Saturday, 31 December 2011

Uckfield-Lewes re-opening?

I came across this article recently:

On the face of it, nothing to to with the Uckfield-Lewes line. However one section stands out:

Rail commuting is very important to the East Lancashire economy. The Greater Manchester area is a major economic generator of the whole region, and we need to make sure that people are able to easily travel there from East Lancashire.

Replace 'Greater Manchester' with 'Brighton' and 'East Lancashire' with 'East Sussex'.  Currently it is not possible to travel from Crowbororough or Uckfield to Brighton by rail, nor from great swathes of Kent without using circuitous, time-consuming routes via London or St Leonards or Redhill. Brighton is a major regional economic generator.

It is forgotten that before the line closed more passengers from Uckfield travelled south towards Lewes and Brighton than north to London.

See also:

Eurozone: the pain continues

Sadly 2012 will see little respite for the beleaguered citizens of Italy, Spain and Greece caught up in a currency over which they have no control.  Nor should we forget the travails of the Irish.  The French will come under pressure in 2012.

Outside the eurozone, but within the EU, the Hungarians  are having their fare share of problems. The IMF is unwilling to help and the government is refusing to grant independence to its' central bank.

3rd January 2012:



Thursday, 29 December 2011

More rail news

A few items,  taking in Ongar, Birmingham New Street, Coventry and proposals for dual traction passenger trains.  The final article raises the interesting possibility of the London St Pancras-Sheffield line being electrified in phases.
I had to change trains at Birmingham New Street in the 1970s and 80s.  A very depressing place, sandwiched between tunnels, and 'architecture' with no redeeming features.

Wednesday, 28 December 2011

Eurozone miscellany

2012 will be crunch year for the eurozone. The travail of the Greek people continues as the politicians argue.  Italy has managed to sell sovereign debt at a  manageable rate of interest.  However, the underlying issues remain.,1518,805975,00.html
Greek government runs out of steam,1518,805873,00.html
Interesting article on constitutional issues.

Animals and women: an interesting pair.

For your delectation, three off-beat articles.

Railway news

Quite why the government should issue good news in the Christmas recess beats me..

Three items:

One of the platforms at London Waterloo, vacated when Eurostar moved to St Pancras, is to be opened for use by commuter trains. Eventually all the platforms will be re-opened.

Southern is to acquire 130 new carriages to be built by Bombardier at Derby.  Good news for Derby and Southern commuters.

The final piece of good news (potentially) is that the government is seeking to decentralise planning of local rail services. Whilst go ahead local authorities (for example Coventry City Council and Warwickshire County Council) will be responsive to local need, I fear for the people of East Sussex as East Sussex CC is not as railway supportive as it should be.  Hopefully Brighton & Hove Council will exert pressure to improve commuter and local services to and from the city.

Two stories relating to problems.

The first is about concerns that hackers could infiltrate computer systems which are used by the railway to control movements.

Finally, a story relating to the problems that HS2 will bring in its wake at London Euston. The growth of passenger numbers, both from HS2 and the historic railway, will put the Underground station at Euston under such pressure it will have to close for safety reasons, which rather negates the time saved hurtling from Birmingham to London in 50 minutes.

Tuesday, 27 December 2011

This 'n' That

A few stories caught my eye over the past few days.
Pembury Hospital Bloomer
Queen's visit to Ireland a 'game-changer'.
Fight at midnight Mass

The lull before the eurozone storm?

All may be quiet on the eurozone front over Christmas and the New year, but it is but a brief lull before the next offensive.  The markets will test the resolve of eurozone countries to come up with a workable solution to the sovereign debt crisis, problems of bank liquidity and slowing economies.

The longer term strategy agreed at Brussels may not hold once the fine print of a proposed treaty is scrutinised, and there is the small matter of the French presidential election.

Will German growth stall in 2012
ECB records record cash deposits from banks.

Monday, 26 December 2011

Savaged by a dead sheep.

Denis Winston Healey described being attacked by Geoffrey Howe as being akin to being savaged by a dead sheep.  I know how he felt having coming across this:

The Uncles' stable strikes again.  I feel honoured at being selected for his Christmas Special.

Rusthall Parish Council: congratulations

Congratulations to Rusthall Parish Council on the new noticeboard.  It looks vandal proof and is well-located.  I look forward to perusing information on the location and dates of the Council's planning committee.

The BBC and the EU

The BBC has a well-deserved reputation for holding a pro-EU stance.  Hence this cartoon:

However, all is not lost. Witness the content of the following link:

Three clips in the link below:

Sunday, 25 December 2011

Had to smile.

