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   Inside Out - North East: Monday February 27, 2006

Roadside shrines

Roadside flowers
Remembering the victims of accidents

Every year over 3,400 people are killed on our roads.

The latest figures show that 185 people were killed on the roads in the North East and Cumbria in just one year.

Increasingly the relatives and friends of the victims are creating roadside shrines in memory of their loved ones.

Bouquets of flowers, messages and soft toys are left at the scene - sometimes for months, even years afterwards.

So are these shrines a timely reminder to us all to slow down - or yet one more distraction on the roads?

Remembering the victims

David Cameron from Newcastle was killed by a speeding driver who was weaving in and out of the traffic at high speed.

Shortly after the accident people started leaving flowers - a shrine to David was created, and nearly two years on, it's still there.

David
Victim of a car crash - David Cameron from Newcastle

His mother Debbie now visits the shrine about three times a year, on David's birthday, at Christmas and on the anniversary of his death.

David's shrine is one of a growing number of shrines appearing on our roads.

Debbie has found the shrine comforting:

"It was nice to know that people were thinking of us. It was nice to know that he was a popular little boy.

"It was nice that people were remembering him this way - and that other drivers know an accident's happened.

"If people took notice of the speed and the way they were driving, they'd be no need need for these shrines."

Raising awareness?

But do the shrines make drivers think about their driving?

One person who witnessed David's accident told me it makes her slow down every time she passes the shrine, but others are not convinced.

Some transport groups believe that shrines should be used to highlight road safety problems.

Roadpeace, a charity for victims, has called for shrines to play a more important role in raising awareness of danger on the road.

"A road death is a very sudden and violent death and the place where somebody dies is very special - and that's why people want to be able to go the the last place where their relative was alive.

"And from Roadpeace's point of view we think the value is in reminding drivers how dangerous the roads are... and we all might be doing more to prevent it." Zoe Stow, Roadpeace.

Distracting shrines?

Richard Thomas also knows the pain of losing a loved one on the roads.

Roadside flowers
Shrines are a frequent sight on roadsides

His son Charlie was killed on a motorbike, but he's not in favour of shrines by the road:

"It's got out of hand. I think a lot of people have seen what's happening in Europe and they've followed on from that."

No research has been done to see if flowers on the verge help or hinder road safety, so we did our own.

Using the BBC's local Where I Live websites, we asked you if you found flowers by the road distracting.

Of those who took part, more than half said 'yes'.

1. Do you slow down when you see bunches of flowers or other tributes by the side of the road?
111 said Yes
30%

2. Do you find flowers placed by the road distracting?
203 said Yes
56%

3. Is laying flowers by the side of the road a suitable way to remember someone when they have died?
168 said Yes
45%

A total of 364 people replied to the survey.

Safety symbols

In other countries many people think there is a point to marking an accident.

In France they've found a unique way of honouring the victims of road deaths using silhouettes.

Jean-Pierre Giraud, an artist, designed some roadside silhouettes after his son was killed on the road.

Silhouette signs
Accident blackspot - silhouette signs for safety

Each silhouette represents a tragedy of a broken family, and when people are driving along it makes them realise it's a dangerous route.

The silhouettes are put up for a month where people have been killed - campaigners say they're making the roads safer.

The local highways department erect the silhouettes, and it doesn't ask for permission from the families, as Philippe Lermine from the French Department of Transport explains:

"At first we thought families would object, but the opposite is true, I've had people ring me up to say, 'you have forgotten my son who was killed'.

"Other areas have taken up the idea, and other countries too. The silhouettes have become a symbol for road safety."

"The number of road deaths has been brought down, and some attribute this fall to the signs.

"We have brought down the number of road deaths from 8 to 5,000 and I am certain that the silhouettes are part of that success."

Safety first

FACT FILE


Every year over 3,400 people are killed on our roads. In 2003 - 171 children were killed on Britain's roads.

We all have a one in 200 chance of dying on the road.

Statistically we are more likely to be killed while crossing a road than in a plane crash.

Half the people who die on the road are in cars.

People most at risk of dying on the roads are 'vulnerable road users' - pedestrians, cyclists, motorbike, and moped riders (this group accounts for 45% of all deaths).

Men are three times more likely to be killed on the roads as women.

Traffic is the biggest killer of young people aged 15-19. Children under 16 accounted for more than one third of all pedestrian casualties in 2003.

