Wednesday, February 04, 2004

Coughing up the property ladder

A new survey for the Woolwich suggests that smoking is the main factor in putting people off buying a property.

Smoking was cited by 28 per cent of respondents as a turn-off, even more than animals, stone-cladding, artex ceilings or avocado bathroom suites. Those who would put an offer in, suggested that they would offer up to 10 per cent less for a smoker's home, suggesting the filthy habit could cost you thousands of pounds. This could be music to the ears of the bigwigs at the Department of Health. If their current campaign, involving oozing fat from the clogged-up arteries of a smoker, doesn't repulse enough people into giving up, perhaps we will see the stars of TV shows like Changing Rooms or Property Ladder lecturing us on the dangers of nicotine decor.

BBC NEWS | Business | Smokers 'devaluing their homes'

Environment and the modern citizen

Southwark Borough Council have delivered our recycling bags and boxes as the drive to increase recycling rates in the UK gets underway. In my article Recycling religion, I note how the passion for recycling makes no economic sense, but is instead driven by a desire for social inclusion. You can tell how far it works by the fact that its always the middle classes who are most enthusiastic.

The same thought surely lies behind a competition from the Environment Agency to encourage us to all build bird boxes and generally improve our local environment. Why pay people to do this kind of thing when you can fill volunteers with planet-saving moral virtue?

BBC NEWS | Science/Nature | Green guardian seeks UK activists

Tuesday, February 03, 2004

Winter blues

After a long period of mild weather, winter finally arrived in the UK this week - and then went away again.

The bad weather certainly did not creep up on us. In fact, every single day for a week we've been warned that an Arctic blast was on its way. There were fears of travel chaos, burst pipes and flooding as the thaw set in. In fact, there were so many warnings it would have been easy to conclude that a mini-Ice Age was underway. And it is certainly true that Britain's famous incapacity to cope with any extreme weather has made things more difficult than they should be. For example, the latest excuse for delays on London's Tube system was ice on the rails caused because the snow had washed the antifreezing liquid off. Once the rails had frozen, this prevented further de-icing trains getting through. In fact, there's an excuse for all seasons: leaves in autumn, ice in winter, warped tracks in summer. Snow and freezing temperatures are normal weather for this time of year and we shouldn't really be getting excited about it. Winter is, after all, an annual occurence. In our risk-averse country with its creaking infrastructure, we get the worst of both worlds. Normal winter weather gets more trailers than a Hollywood blockbuster - and, yet, the warnings don't seem to help us cope with it any better.

Snow causes Tube chaos, This is London, 28 January 2004

(First published on Spiked, 30 January 2004)