BUNHILL : Got a licence for that thing?
Sunday 16 June 1996
Yes, it is a Harrier Jump Jet. Yes, it is striped. Yes, it did spend last Monday suspended from the world's tallest bungee jumping tower, just by Chelsea Bridge in London. And yes, there is a business link to this story: it is the first ex-RAF jump jet in commercial use.
Specifically, it will soon hang from the ceiling in a new entertainment for young people called SegaWorld. This ghastliness, near Piccadilly Circus, uses virtual reality and such like to make people's hair stand on end. I do not want to lose my wig in such an undignified manner, so I shall not be attending.
The story of the Harrier is more interesting. Sega bought it, for about 30 grand I'd guess, and had it stripped down at Greenham Common. Just as the conversion was being completed, a fitter found a black box in the cockpit. It contained explosives for the ejector seat that had been left in by mistake. Much panic ensued. Sega then asked Mrs Virginia Bottomley, who works for the Government, if she would mind if it suspended the plane in Trafalgar Square. She said fine, but Mr Plod said no: apparently it would have given Admiral Nelson vertigo.
At last! (Part One) you are starting to send me ideas of things that should exist but don't. Here are some (these all get fizz, but I have more in the fridge).
From Rod Turner: children's clothing with built-in electronic locator; rolls of clear sticky tape on which you can always find the start; beach shoes with a built-in pollution alarm.
From Laurence Manning: reinvent the solid tyre for cars - modern suspension systems do not need pneumatic tyres and solid ones would banish punctures once and for all, as well as piles of old tyres littering the countryside.
From Lesley Rasche: a poodle parlour especially for small children. "Oh the joy of collecting them after two hours, their hair freshly styled, faces scrubbed, nails trimmed and cleaned ..." Now surely that one really comes from the heart - someone please oblige.
Retch for the skies
At last! (Part Two) I can reveal the winner of the Great Bunhill/easyJet What to Put on a Sickbag competition. You may remember I asked you to think of a way of decorating the unacceptably blank sickbags the airline easyJet uses. Stelios Haji-Ioannou, its boss, has now looked at the many suggestions and has declared himself delighted with their quality.
Several never stood a chance of winning but make excellent adornments to this column. Gary Byrnes, of the Dublin design company Big Design, produced two beautiful dummies. The tagline is "Inflight defuelling system", and the instructions say that if you fill the bag, you should mail it to the Prime Minister. A problem for Stelios's knighthood prospects, that one.
Loads of people came up with variations on "sic transit", while Andy Hibbert wanted a scratch'n'sniff patch inside the bag. Among the more practical suggestions was one from Sarah Christopher, a woman chess master, who says chess puzzles should be printed on one side and the answers on the other. Mark Hastilow wonders if a colour-in 737 for children would be a good idea. Ruth Coppard and family sent some delightful drawings, but the winner is ... Brian Lawrence of Leeds. He suggests: "Sick of paying for travel agents? Note our number or keep this bag." Mr Lawrence will be contacted by easyJet and offered a free flight - but the real honour, surely, is knowing that he has decorated a sickbag. It gives me the vapours just thinking about it.
My Northern mole has been burrowing into the strange story of Euro 96, the Bulgarians and Scarborough. You may have seen that the local council agreed to provide a subsidy of pounds 25,000 if the football team agreed to shack up in this fragrant resort. The Balkanisation of Yorkshire was expected to be completed by the arrival of 5,000 fans.
First the fans were kept away by a currency crisis. Then last week the nation's footballers decamped to nearby Darlington, saying that Scarborough was too dull. So far, so well known. I can, however, reveal that if the episode is wounding to Scarborough's civic pride, it is appallingly embarrassing for a local millionaire.
Don Robinson is a well-known figure in Scarborough and ... Bulgaria. The former because he has been leading a fight against Yorkshire Water for creating smells in his bit of town (well, I did say it was fragrant). The latter because he has been busy helping Bulgaria and its emerging economy develop leisure resorts "and is regarded as a bit of a god there".
It was he, I am told, who fixed the original international twinning, though it is unclear whether he put up any of the money himself. Whatever the position, he is now keeping an extremely low profile. And who can blame him?
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