Wednesday, April 26, 2006

20 years ago today...

On the 20th anniversary of the worst peacetime nuclear disaster that scattered radioactive fallout across much of Europe between here and the Ukraine, I was bemused to find through cognitive association an image of someone called John Dodds popping into my head. He was a character in Eighteen Plus and I'm not even sure that I had met him in 1986 so the connection seemed at first lacking in reason.

However, about twenty minutes later, I remembered the association. John had told me a fairly lame joke a few years later whilst we were getting changed for something, probably at the former 18 plus headquarters, Nicholson House in Newent.

These are my radioactive underpants. You have to be careful putting them on though, or Chernobyl fallout!

(it's the way he tells 'em...)

Monday, April 24, 2006

Local election update

Three more bits of election stuff. Through the door last week was the glossy full colour double sided folded A3 Labour leaflet for Sherry Bradley. It mainly attacked the Tories for doing terrible things whilst the Morley Borough independents stood by doing nothing. Inside were the obligatory poses with the sitting MP, a closed school, a new library etc. No BNP bashing though, which is surprising as some of the Labour voting share could go that way.

Sherry is very tall with striking blonde white hair, she is much more imposing in the flesh than she looks in the photos. I have never actually spoken to her but obnserving from the edge of the crowd she strikes me as aloof and dismissive with her body language. Of course, that has been at election counts and party tribalism tends to generate an us & them mentality amongst the diminishing faithful.

The second noteworthy arrival was the voting cards. this time we get to brandish our pencils in the Glen Road Changing Rooms instead of the portable building delivered for the purpose. It took the Council long enough, why hire something when you own something else more suitable across the road?

The third noteworthy arrival was the Elliott Battle bus outside our house tonight. People often park there when leafleting as it is a convenient base for the Birdland labyrinth. My gruff "Oi! you can't park there." out of the door as they walked away was greeted by surprise and then amusement! Judith brought me leaflet number two which was a suitably dismissive rubbishing of the Sherry Bradley leaflet "facts" and various distortions. Of course it retaliated with the MBI version of "facts" and various distortions which will give the Labourites a chance to dictate some more letters for the local rag. Only 11 more days and then we can have 9 months off until the spin bus starts up again in 2007...

Sunday, April 23, 2006

Happy St. Georges Day

Good weather treated us to a pleasant St. George's Day Parade and subsequent event at the Rugby & Cricket clubs in Morley. Celebrating being English is not politically correct- after all we are not a repressed minority like the Scots, Welsh and Irish. Rule 1 of PC says that the history and achievements of the majority are trumped by anyone with victim status and should be frowned upon or scorned.

The other reluctance to acknowledge Englishness is the supposed hijacking of the English flag by the "far right". This is of course a nonsense, the main potency of the image is supporting Eng-er-land during world cups and such.

One thing that struck me at the event today, however, was how much we were celebrating military victory, whether the dark ages or the war. Celebrating being english isn't about the actual fighting to remain as such, it is a collective consciousness that this is what we are in all of its multi-stranded complexity and we rather like it, whatever the weather.

Saturday, April 22, 2006

Grass alert downgrade-Defcon 3

Being the first warmish dryish day for a while, I finally ventured out with the lawnmower to give my grass bits their first cut of 2006. I wasn't alone in the task- the distant sounds in the breeze were reminiscent of a rainforest logging operation.

I have a front lawn that came with the house (open plan street scene) and the back garden was turfed by some passing vagabonds who also laid me a wonky patio, having found no opportunity to provide tarmac for the drives of what was a brand new estate back in 1995. The turf has stood the test of time, being lush, green and thick, unlike the tatty meadowturf that Persimmon provided.

However, 2005 was rather rainy in the Autumn and I never had the chance to give it a pre-winter chop. Consequently it has looked extremely rug-like the last couple of months and in need of a tonsorial tidy. When I say rug, I once went to someone's house who had a genuine shag pile which was a cross between an Afghan coat and a shaggy dog- we had to take our shoes off and they even had a special rake to comb the carpet!

People aspire to a bowling green lawn and I can only think of two domestic lawns I have ever seen that good, one of them by a professional gardener whose busines name is "Weed Free". I have always been happy with a passable lawn, although over the years I have sometimes gone away on an open ended business trip and returned to something I would half-expect to find Dr. Livingstone in.

