Wednesday, November 30, 2005

Things to do with Advent/Christmas Pt 3: Advent in Oslo

As I mentioned in an earlier post, on Monday I was in the Norwegian capital of Oslo (just for the day), with my Dad.
This was for a mild spot of Christmas shopping (Although Norway can be expensive), and to take advantage of a cheap flight to Oslo. Monday was an available day for me, so off we went.
It took over an hour to get to Oslo from the airport in Torp, so we only spent about two hours in the capital. That said it is a tiny place. I figure that the City Centre must be about the same size as Covent Garden, Westminster, and Victoria, London combined (if even that)! It certainly has a reputation of being one of the smallest capitals in Europe, in terms of geography and population.
Anyhow, this is what we saw in the space of two hours:


The National Gallery, my Dad is in the foreground.















The Royal Palace of Oslo















The National Theatre















That's me outside the Nobel Peace Prize Institute
















The Cathedral (I think!)



















The Norwegian Parliament






And to cap it all we brought some Christmas presents for the rest of the family. It looks like a great place and I am only sorry we couldn't stay there longer. Ah well, maybe another time!

Kerron's blogging

Fellow blogger, Labour comrade-in-arms, Westminster correspondent of newsletter/magazine IMPACT, and good friend Kerron Cross, was understandably unhappy about my comparing him to Jeffrey Archer. Even though I was quick to point out that I was joking and that one of them (Kerron), is a good writer and is a man of probity and integrity.
He even pointed out that I looked more like Archer! Insulting, but I did deserve it, and it is true as you can see here.

(Photos: BBC Online/Subway writers group)




And I was asking for it, esp as Archer is the sort of individual who can easily make my blood boil to the point where I feel unreasonably vindictive (towards Archer). But then he seems to have that effect on a lot of people, although I suppose I must try and be more charitable.
That said though, I was pleased to see that in his latest entry, that Kerron has mentioned that his local MP (the chap on the right) and Mike Penning (the Conservative MP for Hemel Hempstead), are 'behind bars'.
Given the fact that I was a Constituency Intern for Labour in Hemel Hepstead during the general election, and Penning ran a nasty campaign against the then sitting MP and all-round amiable bloke, Tony McWalter, I felt that there was some justice, even if it was for charity!
But then I suppose I have to be charitable ;-).

(The Voice of the Delectable Left)

Things to do with Advent/Christmas Pt 2: "Christmas blinging"

(Adrian Pingstone)

Put basically I hate it! And I have seen far worse than the picture shown here.
I love Christmas, and whilst some Christmases havebeen better than others it is an event I look forward to every year.
I love the Church services, the meeting of family and friends, the presents, the parties, the shopping (albeit with the occasional stress), the turkey, the Christmas pudding (and I am the only one in my family who likes Christmas pudding ;-) ), the mince pies, the annual Christmas market in Covent Garden, the Christmas trees, thetinsel and decorations...
Ah yes the tinsel and ecorations! I love that, but erm.. not too much of it and there has to be some style, otherwise it looks like some vulgar display in Las Vegas.
So I think I can say that I hate Christmas blinging. The act of overdecorating one's house.
I don't mind the odd front decoration mind, but not so that it is OTT and a lot of houses up and down the country tend to go OTT.
I can hear some of you going on about how pompous I am, or saying that I have a case of Bah Humbug as you read this, but with all that electricity being used, it does seem (as a news item put it the other night), to be a waste of resources and not helpful to the enviroment, and for what purpose? To show the rest of the village/town etc.. that you are a bit vulgar in your tastes!
But I am not that much of a Scrooge, so for those of you who are guilty of Christmas blinging, I hope and pray you have a Very Merry Christmas, just think a bit more about the ethics of what you are doing eh!

In Musical Praise of: The Clash

(Epic Records)

It recently occured to me to go through my CD collection and write something on why I like some of the bands/artists involved.
So to start with, I have in front of me The Clash's 'From Here to Eternity: Live', which happens to be the only album I have of them.
So why do I like them? Well I am not into punk per se (although I like the odd song here and there, such as The Undertones 'Teenage Kicks' and Joy Division's Love Will Tear Us Apart, so it's nice to find that I have some of the same tastes as John Peel ;)) but if there is one punk band I do like, it's The Clash. They are socio-political, their lyrics are poetic, they have style and they give a sense (inadvertently), of the non-jingoistic kind of patriotism that I love and which makes me proud to be British ('London Calling' always hits me at a certain level).
They do straight forward chopping chord progression rock music. How could anyone who says they are into all forms of rock and roll not enjoy 'Should I Stay Or Should I Go'? The song is simple and yethas the same drive and passion as 'Be Bop a Lula' or 'Johnny B Goode' some twenty five years before, no wonder John Lennon was a fan of the band and said of teenage Beatles fans just before his death in 1980, 'Why can't they dig the bands around now, like Clash or Queen?'
So that's why I like 'The Clash'.

Vatican Blues Part II

(BBC Online)

Further on comments regarding faith and humanism, the Vatican have published their document on homosexuality in the priesthood. Something I alluded to in an earlier entry.
According to the BBC the document says:

"But it treats homosexuality as a "tendency", not an orientation, and says those who have overcome it can begin training to take holy orders.

At least three years must pass between "overcoming [a] transitory problem" and ordination as a deacon, the rules say.

All Catholic priests take a vow of celibacy, regardless of orientation."


Well it is better than I feared, and it is worth pointing out that the document does not come from the Pope himself, but this is still not good enough. I assume that, in doing pastoral work as they should, some of the people who wrote this have dealt with priests who grapple with their sexuality (whether heterosexual or homosexual) and know that life is not that clear cut. Unless of course they are in an academic ivory tower!
Which I feel is somewhat of a harsh judgement myself, but in having struggled as a celibate heterosexual and have, have had, Christian friends who struggle and/or try to live with their homosexuality, as well as having known, and having non-Christian gay friends, I feel that this is rather unfair.
Requiring priests to live a life of celibacy is one thing, but thinking that they can 'overcome their sexuality' and if they are very good they can be a Deacon in three years, strikes me as somewhat naive. In my experience, those who choose a life of celibacy (whether short or long term), and who tend to be highly sexed, or who have an average sex drive (which accounts for a great many people), find that celibacy is an ongoing struggle that can reap emotional and spiritual rewards, but can also cause vulnerability, difficulty, and emotional pain. Those who are determined to go for the priesthood with celibacy in mind and a strong calling from God, and who have a normal or high sex drive, need our help, support, prayer, and acceptance. They do not need what appear to be patronising pats on the back and an expectation that they can be permanent supermen within a few years. To do that requires a lot of grace from God, and God knows (literally) how ofetn people slip up and try again in all kinds of things. I feel this document does not address that.
I appreciate that the Church are trying to be honest to God and themselves and do not want to harm their conscience. I also appreciate that they were trying to reaffirm Church teaching and have ended up using the wrong language, but that is beside the point. Any Church has to be both prophetic and pastoral, and I wonder whether in this case it has mislaid the pastoral aspect of their work.
Whilst I am not a Catholic, I have a lot of time, love, and respect for the Catholic Church, because whilst it has done many things in the past that bring shame, it has also done a good many good things.
But I fear this is not exactly one of it's finest hours.

What kind of humanist are you?

Put basically I am not, in case you haven't noticed I am a devout Christian, although occasionally I have my human moments ;).
That said the Moderator of 'Bloggers4Labour' recommended this questionare to me and I did it for a bit of fun, but answering as truthfully as I could and I got the following:

Handholder




You go out of your way to build bridges with people of different views and beliefs and have quite a few religious friends. You believe in the essential goodness of people , which means you’re always looking for common ground even if that entails compromises. You would defend Salman Rushdie’s right to criticise Islam but you’re sorry he attacked it so viciously, just as you feel uncomfortable with some of the more outspoken and unkind views of religion in the pages of this magazine.


