Friday, 30 April 2010

A ticket to Gatwick

So, Tunbridge Wells Borough Council would like to see through trains between Tunbridge Wells and Gatwick re-instated. But who will pay for them? The previous service was not used much and I doubt if a new service would be viable.

The problem with trains to airports is that they require lots of luggage space, hence the special carriages on services from Paddington to Heathrow and Victoria to Gatwick.

I hope the Council turns its attention to the problem of public transport to Brighton. The bus takes two hours as does each of the three rail routes.

Tunbridge Wells to Brighton involves a change at St Leonards and sometimes a further change at Lewes. You can travel via London Bridge but that costs more. The third route is via Tonbridge (change), Redhill (change) and Gatwick (change). Between Tonbridge and Redhill the service is hourly. Amazingly, there is no through service between Redhill and Brighton.

From Redhill there is a service to Reading via Guildford. When I visit Oxford I would prefer to travel via Redhill to Reading and avoid London. Likewise I would prefer to travel via Redhill and Guildford to reach Portsmouth. What I would like is a fast service from Ashford to Reading calling at Tonbridge, Redhill and Guildford and also Paddock Wood, Reigate and Dorking.

Cheap politics

Cheap politics from the Liberal Dozycrat candidate in Tunbridge Wells received short shrift at a public hustings meeting. A Conservative councillor on Southborough Town Council (in reality a parish council) spent a short time in Bellmarsh for non-payment of Council Tax.

To use this as a basis for slagging off the whole Conservative Party was a bit rich in view of the fact that the Liberal Dozycrats accepted millions from convicted fraudster, one Michael Brown, and have refused to pay it back to the rightful owners.

When it comes to stench, the behaviour of the Southborough councillor smells more like the consequence of passing wind, whereas in the Brown case (aptly named) it is more akin to camping downwind close to the sewage farm.

Elaine receives more publicity - paid for by the taxpayer

Elaine Bolton is a member of the Kent Police Authority, having been 'selected' by some arcane process. A few weeks ago details about Elaine, including her musical interests, were spread across the pages of a local newspaper, courtesy of the taxpayer. A product no doubt of some dimwit in the PR department of the Police Authority, it told us nothing of the issues facing policing in Kent.

The latest advertisement is identical to the first one - another disgraceful waste of taxpayers' money.

Negative campaigning

I have never liked negative campaigning that goes along the lines: vote for X to keep out Y. My opinion is that you should vote for what you believe.

The Liberal Dozycrats have used this negative tactic for years. But I am disappointed the Conservatives have started using it, although I cannot help but have the gleeful thought that the Liberal Dozycrats are receiving some of their own medicine.

The latest Tory leaflet in Tunbridge Wells tells us that if the electorate want to get rid of Brown then they must vote Conservative. I have no doubt this is true if there is not to be a hung parliament , but I continue to eschew negative campaigning.

Thursday, 29 April 2010

Well done Fulham FC: Liverpool woe, Owls reckoning

Fulham FC has reached a European final with a 2-1 aggregate win over Hamburg. Well done and in particular congratulations to the club's manager, Roy Hodgson.

Poor Liverpool. Lost at home and might not even qualify for European competition next year.

Sheffield Wednesday (The Owls) play Crystal Palace at Hillsborough in the final game of the season. If Wednesday win they are not relegated, if they draw or lose Palace stay up. What a nail-biter! As a Blades supporter (Sheffield United) I hope Wednesday win. Seasons without derby matches and the associated bragging rights are far less interesting than those when we play the old enemy.

A word out of place

Poor Gordon. Now I never thought I would write that. However I do sympathise that he was caught on microphone making what he believed was a private comment.

The real issue though is not if his description of the OAP was correct, the issue is that he did not say it to her face.

Wednesday, 28 April 2010

More election literature

The latest missive to be pushed through my letter box is from UKIP. UKIP is campaigning for accident and emergency services to be retained at the Kent & Sussex Hospital - as is the Green Party. The argument is that this service is needed in the centre of town.

Absolutely ludicrous - indeed barmy! On cost grounds alone it is a non-starter (there are going to be savage cuts in public spending), quite apart from the loss of receipts from the sale of the K & S site.

What UKIP and the Green Party should remember is that the K & S has a large catchment area and the move to Pembury will be of great benefit to all living to the east of Tunbridge Wells and people living in and around Tonbridge. But never mind, let's be parochial.

Has either of the parties informed the electorate of Tonbridge what they are saying in Tunbridge Wells?

A bedtime story: sleep well

In the 1930s Herr Hitler and his Nazi Party won seats in the Reichstag as a form of proportional representation was used for elections in the Weimar Republic. Should Mr Clegg get his way it is likely that the BNP, based on the last European election results, would secure sixty seats at a general election held with PR as the voting system. The way to hell is paved with good intentions.

Our current first-past-the-post system is manifestly unfair to minor parties as is the position whereby the party which gains most votes does not necessarily form the government. But that unfairness pales into insignificance when compared to what could happen if the system is changed.

It couldn't happen here is a view commonly expressed. Many said the same in Germany. The law of unintended consequences will apply.

In Germany in the 1930s one of the major factors which propelled the Nazi party to power was high unemployment caused by the depression and also a sense of grievance arising from the terms of the Treaty of Versailles.

All nations in Europe are suffering as a result of the credit crunch. But now there is an additional danger. Greece's sovereign debt has been given a junk bond rating, pressure is mounting in Portugal, Spain and Italy. The effects will be felt across Europe and the UK is not immune given its huge sovereign debt. Fertile ground for populist parties to reap an electoral reward.

The British, it is often said, are not easily swayed, yet look at the jump in the opinion poll ratings for the Liberal Democrats after one television show, peddling the false notion that they are the only fair and clean party; targeting politicians and bankers as the scapegoats. Scapegoating easy targets was the hallmark of a 1930's regime.

Finally, we must not forget the ever present threat of terrorist atrocities.

We are heading into very dangerous times, indeed we are sleep-walking into them. We would be well-advised to steer clear of the woolly-headed notions of the Liberal Dozycrats.

Tuesday, 27 April 2010

Economic disaster in Greece

We should be worried by the rapidly deteriorating financial position in Greece. Economic discontent could spill over into political agitation far more dangerous than anything seen so far on the streets of Athens. Portugal is on the down slope and could follow Greece into economic and political turmoil. Spain and Italy have rocky economies, as does Ireland.

Thank goodness we are not in the EMU and have some control over our destiny. The Liberal Dozycrats would have had us in the EMU in a twinkling of an eye. The fact the UK is not in the eurozone gives us the power to raise or lower interest rates, something which countries tied to the euro cannot do.

Should the eurozone collapse, what price the European Union? The EU could be heading for a spectacular crash.

A theological journey

Many years ago I was a senior lecturer in jurisprudence and legal theory. It was a compulsory subject of the law degree course I lectured on. The subject delves into various 'schools' of jurisprudence as well as analysing how judges reach decisions. The most important aspect of the subject is understanding the relationship between politics, economics and religion and how they interact with each other.

