Wednesday, May 02, 2007

Bill's Place


That Good 'Ol Boy, Bill Bryson, has been selected at the Chair of CPRE, the Campaign for the Protection of Rural England. That Bill Bryson sure takes some beating!

Like me, Bill isn't even English, though he has lived here for many years and has an English wife. Also, he lives in rural Norfolk. His new job? Protect rural England. From what? From people. If I meet him on Wymondham High Street, I may have to give him a good smack and remind him of a few unpleasant truths.

Number one. England ain't Iowa. He instinctively knows this for he says, "You are very lucky to have so much. Iowa is the same size as England, but I would struggle to find six places to show you. Here you have a wealth of beautiful places. You have taken them too much for granted."

Poor old Iowa – bit short-changed there Bill!

What Bill has neglected to tell you is that the population of Iowa is just under three million. Yes, that's three million in a whole state the size of England.

A CPRI (Campaign for the Protection of Rural Iowa) is not needed. In fact, a campaign to get anyone from England to visit Iowa might be more in order. Folks here go to Florida in the summer (mad as a June Bug!), or trek off to shop in NYC (voted the worst place in the world in my official self-centred poll), or head for California (which, as everyone knows, is not really a part of the U.SA. at all!). No-one goes to Iowa, or Missouri, or Kansas. And, it's not because there isn't anything there to see or do. It's because it's in the middle. Planes don't fly there.

Therefore, the CPRE is charged with an impossible task. How to squeeze the 60 million people of the UK into an area the size of Iowa without causing damage to the countryside?

Pretty good trick if you can do it!

Bill's solution? Bugger the people, just make sure the litter they produce is dealt with in an efficient and environmentally friendly way.

Bill old buddy, you can afford to be cavalier with the countryside in Iowa. Here – it's a bit different. England suffers from a shortage of housing. No matter how many are built, there are never enough. It's a bit like the South Sea Bubble that never bursts. So, the NIMBY's have held sway in rural England since the Conquest. (NIMBY – not in my back yard – which in England means not anywhere, since the back yard in question encompasses the whole of the rest of the country!)

What we need is a CPPHN (Campaign for the Protection of People's Housing Needs). Getting folks to pick up their litter is a worthwhile project for Bill to sponsor. When he tries to balance the need for affordable housing in our rural areas with the NIMBYs chronic short-sightedness, he may find the leadership of the CPRE a bigger challenge than he imagines.

Good luck 'Ol Boy – you may need it.

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