You prefer the inclusive approach of writers like Zadie Smith or the radical Christian values of Edward Said. Don’t fall into the same trap as super–na├»ve Lib Dem MP Jenny Tonge who declared it was okay for clerics like Yusuf al–Qaradawi to justify their monstrous prejudices as a legitimate interpretation of the Koran: a perfect example of how the will to understand can mean the sacrifice of fundamental principles. Sometimes, you just have to hold out for what you know is right even if it hurts someone’s feelings.

What kind of humanist are you? Click here to find out.


I do try to be inclusive and find that whilst I am still very much an evangelical with firm beliefs, I tend to have an open attitude to people and creeds, so the questionare was very much worth doing.
Besides one or two of the questions did make me laugh

Tuesday, November 29, 2005

The Book Game

Something that is starting to do the rounds in 'Bloggers4Labour':

1:Take a book from your shelves with more than 200 pages.
2:Find some real person’s name there.
3:Find out his or her date of birth.
4:Find someone else born on the same day.
5:State a connection between this person and yourself

Okay then

1: (Picked at random) Betty Boothroyd: The Autobiography
2: Betty Boothroyd
3: 8th October 1929
4: (Could not find anyone born in 1929, but on October 8th 1928)Bill Maynard
5: Both of us have some association with Leicester. My family come from that part of the country and Bill Maynard is a presenter on BBC Radio Leicester

Things to do with Advent/Christmas Pt 1

(Magnus Manske)

Well I could start with the day trip to Oslo I made with my Dad yesterday, although I have yet to download the pics, so that will come later.
Suffice to say that yesterday saw the start of advent, a fact which was noted by the visiting preacher at our Church yesterday, by the fact that he wore a purple shirt with his dog collar.
After the jokes about him being promoted to the Methodist equivalent of Bishop (The boring title of Chairman of the District), he pointed out that purple is the ecclesiastical colour for advent this year.
Well you learn something new every day ;), anways according to Wikipedia, on the beginning of 'Advent':

"In Western Christianity, Advent begins on the fourth Sunday before Christmas. The earliest Advent can begin is November 27 and the latest is December 3. Very often Advent begins on the Sunday after the American Thanksgiving. Technically speaking, Advent ends on December 23. However, if December 24, Christmas Eve, should fall on a Sunday, the Sunday obligation for Catholics to attend Mass still applies, and it is treated as the Fourth Sunday of Advent, and the Vigil of Christmas is commemorated in the Mass. If December 24 occurs during the week, it is not a part of Advent; the Mass of the Vigil is said."

So you can now put up the tinsle and start the shopping without any guilt ;).

R.I.P. George Best

In the midst of all the tributes to George Best, who died last Friday, there is to be a re-release of the 1970 song written about him, 'Belfast Boy'.
The song was for a documentary, which concerned his success with 'Manchester United'.
Let's hope this helps in reminding people to primarily remember Best for the great times he had as a footballer, as opposed to his lavish lifestyle and alcoholism.

Cameron and Kerron. Er, maybe not.

(Photos courtesy of 'The Voice of the Delectable Left')

Further to our mutual truce over my unfair allegations that Kerron Cross looks like he is David Cameron's 'twin', I have come across recent evidence that I was badly wrong in my assertion.
Namely from that great sage Private Eye magazine, which has recently stated that David Cameron and Lt Commander Data from Star Trek: The Next Generation may be related.
Kerron, once again you have my full apologies, esp given your recent assertion of the fact that David Cameron may not be so much of a 'nice' Tory after all!
Although I have noticed another similarity!























Just kidding, I mean, aside from being a 'man of probity and integrity' (To paraphrase William Hague) Kerron can actually write.
(Legal disclaimer: Not that, I erm, am saying that Archer can't)

Sunday, November 27, 2005

Jeffrey Archer, back in the fold of the Conservative Party?

(Private Eye magazine)

Or so he has stated.
There are many in Labour and the Liberal Democrats, and just those who simply loathe the Conservative Party who will be privately delighted and publicly horrified, and as the machavelian Francis Urquart said in the BBC Drama 'House of Cards' 'I could not possibly comment!'.
But it is disturbing to think that after eight years, the Tories have learnt nothing, and then there is speculation that Jeffrey Archer's comments that he has rejoined is not exactly true, rather that he is applying to join.
Of course, Archer being the consumate liar he is (and I can legally say that, considering he was jailed for perjury), one has to take his assertions with a pinch of salt and of course David Cameron has said that if he gets to be leader, Archer cannot take the whip in the House of Lords, of which Archer has been a member since John Major had him enobled in 1992.
Not that this will go down well in the Conservative Party. During the interview with Archer in 'The Times' yesterday, the reporter noticed a recent invite from Margaret Thatcher prominently displayed and there was this interesting comment on Wikipedia's entry on him:

"Many of Lord Archer's friends remained loyal to him. He and Lady Archer were invited guests to the Memorial Service for Norris McWhirter at St Martin-in-the-Fields on Thursday, October 7, 2004, where they were observed sitting in the same pew as former head of the Conservative Monday Club, Gregory Lauder-Frost, and directly in front of Lady Thatcher, who made a point of embracing Lady Archer."

And let us not forget who Gregory Lauder-Frost is either, to say nothing of Norris McWhirter!

Some say that Archer has paid for his mistakes, that he served his time. That is true, but unlike, say, Jonathan Aitken, Archer has not specifically apologised for what he has done, his apologies in yesterday's 'Times' were vague as along the lines of 'we have all done things we are not proud of', without mentioning specifics and following a ten second pause.
But it is horrfying to think how easily the Tories forgive this liar, who has , with his wife, allegedly threatened revenge on those who have crossed him, and indeed, let us not forget the various very damaging stories concerning him which one can find here (and bear in mind that in his 'Prison Diary' he states that a prisoner offered to have Ms Peppiat done in and if this is not some form of bullying (Put yourself in Angela Peppiat's place for a moment and imagine how you would feel) then I don't know what is) and here.
Liam Fox is right in that we need forgiveness in politics. That said, it makes me despair when someone like John Profumo rebuilt his life after his mistakes, was sorry for what he had done, and worked hard to rebuild his marriage and add some real purpose to his life and never sought a return to the political spotlight, and then you get Archer who has never apologised, but has instead demanded it, and seems to be still well liked and popular within some sections of the Conservative Party, as Shadow Cabinet member, Alan Duncan has helpfully pointed out;

"I think anyone from any background and any experience is allowed to have political opinions. If he joins his local party - well, I'm glad anyone who thinks about life is a Conservative rather than a socialist."

Of course, being an unrepentant liar and perjurer is better than being a socialist. Thanks for that great piece of ethics Alan!
It will indeed by a sad day in British democracy if he does come back. At least without some very public grovellings of genuine apology.

Friday, November 25, 2005

Being drunk does not equal consent

I have followed a no of news reports and opinions about this case, before I thought I ought to pass comment.
I think we can all agree that rape is rape, and that anyone guilty should be prosecuted and imprisoned.
That said, whilst I can see some ambiguity on the case refered to here, I do think that if a woman is drunk and paralytic, i.e. unconscious, then that is rape, because the victim has not given their consent.
But equally I believe that if a woman, or even a man in some caes, is drunk and has consented, then that can still qualify as rape.
I can see where Judge Mr Justice Roderick Evans is coming from when he said; "drunken consent is still consent", but if someone is drunk then he or she is not in full control of their faculties and therefore cannot be said to have given proper consent.
In the same way, if a teacher has an inappropriate affair with a fifteen year old student, the student may be willing at the time, but cannot be said by the law to have had the maturity to give proper consent.
That is not saying that drunk people are immature by nature, it is saying that by the mere fact they are drunk, they cannot give a creditable judgement on making a decision.
Many couples have got drunk, had sex, and then regretted it, and I suppose the question as to whether the man was drunk can say a lot in such a case and this makes this particular case quite difficult to judge, but the fact remains that a sexual relationship, encounter, whatever, entails responsibility and I don't think that this was honoured here.
Besides what does this ruling say to the many people, particually women, who have been raped and who are afraid to come forward?

