Friday, September 30, 2005

And the bunfights continue...

My "pseudo friends" the Morley Borough independents continue to fight political warfare with the local Labour Party through the pages of the local rag. This time, the issue is over the non-reappointment of David Dewhirst, a School Governor who is also the Chair of the Body I serve on. I was surprised to read that he had not been re-appointed as a local authority representative at the end of his term, although I have to admit that I wasn't aware his time was up, having had Town Council clashes with recent meetings. I also wasn't that aware (or interested) what type of Governor he was as it shouldn't actually make any difference to how the role is carried out. He is a well known Labour Party Activist and somewhat of a political animal in his views, although he is also a Head Teacher in the day job and makes a good Chair. He stepped into the role after the original Chair stood down last year after a long stint, there being no obvious candidate at the time. Over the last three weeks and several letters, The political bun fighting implied that this whole business had thrown the school into disarray and there were various accusations of lack of communication on both sides, neither of which sounded totally convincing. The alternative appointee is young Gareth Beevers who certainly lives close to the school but he is no intellectual heavyweight and doesn't have the years of Educational experience the former incumbent has. It seems to me that the appointment was political, although I'm sure it probably was back in 2001 as well- that's what City Councillors tend to do when they are in control. There was the suggestion made that if DD still wanted to be a Governor there were plenty of opportunities at other schools, but the idea of GB taking up such an opportunity wasn't mooted.

Anyway, my Minutes of the last Governor meeting turned up this week and it seems that this had all been predicted and planned for last July- the Governing Body was keen for him to re-stand and in the event of him not being re-appointed by the LEA he was going to be co-opted before election of Chair so that he could carry on in the role. This annoyed me somewhat as this was not mentioned in any of the correspondence- after all it deflates the spin considerably and doesn't make Finnigan & Co look quite so cruel and uncaring when looked at in context. Who writes these letters from local Labour party people, is Alistair Campbell still on the payroll?

I was vaguely tempted to write in but why bother, that is simply sinking down to their level and it is rather stinky down there, in amongst the fag ends, leaves and dog turds. Instead, I can vent my spleen and blog about it here, knowing it won't get edited or omitted, but probably unread and/or ignored!

By the way, if anyone is concerned that I may be betraying confidences, whilst Governor meetings are generally closed meetings, the Minutes of the meetings are public documents and are readily open for inspection by the public (other than confidential Minutes related to items such as salary etc.)

Thursday, September 29, 2005

PCs not too PC...

I was at an event for Town & Parish Councillors last night, organised by the Police Authority. A number of senior Bobbies pontificated on concerns close to the audience's hearts, namely Anti-social behaviour, Neighbourhood Policing and Response times.

The subject of travellers inevitably came up. I was slightly stunned (and rather pleased) to hear a particularly robust explanation of a particular approach to policing based on intolerance of crime rather than the normal softly-softly wait for the court order approach. The senior officer described what sounded very much like borderline harassment through intense scrutiny of the travellers (who she deliberately referred to as "Gypsies" several times)- frequently visiting, checking for documents, tax discs, making them pick up fly tipping etc. and advising them that the farmer who owned the land had filled his muck spreader with pig excrement and was happy to take his tractor round the field. It seems it was successful, they upped and went.

When I say pleased, I don't mean that I was pleased the Police were harassing particular members of the public with a different lifestyle, more that I was pleased that the Officer didn't feel the need to use the woolly phrases of left liberal speak such as protected minorities, human rights, dignity and that really scummy one- appropriate behaviour. (i.e. what the speaker considers acceptable).

Unsurprisingly, a Councillor savaged the Officer verbally later on, saying she had Gypsy roots in her own family and it was an outrageous slur on an oppressed minority, at which point two or three others in the audience clapped vigourously in approval. However, there must have been another fifty of so in the room who remained indifferent to her outburst. The Officer pointed out that this was not general West Yorkshire Police policy for all Gypsies, many of whom do not cause trouble. That one particular encampment it seemed had been particularly anti-social...

