At Cornwall Live, in the true spirit of local news, we are proud to champion the voices of people in our communities.
We receive many requests from people who are downright furious at the way they have been treated, whether by the council, employers or businesses.
We give them the chance to share their concerns and raise important issues. And, by listening to both sides, we are able to present their grievances in a balanced way which is often missing in rants typical of social media. It is one of the fundamental jobs of local journalism.
Looking back at 2018, there have been a whole host of issues raised in this way and here we present our top 9 stories from the year.
9) Thieves cut off village
Members of a rural community slammed those responsible for the theft of a Victorian post box in September – saying the crime has left already isolated residents needing to travel more than two miles to post a letter.
The post box in Bell Lake, near Camborne, was stolen and residents claim they were told by Royal Mail that there were no plans to replace it.
One of those living in the hamlet was John Holmes, who was among the first to discovering it missing.
He said: “I walked down the road towards the end of last week to post a letter and it just wasn’t there.
“Everybody is upset and one or two people have been told by Royal Mail employees that it won’t be replaced. One lady has even said that she is going to start a petition.
“We are a remote community with no street lights, no mobile library service and no busses. Everything is being taken away and not replaced, they are just annoying things that make life more difficult for the people living here.
“Not everyone can drive and the nearest post box is now two miles away in Halgoss. It’s certainly not within walking distance, especially as a lot of people here live in the chalet park for over 60s, which is effectively a retirement place. Its loss will definitely be felt by the community.”
Mr Holmes says he suspects the post box was stolen with the intention of being sold on, with Victorian post boxes fetching up to £150 when sold online.
A Royal Mail spokesperson said: “We can confirm that a postbox was stolen overnight on 23/24 August 2018 from Bell Lake Road. We apologise to customers for any inconvenience this may cause. We intend to replace this postbox as soon as possible. In the meantime, customers can use other postboxes in the area or drop their mail off at any Post Office branch.”
8) Parking ticket woes
A man from St Austell who suffers from fibromyalgia and chronic fatigue syndrome slammed Cornwall Council in February for wrongly giving him parking tickets on two separate occasions.
Derek Gibbin passed his driving test in 1997 while using a wheelchair and drives an adapted vehicle, which he says gives him access to transport even when his symptoms have flared up.
He said that his condition forces him to use a cane on exceptional days, crutches on average days and a wheelchair on bad days or for long trips.
Derek said he received his first parking ticket on January 5 at Moorfield Car Park in Truro. Just under three weeks later and around 15 miles away, he received a second ticket while parked in Priory Car Park in St Austell.
On both of his tickets the parking enforcement officer recorded the reason for the fine as ‘not displaying a valid parking ticket’. The council admitted that they were wrongly issued and the tickets have been cancelled.
Derek’s Vauxhall has a yellow ‘adapted vehicle’ sticker next to the steering wheel. He was also parked in a disabled bay with a blue badge displayed – which should have made him exempt from the need for a ticket.
Derek said that, despite knowing the parking regulations, he began questioning his knowledge after receiving a second penalty.
He added: “As far as these tickets are concerned, I took the first one as a case of ‘placed in error’ and a little stressful – stress is a big trigger for flare ups in fibro, so it’s something I try to avoid.
“But receiving a second one a few weeks later made me question things a bit more and added more stress and anxiety – in that I started questioning my knowledge of the parking rules, which I have followed without incident from day one.
“I am disappointed in the way that it has been handled for a number of reasons.”
“Here is my concern. For me, I knew the rules although I did briefly question myself after the second ticket was issued, but after some digging found I was still correct, so knew that they would be overturned.
“However, how many disabled drivers actually know the rules? How many get tickets based on negligence and false evidence? How many don’t have the knowledge base and/or the strength or energy to appeal?
“Also, how many people are being told to register on the blue badge/nil tax scheme, and paying the fee, when they have adapted vehicles and don’t need to register? How many are being told that they didn’t register and take the PCN fine that they should have appealed and didn’t?”
A spokesman for Cornwall Council said: “The penalty charge notices in question were issued as the adaptation to the vehicle was not observed by the patrolling civil enforcement officers.