Take That reunion

(Press Association)

So Take That are going to do a reunion tour.
Some bands I was pleased to see have a reuinon of sorts (The Beatles getting back together to do the Anthology series of albums, tv series and book. Queen, admittedly minus John Deacon, going on tour with Paul Rodgers), but 'Take That'? They were awful enough first time round!
I have to admit though, I do have a prejudice against boy bands and general forms of Bubble Gum pop and suffer extensively from musical snobbery.
That said, I hope they are not back for good!

Little Britain Part 2

(bbc.co.uk/comedy/LittleBritain)


Further to the 'Drink Soaked Trot's' posting on the subject, brought courtesy of the Cramlington Village Councillor, I have to say Series Three of Little Britain is not so good.
Some of the visual gags are funny, but some get repeated to the point of being boring. As for the Cramlington Councillor's comments about Daffyd, I can see that Matt Lucas (from my reading of his comments on this) dreamt up the character after finding to his shock that no one was surprised when he came out, but it also reminds me of the comments of my late friend Tammy Wilband, who stated after seeing the first series, that the area of Wales where Daffyd is meant to be from his very patriarchal and not so tolerant.
That said, I do like the Maggie and Judy sketches, partly for the reasons you can see in the above photo ;-). And for those who saw last nights episode, I hope you noticed which newspaper Judy was reading before Maggie came in!

Thursday, November 24, 2005

Entertainment in Space

(Associated Press)


First the two guys have Paul McCartney perfoming 'Good Day Sunshine' for them, now they are shown the new Harry Potter film.
And the film was at their request! Jammy whatsits.
It's alright for some I suppose, but I suddenly feel the desire to become an astronaut, which I haven't really had for twenty years ;-).

Office Cricket

(wikipedia.org)


At last, there are official rules to the game known as 'office cricket', courtesy of Conservative Party Researcher, Michael Rutt:

"English Office Cricket .


The Official Rules.

1...If the ball is caught in one hand after bouncing only once off the walls, floor or personnel, the batsman shall be out.

2...A ball reaching the back wall after bouncing will score 4 runs.

3...A ball reaching the back wall without bouncing will score 6 runs but if it hits the left hand side of the back wall the batsman will be out.

4...The batsman will be out if his shot hits:
Sams desk or Sam without bouncing.
The colour printer without bouncing.
A ceiling light without bouncing.
The back window without bouncing (caught behind).

5...A ball will be considered a wide and score 0.333 runs if:
It passes over the Admin Desk.
It passes over the Technical Developments Desk.

6...Siblings of the Managing Director must not throw the ball when bowling.

7...If the batsman is further forward than the filing cabinet and the ball is returned to the batting crease, he shall be out Stumped.


office.cricketer@virgin.net"


My thanks to Kerron Cross for pointing this out. So Conservative Party researchers do have their positive uses after all ;-)

Addenium

Given my previous posting, it seems timely to point out another edition I made to the 'Bloggers4Labour' manifesto which I forgot to mention yesterday, regarding the licensing laws:

"In saying this however, we are aware that such policies are in their infancy and will continue to review our stance on this issue. We also appreciate that cultural attitudes towards alcohol in this country are perhaps somewhat different to attitudes on the continent."

Best's final hours

(BBC Online)

I was saddened, but not surprised when George Best's doctor announced today that he has less than twenty-four hours to live.
This has come after a long illness, caused by complications due to a liver transplant three years ago, but that in turn was caused by years of alcohol abuse.
That said, Best's battle against his alcoholism has been nothing short of heroic and only a few days ago, just before he slipped into a final coma, he arranged for photographs to be taken of him in his hospital bed in order to remind people what alcohol abuse does to you!
Best was one of the greatest footballers of his age and his talent only second to Pele, but this was overtaken by a love of extravagance and alcohol which left him a bankrupt alcoholic. One of the worst episodes being when he appeared on the Prime-timeTV Chat show 'Wogan', clearly the worse for wear.
Best made huge efforts to give up drinking several times, but like many addictions, alcoholism has no rhymne or reason about it, having a stranglehold on the people most determined to quit, so the people who poured him a pint at the end of one year of abstinence have a lot on their conscience.
It is times like this that I severely question the drinking attitudes in this country.

Earliest Photo of a US President

(wikipedia.org)

Further to yesterday's posting, as well as the one on early colour photography, I found this dagerotype taken of former US President John Quincy Adams.
Best known in modern day culture for being a character in the film Amistad, Adams (1768-1848), was the son of John Adams, one of the signatories of the US Declaration of Independence and 2nd US President. John Quincy Adams was the 6th US President and went through only one term of office (1825-1829).
The photograph was taken in 1843, at a time when Lincoln was still practising law, Queen Victoria was on the throne for only six years, and the year 'A Christmas Carol' by Charles Dickens, was first published.

Wednesday, November 23, 2005

First Photograph

(Wikipedia.org)


Further to a previous posting on photography, I thought you might appreciate this.
Believed to be the World's earliest surviving photograph, it was taken in 1826 (A year after the invention of the locomotive), and took eight hours to take.

Examining lyrics: No 2, Bohemian Rhapsody

(EMI/Queen Productions Ltd)

Further to my last posting on this subject, I thought I would turn my attention to Queen's biggest UK Hit single, considering it is now thirty years since it was released.

Bohemian Rhapsody
(Freddie Mercury)
Queen Music Ltd..

"Mama, just killed a man
Put a gun against his head
Pulled my trigger, now he's dead
Mama, life had just begun
But now I've gone and thrown it all away
Mama, ooo
Didn't mean to make you cry
If I'm not back again this time tomorrow
Carry on, carry on, as if nothing really matters"


So the guy is in trouble for committing a murder, fair enough!

"Too late, my time has come
Sends shivers down my spine
Body's aching all the time
Goodbye everybody - I've got to go
Gotta leave you all behind and face the truth
Mama, ooo - (anyway the wind blows)
I don't want to die
I sometimes wish I'd never been born at all"


And he is facing justice, one presumes.

"I see a little silhouetto of a man
Scaramouch, scaramouch will you do the fandango"


So what on Earth is this all about?

"Thunderbolt and lightning - very very frightening me
Gallileo, Gallileo,
Gallileo, Gallileo,
Gallileo Figaro - magnifico"


Reference to Gallileo being on trial for 'heresy' perhaps?

"But I'm just a poor boy and nobody loves me
He's just a poor boy from a poor family
Spare him his life from this monstrosity
Easy come easy go - will you let me go
Bismillah! No - we will not let you go - let him go
Bismillah! We will not let you go - let him go
Bismillah! We will not let you go - let me go
Will not let you go - let me go (never)
Never let you go - let me go
Never let me go - ooo
No, no, no, no, no, no, no -
Oh mama mia, mama mia, mama mia let me go
Beelzebub has a devil put aside for me
for me
for me"


Is this about a temporal or spiritual trial? I presume so far it is about a guy put on trial for murder and facing the death penalty! So why the Galileos and fandangos?

"So you think you can stone me and spit in my eye
So you think you can love me and leave me to die
Oh baby - can't do this to me baby
Just gotta get out - just gotta get right outta here

Ooh yeah, ooh yeah
Nothing really matters
Anyone can see
Nothing really matters - nothing really matters to me"


Bit of a contradiction there, he is showing a desire to fight for his case, and then 'Nothing really matters', strange!

A lot of people find the lyrics contradictory, but on face value it seems to be a song about someone being on trial for murder and eventually accepting the consequences. That said, there was an air of camp fun about the song, and whilst I suppose Mercury had written some deeper meaning to the song, consiously or subconsiously, one should accept it as it is, unless there is evidence to the contary.