Wednesday, September 28, 2005

New radio studio for Morley FM

I've been a bit busy in my spare time since Monday, when the collection of four large boxes resulted in finding that our new studio was a voyage of discovery rather than the plug & play solution promised in the blurb. Sharp words have been sent via email concerning all of the various missing bits & the apparent lack of testing although most of it seems to be working fine so far, touch wood.

I can see my weekend being rather busy soldering up temporary cables for specialised bits not supplied that should have been- a relay-switched 12v on-air sign triggered by a jack plug closure and a three jack plugs to joystick socket for triggering the computer playback.

This is the second thing I've bought from them and I currently have a 50% satisfaction rate, although the first thing was an RDS encoder board (in a jiffy bag) so they would have been hard pressed to cock that order up.

By the way, RDS is Radio Data System, the thing that makes your Radio say "MorleyFM" if you happen to be in the area on December 13th for 12 days...

Another by the way...the MOAS panto will be Snow White, 9th-12th February at Morley Town Hall. There were two letters of praise for last weeks show in todays Obtiser, I'd be more convinced though if one of them wasn't from the Hubby of one of the Soloists!

Sunday, September 25, 2005

Morley entertainers

The MAOS (Morley Amateur Operatic Society) have been running a 5 night musical extravaganza this week in the Town Hall. They normally do an annual Panto there (in February, it's a Yorkshire thing) and another show in the Leeds Civic Theatre, however, the Leeds Civic is closing (to be relaced by a new venue) and the Society presumably decided that it was safer to come back to Morley this Autumn.

The Alexandra Hall is by no means an ideal theatre venue, being a concert hall with platform stage and no wing space. There are staircases down either side of the platform with a crossover passage behind. A further staircase leads down to two dressing rooms and the platform of the smaller Morleian hall which doubles as additional dressing room space for shows. The society has a fit-up stage made from scaffolding, dressed with red borders, proscenium pieces and a gold front Tabs (which looks rather lacking in fullness when in (i.e. the curtains are closed). With wing pieces and cloths, it makes a passable stage but it must be an absolute pig for the performers getting on and off in the cramped space beyond.

Another thing that lets the venue down is the lighting- all energy lamps and fluroescent fittings which have to be switched off in a number of visual jerks. A sound and lighting rig are imported though, which do their job admirably- the performers are brightly lit and clearly heard.

The Society has a number of talented performers and many of the numbers were very well done indeed, particularly the South Pacific, Fiddler on the Roof and Oliver! numbers. The kids performed well, with just the right mix of enthusiasm without the sickly fixed smiles of the precocious stage school starlets. The set was simple (a sort of leafy abstract jungle) and it was nicely reinforced by a Powerpoint presentation that was informative visually without being too much of a distraction.

The show wasn't perfect, by any means- some singers were flat or struggling on occasions and one or two of the props went wrong, including a broom head during the matchmaker routine which amused the four dancers without them actually corpsing. The choreography mostly worked well & the energy of all the performers was excellent.

The blanks of Annie's Gun (the Wild West Annie, not the one with the dog) made everyone jump and the finale of Barnum! numbers brought the house down, there were even some circus skills in evidence (although the harlequin clown appeared to be juggling with only two balls, a detail that probably passed most of the audience by).

I'd like to recommend that everyone goes to see it, but alas, all good things come to a close. However, they will be doing a Panto in February!


I'm also pleased to see that they make a (small) surplus on their turnover of circa 25k, although their accounts appear to be late!)

Wednesday, September 21, 2005

Institutional racism?

In case the reference of one extreme to the other was a bit oblique, in 1982 I swapped a very cold Norway for a very hot Saudi Arabia, although it has to be said that society was also diametrically opposite as well!

Saudi struck me as what I initially took to be a very racist place. The Arabs were top of the pecking order, with Yanks trailing second place. Canucks were third, Brits were fourth, followed by white europeans. Filipilos did most of the practical graft and at the bottom of the pile were Koreans who appeared to make up the road gangs. There didn't seem to be too many Indians (or Pakistanis) although I later discovered that they tended to work in the Countries with former British influence, where you were likely to find Cable & Wireless.

