Wednesday, 30 June 2010

More on Awards

Are you passionate about making a positive change in society? Do you deserve recognition for your work? Do you know someone else who does? If yes, then you could be nominated for a Social Change Award! Thus speaks the Directory of Social Change.

I continue where I left off in my previous blog with my gripe about awards. Why do people crave recognition?

Monday, 28 June 2010

Frankly, I couldn't give a damn

At my age I am past caring if people like me or dislike me: ignore me or listen to me. It doesn't matter a damn. Now, don't misunderstand what I am saying. Except in a very few instances, I do not go out and seek by my actions to upset or offend. On the other hand, I am not one to pussyfoot around for the sake of being polite.

Thinking about it, I have been the same for years, probably since the age of 16. The shrinks might put it down to the death of my father when I was 16 having an effect on my 'world view'.

I have seen myself for quite a few years as being a nuisance to authority as I seek to advance the cause of the poor and vulnerable in our society: not caring what others think of me. On more than one occasion I have resigned from positions on what I regarded as a matter of principle.

So, you may imagine my surprise when I was described by a current Tunbridge Wells councillor as a highly respected past councillor. Ye gods, I left the Council in 2000. It's almost as though I am a member of the local establishment. I must change my PR adviser.

Recently someone wrote that I was a fine orator. Years of lecturing and talks in churches (I refuse to use the word 'sermon') has enabled me to acquire a few speaking skills. Unfortunately, opportunities to display my skills are few and far between in an age when the soundbite and five minute presentation (supported by the dreaded and dreadful PowerPoint slides) is all the rage.

I plod along seeking a better world and have managed to avoid the yuk of awards. It has always struck me as odd that people who volunteer should fall over themselves to enter competitions to win an award. Why do they do it? Maybe it is the Groucho Marx in me. He said he would never belong to a club which would have him as a member. A sound concept.

Sunday, 27 June 2010


It came as a shock to hear of the death of Dr. Daniel Bech at the age of 59. Daniel was a character, a man of considerable intellect and very funny. He had a passion for Tunbridge Wells and was a considerable thorn in the side of the local establishment. The local press captured well the character and contribution Daniel made to life in Tunbridge Wells. He will be missed.

Saturday took me to Gravesend. I am growing to like the town.

Today, I watched England turn up to a football match and forget how to play. It was terrible to behold.

Thursday, 24 June 2010

Rose Gibb

This is from my blog dated 17th March. The Appeal Court's judgment comes as no surprise to me.

Rose Gibb, the former Chief Executive of the Maidstone & Tunbridge Wells NHS Hospital Trust, wanted to stay and face the flak when the report on the investigation into the many deaths at the Kent & Sussex Hospital was about to be published. For that she deserves credit.

However, the Board decided otherwise. It wanted her out and agreed a huge financial compensation package as well as negotiating a 'gagging clause' to prevent Rose Gibb defending herself. She could have refused the package.

An overpowering stench emanates from the decisions of the Board egged on by the strategic health authority. Buy her off, gag her and let her take the odium. It should have insisted she stayed. Or just sacked her without compensation. What a bunch of creeps.

Wednesday, 23 June 2010

Airport Connections (2)

The policy of KCC to establish trains from Strood and Ashford to Gatwick is flawed. It seems to me that it would be much better to have a service from the proposed Manston Parkway calling at Canterbury, Ashford, Staplehurst, Paddock Wood, Tonbridge, Edenbridge, Redhill, Reigate, Dorking, Guildford, Farnborough, Wokingham and Reading.

Such a service would provide many interchange possibilities with the South West and of course with the West Country, Wales and the Midlands at Reading. The advantage of such a service would be that it would enable many passengers to avoid changing stations in London who were bound for the Eurostar service. It would also save residents in the South East having to travel through London as part of their journey. Overall such a service might not save on time, but it would save having to lug baggage onto the Underground. It would reduce overcrowding on London bound services and open up a new range of travel opportunities.


Following a recent criminal case Det. Supt. Neil Hunter of the Lancashire Constabulary said:

While we are disappointed with today's decision, we accept the decision of the court.

The decision was that of a jury. How can the police not accept the decision of a court? Perhaps Det. Supt. Hunter wishes the police were prosecutor, judge and jury?

I think this prat should be hauled before the judge to explain himself and the Home Office should initiate an inquiry into this blatant undermining of the judicial process. Better still sack him with no pension.

The sooner we get elected police commissioners to look into such outrageous comments the better.