Source: BRAKE

With no conclusive research on whether they're good or bad for road safety, roadside shrines are proving to be a headache for local councils.

Inside Out contacted councils in our area and found there is no clear policy.

Some remove flowers after a few weeks, while others decide what to do with each individual shrine.

One northern council told us that it's considering allowing permanent memorials.

But not everybody agrees, even the families of the victims.

As a committed Anglican Richard Thomas believes the graveyard is the place to remember.

Charity Roadpeace has another solution to those who say that they roadside shrines look untidy when the flowers decay.

They've come up with a standardised sign with the words 'Remember Me' on it.

Half of the people in our survey said that they thought flowers were an appreciate way of remembering someone.

It seems that the debate on roadside shrines will continue to divide opinion.

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Referees

Jeff Winter refereeing c/o Empics
Man in the middle - but do referees get a rough ride?

Meet Jeff Winter, retired Premiership referee and the man that managers loved to hate.

He took charge of more than 2,000 matches in his time and rose to the very top, culminating in the FA Cup Final of 2004.

Winter is now publishing a book which he says lifts the lid off the life of the man in the middle.

Stuck in the middle

Referees, of course, are the easy scapegoat for managers.

You rarely see a manager at the end of the game admitting to having made the wrong team selection, adopting the wrong tactics, or blaming one of his multi-million pound players for missing an open goal.

It's usually the ref who gets the stick.

Of course, referees have always been given a hard time so what's new?

Well, according to Jeff Winter, TV coverage has made the job so much harder.

"Football progressively has got worse and worse. On a live game there can be up to 20 cameras there," says Jeff.

"After any and every incident they show and reshow it. And the post-match analysis is often critical."

Man in the middle

One of Jeff's toughest matches was a Manchester United versus Arsenal game a few years ago:

"The opening 10 minutes were the hardest 10 minutes I have ever had in football.

"At the end of the day no matter how experienced you are, if the players have decided that they are going to have a go at each other, then you are fighting a losing battle."

Another tough game came when Newcastle United were playing Manchester United at St James' Park three years ago.

The Manchester United manager apparently made foul and abusive comments to Jeff who was the 4th official:

"That particular day Sir Alex Ferguson went way over what was acceptable, and ended up being dismissed and being sent to the stand," recalls Jeff.

"I then had a torrid time at the disciplinary hearing a few weeks later where it wasn't Sir Alex on trial… I was on trial.

"I think it was another perfect example of how the big clubs have a lot of power in the game.

"That cannot be a good advert for the professional game and not a good role model for the players or people who are watching, because using the kind of language that came out that day nobody should have to tolerate that."

Fan power

It's not just the managers that referees have to tolerate - the fans can be just as bad:

"When I refereed at St James' Park and I gave a free kick against Alan (Shearer), I had 52,000 fans on my back.

"They said, 'yeh, but Shearer is the king - we are not going to agree with the ref' but they know. Fans aren't stupid."

Jeff Winter
Sunday soccer - as competitive as the Premiership says Jeff

According to Jeff Winter bad-mouthing the ref is trickling down to every level of our once-beautiful game including Sunday football for junior players:

"Every decision that the young refs are making is being criticised… and there isn't the protection out there that there is in the Premier League," he says.

"But that is worrying because a lot of youngsters' referees... get sickened off and there are games not going ahead because there aren't sufficient refs to go around.

"Love 'em or hate 'em without them you haven't got a game of football."

Jeff is now training young referees but he knows that they can expect many years of vocal abuse ahead of them if they're to succeed in the game.

"You try and block it out but it does bother you," says Jeff pragmatically.

But for some referees the verbal abuse is just too much.

Fair play

Blyth Spartans play in the Unibond Premier League.

They say that the crowd here is the most intimidating in North East non-league football.

If you can survive here as a referee, you can survive anywhere.

Some of the fans are very vocal and this gets to the players.

Spartans are bottom of the division's Fair Play League - things got so bad that the club has started to issue extra fines to players who pick up a yellow card for abusing refs.

"I feel sorry for the ref when he has to come to Blyth," says manager Harry Dunn.

So is the pressure of the modern game leading to a lack of respect for the man in the middle?

Or maybe it's tied to the lack of respect in society generally?

Human error

Perhaps the biggest refereeing gaff this season was when the Assistant Referee gave a goal for West Ham against Middlesbrough in the Premiership.