The following is from the Huffington Post and is about Freedom of Information (FoI) requests to public bodies in England.

'The top 10 unusual FoIs received by councils in the past year are:

1 How does the council plan to help the brave soldiers of our infantry if and when Napoleon and his marauding hordes invade the district? (West Devon District Council)

2 What preparations has the council made for an emergency landing of Santa's sleigh this Christmas? Who would be responsible for rescuing Santa? Who would be responsible for rounding up the reindeer, and who would have to tidy the crash site? (Cheltenham Borough Council)

3 How many drawing pins are in the building and what percentage are currently stuck in a pin board? (Hampshire County Council)

4 What preparations has the council made for a zombie attack? (Bristol City Council and Leicester City Council)

5 What plans are in place to deal with an alien invasion (Merseyside Fire & Rescue Service)

6 How many holes in privacy walls between toilet cubicles have been found in public lavatories and within council buildings? (Cornwall Council)

7 How does the council manage to cope with the vagaries of Heisenberg's Uncertainty Principle? How does it function given the inherent unpredictability? (Wealden District Council)

8 How much money has been paid to exorcists over the past 12 months? (Cornwall Council)

9 Provide details of uniforms worn by Civil Enforcement Officers including descriptions of embroidered logos and markings, as well as any difference between summer/winter wear. (Allerdale District Council) [I think that should 'Borough'.]

10 What is the total number of cheques issued by the council in the past year, and how many did it receive? (Scarborough Borough Council)'

Happy Christmas and New Year

Happy Christmas and New Year to my readers. 

Thursday, 22 December 2011

Smoke and mirrors (2)

Follow up to my post yesterday:

The markets were not impressed by the ECB loan fund.


May be why the French are being friendly again, now that part of the French solution to the eurozone crisis has gone down like a lead balloon.

West Lothian Question

The UK government announced this week that a commission to examine the West Lothian Question is to be established in February 2012 and report in 2013.  This week also the retiring head of the Civil Service pondered on the possibility of a break-up of the United Kingdom.  His comments were taken up quickly by Alex Salmond, Scotland's First Minister.


Afore ye go:

Any changes, either in the voting rights of MPs representing Scottish (and I assume Welsh and Northern Ireland) seats or a 'yes' vote in a referendum on independence for Scotland will lead to changes in the Act of Union 1707.  This year Plaid Cymru decided its policy is to seek an independent Wales.  It is doubtful if Northern Ireland would seek independence as it would soon fall into the clutches of Eire.

What has surprised me is that the announcement of the commission has not been mentioned on the pages of the English Democrats website, Facebook page or on the blog of the ED's chairman Robin Tilbrook.  Instead we have been regaled with an article and comments on 'England's oil'.

Speeding vehicles in Rusthall (6)

The 'Kill your speed' signs went up today on Lower Green Road.  Two of the three I have seen  are at the just the right height to be vandalised.  Cannot say that I have noticed any reduction in the speed of the traffic past my front door, nor outside the White Hart public house. 

For the umpteenth time.....what is needed are 'elbows' in the road, and  a zebra crossing by the White Hart.  Failing that could the Parish Council find a volunteer or someone paid to act as a 'Lollipop' warden at school opening and closing times?  Any thought been given to a 'walking bus'?

A zebra crossing might be difficult to install at this location given accesses to private property, but has the matter been investigated?

Wednesday, 21 December 2011

Odds and ends

As the season of goodwill is upon us, I treat you to the thoughts of Conservative MP Nadine Dorries whom, along with three Tory colleagues and a Labour MP, failed to turn up at the House of Commons to put their questions to the Deputy Prime Minister.

Ms Dorries explained her absence thus:

Nick Clegg is an inconsistent, bad-tempered, sulky, misguided, badly informed, opportunistic, political irrelevance. Why would I want to attend the chamber to ask a man of such poor political attributes a parliamentary question?

Makes one wonder why she had tabled the question.  I feel somewhat sorry for Mr Clegg: that he should be singled out for such opprobrium.  I can think of other politicians (and so-called politicians) who are equally deserving of Ms Dorries venom.

A few other items which caught my eye:
Fun in Tower Hamlets

Smoke and mirrors

The euphoria of earlier today has soon evaporated.  The decision of the ECB to make funds available to banks in the hope that they would use the funds to purchase sovereign debt (and thus reduce the interest on such debt) is the subject of gloomy analysis.  There is no guarantee that the banks will use the funds for such a purpose.  It was a ruse by the ECB to overcome the legal block on it purchasing sovereign debt directly.

