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Goodbye 2012 – and what a year it was for us all

By West Briton  |  Posted: December 27, 2012

  • The Leisurely Ladies and cox Henry Shaw, of Helford, who were invited to take part in the Queen's Diamond Jubilee river pageant.

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WELL, that turned out to be a pretty humdrum, nondescript 12 months ....

Not much happened, really – just the Olympics, the torch relay, the Queen's Diamond Jubilee, more anniversaries/centenaries/celebrations than you could shake a stick at.

Yes, I jest of course; 2012 was a year the like of which none of us, nor our descendants, will be likely to witness ever again unless there is some outrageous conjunction of the stars and fates.

The chances of this country again sharing a summer Olympics and a monarch's 60 years within a few short spring and summer weeks are nigh on nil.

Both events showed the best side of this nation – and Cornwall contributed more than its fair share to both.

But if they illustrated all that was good about the country there were plenty of things that did not.

Being the season to be merry, not morbid, we won't pay too much heed to the negatives of the past year but, as usual, look mostly at the things that amused, entertained – and, yes, occasionally – frustrated us.

JANUARY roared in with the storms that appeared to hang around all year and still show no sign of abating.

The boys in blue were a tad red faced when the West Briton catalogued hundreds of items stolen from the – er – police.

Among them was a CCTV camera and the wheel of a car, which was taken from Truro police station. Ooops.

And in one of the year's running stories – and despite the new year being only days old – there was already criticism of plans for a new stadium for Cornwall.

Eyebrows were raised when it was found that while locals were being charged to use a car park at Coverack on the Lizard, travellers who had been on site for years were not.

Waste disposal charges rose and gardeners were hit in the hardy perennials with a £15 wheelie bin charge.

Culdrose airday was cancelled because of the bases's Olympic commitments and in a foreshadowing of the summer's other big event, a gig crew from the Helford was invited to take part in the Queen's Diamond Jubilee river pageant.

Prince Harry, training at nearby RAF St Mawgan, popped into The Smugglers Den at Cubert for a quick pub quiz (sample question: Which Royal will be seen in a state of undress in Las Vegas later this year?).

And a group of knitting "guerillas" – an anonymous bunch of Cornish ladies of a certain age who leave items of their work in local town and villages for people to pick up and keep – hit New York with examples of their knitting prowess.

In a bid to get people back into town centres, the West Briton launched its Go To Town! initiative in FEBRUARY.

A number of local councillors were "outed" (or in at least one case, outed themselves) for not doing what they expected of the rest of us, paying their council tax on time – or, indeed, at all.

Parish and town councils throughout Cornwall were told they would have to spend rather more than a penny to take over the running of public toilets after a Cornwall Council budget cut.

And over at Perranporth warning signs to alert visitors of the risk of exploring mine workings were considered.

There was righteous indignation when, horror of horrors, the possibility of part of Cornwall sharing an MP with part of – I can hardly bring myself to say it – Devon was suggested.

Cue the Cornish Stannary Parliament breathing fire and brimstone (or perhaps Spingo and pasties).

Truro-based brewery Skinner's signed an export deal with Canada. The North Americans might have Canada Dry but, until earlier this year, they missed out on the undisputed delights of Cornish Knocker and Betty Stogs.

There was a bit of an undignified row over who should represent Cornwall Council at major events, its then leader (Alec Robertson) or its chairman, Pat Harvey. The sigh you might have heard was one of total apathy by the electorate of Cornwall.

Meanwhile, police in Truro were swanning around after a swan was found waddling (or whatever swans do) in Truro's Tregolls Road during rush hour. It was later released back into the Malpas – or perhaps that should be Swanee – river.

As services were cut and austerity hit home in MARCH Helston town councillors were criticised for spending £2,000 to send some members and their clerk to a six-hour conference in Cardiff.

Plans for the Queen's Diamond Jubilee were gathering pace while Cornwall Council helpfully told us how to organise a street party (form a committee, split it into working parties, squabble along party lines, prepare a feasibility study ...).

Despite there being precious little Cornish involvement in the build-up to the Olympics, at least Cornish tin was used to create the bronze medals doled out at the Games.

The names of the lucky few to carry the Olympic Torch through Cornwall were announced, although there was a row in Helston as none of them actually came from the town – one was from Yorkshire.

That was as nothing, though, to the reaction that neither Camborne nor Redruth, Cornwall's most populated area, was even on the torch route.

There was controversy at Falmouth, too, over dredging of the harbour while the town itself "harboured" thoughts of becoming an even bigger cruise destination, similar to the town's Jamaican namesake.

The Government, in what might be termed its wisdom by some and a totally different word by others, decided to put VAT on pasties.

And it was revealed that anyone wanting to watch the torch relay would have to wait for a veritable convoy of police, security and sponsors' vehicles before actually seeing the runners, assuming they were not obscured by exhaust fumes.

It was announced new dust carts would be roaming Cornish roads for refuse bins as the county's new waste and recycling operations came into force. Ah, if only it had been that simple ....

In APRIL the second book of photographs of Porthleven folk by award-winning photographers David and Jan Penprase was published, bringing the total raised by the couple for charity to about £50,000.

So much for new dust carts (see above) – the first week of the new waste collection contract was described as a "complete shambles".

Cornwall remembered its own on the centenary of the Titanic disaster.

And there was a special delivery at Penryn when a ewe belonging to Sylvia Wearne gave birth to twin lambs – unusually, one was black, the other white.

There was criticism of the opening of Cornwall's first Catholic school at Camborne; local parents clearly didn't agree – hundreds expressed an interest in their children attending it.

After five years' planning and investment of £35 million, Britain's first free cultural playground, the Heartlands project was opened at Pool.

Incredibly, given that it rained so much and so frequently, drought status was allotted to Cornwall.

Into MAY and Falmouth was recovering after fire devastated one of the town's biggest hotels, the Falmouth Beach. Truro City Football Club battled to keep running as a business and thousands flocked, as usual, to Camborne (for Trevithick Day at the end of April) and Helston (Flora Day).

Outline planning permission was granted for a 1,500-home development at Truro, and even a group of Americans (albeit with strong Cornish connections) protested about the so-called "pasty tax" on a visit to Camborne.

Contracts were completed between Cornwall Council and mine owners which raised hopes production at South Crofty could restart.

And finally the wait was over – the Olympic Torch arrived at RNAS Culdrose, ahead of its relay through Cornwall – and the rest of Britain – to the Olympic Stadium.

The air base was awash with Royalty, politicians and celebrities but it was clear most eyes were on one man – David Beckham.

Give him his due, though – while the others repaired to the VIP tent for a quick pina colada or whatever, the boy Becks played a blinder and stayed outside signing autographs.

The relay itself drew thousands along its route through the county – and, who knows, may have been Cornwall's one indisputable contribution to the success of the Games, proving early on to the rest of the country that support for them was genuine and widespread.

There was also victory for the anti-pasty tax campaigners when the Government dropped its frankly baffling proposals (you needed a PhD to understand the variations of ambient room temperature, etc) to put VAT on one of Cornwall's greatest exports.

There was also a victory for those who were not happy with the proposals for a stadium for the county when Cornwall Council refused to fund the project.

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