Students had to have an understanding of the works of philosophers, theologians and economists, an appreciation of political theories and the impact all these have on the creation and application of law. Law does not exist in a vacuum. It is the result of many influences. One of the major problems regarding law is that it may reflect attitudes which have been superseded and thus the unsatisfactory state of the law may lead to political agitation. Law is not a reflection of things as they are, but as they were.
Fast forward a couple of decades and I decided to study for a diploma in theology. It was a comfort that much of my knowledge of jurisprudence was of relevance to my theological studies. On the diploma course we explored the world's major religions, methods of scriptural interpretation and the writings of major theologians. It was interesting to look again after twenty years at many of the same issues but through a theological as distinct from a jurisprudential perspective.
Have you stayed with me so far?
I informed my law students that I was the founder member of the Cynical School of Jurisprudence. Also, I was a postmodernist before it became the 'in thing'.
My journey has taken me to the theological and social movement known as liberation theology and beyond to the radical ideas of Don Cupitt and the rejection of metaphysical concepts and meta-narratives. Thirty years ago I argued against the idea of the 'divine right of kings to rule' as a basis for law. Now I argue against any ideas based on a divine assumption. But, and importantly, I regard myself as a Christian.


The more I hear Mr Clegg on television the more vacuous he sounds. Not for nothing do I use the sobriquet Dozycrats.

We must hope fervently the electorate does not sleep-walk into the disaster of a hung parliament with Clegg as the arbiter on policy. Make no mistake: the Dozycrats are lightweight and will bring nothing but misery to the country.

Blow my own trumpet!!

hi John, how do I comment on your blog? saw Paul Carter interview yesterday morning on BBC and my first thought was can't wait to read your observations on it...cracker lol

Monday, 26 April 2010

The Great Leader in disarray

What fun! the Great Leader of Kent County Council pontificates on television that he is opposed to aspects of his Party's educational policy. Doubtless the alarm bells rang at Ashcroft HQ. Here was the Leader of the largest county council in open disagreement with his Party and broadcasting the fact far and wide. Bad form and all that.

But what's this? Hours later we have the Great Leader eating his words and saying, no, really, guv, I support fully the Party's policy.

What a pratfall from a seasoned politician who should know better. There is a simple maxim: engage brain before opening mouth. As we Tykes say: if in doubt say nowt.

Quite apart from making himself a laughing stock there is a serious issue concerning judgement. The Tories on KCC should think long and hard about who leads KCC next time the leadership election arises.

Sunday, 25 April 2010


Good to see Yorkshire are top of the County Championship table. Probably won't last, so I'll crow whilst I can.

Foodbank Organisation in the UK

Two of the major foodbank organisations are:

The Trussell Trust and FareShare

There are important distinctions in the way each operates but it does seem sensible for a foodbank in Kent to link in with one of these two organisations.

Honest Food Campaign

The link below takes you to the Honest Food Campaign website.

London Marathon

I doubt if I could walk the marathon distance, let alone run it, so I take my hat off to all the brave people setting off today.

Ray Ellis is being sponsored to raise money for the Bridge Trust. All the best Ray.

Saturday, 24 April 2010

Cafe BLISS official opening

I have written before about Cafe BLISS and the Better Living in Southborough Society. Today the cafe had its official opening . Elaine Lawrence, the driving force behind BLISS, says on her Facebook Site that: 'even Greg Clark found time to attend'.

Congratulations to the BLISS team and may they continue to prosper.

More election addresses

Somewhat disappointing. The Green Party's election address arrived. Problem is it is the same as the one delivered earlier in the week. Very green!

Labour also has sent me two copies of its election address.

Facebook fun

Surfing the Internet I come across some quirky sites. Often I put them on my Facebook site in the hope that greater exposure will add to their readership and thereby increase mirth, rage or any other emotion. :)

Friday, 23 April 2010

Squealing PIGS

The PIGS are the soft under-belly of the eurozone Portugal, Italy, Greece and Spain. Greece is a goner, and it is rumoured Portugal is next in line. Greece looks as though it is going to call on the rescue package to fund its deficit. The hope that the announcement of the package would avert problems for Greece has proven to be false. Greece is paying the proverbial arm and a leg to borrow.

It looks increasingly likely all four countries will face a funding crisis, with Ireland not far behind. Could this presage the end of the eurozone? It may well do if the German courts rule the nation's involvement in any rescue package is unconstitutional. Should the eurozone unravel, what then for the EU?

Very serious problems ahead and the UK will not be immune as it seeks to borrow to meet its deficit.

More election literature.

Two missives today:

The Barmy Nasty Party informs me that it protects our Christian values. Clearly on another planet.

The Liberal Dozycrats inform me that it is a close fight between the Lib Dems and the Conservatives. The accompanying chart has: Con: 53.4%, Lib Dem: 27.7% and Labour 8.9%. Close? It's a country mile from being close. Obviously the Liberal Dozycrats have either a poor command of the English language or are being deliberately misleading - maybe both.

Thursday, 22 April 2010

Election literature

I received three election communications today.

  • The Green Party fails to mention its policy of objecting to the dualling of the A21 between Tunbridge Wells and Tonbridge.

  • The Labour Party leaflet has photographs of local residents - but fails to mention they are all Labour Party members. Interestingly Labour tells us that the Pembury hospital and A21 dualling are being delivered with funding/money from the Labour Government. Rather strange that, as I thought it was our money which governments spend. Isn't the Pembury Hospital a PFI project? This means we will be paying a lot more for the hospital just to keep it off the government's books. Not something for Labour to boast about.

  • The Conservative leaflet requires a diploma in origami to open. One point of interest. In one of the photographs there is a Liberal Dozycrat councillor!!

Wednesday, 21 April 2010

Tomorrow's debate

The three monkeys meet up again tomorrow night. Should prove more interesting than last week as a consequence of the surge in Dozycrat support.

Pure snow white Clegg has been through the press wringer in the past week and now looks more of a dirty slush colour.

Googling along Memory Lane

The Google street scene is fascinating. I am re-visiting places I have not been to for years. Memories come flooding back, but also the recognition of how things have changed. Closed pubs and shops, open spaces built on. It is the small changes that strike home - the chip shop now used for another purpose, the railway bridge that has been demolished, the factory now empty space, the colliery spoil heap removed and so on. All very nostalgic. It brings home how our physical environment changes slowly but significantly over twenty/thirty years.
These visits remind me of the people who lived in these places and again how things have changed. Our memories are fixed in locations and people that are not as they were.
A major advantage of the Google street scene is that you can explore places before visiting them. Very useful when booking a holiday in the UK.

Tuesday, 20 April 2010

Apologies for returning to this......

When Kent County Council announced it was investing significant resources to develop and sustain a Kent-wide credit union I was amazed. Amazed that a Conservative led council was taking this initiative, particularly after my experience with Essex County Council which was less than helpful in advancing the cause of Essex Savers Credit Union.

I was very disappointed by the failure of the voluntary sector (including faith groups) in Kent to support this initiative, as the groups likely to benefit most from a credit union are the very ones voluntary and faith groups help.

My latest endeavour is to promote a foodbank for Kent. One of the leading charities in the UK is FareShare which has a number of projects across the nation. One is in Leicester where it is partnered by the Leicester Diocese of The Church of England, or to be more specific, by the Diocese's Social Responsibility Department.

The Canterbury and Rochester Dioceses used to have a shared social responsibility department - Church in Society - which became an independent charity.

Now there is nothing (at least nothing in the public domain). It would have been sensible to explore the potential for a foodbank with FareShare and CIS as partners along the Leicester model. Who speaks now for social responsibility in the two dioceses?

Foodbank for Kent

Our research continues apace. New support is gained, more information gathered and a clearer picture emerging of the way forward. Far more exciting than the election!

Monday, 19 April 2010

New railway proposal

The Wealden Line Campaign has published today a new website BML2 which sets out proposals for dealing with the challenge of keeping pace with increased demand on railways in the Brighton-Tunbridge Wells-London corridor.

CIS disappears from the Internet.

Church in Society's website has been taken off the Internet, although I did manage to print for posterity a cached copy of the home page dated 14th April. Links to the CIS site from the Dioceses of Canterbury and Rochester have been deleted.

