Birmingham goes coastal

Welcome to my new five star coastal golf resort in the heart of tropical Birmingham

I recently heard a news review item on the BBC in which a reporter put forward the notion to the interviewee that something he had said was quite untrue. The reporter, however, being mindful of his place, didn’t call what he had just been told, “a lie”.  No of course not! Instead he suggested that the information given was “not quite right”.

The interviewee, however, knew exactly the point that was being made and stated, without fear of contradiction, that what he had said was not a falsehood, but instead an “alternative fact”, adding “you have your facts and I have mine.”

I pondered on this for some time and it made me realise that this new reality really does open up on a whole new world. For example, if this catches on, everyone can get a Grade A in any A level they want, since their answers, although quite different from the examiner’s own answers, can be classified as simply “alternative facts”, and thus, perfectly right. 110% marks all round!

Therefore in this brave new world everyone sees the world in a different way, so everyone can have their own alternative reality.  Exams are irrelevant, and thus so is schooling.

Thinking on this further I realised that, as always, the British government was way ahead of the game, for I remember quite clearly reading that when Andrea Leadsom was appointed Minister of State for Energy at the Department of Energy and Climate Change she marched into her new offices on day one, called her senior departmental staff together and asked, “Is climate change real?”

Obviously if the answer had come back “no it isn’t, minister” then she could have put her feet up and looked forward to an annual salary of £103,937 (or as the government’s own website helpfully tells me “an annual salary of £103,937 per annum”) for doing nothing other than saying the matter had been dealt with and thank you for the swish office.

So pleased must she have been to be working in a ministry with something real to deal with, that when she moved on and became Secretary of State for Environment, Food and Rural Affairs on 14 July 2016, she immediately went out to speak at a farming conference whereupon she told her rather astonished audience that farming was an industry “that has been around as long as mankind itself.”

One can imagine Sir Humphrey (if one has an imagination that stretches back as far as the “Yes Minister” series on BBC TV – but if not think of a long suffering civil servant who has actually been educated at some stage in his life) replying, on vetting the proposed speech, “up to a point, Minister.”  Or to put it another way, “I believe the first 4.99 million years of humans on the planet were rather more hunter-gathered orientated minister, but I am sure the conference will get your general drift.”

But given that we now have no absolute facts, only alternative facts, no one picked her up on the issue, and she went on stage and appeared a little, well, foolish.

And anyway, if any of farmers at the conference knew that that industry wasn’t quite that old, as I am most certain they do, the minister might well have replied that these were just details, or to put it more bluntly, their version of the age of agriculture was a mere “alternative fact.”

It was while still contemplating this point that my eyes strayed upon an advert for Himalayan sea salt.

Now geography was never quite my strongest point but I think I have a fairly clear notion that the Himalayan mountain range runs from Pakistan to Bhutan and to the best of my knowledge doesn’t at any point end up with a beach.

I decided to pass on that question largely because I am pretty sure that Bhutan is the closest bit of the range to the sea and it still looked a couple of thousand miles from the ocean on my office atlas.

But one does, of course, like to be certain before committing oneself in an article so it was at this point that I checked on Tripadvisor.  After posting my request for information on where the best beach holiday might be in the Himalayas I got several terse comments that I should try Thailand instead.  And it does seem, from checking on the map, that Bhutan and indeed the whole mountain range is separated from the sea by rather a lot of India.

Investigating further I found that the salt in fact comes from the Khewra mine, and yet more searching via Tripadvisor told me that it is to be found not in Bhutan at all but in the Punjab Region of Pakistan. Apparently it is the world’s second largest salt mine and draws in a quarter of a million tourists a year.

Eventually when I wrote back in and asked how I might take in the Himalayas and the Khewra mine at the same time one Trip Adviser reader suggested that the Khewra mine is around 200 miles from the Himalayas and provided a number 18 bus route with a journey lasting 14 days.

At this point I decided not to book a ticket but satisfied myself with the notion that the Himalayan sea salt is neither Himalayan nor from the sea, which leaves its real name as, well, “Salt”.

But then I decided to ask for help from another source: New Scientist magazine whose editors, it seems, themselves had investigated this issue some little while back.  According to their researcher the salt in question was probably laid down 800 million years ago in a sea that was gradually evaporating, so it could still just about be called sea salt.  Unfortunately at the time this sea existed there were no Himalayas as they were only formed 55 million years ago.

Thus I can conclude that Himalayan sea salt is what the Americans now call an alternative fact, and so it is perfectly ok. Following on from this I have decided to advertise the Admiral storage facility as a five star coastal golfing resort.

I shall, however, still be very happy to receive, and store, all sorts of things since as a five star resort we always look after our customers’ every need.

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