I eventually realised that Aramco was not strictly racist, they just chose employees to meet their skill requirements and paid the going rate according to the home economy (which hurt when I found that Canadians were earning twice what I was, but that is market forces for you). They quite happily gave a new Indian employee Bachelor accommodation on site in with my Brit friends because he was a Brit according to his passport and the colour of his skin was irrelevant in the decision.

There was one genuine bit of institutional racism they could be accused of, however. If we weren't Muslims, we were infidels and all second class citizens, or maybe third class, as Muslim women were of course second class by culture but probably technically had rank over us...

Tuesday, September 20, 2005

From one extreme to the other...

...I spent most of 1982 in Saudi Arabia, working for Nortel as a "Consultant" on Contract to Aramco in Dhahran on the Eastern province. It was a year of frustration as the job wasn't quite what it was meant to be, I was effectively on 1st line maintenance with another American who didn't actually need any assistace most of the time. He was called Barry Hensley and he was a good egg. He came from Nashville Tennessee, he had even fixed Tammy Wynette's phone system when he worked for the Telco there. He had his family over living on-site and I had a pleasant three weeks house-sitting for him later in the year.

I lived in the Aramco Construction Camp, known as A.C.C. Dhahran North. I had my own room (with sink) and shared a toilet and shower with another room, never actually seeing the resident during the 12 months. The block was built from portacabin-style buildings and had 24 rooms. These were the luxury ones- the next type down had 36 rooms with communual showers/toilets sinks. Then there were the 72 bed twins and the 144 bed blocks where they were bunked four to a room. The higher density blocks were the same size as the 36ers, just more bodies.

I probably wasn't entitled to a 24 room type room but some strings were pulled as there was a phone in the room (which my predecessor had occupied).

The camp had several dining halls, two of which served western food. The smaller one had American fayre which included a lot of Mexican specials. The larger one was more Brit-based and did a lot more curries!

There was also an indoor cinema, an outdoor one, a couple of recreation halls & a ball park. It was rather bleak, however, and had 10,000 residents.

Saudi seemed a bit crazy back in 1982. I recently stumbled on a Blogger from Saudi with a robust view of the Kingdom, I'm surprised how little has changed over the last couple of decades...

Sunday, September 18, 2005

Hot, sweaty & breathless...

...but now I have a Karate yellow belt. The grading for adults is considerably more stringent than for kiddleywinks and so it should be.

The hardest bit I found was doing the kicks in a 4-stage slo-mo, e.g. knee up, kick out, leg back, knee down for each leg in four directions (front, side to front, side, back). There were the same number of instructors as students and I was relieved to see that quite a few of them wobbled as well as me whilst attempting to balance.

Saturday, September 10, 2005

It is heritage weekend...

...and once again, many interesting (& probably a few dull) buildings outside the Capital are open for visits from the general public free of charge, from the obsessed to the merely curious.

Today, we went to Halifax, for a chance for me to go inside three buildings that I've seen hundreds of times over the last seven years.

Our first port of call was the Magistrates Courts in Blackwall, just up the road from the Halifax Head Office (as was pre-HBOS) and just down the road from Provident Insurance. We were shown round the three main courts as well as the state of the art cell block. Whilst it was good to be guided by practicing Magistrates, their spiel was rather dull, being lifted from a potted history document. When they veered off-script, however, they became much more interesting. Time and "modernisation" haven't been too kind to the building but it still bears the hallmarks of competent design and construction that I doubt the courts in the centre of Leeds will share in the 22nd Century.

One particularly incongruous modern addition is the secured dock, bullet proof glass and strong mesh ceiling in court 1, with a similar floor to near-ceiling arrangement in the much smaller court 2 which is more chapel sized compared to the more imposing court 1 which is a substantial space. Interestingly, the larger court has been internally reversed through 180 degrees but retains the style & woodwork to the extent that it is not at all obvious other than some unaccounted for space at high level beyond the Bench which presumably was the original public gallery. One visual coffee stain that would pass by the untrained observer is the shadow of the roof space catwalk above the Art Nouveau laylight inserted in the ceiling panel presumably at the turn of the last century.

