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John Walsh

John Walsh: The hi-tech answer to lonely old age


Faced with cutting £17m in adult care over the next two years, Manchester Borough Council is trying hi-tech solutions to patient forgetfulness. They're fitting mobility scooters with sat-nav devices so that relatives can track straying elders on the internet. ("Oh look, there's Grandma, somewhere near Folkestone.") Rather than send carers to see if dementia sufferers are coping, they may just send text messages saying, "Take your medication", "Eat some food", "Order more bread, milk and Spam online", or indeed, "Go to bed, you old git". The council says this approach "promotes their independence". I can see that. Very bracing, solitude.

* Poor Nadine Schellenberger, of the Zum Gueldenen Stern restaurant in Germany, was hosting a wedding reception when a smart-looking foreign couple came in and asked if a table was available. Like, derrr. Ms Schellenberger sent them away with a flea in their ear and later discovered they were King Carl XVI Gustav and Queen Silvia of Sweden. "I didn't recognise them," Nadine wailed, "I mean without their crowns and sceptres." The royals made do with a pizza in the town square. No Burger King for miles, apparently.

* Here's a case of the blithering idiot leading the blind. In Fishponds, Bristol, some "tactile paving" stones have been laid to help blind people. Usually the stones direct the blind towards a pedestrian crossing. In Fishponds, the paving stones steer them straight on to four lanes of howling traffic. An RNIB spokesman says the paving is "potentially very dangerous". But who is the comedian who put it there? And are there similarly misleading handrails directing the blind into a brick wall?

* We've heard of the Church Militant and the Church Triumphant. It's time for the Church Inflatable. In the Russian parish of Petropavlovsk-Kamchatsky, the local priest has been frustrated by the lack of a Catholic church. Local planners denied him permission to build one of bricks, and his flock are sick of worshipping in a rented hotel room. So Fr Krzysztof Kowal asked his Polish pal Robert, a professional maker of inflatable slides, to help. He's now constructed a blow-up church, a Gothic structure in red and orange. As it says in the Bible, Blessed are the church-less for they shall inherit a bouncy castle...