DCMS blog

Sunshine, surveys, ciggies and sewers

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John Penrose

John David Penrose is the Conservative Member of Parliament for Weston-super-Mare

‘Ditch your duvet, those summer nights are back*’ as The Daily Mail reported last week, demonstrating yet again that, if there’s one thing we in this country never tire of, it’s speculation about the weather.

Sometimes it’s the extremes that preoccupy us, with a fall of snow heralding stories about Britain being ‘in the grip of a big freeze’, or the legendary hurricane of 1987 that, 24 years on, is regularly trotted out like some Viking legend to remind us of the capriciousness of the weather forecasters. At other times it’s the mythology of the whole thing: with torrential rain the inevitable precursor for drought warnings, and autumn winds bringing down ‘the wrong kind of leaves’ to bring the railway system to its knees.
And all this is just how we are I suppose. And, no, we wouldn’t really want it any other way, but you’re forgiven a slight twitch of irritation when it leaks into other people’s perceptions of us.

Falling UK hotel prices

For the evidence is that the UK has a reputation with potential visitors for having lousy weather. And if this puts people off from coming here from overseas for a holiday, then that’s a real shame. Because – and brace yourself here, because I’m going to raise my voice – IT ISN’T RUDDY WELL TRUE! Our weather is pretty mild all year round in fact, with Rome getting more rain than London, and Sydney having more than Leeds. Another widely-held belief is that Britain is an expensive place to visit. Again, this simply isn’t true.

I did a TV interview in New York last week with VisitBritain’s Christopher Rodriguez and between us we nailed that one pretty well, I think. So I was chuffed to discover on my return that Hotels.com had published the latest edition of their twice-yearly look at 19,000 properties around the world, which revealed that the UK was one of only 10 countries out of the 44 surveyed where hotel prices had fallen compared to last year.
The same survey shows, by the way, that hotel prices in Ibiza were up by 57 per cent across the same period. Oh, and if you’re thinking of going to ‘The White Island’ this month you’ll also find that it gets considerably more rain in October on average than London. Now who’s droning on about the weather? Sorry.
Brighton Sewer Tour

A lavish tour under Brighton

Now, a quick word of commendation to Southern Water whose Senior Public Relations Manager wrote to me this week, inviting me to take part in a tour of the ‘magnificent Victorian sewers’ in Brighton. A quick look at their website confirms what I expected: magnificent arched brickwork and a masterpiece of civil engineering that is as much a part of our heritage as the splendid architecture of many of the buildings a few yards above. I’m not at all surprised they were named Best Place to Visit in the Brighton and Hove Business Awards 2007 (BAHBA) and have become really popular with visitors. They also nicely demonstrate that many (on the face of it) unpromising businesses really do have the potential to have a tourism spin-off. It’s only open between May and September, apparently, and pre-booking is essential, so I’ll have to give it a miss this year, but if the job takes me to Brighton in 2012 I’ll see what I can do.

The worst place to live in Europe?

Finally, while we’re speaking of statistics, a blog raspberry to the price comparison website (no names – I don’t want to encourage them) who published a survey this week which revealed that ‘the UK is now officially the worst place to live in Europe’ and that ‘over one in ten are seriously considering emigrating’. Rowlocks imageThere’s a word that immediately springs to mind at this point – it rhymes with those things you use to brace oars on a rowing boat. And it’s all the more tempting to use it when you discover that the website’s way of measuring quality of life includes things like the price of booze and cigarettes (!), but never mind.
In the interests of balance, though, I am obliged to give a brief mention to something called the Anholt Nation Brand Index which every year polls 20,000 people round the world to find out what they think of 50 different nations in terms of its assets, quality of life, culture and so on. This rather larger and, frankly, more authoritative piece of work finds the UK fourth in the world. I’m not sure if it takes account of the relative price of 20 fags and a can of Special Brew, but it’s good enough for me.
*This, of course, refers to what we collectively choose to call an Indian Summer which – and I’m indebted to the BBC R4 Today programme here – is not derived from anything that happens on the sub-continent but, rather, has its origins with the native American people. And in any event it doesn’t, apparently, count as ‘Indian’ if it takes place in September. That’s what known as ‘the summer’, with nationality unspecified and, looking at people hurrying by with umbrellas being blown inside-out on the pavement outside, it has quickly reverted to type. Get a grip, everyone.

Image credits

Rowlocks image by Frank on Flickr. Some rights reserved.
Brigton sewer tout image by Miles Sabin on Flickr. Some rights reserved.

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