The cells are a modern re-work of the upper level block (the lower ones being abandoned for prisoner use) but whilst clean and bright are extremely bleak indeed. All they have inside is a long bench on the far wall and that certainly isn't a place I'd wish to visit in anger, so to speak.

Our second stop was the Town Hall, designed by Sir Charles Barrie best known for the houses of Parliament. Again, this building has been mucked about with internally, although the ornate schemes remain. It has a very large internal hall that we would now call an atrium, although it doesn't let in too much light from the very peculiar multi-domed ceiling glazed in deep blue starred stained glass. Despite being fairly brightly lit it feels dismal and gloomy, the effect of the high-bay Sodium lighting & the green-ish colour scheme. The Council Chamber was inserted into a rather loft court room in 1901 and is slightly sombre with dark polished mahogany but a well designed and intimate space. The current Mayor's Parlour is a vibrant room and an antidote to the more sombre spaces elsewhere.

The grand staircase is marred somewhat by a picket-gate style unusual lift (with two entrances at right-angles) that is a period piece in its own right but does distort the openness and balance of the staircase visually. Another much larger glazed dome is above, beyond which is the tower and huge spire complete with an extremely busy facade and statuary worthy of closer study. The clock has a Westminster Chime although the bells sounded slightly sharp to me.

David ensured he sat in the Mayor's chair of course, a pastime of his in Public Buildings!

Our third and final visit was to Somerset House, a much mangled and almost forgotten Georgian Mansion House in the centre of the Town. It has one remarkable surviving large room with absolutely stunning rococo plasterwork. I took two snapshots of the detail (actually six, with three combinations of flash setting) and here they are below. They are available light so aren't pin sharp, however the flash ones are much flatter and don't do the bas relief justice. If you click on them, you can see a much bigger image. You can place these shots in context by following the hyperlink above. It also seems from this picture that there is concealed cornice lighting, although it wasn't lit on our visit.

This is Britannia above the Mantlepiece. Note the date, 1766.

This is Neptune on the ceiling in the centre of the room, viewed from the entrance door side facing three double height bay windows.

David put up with the visits but would have preferred less talking by the guides and more sitting in the various seats...

Friday, September 09, 2005

What was that book again?

In my youth, I spent some time doing acting type stuff with other youngsters associated with the Tyneside Theatre Company of the University Theatre in Barras Bridge. They had a rehearsal rooms practically under the High Level Bridge, known, rather unimaginatively as "The Warehouse", because it was.

It was generally devoid of anything beyond basic furniture, however a paperback book once appeared in one of the rooms. When it was still there months later, my mate Keith decided to take it home to read. He passed it on to me and I enjoyed it as well.

It was a sci-fi book about an inventor who had designed a futuristic town then managed to get run over by his own automatic lawnmower. The Town Hall Computer (in the basement) whisch seems to control everything is actually a crock of junk, booby trapped and made from random electronics, including a Norden bombsight. Beyond, they eventually find a room where the real power lies & it seems the Town mayor was fiddling things. I also recall this was my first exposure to the word Cupola.

Why am I typing it here? Well, one day, someone else will glide past and tell me what the book was called and who the author was, so that I can read it again.

If I don't post this up, I'll regret it. Maybe not today. Maybe not tomorrow, but soon and for the rest of my life. Where I'm going, you can't follow. What I've got to do, you can't be any part of. I'm no good at being noble, but it doesn't take much to see that the problems of fat middle aged eccentrics don't amount to a hill of beans in this crazy world. Someday you'll understand that. Now, now... Here's looking at you kid.

(exits gracefully, singing:- You must remember this / A kiss is still a kiss / A sigh is just a sigh / The fundamental things apply / As time goes by. / And when two lovers woo, / They still say, "I love you" / On that you can rely / No matter what the future brings-...)

(This post was brought to you by random thought processes...)

Thursday, September 08, 2005

Want to understand about ID cards?

Click on this link to be informed about the benefits of ID cards to Society.

From, the people that brought us the cute singing dogs, a tribute to the Home Secretary.

Tuesday, September 06, 2005

Thursday, July 14th 1983...

