It's a lot more bother with a chopper

BUNHILL

AS THE chief scientist of ICL, Bill O'Riordan is used to mixing with the rich and powerful. But in October, he will his find his sang froid tested. He is a speaker at the Gerhard Berger Summeracademy (sic) in Austria: others invited include Arnold Schwarzenegger, Cindy Crawford and Dagobert Duck. This last is none other than Donald's Uncle Scrooge, the richest duck in the world, who has been invited to give young Austrians a lecture on the delights of being mean.

Professor O'Riordan is slightly unsure why he has been invited to chew the fat with this august crowd, but he has always been attracted to things that are slightly unusual. There are those who might indeed claim that his hobby - building helicopters - fits into that category.

He is on his third chopper now: the first two took four years each. As you will see from the picture, they are unlikely to sweep GEC or British Aerospace aside in the race to supply the next generation of Eurocopter. But that is not the point for the professor. Helicopters, which are notoriously complex beasts, are not for him a way of travelling but "a mathematical challenge".

When he has finished one machine, he "scares himself shitless flying it around," puts it into storage and starts the next one. "As soon as I start making one, I have already decided it's wrong or not good enough - it's a disease," he says. This strikes me as the basis for a new souped- up version of Total Quality - I'm sure Cindy and Dagobert will be fascinated to hear all about it.

NOW seems an appropriate time to talk about Christmas. AGB Taylor Nelson Publications, part of the market research company, has produced the first- ever in-depth study of Christmas shopping. For your pounds 695 you will learn: that Sundays are the least busy shopping days. That the London region is the most important in the country. That butchers have suffered at the hands of supermarkets. Slightly more interesting (or at least less blindingly obvious) is the list of products that that seen a well above average rise - including sour pickles, table jellies and home perms - and the big fallers. These include yoghurt, ice cream and "wrapped bread complete dry meals". What are they, I wonder?

Not a broad church

MAMMON, aka the cellular phone company Orange, has got itself into trouble with God, or at least the godly people of Wales. It has discovered that church towers are ideal places to to put its transmitting aerials and has already has six in England and Scotland (Helensburgh, Dunbar, Halifax, Sherburn in Elmet, Knutsford and Ormskirk, if you're interested).

But the Welsh are made of sterner stuff. Orange thought it had identified an ideal site at St Illtyd's Church, Bridgend, which has a 150-foot tower. It had approvals from the vicar and church wardens, whose tower restoration fund would have benefited from several thousand pounds a year.

But in a Clochemerle-style uprising, the parishioners of Bridgend rose up and lobbied the local council to reject the scheme - which it did earlier this month. The vicar had also failed to ask the Church of Wales, which says it would have refused permission. But the poor boy will only discover what an unpleasant bowl of cawl he has got himself into when he gets back from his hols.

Shame Ian Paisley doesn't have towers on his churches - that would be a sponsorship deal made in heaven (or somewhere).

NO WONDER British Rail's former subsidiary Red Star has been sold for pounds 1. Not only does it make the most appalling cock-ups, it admits to them! A colleague sent a parcel from Cardiff Central to London - it got there, three times. It went to Paddington, was not unloaded, and set off to Bristol. It was sent back to London, was missed again, and whizzed back to Bristol again. Finally, at the third attempt, Red Star managed to get it off the train at Paddington.

So far, so unsurprising. But the letter Ian C Bebbington, contracts assistant, sent, is an eye opener. "What happened was a travesty," he wrote, saying that there would be no charge and that if there was anything at all he could do to make amends, he would. Whatever happened to the "leaves on the line" philosophy? Mr Bebbington will either become chairman or be fired for gross and irresponsible honesty. It will be interesting to see which.

Legless eleven

OH DEAR, the England football squad has come to a sticky end. Hamley's, the toy shop, has announced "with great regret" that the press launch of its 95 England Squad Football Figurines has been postponed. The boxes full of little men were on their way from the Far East by plane, when they apparently found themselves in an in-collision situation with something heavier than themselves. I am told there are limbs everywhere, and it is not a pretty sight.

PRESSWATCH clearly has the fevered imagination needed to dream up a concept such as "reputational analysis", and publishes lists comparing favourable and unfavourable articles in the national press. Its effort for the second quarter of this year shows that Marks and Sparks wins, followed by Tesco. At the bottom, surprise, surprise, is British Gas. What I want to know is how they judge what is favourable or not. How, for example, would this item score?