“The owner provided proof that the vehicle had been adapted for the benefit of the driver and both PCNs have now been cancelled and the owner has been advised.
7) Anger against van drivers
July saw concerns raised by a man whose dog was stuck by a DPD delivery van at his home beside the company’s Cornwall depot.
Peter Szumlanski said he has clocked delivery vans in the private road outside his home travelling in excess of the 30mph limit.
Mr Szumlanski said he was himself clipped by a passing delivery van as his three-year-old cocker spaniel, called Maya, was hit by the wheel.
The road is a public highway and leads to the only entrance to the new depot of courier company DPD at Victoria, near Roche.
He said. “I was by my back gate when I saw this van going quite fast and close to the fence. I put my hands up and the wing mirror hit my hand as it came past. My dog was also hit. I am not sure how she was hit but I saw her against the wheel. It was so quick.”
He added: “I was shocked and I still have some pain in my hand.
“The driver stopped a few metres down the road. I think he didn’t even notice me. Luckily there was a police car in the road on another matter and the police officer came over and took all the details from the driver.”
Mr Szumlanski took Maya to his vets who kept the dog in for 24 hours before she was allowed to return home.
He added: “She’s OK now with no broken bones. She is shocked though and she’s fearful now every time she hears a car.”
He said the road, which leads to Station Approach, was often busy, with dozens of vans coming to and from the depot.
He added: “I understand the drivers are just doing their job. Everyone wants to finish their shift and get home but people live here and there are quite a few houses. This could have been one of our kids.”
A spokesman for DPD (UK) said: “At DPD we take the conduct of our staff very seriously indeed, including their interaction with other road users, our customers and their property.
“As a result, we have fully investigated the alleged incident. This included an interview with the driver and another DPD driver who witnessed the incident.
“While it is difficult to know exactly what happened, both drivers maintain that the incident was caused by the resident’s dog escaping from the garden and running in front of the van, which made it impossible for the driver to take evasive action.
“We have reminded our drivers of their responsibilities to other road users and local residents and the need to drive with extra care in residential areas. Our team would be very happy to meet with Mr Szumlanski to discuss his concerns.”
6) Fired by Facebook
In November, Chris Thorne was furious when the boss of an arcade shut it suddenly without warning and without paying his workers.
Chris Thorne had worked at Pharoah’s Amusements in Bodmin for 11 years but was only told by Facebook message that he was out of a job. He said he and colleagues were owed hundreds of pounds and have been given no explanation for the closure.
He added that the owner, Harry Farr, has failed to answer or return his calls and also employed two other people.
The well-known amusements arcade in Bell Lane has been a popular attraction for locals and visitors for years.
Chris said Mr Farr sent him a message saying the business was closed, adding: “It’s the way he did it and the timing. We’ve got my son’s birthday coming up at the end of the month. There was no discussion, no warning, he just closed it.
“I have made requests for payment and got nothing. He owes me a week’s wages, probably owes others £200 or £300 each. I should’ve had redundancy money, pay in lieu of notice.
“We’re out of a job and left with no money whatsoever, with no explanation. He hasn’t even responded to me asking why. I only found out by (Facebook) Messenger.
“It’s a disgusting way to treat staff that have given him a long service. We have earned a right to an explanation.”
Chris’ message from Mr Farr said: “Good afternoon Chris. I’m sorry to say that as of Tuesday Pharoah’s/Autobet has closed due to business pressures.”
He said he asked about the week’s wages and future redundancy and Mr Farr replied: “Sorry, this week’s wages can’t be paid and we closed the arcade totally.”
Cornwall Live had called Pharoah’s as well as called and texted Mr Farr’s mobile phone number but had no answers or responses.
5) Badger trouble for couple
This couple said they were left with nowhere to turn after a badger made itself at home under their garden shed.
Margaret and Gordon Blanks, who live in a council flat in Ponsmere Road, Perranporth, said that the large hole appeared on July 2.
The shed is in communal gardens at the back of their flat, meaning that other people need access past it, as well as the couple themselves.