Yet nowhere is there any mention of the demise of Church in Society, no thanks for the work CIS undertook and not even a mention of staff being made redundant.

To use the Terry-Thomas catchphrase : what an absolute shower.

Doncaster Disaster

What can one say about the shambles at Doncaster Metropolitan Borough Council that is not said already in the Audit Commission report. published today?
Compulsory reading if you want to learn how party politics at local level can damage the very communities councillors are supposed to serve. The report highlights also the tensions that existed between the elected mayor, cabinet and councillors. It is highly critical of members of the scrutiny committee seeking to act as an alternative executive.
Doncaster Council has 'form'. What is surprising is that it has taken so long to put in direct control by central government.

Sunday, 18 April 2010

Collective madness

It's amazing what populist politics does. Produces mass hysteria. Just one election broadcast and Cleggover is now in the lead in the opinion polls. Never mind the policies - here I am says Clegg to clean up politics.

We heard similar populist ranting in the 1930s and look where that got us.

Calamity Clegg is a hypocrite and a chancer and I wouldn't trust him to run a parish council. Remember Michael Brown, convicted fraudster who gave the Dozycrats £2.5M; money he had stolen and the LDs refused to give it back. Spiv behaviour.
Gordon 'Clown' Brown is the embodiment of the phrase: lacks leadership potential.

And as for Dave 'Boy Wonder' Cameron what can one say? I said months ago that he would snatch a dramatic defeat from the jaws of victory.

Volcanic Asssssssssh

Aircraft approaching Gatwick fly over my house. Fortunately they are are a height which rarely causes any significant noise disturbance. It is easy to make out the logo displayed on each aircraft.

The last few days have been, well quiet, as the Icelandic ash has grounded flights. Should the outpouring of ash continue for a considerable time, it will be interesting to note the reaction of the regulatory body. There is muttering already that the rules are too strict and flights could go ahead. Any relaxation of the rules should be viewed with suspicion. Simply because a safety rule is inconvenient is not a reason to relax it.

Saturday, 17 April 2010

Dozycrat Sleaze: Top notch hypocrisy

Michael Brown donated £2,500,000 to the Dozycrats. The problem was that it wasn't his money. He was fingered by the police and convicted of fraud. You might have thought Mr Clean Clegg would have immediately returned the money to its rightful owners.

Not so. The Dozycrats hid behind an Electoral Commission finding that what the party had done was within the rules. No consideration of the ethics, just following the rules guv, honest.

Now where have we heard that before? The MPs sleaze scandal threw up the pathetic defence that claims were within the rules so, ignore the ethics, it's ok.

The Dozycrats are tainted. Mr Clean Clegg should be ashamed, but no, he continue to spout hypocritical drivel about honesty and high standards in politics.

UKIP quandry

The surge in Dozycrat support must be very trying for UKIP. The Dozycrats are the most pro- EU of the main political parties and would have taken the UK into the disaster that is the eurozone.

UKIP intervention in some contests could result in Tories losing their seats to Dozycrats. The Tories are divided on Europe, but are the most sceptical of the parties on European issues. A delicious irony.

Dozycrat surge good for politics

Tory websites are getting all worked up by the Dozycrat surge following the 'debate' on television. I welcome this surge for a number of reasons:
  • It will put Dozycrat policies under close scrutiny. Instead of voting against the other parties, people will have to discern what they are voting for. People may well decide that voting Dozycrat as a protest is the worst thing they could do.
  • It will put Labour and Tories on their mettle and stop the cosy two party race at elections.
  • Scrutiny of the Dozycrat record in local authorities the party controls will highlight the shambles that inevitably follows wherever it gains control.

Friday, 16 April 2010

Another Elaine

The taxpayer has paid for a half page advertisement by Kent Police Authority in today's Tunbridge Wells Courier.

The advertisement tells us all about Elaine Bolton who is a member of the Authority, except it doesn't. It misses out the fact she used to be an employee of Tunbridge Wells Borough Council and that her membership is not a result of any election, but of an arcane selection system.

It is an appalling waste of taxpayers money to buy advertising space so that we can be regaled with the information that West Side Story and Chicago are my favourites. Looks like another example of the dross produced by a statutory body's PR department.

Elaine informs us that I'm incredibly passionate about policing...'

Now that I can believe. The Oxford University Dictionary defines incredible as: that cannot be believed; surprising.

Congratulations Elaine!

Elaine Lawrence, the driving force behind the Better Living in Southborough Society has received a civic award from Southborough Town Council for her work in bringing to fruition Cafe Bliss.

The cafe is truly a community cafe and well worth a visit if you are in Southborough. It is on London Road at the junction with Yew Tree Road.

Congratulations to Elaine and all the members of BLISS.

Is there an election soon!

Today's Tunbridge Wells Courier carries a story about the Labour candidate for Tunbridge Wells. Apparently Gary Heather has organised a public meeting to discuss the future of the Ramslye estate and has invited the Borough Council and Town & Country Housing Association to give residents an update and listen to their concerns about vacant shops and anti-social behaviour.

Isn't it amazing that this is happening now?

People with long memories will remember the Liberal Dozycrat candidate, Laura Murphy bringing residents of Showfields and Ramslye together just before the 2005 general election to discuss issues with the police, housing association and council with a view to setting up a residents' association.

I don't recall seeing much of Laura Murphy in Showfields after the 2005 election. Will Gary Heather repeat history and lose interest after the election in the concerns of the people of Ramslye?

The cynic in me tells me that this sort of intervention does more harm than good and wastes the time of people who are engaged in long term efforts to improve communities and neighbourhoods

Thursday, 15 April 2010

Church in Society

Sadly, I have to report that I have received no response to my communications to the Bishop of Tonbridge concerning the demise of Church in Society.

Opinion Polls

The front page of the Daily Telegraph has as its lead story the results of an opinion poll which indicates the Tories are 12 points ahead in key Labour marginal seats, but are making no inroads into Liberal Dozycrat seats. It suggests that Lord Moneybags Ashcroft's strategy is working.

Up to a point it is, but the Tories need to win Dozycrat seats. I am not convinced yet that the Ashcroft strategy will produce an overall Tory majority.

Foodbank for Kent

I came across this definition of food poverty recently in a National Consumer Council document:

Food poverty is the inability to acquire or consume an adequate quality or sufficient quantity of food in socially acceptable ways, or the uncertainty that one will be able to do so.

Another interesting passage in the NCC document is a description of food access.

The term 'food access' takes into consideration the complexity of factors that affect a person's ability to obtain sufficient, adequate food for good health- including having enough money to buy food, being physically able to walk or drive to shops which can provide this, and understanding how to prepare and use healthy foods.

It is estimated that four million people in the UK cannot afford a healthy diet and one in five parents, and one in ten children, regularly go hungry because they do not have enough money for food.

The links between poverty and deprivation and ill-health and premature death are now widely acknowledged.

A foodbank for Kent will provide a major resource to tackle these issues.

The BIG debate.......YAWN

I am not going to watch the 'debate' between the leaders of the three main political parties for the simple reason that it is being stage-managed to such an extent that the cut and thrust of real debate will be missing.

Who will 'win' the debate? Who cares? It is the policies that matter, not a beauty contest in a television studio.

More Sleaze

Pensions minister, Angela Eagle joins the sorry ranks of Transport minister Sadiq Khan and Labour whip/Deputy Minister for the East of England Bob Blizzard in having had been caught using parliamentary expenses for Labour Party campaigning.

Miss Eagle is reported to have used House of Commons stationary and prepaid envelopes to write unsolicited letters to voters in her Merseyside constituency on the very day Gordon Brown called the general election.

