Thornton on Thursday: Human nature is a strange beast

Thornton on Thursday column with Peterborough Telegraph's deputy editor Nigel Thornton -
Thornton on Thursday column with Peterborough Telegraph's deputy editor Nigel Thornton -
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I bet it was a story that restored your faith in human nature. It was the remarkable tale of disabled pensioner Alan Barnes who was mugged outside his home.

The 67-year-old, from Gateshead was too terrified to return to his home after being violently mugged on the doorstep.

Then something amazing happened – his story caught the imagination of local beautician Katie Cutler who set up a fundraising page for Alan.

The rest is already history. A staggering £300,000 plus has been raised for the frail pensioner who can now buy himself a nice new home.

But this is a story that doesn’t restore my faith in human nature rather it’s a story that reminds me what a strange beast “human nature’’ is.

Yes, it is wonderful that people have cared and rallied round Alan, but there are literally thousands and thousands of other victims up and down the country each year for whom there is no such public outpouring of support.

Take the unnamed victim of a violent attack featured on page 5 of today’s Peterborough Telegraph.

Here is another vulnerable victim brutally attacked from behind by a coward near his home.

This man, who is in his seventies and so older than Mr Barnes, suffered serious injuries and is still in hospital.

And for what? A mobile phone.

Yet I can guarantee there will be no huge outcry to this crime.

Our reporter was told by someone who ought to know better, that to “manage our expectations’’ we should understand this case was nothing like that of Alan Barnes.

Really? Why not? With the exception that –as far as we know from the scant details released by the police – the Peterborough victim is not disabled, it is almost exactly the same.

Of course, it is unrealistic to suggest that every victim of crimes, even the truly vulnerable, should get the support that Mr Barnes has received.

His case is the exception. Paradoxically, it highlights once again how in our society the focus is too often on the offender and not the victim. Is that human nature too?

council: They’ve saved us

The city council, or to be more accurate Peterborough council tax payers, are looking down the barrel of an additional bill of £4.5million after roadworks on Fletton Parkway hit “unforeseen’’ problems.

Sadly, there is a big black hole in our yellow brick road.

Now that would be bad enough at the best of times but, as the city council leadership is so fond of reminding us, these ain’t the best of times.

You might think this would be regarded as a major blow, but you’d be wrong. The ruling Tory councillors have reacted indignantly to criticism over the extra cost.

They say they’ve saved us money with their management of the scheme.

So now you know...

Romance: A novel idea

I wouldn’t say romance is dead at Thornton Towers but with a three-month-old baby and a two-year-old teenager it’s certainly on a life support machine. With Valentine’s Day around the corner I’m at a loss as to what to buy Mrs T. I suppose I could take her to the back row of Showcase to see the erotic blockbuster Fifty Shades Of Grey, but I fear we’d both doze off long before the closing titles roll.

Even if we stayed awake I’m not sure it would, er, rekindle my romantic side as the title always conjures up mental images of a bus trip by the local Darby & Joan club!

Waste: Food fight

A tweet from Peterborough City Council last week read: “Amey will be visiting residents’ homes in Hampton on Friday to encourage recycling and are giving away free bio-degradable food bin liners.’’

Mmmm... are those the bi0-degradable food bin liners we are supposed to pay for?

Back in November 2013 I wrote: “I have been happy to fill Hungry Harry with food waste on a regular basis... until now. You see I’ve run out of the biodegradeable bags that were supplied by the city council.

I could buy some more bags, but you know what, why should I? I pay enough in council tax without the council imposing another sneaky tax, small as it is.’’

And it seems I’m not alone as the council recently revealed Hungry Harry usage had plummeted across the city.

Just call me Nostradamus or, if you prefer, the stater of the blindingly obvious.

Business: Meerkat forces

It’s great news for the staff and shareholders of the BGL Group, which employs 1,300 people in Peterborough, that the firm has posted record profits of £94million.

The company has gone from strength to strength helped in no small measure by eastern European meerkats... “they come over here comparing our insurance...’’

Can you imagine the scene in the boardroom when the “meerkat’’ marketing campaign was first suggested.

Surely there was one suit in the room who queried the idea of making Russian meerkat Aleksandr Orlov the public face of the company?

“A talking meerkat?! From Russia?! Don’t you know they live in African deserts?’’ the dissenting voice might have said.

Clearly the boss decided: “Who cares?It’ll make us millions. Simples.’’

Diary of a Bad Dad

The white stuff falling in Peterborough is, as we know, almost as rare as hen’s teeth.

Just before Toddler T was born we had heavy snowfall - so much so that I parked the car at the top of our hill just in case we had to make a dash to the hospital.

That was almost three years ago and we’ve only had one significant fall since then – and by significant I mean enough to build a snowman. Mrs T had me rushing out to buy a sledge for Toddler T but inevitably most shops had sold out and I only found one as the snow was melting. It’s stayed in the garage unused since then.

That was until about 6pm on Tuesday. We had all woken up to a blanket of snow and Toddler T had excitedly announced that me and her were going to play in the snow.“I can’t darling, I have to go to work,” I said.

Undeterred she replied: “When you get home daddy.” And to emphasis the point she defiantly put on her DVD of The Snowman.

Which is why in the pitch black on Tuesday I was dragging a delighted toddler round our back garden on a sledge, snow or no snow.

Related: The ‘Peterborough triangle’ melts snow in the air