Tuesday, 22 June 2010

New Bishop of Rochester

So, the new Bishop of Rochester is the current Bishop of Lynn and not the Bishop of Croydon. I shall have to have strong words with my clerical spy!

My clerical moles inform me that the new bishop has a good track record on social responsibility issues. I hope one of his first steps (no women bishops yet) is to enquire why Church in Society was allowed to close and the failure of those with power within the diocese to take the necessary action to ensure its continuation.

My clerical moles are most upset by the incompetence over this issue shown by people within the diocese. Needless to say, I never received a reply to my communications to the Bishop of Tonbridge.

Monday, 21 June 2010

Airport connections (1)

The news that KCC intends to pursue the idea of opening a station to serve Manston Airport and the surrounding areas is excellent. Building a line to the airport would be prohibitive financially, but a parkway station with good public transport links to the airport and adjoining areas would beneficial for the local economy. Now the plans for additional runways at Heathrow, Stansted and Gatwick have been jettisoned by the government this should be an opportunity for Manston to thrive.

The idea of a dedicated Gatwick - Tonbridge - Maidstone - Strood service or one from Gatwick to Ashford has been abandoned on cost grounds: but it seems to me that what is needed is more of a tweaking of existing resources rather than new trains at exorbitant cost. I shall return to this is my next blog.

Sunday, 20 June 2010


Have you heard a vuvuzela near you yet? Friday and Saturday nights in Tunbridge Wells will never be the same.

Saturday, 19 June 2010

What I am reading (5)

My latest read in The Big Red Train Ride by Eric Newby, published in 1978. It tells of a journey on the Trans-Siberian Railway before perestroika.

Tunbridge Wells to Brighton by public transport

Following my previous blog concerning errors in the draft Tunbridge Wells Transport Strategy the article by the Wealden Line campaign is of interest. Click here to read.

Tuesday, 15 June 2010

What a corker

The draft Tunbridge Wells Borough Transport Strategy document contains the following statement:

Staplehurst Station, although in the neighbouring Borough of Tonbridge, is served by the London to Hastings line and provides direct services to London Bridge, Waterloo and Charing Cross Stations.

I am sure the Borough of Maidstone will be interested in the loss of Staplehurst to the Borough of Tonbridge and Malling. I have no doubt people travelling from Ashford to Tonbridge will be surprised to learn they are travelling on the Hastings line.

Monday, 14 June 2010

More on Foodbank for Kent

Today, I took it upon myself to write to Nick Chard. He is a member of Kent County Council's Cabinet. My research through the labyrinthine KCC website led me to the conclusion that he is the person to contact about a Foodbank for Kent.

It will be interesting to see how long it takes for a substantive reply to wing its way to me and its content. I shall keep you posted.

Sunday, 13 June 2010

Foodbank for Kent update

A foodbank for Kent has been the subject of numerous posts on this blog. Progress towards the goal has been steady and recently a major Kent organisation has come on board to support the endeavour. At this stage I prefer not to name the organisation, but all will be revealed soon.

There is much to do, but I expect the pace to quicken!

What I am reading (4)

Rummaging through by books I came across Cambridge Texts in the History of Political Thought: Luther and Calvin on secular authority.

Decided it would be a good idea to read this before reading Hooker!

Railway Ramblings (2)

Despite its shortcomings I prefer rail travel to using my car. Motorway driving can be a nightmare, particularly if you get trapped between exits by an accident. Crawling through urban areas and paying extortionate parking fees are my other dislikes. At least on the train one can read or look at the scenery: even use your mobile phone/laptop.

The downside is the cost, inconvenient timetables and overcrowding, but on balance I prefer the latter set of circumstances to the former, particularly if travelling a long distance. However I admit that inconvenient timetabling does lead me to the use the car when I would prefer to travel by rail.

A few examples locally: Tunbridge Wells to Brighton, Tunbridge Wells to Maidstone, Tunbridge Wells to Guildford.

Tunbridge Wells to Brighton by train takes two hours, by car just over the hour. Even the bus service is quicker than the train.

Tunbridge Wells to Maidstone requires one change but the service between Maidstone and Tonbridge is only every hour.

Trains between Tonbridge and Redhill are hourly which makes for a long journey time between Tunbridge Wells and Guildford. It is easier to travel between the two via Waterloo, but costs more.

What is needed is for the services to be improved and thereby attract more passengers.

I shall return to these matters in future blogs.

Railway ramblings

Our railways have never been busier with passenger traffic. In many areas trains are overcrowded and lines are running at maximum capacity. Across the country there are plans to re-open closed stations and closed lines. A far cry from the 1960s and 70s when the very future of rail transport was in doubt.