Parliamentary rules specifically forbid the use of House of Commons stationary for any unsolicited letters, as well as strictly forbidding their use for party political purposes or to help MPs gain re election. Yet Miss Eagle even sent a letter to the home of a former voter who had been dead for five years, something that has been reported to have caused significant distress to the man’s widow.

Wednesday, 14 April 2010

Up the Terminus with Justine

So Justine Greening has cast doubts on the Conservatives commitment to Crossrail. Silly girl. I wonder what little Theresa thought of that.

Like it or not, the future is railways. As oil becomes more expensive cars will be forced off the road. Air travel blights the lives of thousands.

Crossrail should be extended to Reading and linked up with the Chiltern route. We need to press on with electrification of the main lines from Paddington and St Pancras. The high speed routes to the north are essential to free up capacity on existing routes.

Some routes require upgrading: Waterloo- Exeter being one example.

What is needed are entrepreneurs to rebuild our railway system and a financial package to ensure a reasonable return on capital.

If we are not careful our whole transport system will fail: empty roads as a consequence of the price of fuel and railways unable to handle the demand.

In the south, the London-Brighton route is almost at full capacity as is the route between Tonbridge and Orpington. Radical action is required to deal with these issues but local authorities are either oblivious or hostile to any proposals to remedy the position.

Foodbank for Kent

One of the issues in setting up a foodbank is to determine need. It is easy to find anecdotal evidence but meaningful statistics are much harder to acquire. Two tools are MOSAIC and the food access radar and we shall be looking at how they might be of assistance in our task.

Huge Demand for Kent Savers Services

From Kent Savers Credit Union website:

Kent Savers has received an unprecedented demand for loans and saving accounts which have surpassed any previous credit union launch in the UK.

I am not surprised. My campaign for a credit union started in 2000 as I could see the need and the demand. A meeting was held with Kent County Council over seven years ago. Had the Council shown any initiative then, thousands would have been helped by a credit union. Indeed one officer was actively discouraging the formation of a credit union.

Tuesday, 13 April 2010

Labour Sleaze continues. A further visit to the cesspit

For government ministers such as Sadiq Khan and Bob Blizzard to divert tax payers’ money for their own party political and re-election campaigns is a disgrace.

Foodbank for Kent

The proposal for a foodbank in Kent has gained the support of Greg Clark, Conservative candidate for Tunbridge Wells and a former shadow minister.

Monday, 12 April 2010

The heat is on!!

What will the Tory High Command of Ashcroft, Cameron and Pickles do now? The opinion polls continue to forecast a hung parliament. I forecast a hung parliament months ago, but I expected the Conservatives to be the largest party. Now I am not so certain. Labour is making a good fist of fighting the election.

The result the country needs like a hole in the head, but which is looking more likely, is one which enables the Liberal Dozycrats to influence the next government (of whichever colour) to adopt some of its daft policies.

Dozycrat spying. Politics of the cesspit.

Zac Goldsmith, the Conservative candidate for Richmond Park, has publicised an attempt by local Liberal Dozycrats to infiltrate his campaign. On his website is the following:

Dan Falchikov — the same Lib Dem activist who was famously overheard by Kevin Maguire, the Daily Mirror’s chief political polemicist, boasting that he had cooked up Susan Kramer’s Kingston Hospital scare-story on his ‘kitchen table’ — has now been found out after volunteering to become one of Zac’s deliverers, and more worryingly, to do ‘data entry’ in the Conservative office.

Using the false name ‘Mr John O’Grady’ he signed up to deliver leaflets for Zac and to help in the office. Zac’s office was taken in at first, and a volunteer wrote to Mr Falchikov to thank him. But he also copied in local Conservative Councillors who recognised the email address.

Dan Falchikov then wrote back to Zac’s office claiming that his offer of help had been “sent in error.” But for Mr Falchikov to sign up to help, he would have had to fill in an on-line survey and send it back to Zac Goldsmith’s office. He would have had to invent a new name for himself… presumably also by mistake.

Just goes to show how low the Liberal Dozycrats will stoop for an unfair advantage. Cesspit politics.

Sunday, 11 April 2010

Geography and community

I live in Kent. My local authority is Kent County Council. KCC published recently a glossy magazine entitled Around Kent which in an orgy of self-congratulation and smugness tells us what wonderful things KCC is doing on behalf of Kent.

But if I reside in Rochester or Beckenham do I live in Kent? Rochester may be in the area of Medway Council but I imagine its residents consider they live in Kent. People in Beckenham may live in the local government area called the London Borough of Bromley, but many still think they are part of the county of Kent. Kent County Cricket Club still plays matches at Beckenham.

In Yorkshire, people living in Middlesbrough became part of Teesside, then Cleveland, now reside in a unitary authority, but for ceremonial purposes are part of North Yorkshire! Residents of Kingston-upon-Hull were part of Humberside County Council from 1974 to 1996.

Some historic counties have disappeared entirely as far as first tier local government organisation is concerned - Westmorland is now part of Cumbria.

Middlesex has disappeared although there is still Middlesex Cricket Club.

The 39 historic counties were ancient ancient subdivisions of England established for administration by the Normans and were in most cases based on earlier Anglo-Saxon kingdoms and shires.

Community loyalty to the historic shire boundaries runs deep. Leaders of local authorities need to be reminded, during their frequent bouts of pomposity, that when they claim to speak for an area it is only for the area within their council boundary. KCC does not speak for all of Kent: thank God some say.


Tunbridge Wells Borough Council has just advertised (see below) the Love Where We Live Awards 2010. A 'gong' chasers charter if ever I saw one. I believe people volunteer, not for personal gain or plaudits, but out of a sense of responsibility. We don't need a vox pop competition to pick out a 'winner'. It will be interesting to see who is daft enough to agree to be nominated for these pathetic awards. I assume the Council would not be so stupid as not to verify a person/organisation is willing to be nominated.

Love Where We Live Awards 2010

Who keeps your community alive? Who makes the place you live in better?

Love Where We Live is a campaign aimed at promoting and enhancing community pride. We want people to feel proud to live here and to want to work together as communities to make it a better borough.

As part of the campaign we want to find community champions - people who make a positive contribution to improving their area and the lives of the people that live there. We are asking you to nominate people who live or work in the borough that you feel deserve a special recognition for the contribution they make to the community.

We will publish a list of those shortlisted from the nominations and ask you to vote for your winner who will be presented with an award early in the New Year.

We are inviting nominations in the following categories:

Most outstanding contribution to the community - this award will be presented to an individual or group that has been judged to have made the biggest difference to the community they live in. The difference does not have to be a physical difference, but equally could be, and has to be judged as having made a consistent and ongoing contribution to enhancing the quality of the lives of those living in the community.

Individual award - This award will be presented to an individual who has been judged to have made a significant contribution to enhancing the lives of people living in a community.

I note there is no definition of community. Is the scheme limited to communities of geography, or does it include communities of interest?

Tunbridge Wells Council grants to voluntary organisations.

Tunbridge Wells Borough Council has awarded grants to the value of £390,590 to 18 local voluntary sector organisations. £199,000 went to the Citizens' Advice Bureau and £88,000 to the Trinity Theatre. Of the remaining £103,590, £58,400 was awarded to organisations of which I am or have been a trustee.

Matters soccer

Since the age of 12 I have supported Sheffield United Football Club 'The Blades' - well we all have one cross to bear! Rarely travelled to away matches, although I remember visits to Scunthorpe and Leicester and of course to the enemy in the north of the city.

