Saturday, June 25, 2005

It's all gone quiet at the back...

I'm prompted into posting by someonw who chose to remain anonymous leaving a comment:

"Not really followed this one up have you Ian? Is this because the result isn't glorious for your psuedo friends in the MBI."

No, I havent followed it up, and no, it's not because of the result. I've been busy at work and I'm also doing a lot of programme editing for Morley FM which is a priority so blogging has to be when I can. I've squeezed in a minimal Town Council website update this afternoon and here is a minimalist result analysis:

Beverley (BNP) 7.3%
Hayward (Independent) 1.1%
Medley (Labour) 8.6%
Stevenson (MBI) 5.2%
None of the above 77.6%

The result was rather bad for the MBI lot but a much more serious threat to Labour in their remaining Town Council stronghold Ward.

The comment "pseudo friends" is a revealing one, no doubt a local pseudo-politician with some pseudo-axe to grind.

Thursday, June 23, 2005

The posh bits of London

I visited an event in the Royal Borough of Kengsington & Chelsea yesterday. On my walk from Hyde park Corner to Belgrave Square, It struck me how clean it looked. The buildings sparkled, the streets were clean and so were the cars. London has many private parks in the middle of squares and crescents, the one in Wilton Crescent looked well cared for and I could imagine how familiar it would have looked to the Georgians. I almost imagined that flower sellers, milkmaids & knife grinders would come round the corner any moment and perform the "Who will buy..." sequence from Oliver!.

Returning afterwards, I decided to make my return journey from Knightsbridge Tube so headed up towards Sloane Street. I can now see where the term "Sloane Ranger" came from as the route was lined with expensive designer shops selling expensive designer clothes. It also redefined the term "fashion victim" for me when I saw a handbag collection whose clasps were the sort of things you secure shed doors with...

All the customers I saw were expensively dressed attractive women and there wasn't a scratter in sight. In the 80s you frequently saw Arab women in London who were borderline boilers but my brief observance of how the other half lived didn't involve taking in the full range of Harrods clientele so thesurvey was by n eas finitive.

It is interesting to contrast the clean streets of Kightsbridge to the somewhat tired streets of Haringey in North London where I had been the day before. There is a definite inner/outer divide "darn sarf" which whilst obvious in most Cities is a particular contrast in the Capital. A great place to visit but you wouldn't want to live there...

Sunday, June 19, 2005

A deeply religious experience...

I've been to Church twice today, which is double my normal annual allowance.

In the morning, it was Mayor's Sunday and we visited Morley Citadel for an hour of worship as only the Sally Army can do. Brass Bands, a funky combo, projector PC for the words, lots of participation, quite a few funny moments too. Morley was well and truly out-maced, with the Lord Mayors of both Leeds & Wakefield as well as three other Town mayors. It was certainly a happy (clappy) place, with not a tambourine in sight.

Then later, over to a C of E in Beeston for a (double) Christening. The undertakings are solemn even if the service wasn't. three lay preachers doubled up as choir with piano accompliment and a Richard Attenborough lookalike conducted the splashy bits. They even handed out musical instruments for the last hymn, but failed to make it clear what number hymn it was so they mostly sang it themselves accompanied by rattles & jingles.

On leaving the church, I couldn't fail to notice a header tank up on the back balcony wall, a space mostly filled by the organ. It had been painted to match the decor but failed miserably to blend in and looked rather incongruous.

I spent both services trying to decide if the cross aspect ratio (between the upright sizing compared tp the cross-beam & top) was 2.5:1 or 3:1. It seems that your mileage may vary.

Sorry Christians, much as I admire your faith, I'll stick to my own value system, I always did prefer to make my own mind up...

ID Cards on the way...

My tax disc was up for renewal last week & the bumpf also offered the opportunity to renew via website. Expecting a poorly designed interface & inflexible options, I approached it with some trepidation, although in the spirit of the Blitz as well (we might win one day).

I was pleasantly surprised to find that renewal was entirely painless. I was also a little disturbed that the site assured me that my insurance and MOT were also in order.

Some joined up IT systems are obviously starting to appear. What else does Big Brother know or care about me?

Thursday, June 16, 2005

Election night special

Well, I only received one more leaflet for the Town Council By-Election, a second green Morley Borough Independent one on Tuesday.

Someone came round earlier to borrow my megaphone (as it seems the real one is locked up and the keys are in Sri Lanka) & they promised to phone through the results.