...started like any other. I rolled up to the office of Northern telecom (UK) Ltd in Maidenhead, visited the coffee dispenser for a mugful, checked my faxes for anything important, then ripped June 13th off my desk calendar.

This wasn't any ordinary calendar, however, it was Polyunsaturated PEDIGREE NOT 1983 (with ADDED QN7), a spin-off sheet-per-day merchandise product of the then defunct Not the Nine O' Clock News, designed to cash in on the Christmas trade. (Dilbert hadn't been invented then so Engineers latched onto anything funny or surreal).

As was my want, I read the back of the outgoing sheet before putting it in the bin. Occasionally, I would chortle and show it to one or two others if it was particularly funny.

That day, I made the mistake of drinking at the same time and the result was a coffee spray and lots of coughing & gurgling. A colleague of mine picked it up, read it then started howling with laughter. Another took a look and fell off his chair. By mid day, practically everyone with a sense of humour had been to the photocopier.

What had amused us so much? Well, by the miracle of eBay, I am able to reproduce it below. It is written in the style of a ladies' comic quiz such as found in Woman's Own or Woman's Realm. (Or at least, it starts off that way!)

(I have to forewarn you that it contains a word or two not used in polite circles. To avoid upsetting Corporate firewalls, I have shuffled the letters up. Perservere with your pencil, and you will be able to unscramble it, although make sure you have some smelling salts to hand if you faint readily. Although a walk in the presence of builders or schoolchildren will find such words used as punctuation these days...)

How romantic is your chap?

Complete the quiz below and find out just how high he scores in the romance stakes!!!

His favourite name for you is...

a ( ) Sweetness, prettiness, honeypie, petal...
b ( ) Babe, baby.
c ( ) Bunny, squirrel nutkin.
b ( ) Cnut.

He wants to make love to you, he says...
a ( ) Nothing - but he tells you with his eyes, his hands.
b ( ) Hey babe/baby - lets get down on it.
c ( ) Kissy kissy.
d ( ) Get your frock off, cnut.

You're in the midst of a blazing row, you're most likely to end the evening...

a ( ) Laughing and hugging.
b ( ) Sharing a joint, injecting each other.
c ( ) Over his knee getting a good spanking.
d ( ) Unconscious/told to kcuf off because you're a cnut.

His favourite part of you is...
a ( ) Every little bit of you.
b ( ) Breasts, buttocks
c ( ) Your funny little nose.
d ( ) Cnut.

Afterthought... We received a shared account into the Nortel Corporate WAN a couple of days later. Alex, the Software Specialist, solemnly announced that the password was set to "FROCKOFF", which we revitalised every time the system would let us...

Monday, September 05, 2005

Only on the web...

I read a number of blogs when I can spare the time. It doesn't totally match up to my Blogroll but I synch them occasionally. Brian Micklethwait is worth a regular read and recently posted two items which made me look, the first about optical illusions to do with shade and colour, the second about items known as "Dilettos". I didn't make the connection until I clicked through, it puts another twist on the phrase all of our products are personally tested by the management...

Sunday, September 04, 2005

Beside the seaside...

We had a trip to Blackpool to take advantage of David's last free weekend- swimming lessons and Kid's clubs start again next week.

David particularly wanted to see Mystique which has a "PG" rating. The semi-naked nubettes washed over his head but he was somewhat upset by a dancer being impaled at the end of the first half and Richard De Vere (the Magician) being sawn in half towards the end of the second half. His real disappointment was the lack of Schnorbitz- the massive St. Bernard dog that used to belong to Bernie Winters (I'm not surprised he didn't appear in a way, I worked a panto season in 1975 & Schnorbitz was there so he must be at least 150 years older by now!)

It seems that whilst he may an old dog, he remains a horny one as he became a Dad ten weeks ago & to prove it Richard De Vere produced "Schnorbaby" who whilst still a Pup was almost as big as a fully grown Labrador!

No new ride innovations for David, although he did go on the Revolution by himself although he wouldn't brave Trauma Towers. Having season tickets for the Plesh has dragged us down there a lot more than normal to get our money's worth, although it is unlikely we would fork out again next year as you can have too much of a good thing. It is also a pain having to queue up at the main entrances (which are of course the busiest ones) and collect the cards again afterwards.