The ECB may have averted a liquidity crisis in the European banking system but is has done nothing to deal with the issues of recession and the disparity between northern and southern states' competitiveness.
Peston: ECB's rescue of eurozone banks is temporary.
Huge demand for ECB's three year loans,1518,805135,00.html
ECB's risky plan to flood banks with cash

Below, an article from 30th September 2011

In Italy there is fear that the country is about to enter recession.

Hague and Sarkozy

Two upbeat articles, one from the Daily Telegraph emphasising William Hague's eurosceptic credentials and his determination to counter the europhile Foreign Office and other Whitehall mandarins.

The second article from Spiegel considers the standing of the main candidates for the next French presidential elections.  Clearly supportive of Sarkozy and critical of his Socialist opponent Hollande.,1518,804595,00.html

Tuesday, 20 December 2011

Uckfield-Lewes railway re-opening campaign.

Article from the Wealden Line Campaign

Political Parties in England: Leagues

Based on election results and membership this is my ranking:

Premier Division:
Conservative Party
Labour Party

Liberal Democrats

Division One:
Green Party
United Kingdom Independence Party

Division Two:
British National Party

English Democrats
Communist party
The Liberal Party
Social Democratic Party

A ray of light in the gloom?

Spanish short-term financing costs more than halved from a month earlier at an auction today, with analysts saying banks planned to tap cheap liquidity from the European Central Bank to purchase the relatively high yielding paper.


Elsewhere there are reports of mixed responses to the decision by the UK not to contribute to the IMF, although France has 'no doubt' that the UK will help fund the IMF eurozone bailout.,1518,804814,00.html

Two interesting articles below on euro bailout and the role of the ECB.,1518,804700,00.html
Interesting article which make reference to the liquidity the ECB has made available to the banking system: hence the question mark in the title to this post.

Finally a post on the benefits, or otherwise of the UK staying in the EU.

Clegg's obsession

One would have thought that Nick Clegg had more serious issues to confront than the composition of the House of Lords.  Following the bloody nose he received over the Alternative Vote referendum he is seeking to push Lords reform up the political agenda.

The House of Lords has very little power following the enactment of the Parliament Acts.  What it does well is recommend revisions to Bills and for this the knowledge and expertise of peers, often appointed because of their knowledge and expertise, is invaluable.

An elected House of Lords will consist of party hacks and the capriciousness of the electorate will determine its composition.  Experience and knowledge of the real world outside the political bubble will be lost.

An elected House of Lords would claim democratic legitimacy and soon challenge the supremacy of the House of Commons. 

Of couse when it comes to the two major democratic issues Clegg has nothing to say.

When Clegg proposing to resolve the West Lothian Question?
What proposals does he have to deal with the democratic deficit in the EU?


Monday, 19 December 2011

English Democrats go for old technology

This, from the English Democrats' website.

Love the retro.  Mind you, it is in keeping with the English Democrats' nostalgia for an England and Englishness that never existed, except in the imagination.

Speeding vehicles in Rusthall (5)

Rusthall Parish Council is purchasing eight high visibility signs to deter 'dangerous' driving.  More street clutter, and I doubt if the signs will have the desired effect.  The problem of speeding motorists on Lower Green Road requires a physical deterrent in the form of 'elbows' in the road. 

The danger spot outside the White Hart is not the consequence of speeding vehicles.  Rather it is weight of traffic and parked vehicles which cause the problem.  What is needed is a zebra crossing.

A miscellany

A number of interesting articles on matters European.

There would have been civil war in the Conservative Party if Osborne had said 'yes'.

Spiegel carries two anti-British articles:,1518,804616,00.html
The photo gallery choice is interesting,1518,804572,00.html
I have never been a supporter of town 'twinning', but it is harmless.  The Tories in Bishops Stortford have made a loopy decision.

Two rather more thoughtful articles on relationship with Germany:

Two articles on Mario Draghi, ECB chief.

Finally, some articles of general interest:
Is this a leak, or deliberate wrecking, or a 'sighter'.

Rusthall Parish Council by-election

Tunbridge Wells Borough Council confirmed today that a by-election for the seat vacated by Kelly Watson will be held if ten electors request an election.  The request has to be received by the Returning Officer by 12th January 2012.  Should an election be called and there are two or more candidates, election day will be no later than 16th March.

In the event that no valid request is received, the parish council will then be in a position to co-opt a new member.

