Saturday, April 30, 2011

Looking Beyond May 5th

Something I wrote elsewhere in around 2009, I think but has a certain resonance in regard to any personal manifesto I might have for the coming local elections and the broader movement of local government towards embracing the concept of 'Shared Services' between neighbouring councils:

"If we in Europe are going to promote e-government as a tool for progressive change it has to be in a sound local context and with the financial and technical support that will take modest projects to the point of being able to deliver simple, useful services for the many. Or, to quote Winston Churchill: "It is no use saying, 'We are doing our best.' You have got to succeed in doing what is necessary."

Inside Out

Unless you remembered to mark your F-14 Tomcat calendar, it could've easily slipped your mind that this spring marks the 25th anniversary of the best acting-is-easier-in-a-cockpit movie of all time: Top Gun.

I recall I was in Hawaii, all those years ago when the movie first started screening and one day, driving down to the beach at Honolulu, I saw a formation of F14s performing a 'Missing Man' display over the base at Pearl Harbour to mark the tragic death of astronaut, Ellison Onizuka in the Space Shuttle Challenger. He is buried at National Memorial Cemetery of the Pacific in Honolulu.

Watching the latest incarnation of 'Hawaii 50' now showing on Sky television, it looks as if the island has changed rather alot since I was last there.


So the month of May is almost upon us, with a frantic political leap into the unknown with local elections and a referendum on AV, followed by the first airshow of the season at Abingdon next weekend and then another 'gig' in Dubai; in and out in a little over 48 hours, with just enough time to recall that 35 degree + outside temperatures don't mix well with hotel air-conditioning at a near freezing 15 degrees. This time I will take the Lemsip with me.

Abingdon has managed to secure the first fly past from the restored Vulcan bomber, the OV-10 Bronco which you may sometimes see parked at Manston, the RAF Battle of Britain Memorial Flight and the small team that I'm a member of.

Back here in Thanet and Margate, we'll have our own 'Big Day' pretty soon but I don't think I can mention the programme or the plans, with any detail until after next week's election.

Think I'll take a wander over to the Margate Harbour Arm and see how busy it is now the first wave of excitement over the opening of the Turner Contemporary has settled down a little.

Friday, April 29, 2011

More Margate Football

I'm pleased to see that in the twilight days between now and next week's local elections and in the interests of greater transparency, Margate Football Club have published some of the correspondence between the council and their solicitors in regard to their revised application to build a smaller Travelodge hotel on the site rather than the larger hotel and and related complex they were given planning permission to build in 2006.

I'm sure that everyone will welcome the outcome of any debate between experts on both sides of the argument on what is permissible under planning legislation and what is not. The developer's solicitors will make their argument and the council will respond on behalf of the public it represents. However, the football club has omitted to mention the matter of leases, which readers may remember from other discussions, are an important part of the overall picture involving the future of Hartsdown Park. Given the concerns of different groups and not simply those of the football club, Thanet District Council has made a commitment to full public consultation before any new leases can be granted on the park

In regard to the Travelodge plans, the developer is seeking from the council, a 125 year lease on the footprint in order to secure the building of the hotel. This is not a minor detail but clearly one that in conjunction with the published correspondence, the public should be properly made aware of in the context of the wider debate involving Hartsdown Park.

I have every confidence, that the administration that assumes control of the council next week, regardless of political flavour, will continue to examine and debate all these details, plans, applications and objections with the seriousness that the matter deserves; recognising the important role of the football club in the town's history and the equally strong feelings that surround the park.

Inherit the Wind

I was reading an interesting story in Wired Magazine today, which is possibly as true of voting trends in this country as it is in the United States.

Entitled, 'The Ignorance of Voters', it argues that the human mind is a marvelous information filter, adept at blocking out those facts that contradict what we’d like to believe and the same process also applies to our political beliefs.

Basically it's revisiting the old 'confirmation bias' argument in human behaviour but it's something I see on a regular basis here in Thanet, on blogs, in newspaper letters, emails and even conversations on the street with people. The Turner Contemporary, Margate caves, Pierremont park the football club and much more, where the evidence or the facts shows one thing but personal opinion insists on something else being true, simply because somebody said so. This is then swiftly established as popular axiomatic fact, simply because it's human nature to believe something that confirms one's own opinions rather than consider evidence to the contrary.