Bloggers4Labour manifesto

Further to my last posting on this subject, I have actually started to take part and have added the following yesterday:

"Preface

To paraphrase what is stated on the Labour Party membership card, the Labour Party is a democratic socialist party and believes that by the strength of common endeavour we can achieve more than we can achieve alone. That we are here to help build a community where power, wealth, and oppurtunity are in the hands of the many and not of the few.
The Labour Party is not a party which supports rampant and unfettered private enterprise, but neither is it a party which believes that society should be dictated by an overwhelming policy of nationalisation; bureaucratic and suffocating. We believe that it is important to encourage freedom of the individual, but with an encouragement to social and civic responsibility. As President John F. Kennedy of the United States of America stated in his inaugural speech: “Ask not what your country can do for you, but what you can do for your country.” The Labour Party may have fostered such diverse politicans as Hugh Gaitskell and Aneurin Bevan, Tony Crosland and Richard Crossman, Dennis Healey and Michael Foot, but all have shared the same aim in the last century. That is to govern with social cohesiveness, compassion, and responsibility. To give others the oppurtunities that previous generations did not have."


And on 'secularism and religion' I added at the end

"We are however, aware of the concerns on these issues given by Christians, Jews, and Muslims, amongst others, and will endeavour to listen, sympathise with, and acknowledge those concerns, even if at times we will disagree."

In response to:

"No religious rule may take precedence over the democratic laws of the United Kingdom. Provided this is the case, our secularism is expressed as equal treatment of religions, and by not promoting or discouraging any particular faith or all, or by demanding the removal of religious symbols from the public gaze."

I would like to add on to this. How, for an extreme example, would one deal with satanists etc.. or for a lesser example, 'quakery', because one could not afford them the same religious freedom as, say, Christians, Muslims, Jews, Buddists, Hindus, Sikhs etc..
Please let me know your thoughts on that and I will try and think through a well thought-out moral and social position accordingly.

The Last Contemptible

(Redvers)


Was saddened (as it is another final link with the past cut off), but not surprised, to hear of the death of Alfred Anderson. Scotland's oldest man and the last survivor of the 1914 Christmas truce between German and British soldiers. He was 109.
Aside from being batman to one of the Queen Mother's brothers. Alfred Anderson was one of the first British conscripts to serve on the Western Front. They were called 'Contemptibles' by Kaiser Wilhelm II and the name stuck.
He is also thought to be the last surviving vetran of the 1914 Christmas truce when British and German soldiers gave up shooting and shook hands, played football, and showed each other photographs in No Man's Land.
It is one of my favourite Christmas stories and will shortly be dramatised in a film, called Happy Christmas, starring Gary Lewis.
The Christmas truce event was unique in the history of warfare and shows, I think, that there was some moral ambiguity about the rightness of the First World War (Although I appreciate that Britian's involvement was to help neutral Belgium, which had been invaded by the Germans to get at France).
More about this amazing event can be found here.

Tuesday, November 22, 2005

Carol in the Jungle

(Getty Images)

Much has been made of Carol Thatcher's appearance on 'I'm a Celebrity...' and it also looks like people are taking their dislike of her mother out on her, by voting in droves for her to take part in the first bush tucker trial.
I do think that this is unfair. Of course Carol Thatcher is not the first person to be harrassed and bullied on account of who she happens to be related to, but Carol Thatcher is Carol Thatcher, not Margaret. This means that she does not have to agree with everything her mother says and does. I am sure many of you reading, no matter how much you love your nearest and dearest, can agree with that. As the Unreality TV website states:

"Carol caused controversy in 1991 and generated a lot of media coverage when she refused to pay her Poll Tax. This was made all the more significant by the fact that it was her mother that had introduced the controversial local taxation system just a few years before amid much opposition."

Besides Carol strikes me as someone who is funny, amusing, intelligent, and full of common sense, and is clearly someone who isn't her mother.
As for her twin-brother, Mark. Well that is a different story altogether.
I am not usually fussed one way or the other about the Honours system, although I am pleased whenever a Headmaster gets a knighthood or a traffic lady gets an MBE, but when people like him succeed to a title by which they are known as 'The Hon Sir...' before their name, then that sticks in the throat.

Monday, November 21, 2005

The Death Penalty

(BBC Online)


Following the tragic murder of Pc Sharon Beshenivsky. The former Metropolitan Police Chief, Lord Stevens, has called for a return for the death penalty in the UK.
This has been rejected by Downing Street, and even by right-winger David Davis, who has said that now is not the time to make such judgements.
Aside from the fact that this is the second time that I have surprisingly found myself agreeing with a right-wing Conservative, the problem with such comments is that they are usually made in the heat of the moment in the face of a heinous crime, and is usually an emotive statement, as opposed to a well considered one.
As you may have guessed I am against the death penalty per se (Although I am open minded on high war crimes, such as those perputrated by the Nazis), and that is for two reasons.
The first reason is, strangely enough, for the same reason I am generally pro-life (The casual stereotype being that pro-life people are pro death penalty and pro-choice are not). In that human life is sacred, and every human being has rights and dignity that should be respected, no matter how foul and objectionable we find that individual, or how difficult and objectionable the circumstances. As long as an individual has a chance to repent, we must not deny them that chance. The only time I would be open to the death penalty is where the options available are narrow, and the crimes are so sickenly awful (such as the Holocaust), that one doesn't know what else to do, realistically speaking.
The second reason is, how does one know when you have the right person! You cannot say that Timothy Evans death was regrettable but at least a principle was involved. That diminishes human dignity! And what about the Birmingham Six and the Guildford Four? Had the death penalty been around in the mid-1970s, the noose would have almost certainly gone around their necks, whilst the Balcombe Street Gang (Who are belived to be actually responsible for the Guildford and Woolwich pub bombings), were busy shooting Pc Tibble and Ross McWhirter, as well as blowing up resturants.I am not detracting from the crimes for which people tend to call for the death penalty. They are vicious, horrible, and those responsible should be severely punished. Like many I am disgusted and appalled by Pc Beshenivsky's murder and sincerely hope and pray that those responsible are caught, and soon. The factthat her daughter's fourth birthday took place on the day of the murder, is a situation where one cannot help but feel for someone who will likely view her birthday with ambivelence for the rest of her life.
But that said, we must not diminish our own human dignity in wanting to catch those who have little or none for their crimes.
Nor can we be 100% sure when we do have prime suspects in custody that we have the right people, and that is why I feel that Lord Stevens is wrong in making these comments, and why I feel he is being emotive, rather than reasoned.

In the bleak Midwinter



Arrived home earlier than usual today, only to find that it was unusually misty for an early afternoon, so I took this photo from the study window of my home at 2:50PM this afternoon.
And they think it will snow next week!

Sunday, November 20, 2005

Nuremberg trials

(Associated Press)


Further to Jo's piece on Middle Earth characters, she has also pointed out that today is the sixtieth anniversary of the start of the Nuremberg Trials.
I saw a brief piece on it in the Guardian yesterday, and was once again struck by the portraits and photographs I have seen over the years, regarding the trials, showing these once proud, defiant men reduced to shambling wrecks (apart from perhaps Goring who was perhaps at his most mesmerising and demonic). A clear example of what evil people can be like when they have no choice but to face up to their crimes.
Lets help make today another reminder of what we must not forget.

To which race of Middle Earth do You Belong?

Numenorean
Numenorean


To which race of Middle Earth do you belong?
brought to you by Quizilla
Found this on Jo Salmon's site.
Was a bit surprised, but I am content with it.

Christmas bazzar

(www.twgoose.freeserve.co.uk)

I am usually a stickler for the proper ways to celebrate Advent/Christmas.
That means I refuse, point blank to buy any Christmas presents before the first Sunday in Advent, that I cannot abide to see any decorations put up before then etc.. etc..
Of course I am fully aware that I am being somewhat unreasonable here! To organise for a succesful Christmas, generally speaking, we need to get ready fairly early, and I do speak as someone who has the luxury of being single and yet not living on my own, so I don't suffer from some of the stresses that many people have in preparing for Christmas.
But all of that said, it was yesterday morning, as opposed to next Sunday (27th Nov), that it all seemed to start for me. Baldock Methodist Church were having their Christmas bazzar a week earlier than planned, so as not to clash with the Baldock United Reformed Church's Christmas bazzar, and I had to be there to help take part.
This meant getting up slightly earlier than usual on a Saturday morning, and having time to appreciate the morning frost (so much so I committed the extra personal heresy of putting on a 'Best Christmas Album in the World...' CD on, so as to appreciate such a sunny winter morning),and finding at the very last minute, that I forgot to put the scones out to defrost the night before (Although nothing that couldn't be handled with a slow heat, with foil on top, in in the Chruch oven).
Then it was helping to make teas and coffees all morning, plus washing-up afterwards. More people than usual and well over £100 raised from what I have heard.
Roll on Christmas! Although I find that once you put on a Christmas CD, it is difficult to get out of the habit. I am currently listening to the glorious musical offering known as 'Merry Christmas Everybody' by Slade.

