AS ANYBODY in the plant hire industry will testify, Hugh Edeleanu is an innovator par excellence. The publicity-shy boss of Kent hire firm HE Services clearly thinks there's nothing you can't do with a backhoe loader - in fact he seems to have an addiction to bizarre plant applications.
These include sending a supercharged JCB 3CX on a record-breaking run from John O'Groats to Land's End, and assembling a team of dancing diggers that seems to put on more performances every year than the Royal Ballet.
His latest brainwave is Diggerland, a new adventure park at H E Service's home town of Strood. And this time he's got to be having us on. The idea of Diggerland, apparently, is that kids who have grown out of playing with toy diggers can have a go on the real thing. Radio remote control allows adult supervisors to take over if (I think they mean 'when') things get too hairy.
When I read about this, a vision leaped into my mind of my own daughter at the controls of a Cat D11 dozer, a sort of waking nightmare from which I surfaced to find my thumb pumping the STOP/EJECT button on the video remote control. They tell me that the HSE approves of Diggerland - God help us.
Of course, there's a long tradition of kids jumping into items of plant to 'have a go'. They're drawn to unattended diggers like moths to the flame; usually, the operator obligingly leaves the keys in the ignition for that authentic touch.
Perhaps by legitimising and controlling the habit at Diggerland, Edeleanu will reduce the temptation among our youth to engage in illicit plant use, in much the same way as The Netherlands has tackled other social ills with licensed brothels and decriminalised dope.
But I suspect the exercise is just another ingenious Edeleanu scheme for putting idle plant to profitable use.
Down the Tubes
I'VE BEEN hearing rumours that some of the consortia bidding for public- private partnership maintenance contracts on the London Underground are considering closing some of the stations.
This has caused quiet panic in government circles because it provides explosive new ammunition for Mayor Ken's campaign against PPP maintenance and general wholesale privatisation of the underground.
But if it were not for this political dimension, I doubt anybody would have noticed. Closing tube stations is nothing new. Mornington Crescent station, on the Northern Line just south of Camden Town, was closed for several years in the '90s and would have remained closed had it not been for the small but vocal cult that pretends to understand a game called 'Mornington Crescent' played by a team of highly skilled transport experts on a minority-interest radio channel.
Once they start refurbishment, I reckon we'll probably see stations closing left, right and centre, whether it's under PPP or under Ken's new socialist regime.
I DON'T know about you, but I'm looking forward to my first visit to Bankside power station. There, I never thought I'd hear myself say that.
I've always thought of Bankside as being three chimneys short of a Battersea, but it seems I've misjudged it. Bankside, in its new incarnation as the Tate Modern, is now the world's newest, sexiest and apparently most impressive gallery for modern art.
I can't pretend to be an aficionado of Brit Art. I've always preferred pickled herrings to pickled sharks.
But the Tate Modern is a refurb like no other. I'll be going just to see the building.