On the freight side obviously there is not as much traffic as collieries, shipbuilding yards and steel plants have closed and with them the coal, iron ore and steel traffic. Nonetheless there is a growing demand for rail freight.

In the current economic climate it is vital that available resources are used on what is needed, rather than on grandiose schemes. Step forward the proposal for High Speed 2 which it is planned will hurtle people between London, the West Midlands and the North. Is such a railway needed as a matter of necessity or would the money be better spent on improving piecemeal the existing railway system and re-opening a few closed lines?

In my opinion four types of scheme should take priority:

1. Improvements to rail transport in and around major cities and conurbations.
2. Improving links between population areas outside London.
3. Developing routes which will steer traffic (passenger and freight) away from bottlenecks.
4. Electrification of routes.

Saturday, 12 June 2010

How to encourage tourists and shoppers.

Tourism sustains many jobs in Tunbridge Wells. There is much to see and do across the borough. Royal Tunbridge Wells is a shopping mecca with many small specialist shops selling a huge variety of products.

One would have imagined that the Council would seek to encourage tourists and shoppers to flock to the area in view of their importance to the economic well-being of the borough.

Unfortunately the opposite is the impression one gains. Proposals to close public toilets, swingeing car-park charges and now the deplorable plan to close the Tourist Information Centre next winter as a 'pilot'. The bright? idea is to move the TIC to the Gateway, which is a good mile from the main tourist attraction, the Pantiles, where the TIC currently is located.

Daft, stupid, barmy - pick your own word.

A21 Fiasco

Bad news that the doubling of the A21 between Tonbridge and Pembury is to be delayed. The accident record on this stretch of road is one long litany of death and serious injury.

Delays at the roundabout where roads lead off the A21 to the new hospital and the industrial estate/retail park are set to increase. It beggars belief that two of the major roads leading to the hospital are not to be upgraded (the other being Colts Hill).

As expected, Hazel Dawe of the Green Party has welcomed this delay and spoken again of the need for better bus services. She is living in cloud cuckoo land if she believes public transport will meet the transport needs of this area. Yes, by all means improve road and rail services, but there is an ongoing need for private transport and the eradication of bottlenecks and accident hot spots.

Friday, 11 June 2010

What I am reading (3) and......

...isn't the football boring? I had hoped Uruguay would beat the Froggies as we have to see revenge exacted on the French for their hand-ball victory over Ireland.

Took up new reading tonight having been depressed by my previous read and the poor quality of the football.

I am re-reading a book I haven't touched for over 20 years: Hooker: Of the laws of Ecclesiastical Polity. Then I realised it is over 30 years since I lectured on this material!

Thursday, 10 June 2010

World Cup

Can't say that I have been gripped by World Cup fever. Apart from the USA I don't know which countries are in 'our' group.

I follow in the press the fortunes of the soccer, rugby league, rugby union and cricket teams I support. Rarely do I attend matches, except when Wharfedale are playing within fifty miles of Tunbridge Wells.

I've been reet poorly..... we say in Yorkshire. Too much heat, dehydration set in and, as it is said, the rest is history.
For the first time in months I did not put an item on this blog yesterday. Pleased to report that I am feeling much better as I write this.

Tomorrow is a booked holiday from work and I plan to use it to good effect to further the cause of a Foodbank for Kent. Should you be on Facebook, please visit the Foodbank for Kent page and join.

Tuesday, 8 June 2010

Sherwood Carnival last Saturday

A very hot day, a reasonable attendance but not many groups in the carnival procession. It was a real shame that Sherwood Primary School, St Philip's Church and Little Forest Children's Centre between them couldn't manage a single group for the procession.

It was good to see Rev'd Brian Senior and some of his flock manning a stall and also a local councillor and the MP at the event.

What hope for the Tourist Centre?

There is much to attract the tourist to Tunbridge Wells - the Common, the Pantiles, Charles the Martyr church, the High Street shops, Trinity Theatre, cafes, restaurants and pubs. Much more on offer than in Sevenoaks or Tonbridge.

I read on Twitter that the tourist centre located in the Pantiles is under threat of closure - again. It seems the barmy army in the Town Hall has the centre in its sites as it looks to cut budgets. Problem is that many local politicians give the impression of knowing the price of everything and the value of nothing.