Several bags of grass clippings later, the front is OK but the back has simply been downgraded from a disgrace to bloody awful. Henceforth I propose to categorise my grass cutting in the Pentagon style:

Defcon 5 - Wilderness
Defcon 4 - Shagpile
Defcon 3 - Looks rough
Defcon 2 - In need of a cut
Defcon 1 - Tidy (i.e. cut well less than a week ago)

Thanks to the Religious Policeman for the inspiration.

Monday, April 17, 2006

Mermaids and rude food...

Danish footnote- we went to see the little mermaid, of course, although there was one at the airport, another at the hotel and hundreds in the souvenir shops. The soft focus postcards don't prepare you for the somewhat industrial background and we were braving freezing sleet and stair-rod rain by the time we got to her. David risked the rocks and possible falling in the water to pose next to her but most grockles stayed in their tourist coaches. I noticed that there was a discreet waterproof camera trained on her near the waterline and I don't know if it was a webcam or (more likely) a police watch for beheadings- she has been vandalised several times over the years.

One other odd sight- both Karen and I couldn't keep a straight face when we saw some wittily named sweets in Tivoli. I saw them again at the Zoo so invested 11 DKR in two boxes, the wine gums in the green box and the liquorice in the black box. Both David and Karen liked the wine gums but they both hated the liquorice as it tasted very salty. I thought that it being very salty was somewhat appropriate and find it hard to believe that the author of Pippi Longstocking didn't know the english meaning of her chosen title.

David was very puzzled as to why I wanted to keep the boxes, I explained it was for my "interesting box collection" which now stands at two.

Sunday, April 16, 2006

Wonderful, wonderful, Copenhagen

At school, one of our deputy Heads asked how many had heard the song Wonderful, Wonderful Copenhagen. Most of us had, but none of us had a clue where it was. We are just back from a short city break to Copenhagen, Capital of Denmark. I'd visited more than 20 years previously (and unexpectedly) in transit from Paris to Oslo, promised myself another visit and finally got round to returning.

Tivoli was a definite must, the romantic pleasure gardens in the heart of town a couple of minutes walk from our Hotel. Although bitterly cold, we went in every day, buying writstbands for the rides on one of them. My favourite was the Rutschebanen, their 1914 wooden rollercoaster that still features a brakeman (5 rows back in this photo), something rather uncommon in Britain now (only Great Yarmouth Scenic Railway springs to mind).

We also went to Bakken, reputedly the oldest amusement park in the world and a complete contrast to Tivoli, being in a large country parkland forest with a background of trees rather than copper domed towers. It also has an old woodie, this time with the brakeman right at the back.

Another visit was the Round Tower, the Experimentarium and the Zoo as well as the National Museum, the Post & Telephone museum and the Little Mermaid. To fulfill my urge to go up high structures, we went to Vor Frelsers Kirke with the staircase round the outside of the spire, a very strange experience indeed.

Two let-downs- some ruins under the Parliament building were closed for refurbishment and the Town Hall tower was unexpectedly closed- probably because of Easter, but no signs saying so (& I can read/speak a little Danish from my Norway experiences as it is similar to Norwegian).

Something Copenhagen is famous for is Hot Dogs... I'm not quite sure why as they weren't anything unusual, just widely available from street kiosks all over town. Our favourites were the French style, where they spike a hole down the bun, squirt mayo inside then squeeze the sausage in afterwards.

Is Copenhagen wonderful? Yes it is. Charming, urban, cosmopolitan, vibrant, relaxed, friendly, very European and the most relaxed of the nordic countries in culture. Rather expensive though! By the way, if you have been humming it, the song was by Danny Kaye...

Tuesday, April 11, 2006

Eclesiastical architecture

I spent my birthday visiting three Cathedrals in London. The first, Westminster Abbey, is a grockle production line, incredibly popular, frequently crowded and extremely cluttered with memorials to the dead. They charge a Tenner to get in and it doesn't even have public toilets...

The second was to Westminster Cathedral, the unfinished Catholic edifice to the West. It has an impressive tower (with a lift) but sadly, it was closed that day. It is built from brick and concrete and is rather disappointing with the acres of black painted brick in the lofty spaces.

