Howard Croft column: Relieved the month of ‘fake factoids’ is over

Bridlington in August  now impossible to find a plastic Macintosh in case of inclement weather.
Bridlington in August  now impossible to find a plastic Macintosh in case of inclement weather.

A hectic long weekend, thankfully now behind us. As usual, we were invaded by people looking for an inexpensive holiday, the huddled masses yearning for it to be free. I don’t remember inviting any of them, but I suppose something must have been said. The most striking feature of these invasions was that every member of every boarding party brought along at least one, in some cases several electronic devices; mobile ’phones, iPads, iPods, tablets, games consoles (which do not console – not me anyway). All arrived with flat batteries. I estimate that at least two items per person were sipping away at my electricity supply at some point during these visits. No wonder, then, that I now buy most of my clothes in charity shops.

August is the month that I most detest, with “fake factoids” in the press and on radio, mainly this year implausible accounts of the final days of the late Diana, Princess of Wales. Even worse, following the worst ransacking of shops by holiday makers in Bridlington it is now impossible to find a plastic Macintosh that fits, a vital garment when visiting an English beach in the summer.

I have noticed over the many decades that I have been trying to scratch a living in this harsh and unforgiving world is that the obsessions that grip us tend to reach a peak of hysterical expression in August. You may remember some of them. Over the years we have had the reckless use of underarm deodorants, the anti-social behaviour of termites and dairy cattle, and over-reliance on refrigeration threatening ozone layer depletion, followed by arctic summers. This threat of a catastrophic new ice age, when we would all be dangling hooks and bait through holes in the ice in search of food, has been overtaken by global warming, a much better story. I notice that I am still spending a lot on logs.

Just when I thought, with summer gone, it was safe to open a newspaper again, Public Health England announced that 51% of adults in this country take less than ten minutes exercise such as walking in any month? Two questions spring to mind: how is this possible and how do they know? I mean, if you step along briskly every time you visit the loo this must come to more than ten minutes total in a month, even if you live in modest accommodation, and if you have a dicky bladder much more. Then there’s putting the wheelie bins out.

I suppose that they hold focus group meetings, much favoured in the public sector when they need to be sure of getting the answers they want and fancy wasting a bit of time. And what they want is to frighten us by telling us that our shameful obesity will overwhelm the NHS which won’t have time to do anything other than treat diabetes. Since, on the basis of their own focus group research, the national bladder scene is in cracking shape, they should immediately retrain all urologists as diabetologists and dieticians who could then come up with a crisis plan.

You may think that I am over-simplifying here and I have to admit that people in focus groups are as likely to lie when reporting on their life-style habits as those filling in survey forms. Though why they should under-report on how often they visit the loo, how far they have to go and how lively a pace they can manage when doing so – all vital data.

Soon we shall be hearing about the perfect NHS winter storm: obese people blocking the beds, shortage of ‘flu jabs (or ‘flu jabs wrongly formulated) and our old friend winter vomiting disease leading to the closure of wards. Why are they telling us about these things when we are so helpless to do anything about them. Best plan I think is to spend ten minutes a day – a day, mind, not a month – holding a small piece of crystal in the mouth while humming the national anthem and having thoughts about the late Diana, Princess of Wales. And hope.