The Third Leader: Up and away

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Cold snaps, Christmas, terrorism, murders, pensions: what we need is some uplifting news, something to reaffirm, gloriously, our confidence in the indefatigable spirit, goodwill and ingenuity of humanity. And so I am proud to salute the liberal display of all those qualities in yesterday's bold attempt to teach a vulture to fly in a wind tunnel in Milton Keynes.

Well, all right then, but there's not much else around, is there? So, well done, Gollum; in the air at last, after four years, if only with bespoke wind beneath your wings.

The true test will come in the next few days, when he is encouraged to soar unaided over the Bucks savannah. But his owner, Mr Steve Eales, is buoyant.

"From now on, I guess the sky's the limit" he says, displaying the turn of phrase that has led him to name his bird centre, Hawk on the Wild Side. But I sense your spirit is obstinately refusing to soar.

Perhaps you are not attracted to vultures, which, let's face it, don't have a great reputation, and some unfortunate associations.

Perhaps Mr Eales can help. He points out that they eat only things killed by others, which does give us a point of contact. No?

Well, how about viewing it as an inspiring transformation fable, like the Ugly Duckling perhaps: up until now Gollum has been able only to waddle, and he has been mocked for it.

Is it Milton Keynes, itself now worthy of swan status, teasing cast aside, a green haven of innovation and good intention?

No, it's still the name, isn't it? These things can be changed. New Vulture? The Disposer? The Dyson? The Aftercarer? No? Rise above it, Gollum.