It's a facet of our collective psychology that drives the scientist and author, Richard Dawkins crazy when he finds himself in argument with creationists. After all, if the 16th Century Bishop Ussher decided that from his studies of the Old Testament that the world was created on 23rd October 4004 BC, who is Dawkins or Darwin or modern genetic science to say otherwise?

Perhaps and if I find a moment, I might write down the local myths, political and otherwise of the last four years, simply to look back upon one day in the future'; after all this blog has been running for almost a decade now and longer than any other on the island.

However, with only a week before the results of our local elections, there's a certain weary despair in reading some of the other political manifestos in today's local paper, pandering as some of the 'policies' are to confirmational bias and suggesting that a local council can involve itself in matters which lie outside its direct influence and control or spend large sums of money which it doesn't have. The results of our own local election will I'm sure be interesting and have its surprises but the consequences will be felt by all of us for years to come.

Selected Gems from Local Manifestos!

Liberal Democrats:

"We support moves to examine the feasibility of re-opening attractions, such as Margate Caves"

"Seek to review the decision to develop in Pierremont park"

Labour:

"Thanet Conservatives have allowed the closure of almost all our attractions and hotels. Labour councillors have been instrumental in supporting our museums and Margate Caves"

UKIP:

"Will cut ICT and computer equipment and  re-open all the museums, Margate Caves and the Shell Grotto that have been closed by the previous councils. Open-up the old Second World War air raid shelters in Ramsgate with tours and exhibits from the wars."

Now the more perceptive among our readers may have spotted that UKIP aren't aware that the Shell Grotto is open and thriving and has been for some years now. The Margate Caves were of course closed by the HSE under a prohibition notice in 2003 and opening the WWII  Ramsgate Tunnels would be a task of quite enormous cost and complexity. Quite why cutting an already tightly costed ICT budget would make a difference I don't know and neither, I would guess, do UKIP.

The LibDems you will notice are hedging their bets with 'feasibility' and of course plan to review a planning decision that has already been approved. Quite how they might achieve this I don't know and clearly confuse the parish council with the district council.

Last word of course goes to Labour and apparently Thanet Conservatives have 'allowed' the closure of nearly all our attractions and hotels. But wait a moment, hotels are privately owned and attractions are frequently leased, such as the Margate Caves or privately owned. Quite where a local council starts interfering with local business I don't know and in fact, most recently, the Conservative council has been reopening the museums with support from the communities involved.

If we return back to the nostalgic days of Only Fools & Horses and the famous 'Jolly Boys' outing to Margate, under which administration did things start to change dramatically as inward migration and an economic downturn changed the face of Cliftonville and Margate? The answer is the same Labour Group who gave us the Clock Tower traffic lights while the Cliftonville hotels crumbled around their ears and became a magnet for London authorities to send their their most vulnerable people to. Their front bench still includes the very same people who were involved at the time.

None of these gems are costed and in fact, no effort whatsover has been made to come up with the answer to where the money for any of the many grand plans in the different opposition manifestos will come from. What we have instead is a series of vote-catching platitudes that ignore the 'Elephant in the living room' which are the real costs of dealing with the consequences of an empty Treasury and the biggest public sector debt in our national history

Thursday, April 28, 2011

Mystery Fire

The last Cabinet meeting of the present administration, with elections being held in a week's time and getting to the council offices proved a bit of a challenge, with one of our neighbouring buildings being ablaze.

Observant readers will notice that the burning building is adjacent to another building which also caught fire in mysterious circumstances a couple of years ago.

I really can't say anymore but I will be watching comments very carefully to ensure they are in the best possible taste and not in any way libellous!


Wedding Time

I've a flying job over Docklands to do later today. Apparently the weather is rather better towards London than it is here in Thanet and I'm looking forward to punching through the low cloud into the bright sunlight above a couple of minutes after take-off.

As the world grinds to a halt in anticipation of the Royal Wedding tomorrow, I wonder what inspires these hardy souls to camp-out for a good spot in front of the palace or Westminster Abbey for a sight of the happy couple. I'm sure that like Wimbledon fortnight there must be a great atmosphere but I think that like many millions of others I will probably watch selected parts of the ceremony from the comfort of my own living room.

Yesterday, I was asked if I had a Union Jack that the airship could borrow but no such luck. The Ministry of Defense has one, I know, because I flew it for them over central London for a previous Armed Forces Day, but that disappeared back into Whitehall, never to see the light of day again!

