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
ebooks
ebooksAn introduction to the ground rules of British democracy
Latest stories from i100
Have you tried new the Independent Digital Edition apps?
SPONSORED FEATURES
Independent Dating
and  

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

iJobs Job Widget
iJobs Money & Business

Recruitment Genius: Content Writer - Global Financial Services

£25000 - £30000 per annum: Recruitment Genius: From modest beginnings the comp...

Recruitment Genius: Web Developer - PHP

£35000 - £40000 per annum: Recruitment Genius: From modest beginnings the comp...

Recruitment Genius: Field Sales Consultant - Financial Services - OTE £65,000

£15000 - £65000 per annum: Recruitment Genius: This is an exciting opportunity...

Recruitment Genius: Loan Underwriter

£18000 - £20000 per annum: Recruitment Genius: This is a fantastic opportunity...

Day In a Page

The Silk Roads that trace civilisation: Long before the West rose to power, Asian pathways were connecting peoples and places

The Silk Roads that trace civilisation

Long before the West rose to power, Asian pathways were connecting peoples and places
House of Lords: Outcry as donors, fixers and MPs caught up in expenses scandal are ennobled

The honours that shame Britain

Outcry as donors, fixers and MPs caught up in expenses scandal are ennobled
When it comes to street harassment, we need to talk about race

'When it comes to street harassment, we need to talk about race'

Why are black men living the stereotypes and why are we letting them get away with it?
International Tap Festival: Forget Fred Astaire and Ginger Rogers - this dancing is improvised, spontaneous and rhythmic

International Tap Festival comes to the UK

Forget Fred Astaire and Ginger Rogers - this dancing is improvised, spontaneous and rhythmic
War with Isis: Is Turkey's buffer zone in Syria a matter of self-defence – or just anti-Kurd?

Turkey's buffer zone in Syria: self-defence – or just anti-Kurd?

Ankara accused of exacerbating racial division by allowing Turkmen minority to cross the border
Doris Lessing: Acclaimed novelist was kept under MI5 observation for 18 years, newly released papers show

'A subversive brothel keeper and Communist'

Acclaimed novelist Doris Lessing was kept under MI5 observation for 18 years, newly released papers show
Big Blue Live: BBC's Springwatch offshoot swaps back gardens for California's Monterey Bay

BBC heads to the Californian coast

The Big Blue Live crew is preparing for the first of three episodes on Sunday night, filming from boats, planes and an aquarium studio
Austin Bidwell: The Victorian fraudster who shook the Bank of England with the most daring forgery the world had known

Victorian fraudster who shook the Bank of England

Conman Austin Bidwell. was a heartless cad who carried out the most daring forgery the world had known
Car hacking scandal: Security designed to stop thieves hot-wiring almost every modern motor has been cracked

Car hacking scandal

Security designed to stop thieves hot-wiring almost every modern motor has been cracked
10 best placemats

Take your seat: 10 best placemats

Protect your table and dine in style with a bold new accessory
Ashes 2015: Alastair Cook not the only one to be caught in The Oval mindwarp

Cook not the only one to be caught in The Oval mindwarp

Aussie skipper Michael Clarke was lured into believing that what we witnessed at Edgbaston and Trent Bridge would continue in London, says Kevin Garside
Can Rafael Benitez get the best out of Gareth Bale at Real Madrid?

Can Benitez get the best out of Bale?

Back at the club he watched as a boy, the pressure is on Benitez to find a winning blend from Real's multiple talents. As La Liga begins, Pete Jenson asks if it will be enough to stop Barcelona
Athletics World Championships 2015: Beijing witnesses new stage in the Jessica Ennis-Hill and Katarina Johnson-Thompson heptathlon rivalry

Beijing witnesses new stage in the Jess and Kat rivalry

The last time the two British heptathletes competed, Ennis-Hill was on the way to Olympic gold and Johnson-Thompson was just a promising teenager. But a lot has happened in the following three years
Jeremy Corbyn: Joining a shrewd operator desperate for power as he visits the North East

Jeremy Corbyn interview: A shrewd operator desperate for power

His radical anti-austerity agenda has caught the imagination of the left and politically disaffected and set a staid Labour leadership election alight
Isis executes Palmyra antiquities chief: Defender of ancient city's past was killed for protecting its future

Isis executes Palmyra antiquities chief

Robert Fisk on the defender of the ancient city's past who was killed for protecting its future