The third visit was to st Pauls and i particularly enjoyed the visit to the golden gallery which exposes Wren's famous brick cone to public view whilst traversing the numerous cast iron spiral staircases and platforms within the outer dome. It is a long way up but well worth it (and only £9!)

Friday, April 07, 2006

Letters to the editor...

I read in the letters pages this week of the morley Obs that Stewart McArdle, independent Councillor for Morley North, observed an election candidate giving his house a wide berth when leafleting for the Leeds Election next month. He doesn't say who it was so it is just speculation, but it is interesting to observe how members of political parties begin to regard anyone not for them as against them. Indeed, I pulled up at my house one day a few months ago to find a Labour Town Councillor walking back down my front path who visibly started and then looked guilty when he realised it was me and he had just leafleted my house.

Stewart McArdle writes cogent letters and I have considerable admiration for his musical knowledge he has imparted to Morley FM, even though I don't always agree with his views on Government being the solution rather than the problem. In passing, there is a review of Morley High School's recent show on page 18 by an SM, I wonder if it is Stewie Mc? it could be, the prose style looks familiar.

On the same page as the show review, there is an "advertisement feature" titled Call in experts for electrics about not being allowed to do your own wiring any more, sidelined with an advert from John Prescott's ODPM telling us that the new rules are for our own good, as of course, no matter how competent we think we are, we might not be. There is an irony here, because an accompanying photo of a tradesman wiring up a distribution box is definitely not to code, it includes an American mains socket which isn't earthed and the wiring colours aren't european. How odd!

Tucked away on page 20 is a letters extra. The first letter is having a go at Coun Gareth Beevers for having the audacity to not be restanding in the Leeds elections next month. It also speculates on the possible reasons which may or may not be wide of the mark. The second letter is having a go at prospective candidate Terry Elliott who it is implied was instrumental in getting rid of the Morley Magistrates Court and his Committee recommended the closure. from previous chats with Terry, I suspect that recommended is not the right word, perhaps agreed to based on Hobson's choice?

Apparently, the two letters are from ladies with different names but a common lineage- I'm told they are sisters. I also wonder whether they share something else in common, namely memebrship of the Labour Party and a willingness to agree to submit letters written by others in their name?

Of course, if you throw enough mud, some sticks. Both of the "victims" will undoubtedly write rebuttals, which will either clarify matters or add fire to the flames.

I've always been of the view that the best politicians are the ones who don't actually want to do the job but once elected get on with it. I suspect that Terry Elliotts' motives to stand are to keep the opposition out rather than any form of self-aggrandisement.

My own motives to stand on Morley Town Council were two-fold: I wanted to keep out the BNP and I wanted to have my say at Town Council meetings, where I frequently cringed at the lack of cogent discussion and the roughshod handling of correct due process. I have frequently been outspoken in the (coming up to) two years since I was elected but I continue to feel uncomfortable about the fervent spending of other people's money and the role that the council actually has which is simply a Parish Council no matter how much some Members hanker for the old days pre-1974. Whilst we have become a Quality Council, I remain to be convinced that it actually gives us any particular capabilities that cannot be distorted and twisted by both local and central Government if what we decide doesn't suit them. It is as if we have been delegated responsibility rather than authority, which is generally the wrong way round...

Training day

Today, David's school is closed due to staff training. Most parents reckon that they all nip down to the Pub, but the staff do get a trainer in to cover off some initiative or other.

David could have gone to his regular after school club, however Karen had some holidays to take and I was owed a day in Lieu after doing some weekend work so we have been out and about.

In the morning, we went to Meanwood Valley Urban Farm which is something David had heard about. It stars Donkeys, Chickens, Rabbits, Sheep, Pigs, Ducks and Goats, as well as some Frogs apparently suffering bombing raids by Herons. The Hens were all cooped up rather than free range, presumably due to all of this avian flu business. We also discovered a very old cat called Tiddles, who was apparently 18 years old.

The place is accessible and features an environmentally friendly main building (called the Epicentre) that features a very prominent turf roof. Being Spring, the gardens look a bit scraggy at the moment but it is probably worth a re-visit in high Summer.