Gripe of the day- we tried to book tickets for Mystique before the main park opened (which are free with a wristband admission, but it is worth paying a bit more for better seats) but we were told we had to actually have been issued with the wristbands, our season cards weren't good enough. Then on returning afterwards, the wristbands were not scanned or anything, we were just asked if we had them & she only glanced at mine. What did that particular bit of burocratic stubbornness achieve other than to annoy us? (& also to ensure that we got worse seats as they had
presumably sold quite a few in the intervening hour.)

We saw perhaps half a mile of the illuminations from the Sandcastle car park up to the southern finish on the way out. I must say that they aren't worth sitting in Prom traffic for 2-3 hours.

Friday, September 02, 2005

Things going wrong...

I've noticed recently that quite a few things have gone wrong and stayed that way for much longer than anticipated. Two of the lifts at work have needed special parts, my UPS has gone into a sulk and I've had to rebuild my PC & Microshaft don't recognise my license code.

Besides all this, Morley has been without the Town Hall clock until recently, stuck on 4:15pm so as someone rightly pointed out in the paper, it is right twice a day!

It would seem that it is probably cheaper to replace the mechanics of the clock (which is the original 1895 mechanism although it does now have an electric winder) with a modern electronic mechanism which would keep much better time, ring the bells and be flexible enough to silence it at night or when concerts are on in the Hall. It would be a shame to lose that bit of history but at the moment it is a curate's egg- even the staff are barred from visiting it, let alone horologists.

The Town Hall is a Grade 1 listed building so fixtures and fittings should be preserved where possible. Some forward thinking local authorities have preserved their mechanisms in museum displays or even street level ornamental clocks but it costs money. Better an enthusiast to tend or rescue it methinks- if he can fit up the "manhole" to access it- I'm told I'll probably struggle!

Thursday, September 01, 2005

I have a cunning plan...

Sitting on the Town Council Planning Committee gives an insight into things likely to happen in the town, although the gap between seeing the plans and the skips being delivered to the premises can be a long time (if they ever happen at all- there is no obligation to implement the plans, although they will lapse within 3 years or so if not actually started).

In amongst the comparative routine of the minor extensions, conservatories and changes of use, every now and then something big or unusual may come along. A large hotel was recently proposed which is to be welcomed even if it is rather bland by the standards of some.

Another scheme was the conversion of a former chapel to flats, simple in itself but it was going to "blight the townscape" by a "hideous carbuncle" in the words of others. I wasn't overly bothered by it myself but I thought that the florid prose and architect's drawings oversold something rather dull and it was rather rough on the adjacent houses whose bedrooms would be overlooked by the roof garden. As it happened, the developer came up with a much less controversial scheme but another one made me wonder. An extension to an end-terrace was going to have a flat roof forming a balcony in order to enjoy the view of a hillside opposite. However, the said residents could then also potentially overlook the gardens of the other terraced houses as well, which would invade their privacy. I did point out that anyone could quite happily stare obliquely out of their own window which was perfectly legal behavour but it seems that doing the same in the comfort of a chair with drink in hand is much more hienous and to be objected to. Not even the fallback of obscured glass would sway the opinions.

My libertarian view is that is their own house and simply constructing it that way should be their own choice, their actions being the ones to object to if they actually do dump on others. Having said that, this reeks of individualism, a trait to be discouraged by Town Planners in these enlightened times.

So, however did we manage in the dark old days before the Town and Country Planning Act, when anything went and the buildings were of poor quality? Well it might surprise many to find that it was only introduced in 1947. Since then we have replaced the dreadful technique of town evolution based on usage (going back to roman times) with are much more elegant central planning, the schemes that gave us Coventry, Milton Keynes, Peterlee, Welwyn Garden City and Harlow.

Equally delightfully, we have been able to replace those dour twiddly victorian, edwardian and between the wars horrors with such wonders as Arndale Centres, Centre Point style concrete blocks and those workers paradise high rises that every local authority cherishes.

Er... just run that by me again?