The downside is that it costs approximately £1,500 to hold a by-election. This could have been avoided if Kelly had delayed her resignation for a couple of months as the by-election would then have been held on the same day as the borough council elections.  However, no matter, it is the price of democracy.  Kelly did what she thought was for the best and her decision has to be respected.  As I stated in a previous post I am sorry to see her leave and hope she will return at some stage.

Sunday, 18 December 2011

No! No! No!!

A real jaw-dropper this article:

My understanding of the position is that the UK will only agree funding obligations with the IMF to protect countries.  We should demand repatriation of major powers in return for any concessions.

Four excellent articles:

Jollies at taxpayers' expense: the BNP and the English Democrats

Interesting article on today's Daily Telegraph website.

The article refers to the BNP, Chris Beverley and Eddy Butler.  Beverley and Butler are on the staff of Michael Brons MEP.


Brons has had a colourful political career.  He was elected as an MEP on the BNP ticket and earlier this year lost by a few votes an election for the leadership of the BNP.

The BNP is in turmoil.  Members have left.  Brons is involved with the Brent Group.  See:

Beverley and Butler have joined the English Democrats, although both work still for Brons.
Butler uses his blog to castigate his former BNP colleagues:

Beverley delivered a major speech at the English Democrats' September 2011 conference.

I am surprised that Gilligan, in his Daily Telegraph article, makes no reference to the political party affiliation of Butler and Beverley.

The fact is that both are English Democrats whilst on the staff of Brons who is still a BNP MEP.  See:

I trust a correction will be made. We wouldn't want people thinking Beverley and Butler are only connected with the BNP, would we?

Railway jottings: Crewkerne, NUCKLE and HS2


On holiday in Somerset I have used Crewkerne station for visits to  Exeter.  The link below is to an article from which I draw the conclusion that local authority support for railway stations is forthcoming in some areas.



NUCKLE = Nuneaton, Coventry, Kenilworth and Leamington Spa.   As part of the retrenchment of the railways in the 1960's and 70's  passenger services were withdrawn on the Nuneaton-Coventry line, the Coventry- Leamington Spa line was singled, apart from a loop at Kenilworth. Kenilworth station was closed.

Warwickshire County Council's strategic transport policy includes major enhancement to the route between Nuneaton and Leamington Spa, including re-opening  of Kenilworth station.  Passenger services were re-instated between Nuneaton and Coventry a few years ago and now two new stations are to be opened.  See:

What a contrast to the attitude of East Sussex County Council which seems hell-bent on not supporting in any meaningful way the re-opening of the Lewes-Uckfield.


Overcrowding, what overcrowding?  See:

Saturday, 17 December 2011


The article below is shocking.

Will  people be sacked without compensation?  They should be.  But what we should also understand is that the hospital staff responsible for this catalogue of misery and neglect are public service employees.  This comes after the catastrophes at Stafford, Tunbridge Wells and Maidstone.  Someone should get a grip.  I wonder what the trade unions will say on behalf of their members?

More sombre reading

Spain and Italy were both told to brace for a debt downgrade after a leading rating agency concluded that a "comprehensive solution to the eurozone crisis is technically and politically beyond reach".

The above is from the article below.  Sombre reading.

In effect Fitch is stating that the decisions taken at the Brussels summit last week are irrelevant  (most commentators are of this opinion).    Outside of the politics of 'isolation', the '26' and the English/French spat, the real world of  sovereign debt, austerity, recession and rocky banks continues.  Expect turbulent financial markets in the next few days.

Update: 17.12.11

The following news will unsettle the markets!

The worm turns

Looks as though Mr Sarkozy is becoming a major embarrassment to his European friends.   See article below:

I note the eurofanatic Lord 'Gobby' Oakeshott is  living in Liberal Dozycrat fantasy land:

Downing Street aides shrugged off French "bleating", which they said had only served to boost Mr Cameron's popularity among voters. However, senior Liberal Democrats have grown increasingly alarmed at Britain's deteriorating relationship with its neighbour over the Channel. Yesterday, Lord Oakeshott, a Lib Dem peer who is close to Vince Cable, the Business Secretary, accused the Prime Minister of reaching out to "wackos" in eastern Europe.
"We never should have fallen out with [France and Germany] in the first place," he said. "Cameron lost an awful lot of credibility with them by linking up with the wackos in eastern Europe."
He added: "We're playing silly negotiation games by trying to talk up the Czechs and the Hungarians. This is about making sure that the western European banking systems and economies don't collapse. Christine Lagarde [the head of the IMF] was absolutely right to say we are in danger of going into isolation and protectionism. Frankly, we're not going to be in the room."

