Agony Uncle

County Councillor Lyn Gear has had the shivers. She's been looking at the estimated cost of a regional assembly, which a Cambridge boffin has calculated at two billion quid. Another look into the future has estimated that the summer temperature is set to rise in Devon by 2050 by as much as 3.5 degrees, while winters will become up to five times wetter, causing a water shortage and floods, although presumably not in that order.

The questions therefore facing us seem to be whether we devolve or dissolve, the first of which queries is to be put to the Devon Voice residents' panel, which consists of 1,500 people good and true.

All the same, I think it would be a good idea to use more traditional means of sorting out thorny problems, such as writing to an agony uncle, one of whom I happen to have at home at present. He has been kept up to the mark thinking through your many anxieties.

Dear Agony Uncle, today is 01/02/03, the first of the second of the third. Is this a mystical date?

Uncle answers: It is in Glastonbury, although yesterday was, too. I should worry about the weather instead. It's changing for the worse. Or the better.

Dear Agony Uncle, if there is going to be more water in winter, and less water in the summer, is there an obvious solution?

Uncle answers: Well, you could go to Cairo for Christmas, and buy an electro-magnetic force field in the summer, to keep the tourists at bay. This could be fitted to your barbecue at little extra cost. Oh, I see! You mean, could we somehow keep the winter water for the summer? Where would you keep it?

Dear Agony Uncle, I'm asking the questions.

Uncle answers: All right, all right. You could build huge underwater reservoirs, as long as you remembered where you'd put them. You could call them Tanks For The Memory.

Dear Agony Uncle, I will be about 120 in the year 2050. Should I really be interested in the weather?

Uncle answers: You don't fool me, Mr. Rich. Don't do it, Craig! Please! Don't give up your weather forecasts! We need you! And besides, think of all the children's pictures you've yet to show! The regional assembly will make you an honorary knight of the realm (Greater Devonia), if you'll only hang on for a generation or two.

Dear Agony Uncle, what is a regional assembly?

Uncle answers: It is a region which is assembled. For this, you will require a regional assembly kit, and a set of instructions, probably in Swedish. Take two billion pounds, and fit U and I together. If anything is Z, then B very prepared. Have a T while you're waiting for it to stick together. Now separate it by C from the rest of England, and all you're left with is Y.

Dear Agony Uncle, could (say) East Budleigh secede from the regional assembly, and set itself up as an independent nation?

Uncle answers: Well, isn't that the general idea? The South West breaks away from the rest of the country, bringing Wiltshire with it, and pretty soon, East Budleigh, like everywhere else, is in a general state. In no time, the principle of federalism will spread like wildfire, and every parish will have its own flag, its own roads, schools, hospitals, floods, droughts, and right to declare war on each other, as in the good old days. Some places will have driving on the left, some places will have driving on the right, and some will have driving down the middle. This is what independence means.

Dear Agony Uncle, how will we get about the region, if everywhere has different rules?

Uncle answers: By boat in the winter, because most places will be under water. In the summer, there will be a charge for the beach.

Dear Agony Uncle, what, you mean everyone will be piling down to the sea-side?

Uncle answers: No, I mean it'll cost you. The better the sand, the more you can expect to fork out.

Dear Agony Uncle, don't you mean bucket and spade, rather than fork?

Uncle answers: Alas not.

Dear Agony Uncle, I would like to buy a supermarket. Do you have any suggestions on how to set about it?

Uncle answers: There is no Safeway to do this. What goes up will come down. My advice is to buy a corner, and then build a shop on it. Do you really need to sell star anise, untinned lychees, or polenta?

Dear Agony Uncle, will there be an integrated transport system under a regional assembly?

Uncle answers: Probably the majority of statelets will allow a Stagecoach down some inter-connecting corridors, or rat-runs, or 'Pinn Lanes', which will be one of those phrases which will pass into the collective unconscious and sink almost without trace, like 'petrol', 'Princesshay' and 'Devon'.

Dear Agony Uncle, a Stagecoach?

Uncle answers: A four-wheeled contraption with wheels on it, a driver, a postillion, a couple of horses, and the occasional masked highwayman. And a letter on the front, so you know which route it's going to take. There'll be one along every ten minutes, except for the N Stagecoach, which will ghost quietly along a different pinn-lane every time.

Dear Agony Uncle, what about the rivers?

Uncle answers: They'll have to go. After all, they're what are causing the problems. If they are filled in, right up their sources, and pipes installed to divert running water to reservoirs instead, then there will be no need to panic when you want to sprinkle your lawn during the droughts of the mid-century. Simply ring your parish council, who will consult your town council, who consult your county council, who will consult the regional assembly, who will have a quick heads together as to whether it should be fresh water or sea water (what is called 'a saline solution'). They will swiftly authorise your sprinkling, provided you hang on until successive operators are ready, no more than ten hours.

Dear Agony Uncle, I will be about 120 in the year 2050. Should I really be interested in the weather?

Uncle answers: Craig. You Have Been WARNED.

From Express and Echo