The was an amusing sign in the newest building opposite the Cafe/Bookshop saying Guinea Pigs for sale, with a graphic picture of a rabbit. Underneath, someone had added- "sorry, we couldn't find any pictures of a Guinea Pig" in Biro. I was interested to see that the roof solar panels were generating 500 watts today from an overcast sky.

Whilst there wasn't much to keep you amused for too long, it only costs £1 to get in (under 12s free) and it sounds like a school trip there is great fun with activities involving mud, worms and rare breeds.

There is an exhibition in the epicentre upstairs, but it is a rather preachy Green save the planet sort of thing about recycling that our MP would enthuse about. It was also guarded today by an uncommunicative cleaner with a mop and what smelt like highly concentrated bleach!

The late afternoon was spent in Driglington Library where there was a Spongebob Squarepants event scheduled for 3:15. David had great fun colouring in and taking part in activities whilst I worked my way through the non-fiction shelves. Drig library is fairly small but does have an adjoining community Hall in a similar style to the Gildersome complex. This building opened in 1972 under the auspices of Morley Borough Council, who obviously decided to spend a lot of their money on amenities when they knew their demise was iminent.

Perusing the assorted leaflets, I came across Colin's Chat, the regular newsletter of CCMP. It suddenly struck me that I hadn't received one of these for a couple of months, indeed since I interviewed him on Morley FM. (& I thought I gave him an easy time of it!) In there, he commented on the great smoking debate and how he voted for a complete ban.

As a reformed smoker, I would be expected to be very anti-smoking but that is not the case. I don't like the smell of ciggys but I'm of the view that if people want to live unhealthy lifestyles with cigarettes, drugs, booze or poor diets, that is their own choice, as long as they don't force me to do it. If owners of private property wish to allow, bar or compromise on smoking on their premises, it is up to them, not the nanny state. A Pub remains private property regardless to the term "public house" and Market forces will sort it out without having to order anyone to do anything as people will vote with their feet. The rather fatuous excuse of "what about the workers?" doesn't hold much water with me either as plenty of people who work in Pubs smoke anyway.

Colin says "Only one third of the population now smokes, and many of them want to give up. This legislation should be welcomed." By who? 17th century religious zealots? Typical of Labour to "help" people because they can't help themselves and the Government knows best. I get they would get really upset if everyone actually stopped, think of the revenue loss...

Monday, April 03, 2006

Is there an election on?

We have had our first bit of political junk mail for the May Council elections, after a two year sabbatical from all of this voting business. Like the first cuckoo of spring, it heralds an end to miserable old Winter and the promise of better times (well, if you believe a politicians promise- they offer you the moon on a stick but after they get in you realise it is frequently the wrong end of a shitty stick!)

The first leaflet is a little previous arriving on Saturday morning, seeing as how the deadline for candidate submissions is Noon today and the publication of nominated candidates isn't until Wednesday.

The organisations have been fighting a phoney war for a few weeks now in the local rag and rumours have been circulating about possible candidates. Former Councillor Sherry Bradley will be restanding in Morley South hoping to win her seat back (and presumably job on the Exec if Labour take overall control again) and she is up against Terry Elliott, Husband of Judith Elliott who is the replacement Morley Borough independent after Gareth Beevers has decided not to restand, owing to work committments (well, that is the official reason, I have my suspicions that it isn't the only reason, we haven't heard much from him in the Press recently and he doesn't get along to as many Town Council meetings as he used to either.)

Anyway, Terry's leaflet is first through the letterbox and it is the usual double-sided lime green A4 flyer.It is perhaps a little too dull to Fisk, although I would question how many Morley Police Forums he has actually been to recently rather than the most recent one and then lots when he was on the Police Authority but that was a long time ago, I gather...

Terry is a very down to earth likeable chap and isn't one to call a spade an earth inverting, horticultural instrument. I always enjoy my natters with him and we had a chat at the end of the recent Mayor's Ball when he confirmed he was indeed going to stand. He also told me that being a Magistrate was all about applying common sense rather than getting obsessed with sentencing guidelines and admitted that when I queried something about his OBE, he hadn't actually bothered to read the associated bumpf about suitability of wearing it with White tie etc. as explained by Martin Wainwright on Morley FM.

One final thing- every time I see the MBI scales logo, I am reminded about a rather sick joke about a murder, a patio and a bike rack...