On Sheffield United's away Saturdays I would watch Chesterfield 'The Spireites' at Saltergate. One season I even made trips to three of Chesterfield's away games: Chester - now closed down, Bradford Park Avenue - closed down but restarted in some lowly division and Rochdale - the worst ground I have ever visited.

Going to 'the match' was a weekend ritual: discuss the forthcoming game in the pub on Friday night, meet up with your mates before the game, watch the match: Bovril and pie at half-time, buy the Green 'Un; a special Saturday paper produced by the Sheffield Telegraph on all matters football and sold after 6.00PM. Sunday lunch: down the pub and pick over the previous day's football events.

I stopped going to matches sometime in the late 1980s when commercialism really took hold and clubs stared importing players from all over the place. When I watched football most of the team would have consisted of local lads and the football club was part of the community.

Bookies odds

I see Ladbrokes is offering odds of 8/15 for a Conservative majority, 15/8 for a hung parliament and 10/1 for a Labour majority. Shrewd judges of form the bookies

Saturday, 10 April 2010

A few days in London

A licensed victuallers association invited me to join a trip to London to attend a trade exhibition at Earls Court. We boarded the train. At the next stop a number of ladies joined the train. They were the mistresses of the landlords! Not very good planning I thought. They should have met up at previously agreed locations in London. One wagging tongue and who knows how busy the divorce courts might become.

Once we reached London the happy couples disappeared only to be seen again when we boarded the train home two days later. The rest of us enjoyed two days of drinking free booze at the exhibition stands.

Another child dies in squalor

In Nottinghamshire an 8 year old child hangs herself accidentally. She lived in squalor and her parents have been imprisoned for neglect. The child was known to social services and there is to be another inquiry as to what went wrong.

This is the latest in a long list of desperately sad cases of children dying through the failure by statutory services to take appropriate action. I don't blame front line workers, the fault is in the system. Is there too much multi-agency working which dilutes responsibility and takes up an enormous amount of time?

I don't know what the answers are. What I do know is that all the reports from across the country in to previous failings did not prevent the death of a poor girl who had led a miserable life.

Far away place

Some years I went on the Chesterfield Licensed Victuallers outings, always male only affairs. Really the only purpose of the day out was to enable landlords to be together to get roaring drunk.

An early start at a pub for a liquid breakfast, then piling the booze on to the coach, a stop at a pub on the way and then to the 'secret destination' for lunch.

One year the destination was the Guinness bottling plant at Runcorn. Lunch was roast beef and yorkshire pudding. We were shown a couple of films about Guinness and then it was time for the trip round the premises. This took the form of getting on our coach and driving round the perimeter wall - after all one bottling plant is much like any other. Then it was off to a pub for an afternoon of serious drinking. The journey home was broken for a pre-arranged evening meal - roast beef and yorkshire pudding - at the pub we had stopped at on the outward journey. Thoughts as to who was the idiot who planned the meals were lost in mist of the drink induced bonhomie

All in all a reet good day out.

Not what it seems

Coventry (Lanchester) Polytechnic had a Director who had been head hunted from the car industry, one Geoffrey Holroyde. He is an Associate of the Royal College of Organists and is well known in church music circles.

He decided he was going to build an organ at the Polytechnic's Vine Street annexe. On a visit to the Polytechnic I was dragged into the personnel officer's room to be shown a leaflet inviting people to attend the Director's organ erection classes. Much undignified mirth.

A rural ride

Coventry (Lanchester) Polytechnic was controlled by Coventry City Council and Warwickshire County Council through the Joint Education Committee. The vice-chairman was a Warwickshire County Councillor, Major Rupert Kettle. He had a florid complexion and was a gentleman farmer. His farm was some way from Coventry.

From time to time officers of Coventry Council had to visit the Major on JEC business. Officers were taken in a chauffeur driven car. On arrival at the farm one would be directed to the milking parlour where Rupert would be overseeing operations. After studying udder pulling for a while it was off to the house for drinks, followed by lunch and more drinks. Only then would business commence. Later the car would arrive to take one back to City Hall and a copious quantity of black coffee.

A favourite haunt in Coventry

The Black Swan's landlord was Brendan McDermott ably supported by his wife Bridie and two staff, Maisie and John. All Irish, as were the vast majority of his customers. A lovely friendly house.
I was at the Black Swan the day Brendan and company moved in, indeed I played a small part in the ritual of the change-over. The Guinness flowed, it always did, and Brendan had a reputation for generosity. After I left Coventry I would call in at the Black Swan whenever I was within twenty miles of the pub, which was not very often. A warm welcome always awaited.
A few years ago I was in Telford and decided that I would break my journey back to London at the Black Swan, not having been in for a few years. On arrival I was greetrd by a new landlord who had moved in that very day. Seated in a corner was Bridie who was as welcoming as ever. Sadly, Brendan and John had died but Maisie was still going strong.
It felt rather strange that I had been present when Brendan and Bridie moved in to the pub and by pure chance I was there the day Bridie moved out.

Down Memory Lane (6)

It comes as a shock to the system when you return to a place not visited for a number of years only to discover that it has changed out of all recognition. One such place was the Alhambra public house managed by Jim and the very attractive Claire, ably supported by Don.

Claire produced scrumptious meals, Don was quietly efficient and then there was Jim. He was a 'character'. He seemed to be at constant loggerheads with the brewery. Like almost all tied tenants/managers he had to take his stock from the brewery. No going to cash-and-carry and buying in bottles of shorts, wine and juices at far cheaper prices than those charged by the brewery. That was the theory.

The reality was that, like many others, Jim was buying in drink from non-brewery sources, the brewery knew he was and he knew the brewery knew. Eventually the brewery insisted on specifying which 'shorts' went on each optic and each optic was fitted with a counter. Of course the simple way round that was to have bottles on the shelf and measuring cups. Payments for such drinks couldn't go through the till, but of course in a busy pub with a lot of staff, they did and showed up as discrepancies on the till-roll.

The Alhambra has been demolished and it won't be long before no-one is around who can recall the fun that was had.

A few years later I was in a pub in Yorkshire. The landlord informed me that his till was linked to the brewery so he didn't have to make out a weekly order: the brewery knew what he had sold and the stock he was carrying. Even Jim wouldn't have beaten that system.

Down Memory Lane (5)

In my younger days one of my favourite drinking haunts was the Terminus Hotel, aptly named as it was at the end of a long closed tram route from Whittington Moor to Brampton. Always a busy pub, it received a major refurbishment in the 1980s and went all up market. However, punters in the 'small' bar remained resolutely down market. One of the bar's serious drinkers was a former travelling showman who could be relied upon to keep us steadily plied with risque jokes.

The drink-driving legislation had an impact, but most of the denizens of the small bar would risk having that extra pint. The problem at closing time was that the motorised constabulary would park up in the bus terminus by the side of the pub where they had an excellent view of the car park. Normally the police car would set off after a few minutes, but a worrying development was the sight of plod tucking in to fish and chips and taking at least half an hour to finish their meals and throw the wrapping away.

Decisions had to be taken: leave the car or take a chance. We hit on a solution. One of our number who was under the limit would go to his car and set off with much crunching of gears and revving of the engine. Plod would give chase enabling the rest of us to scatter. It worked a treat every time!

Sadly, the pub has been demolished and replaced by a block of retirement flats. Fortunately, the building has not been named The Terminus Retirement Flats.