Saturday, November 19, 2005

George Galloway

(Getty Images)

Ah yes, the other, far more famous, and controversial bete noire.
According to the BBC, he has praised the Syrian President for standing up to the US. In the same speech, Galloway attacked the US for supporting Saudi Arabia, which has a poor human rights record.
Of course Syria must be a beacon of light in comparison, and has never committed any human rights abuses in the last few months, let alone the last few years.
I am sure Galloway will stand to the courage of his convictions and explain his comments to the Lebanese.
Or is he busy saluting the Syrian President's courage, strength, and indefatigability?
If Galloway wants to be an effective critic of US Foreign policy, he should realise that stopping sucking up to alleged political undesirables helps.
Oh and being a regular attender of the House of Commons if he wants to be an effective MP? After all, his supporters alleged vile attacks on the previous MP for Bethnal Green and Bow, Oona King must have made obtaining the seat worth while!

Claire Fox

(bbc.co.uk)

A woman whom I had only very vaguely heard of, but of whom I read an interview with in today's Guardian.
I was by turns, bemused, shocked, annoyed, and left wondering how it is that those who start off right-wing end up very left wing, as opposed to those who start off left wing ending up very right-wing, which I find equally interesting.
It can't be so much a total beliefs of absolutes, as I am very committed to the principle of absolute truths and, by political definition, am a centerist. But then my political philosophy which has led me to the old right of the Labour Party (The values of Gaitskell, Healey, Hattersley, and Brown), is governed by my inate Christian belief that all human beings are fallible, occasionally downright stupid, and cannot be trusted to build utopias on Earth. It is that which has led me to being a 'Social Democrat', believing that a nations day-to-day life run mainly by the state, or by private enterprise, is doomed to failure because it is run by failing human beings.
And that is why I found Fox's views difficult and offensive. It doesn't properly take into account that people (and I am not being snobbishly patrician, I count myself here as well) have moral compasses that can go way off-kilter in certain circumstances.
For a start I found it unsettling that Fox and her Institute of Ideas are allegedly linked to American pro-gun groups, and had links in the past to a very nasty Trotskyist organisation.
She has also stood up for Gary Glitter downloading child porn, backed GM technology, and attacked multicultural society.
And at the root of it, Fox argues for the 'Freedom of the individual'. You see where that belief gets you when you take the idea by itself.
Fact is, decisions have cosnequences. The easy access to guns have had far reaching and damaging consequences. You only have to ask the families of those killed in Columbine, as well as widows of celebrities such as Yoko Ono and Ethel Kennedy to know that. As I said in an earlier post, some laws are there to protect society from the lack of self-control of others, not to deprive people of their general freedoms.
Then there are the Trotskyist groups. I have always looked at the far left and far right in this country with dripping, if not equal contempt. I have seen the damage their views have done, the scars they have left on people, the fear they cause, and the incalculable damage done to the political careers of those who worked hard to serve their respective communities. In the 1980s it was the Trotskyist faction Millitant Tendency, which ripped at the heart of many Labour Party CLP's, damaged livelihoods, and harmed the decent hard work committed by many councils up and down the land. They also helped keep Margaret Thatcher in power, and with the creation of some of the dissatisfied right-wing of the Labour Party of the SDP, helped make sure that there was no cohesive opposition to the Conservative Government. The damage caused by Millitant was well put by the then Labour Leader, Neil Kinnock at his speech at the Labour Party Conference in Bournemouth in 1985:

"I'll tell you what happens with impossible promises. You start with far fetched resolutions. They are then pickled into a rigid dogma, a code, and you go through the years sticking to that, out-dated, misplaced, irrelevant to the real needs, and you end in the grotesque chaos of a Labour council - a Labour council - hiring taxis to scuttle round a city handing out redundancy notices to its own workers."

As for downloading child porn. Fox states that it is better than actual abuse!?!
To put it plainly, that is disgraceful. Generally speaking, thoughts and ideas can easily lead to actions. The damage done in child abuse can be incalculable and horrific. I only wonder if Fox is prepared to accept that her own ideas can have far fetched and damaging consequences.
When the photographer asked if he could take a photo of Fox next to some posters with suggestive words, Fox agreed to be photographed next to the words 'Rigor', 'Accesibility','Originality', 'Experience', but refused to be photographed next to the word 'Pragmatism'.
Typical of someone from the hard-left or hard-right, the inhability to realise that pragmatism and a strong moral compass is needed to help keep society alive and that whilst ideas are one thing, the falibility of human nature is something else.

Friday, November 18, 2005

Harriet

(wikipedia.org)

As John Cleese said at the start of every episode of Monty Python: "And now for something completely different"
The media coverage this week has included the news that Harriet the Tortoise has just had her 175th birthday (confirmed by DNA testing), and is probably the oldest living animal on the planet!
I can find that easy to believe.
It was at first thought that Harriet was a male and was originally called Harry. It was also thought that it was Charles Darwin who found her in 1835 and brought her to Britian on HMS Beagle, although that is now considered unlikely.
She now lives in Queensland, Australia.
It is astonishing to think though, that when Harriet was born, Napoleon had been dead for less than a decade, there were people still living who could remember the US War of Independence, William IV was on the British throne (His niece, and heir and successor, the future Queen Victoria, was just eleven years old). Steam trains were literally still in their infancy, it would take weeks to travel across the Atlantic, the Antarctic Continent had yet to be explored, let alone the South Pole, there was still serfdom in Russia, the Pope that year was Pius VIII (soon to be followed by Gregory XVI), Dickens had yet to publish his first novel, Byron had been dead for just six years, Wordsworth was still alive, as was William Wilberforce.
The Reform Bill had yet to be passed (so there were still MP's serving rotten-borough constituencies which consisted of, to paraphrase Blackadder, a small farm, a peasant, and a daschund called Colin).
And Harriet has lived through the advent of electricity, the telephone, planes, cars, space travel, the growth and decline of empires and republics, all of this and is only aware of human comfort, lettice and other foods and a stress-free life.

The Result Part 2

Re-reading last night's blog entry makes it look like I was suffering from sour grapes, which is actually not the case, although I am obviously disappointed for those who voted for me, and am disappointed that I had only 5% of the vote (which has never happened to me before!).
The results, to use the old political cliche, are ones which will have to be analysed for the coming weeks, although there was clearly a strong anti-Conservative vote there. Those of us in the Labour Party will have to work hard in the coming months to show that we are a strong and viable alternative to the Tories and Lib Dems in Baldock.
But the day was pleasant enough. Got up at Six AM, was down in Baldock by Eight, to meet up with Daniel Summers from the Eastern Region Office (and who heralds from Clothall Common), who brought some last minute leaflets which I asked for. We then spent the morning delivering, with a bit of help, and spent the day trying to get people out to vote.
The afternoon saw the opening of the first postal votes at the council offices in Letchworth, although we didn't see the ballot papers face-up, we found out quickly how many had voted by post, which was 150 out of 221 postal votes sent out.
With the Polls closing at Nine, it was a trip to Baldock Community Centre for the count (where incidentally, for those outside Baldock, we had the Polling Station).
It was obviously clear within the first twenty seconds, let alone five minutes, that I had lost, and by a wide margin. That said it was now a battle between the Tories and Lib Dems and as there was a seven vote difference at the end there was a recount.
By this stage, I felt it was pointless staying in the room where the count was conducted and went to the main room, where some senior local Tories were sitting and chatted with them for a few minutes about the narrow margin between them and the Lib Dems.
I also rang and texted a few friends, some of whom seemed more disappointed for me than I was, but I find that is the way sometimes.
The recount proved to the figures to be the same as before, plus one spoilt ballot paper, which the returning officer said was unusual, but a relief.
Then home, feeding the cats, locking up, writing and phoning a few people, watching some tv and then bed, all in order.
This morning I feel tired, although very relaxed, and relieved that there was no crowing and rubbing it in over the result by the winners and bad grace shown by the losing sides (which can so easily happen at election counts). That said, Les Wilsher was clearly hurt and disappointed, but who wouldn't be in losing by just seven votes!