Why shouldn't we have fallen out with France and Germany?  Presumably Oakeshott would have rolled over and capitulated to unreasonable demands.  But then, we should not be surprised, given the Lib Dem policy on the EU.

However, I am pleased to note that Mr Clegg is acting as Deputy Prime Minister and not mouthing anti UK government sentiment.  He should have a word with Oakeshott.

In the context of the above the following article has an interesting take on the 'veto'.  Booker argues that the Uk did not fall out with France and Germany per Oakeshott: rather Merkel and Sarkozy achieved the outcome they wanted.

Spot on Bob

The Leader of Tunbridge Wells Borough Council is spot on: independent traders are the life blood of Royal Tunbridge Wells.  They make the town a unique shopping experience and are essential to maintaining its viability.  Far more important than the dreary civic complex the equally dreary Aspic Brigade wishes to preserve.


What the town needs also is a good open market, not just the rather twee farmers' market and the occasional sortie from France. I spent many years in Chesterfield which has a splendid open market, as does Norwich. 

Cannot anything be done about the dumbing down of Royal Victoria Place?  I am fed up with being assailed by stallholders.  The shopping centre has gone downhill.  Open areas have been covered to provide more floor space, coffee stalls have sprung up in the isles. The original concept has been consigned to the dustbin.  I suspect RVP is no longer the destination of choice it once was:  Bluewater becomes a more attractive proposition as car park charges rise in Tunbridge Wells and RVP loses its ambiance.

Friday, 16 December 2011

Good Conservative hold

Interesting comments concerning the Lib Dem election organisation.

Railway infrastructure: good news

It has been confirmed that the electrification of the line between Manchester and Leeds via Huddersfield will be extended from Leeds to York. 


Frankly it would have been barmy not to have electric trains running all the way between Liverpool and Newcastle.  What is fascinating in the news that consideration is being given to electrifying the route between York and Scarborough.

Whilst all this is happening the Uckfield-Lewes re-opening languishes.   The value the line would have as a diversionary route for the Brighton-Victoria main line was shown again recently when evening rush hour services were suspended when a body was found on the line.  The re-opening of this link should be a priority.

Rusthall Parish Council loses member

I was saddened to read that Kelly Watson has stood down from the parish council because of 'external pressure'.  The youngest of the parish councillors, she had taken on the onerous task of collating responses to the parish survey.  She will be missed.

I expect there will be a by-election or, should there be no candidates, a co-option.  Should there be a co-option I believe the candidate who came tenth at the parish election last May should be offered the seat first and then the other candidates in descending vote order.

The procedure for filling a casual vacancy is as follows:

Casual Vacancy
Once a vacancy arises, the Clerk must contact the Returning Officer immediately to obtain a Notice of Casual Vacancy for a Parish/Town Councillor. Copies of this Notice are then displayed around the parish. This Notice states that a by-election to fill the vacancy will be held, if within 14 days (NOT COUNTING Christmas Eve, Christmas Day, Good Friday, Bank Holidays, any day appointed for public thanksgiving, Saturdays and Sundays) from the date of the Notice, ten electors for the ward or parish give Notice in writing requesting an election to the Returning Officer. The Notice should also state that if no request is made to the Returning Officer, the Parish/Town Council will fill the vacancy by co-option.
Details of when the Notice was displayed must be sent immediately to the Returning Officer as she will be responsible for calculating the date of any by-election if one becomes necessary. If the required 10 requests for a poll are received in the specified time by the Returning Officer, a by-election will be held within 60 days of the date when the Notice of Vacancy was first published. Fourteen days after the date of the Notice of Vacancy, the Clerk should telephone the Returning Officer to see if a poll has been claimed by any ten electors.
If insufficient requests are received within 14 days, then the Parish/Town Council must co-opt as soon as practicable after the expiry of the 14 days. Where a vacancy occurs within six months before the day on which a councillor would have retired at the next four yearly election, parish/town councils may co-opt to fill the vacancy; most parish/town councils do. There is no need to advertise the vacancy. The point is that during that final six month period there will be no formal election to fill any vacancies.

See also:

Well, jumping frogs, or should that be jumpy frogs?

Bad form for the French to criticise the UK's excellent sovereign debt rating.  Times are difficult enough, without unsolicited and pathetic criticism of the UK by France.

See also:

Five robust responses:

The agreement reached in Brussels is going off the rails with Humgary and the Czechs having doubts about tax harmonisation, with good reason.

Lo and behold, our 'isolation' so gleefully seized upon by Clegg, Miliband, the BBC, sundry EU Commissars and  Euopean politicians, is breaking down:

Below are two excellent articles from Spiegel:,1518,803923,00.html
Pitfalls of the Merkozy Fiscal Pact,1518,804228,00.html
Germany Bundesbank wary of IMF help for Europe.

