinated on the Princess of Wales chapel.

Amen to that!

His letter made several worthwhile points but none more heart-rending than the last one where he hoped present servicemen and women wouldn't be going to war in 2003, producing more emotive memorials and the potential for more vandalism.

But it crossed my mind while reading Mr. Aldridge's letter that a youth able to desecrate the homage paid to a bygone hero isn't exactly soldier material of tomorrow.

How can today's youngsters who see nothing wrong in urinating on the floor of the Princess of Wales chapel or destroying the wreathes laid by mourning family members have the least understanding of what it takes to kill or be killed for the good of their country? Is our future fighting forces to be made up of spoiled brats, unable to comprehend the overwhelming insult of their actions? If so I would like to add my sentiments to that of Mr. Aldridge...
I pray there is no war.

And on a much lighter note, as was my original aim, I would like to say now that I am making it my personal mission for 2003 to abstain from political correctness of any kind.
It was bad enough when I was informed recently that the word "homosexual" should be exiled from my vocabulary as a way of ridding the world of homophobia. Or that I was expected to wish my family members a "Happy Holidays", forgoing all reference to the religious connotations of the season lest I offend someone not of the holy persuasion.

Really! Let me elaborate here for a moment ... if you are so caught up in your own world of denial or philosophy that it is offensive to you to be wished a Merry Christmas, my advice is to stay under the duvet from December 1st until January 6th. Or suck it up and smile when someone is thoughtful enough to say something nice to you!

But the absolute final straw came about while I was listening to a television programme where a presenter seriously and without a shred of mockery, referred to the portable radio/cassette player formerly known as a "walkman" as a "walkperson".

Walkperson! Now if that doesn't take the cake! Honestly, who exactly would I be insulting if I continued to use the term walkman? I don't know about other women but I don't want any credit for the gadget. I didn't make it!

Why is it necessary to make everything so unreligious and non-specific? Why does everything have to go through a gender tug-of-war?

Nope, I'm not buying into the idiocy. Since I clearly overlooked the opportunity to do this earlier in the year, I'd like to wish a very belated but Merry Christmas to all the homosexual walkman wearing readers.

I do hope I didn't leave anyone out!

Anne's View
With Anne deBondt (Jan 2nd)

I was asked a brilliant question the other day - although my other half has a different opinion about the "brilliance" of the query. We were on our way to the car and he has rules about what subjects we discuss while confined in such close quarters. This quickly became another banned topic - right before the mother-in-law and just after the kids!

Anyway, I was asked what 10 things annoy me most and how I would change them. After careful consideration and a lot of eye rolling and uncooperative silence from the husband, I came up with my list.

1. I would like all newsagents to position a bin at the newsstand so that I may empty my newspapers, magazines and periodicals of the annoying bumph stuffed in between their pages before I take them home. Furthermore the unread bumph could be recycled. Although it would probably just end up being reproduced into more unread bumph....
2. I would like to stop shopkeepers from putting the price tag on the bottom of a breakable item, thus forcing the customer to needlessly handle the merchandise. Really, how irrational is that? I'm especially annoyed with this practise when sitting on the shelf alongside the item is a sign that reads, "All breakages must be paid for." Just to be ornery I place that sign under the thing at risk from us "touchers". Well, two can play at that game!
3. I would like just once to get into a queue where the person at the front isn't choosing the moment their goods are tallied to fish out their method of payment. I mean, come on, it's not as though the person ahead of them didn't do exactly the same thing giving us all ample time to choose how we're going to pay.
4. I would like people with umbrellas to either walk on stilts or crawl along the pavement. I've lost count of the times I've been pierced in the head by a thoughtless pedestrian with a rainfall attack weapon. Or better yet, wear a hat!
5. I would like the individuals who continue to leave brochures and catalogues at my front door, despite my repeatedly asking them not to, to see complaint number 1 as to my instructions for annoying bumph. These things most definitely qualify as annoying bumph.
6. I would like our elected government to remember who hired them in the first place. I would like them to keep a list of their election promises handy and refer to it from time to time just so that they're reminded of what they are supposed to be doing. And remember whose money they're spending.
7. I would like to see our schools given the same priority and advantages as asylum seeker's residences.
8. I would like to see asylum seekers residences given the priority of asylum seeker's residences.
9. I would like to see the elderly of this country given the respect and consideration they deserve by the nation they made sacrifices for and by the government they voted into office.
10. I would like our police officers, paramedics and fire-fighters to earn a salary that reflects the exceptional work they do. After all, they perform a task that we "civilians" hope to god we never have to. I for one wouldn't even begin to know how to pull a body out of the flames, police a risky situation or provide medical treatment to the critically injured. Life is invaluable and they save ours every day. What price should the government put on this?

