POKEMON GO is as fantastically popular in and around Swindon as it is everywhere else.

The augmented reality game involves going out and about to chase magical beasties on your mobile device, and lots of people are avidly tracking them down.

One of the best things about it is that certain people of my generation can no longer witter on about younger people staying indoors, playing video games and not getting any exercise.

Another is that it makes certain people of my generation – me, for example – look less conspicuous when we’re out in public.

Many’s the morning after a heavy night when I’ve caused a scene on the bus or in a shop because I could have sworn I saw a little animal. A multi-coloured squirrel, say, or an armadillo wearing a monocle. Or perhaps just some hairy spiders trying to scuttle up my trouser leg.

Now all I have to do is make sure I’m carrying my mobile and everybody will assume I’m a happy gamer – so long as I remember not to scream: “Get them off meeee!”

Gotta catch ‘em all…

Differences set aside over cash

IN these times of rampant disunity among our elected representatives, it’s important to praise them when they manage to act as one.

Take Swindon Borough Council, for example.

As ordinary people living in the borough know only too well, there’s barely been an issue put before the council for many years that hasn’t been the subject of conflict.

Sometimes our local elected representatives have divided along party political lines and sometimes along ideological ones, and it’s often been painful to see the bitter disputes.

Only recently, the future of our libraries has been the subject of especially bruising battles, with the majority of councillors voting in favour of hacking the number of funded libraries from 15 to four.

This is in spite of horrified protests from opponents who insist the cuts will hit some of our most vulnerable people, depriving them of local community resources used not just for accessing books but also everything from paying bills online to making job applications.

Similarly widespread debate was provoked by the decision to close our children’s centres. Many of the children who learned they were to be turfed out are highly vulnerable, and many parents said the change would add to their isolation and despair.

Another matter which was produced bitter debate in the council chamber was the plan to hand over many of our local leisure centres to the private sector on long leases. Opponents said this would rob the public of the right to control what was effectively their own property. Indeed, there have been several instances of facilities being altered or even removed altogether.

Many members of the public attended the meetings at which these matters were discussed and voted on. Some no doubt concluded that our councillors were incapable of reaching peaceful accord at any time about anything.

Those people should now feel a little ashamed for being so cynical.

It was only last week that we were treated to a superb example of what can happen when councillors are of one mind.

With the exception only of Coun Stan Pajak, they voted themselves an increase in their basic payments of £340 to £8,220, which is more than four percent. They also voted to increase payments for special responsibilities by between 14 percent and 17.5 percent.

This is at a time when many people whose pay comes from the public purse count themselves lucky to get a one per cent increase instead of a pay freeze or a cut in hours.

Just in case anybody feels put out by the decision, our councillors are at pains to point out that they merely voted on the recommendations of an independent panel.

So that’s okay, then.

It’s not as if they could have rejected the recommendations of the panel and voted themselves an allowance freeze in solidarity with the vulnerable people suffering horribly because of cuts.

How reassuring it is to know that, party differences aside, the bulk of our councillors are really all the same.

For some reason I’ve just remembered that I’ve been meaning to re-read George Orwell’s classic short novel, Animal Farm.

I only hope I can get hold of a copy from my local library before it’s shut down.

  • THERE’S been another case of nursing homes being rated inadequate by inspectors.

    Issues highlighted included poor leadership, the lack of a caring attitude, inadequate training, poor handling of residents and failings in the use of drugs.

    In one wretched case, a patient went 11 hours without their pain relief – which had been mistakenly given to somebody else. I don’t know about you, but I’m bewildered by the lack of outrage.

    If an animal sanctuary was found to have even a few failings of this kind, groups of activists would be making secret films left, right and centre, the RSPCA would be at the door backed by a phalanx of coppers and those responsible for the poor treatment would be objects of loathing and scorn.

    On the day when the poor treatment of the elderly and vulnerable attracts as much angst as the poor treatment of a stray dog, we can consider ourselves civilised.