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
PROMOTED VIDEO
ebooks
ebooksA special investigation by Andy McSmith
Arts and Entertainment
Frank Turner performing at 93 Feet East
musicReview: 93 Feet East, London
News
Toronto tops the charts across a range of indexes
news

World cities ranked in terms of safety, food security and 'liveability'

Extras
indybest
Voices
A mother and her child
voices
Voices
The veterans Mark Hayward, Hugh Thompson and Sean Staines (back) with Grayson Perry (front left) and Evgeny Lebedev
charity appealMaverick artist Grayson Perry backs our campaign
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: Product Manager - (Product Marketing, Financial Services)

£30000 - £35000 per annum + Benefits: Ashdown Group: Marketing Manager - Marke...

Recruitment Genius: Compliance Assistant

£13000 per annum: Recruitment Genius: This Pension Specialist was established ...

Ashdown Group: Market Research Executive

£23000 - £26000 per annum + Benefits: Ashdown Group: Market Research Executive...

Recruitment Genius: Technical Report Writer

£25000 - £35000 per annum: Recruitment Genius: A Technical Report Writer is re...

Day In a Page

Isis hostage crisis: The prisoner swap has only one purpose for the militants - recognition its Islamic State exists and that foreign nations acknowledge its power

Isis hostage crisis

The prisoner swap has only one purpose for the militants - recognition its Islamic State exists and that foreign nations acknowledge its power, says Robert Fisk
Missing salvage expert who found $50m of sunken treasure before disappearing, tracked down at last

The runaway buccaneers and the ship full of gold

Salvage expert Tommy Thompson found sunken treasure worth millions. Then he vanished... until now
Homeless Veterans appeal: ‘If you’re hard on the world you are hard on yourself’

Homeless Veterans appeal: ‘If you’re hard on the world you are hard on yourself’

Maverick artist Grayson Perry backs our campaign
Assisted Dying Bill: I want to be able to decide about my own death - I want to have control of my life

Assisted Dying Bill: 'I want control of my life'

This week the Assisted Dying Bill is debated in the Lords. Virginia Ironside, who has already made plans for her own self-deliverance, argues that it's time we allowed people a humane, compassionate death
Move over, kale - cabbage is the new rising star

Cabbage is king again

Sophie Morris banishes thoughts of soggy school dinners and turns over a new leaf
11 best winter skin treats

Give your moisturiser a helping hand: 11 best winter skin treats

Get an extra boost of nourishment from one of these hard-working products
Paul Scholes column: The more Jose Mourinho attempts to influence match officials, the more they are likely to ignore him

Paul Scholes column

The more Jose Mourinho attempts to influence match officials, the more they are likely to ignore him
Frank Warren column: No cigar, but pots of money: here come the Cubans

Frank Warren's Ringside

No cigar, but pots of money: here come the Cubans
Isis hostage crisis: Militant group stands strong as its numerous enemies fail to find a common plan to defeat it

Isis stands strong as its numerous enemies fail to find a common plan to defeat it

The jihadis are being squeezed militarily and economically, but there is no sign of an implosion, says Patrick Cockburn
Virtual reality thrusts viewers into the frontline of global events - and puts film-goers at the heart of the action

Virtual reality: Seeing is believing

Virtual reality thrusts viewers into the frontline of global events - and puts film-goers at the heart of the action
Homeless Veterans appeal: MP says Coalition ‘not doing enough’

Homeless Veterans appeal

MP says Coalition ‘not doing enough’ to help
Larry David, Steve Coogan and other comedians share stories of depression in new documentary

Comedians share stories of depression

The director of the new documentary, Kevin Pollak, tells Jessica Barrett how he got them to talk
Has The Archers lost the plot with it's spicy storylines?

Has The Archers lost the plot?

A growing number of listeners are voicing their discontent over the rural soap's spicy storylines; so loudly that even the BBC's director-general seems worried, says Simon Kelner
English Heritage adds 14 post-war office buildings to its protected lists

14 office buildings added to protected lists

Christopher Beanland explores the underrated appeal of these palaces of pen-pushing
Human skull discovery in Israel proves humans lived side-by-side with Neanderthals

Human skull discovery in Israel proves humans lived side-by-side with Neanderthals

Scientists unearthed the cranial fragments from Manot Cave in West Galilee