Finally, some other news items:
After all she is French.

Update: 19th December.

This is very funny.

Thursday, 15 December 2011

Railway enthusiast in clover

In the early 1960s my father published a thesis for his Ph.D. awarded by Sheffield University.  The subject matter was turnpikes, canals and tramways in South Yorkshire and North Derbyshire .  Securing the material for the thesis involved visits to  places where archives were stored: no e-mail or internet in those days.

Often I would accompany him on his visits to York, Manchester and London and also on his field trips to look for the remains of old canals etc.  One field trip took us to Goole and Thorne.  On the way back we stopped off at a railway junction where the line from Doncaster divides: one line ending in Kingston-upon-Hull, the other heading for Scunthorpe and Grimsby.

It was a complicated junction.  The four lines from Doncaster were paired by direction of travel and on the down side (from Doncaster) were sidings to a colliery.  At the junction four lines led off to the left and became two shortly afterwards and were controlled by the junction signal box.  The four lines leading off to the right for Scunthorpe merged into two lines at the next signal box.

The line was busy and the signalman was for ever moving points and pulling off signals.  We sat on a fence watching the trains going by and could hear the block bells ringing in the box on the opposite side of the tracks.

We watched the signalman run down the signal box steps carrying what looked like a baseball bat.  He crossed all the lines and standing in front of us proceeded to thump a piece of line side equipment.  He then scurried back to his domain.  The problem he had was that a rod linked to the points was not moving sufficiently to permit the signal wire to be moved. 

By the time this performance had been repeated a few times we were on good speaking terms and I accepted the signalman's offer to thump the rod when he called me from the box.  One good turn deserves another, and I was invited to join the signalman in his box. I managed to pull some point and signal levers including one which controlled the electrically operated points where the two tracks to Hull joined. 

Bells were ringing all the time so it seemed as trains were offered to the box and then onwards to the next boxes.  The signalman was busy making entries to the train register.  I even managed to offer a passenger train on the main line from Scunthorpe to Doncaster.

Of course the signalman had broken all the rules in the book, but what he did was engender my interest in signalling which has remained to this day.

A visit to our testing centre

I agreed to visit an ex-colleague of mine at Trent Polytechnic.  Travelled to Nottingham by train as it was likely to be day flowing with conversation and alcohol.  In those days trains were somewhat sparser than today, so a choice had to be made between a train arriving in Nottingham at 10.30AM and one which would make me late for my meeting.

The pubs in Nottingham opened at 10.30AM and with time to kill I wandered into a pub for my favourite tipple in those days: bottled Guinness.  Time for one drink and then towards the city centre.  Near the central police station I was approached by two ladies each carrying a clipboard.  'Market research' thought I and my initial reaction was to steer away from them avoiding eye contact.  But then I had time to spare, so why not.

Following a few general questions I was asked to name my favourite alcoholic drink.  'Bottled Guinness ' said I.  'Would I like to accompany them (the ladies) to our testing centre?'  Would I!? The market research had been commissioned by Guinness.

On arrival I was invited to drink samples of 'normal' bottled Guinness and a new lighter bottled Guinness.  I must say they were both delicious and by the end of the sampling session I had polished off a pint of each.

By the time I met my colleague I was somewhat late and he doubted my explanation.  Well, only one way to prove it.  We found the ladies who steadfastly refused the offer by my colleague to participate in the market research.

I could never distinguish bottled Guinness from Dublin from that from Park Royal. A friend of mine had no such problem. Mix up bottles from each in a crate and she had a 100% success rate at distinguishing them. Mind you, she was hopeless at identifying different bitter beers.

Wednesday, 14 December 2011

A visit to Sheffield: with video

When I was 'nowt but a lad' a visit to the city meant a trip to Sheffield. The bus route passed the end of our road and although the journey took 50 minutes it was quicker than going by train.  In any event, the bus terminated at Pond Street in Sheffield which is closer to the city centre than the Midland station.  Victoria station was a long way from the city centre.

The bus route followed the A61 via Whittington Moor, Unstone and Dronfield.  Between Whittington Moor and Dronfield the road ran close to the railway line and often we would see  steam hauled goods and passenger trains.  From the outskirts of Sheffield the road  was shared with trams.  Passengers getting on or off trams had to negotiate the road between the pavement and the tramlines.  Just imagine trying that today.  Road vehicles could pass trams on either the inside or outside.  It was somewhat risky taking the latter route and many an accident occurred because the driver had not seen an oncoming tram.