Friday, 9 April 2010

Tunbridge Wells Council elections

Sixteen seats up for grabs and the Tories and Lib Dozys are fighting them all. Labour can muster only five candidates. Two Independents add spice to the contest: one in Paddock Wood East, the other in Culverden. There is the usual sprinkling of Green Party and UKIP candidates

The Labour candidate for Hawkhurst lives in Tory Row! Lorraine Braam, a leading Dozycrat, attempts a comeback in Pembury, whilst former Liberal Dozycrat councillor, Simon Bannister, is standing for the Tories in St James.

Thursday, 8 April 2010

Around Kent: waste of public money

Today I received my copy of Around Kent, a glossy 24 page A4 document telling me how wonderful the county council is. All I can say is 'YUK'.

Smug and self-congratulatory it is the epitome of a statutory organisation's public relations department running riot with taxpayers money - our money. Goodness knows how much it cost to have the document delivered by the Royal mail.

A shameful, indeed disgusting, waste of money on a document which would have been approved by the Tory junta at County Hall. Still, I suppose staff threatened with redundancy had a wry smile.

Liberal Dozycrat Hypocrisy

Nick Clegg claimed a couple of days ago that the general election is not a two-horse race.

The BBC reported him as saying:

"This isn't the old politics of a two-horse race between Labour and the Conservative Party."

For anyone familiar with Liberal Dozycrat election literature this claim from their leader will come as a big surprise. In Tunbridge Wells the LD candidate has distributed a leaflet stating Labour 'Can't win here' and 'It's Lib Dem or Tory round here!' In other words, it is a two-horse race!

Pass the sick bag please.

Inspector slates Council on transport policy

The Inspector's report on Tunbridge Wells Borough Council's Core Strategy Development Plan has some stern words concerning the council's failure to:

  • produce a 20 year strategy on transport infrastructure;
  • develop policies to better co-ordinate different forms of public transport;
  • procrastination on park & ride.

I have commented previously on Councillor Ransley's strange views on railway timetables. I trust he was not let near those who dreamed up the content of the Core Strategy the Inspector found unacceptable.

Foodbank for Kent

Research in Tunbridge Wells and Maidstone has thrown into focus the serious problem of food poverty. The response is uncoordinated and not meeting the need. A small group is working away to find ways of overcoming this problem. Food and shelter are the two basic requirements of life. It is nothing short of a scandal that there are people in Kent going short of food.

Wednesday, 7 April 2010

A football tale

When I lived up t'North I spent a few years as a committee member of a village football club. My key role was to put up and take down the nets, pleasant enough on a warm sunny day, but rather different on a cold wet day with a gale blowing in from the Pennines.

The reward for this endeavour was to meet every Tuesday evening in the village pub with fellow committee members to select the team for the next match. Usually this took about five minutes, yet strangely the meeting would last for three hours.

The pitch the team played on had been levelled by a local contractor who had made a fortune from opencast coal mining. It was often waterlogged and an inspection of the drains established that they were the driest place for miles around. A site meeting was arranged with said contractor and a groundsman. The groundsman established to the great indignation of the muck-shifter that the problem was that clay just under the surface acted as a barrier to water reaching the drains.

What does tha' know abart pitches? said the muck-shifter.

I have just done Elland Road (Leeds) and Wembley, came the reply. Oops.

Jangling nerves

Gordon the Clown wows us all with the promise of fixed term parliaments. That'll bring the votes in. I can imagine the excitement in the bars up and down the land, or rather the streets into which this rotten shower of a government has pushed smokers. Let pubs decide which bars people can smoke in.

I doubt if such a policy would emanate from the Liberal Dozycrats, a party which strikes me as being illiberal to the point of totalitarian in its instincts.

The Tories are sweating on the results of opinion polls which suggest we are in for a hung parliament and maybe Labour being the largest party.

I think we all need a fag to calm our nerves. The idea of Labour or the Tories making squalid deals with the Dozycrats fills me with trepidation.

Should Boy Wonder Dave fail to make it to Number 10 then the blood-letting in the Tory Party will be awesome.

Cricket Tales (7) Keeping mum

One hot sunny Saturday I was umpiring in the semi-final of a cup competition. The game was played at Alfreton Park . One batsman, who also happened to be the vice-chairman of the league, was on 96 when the bowler, a left-hander coming round the wicket sent down a corker of a ball. Big appeal for lbw which I declined as I thought the ball would miss the stumps. At the end of the over I sauntered down the wicket, as one does, when a bowler is straying close to running on the wicket, and was greeted by the batsman who congratulated me on hearing the very faint snick of bat on ball.

When I resumed at the bowler's end the same bowler, still bowling round the wicket, sent down an absolute beauty and I had no hesitation in giving the batsman out lbw. He was on 98. He looked at me and walked off.

Later, in the pavilion enjoying a few pints, the batsman came up to me and said he was somewhat perplexed in that having heard the first faint snick I had not heard the even louder snick on the ball when I had given him out.

I didn't have the heart to tell him I had heard no snick on either ball!

Tuesday, 6 April 2010

There off!!

The starter has lowered the flag and the runners are off in the general election chase. I have decided to resist the temptation to give a day by day account of the campaign, although I do not doubt there will be a few postings on said subject over the next four weeks.


In its dying days the Government has published a report on mutualism and how public sector activities could become mutuals. The report: Mutual Benefit:giving people power over public services is an interesting read.

The Conservatives have promised to develop co-operatives. The Government document regards co-operatives as mutuals. However there are some important distinctions between the two. For example, building societies are mutuals, but they are not co-operatives. Credit unions are co-operatives.

Monday, 5 April 2010

I'm all a Twitter

I have signed up to Twitter as Tykeinkent and Facebook as John Hopkinson. Today, I started a Facebook Group: Foodbank for Kent campaign. Not sure if all these links work!!

Spot on!!

Bruce Anderson in The Independent:

"Mr Duncan Smith may prove to be the most influential ex-leader of all time. It must have been a blow, losing the leadership without even fighting an election. No one could have blamed him if he had foresworn politics and gone off to the City. He did indeed set off for a city, but his destination was not Eastcheap, EC3. It was Easterhouse in Glasgow. This was an admirable, heart-warming response. IDS immersed himself in the social problems of the inner cities. He also stole a Labour catchphrase. Traditional Tories have always been suspicious of the term "social justice". It would seem to imply that social outcomes could be determined in the political equivalent of a courtroom. So when IDS called his new think-tank the Centre for Social Justice, old-fashioned Tories did not know whether to be amused at the clothes-stealing or alarmed at the implications. But there was no need for alarm. There is an argument that the poor deserve a much greater degree of social justice, in that large sums of money are already spent on them, often to little effect. A child condemned to a bog-standard comprehensive is a victim of social injustice. A single mother – or an elderly pensioner – constantly menaced by young criminals is a victim of injustice. Even members of the criminal underclass are suffering from social injustice. Why were they allowed to deteriorate until they are fit for nothing except punishment? So when a Tory insists on social justice, he is not succumbing to socialism. He is indicting socialism. Most of the victimised poor have lived under socialistic regimes for decades, and much good it has done them."


ConservativeHome's panel of influential journalists, parliamentarians and thought-leaders last week voted the Centre for Social Justice as the think tank which has had the most influence on the Cameron project.

Tim Montgomerie

Liberal Dozycrat rail plans welcomed

The proposals for railway expansion put forward by the Liberal Dozycrats are eminently sensible. We just cannot go on building more roads to be filled by more vehicles. Yes, we should build roads to deal with the worst bottlenecks, but our future transport policy has to be a judicious mix of improving roads and a step-change in public transport. The road transport lobby has been too powerful for far too long. Cities and towns have had their character destroyed by express-ways, ring roads and multi-storey car parks.

