Neil McNicholas: Abolish licence fee and ban mobiles in public places for a happy 2018

FANS of Desert Island Discs will be familiar with the format of the programme. In addition to eight pieces of music that they'd choose to take with them, guest castaways are also asked to choose a luxury item and a book '“ something in addition to the works of Shakespeare and the Bible which it is assumed, rightly or wrongly, everyone would automatically choose and so they are given them anyway.

SCREEN TEST: Can you live without your mobile phone?

When I was invited to make the basis of this column a message of hope for the year ahead, it might be presumed that I would automatically include world peace – always a hoped-for winning wish in beauty contests for anyone who still remembers them. Let’s take that hope as a given, then, shall we?

But before we move on from the subject of peace, we might hope for an end to killing in the name of God and religion. How does anyone conceive of the idea that God (by whatever name) will smile on anyone killing innocent people in his name? Sadly though, that hasn’t stopped us before, from the Crusades, to the Reformation, to the Troubles in Ireland, and right up to our own day and age.

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On a lighter note, and in no particular order…

What will 2018 bring about?

In the year ahead many of us might hope to hear a lot less of the word Brexit. Whoever first coined the word probably felt quite proud of their verbal creativity but, really, as far as I’m concerned the word wore out its welcome a long time ago and there are still 15 months of potential usage left before it is, hopefully, consigned to the history books.

Another personal hope is for the manufacturers of chocolates, chocolate bars, and chocolate biscuits to stop thinking they are pulling the wool over our eyes by surreptitiously reducing the dimensions of their products and lying through their chocolate-covered teeth in claiming they are still the same size. Do they honesty think no one has noticed? You used to open a box of chocolates and they were all firmly nestled (no pun intended) together in two layers in little paper cases and none ever broke or were damaged. Now they are cocooned in a vast volume of protective moulded plastic and as a result there is no longer any room in the box for more than eight or ten chocolates and only the one layer.

With every year that passes (and there goes another one) I wait in hope, firstly, for the television licence fee to be abolished and, secondly, for someone to found the National Association for the Dissolution of the BBC – not the programming itself, well not all of it, perhaps starting with reality shows, dancing competitions, and cookery programmes. What I would like to see completely dissolved is the Board of Trustees and all who sail in her, and without the licence fee to prop them up they might have to get real jobs for a change.

I also live in hope of a law completely outlawing the use of mobile phones on trains and buses, and in restaurants, theatres, cinemas and other public places. First-time offenders would be secured in stocks in town centres and on village greens as in days of yore; repeat offenders would have their services cut off.

What will 2018 bring about?

Is there any hope that some of our major corporations, companies and service providers, might be required (or might actually decide) to return to employing sufficient office staff to personally answer telephones, and reply to emails and letters within a couple of days of receiving them? Might they also learn that, whether on the phone or in an email or letter, it’s a matter of common courtesy to address someone as Sir or Madam and not by their first name?

Might we also hope that someone somewhere in a position to do so, finally gets a grip of the situation of unsolicited and silent phone calls – and stops them? There are laws in place that make such calls illegal, but no one is enforcing them. Of course there are laws in place that make riding a bicycle on a pavement illegal but no one enforces them either… nor speeding, nor parking illegally, nor using obscene language in public, nor fly-tipping and littering in general, nor being drunk and disorderly, nor dropping your kids off at school or going shopping while wearing pyjamas (yes I know there isn’t a law against that, but there should be).

And by now you may have a message of hope for The Yorkshire Post – that they don’t ask me to write a message of hope again next year!

Wishing you every blessing and I hope you and yours have a happy 2018.

Neil McNicholas is a parish priest in Yarm.