Thursday, November 17, 2005

The Result

Paul David Burgin (Lab) 31
Marilyn Kirkland (Lib Dem) 331
Leslie Wilsher (Con) 324

Okay so I lost, and badly as well. Although I gather many switched simply to help keep the Tories out, and who can blame them!
Obviously this is not the result I hoped, although the Conservatives will have to ask themselves why they lost and pay far more heed to the genuine concerns of the people of Baldock and not go for cosmetic impressions.
As for the Liberal Democrats? Well I wish them well, they fought hard, although I think they will have to define their policies more and take into account that whilst 331 people voted for them, 355 people who voted were not sufficently impressed with their manifesto.
My thanks to those who helped, to the 31 who voted (I will try and continue to stand for your concerns, albeit from another direction due to the election result), and I will endeavour to help make Labour a stronger voice in Baldock for those who feel left out of the decisions that are made for the town.
But for now, I think I will collapse in front of the TV and then to bed.

Wednesday, November 16, 2005

Less than thirty-six hours and counting...

Apologies for not making an entry yesterday, but things got a bit busy.
Being in the last week of campaigning, things change slightly. You start to help organise and arrange what should be done on the day, you change tactics slightly in campaigning, and you get a tiny bit nervous, not so much because you might win or lose, but because it is coming up to the final day.
Monday evening saw more canvassing, some individuals have still yet to make up their minds, some are mentioning their concerns still, such as the road in Yeomanry Drive, which one or two want to see a major renovation on. Some are concerned about Baldock Town Hall, and are worried the Conservatives will be selling it off to some private business (The same fears regarding the village green in Yeomanry Drive)! I sincerely hope the Conservative-controlled North Herts District Council will not be doing that, because to do so will permanently damage a lot of goodwill from many in Baldock, and I shall be fighting to make sure that the Town Hall is used to serve Baldock in the spirit of which it was intended.
Then there are the Liberal Democrats!
They say Labour cannot win in Baldock East! Well no more than the other parties involved, we had some very good canvass returns in the Ward in the General Election, if we didn't think we could win we would not have put in the effort we have done, and have still to do.
They also say that the Town Hall should be used for the benefit of Baldock people. I am sure many agree with that, but what do they mean exactly? Because there is feeling that it should not be sold off to some private business and instead should be used as an active community, or active and open council building.
So please, for those of you who live in the Ward. Think about your vote tomorrow, use it wisely, please go out and vote above all, as it is your chance to be involved in choosing an individual who you feel can best represent you on North Herts District Council for Baldock East.

Monday, November 14, 2005

Remembrance Sunday and the final week

(RollofHonour.com)

First of all apologies for not using a photograph of the memorial with the wreaths left yesterday. I was all set to take some pictures this afternoon, only for the batteries in my camera to decide that that would be the moment to pack up.
Anyway I was stewarding at Baldock Methodist Church yesterday, so that meant opening up the church and making sure everything was in order and waiting for the first people to arrive (mainly those who for various reasons would not be going to the memorial), before making my way down to the War Memorial.
There were double the amount of people from last year, which was encouraging, and it all went well (apart from one of the amplifiers refusing to work). Once again we were struck by the sacrifices made for our country and the sacrifice made by those who died in the various armed conflicts Britain has been involved in. You can sense the feelings of everyone in the crowd feeling,as you do, that these men died for our freedom, and that is a sobering thought when it hits home.
Then it was back to the Methodist Church (It was our turn to host the main service this year), and quickly getting out some more chairs.
Tea and coffee afterwards was somewhat strange as I found myself engaging in friendly general chit-chat with the two Baldock Town Councillors, Ian Knighton and Michael Weeks (Both Conservative). Councillor Weeks (a man of dry wit), even wished me luck on Thursday, before adding 'Obviously I hope you lose.'
'Likewise for you lot' was my reply. It's always strange chatting with local politicans from the other parties. We take care to divorce politics from personality, and yet one has to be careful what one says in general conversation, so there are the smiles, the friendliness, but with the old saying 'Say whatever you want, but whatever you say, say nothing!'
And I have still to meet my Lib Dem opponent! Ah well, these things happen.
Then there was a spot of canvassing, with more complaints about Yeomanry Drive, as well as more calls for the field off Yeomanry Drive to be turned into a village green. Concerns which we have noted and have put in our latest leaflet.
Today involved another campaign drive through parts of the Ward, finishing off at Magdalene Court. I said to the Manager of the building 'I expect you have had an overkill of campaigning and material from all of us over the last few weeks!'
'Well yes, although you are the first today.'
So for those of you in the Ward who have felt overkill from the main parties, I can only apologise from my side and say that this is a regrettable aspect of by-elections, although I hope you have had enough material to make an informed judgement on Thursday. All I ask is that you give the Baldock Labour Party a chance to serve and prove that we are capable of representing Baldock East on North Herts District Council.

Saturday, November 12, 2005

Final Furlong


Today marks the last weekend before Polling Day.
And it has been interesting. Was canvassing last night and the usual Lab/Tory/Lib Dem mix of those being canvassed, plus some don't know's. But many of the residents have the same voice in that they feel let down by their local council.
One resident complained about the litter near her home, as well as the street waste that she comes across, and added her concerns about people parking on the grass verge. The woman in question also pointed out to me that a lot of the anti-social behaviour that takes place can be put down to lack of thinking, but that it was still a nuisance. I have to say that I agree and do feel impotent in hearing about these things and not being able to do anything at this stage. Suffice to say what I can do if elected, which is to work with police where needed, and also to help provide community support officers with regards to dealing with anti-social behaviour. Taking into account that I might lose on Thursday, I will try and help kick up a fuss, as a Labour Party organiser in Baldock, to make sure that whoever is elected Councillor instead of me will do their best to serve those needs.
Others complained that the local councillors aren't much help in listening to problems, saying sometimes it is out of their hands. I have to say that, whilst this is fair enough, I do remember in my job as a Constituency Intern in an MP's office, we would frequently give advice on who the individual could contact to get help from, and to follow up the case in question ourselves, in order to make sure that the person concerned was getting the service they needed. That in itself isn't a question of working miracles, but rather using common sense to help make sure that the constituents are being well served by their elected representative.
But again, I can't do any of this unless I am elected, and if I am going to be the next Councillor for Baldock East, I will listen to the people of Clothall Common before making any decisions, and will work with other Baldock Councillors to promote Baldock's needs within North Herts.
A final conversation last night was with someone told me, in a very aggressive way, that I couldn't serve Baldock East because I didn't live in the area.
In some respects this is a fair point, but only in some. Let's take the argument that I could have had two opponents (and I stress this is hypothetical) who only moved into Hertfordshire, and in this case Baldock East, in the last six months. Does that make me, who has lived in the Baldock area for about twenty years, and who has gone to school in Baldock, and who shops in Baldock, and who has helped serve Baldock in more than one capacity, any less of a person to represent Baldock East?
It is a bit personal but I have been attacked in this way before (In one case in a Conservative leaflet some two years ago), and I feel it is an emotive point which, whilst it has some merit (esp if I lived as far afield as Norfolk), is certainly not helpful. Shouldn't it rather be the case that what matters is not so much whether a Councillor actually lives in the Ward, but rather that they knuckle down and are prepared to help and serve the ward members in question.
Anyway, today was a bit more quiet, although we have been doing a massive leaflet drop in Clothall Common. We also were narrowly missing some Conservative Canvassers (They looked like they were finishing as we were starting), and I have to say there has not been such a clash with the other two main parties since the start of the campaign.
What would I do if I run into any Conservative or Lib Dem campaigners whilst out canvassing/leafleting?
Well, whilst I strongly disagree with their parties policies, I try and divorce personality from politics and give credit where credits due (One Conservative Baldock area Councillor lives just down the road from me, and I happen to think he is one of the nicest local politicians I have met) so I think I would shake their hands and wish them well, although whether they would feel the same way if some of them met me (given some of the treatment I have received in the past)remains to be seen!