Foodbank for Kent: Update

Foodbanks seek to ameliorate the problem of food poverty. In Kent there are a number of churches distributing free food, and not just in areas of poor economic performance such as Dover, Folkestone, Thanet and Sheerness.

The problem is across Kent. The hidden poor are struggling to adequately feed themselves whilst there are the trappings of affluence all around them.

A few of us are working to provide a robust and sustainable response to the problem of food poverty. We intend to meet early in May to review our research and decide on the next action points.

UKIP election leaflets

Received two leaflets from UKIP today. Usual rag-bag of vox pop policies: which is a pity as there is an argument to be made for EU withdrawal. Not good electioneering documents.

Cricket Tales (6) A day of tragedy

One ground I visited often as an umpire was close to a lake. When standing at the non-pavilion end the lake was on the off side. When the umpire moved to square leg the lake was behind him.

It is important that the umpire at square leg does not follow the movement of the ball when it goes behind him. His job is to watch the batsmen and check they ground their bats behind the crease to complete a run, as well as looking for run-outs when the ball comes in from the outfield.

Part way through the first team's innings a batsman stuck the ball past me. Suddenly, all the players on the field started running towards me. I turned round and saw a man thrashing about in the water on the far side of the lake. Some of the players swam across the lake towards him, others ran round the lake. All to no avail. the man drowned and the inquest verdict was that he took his life whilst the balance of his mind was disturbed.

The umpires had to decide if the match should be abandoned. We decided to ask the captains what they wished to do. It was agreed to play on after a further half-hour break to give the players time to recover from their physical exertion. To this day I think some of the players suffered mental scars which took a long time to heal, so probably playing on was the correct course of action.

Cricket Tales (5): A Day at Lords

A friend was a member of MCC and could get tickets for test matches and one-day finals. Although tickets wouldn't admit us to the pavilion, it didn't really matter as a day at a cricket match at Lords is an experience to savour.

I recall one match when we were seated near a charming country parson who was accompanied by his middle-aged, single, very well padded daughter wearing a straw hat and an ill-fitting floral dress. At the tea interval my friend suggested we visit a nearby delicatessen which we duly did, bringing back a sumptuous spread.

The food attracted the attention of said parson's daughter and we spent a couple of happy hours plying her with food in return for bottles of Beefeater gin & tonic, of which she had a seemingly inexhaustible supply.

Another friend acquired tickets for a test match against Australia. He worked for the police in the West Midlands and knew the landlord of the Lords Tavern. We parked in the pub's garage and naturally went in to repay the landlord for his kindness. During the course of our drinking session, the doors flung open and in walked members of a West Midland police serious crime squad. More drink followed. I became curious about the role of one member of the squad who seemed a bit slow on the uptake, so I asked him what he did. What he did, he said, was knock the door in when the squad was raiding premises.

Cricket Tales (4) Trigger happy umpire

After a few seasons umpiring I agreed to become the umpires' fixtures secretary. Basically I had to allocate umpires to matches. Easy I thought. Wrong. Some umpires demanded they had the same partner for every match. Some wouldn't travel more than a few miles. Others believed they had a right to umpire only first division matches. Clubs sent in comments about umpires to the Management Committee which wanted the best umpires to stand at the most important matches.

I decided I had to forgo umpiring and instead spent my Saturdays travelling round grounds to look at umpires, particularly those who had come in for caustic criticism! I was accused in no time at all of spying on umpires. However, using my diplomacy skills sic, most problems were smoothed over and in any event I had the Management Committee backing me to the hilt.

Umpires got to know club secretaries well. Not only did this fine body of people hand you your match fee, they also had to deal with any problems you might bring to their attention: boundary not marked out, crease required painting, pitch not prepared to the required standard and so forth.

I visited usually three grounds each Saturday to cast an eye over the umpires. I visited one ground, stayed for about ten overs, then moved to the next ground where I would normally expect to see up to ten overs before/after tea and then on to a third ground for a few overs.

On one afternoon I arrived at the second ground and was surprised that so few runs had been scored and overs played until on closer inspection of the scoreboard I noted that the first team to bat was all out and the second team was batting, yet it was no-where near the usual tea-time.

One club secretary came up to me in a highly animated state. Apparently one of the umpires had given a lot of lbw decisions in favour of the bowlers. Indeed whilst I watched, a ball clearly going down the leg side hit the batsman on the pads and the lbw appeal was upheld.

The match ended at tea-time and the umpire in question made a quick getaway before either I or the club secretaries could interrogate him.

The other umpire was as bemused by the events of the afternoon as the club secretaries. Then the light dawned. The offending umpire enjoyed horse-racing and he had booked to go on a coach trip to an evening meeting at Pontefract racecourse. He needed an early finish if he was to catch the bus and keep his match fee!

Cricket Tales (3) All a blur

One year the League Management Committee decided to appoint me to stand in the Division 2 Knock-out Final. The two teams were from a mining village and rural village and there was no quarter asked or given between miners and farmers.

There was a big crowd at the match which exacerbated the nervousness I felt about the day. The match was at MCC - Marehay Cricket Club. The ground has a major advantage over many other grounds. The local pub is by the side of the ground, indeed french windows lead from the bar onto the ground.

Umpires have to arrive early to inspect the wicket, ensure the boundary is marked and that there are sufficient cricket balls of appropriate quality. This we did and we adjourned to the bar. About ten minutes before the match started there was a bit of a stir, as who should arrive but none other than the League's President, the Duke of Rutland. He insisted on buying the umpires a large stiffener as it was a cold overcast day. Big mistake. Come the start of the match I wobbled out to the middle in more or less a straight line.

The rest of the day is a bit of a blur. I recall one run-out decision greeted with approbation, indeed acclamation, by the crowd and a not out to an appeal for a catch which resulted in some rather rude banter!

Cricket Tales (2) Pavilion punch up

I spent a few years umpiring in a Derbyshire cricket league. It was most enjoyable - you had the best view of the game, received a free tea and payment. In the event of your fellow umpire not turning up the fee was doubled as you had to officiate at 'both ends', rather than marching off to square leg alternate overs.

One match I stood at was a cup tie which brought together Hundall First XI against the same club's second XI. My fellow umpire that day was Cliff Gladwin who had been a fine bowler of cutters for Derbyshire CCC. Cliff eyed me up and said something along the lines of:

Now then lad, first team has a bowler called XXXX. Thinks he's good, but needs bringing down a peg or two. Make sure you no-ball him early in the first over.

Well, what could I say! Needless to say Cliff knew which end XXXX would bowl from and made sure I got that end. Third ball in XXXX oversteps the crease, out comes my arm and a shout of
no ball just as the ball hits the middle stump and sends it cartwheeling towards the pavilion.

At the end of the over Cliff saunters towards me and exclaims: well done lad. You learn fast.

XXXX went on to have a miserable game. However the fun was not over. A Second XI batsman was out of his crease tapping the wicket, when in comes the ball from a fielder who had been inspecting said object. Off come the bails. Decision had to be 'run out' as the ball was not dead.

The tea interval arrived and wily Cliff suggested we hang back. Good job we did. A fight erupted in the pavilion between the two teams. We never got our teas, but we had pocketed our fees before the match started!

Sunday, 4 April 2010

Cricket Tales (1) Gone for a Burton

I enjoy watching cricket. Unfortunately I was not very good at playing the game, although I held on to a few catches at first slip: dropped a few as well!

In the 1970s I was employed as a lecturer and had plenty of time during the summer holidays to watch cricket.

I used to take my friend Dennis Webster, who was the paid agent for the Labour Party in Chesterfield, to watch matches at the county ground in Derby. The stand at Derby is an old racecourse stand. Games were often brought to a premature close in the evenings by sunlight reflecting off the glass roofs of factory buildings on the opposite side of the ground.