Anne's View
With Anne deBondt (New Year's article Dec. 26th)

First, let me begin my New Year's article by thanking Charlie of Co. Durham for the lovely 2003 calendar he sent to me and the interesting newspaper clippings that accompanied it. And I would also like to take this opportunity to relay to Charlie that the grand total of full cups of coffee noted on last year's calendar was an impressive 113. I actually circled the dates I was served a full-up cuppa as Charlie suggested. Unfortunately I omitted to make note of the less than full cups so that I had a truer study. Rest assured I will be doing both throughout this year.
Lastly, may I add that the calendar makes me want to visit Co. Durham. The pictures and scenes are beautiful. Thank you again Charlie.

The concept of making a New Year's resolution has always baffled me. I can never understand giving up something that you obviously want to do or you wouldn't be doing it in the first place. And really, we are allowed the occasional digression. It's one of the perks of being an adult.
Gone are the days where we are told to eat our greens, stand up straight, say please and thank you or behave in a certain way when in certain company. Hell, why move out of our parent's home if we're just going to implement the same restrictions as they did?
I know a woman who's gone on a diet every January 1st for the past five years. And by each June she's still no lighter and making the same excuses for her failure as she did the year before.
Why? I keep telling her that if she's so hell bent on making a resolution that she'd be better off to begin doing something fun rather than trying (unsuccessfully) to stop doing something grudgingly! I advise her: resolve to spend every Friday night out with her friends. By June she'd be a screaming success.
And the number of people I know who try to quit smoking after Christmas is uncountable. Here's my theory ... if cancer doesn't scare you in May, chances are it's not going to scare you anymore come January! You should quit because it will kill you. Period!
Honestly, no matter how long I thought about it, I couldn't come up with anything that I am willing to sacrifice or able to deny myself. If I smoked, over drank or gambled it would be easy. But as it is, I don't. And I am quite happy with my ever-expanding girth and the fact that I still haven't bungee-jumped off the Forth Bridge.
Furthermore, I can say with unbridled certainty that I also won't be hang-gliding, running the London marathon or climbing some lofty, ice-capped mountain as a New Year's resolution, simply because of my advancing years or the fact that those activities are now Zimmer-frame friendly!
At my age I am entitled to and happily embrace my limitations. And if I was going to give up anything it would be to stop caring so much whether the house is dust free or the carpets and floors look as though we share our residence with cattle! You see, guaranteed success. What a great way to start the New Year.
And a very Happy New Year to all.


Anne's View
With Anne deBondt (Christmas article Dec.19th)

It's that time of year again. The time of year where I defrost an assortment of Saint Sarah Lee's deserts and pop the store-bought mince pies out of their cosy little containers and into the oven for a hasty warming. Incidentally, you'd be surprised at how many people ask if I've made them myself due to the appetising aroma wafting about the house when I do this. It always produces a hysterical laughing fit from any member of the household who happens to be within earshot of the question too.

To them it'd be like asking if I painted the Van Gough print hanging over the fireplace!

And I am overcoming a past distress and decanting a mixture of fancy chocolates into a bowl intended for visitors this year. I had stopped doing this when I was tempted to eat them all and never manage to have any left when we did entertain guests. This tradition came to an abrupt end a few years ago when my other half dared to enquire where all the recently purchased chocolates had gone (in front of the guests, I might add). We haven't had chocolates since.

As for the festive feast, that's all under control too as the deBondt clan will once again be partaking of it at a well known local restaurant where staff not only serve the food, they thoughtfully wash the dishes afterwards - all included. Needless to say, I have keenly investigated the full cup of coffee situation and am happy to report that I have been guaranteed satisfaction.

It has become somewhat of a family tradition now since the kids are old enough to lodge complaints about my cooking that we eat out instead of at home. When they were tiny tots they quite appreciated my failings in the kitchen area ... unsavoury food and burnt offerings meant they could get down from the table sooner and play with their Christmas bounty. They cared not a jot about what should have been turkey and trimmings and pies and tarts.

But somewhere along the way they began insisting things look and taste as they saw evidence of on television ads or in friend's homes. That's when we relented and began booking instead of cooking.
I was bought a new-fangled microwave last year to try and improve my culinary situation (the family pooled their resources and this is what they came up with as a ¿birthday present, I repaid their selfless benevolence by buying each of them a battery operated toothbrush. They got the hint, this year I received jewellery!)

But I still haven't come to grips with the blessed contraption. Although to be fair, my lack of aptitude here is more due to the fact that the digital display screen has a mind of its own and refuses to cooperate. I get more caution and warning alarms while I'm trying to programme a setting than NASA does when it's trying to land the space shuttle! My family think my protests are just a ploy to avoid cooking yet again - I can't imagine why they'd think that when I've never had the least problem admitting that I don't want to use the cooker despite it also being relatively new and showing no signs of a defect.

Evidently, according to HRH the mother-in-law, I have the Rolls Royce of cookers which would produce fabulous foods and magnificent meals - she only just stops short of pointing out that I would know this if I ever used it for anything other than the clock!

A very Merry Christmas to you and yours.

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