The debate over the football club continues to rage in the earlier posts. I really would invite the club's fans to read what I've written rather than believe opinion presented as fact.

I'm sure everyone involved is searching hard for a practical solution and quite frankly, it's not a matter of politics but simply a planning matter surrounding a hotel development on public land. As a consequence, it's relatively complex matter which is being handled absolutely properly by council officers given the nature of public interest that surrounds it.

So contrary to several unkind allegations I've read on the fans' forum, I can assure readers that I'm not 'Bent' and neither am I in receipt of any brown envelopes; although from whom and for what purpose I can't possibly fathom.

I have every reason to believe that the Fans Forum is being manipulated for political and personal reasons. Of particular interest is 'Blue Toffee' who joined on 26th April. He invariably writes in the middle of the night and early in the morning and while claiming not to be 'obsessed' with me in any way you will notice he has one and only one subject of interest. I would urge fans to compare him and his style, with another mischievous and frequently malicious character who has appeared regularly on all the other local weblogs over the last four years with the same narrow interest.

Tuesday, April 26, 2011

Just Say No to AV

Sitting over the New Line Learning Academy  today, watching the Prime Minister, David Cameron arrive with his entourage, I could follow his progress through the centre of the town with the two flanking back Range Rovers as they approached the school.

A bit of a panic at first as I managed to knock over one of the poles that supports the line I scoop on the pickup - you can see this in the photo - and I had to land again and reset the whole thing before scrambling over to Maidstone just in time to be overhead on the precise minute. I'm quite sure he noticed his 'No to AV' banner! In fact I was specifically instructed to leave the scene at 15:30 on the dot, in case the engine drowned out his speech.

Saturday, April 23, 2011

Referee's Decision

Goodwood and Wooton Bassett this weekend. A little earlier we had to interrupt a detail over the latter as RAF Lynham had a flight of incoming Hercules aircraft, from Afghanistan I assume. We were quite lucky they let us work quite close into their runway.

I have to run over to Goodwood tomorrow with a job that involves three hours flying between Portsmouth and Brighton and so if if the weather is as good as it is today, the view around the south downs will be stunning. A little earlier, I cycled up to Margate after lunch to see how the Bank Holiday is progressing and you can see one of the more interesting occupants of the Harbour Arm in the photo. Yesterday I pedalled in the opposite direction to Reculver. Margate is heaving with tourists and business everywhere, galleries and beach-front bars alike appears to be booming. People will of course ask whether this is the influence of Turner, the sunshine or both but whatever the cause, the consequence is a vibrant holiday resort and a great deal of positive feeling about Thanet from anywhere one cares to look.



I see from the comments on the earlier post and football bulletin boards, that real confusion remains in regard to Margate Football Club and its application to vary an existing planning permission to build a Travelodge Hotel at the Hartsdown Park ground. I've tried to explain the boundary that exists between politics and process and that I believe all political parties in Thanet are supportive of a strong future for the club, while at the same time remaining equally bound by legislation that determines the proper outcome of such matters, when passed through the test of the planning process; the referee's decision if you prefer football analogies.

I would hope that in a modern and transparent democracy, readers wouldn't have it any other way!

Friday, April 22, 2011

Moving On to May 5th

Sitting in last night's packed council meeting, I noticed that Labour's Cllr Nottingham was conveniently absent but his space was filled by the most mind-numbing bluster I've heard in many years.

I wondered if the Thanet's grim reaper blogger might have been present to watch at least part of the farce and from the look of my blog list this morning he may well have gone unnoticed in the gallery, although one might have thought a cowled figure with a scythe might have stood out among the football supporters.

Naive as I may be, I always believed that when one spoke in the chamber, what one says has to be both informed and truthful and not wild and exaggerated political posturing where the truth has taken an extended vacation to political 'LaLa' land.Finding it hard at times to hide the incredulity written on my face I can only assume that when the political opposition are quite incapable of dealing with figures and facts, they simply retreat into noisy hyperbole and constant childish interruptions disguised as 'points of order'

Just one properly costed objective from Labour's local election manifesto would be good; something that one could debate and take a proper view on. Instead, we have rubbish and dog poo, platitudes and empty aspirations.

