Monday, August 28, 2006

It isn't just the Flamingoes that are pink...

We went to Flamingoland over Bank Holiday weekend. It has recently been featured on telly as "Theme Park" and we recognised the owner moving round the site (who we briefly spoke to) as well as one of the casual staff, a bloke who was seen at the interview asking if he was able to smoke.

I was intriegued about a new accommodation block that had been shown on the telly, many of the rooms had ill-placed girders getting in the way. I eventually twigged that a former scary walk through that I had never managed to get into had been converted so I guess you take the girders as you find them...

They have a new rollercoaster called Kumani but my sorry saga begins at Velocity, their new for 2005 ride.

It is a launched coaster a bit like Alton Towers' "Rita" but it is themed as Motorbikes. I have been conscious of being a rather snug fit at both Alton Towers and Drayton manor this year- the site of several operators pushing on my restraints to make them click has become all too common. This was repeated on velocity, which is a sit-on pretend motorbike which you pull on the handlebars and a back pad sandwiches you in. They gave me a good squashing on despatch but assured me that I wasn't too big for the ride.

The ride is fairly simple, you coast round to a launch position and the train attaches itself to an aircraft carrier style catapult driven by a substantial steel wire rope, accompanied by bike revving noises. On launch, the catapult rapidly accelerates you up to 67mph and then you disengage, rushing round loops, swirls and bunny hops back to the station some 45 seconds later.

That was when the trouble started. When the train stopped, the mechanism disengaged and everyone got off... except me. Mine didn't release, presumably because I was squashed in without enough play for the ratchet to disengage. All of the platform staff came across and started pushing, pulling and poking in an effort to free me. Crimson with embarassment, Karen led David off the platform to go and look at the ride photo. Meanwhile, several hundred people queueing for the ride were watching with interest. visions of them having to call first the engineering team and then the fire brigade flashed before my eyes. Sooner or later, one of them would reach for the radio and announce a code 42- Ride down, fat bastard stuck on the train, bring goose grease and large spanners.

Then, unexpectedly, there was a soft click and if freed up. I extricated myself from the saddle to a ragged cheer from the onlookers. I gave my audience a swift bow and went down the exit ramp to look at the photo.

Had I been stuck another couple of minutes longer, I no doubt would have been given a round of applause. Thank heavens for one thing- ITV weren't filming that day!

Friday, August 25, 2006

Morley- Cultural Mecca of South Leeds (Late September, good weather applied for)

We are having our very own literary festival next month, over the last weekend of September. Vague details here (no website as yet.)

It is excellent value at £2 entry for the two headline events featuring well-known Tykes Gervaise Phinn & Ian McMillan. What also caught my eye was a fringe event for designing a Morley Town Centre Map. Hmm. I have already spoken of our new map which I regard as rather Cack. Maybe the organisers also know this and hope something better might turn up courtesy Joe public?

The Literary festival looks like a good event, although I can't see it keeping the piss-heads away from the Pubs, luring the Chavs from their sofas or the scratters from their scraps down in't Bottoms.

Why is the event so cheap? Because it is being funded by public money, Leeds Area South are funding it but to what amount I don't know. (I could find out easily enough but can't be Arsed.) MTC are lobbing in a Monkey or two and the Obtiser are involved.

I have to admit to being a bit hypocritical here- I gratefully accepted £11k+ of Area money to get Morley FM off the ground. However, they were going to spend it anyway so it was nice that it went to us rather than Dyslexic Anglican too-tall Windsurfers or whatever PC causes otherwise chase for the wonga up for grabs.

Wouldn't it be nice if they just lets us keep the money in the first place, rather than tax it off us and then give some of it back to whatever trendy bandwagon is flavour of the month?

The trouble is, once it is seen as someone else's money, it doesn't seem to matter any more. No-one treats a Company Car as well as if it actually belonged to them and the higher up one goes, the less painful it gets. We give the EU bucketfuls of money which we gratefully receive back (well some of it) on grandiose projects that if the Council or Government proposed would see them voted out of office and prosecuted for malpractice.

It isn't someone else's money, it is ours. There ain't no UK PLC, Governments don't create wealth, only people and businesses do. All Governments can do is tax it...

These libertarian views explain why fellow Councillors regard me as a loose cannon on Morley Town Council as it goes without saying in the minds of my colleagues that we have to do what is best for other people which also involves spending other people's money. I don't want us to employ more policemen, gardeners, Town Centre Managers and the like, I want us to hold Government to account and put our own precept down as we pay far too much tax already, much of which is wasted. We will inevitably have an admin overhead to exist and I don't mind the Mayor organising civic dos with some cheese & twiglets but I don't regard our role as redistribution of wealth or topping out the shortcomings of Leeds City Council.

In the words of Monty Python, my hovercraft is full of eels.

(I just put that in to finish off the blog entry. Why? Because I can.)