I didn't write them down, so the figures are approximate, although the order is right:

Joe Medley (Labour) 379ish
Chris Beverley (BNP) 334ish
Kath Stephenson (Morley Borough Independent) 297ish
David Hayward (Independent, but possibly BNP) 57ish

So Labour hold the seat and the BNP take second place. More analysis when I see firm figures.

A day at the races...

I had the pleasure to visit Royal Ascot yesterday afternoon, being held this year (only) at York Racecourse. I was attending a Convergence seminar being held by Thus, one of the BT rivals along with Cable & Wireless and Energis.

The event was in a smart (but old fashioned) Hotel very close to the course, indeed we managed to walk back from the Grandstand in 10 minutes or so later on. There was a strong police presence eevrywhere and the car park had a lot of black Range Rovers with large Royal crest stickers in the window so it seems that a lot of the Queen's entourage were staying there.

We were bussed to the Grandstand and on the way we passed the temporary heliport in a Farmers' field. There were dozens of them, I haven't seen so many Helicopters in one place outside of a Saigon movie.

It was chucking it down when we arrived, but once we had cleared the turnstiles I went for a quick wander to take in the ambience.

I've only been to the races twice before. The first time was with my Dad one Saturday when I was a teenager, we basically sneaked in at Gosforth Park late in the day, managed to work our way through the various enclosure pinch points and found ourselves next to the finishing line in the paddock for the last race.

My second time was to Galway Races, an occasion celebrated in song whenever Celts gather socially (before Danny Boy & if they are really drunk, Four Green Fields, a stirring but politically sensitive republican song about re-unification). Galway Races is quite an event but it isn't at all pretentious. It is rather thrilling to stand right up to the fence as the horses thunder by & the crowd cheers. However, by the third race, I realised the cheering was more of a primal scream, of thousands of punters shouting "get in... you... FUCKERRRRRRRRR..." I was staying in Galway at the time so it was an easy trip on the double decker bus, although traffic could only come and go between races, as the car park was basically the field in the centre oval of the track & you drove in & out over part of the course.

York was much more of a contrast to Galway, it had the feel of places like Old Trafford & Lords, with an interesting selection of vintage pavilions along with some very shiny steel & glass ones. Also, the punters were much more smartly turned out, although you had to wear a tie to get in and if you had secured Royal Enclosure tickets, then Morning Dress & Top Hats were expected.

There were some stunning frocks on some stunning women, a wide range of hats (some particularly silly, one hostess to some Corporate pavilion appeared to be dressed as a bonfire) & quite a few tipster types who reminded me of Walker out of Dad's Army.

The bookmakers semmed surprsingly high tech with computers to print the slips & quite a few of them had dynamic displays that changed automatically. I had a small flutter & won all but 50p back on my first race, lost on the second as my choice was on a go-slow.

At 1:55, the Queen arrived with various others in three horse drawn carriages and she travelled up the straight under a transparent umbrella, waving as she does. A jocular Brian Glover type wearing a badge labelled Jockeys and Jockey's guests (he certainly wasn't a jockey) made the crowd chortle by enquiring in a loud voice who the "Fit Bird in white" was in the second carriage.

I suddenly remembered, i had seen the Queen in the flesh once before, at stavanger. The Royal Yacht Britannia moored there for a day or so and she and Prince Philip visited the town, along with King Olaf of Norway. I was walking between buildings (at opposite sides of the harbour) and was fortunate to arrive just as they went walkabout. There had been a bit of fuss the week before when suddenly a number of ramshackle warehouses had been spruced up, but we were assured it was just a coincedence...

Monday, June 13, 2005

The By-Election draws near...

Three days to go and election leaflets two and three have dropped onto the mat.

The first is for Joe Medley, headed "Vote for Joe". The theme is "say NO to council waste" but it seems to be about the City Council, not the Town Council. The front page is devoted to some issue about vandalism that there is some (unexplained) scheme on the cards costing £35k, when local people believe it would cost £5k with fencing. It seems the scheme is based on whims & pet schemes of the Independents but it doesn't elaborate.

There is a brief mention of the Town Council towards the end of the front page, "The problem for the Town Council is that the same people are on the city council as well, so the Town Council cannot speak up effectively on your behalf." I don't quite understand what point he (or the office) is making there. Five of the six City Councillors are indeed on the Town Council but that is out of twenty four Councillors, so I don't see how that stops the Town Council speaking up effectively on people's behalf. There is probably a subliminal message there, it is because they aren't Labour Party Councillors so they can't be right...