Thanks to the opening of the Turner Contemporary and some stunning weather over the last two weeks, the people of Thanet appear more optimistic and feel better about themselves than at any times I've seen in the past ten years. These are difficult times but there is both promise and opportunity and a future path that we can all share. To achieve this or any part of it however, we need vision rather than a commitment to keep us in the heavily trades unionised past, a ghastly sentimental version of Dickens World that Thanet's Labour group inhabits. And that's the starker choice on May 5th. Do we move forward and explore the opportunities now coming our way or do we dig ourselves into some nostalgic socialist view of the late 1990s which never really existed and where many of our problems sprang from?

Let the people decide!

Thursday, April 21, 2011

20 Minuters

A full council meeting to prepare for this evening and on the agenda, Margate Football Club will be presenting their petition in contrast with an earlier petition presented by the Friends of Hartsdown Park.

Out and about canvassing and I'm struck by the confusion that surrounds local, county and national politics. I had one couple give me a lecture on our involvement in Libya which they believed was draining money from the NHS and another gentlemen with strong opinions on barricading the promenade against cyclists. On the former, I can't really comment because Libya is not a local issue and on the latter, if we were to block off areas of the promenade from cyclists, then families with 'buggies' would also be affected. I take his point though.

The postman just delivered my CAA airshow display license, which is quite a big thing if you happen to be a pilot. I suppose I've now joined the ranks of the 20-minuters' and last week, working out of Shuttleworth, I had a chance to wander around the vintage aircraft museum and admire the collection of World War I aircraft on display, Sopwith Camel, Sopwith Triplane, SE5A, Bristol Fighter and many others, including some of the earliest aircraft to fly. Those early aviators had more courage than I can possibly imagine and when you consider that almost half the Royal Flying Corps pilots were killed or injured in training before they ever transferred to active service in France, admiration for their skills simply isn't enough!

Tuesday, April 19, 2011

Photos of Central London and the Olympic Stadium

I promised to give you some aerial photos of central London on this unusually warm April day and I have added in some passing shots of the Olympic stadium , so readers should feel a little privileged to be able to see what's going on there before anyone else! Follow the links to the online library for the rest.




Manifesto Time

It's the turn, this week of the Thanet Conservatives to launch their manifesto for the May 5th elections and it can be found on the Group's website at www.thanetconservatives.com .

Readers may have noticed that the different parties political manifestos have been appearing on a weekly basis to coincide with the local paper and the Conservative one is rather longer on detail than the curious collection of rather confused and uncosted aspirations that I've seen from others; frequently confusing county and local responsibilities or like Labour, a snappy commitment to reduce the number of sitting councillors which may seem like a good idea to the public but which isn't in their gift. In fact, it also exists in the Conservative manifesto but with the longer process involving the Electoral Commission, explained.

I'm sure that some readers will be pouring through the detail of the Conservative Group manifesto and so I will leave them to draw their own conclusions in regard to which of the parties is best able to take Thanet forward in difficult times.

I've a photo detail to do over central London today along the Old Kent Road, I have to get a special flight number and use a twin-engine aircraft for this and so I'll try and capture some shots of Westminster Abbey to share with you when I'm finished, the Royal Wedding being less than two weeks away.

Meanwhile, here's one of Canterbury Cathedral to be getting on with!

Saturday, April 16, 2011

Turner Contemporary Opens - A Bird's Eye View.

For anyone wishing to enjoy a 'Bird's eye' view of what was happening at exactly 09:45 this morning as the gallery opened, a historic moment for the town of Margate after many years of waiting, here are some photos to enjoy. The link to the gallery will give you higher resolution, although not quite good enough to identify individual faces!

Writing at the end of the day after watching the Twitter feed, there is a huge groundswell of popular support and optimism surrounding today's launch event. The impression I have, is that this represents a new era of opportunity for Margate; a new sense of hope and expectation surrounding the prospects for steady progress and regeneration in the wake of Turner. One might say that this is the beginning of a journey for the town and it may take many more years before we can measure its true impact as a centre of the arts but it's a start and a good one too, with many of the negative remarks now firmly buried.

I was a little disappointed that one lady member of the opposition chose to politicise the story on BBC Radio, we are, after all in the period running-up to an election when councillors are well-advised to stay clear of the media.

Wednesday, April 13, 2011

Turner Contemporary Gallery Preview Night

I joined many others at the preview evening of the Turner Contemporary Gallery in Margate, which was packed with local and county politicians, celebrities, arts lovers, local arts enthusiasts and members of the press and media.

John Kampfner introduced the speakers and here are just a few of the photos, showing KCC Leader Paul Carter, Thanet Council Leader, Bob Bayford and the gallery's director, Victoria Pomeroy.