Update: I mistyped Gervaise Phinn, now corrected. I have been told by two people now that he is not as good as his books, so to speak. Indeed, I can remember my Mum saying that about James Herriott whom she saw at a society do (Her Bosses were upper class and she occasionally got invited to dos at Lumley Castle).

A spitting image line just popped into my head, of young David (Steel) addressing his troops before an election, where he had famously told them in 1981 to "go back to your constituencies and prepare for Government". It was parodied as "Go back to your Constituencies and prepare for a bit of a disappointment..."

Tuesday, August 22, 2006

Back from a break

We've been away in Anglesey for a holiday, an Internet free zone. (Well, the cottage was!)

Returning to Morley, one is struck as to how un-rural it is. Morley celebrates its Industrial Revolution heritage quietly, but everywhere you look, the 19th century remains tell their own story to those who wish to listen.

Some things you can see frequently without looking and occasionally a detail catches the eye. Queen Street is full of quirky victorian frontages and many people don't see Morley Train tunnel carved in the Town Hall entablature until it is pointed out to them.

Something odd struck me today though. Parking in the car park beside Wilkinsons is a bit fiddly as the bays are rather tight. Furthermore, the central block has a large wooden post projecting between the bays and protecting a number of diamond shaped planter areas for trees. Unfortunately, however, the trees are all dead or long gone...

Monday, August 07, 2006

New maps in Morley

A Town Centre map has appeared next to the Town Hall in the space formerly occupied by a large rectangular metal noticeboard on two slightly ornate metal posts (which presumably dates back to the street furniture update of the late 90s when we gained a number of shelters and tall lamp posts with hanging basket hooks all in a victorian style).

I have to say that the map is a bit of a disappointment. No "you are here" key (although anyone not realising they are next to the Town hall who can't see it on the map shouldn't be let out alone anyway), a number of colour snaps of various buildings which don't seem to bear any relationship to the location of the originals, four identical photos of what I call the "clippy mat", our Town crest in an interesting tapestry/shagpile combination produced by one of the local schools. Why four views the same? I can think of three different crests around on plaster, stained glass and terrazo tile.

I have a suspicion that the Town Council had an involvement in these maps but it doesn't look like we proofed them at all as there is at least one typo- "Joseph Priestly College" indeed!

Saturday, August 05, 2006

Five hours in Spain

We recently went on a Mini-cruise with the works social club, a trip to Spain and back.
It was on the Pride of Bilbao, a P&O ship that goes from Portsmouth to Bilbao, taking 34 hours or so to get there, but only 28 to return. A trip is three nights on the ship, two there and one back.

Anyone expecting a cruise ship will be in for a shock- it is a car ferry with a few extras (like a swimming pool down in the depths and a dolphin/whale spotting club).

The ship is similar to the ones that go from Hull to Rotterdam and Zeebrugge and I have to say that the North Sea ones are to a better stanard in the fittings and catering. You don't normally see whales off Norfolk though...

We opted for inclusive meals and with hindsight that was a mistake- we were restricted to one particular restaurant in the evenings and it got rather samey. Their indian food selection rotated the meats around the styles and it was inferior to the excellent indonesian curries the North Sea ships lay on. Many of the crew were Spanish, although the blokes on the bridge and in boiler suits (mostly fixing the toilets) were Brits.

The ferry heads along the Channel, then down into the Bay of Biscay. Bay doesn't give you the feel of scale- it isn't like robin Hood's Bay or Whitley Bay, it is more akin to a Gulf, i.e. big where you can't see land...

After dolphin & whale spotting over the deeper bits, it docks at Bilbao, home of the Guggenheim Museum. We wanted to go on a trip to it but they needed 20 to run the coach and couldn't achieve that from the 1,700 or so on board so we had to satisfy ourselves with outside views of this rather stunning building. We were rather surprised that david knew who the architect was- the connection was that he had designed a concert hall for Springfield which was converted into a prison. He particularly liked the floral puppy by the entrance.

We also saw the oldest transporter bridge in the world, although we didn't get a chance to walk over the top like at Middlesborough.

The return journey was much more choppy, although not as bad as my Mum's trip a couple of months beforehand when the ship could have been more aptly titled the Vomiting Venus, a legendary North Sea ferry that plied between Newcastle and Scandinavia, rolling merrily as she went. Pride of Bilbao has stabilisers but they can only reduce the roll, not the occasional lift & slap down that is so disconcerting. (More about stabilisation here).

Getting to Portsmouth is long winded by Coach; it is even more long winded coming back when the door interlock goes wrong & the brakes won't release!

Amusing choice of in-coach movies for the journey:

Going down- Titanic
Coming back- Speed

then after spending two hours at a Services in the northampton area: The Witches (A very wierd & somewhat cak film, we never saw the end of it and don't want to either...