The back has more City Council bashing, firstly on budget cuts, then on Asbestosgate. This is a long running saga about some Asbestos garages discovered on a recent clean-up that the MBIs accuse Labour of turning up at next day for a photo opportunity & a press story. The MP also gets a look in, looking at a mattress. That one didn't make it only the shiny election leaflet...

Another leaflet, called Labour Rosette, appears to be a BNP leaflet disguised as something called the Pro Democracy league. It is just as scurrilous as those anti-BNP leaflets from the SWP, taking them on at their own game.

Saturday, June 11, 2005

Ups & downs

I was stunned today to find that someone I knew had been awarded an OBE. Terry Elliott JP, husband of Councillor Judith Elliott, is a likeable Yorkshireman, surprisingly quiet and publicity shy. (Somewhat like Dennis Thatcher was when Maggie was prime Minister).

I gave him a ring to congratulate him and he assured me that he wouldn't be returning it or accepting it by Post, his Wife would never speak to him again if she didn't get her chance to go to the Palace! Knowing Judith, she and Brenda will be chatting like old friends within two minutes...

Their day of good news has also had a down side, unfortunately. Our Deputy Mayor has suffered a family tragedy with the death of his Son in a road accident this morning and that has put something of a dampener on the celebrations.

I'll save my other blogopinions I was originally going to write for another time.

Thursday, June 09, 2005

The postman always rings twice...

The title relates to the well known film, although our postie generally only rings or knocks once if needed, not expecting anyone in. It remainds me of the comedy routine where the comedian is describing the childhood game knocky-nine-doors where you ring the doorbel then run away and hide. It is still popular today, only now it is known as ParcelForce...

Today, I spent a few hours working at home with my laptop. As I was expecting a parcel and Postie hadn't been yet, I put a note on the door saying "Postman please ring bell" as sometimes I don't hear door knocks.

I assumed Postie would ignore it if he didn't have anything but anyway, eventually I heard the flap go and the characteristic sound of envelopes hitting the mat. After a few seconds of hesitation, the bell did indeed ring so I greeted him and he was looking rather sheepish as there was a "sorry you were out" card already on the mat. I had discoverd their dark little secret... if they don't expect the addressee to be in, they often don't actually bring the parcel!

He did advise me that it was ready for collection however, I didn't have to wait 24 hours as written on the card. The sorting office man confirmed their pragmatic approach- if known people are rarely at home & the parcels are heavy, they will sometimes take the call & just drop the card.

I actually applaud their pragmatism, as they are using discretion based on local knowledge and if I am in, it isn't a big deal to nip up the road, provided they are open. But, there's the rub- they aren't actually open at useful times to suit the customer, which in my case would be after I finish work rather than waiting until the following morning which is a diversion on the way to work. 7am-12 noon (10am on Fridays) may suit them but not me. There again, they are still to all intents and purposes a nationalised industry & monopolies never take their customers too seriously anyway...

Tuesday, June 07, 2005

By Election bystander...

There are four candidates for the Morley Topcliffe Ward By-Election Town Councillor vacancy.

The first candidate is chris Beverley of the BNP. I could tell he was a candidate as he turned up to observe the last Town Council meeting or two. I'm well aware that he is keen to win, although I think it is probably more for the glory of the Party rather than as the concerned Morley citizen.

The second candidate is David Hayward who is standing as an Independent. I don't know who he is.

The third candidate is Joseph Medley for the Labour Party. I had already predicted he would be standing as he seems to be writing letters to the press at the moment.

The fourth candidate is Kath Stephenson for the Morley Borough Independents. I don't think I know kath but I may well have met her as she is active in Morley in Bloom it seems.

So, a Labour, a BNP and two flavours of independent standing. Topcliffe Ward has a strong Labour tradition with the largest Council Estate stock in the area, although there are also large private developments as well. The five current seats are all Labour held (or at least four of them are, as a resignation led to the By-Election).

Some people have speculated that the BNP stand a good chance of winning: Chris will take votes from Labour and the non-Labour vote will be split between the independents.

With the election only nine days away, I've had my first bit of material through the door, the traditional lime green MBI leaflet. This lays into Labour considerably, pointing out that four Labour Councillors have resigned and a fifth was disqualified. It concentrates mostly on the Denshaws and Newlands estates rather than the other bits of the ward in Glen road, Birdland and Peel street areas, although pragmatically they are probably the right target.

There is also an interesting revelation in the leaflet that the other Independent (David Hayward) actually signed Chris Beverley's nomination papers and is standing purely to split the vote. He isn't listed as a Proposer and Seconder but I seem to remember five signatories are required so it may be true. If it is, it is a bit of an own goal for the BNP to have been rumbled, especially with allegations of a local Police Community Support Officer having been suspended for being in the BNP and misusing computers.