There's a vibrant buzz around the Harbour Arm with everyone looking forward to the grand launch on Saturday morning. A tremendous sense of optimism for the future of Margate now the gallery is finally built and ready to put the town on the arts map of Europe.

I've taken 1,125 visits already today and I think this is partly, if not mostly due to people looking for news on the town prompted by the Turner event.






Low Level Pass

Escape from the office for two days and one is invariably made to suffer an email backlog once reality catches up again.

I was training over at Bicester as the newest member of the GliderFX team getting my air show display license from the CAA. In my own case, it means that I can operate down to 150 feet and in this example it means that instead of a banner, I’m towing a high performance glider in rolling 360 degree snaps along a display line. Here’s a cockpit view for anyone who might be interested and it looks as if the first show of the season will be Abingdon although they’ve gone as far as Turkmenistan before!

The tug is a 250hp Pawnee with a big rudder and I can confess that making sixty degree, tight turns at low level, with a second aircraft attached, does concentrate the mind wonderfully and as sure as hell is painful on the leg muscles as one tries to balance the forces with the rudder pedals.



Flying back home yesterday evening, I was pretty sure that I heard Prince Harry buzzing about Oxfordshire in his Apache helicopter, on a training exercise, his voice being quite distinctive. The word is that he will be playing his part patrolling the Olympic airspace next summer but I don’t quite understand yet what rules of engagement the Government could possibly offer such a heavily armed machine in the densely built-up area that surrounds London.

Speaking of ‘Buzz’, the Turner opening seems to be generating it’s own background excitement and tonight is one of the special previews. The good news is that the long-term weather forecast for Saturday looks very promising and it would excellent if we could show Thanet at its best and most attractive to the media when they descend on us next Saturday morning.

Sunday, April 10, 2011

Brighton - A View of the Marathon 2011

Back home from an hour sitting over the start of this year's Brighton Marathon. It's a little warmer and sunnier on the southern side of the country and I wonder what any visiting alien might make of all the thousands of people running up and down the Brighton seafront a real feat of endurance in this fine weather?  I don't envy them, having experienced the real pain of long-distance running  in hot sunshine and with little cooling wind when I was younger. There's an old episode of National Geographic TV's, 'Running the Distance', which shows me rather worse for wear in one race.

This week I've two days of away training with the GliderFX display team in preparation for the season ahead and somewhere in between, it's the opening of the Turner Contemporary and of course more deliveries of political material, as the May 5th local election will soon be rapidly upon us. I'm sure that well before then, many of our most avid local blog readers will be quite sick of politics but it will be interesting to see how public opinion has been shaped by coalition Government policies and the truth of how the Treasury was ransacked by the previous Government.

Friday, April 08, 2011

A Dark Force in Politics

I see that Twitter is agog with news that Big Brother's 'Nasty Nick' may be opening a private members club in the old Constitution Building in Margate. (You can read the e-edition here)

Some may recall that this appeared on the Blogs some weeks ago when Cllr Mark Nottingham wrote that after council meetings, Conservatives were reportedly taking plates stacked high with sandwiches across the road to the so-called Conservative Club, which is in fact the Constitutional Club opposite the council. I think this story died a quick death, along with Cllr Nottingham's own political career with the Thanet Labour Group. They now seem now to have their own blogger, The Thanet Reaper, who this morning, even has a mention in the Thanet Gazette's 'Smudger'. The Gazette's editor seems convinced that this new 'Dark' force in local online politics is somehow connected with Labour leader, Clive Hart but I really think it's too early to say as the 'The Reaper' only writes intermittently and has yet to 'have a go' at any other party other than the LibDems, who so far, appear to offer more than enough material for his cruel satire with their choice of candidates. One can only wonder who may be the next political victim of his skeletal claw!?

Wandering among the other Parties manifestos, other than being kind to trees, committed to dealing harshly with dog-fouling and demanding that councillors be CRB-checked, I do wonder where the real policy substance is? Almost a quarter of the children in Thanet live in poverty and we have some of biggest challenges in England to deal with in regard to health and education outcomes among parts of our population in specific areas of the island. The Party that wins the local elections in May, will have to manage some of the greatest financial challenges in generations, as well as the opportunities that projects such as Turner bring to Thanet in terms of prospects for regeneration and change.