Pond Street bus station was a massive affair built after the Second World War. The abiding memory I have is of alighting from the bus and and being overwhelmed by the smell of beer being mashed at one of the local breweries.

In those days Sheffield was still 'Steel City'. The sound of drop forges could be heard, although the major steelworks were some way away down the Don Valley towards Rotherham.

The main purpose of a visit to Sheffield was shopping.  We would head for Cockaynes and Walshes
stores, then up the High Street to the Town Hall and thence along Pinstone Street to The Moor. The latter is straight for almost a mile and in those days was a busy thoroughfare.  It has since been pedestrianised, but on my last visit I noted a small section of the tramway had been preserved.  At Moorfoot we would catch a tram back to the High Street and thence a short walk back to the bus station.

Much has changed.  The tramway system was scrapped.  A new system has been built with barriers to protect passengers from real or imagined risks.  (Interesting link to an accident in Manchester  ) The bus station has been rebuilt.  Many of the landmarks remain but I was disappointed to note that the pub opposite the City Hall, much used during the interval at concerts, has disappeared.

And the smell of beer being mashed has gone, as have the drop forges.

Tuesday, 13 December 2011

A potpourri

I have posted links to articles on matters EU, eurozone and UK domestic politics, all relating to the fallout from the decision by Cameron to veto a new EU treaty.

Links will be added daily.,1518,803397,00.html
Concerns mount as Cameron stands firm,1518,803430,00.html
Cameron has shed UK's claim to a leading EU role
Barroso video.

Added 13 December:

Added 14 December:,1518,803660,00.html

Added 15th December:,1518,803918,00.html
Berlin remains stoic in face of growing crisis.,1518,804028,00.html
Britain looks for allies amongst the EU 26

Monday, 12 December 2011

Eurozone's problems not resolved.

The current imbroglio in Europe is as a consequence of history.  Deep in the consciousness of the political classes are the empires that once existed: Austro-Hungarian, USSR, German military conquest in two world wars. To this add the fear of Wiemar Republic inflation,  France's inferiority complex and the UK's role in the two world wars.  To a greater or lesser extent all these influences determined the process by which the nations of Europe came together over half a century to form the EU.    Not only that, the ghosts of previous conflicts are in play today.

The vision of a united Europe, indeed a United States of Europe was bold, but old wounds run deep and it is to be expected that national interests will be in competition with unifying proposals.  The major causes of the continued disunity in Europe are:

1. The power of the European Commission which is subject to little democratic control.
2. The abject failure of the European Parliament to exercise any meaningful democratic control.

The democratic deficit in the EU (and the manner in which the EC/EU interfered in the internal political affairs of Greece and Italy) is the root cause of the unhealthy tension between national sovereignty and pooled sovereignty.

The formation of the eurozone without a lender of last resort or centralised fiscal policy has been a disaster, but at the time of its formation it was unlikely that nations would voluntary give up sovereignty, even though it was necessary if the eurozone was to work.  It is the recognition of the lack of centralised fiscal management which is behind the proposals vetoed by the UK at the Brussels EU summit.

The problem is that the decisions taken in Brussels will do nothing to overcome the pressing problems of sovereign debt, economies moving into recession and years of austerity for nations with failed or failing economies.

What is needed is:

1. The ECB to be given the powers of a central bank
2. Debt mutualisation
3. Asset transfers to struggling economies
4. Policies to encourage economic growth and deal with the imbalance between core and peripheral countries' economies.

Unfortunately nothing along these lines is currently on offer, the reason being that nationalism is rearing its head and politicians are constrained by history. 

The articles that follow develop some of the themes outlined above.,1518,803097,00.html
Why Merkel's triumph will come at a high price.,1518,803122,00.html
Cameron's veto may herald end of Britain's EU membership,1518,803278,00.html
Cameron insists EU membership vital to Britain.
Interesting article on French political scene.

More tripe from Uncles' stable

Using the photograph to make a political point says all that needs to be said.

More poor taste from the Dartford warbler stable.

Will the English Democrats ever be able to lay claim to being a serious political party?

