Neil McNicholas: British fairytale of the emperor’s new clothes

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I’M sure you are familiar with the Hans Andersen fairy- tale about the emperor’s new clothes? Two swindlers claim they will weave the emperor a magnificent new suit of clothes that cannot be seen by anyone who is stupid.

Of course there is no new suit, but the emperor has to pretend there is and so he parades through town and everyone pretends his clothes are wonderful because they don’t want to appear to be stupid either.

Only a young boy has the courage and common sense to point out what is obvious to everyone – that the emperor is naked.

I was reflecting the other day on some examples of “the emperor’s new clothes” that as society we choose to ignore, or are we simply afraid of stating the obvious in case we make a fool of ourselves? I wrote a few down.

Have you ever watched any of the multitude of cooking programmes currently “gracing” our television screens?

In this nouveau world of nouveau cuisine seemingly everything has to be handled – every piece of meat, every vegetable, every decoration, everything has to be placed on the plate by someone’s bare hand. And presumably stone cold by now, it resembles some tiny work of art cowering in the centre of a giant plate and it’s going to cost some poor diner a small fortune.

Whatever happened to a good old plate of roast beef, Yorkshire pudding, a couple of vegetables and gravy, where no human hand has ever set foot?

Our Government’s current (no pun intended) obsession with wind turbines continues, despite the fact that in this country only operate at 25 per cent of 
their stated capacity (the turbines, not the government, although… ) owing to the unreliability of the wind.

And because of the need to have back-up power sources available (usually gas fired) the amount of CO2 being “saved” 
by the use of turbines isn’t anything like the amount the government claims.

At the same time, these basically useless monstrosities are costing us a small fortune in Government subsidies paid to those companies responsible for their construction and operation.

And this is only the tip of the iceberg (an iceberg that isn’t, in fact, melting – as some climatologists claim).

There are any number of publications around that challenge the global warming myth and which I’m sure the climate-change lobby would love to burn except for the CO2 it would produce.

The price of petrol at the pumps recently took a welcome dip, but for reasons which were never really very clear. The situation in the Middle East was as fractious as ever and yet somehow the price of crude oil supposedly fell. But then petrol prices have started to rise again.

The situation in the Middle East hasn’t grown more fractious but, presumably, the price of 
oil has started to recover. And, of course, as and when something does happen to raise the price of crude, the price at the pumps goes up immediately even 
though the petrol we are 
buying came from crude oil that was produced prior to the problem.

Strange, also, isn’t it, how the price is rarely lowered quite as spontaneously?

How does the travel business continue to get away with increasing the price of their holidays whenever school breaks come along? Costs don’t increase, so why do their prices? And then there is the discriminatory practice of charging single people extra for a hotel room.

In the United States you pay for the room and not for how many people are staying in it and yet travel agents here will still charge a single supplement when arranging a US holiday.

There is a technical term for both of these anomalies: it’s called “ripping people off”. How is this allowed to continue?

BOGOFs – “buy one get one free” offers. First off they encourage waste, but what if I really don’t want two items? And how is it they won’t sell me just one item but at half price? 
Surely that’s the same as selling two items for the price of one and they would still have one item left for someone else to buy.

How do restaurants get away with charging at least three or four times the price you’d pay in the shops for a bottle of wine with your dinner?

You are already paying considerably for the meal and, they hope, will leave a sizeable tip for their staff, so why the rip-off with the wine?

If I can buy a train ticket in advance from, say, York to London for a particular price, how does the operator get away with charging three or four times that amount if I buy the ticket on the day?

They are still getting my business – same train, same seat. Why do we put up with being ripped off like this? Answers on a postcard, please.

• Neil McNicholas is a priest in the Diocese of Middlesbrough.