Howard Croft column: When all wisdom and counsel are put aside ...

Plans for Wentworth Street car park were a contentious issue for Ryedale District Council.
Plans for Wentworth Street car park were a contentious issue for Ryedale District Council.

It was interesting to read a press report on the outcome of an external review of the working of Ryedale District Council. Judging from the excerpts printed it was a pretty damning report: meetings described as a circus; the behaviour of some councillors is poor and disruptive; the methods of reaching decisions are demoralising members and officers and not sustainable; members need to concentrate on doing what is best rather than becoming engaged in political game playing.

To describe council meetings as a circus is unfair to clowns. A zoo more like it, but that would be unfair to dumb animals. I have witnessed the antics of some council members which, although often being often and entertaining, do waste time and have little impact on the council majority’s bovine determination to have its own way. But, what are they to do in the face of a whipped (there is no whip we are told) majority, unwilling or unable to engage in unscripted debate and to evaluate evidence.

The most striking example of this was the meeting at which the council leadership performed a reverse ferret and renounced its previously fiercely pursued policy on the sale of the Wentworth Street car park. Apart from the leader, no Conservative councillor was permitted to speak (although one brave soul, Councillor Duncan [C], broke ranks and did so); the non-Tory members and public observers were treated to the extraordinary spectacle of a phalanx of mute councillors, slab-faced like Easter Island statues, unable or not permitted to contribute. If only the external assessors had been present on that day!

That the council leader in her comments represented the outcome of the review as a victory and vindication in the best traditions of political evasion:

“The results show a council that has a clear sense of priorities and highlighted our success at supporting our big ambitions” et cetera, ad nauseam. I could go on. What will happen? Not much – more gagging and more secrecy.

For several months, I have been enduring a medical indisposition that so far has remained uncategorised. I would not normally mention such a matter to anyone other than my closest kin, but in this case, as my signs and symptoms, which are legion, include now evident loss of weight, I must break my silence.

This sign alone is enough to lead people to a grim and obvious diagnosis, itself leading to knowing looks and poorly concealed morbid curiosity. I have casually mentioned malabsorption, possible food allergy and the like, to satisfy the curious.

I have become aware that I am surrounded by amateur nutritionists and allergists who are bringing their hitherto undisclosed expertise to bear on my situation. These are areas that attract more than their fair share of cranks, crackpots and know-alls and my own circle of family and friends is no exception. I have been variously advised sharply to increase the fibre in my diet, to eliminate fibre completely; to avoid dairy produce, or to eat nothing else. And so on.

The most depressing prescription has been to reduce my diet to drinking only distilled water and eating two slices of papaya fruit (unseasoned) twice daily, this regime to be followed faithfully for eight weeks.

Thereafter, I shall be permitted to add some lemon juice to the water and continue for a further eight weeks, thereafter adding more goodies until I am back to a regular diet.

Of course, I may have died of boredom or malnutrition long before I get back to roast beef and Yorkshire pudding.

I have decided to stick to conventional medicine and those properly qualified to practise it. Their first step was to order a colonoscopy. I first experienced this procedure 12 years ago when I was living in America where, for all men over 40, it is an annual event, as important a part of their social lives as Thanksgiving and Martin Luther King Day. The procedure was conducted in large room, a bit like a milking parlour in a rundown farm, with rows of grey-faced men groaning under the influence of light anaesthesia. It was painful.

In York (NHS mind, not private) I was the only patient in the room; no anaesthetic and no pain. Miniaturisation has come along a bit in twelve years, I know, and that may have helped, but I put down this superior experience in York to two things: incredibly kind and considerate staff, who were coming to the end of their tiring day, and the fact that I was allowed to watch the procedure on a television screen with live commentary from the endoscopist and a nurse who seemed keen to hold my hand.

Well, as I said later to Mrs Croft, she’s only human.