Keith Rossiter: Critics are selling Plymouth short
"THE only culture in Plymouth is being grown in the Uni's labs."
"Plymothians wouldn't know culture if it was served to them from a shack on the Barbican."
" 'Plymouth' and 'Culture' are two words that should not appear in the same library, never mind the same sentence."
Doesn't it make you proud. As these online comments show, some Herald readers have been less than enthusiastic about the idea of bidding for UK City of Culture status.
Probably their 16th Century ancestors would have been up on the Hoe yelling to Sir Francis Drake to "come back Frankie, you must be crazy to think that someone from Plymuff can circumnavigate the globe/defeat the Armada/bring home the Spanish treasure".
If Derry-Londonderry, a city of 100,000 in the northwest of Northern Ireland, can be UK City of Culture, there's nothing stopping Plymouth's entry into the field.
Fortunately the online ranters aren't representative.
On Wednesday I had an invitation to the opening night of Gary Rhodes's new establishment Rhodes at the Dome on the Hoe, a wedding venue and very stylish restaurant with an unparalleled view.
As Charles Howeson, chairman of the Plymouth Area Business Council, said: Plymouth is on the way to becoming the culinary capital of the South West.
What started with the Tanner brothers has led on to River Cottage at Royal William Yard, Gary Rhodes and, next in line, the celebrity chef Mitch Tonks, who is about to open a new restaurant opposite the National Marine Aquarium.
Almost as pleasing as the celebrity chefs is the number of very good mid-range restaurants, from Bistro 1 on Ebrington Street and Chloe's to Edmund Davari's chain (and dozens more: Trip Advisor lists an astonishing 330 Plymouth restaurants).
Not everyone can afford to eat out every week, but we all have special occasions to splash out on.
More heartening still is the opportunities new restaurants give to young Plymothians – 50 permanent new jobs at the Dome for a start.
I chatted to one of Gary Rhodes's staff, Connor Johnson (apologies if I've spelt that wrongly but had to rely on a dodgy memory).
Connor, who is from Plymouth, was brim-full of enthusiasm for his job and pride in his own talents and skills. He revealed that earlier in the day he'd rolled up his sleeves and got stuck into the last-minute heavy lifting to make the Dome ready for the opening. Connor and his colleagues have good reason to be proud of their efforts.
City of Culture? I definitely do think so.
THE closure of Plymouth City Airport was a godsend for the moaners, who can barely disguise their glee. For some people it's the single biggest reason why no one in their right mind would visit Plymouth.
London to Plymouth by train is three and a half hours, sometimes less. Yet thousands of people routinely fly between New York and Los Angeles, a journey that takes well over five hours – not including time on the ground.
There's no Fairy Godmother to wave a wand and fit out Plymouth with a ballgown and coach with mod cons. This city – like any city – depends on its politicians, business leaders, academics – and you – to pull itself up by its bootstraps.
A couple of weeks ago I invited readers to vote online on whether the city council should raise tax by 5five er cent to pay for resurfacing all roads and pavements. The result was 60:40 against, an interesting outcome and not the instant 'No!' that I expected.
Which raises another possibility ... how would people react if asked the same question about saving the City Airport.
Last year a petition got nearly 38,000 signatures in favour of preserving the airport. How would those 38,000 feel if asked to put their hands in their pockets?
Viable, the pressure group and company set up to save the airport, might find some mileage in creating a co-operative to raise the money.
An airport can be much more than just a landing strip for commuter flights. Why not tag on a few related businesses: aerospace, the new and growing airship industry, designing the latest military drones?
SOME of the city's politicians have been discussing a call by gay rights campaigner Peter Tatchell to lower the age of consent to 14.
At a time when practically everyone in the country is obsessed with paedophiles, this argument leaves me mightily confused.
Many if not most 14-year-olds are still children.
We've gone way too far in sexualising them already and I'd be opposed to going any further.
If 14, why not 12? After all, there's many a girl married and pregnant at 12 in some Third World cultures.
Well there's the hint: I don't want to see girls turned back into mere baby-making machines when they could be nuclear physicists or astronomers or astronauts.
The minimum school-leaving age seems quite soon enough.
I expect there are plenty of 15-year-olds who use the legal argument to resist peer pressure, and I'd hate to see it taken away from them.