Alan Castle: The gold medalfor over- spending goes to ...

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NOW and again you hear something on TV or read it in the press and you think no, they would not do that and straight afterwards you wonder if what you heard or read was right.

Then you read it again or listen more closely at the next bulletin and immediately into your mind creeps Richard Wilson’s now famous saying from One Foot in the Grave: ‘I don’t believe it.’

Such a reaction came from the Castle lips a few days ago when I heard that our beloved Government is to spend not £40million on the opening ceremonies for next year’s Olympic Games, but are in fact in their wisdom doubling it to £81million.

Remember, this is a Government that heads a country billions of pounds in debt and borrowing million upon million to survive each day.

This is also at a time when we are told that the world is in severe financial crisis. A world where thousands are losing their jobs every week, where millions of pensions are at threat, when more and more families are finding it harder to pay the bills, councils are shutting or reducing service after service because they have no other options under Government diktat – the list goes on and on.

Yet here we have a Government willing to spend £81million on opening and closing projects that will, in total, not last longer than a few hours.

How many extra teachers, nurses, would that have provided? How many extra jobs, how many council run old folks homes would it keep open, what of the thousands of other things we need would it provide?

Yes, I know that one of the reasons put forward is that it will create the right image for Britain. Often I think we are trying to cover up rather that tell the truth of our position in the world.

We even had one Government minister rushing onto TV to tell us ‘it would deliver the maximum opportunity for tourism’.

Surely there will be so many sponsors and their hangers on in the stadium that there will be little space for the ordinary man and woman and for those tourists. For most opening ceremony tickets, the cost, plus travel, plus accommodation is prohibitive for most in Britain today, I of course, with the rest of the country, will be cheering on our athletes in all the many and diverse sporting sections, hoping for as many gold medals as possible, but I just cannot see how we can afford to spend £81million on opening ceremonies when the country is in such a perilous state.

ONE of the most enjoyable tasks I have at this time of year is to pack the family into the Castle banger, on these cold winter nights, and tour towns and villages inspecting their Christmas lights efforts.

I must say that each year they become more and more spectacular and those who give up their spare time, to either raise funds or erect the lights, deserve the praise of their communities. Last year, because of atrocious weather, the Castle family had to do without this annual pleasure because of the heavy snows that blanketed the area last December.

This year, we made the trip earlier and it was well worth the effort.

Alnwick, as usual, has the most and with the Bondgate Tower outstanding and the rest of the town adding to an overall spectacular show, it would be well up the prize list. Morpeth with its blue and white display is very good, but a little repetative. I enjoyed Seahouses, which seems to get better year after year.

But the biggest surprise and by far the most spectacular was at Bamburgh, where many of trees in the Grove are draped with lights and in the centre, a lit deer strolling in this enchanted forest. Add the castle, illuminated high on its whinstone outcrop, and it will be hard to

Those who planned and carried out the work get the Castle vote for the best atmospheric display and the best idea. If you don’t believe me go and visit for yourself.