Previously it has been mooted that the tourist centre moves to the Gateway. The Gateway is a dull place, more akin to the waiting room of a doctor's surgery or social services. Even the Job Centre (employment, or even labour exchange) is more enticing. I just cannot see welfare claimants and tourists rubbing shoulders in the Gateway. Even in Gravesend - Gravesend for goodness sake - the tourist centre is not in the Gateway/Civic Centre.

Some bright bod at Kent County Council told me that people who use the Gateway are 'customers', which I suppose puts users in the category used by Tesco to describe people crossing its threshold. However, I am not a customer of the Council, I am an elector and the Council is my servant.

It is a rum state of affairs when the Town Hall is closed to the public, thus cocooning councillors and officers in a little world of their own (and providing free parking) whilst we poor citizens, sorry customers, are kept out. Should the tourist centre have to close then move it to the Town Hall. Mind you, it might not be there long if the Council decides to up sticks to Hawkenbury.

Monday, 7 June 2010

Computer Problems

We take our computers for granted. Had a glitch this evening which has caused me no end of problems and waste of time.

Hopefully I have the matter sorted!

Sunday, 6 June 2010

Sure Start: A wrong turning.

Frank Field stated recently:

Consider Sure Start. This was one of Labour’s great initiatives, aimed at cutting into the cycle of deprivation that trapped all too many children in poverty. But the recent transformation of Sure Start into Children’s Centres signifies a major change in the programme: its focus has shifted from the poorest to all children.

If our society’s aim is to widen the life chances of poorer children, is this a sensible and defensible change?

Got it is one Frank.

A few years ago I was chair of a charity which ran a pre-school playgroup specifically for children of poor families. The charity was called Panda and received praise from OFSTED for its exemplar family liaison work. It was mentioned by the then Tunbridge Wells MP, the hard-headed businessman Archie Norman, in an House of Commons debate as an excellent example of a voluntary sector organisation targeting real need in a way the broad brush of the statutory sector failed to do.

Then it was decided to open a Sure Start close to the Panda premises and it was agreed Panda would move into the new Sure Start premises as its own premises were to be demolished. The move never happened as Kent County Council insisted on an increase in numbers and that the group be open to all children.

Now we are told that there are a number of children at the local primary school with behaviour problems? Why is this? Did they go through the Children's Centre as the Sure Starts became known as? I bet if these kids had gone through Panda the problem would have been much reduced. An unholy alliance of Kent County Council, central government, aided and abetted by a voluntary infrastructure body, destroyed a charity which was targeting successfully children from poorer families.

Frank Field is correct: the change of focus was wrong.

Saturday, 5 June 2010

What I am reading (2)

I have started reading the HMG document: State of the nation report: poverty, worklessness and welfare dependency in the UK.

Sounds like a document for amnesiacs, but I find it gripping stuff!

Friday, 4 June 2010

Sherwood Carnival: 5th June

Come along to TN2 and have some fun tomorrow. It's going to be a sunny day. Parade sets off at 12.30PM.

Thursday, 3 June 2010

I really enjoy....

...a good omelette. Garlic mushrooms my favourite filling, but it doesn't really matter what the filling is so long as the omelette is cooked correctly. Can anyone recommend a cafe which sells said ?

I just love...

.....pistachio nuts. Have you tried chocolate pistachio fudge? Its gorgeous, Mmmmm.

Wednesday, 2 June 2010

A dangerous world

We live in dangerous times. In the Far East, North Korea again is causing concern. The Indian sub-continent has strife in India and Pakistan and the on-going war in nearby Afghanistan. The Near East (although it is called now the Middle East) has seen tensions rise between Israel and Turkey and there is the brooding presence of Iran.

Southern Europe is a tinderbox of civil unrest as a consequence of economic and financial chaos developing in Spain, Portugal, Italy and Greece. The future of the euro and even of the European Union is under threat.

And there is the constant threat of terrorism.

I have the same sense of foreboding I felt at the time of the Cuba missile crisis.

Tuesday, 1 June 2010

Facebook glitch

One of the joys of Facebook is being able to download pages from websites. Unfortunately something has gone wrong. Whilst I am able to download the pages and share them I cannot download the thumbnail photos and brief description of the pages.

The result is that what is downloaded is not as interesting as one would hope. Anybody else having the same problem?

Made it!

I always try and get the garden into shape by the end of May. Today, a visit to the garden centre for plants to replace those killed by the severe winter, some judicious pruning, much weeding and planting of annuals: the task is complete! Even got round to planting the veg.
Now it is simply a question of keeping on top of the weeds. Although I say so myself, the garden is looking good and will be a riot of colour throughout the summer.