Cervantes knew a thing or two about farce, delusion and deception, but even in his most ingenious inventions, good old Miguel could not have imagined the man of La Mancha crossing the Rushall Canal at Riddian Bridge and riding towards Aldridge to save the good citizens from big, scary giants.
Controversy is nothing new when it comes to the installation of wind turbines. In the north of wild and woolly Scotland, the patrons of a grouse moor howled in indignant outrage at a proposal to harness the power of the wind to bring electricity to the humble crofts of the local peasantry. Astonishingly, the Barboured landed gentry argued that the turbines would kill birds and would therefore be inhumane. The second objection was the thinly veiled threat of the “accidental” unloading of Purdey 12 bores into masts, fans and any passing maintenance engineer. The real objection, of course, was that the shooters wanted to preserve their right to blast God’s creatures out of the sky for fun without the competition of machines supplying the national grid.
The banks of the Rushall Canal are not usually frequented by the inbred heirs of lords and ladies toting shotguns, but the hackles of the locals have risen at the thought of an inhumane turbine being placed in the same borough as their back yards, spacious back gardens, car ports and conservatories. A petition against the blot on the landscape has been signed and presented, posters of objection have been placed between the chintz and the double glazing and, once again, the ridiculous idea of free, sustainable energy has been exposed as a bird killer.
Add to this horror the nuisance of the noise from swishing blades that will create “an almighty din” beyond shotgun range from the nearest house and the fact that the turbine will spoil the view of the architectural magnificence of the Redhouse Industrial Estate and you will realise that the residents have a just and honourable cause. Given the vehemence and decibel level of the opposition presented by the nice people of Rushall, Aldridge and the eastern wastelands of St Matthews, it is blindingly obvious that the single turbine will now not propel itself through the planning process. Safe in the knowledge that the giant will not be erected, Walsall’s own Don Quixote, in the formidable shape of Councillor Mohammed Arif, now offers his lance to topple the imaginary behemoth.
No longer a member of Walsall’s Planning Committee, Don Arif still knows a thing or two about the planning process and must be fairly confident that the twirly thing ain’t gonna happen, hence his very public and slightly delayed objection to the scheme. After his St Matthews Conservative ward colleague Barbara McCracken legged it over the border to Paddock to ensure her cabinet seat, the good Don must be worried about securing his own cabinet allowance. His implacable silence when confronted by the concerns of constituents in the poorer parts of his domain is in marked contrast to his shrill condemnations when the better off kick up a fuss. This sudden interest in ornithology and all things green and pleasant will, no doubt, please the Royal Society for the Protection of Birds and Friends of the Earth who both support the idea of a sustainable source of power at College Farm. It is difficult to gauge who is the more deluded but given the horticultural activities that went on in the empty carpet warehouse he co-owns, Don Arif seems to be under the influence of the laughing lettuce. For some, the grass is always greener in a safe Tory seat.
Councillor Arif, irrespective of cannabis cultivation, knows a thing or two about farms and he and his fellow ward councillors will “continue to work with residents to stop plans to cover Walsall with wind farms by organising public opposition”. Whatever next? Will the desperate councillor chain himself to a cow demanding that electricity pylons be removed and the new fangled canal be filled in to protect our heritage? I think not.
Arif, clearly under pressure, is sniffing out votes for next May and his job in cabinet involving counting the paper clips and over ordering office furniture at the civic centre is ripe for outsourcing. The ridiculous Eric Pickles might want to destroy local authority planning procedures but with men like Arif in place, happy to see the ruin of Mellish Road Church for example, the political contradictions are a delight to behold.
The real Don Quixote, when attacking windmills, was given a warning by Sancho Panza. “Take care sir. Those over there are not giants but windmills. Those things that seems to be their arms are sails which, when they are whirled around by the the wind, turn the millstone.”
Sadly, Don Arif has no Sacho Panza to accompany him on his quixotic quest. If he had, no doubt his companion would say that the arms of the giant are whirled around by the wind to power the plasma TVs, microwaves, phone chargers, Nintendos and intruder alarms of Bosty Lane and the Mellish Road. Perhaps Don Arif would like to see an increase in expensive, imported Polish and Russian coal to keep our home central heating burning?
Perhaps he would like to see working men in the claustrophobic hell of twelve inch seams in Welsh drift mines?
Quixote started and ended mad. As for Arif, only your vote counts.