We would visit Trent Bridge and spend some time in the Trent Bridge Inn, strategically located between Trent Bridge and the cricket ground.

Our favourite trip was to Burton-on-Trent, which was always made by train. The cricket was sponsored by one of the breweries and a fine time was had by all drinking the excellent local brew. One year we set off in rain for Burton and when we reached the ground play had been abandoned for the day. Nothing daunted Dennis set course for a street-corner pub (there were a lot of these in Burton) at which he was greeted like a long lost friend. The rest of the day was spent visiting a host of pubs all run by members of the same family. I met grandfathers, uncles, nieces, sisters, nephews, mothers: you name it we met them! Best day not watching cricket I had spent in a long time!

A Magna Carta for Localism

Just came across this very interesting document published by the Centre for Policy Studies. Well worth a read.

Down memory Lane (4)

I like this topic. It enables me to write partisan, biased or non-objective opinions on anything!

For many years elections have fascinated me. I have been a candidate at parish, borough and county council elections, an election agent, party worker or an interested spectator. A few incidents:

1. Seeing and hearing Hugh Gaitskell, Leader of the Labour Party, being booed at Edwinstowe by Bevanite Nottinghamshire coalminers.

2. Hearing Bessie Braddock MP, a Liverpool Labour Party matriarch, speak at an election meeting at the Stratford-upon-Avon by-election called after the resignation of John Profumo. Meeting Andew Faulds, the Labour candidate and Pratap Chitnis who master-minded the Liberal Party's electioneering.

3. Attending a Liberal Party conference in Scarborough and hearing a rousing speech from the then leader, Jo Grimond.

4. Enjoying the hustings in 'Slab Square' in Nottingham.

5. Watching on television the annual conferences of the Labour Party, with its composite motions, card votes and major rows. Sadly the conferences now are merely PR shows.

6. Ditto Conservative conferences, which whilst the voting process was somewhat different, often produced public character assassinations and back stabbing. Great fun.

7. Listening to the opinions of the representatives of parties on election night television programmes. No matter how bad the results might be for a party, its representative always manages to find some statistical comfort to put a gloss on the disaster that has befallen the party.

8. Attending election counts, getting close to the 'enemy', the booing and cheering when results are announced and the drivel in the post declaration speeches.

Pulling away?

A closely contested Boat race yesterday with Oxford, the bookies strong favourite, losing to Cambridge by under two lengths. It was only well towards the end of the race that Cambridge secured an unassailable lead. It was the most exciting race for a long time.

Chelsea's 2-1 away win over Manchester United prevented the latter going five points clear of their nearest rival. Indeed Chelsea are top of the table. The title could be decided on the last day of the season.

On the election scene the Conservatives now have a 10 point lead in one poll and 11 in another. However this is due mostly to the Labour Party losing points to the Liberal Dozycrats. The Tories need to breach the 40% barrier. Should they achieve this, I believe the floodgates will open and the Tories will be swept to a comfortable overall majority. Who is the Tories' Barnes Wallis who will bounce the party to victory?

Saturday, 3 April 2010

Mental Health Consultation in Kent: Closing date 7th May

'Live it Well' Feedback

NHS Medway want your feedback on Live It Well, the new draft mental health strategy for Kent and Medway. Live It Well has been drawn up by mental health commissioners, from the three primary care trusts and two social care directorates in Kent and Medway, along with service-users, carers, voluntary organisations and frontline professionals.

The strategy covers 2010 to 2015 and puts the focus on promoting wellbeing for everyone and ensuring the right services are there when people need them. Among other things, the strategy looks at the wellbeing of individuals and the role that public sector organisations play in promoting it, and their role as employers. It makes ten commitments including to reduce suicide, improve wellbeing for more people at higher risk, lessen stigma and ensure people can access care in a crisis.

A summary, the full draft strategy, and a questionnaire, is available on the NHS Medway website, from 2 April until 7 May.

April Fool?

The front page of yesterday's Courier newspaper reads like an April Fool's joke, but a day late! If it isn't a joke, then there are some prize fools on the loose in Tunbridge Wells Town Hall!

Friday, 2 April 2010

Down Memory Lane (3)

As I was dispatching more old paperwork to the waste bin today, I came across documents relating to the spat over the Millennium Clock at Five Ways in Tunbridge Wells. At the time I was a councillor and the siting of the clock had to be agreed by the planning committee. I voted for the proposal.

The Civic Society (or as I named it, the Aspic Society) was opposed to the design of the clock, which in itself seemed to me a sound reason for voting for the proposal. The Society is an elitist organisation which pores over planning applications, yet doesn't seem at all interested in the plight of disadvantaged sections of the community.

Some of its members openly claimed it to be a Town Council is waiting should the Borough Council ever agree to a council for what was Royal Tunbridge Wells, as distinct from the much larger area which the Borough Council covers.

Bandstand to be demolished

Tunbridge Wells Borough Council's planning committee has agreed that the Calverley Gardens bandstand can be demolished, despite vociferous protests in the local press and opposition from the Civic Society. Good riddance I say to a blot on the landscape.

Bookies still believe Tories will gain an overall majority

Ladbrokes is running a book in each constituency. The current position us that they expect an overall majority of 8 for the Tories. This is down 4 on last week.

Foodbank for Kent

I have started a new blog for this topic. Click here to visit the site. Better still, join the campaign

Thursday, 1 April 2010

Deplorable lack of information on closure of CIS

I have trawled through the April edition of the Rochester Link and Rochester Halo and not a word about the demise of Church in Society which closed yesterday. The CIS website is online, still - and there is a link to the site on the Rochester Diocese website.

Not so much as a 'thank you' to staff who have been through a very difficult time for the past year. Deplorable.

Bridge Trust Newsletter

The Spring edition of the Bridge Trust's newsletter can be viewed on the Trust's website. Please use the link under websites on the right of this blog.

Information on the new furniture warehouse, our new flats and a visit by Greg Clark, MP for Tunbridge Wells.

More NHS Woe

A married woman with an eight month old son dies at the William Harvey Hospital in Ashford, Kent. The coroner is scathing in her criticism of the hospital's procedures that led to the death -a death her solicitor has stated was 'entirely preventable'.

The Medway NHS Foundation Trust is required to make 'urgent improvements' by the Care Quality Commission.
It really isn't good enough.

Another blow to liberty

A few days ago I railed against the Royal College of Physicians’ breathtakingly offensive proposal that smoking should be banned in all cars, ostensibly to protect children from passive smoking. I homed in on the proposal that smoking should be banned in all cars irrespective of whether or not children are passengers. The reason for this draconian illiberal attack on our freedom is that a total ban will make enforcement easier. Not so, I argued, using as my example the ban on driving whilst using a mobile phone. This ban is ignored, often by drivers with a child in the car.

Now some bright spark has come up with a fiendish solution to the enforcement issue. A London based inventor, Alfred Benson, has developed a smoke detector linked to an external lamp which lights up (which is more than the occupants of a car will be able to do!) when smoke is detected inside a vehicle. It stays on for an hour thus enabling any passing enforcement officer to take action well after the fag has been smoked. The devilish device is tamper proof. One teething problem being worked on is how to override the device if you drive through smoke from, say, a garden fire and it lights up. I would have thought another problem is how the device will work on a convertible car, but then, who am I to criticise the health fanatics hell bent on destroying our pleasures in life?

Apparently the Department for Transport is ‘interested’ in the device but it is unlikely to become mandatory until there is an EU regulation in place.

I think the whole idea is bats.