Nigel Farage and UKIP – an accident waiting to happen !
For the post from which the above comes go to:


1. Clegg bashing time. 2. Bundesbank spanner

I like Nick Clegg.  An advocate of withdrawal from the EU must think Mr Clegg is the best thing since sliced bread.  To hear the Deputy Prime Minister whinging on television about Cameron's use of the veto (and in so doing making a blatant U-turn) will do the anti EU brigade's cause a power of good.
But Ed Miliband is fast running out of time and opportunities to change the political weather.
Then again, there is one upside. He could be Nick Clegg. Before this weekend I had sneaking admiration for the Lib Dem leader. Despite the savage criticisms, and shameless opportunism, he had taken his party from nowhere into government. He’d done his job.
But over the last 48 hours Clegg and his colleagues have shown themselves in their true colors. A spineless, duplicitous rabble.

Boris has weighed into the EU debate:

As I surmised might happen, the financial markets are not exactly enthusiastic about the path now to be trodden by the eurozone countries.  The Bundesbank has thrown a well-directed spanner into the works.  The UK is well out of involvement in the eurozone crisis: there will be tears at bedtime in Berlin and Paris.

Sunday, 11 December 2011

Political landscape changes

The decision of the Conservative Party Prime Minister to use the UK veto at the recent Brussels EU summit has changed the political landscape dramatically.  Although David Cameron continues to support membership of the EU, the question is: for how long?  The gang of 26 will see to it that the UK is 'punished' for daring to oppose the cosy consensus of a move to ever closer union.  The reality is that over the next few months majority voting by EU countries will be used to the UK's disadvantage.  I sense an inevitability that the UK will leave the EU.  Why wait for the inevitable?  Go to the country now with a referendum and whilst at it hold a general election.

The eurofanatic Liberal Democrats promised  before the last general election that they would hold a REAL referendum (their caps).  Surely they would not disown their own promise?  We know the answer: of course they would.  Currently opinion polls suggest they are supported by 11% of the population and thus are unlikely to try and bring down the government and suffer electoral humiliation.

Would the Labour Party risk taking a pro-European view at a general election? Somehow I doubt it.

A quick resolution of the EU membership issue, along with an election which hopefully will ditch tawdry coalition politics, will not only clear the air but give direction to the government.
Nick Clegg wringing his hands
The International Monetary Fund's chief economist has called the agreement on closer European economic integration a step in the right direction, but not the whole solution.

Muck speading time

I commend this post to you:

Mr Uncles in a member of the national council of the English Democrats.

This is from the UKIP site:
Rather different from the English Nationalist blog  tripe.

This link is illuminating:

UPDATE: The blog has been withdrawn from the English nationalist site. I wonder why? Never mind I have a screen capture of it.

More muck from the Uncles' stable

Cast your eyes over this article:

What does the headline convey, that Bushell will be the UKIP candidete in the 2012 election.  However if you click on the link in the article it takes you to story date 12 December 2002!

The 'quotation' in the article  from Mr Farage is not referenced and I expect UKIP's lawyers will be very interested in the final sentence as EU funds cannot be used for party political purposes.  The link between Mr Uncles and the English Nationalist site is very close.  See:

UPDATE: The blog has been withdrawn from the English nationalist site.  I wonder why?  Never mind I have a screen capture of it.


Saturday, 10 December 2011

UK and the EU

I doubt if the French or Germans expected David Cameron to wield the veto at the recent Brussels summit. We are in uncharted territory.

The hubris and excitement of the past few days will die, to be replaced by the realisation that not only will it not be business as usual in the EU but that the decisions taken at the summit are the catalyst for profound changes for the UK and the EU.

Monday will see the reaction of the markets to the EU summit and I anticipate it will not be good.  European banks are stretched, the sovereign debt issue has not gone away and the summit did nothing to deal with the current problems.

The decisions which were taken on control and monitoring of eurozone countries budgets will take months to put in place.  Once the horse-trading commences and the realisation that countries will lose their national sovereignty, the facade of unity displayed by the 26 in Brussels will dissipate faster than snow in hell.  Nothing was decided at the summit to deal with the issue of democratic legitimacy or measures for economic growth.  The UK can take some consolation from the fact that we shall not be party to the machinations surrounding the longest economic, social and political suicide note it history.

There is the problem of how the 17 countries in the eurozone (and their supporter countries) will organise their affairs in view of the legal problem that they are acting outside the EU (as a consequence of the UK veto) but are still bound by the treaties. Cameron has fired a warning shot across the bows of the EU and the European Commission on this very point and he is not alone in his opinion.

Outside the specific issue upon which the UK used its veto, the EC and the EU will continue as before.  However there is an attitude developing that the EU, using majority voting, will seek to act to the detriment of the UK and could use its powers to increase financial regulation.  Such regulation would apply to the City.  Should this be the case, then the UK may be forced to consider if it is desirable to remain in the EU.  There are those in the EU who wish to engineer such a showdown.