Friday, November 11, 2005

Remembrance Day

(H Sandy/Wikipedia.org)

Today of course being the anniversary of the end of the First World War, when on the eleventh hour, of the eleventh minute, of the eleventh day, the Germans signed the terms of surrender in a railroad carriage in Compi├Ęgne, France.
I was struck by the comment made by an academic on the news this morning, that just about everyone in the country had a grandad, or great-grandad who fought in the First or Second World War. Not only that, but just about everyone in the elder generations in this country, the over-60s, experienced the involvement in helping to fight and defend this country in a way that seems far removed within our day-to-day lives. Or rather, it is something I have always known, but the fact does not often hit home with such clarity.
My Great-Grandad Beckingham (On my Mum's side of the family), was killed on the fist day of the Battle of Cambrai (the first battle to succesfully use tanks). All five of my paternal Grandma's brothers fought in the First War and, amazingly, all came home alive (although Uncle Frank was shot in the jaw and died of mouth cancer twenty years later). My Great-Uncle Bob (My paternal Grandad's elder brother) never got as far as the front, but near enough to end up with shell-shock from the constant noise and barrage.
During the Second World War, my Grandad Burgin was a farm labourer, but worked as an ARP Warden in his spare time, although I remember him to be a quiet and gentle man, and nothing like Hodges in Dad's Army ;-), who might have given ARP Wardens a bad name.
My Grandad Taft was a maintenance engineer, but during the war, part of his job was to act as a lookout man for any German planes going over Melton Mowbray, dropping any bombs left over from a raid on any of the major cities.
I suppose like everyone else, I am talking about relatives (all gone now, where I am concerned), who led pretty ordinary lives, and yet did something extraordinary at one point, because they felt the call to not only defend our country, but to help their fellow man.
And it is these people we remember this week.

Another nights canvassing

And more complaints about roads, in particular, the potholes in Yeomanry Drive as well as the lack use of open land. The main concern being the field off Yeomanry Drive, which many people in Clothall Common tell us they want to see used as a village green. Something I firmly support and which I will elaborate on within the week.

Thursday, November 10, 2005

Road safety



The No 1 recurring issue in the by-election.
Whilst campaigning in Baldock East, I have received a number of comments from concerned residents regarding road safety in Baldock.
The main focus of worry is with regards to Clothall Road and the crossing between Royston Road and the Great North Road. It has only one Pelican Crossing, and with Hertsfield School there, it is a cause for concern.



I was there during Tuesday lunchtime and there was a slight build up of cars there already. Just think what that can be like in the late afternoons, or on a Friday evening!



My other main concern, regarding the crossing, is the fact that if you come in from Royston Road, you cannot see what is coming out of the Great North Road. There is no filter system for the traffic lights, or at least a proper filter system, and the crossroads are frequently used by mothers with small children.



A few years ago there was a fatality at these crossroads during the Baldock Fair, A lot of us hope and pray that there won't be another, but I do feel that the Council ought to do something more constructive here (a filter system on the traffic lights would be a start, and a safe area for pensioners, mothers and young children to cross the road) and I will certainly be campaigning for that.

Wednesday, November 09, 2005

More Campaigning

(twgoose.freeserve.co.uk)

The photo here, for those who don't know, is of Baldock Methodist Church. It's where I am to be found most Sunday mornings and where this morning hosted a coffee morning in aid of the 'Bible Society'.
It was well attended with various visitors and members of the other local Churches, and I think over £90 was raised, which was quite impressive.
Then work this afternoon, followed by another spot of canvassing this evening. A small amount of undecideds, but a no of people who are unhappy with the situations regarding roads and unused land. What I hope to do in the next few weeks, if elected, is to use the notes I have made and set aside time to work on each case study, in a similar fashion to how casework was approached when I worked for an MP. A Councillors job is primarily about looking after your ward members, and I hope to do that if elected.
Now to get myself a cup of hot chocolate and bed.

An interesting evening


Yesterday saw another evening canvassing.
And it was an interesting evening in particular. One woman who quickly said that she was a member of her local Conservative Party, adding 'and you should know that..', which is the kind of pompous comment I dislike in any party activist, whether Tory, Labour, or Liberal Democrat. As if I spend my time checking the faces and names of every single local Conservative! Like everyone else, some names and faces in an organisation, of which I am not a member, come to me more clearly than others and she wasn't down as a Conservative, although she is now ;).
I also came across another potential Tory switcher, a Liberal Democrat member (who was quite a nice and warm person, but we both purposely kept the conversation brief), and a former schoolteacher of mine from Knights Templar School.
One chap in Grosvenor Road West complained about the potholes in the road, and what were North Herts District Council doing about it? Quite friendly about it all, but quietly annoyed and disapointed, as you can imagine.
Then it was a Churches Together in Baldock Committee meeting, and we discussed preperations for the Christmas festivities (details of which I will mention at some point this evening on The Baldock Blog, as well as last minute discussions for the Rememberance Day Service this coming Sunday, which will take place at Baldock Methodist Church, following the service at the War Memorial.
BTW It was too dark last night to take any effective photos, so I have taken one of Clothall Common from my bedroom window just now.
A nice view I think ;)

Tuesday, November 08, 2005

Little Britain

(Press Association)

According to the BBC, it looks like the BBC Comedy series Little Britain is popular with children.
I have to say that I find this mildly disturbing because, although it is very funny, if a little warped, Little Britain is not really meant for children. The video and DVD releases give it a 15 certificate.
Apparently they watch it in the thousands, and as David Walliams says, he himself watched 'The Young Ones' as a 12 year old.
I know what he means, when I was about 11 I would sneak downstairs to watch Blackadder in the spare room. The series appealed to my warped sense of humour, already nurtured some years earlier by my love of Roald Dahl stories, and clearly still exists today.
That said, if I had a family, I doubt I would let any child of mine watch 'Little Britain', because of some of the gross humour involved
But I also know that if I was 11 years old again, I would sneak downstairs and watch it.
And for the record, here are links to my favourite characters:

Vicky Pollard
Lou and Andy

I daren't mention some of my other favourites

Monday, November 07, 2005

Engaging with voters

And forever thinking of new titles to explain that I have spent part of the day canvassing..;-)
Was interesting. Met a no of people who said they would vote for me. Some more were unsure or were thinking about it, but more importantly I had people complain to me about the state of the roads, amongst other things.
There are several roads in Baldock, Ickneld Way East being one of them, which have problems with a lot of strips of extra tarmac. Ickneld Way East is on a slope, so with these problems it isn't exactly the safest road in the Ward.
But more seriously, another voter mentioned her concerns about the trafic junction between Whitehorse Street and Royston Road. The fact that a lot of mum's with young children cross that road and the fact that, as things are it is only a matter of time before there is a fatality.
Not being a councillor, I can only say that I will try and help if elected, and I will certainly kick up a fuss about these, and other issues. But I do feel that after a number of years dominating the District Council, the County Council, and the Baldock Area Committee, the local Conservatives could have used their collective voice to full effect.
I don't feel comfortable saying that, because it is 'Yah-boo!' politics and I want to stick to the issues. But the fact is, whilst I am sure some of them genuinely care about Baldock and have sometimes helped residents, I wonder what have they been doing for the last few years regarding the issues I have mentioned?

Sunday, November 06, 2005

Football punditry, Tory leadership contest, and classing drugs.