The cameras proved it wasn't a goal but the decision still stood.
So what's Jeff 's reaction when the officials get things wrong?

"It is just human error - it happens once in a blue moon," he says.

Jeff Winter c/o Empics
Video playback - no way says Jeff Winter

Some think that there should be more goal line technology such as video playback.

Jeff disagrees, "I can't see how it would work. I think it would kill the game and at the end of the day, it is still the opinion of someone.

"So whether it is the video ref or the ref on the pitch, I don't think that decision would be anymore acceptable to the fans, to the managers, to the players if the eventual decision goes against them.

"I think people who scream out video technology, they don't actually think about the practicalities and how it would affect the game of football we all love.

"One of the main reasons we all love football... every decision - everybody has got an opinion.

"There is always controversy. If you take away all those talking points, you will sanitise the game and it would turn out being very very boring."

Stopping the abuse

So if technology isn't the answer, how do you stop the alarming growth in ref abuse?

Sunderland manager, Mick McCarthy, has an idea - the introduction of a 'sin bin' allowing referees to send a player off for five minutes if the player has bad-mouthed him.

Referees have always taken the brunt - so may nothing's really changed.

They're only human - and we all make mistakes.

But these days players, coaches and fans are a lot less forgiving.

Maybe it's time to cut referees a bit more slack - because
love them or hate them, football can not exist without them.

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Pickles

Gourmet pickles
Pick of the pickles - the humble pickle gets a revamp

Inside Out looks at the pickles that are being given a makeover to appeal to a more upmarket audience.

Ross's Pickles is one of the most famous brands in the North East of England.

This family company was established in 1918 by founder James Ross, and is now in its fourth generation.

But its pickles nearly disappeared forever not so long ago when the company found itself losing money.

Inside Out investigates how it got back on track.

In a pickle

Five years ago Ross was selling seven million jars of its pickles, and was making 10p per jar.

But in 2003 although sales were up to 12 million jars, Ross found itself losing 2p a jar.

Old pickles advert
Love pickles, love your grocer - old Ross advert

And to make matters worse, the company recently lost a third of its business when Safeway, one of its main customers, was taken over by Morrisons who already had its own pickle supplier.

Something had to be done before the famous Ross pickle was consigned to the history books.

So the company brought in a business expert from the car industry to turn around its fortunes.

And now it's experiencing a remarkable change in its profitability - thanks to a clever makeover.

Time for change

The last time that Ross Pickles changed any of its products was in 1969 when Neil Armstrong first set foot on the Moon.

GLORIOUS PICKLES

Canapes

– Tiny natural Smoked Haddock and Ross’s Curry Piccalilli Quiches.

- Dates Stuffed with Ross’s Gherkins Wrapped in Smoked Pancetta.

Starters

- Northumbrian Cheese and Ross’s Curry Piccalilli Souffle with Crisp Pancetta

- Crisp salad of wild leaves, Ross’s Pickled Baby Beetroot, orange and Feta Cheese.

Main courses

- Breast of Duckling served on Ross’s Pickled Red Cabbage with spices and sultanas.

Side dishes

- Heritage variety potatoes from Northumberland, mashed with Ross’s Curry Piccalilli with Sultanas.

Over the last 35 years our tastes in food have changed dramatically, and consumers are more likely to buy Italian deli or French style products than traditional English fare.

So it was time to dust down the humble pickle and give it new life.

After some product development work, an imaginative range of nine pickles was launched.

A tenth is shortly on its way.

A new range of recipes have also been created for these gourmet pickles.

No longer is the pickle merely an afterthought - sitting sadly on the side of a salad or plopped onto a Ploughman's - it's now fully integrated into the recipe.

The pickle has gone decidedly upmarket, from Oysters dressed in red wine silverskins to Ham Shank with Piccalilli mash.

Inside Out joins the Ross family as it presents its new products and recipes to leading international chef Albert Roux, of Le Gavroche fame.

Versatile pickles

We watch as Ross' Martin Charlton cooks a stunning range of starters and main courses for Albert Roux at Northumberland's Close House.

Salad with pickles
Marketing makeover - the pickle is cool

Roux is impressed by the versatility of the pickle dishes.

And sales in the shops show that the public are also catching on to to the new style pickles.

Delis as far afield as New York are stocking the gourmet range.

It seems that Ross has preserved its business by giving it a modern makeover.

Who knows, the gourmet pickles may even pop up in Albert Roux's next recipe book.

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