It isn't illegal to stand as an independent for political purposes as far as I'm aware, it is actually quite a clever tactical move, but signing your opponent's papers isn't, unless done in irony...

Monday, June 06, 2005

Cool cars & fashion victims...

I was driving home benignly last week when this large black peoplemover sized car pulled up beside me whilst I was waiting for the lights to change. Nothing strange about that, other than my driving radar suddenly sprang up in red alert. What was it that my subconscious had noticed that I hadn't?

I quickly realised. Even though the vehicle was stationary, the wheels still appeared to be turning. On closer examination, the vehicle had large serrated spoke-like appendages that appeared to freewheel on the bearing, or were possibly even driven via some sort of motor assembly. (The front ones were sedate, the back ones were still going very quickly). They didn't stick out like the Roman Chariot wheels of old (or the hot car in the movie "Grease!") but you got the feeling that had the designer been able to have done so, he would have done so.

I eventually realised that this vehicle was a proverbial "Hummer", & the Internet revealed that spinning wheels are a fashion item.

What purpose did it serve? Only to get noticed, as do little blue LEDs set into the bonnet, fluorescent tubes under the vehicle or indeed fluffy dice hanging from the rear view mirror. The other attributes don';t make you check your handbrake is on though!

Sunday, June 05, 2005

Worlds of Wonder

Efteling is a theme park in the Netherlands that I have had the pleasure to visit three times, the most recent on a North Sea Ferry dash this weekend. The Hull-Rotterdam trip is an easy journey (if the crossing isn't too rough) and the two ships are to a high standard, being renewed by P& O at the turn of the century for a cool £90m each.

We had an added bonus of getting a "Club" cabin on the way out, it cost us extra less than the value of the miniatures in the Minibar & it even had a double bed!

Efteling is an enchanting place, although dull grey skies and intermittent thunderstorms do take the sheen off the magic somewhat. The theme is Hans Christian Andersen, although it also has a complement of thrill rides as well as a couple of Disneyesque dark rides well worth a repeat visit. My favourite ride remains "Dream flight", a breathtaking ride through enchanted forests, elves, trolls and castles in the air.

My determination to visit Efteling began back in the early '90s when I worked for CCT Lighting. One of the Directors, David Manners, had been visiting our Dutch Distributor, Flashlight Utrecht. They had been supplying Efteling with Minuettes Silhouettes and Starlettes for many years and were particularly pleased to have been chosen for the Dream Flight project. David had been given queue-jumping VIP treatment along with the Editor of Light & Sound International and had been asked to write a piece. He knew I had a flair for prose so he delegated it to me. It was a bizarre experience to ghost-write an article based on a souvenir brochure but after a couple of informal chats with David about his impressions of the place I came up with the words & it subsequently appeared, tweaked to include the Editor's impressions as well. Of course, it had sparked my interest so it was interesting to see how wide of the mark I'd been when I eventually made it to the park.

I wasn't wide of the mark at all, the place has Disney standards for most of the rides, along with its own rich traditions going back to the 50s and earlier. I'd also suggest spending two days there, as you won't be able to see it all in a day.

It was a great trip, although it was cut short somewhat by Grandma getting seriously soaked in a maze attraction after being lured in front of some squirty jets by our Son & Heir...

Friday, June 03, 2005

Snakker Du Norsk (Part 3)

The contract in Norway included six paid trips home in addition to the initial flight out and the re-patriation. The six flights were based of full economy rates, although it was perfectly permissible to do back-to-back Apex tickets in order to fit in more trips home. The Married ex-pats who didn’t have their wives with them favoured this approach, although being single I tended to plan the holidays around large events in my Eighteen Plus Calendar. The highlight of the year was always the 18 Plus Easter Holiday at Caister, and that year I flew from Stavanger to Schipol (Amsterdam Airport) then onwards to Norwich Airport, where I hired one of those new fangled Mini Metros for the drive to Great Yarmouth. The contrast in airports was dramatic, Schipol was large, spacious and well planned, Norwich appeared to consist of Portakabins to make up the facilities. I haven’t returned to Norwich since then, although Schipol is now a lot more rambling and scrappy than it was in the 80s.

I mostly flew back to Newcastle (where all of my stuff was, my Dad having arranged a horse box to transport my worldly possessions back from Coventry to Home for the duration. My worldly possessions consisted of clothes, books, records and a Mobile Disco!)