The earth that has been dug up has partially covered the pathway, making it difficult to pass, especially for elderly residents – but Mr and Mrs Blanks have been told to leave it as it is.
Mrs Blanks said: “I got up in the morning to find out there was a large hole underneath the shed. My husband rang up the council and they didn’t want to know.
“I rang up the RSPCA and it took me an hour to get through. I was told to not fill the hole up and leave it, as it’s a protected species.
“Nobody wants to know – the hole is near the water pipe and sewerage pipe. People can’t pass because of the dirt.
“If it is breeding it’s going to be vicious. I’m just fed up. All I get told is this is a protected species and I’m not allowed to do anything.”
Cornwall Council, which runs the flats through its company Cornwall Housing, said: “Badgers are protected by law and we would have to follow legal mechanisms if we were to seek to remove it.
“Having met the residents, it seems the presence of the badger isn’t the issue, rather the mess it has made on the nearby path while digging.
“Even though landlords do not have a legal responsibility for badger activity, we will be going out to clear this up and have asked to be kept informed of any further problems resulting from the badger’s excavations.”
4) Anger over ‘me ‘ansum’
In November, an Egyptian man said he was shouted at by a bus driver after calling him ‘me ‘ansum’ as a pleasant ‘thank you’ gesture.
The 70-year-old widower said he was stunned and dismayed at the sudden anger of the driver.
Rather than saying ‘thank you’ as he departed the First Kernow bus, Ragaa Komos had instead wished the driver a good evening and added the traditional Cornish expression for ‘my handsome’.
Mr Komos, who speaks English perfectly but with a foreign accent, said: “I said to him, ‘have a good evening me’ ansum’. He shouted at me, ‘you’re not from Cornwall. You can’t say that! You’re not Cornish!”
He said he was shocked after the incident on First Kernow service from Truro to Redruth.
Mr Komos said: “When the people leave the bus, they say ‘thank you’ but I feels it’s empty. Instead I say ‘Have a good day’ or ‘evening’.
“When he shouted at me and I felt his anger. I wondered what would make someone want to talk like that. I felt I was racially assaulted.”
He said he uses the Cornish expression regularly in much the same way as the expression ‘When in Rome, do as the Romans do’ encourages people to adopt local customs.
“I know the word as the locals use it,” he added. “I say ‘me ‘ansum’ and I use it everywhere. I was acting like the Roman. I was not doing anything wrong.
“I know Cornwall is a proud nation and do understand the Trewlany story. In a sense I was paying him a compliment by wishing him a good evening.”
A spokesman for First Kernow said it had investigated the claim and added: “We want to reassure customers that the company takes appropriate action in cases where there is a shortfall in customer service.”
3) Disgusted at hospital
In August, an army veteran who has been left fuming after having his hernia operation cancelled on nine different occasions branded his treatment “absolutely disgusting”.
Raymond Jenkin, 62, who lives in Pool, made a number of journeys to Derriford Hospital in Plymouth only to be told that the operation can’t take place for a number of reasons.
He said: “My first date was on July 2. I left at 5.15am to be there for 7 but at 7.30am I was told it was off and there was no bed.
“Then on July 27 there was the same thing. Got there at 7; 10.30am – cancelled.
“It was planned again for Monday, August 13, when there was a bed available but I was told that my sugar levels were too high which adds complications.
“I was kept in to get my sugar levels down and the doctor said he’d see me again on Friday or Monday. I had nothing to eat from midnight Sunday, then waited until 2pm on Monday (August 20) afternoon to be told it was cancelled again but I was still top of the list.
“On Tuesday the same thing happened again and then on Wednesday I was told there was no bed and I was sent home.”
Raymond said: “It just isn’t fair. I’m a diabetic with a heart condition and am sat here in pain. I’ve been told that I could be in there at any time so I need to be ready to head back to Plymouth at any time.
“It’s absolutely disgusting and I understand why people get to the stage they’ve just had enough. My wife has been crying and I’ve sat there and twice broke down into tears at the age of 62. I can’t take this anymore.”