Suggested Topics
Start your day with The Independent, sign up for daily news emails
News
election 2015The 10 best quotes of the campaign
News
A caravan being used as a polling station in Ford near Salisbury, during the 2010 election
election 2015The Independent's guide to get you through polling day
News
people
Voices
David Blunkett joins the Labour candidate for Redcar Anna Turley on a campaigning visit last month
voicesWhat I learnt from my years in government, by the former Home Secretary David Blunkett
ebooks
ebooksA celebration of British elections
  • Get to the point
Latest stories from i100
Have you tried new the Independent Digital Edition apps?
Independent Dating
and  

By clicking 'Search' you
are agreeing to our
Terms of Use.

iJobs Job Widget
iJobs Money & Business

Ashdown Group: Editor-in-chief - Financial Services - City, London

£60000 - £70000 per annum + benefits : Ashdown Group: A highly successful, glo...

Ashdown Group: Junior Application Support Analyst - Fluent German Speaker

£25000 - £30000 per annum + benefits: Ashdown Group: A global leader operating...

Guru Careers: Management Accountant

£27 - 35k + Bonus + Benefits: Guru Careers: A Management Accountant is needed ...

Guru Careers: Project Manager / Business Analyst

£40-50k + Benefits.: Guru Careers: A Project Manager / Business Analyst is nee...

Day In a Page

General Election 2015: ‘We will not sit down with Nicola Sturgeon’, says Ed Balls

'We will not sit down with Nicola Sturgeon'

In an exclusive interview, Ed Balls says he won't negotiate his first Budget with SNP MPs - even if Labour need their votes to secure its passage
VE Day 70th anniversary: How ordinary Britons celebrated the end of war in Europe

How ordinary Britons celebrated VE Day

Our perception of VE Day usually involves crowds of giddy Britons casting off the shackles of war with gay abandon. The truth was more nuanced
They came in with William Caxton's printing press, but typefaces still matter in the digital age

Typefaces still matter in the digital age

A new typeface once took years to create, now thousands are available at the click of a drop-down menu. So why do most of us still rely on the old classics, asks Meg Carter?
Discovery of 'missing link' between the two main life-forms on Earth could explain evolution of animals, say scientists

'Missing link' between Earth's two life-forms found

New microbial species tells us something about our dark past, say scientists
The Pan Am Experience is a 'flight' back to the 1970s that never takes off - at least, not literally

Pan Am Experience: A 'flight' back to the 70s

Tim Walker checks in and checks out a four-hour journey with a difference
Humans aren't alone in indulging in politics - it's everywhere in the animal world

Humans aren't alone in indulging in politics

Voting, mutual back-scratching, coups and charismatic leaders - it's everywhere in the animal world
Crisp sales are in decline - but this tasty trivia might tempt back the turncoats

Crisp sales are in decline

As a nation we're filling up on popcorn and pitta chips and forsaking their potato-based predecessors
Ronald McDonald the muse? Why Banksy, Ron English and Keith Coventry are lovin' Maccy D's

Ronald McDonald the muse

A new wave of artists is taking inspiration from the fast food chain
13 best picnic blankets

13 best picnic blankets

Dine al fresco without the grass stains and damp bottoms with something from our pick of picnic rugs
Barcelona 3 Bayern Munich 0 player ratings: Lionel Messi scores twice - but does he score highest in our ratings?

Barcelona vs Bayern Munich player ratings

Lionel Messi scores twice - but does he score highest in our ratings?
Martin Guptill: Explosive New Zealand batsman who sets the range for Kiwis' big guns

Explosive batsman who sets the range for Kiwis' big guns

Martin Guptill has smashed early runs for Derbyshire and tells Richard Edwards to expect more from the 'freakish' Brendon McCullum and his buoyant team during their tour of England
General Election 2015: Ed Miliband's unlikely journey from hapless geek to heart-throb

Miliband's unlikely journey from hapless geek to heart-throb

He was meant to be Labour's biggest handicap - but has become almost an asset
General Election 2015: A guide to the smaller parties, from the the National Health Action Party to the Church of the Militant Elvis Party

On the margins

From Militant Elvis to Women's Equality: a guide to the underdogs standing in the election
Amr Darrag: Ex-Muslim Brotherhood minister in exile still believes Egypt's military regime can be replaced with 'moderate' Islamic rule

'This is the battle of young Egypt for the future of our country'

Ex-Muslim Brotherhood minister Amr Darrag still believes the opposition can rid Egypt of its military regime and replace it with 'moderate' Islamic rule, he tells Robert Fisk
Why patients must rely less on doctors: Improving our own health is the 'blockbuster drug of the century'

Why patients must rely less on doctors

Improving our own health is the 'blockbuster drug of the century'