John Docker: Why should these people who fail be rewarded with pay-offs?

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Victorian art critic John Ruskin is accredited with saying “There is really no such thing as bad weather, only different kinds of good weather,” which just goes to show art critics make rubbish weather forecasters!

It really is unbelievable that long range forecasts issued in November and based on ”cutting edge” technology, advised local authorities, the Environment Agency and other contingency planners, “to expect drier than usual” conditions this winter – especially in the Somerset Levels and the rest of the West Country. Had Mr Ruskin lived in a later era he would no doubt be given a top job at the Met Office and doubtless those responsible can expect a big fat bonus for their sterling efforts. This seems to be the norm these days – mess up big time and sit back and enjoy the rewards.

It is good to know the Somerset levels are to be dredged – not before time obviously and hopefully someone can find a new home for those dear little Depressed River Mussels so the Thames Valley can also be silted – sorry sorted. I’m also pleased to see a petition calling for foreign aid to be diverted to flood crisis victims, has achieved (at time of writing) over 250,000 signatures. According to an ITV poll, the vast majority of us agree, so what about it Mr. C? A popular move methinks. Don’t forget those upcoming elections!

But back to the main point of my ramblings. Our new-found culture in this country for rewarding failure continues apace. Every week there are example of major mess-ups ending in big pay-offs to the persons concerned. It happens in commerce and industry, in politics, in sport, just about everywhere there is money being thrown around like confetti. In my youth I recall there was only one reward for failure – as the saying went, ‘the sack and a bag to put it in’!

Never mind, at least the pupils and staff of Ketton Primary School have put a smile on our faces with their book of jokes in memory of Laurie Mills (Mercury January 21). What a great way to remember a six year old youngster who was tragically drowned with his grandmother two years ago. The funds raised by the Big Book of Smiles are going towards a project to redevelop the school’s central courtyard into an innovative outdoor classroom. Congratulations to all concerned for this lasting memory of a fun-loving youngster and good luck with the sales of the book.

But my bonkers joke of the week, has to be the parish council who have unveiled plans to install a £33,000 playground in a village with no children. Despite the majority of residents being over 60 – and firmly against the idea, the council wants swings and slides on the common at Brisco in Somerset, plus picnic tables and a car park. Perhaps they could use the money instead to create a new home for those Depressed River Mussels – it might even cheer them up!