A spokesman from University Hospitals Plymouth NHS Trust said: “We are incredibly sorry that Mr Jenkin has had his operation cancelled, and for the worry that this has caused.
“Cancelling a patient’s surgery is not something that the Trust undertakes lightly. We strive to ensure that every possible solution is sought before the decision to cancel is made. However, the safety of our patients is paramount, and so on occasion, should the post-operative care required (such as the need for a High Dependency bed during recovery) not be available, due to the unpredictable demand of emergencies, elective surgery will be postponed until it can be carried out safely.”
2) Mum’s fury at coffee chain
A mum who sat down to breastfeed her baby in Costa Coffee said was asked to leave – because she hadn’t bought anything.
Teacher Kaley Louise Riley, 29, was in Penzance town centre in September in the pouring rain when her 15-month-old baby Scarlett starting crying.
She ran into Costa and, seeing a big queue, she sat down to feed the baby with “every intention” of buying a drink and some food once her baby was fed.
But within minutes a member of staff approached her and said that if she wasn’t buying anything, she needed to leave the cafe.
She said: “Scarlett’s pram had broken, it was pouring with rain outside, and she had just woken up and was very hungry [and] thirsty.
“I immediately spotted Costa and went in. It was packed full of people and so I just took a seat and breastfed her in a corner out of the way.
“The queue was huge and I wanted to settle her and didn’t see a problem in doing so. I had every intention, once she had calmed down, to buy my favourite chai latte and chill out of the rain.
“That was, until a member of staff approached me and told me I must leave immediately if I wasn’t planning on buying anything. As you can imagine, I was quite cross.”
Mrs Riley said she was angry at how she’d been treated in the cafe, but said her response from Costa – who offered her a £20 voucher – infuriated her even further.
A Costa spokesman said: “We have always been very happy for mothers to breastfeed in our stores and were concerned to hear about this customer’s experience. We have since spoken to the customer directly and apologised.
“Costa is renowned for its family friendly environment and is the perfect place for mums to relax with their children. Our store teams will happily deliver drinks to parents’ tables and go out of their way to accommodate families.”
Mrs Riley said she would donate her £20 voucher to charity.
1) Explosive rant
The angriest man in 2018 must be surf shop owner Shaun Boundy, whose explosive rant which slams Cornwall Council was widely shared on social media.
Plain-speaking Shaun works himself up into a rage in his tirade against the council, which he accuses of failing tourists and locals.
The video, which you can watch below, has been shared more than hundreds of times on Facebook.
Shaun, who has run the surf shop at Trebarwith Strand beach on the north coast near Tintagel for 15 years, lays into the council over failing to cut back hedges, letting picnic areas fall become overgrown and high parking charges at the beach.
The flamboyant businessman, who is well known on the beach with his pink dyed beard, grew up in Tintagel and has lived most of his life in Delabole.
He said: “When I go on a rant, I don’t really think about it. I tend to just rant.
“It wasn’t until afterwards, when I watched the video back, that I realised I just talked about visitors and not locals. But just think about that picnic area at the top. I’ve had six children – my youngest, he’s 18 now – and we used to spend hours as a family up there.
“The council, they take, take, take. It’s like with our public toilets here. Cornwall Council made the parish council take them on and they were running at a loss, because people wedge the doors open. The parish handed them back and the council closed them.”
“We’ve got no industry here now. All we’ve got is tourism,” he added. “And when you look at the lack of facilities, it’s shocking.”
He said his latest video about the overgrown verges had already prompted a response from the authorities.
A spokeswoman for Cornwall Council said: “We encourage people to contact us direct to report issues and the easiest way to do this is via our website – www.cornwall.gov.uk/reportit so they can be logged and actioned as soon as possible.
“With regard to the car park charges, the fees have remained the same since 2015 and range from 80p for an hour up to £6.30 for 24 hours. There is another privately run car park in the area with different charges in place. The area surrounding the main council car park has recently been mowed, and the overflow car park will be mowed in the near future.”
On the subject of the hedges, the spokeswoman pointed out that responsibility for maintaining them lies with the landowner.