(BBC Online)

A lot on my mind that I want to mention this evening, so will try and thread my train of thought together for one blog entry.
Further to my last blog comments about the PM, and indeed about the fortunes of my favourite team, Leicester City, it turns out that the Prime Minister was on Football Focus yesterday.
Much of the conversation was about controlling hooliganism, but then the PM mentioned his lack of oppurtunity to watch a live football match.
I have to say that, given his support for Newcastle United, I don't hold a particually high opinion of his football punditry ;-). But then Newcastle are in the premiership and Leicester have been relegated. Plus they haven't been doing well at the start of this season :(.
So maybe Tone has found an alternative career for when he steps down as PM. After all other Prime Minister's have had varying degrees of success at other careers. Clement Attlee was a social worker, and lecturer at the London School of Economics, Churchill was a best selling author and historian, with a side in painting. Macmillan helped run a very successful family publishing company, Sir Alec Douglas Home was once a professional cricketer, Edward Heath was an acclaimed music conductor and yachtsman, and Margaret Thatcher helped in the development of ice-creams.
Then you get those who are primarily famous for other things who try, with varying degrees of success, to pursue a career in politics.
Some of them being people who I find more appealing as people outside the political arena. But then that's part of the issue with politics, in that you have to divorce the individual from their politics. Take the two current Tory leadership contenders!

(Press Association)

They strike me as people I would be happy chatting with over a pint in a pub, but then there is the obvious fact that our politics are somewhat different.
That said I was watching their performance on Question Time on Thursday, and I have to say that I was surprised that I agreed with David Davis over David Cameron on one issue. Namely on drugs.
I was appalled by Cameron saying that he was in favour of downgrading Ecstacy. It is a drug which may well be trendy amongst party-goers but it kills. As David Davis said, one only has to look at the Leah Betts case, to see how dangerous this drug can be.
By all means, help those who are addicted to drugs, by all means show occasional leniency (depending on the case), to those caught with the drug. But to downgrade and liberalise such a menace! As I said in an earlier entry, some laws are there for a reason. Namely to protect the vulnerable, and downgrading a Class A drug will not help and protect the vulnerable.

Saturday, November 05, 2005

A Day's Canvassing


(Some of my fellow canvassers, out and about in Baldock East with me early this evening. Left to right: Clyde Millard, David Kearns, Tony Eden, Self)
Well Saturday was set aside for a mass canvass of the Ward, so I was looking forward to it with anticipation and trepidation. Anticipation, because I enjoy meeting with local residents and discussing their concerns, whatever their political stance. Trepidation, because I am always in awe of voters in any area where I stand. After several years I still steel myself, clipboard in hand, to knock on a door or ring a doorbell and prepare to meet up with an individual who I may or may not know, who may or may not be busy, and who might see my rosette and decide I am the scum of the Earth.
But today is a mass canvass and, in sentiments echoed by fellow canvasser and Constituency Chair, Clyde Millard, the people in Baldock East are actually rather warm individuals, whether they intend to vote for you or not.
So after a false start to the day, where I found my sister (who went back to Lancaster Uni this morning) had used up all the hot water, which meant a cold shower, I set down to get some work done and made sure I was ready for the afternoon canvass.
As before, there were a crowd of us (including some people who were from other branches in the constituency), and we spent two hours canvassing the Clothall area.
There seems to be a broad mixture of Labour, Conservative, and Liberal Democrat supporters (which irons out previous evidence that this seems to be a three-horse race), but the concerns all boil down to the fact that a lot of people feel that Baldock is a town that is not reaching it's potential, and that it is somewhat neglected. Wallington Road is being neglected by the bypass, there are a lack of amenities, in fact I am getting rather interested in how exactly North Herts District Council and Hertfordshire County Council spend their annual budget!
Then home, only to find that Leicester drew with Southampton and that Leicester threw away some golden oppurtunities
But this is the thing about supporting teams, you stick with them and don't forget it's hopes and glory days, and I suppose that is how I feel about being in the Labour Party. I find Tony Blair infuriating at times and feel that he has let us down on some major issues and situations. But I feel that the government have done a lot of good things over the last eight years such as helping to produce the longest economic security since the War, low unemployment (Labour has helped me get back on my feet in the past, and it is partly why I joined them), helping the campaign to see a global cancellation of Third World debt, as well as the chance for more people to be able to sell their houses. With so much more to do and work at achieving. And it is those things that convince me that we need to work to keep these oppurtunities that we have as a consequence.
Oh and one more thing. Have found that Baldock East has a resident blogger and that my campaign has got a mention:

Intensity in the Baldock East by election has been ratcheted up by no less than three new items of election communication.

Labour’s youthful Paul Burgin has entered the fray. “I am pleased to get the chance to represent Baldock East,” he declares, which shows either a commendable chutzpah or a worrying failure to note the impending procedure of submission to the electorate. Still, he does at least credit the ward with the status it deserves: “Baldock East has a significant part to play in the Baldock area” is Paul’s conviction, an observation validated by the fact that it is in fact approximately half of the Baldock area.

Somewhat unexpectedly, blogs have entered the maelstrom of the election, courtesy of Mr Burgin. Both the Baldock Blog and Mars Hill are authored by Labour’s candidate, and the latter gives a flavour of the epic struggle currently being waged for the soul of this ward.

And there is more. The Tories’ Les Wilsher is back and against his own expectations is out-leafleting his opponents. Any former reluctance to declare his allegiance has vanished in his latest materials. In fact, such is Les’s new found brio that he may have got a little carried away. “Les has campaigned hard to get a commitment from Hertfordshire Highways that the flooding will not happen again” proclaims one of his leaflets, thus dramatically reversing his party’s stated belief in limited government.

It’s a good start Les, but what we really want is a firm council pledge to deliver a white Christmas.


Well the massive leafleting just goes to show that neither myself or my colleagues can relax for a moment (and nor would I allow it), and that I am accused of either chutzpah, or worrying failure to note the impending procedure of submission to the electorate.
I think I prefer chutzpah, although I am aware of the stakes involved.

Friday, November 04, 2005

Gunpowder, Treason, and Plot

(newsandstar.co.uk/ITV)

A few days ago I was watching a documentary about the Gunpowder Plot. This year being the 400th anniversary.
The twist to this documentary was that it looked at what would have happened if Guy Fawkes had succeeded.
This included, not only how easy it would have been for him to make a run for it, after lighting the fuse, but the damage the explosion would have caused.
And to do this, they built a replica House of Lords at an MoD training ground in Cumbria, complete with crash-test dummies representing King James I, the Archbishop of Canterbury (who was involved with the creation of the King James version of the Bible), and the philosopher, Sir Francis Bacon (who was an MP at the time).
Underneath was built a cellar, complete with the same amount of Gunpowder. Tests were also done on gunpowder that had been made wet (as the gunpowder that Fawkes used was 'damaged') and showed that it could still carry some explosive force.
Speed cameras were also used, inside and outside the building, as well as measuring devices to calculate the force of the blast. They were put in the Chamber.
The explosion was also filmed by helicopter and it carried such force that you could tell instantly that no one would have survived. Most of the force of the blast was pushed upwards and debris was still flying down after several minutes. What was sickening (even though you knew that it was just a test, it was still a shock, simply being knowing that this was narrowly averted 400 years ago) was the damage left when the team visited the site.
Stone and wood were strewn everywhere, the whole chamber had gone and the roof was blown out. The dummy of Sir Francis Bacon was in a terrible state and 'King James I'?
Only the top part of the dummy's head head was found. It was a very sobering thought of just how much damage this explosion would have done!
Recreated on computer, it showed that all the windows in Westminster Abbey would have been blown out, as well as causing damage to people and property in the surrounding buildings and streets. The explosion would have been seen several miles away and even if half the gunpowder was used, everyone in the Palace of Westminster would have been killed!
I have much sympathy for anyone persecuted for their faith, as the Catholics were, but nothing justifies that kind of terrorism, and whilst the methods used to torture those responsible was foul, with no place in a civilized society, I just thank God that the attack failed.