On another occasion, I took the Olsen Bergen line ferry from Stavanger to North Shields for a friend’s wedding in Newcastle, however the boat wallowed outside Tynemouth for a couple of hours and I missed the ceremony. The return journey was spent in the cabin with a soldering iron as I had bought an electric piano in kit form and hadn’t finished assembling it at home! It was quite a rough crossing, the fleet only had rudimentary stabilisers and one of them was known as the “vomiting Venus”.

In the summer, I had my parents over to stay (I must have slept on the couch) and we had a pleasant trip up to Bergen via hydrofoil, an overnight stay and a flight back down. On eating breakfast in the hotel, we heard an American guest ask the waitress if the bill included a service charge, the reply being “yes, but not tips…”

The other tourist trip to do from Stavanger was to go and see Preikestolen, or Pulpit Rock. This was a three sided protuberance way up high in a nearby fjord known for the brave and foolhardy to actually get married on (if you were OK with a two hour walk and hiking gear rather than tuxedos). A 40’ cruiser (which may have been called Clipper)made the trip daily during the summer months from the harbour and I may have went on it twice, once with Hans the telex Supervisor. I don’t remember too much about the trip, other than it took a couple of hours and they fed mountain goats on the way.

Mobil introduced language lessons for ex-pats in conversational Norwegian, which I looked forward to immensely. Our teacher was very practical, and on one occasion he brought the contents of his daughter’s dolls house for us to learn the words for furniture. We didn’t progress beyond “present tense” but combined with my CSE German, it was certainly enough to get by, especially as most of the Norsk speak excellent English.

As the year progressed, I found myself more and more into the local social scene. We had cabin painting out on the islands, I met some of my neighbours socially (they told me their Mother thought I must be a Russian spy!), I declined invitations to go cross-country skiing and I half-planned (but never implemented) a trip by boat up past the arctic circle to see the northern lights. I went to one particular birthday party that saw me heading home at first light, after long sessions singing with a guitarist and also discussing the finer aspects of undersea construction with a North Sea Diver. Of course, a lot of the time there was nothing much doing, so I rented a lot of videos and replaced my Acorn Atom PC with a proper Apple II system that I bought off an ex-pat Yank. It was all 110 volt and came complete with TV, fan feed dot matrix printer and transformer.

It didn’t look as though there would be further work beyond the first year, so I landed a follow-on job with Northern Telecom out in the Middle East. Inevitably, after I signed the Contract, another job appeared, this time for Esso Stavanger. In my final weeks, I was invited to the Mobil Christmas Party, which was a delightful event. I also visited the home of one of the Operators who I had a crush on, a stunningly pretty older woman who had the looks and charm of Felicity Kendal (in her Good Life persona) who was also an outrageous flirt. I was a little shocked to meet her husband, who proudly showed me his vast collection of antique hunting rifles, all fully working…

On my last day, the team presented me with a glass mug engraved "1981" and a saying in old Norwegian which roughly translated said with good humour, life is to be lived. Sadly, it got cracked in one of my many subsequent house moves (whilst the various crystal decanters didn’t!) but it now lives at my Mum’s house for safe keeping. Now that David is no longer a toddler it is probably safe to bring back to Morley.

Wednesday, June 01, 2005

More opinion passed off as fact...

It is Obtiser day. In the letters page, a missive from neil Dawson (Morley North Labour Party Secretary) attempts to spin the election result still further, suggesting that the Independents are a "Busted Flush". In it he draws our attention to the implied fact that Finnigan came fourth in most polling districts and labour came first in every single one by a good margin.

How does he know this? Well, he doesn't, it is speculation based on a non-scientific sample by party activists watching ballot papers as boxes are unpacked and counted but not sorted. (Sorting takes place after the initial count is complete, not before.) They may also use exit polls as well, but these results are at best indicative and can not be legitimately substantiated beyond the overall result. If politicians used the word "probably" in their potentially misleading claims they might be more credible, however being truthful and factual does not suit the political parties if it doesn't suit their message.

Two other political letters in the paper, the first from Ardsley Labour Councillors explaining about a local grass cutting problem. Needless to say, they blame the Council and also patronise a local resident who complained about them using the situation as a photo-opportunity.

The third letter is a sort of joke about mohican grass cutting and installation art which a) doesn't make any sense, b) isn't funny and c) isn't in the style of the author, who is on the same planning panel as me. I'll ask him to explain it to me next week and you never know, he might even tell me who really wrote it...