Let's not forget that Official figures, from the Office for National Statistics, show the total public sector debt left by the last Labour Government is estimated to equal to £33,100 per household. This doesn't take into account a reported unfunded public pension liability of £1 trillion. So, a series of rather shallow promises may be good for Twitter-length soundbytes of 140 characters but a little detail on budgets or indeed, Labour's own views on local government 'Cuts' would be useful, hidden carefully as they are behind trees and caves and other more locally focussed issues.

Wednesday, April 06, 2011

From Red to Blue

While I see that our two new blogging LibDem candidates have attracted the skeletal attention of the Thanet Reaper, it's still relatively quiet among the two major parties as both prepare for the 'Big-Push' over the next four weeks.

I've received a personally addressed invitation from Ed Miliband, a cunningly concealed Labour Party political policy flyer promoting 'Fresh Ideas' for Britain, which I thought was quite clever this side of the district elections and I wonder how many others in Thanet had a copy. I suspect that it may be walking a very fine line on election communications and the expenses involved but I'm sure Ed's had the best possible advice on the subject. In fact, it's so good, I'm tempted to take it to the local printer and have a thousand copies of my own run off, now I have scanned a copy and photoshopped Labour red into Conservative blue! After all, the policies seem familiar!

What may really prove interesting and lively is the subject of the airport. Labour have now drawn a line in the sand and made a commitment against any night flying at the airport in advance of any local consultation process, which until recently they were supporting. So it may well be that a part of the local election decision hangs on the future of Manston airport or indeed whether the people of Thanet are prepared to see it close in the absence of any accommodation by Labour to let people have their say on the matter and allow any flights in and out in the night hours period.

I won't add anymore on this as I'm sure you'll be reading longer and more cogent arguments in the weeks ahead. I wonder what the LibDems think?

Tuesday, April 05, 2011

Ghost in the Machine

I see preparations for the local elections are warming-up with a sudden outbreak of Liberal Democracy in Dane Valley. Now what being a Liberal Democrat actually means these days in coalition, I’m not entirely certain and neither, I’m sure are many others? Other than being visibly and demonstrably antagonistic to the ‘middle class’ and its values, a pillar of ‘LibDem’ policy is of course closer ties with Europe and the rapid transfer of our Parliamentary authority to the EU in Brussels. Readers may recall that the Conservative Party was in favour of derogation from the European Convention on Human Rights (ECR), so that we could put our much abused house in order and replace it with legislation of our own; more sensible and pragmatic instead. However, Nick Clegg was having none of this and so we are stuck with it and the Alice in Wonderland world of minority privileges that go with it.

So, in a way, I’m almost sorry I’m not living in Dane Valley to hear the arguments from the LibDem candidates, beyond of course what I’ve already read on the really important local issues such as the ‘Mysterious closure of Margate caves’ or indeed all the money that TDC is reportedly spending on the Turner Contemporary, without any of us presently on the Council knowing anything about it! In the true spirit of competition, I wish them the best of luck with their campaign!

Here in Thanet, the more important issues, as I see them, revolve around carefully and efficiently managing our finances at a time of declining Government grants, finding new ways of encouraging inward investment, tourism and business and of course dealing with the many problems that accrue from our high score on the overall social deprivation index. There’s a great deal more of course and some of these are single item agenda issues, such as the future of the airport, which may be result of broader public debate or a consequence of the ‘Domino Effect’ of having less money to spend. Those people fortunate enough to be elected in May will soon discover, as I did, that the role of being a councillor is rather different to what they may have expected and it takes a good three years I suspect before one really starts to understand how the machine of local government actually works or indeed how one can make small adjustments to its course.

Meanwhile, I see Labour's Clive Hart is 'Twittering' that "Thanet Labour will take rigorous enforcement action against people responsible for littering, graffiti and dog fouling." Very good Clive but what does vigorous enforcement action mean I wonder, beyond the powers already available? There's no doubt we have a big local challenge with the latter, related to the spreading numbers of problem dogs and their owners in well-known areas; I see them myself. Ultimately however the solution must lie with the overburdened Magistrates courts and experience shows that those most likely to be a source of any of these problems are those least likely to pay a fine or be overly concerned by the threat of enforcement. I would say that all that can be done is being done and there's increasing emphasis at the moment on target areas in Thanet but inevitably we end-up re-visiting the legal system and often the European Convention on Human Rights all over again!

Anyway, no time to sit here blogging about other places in Thanet. When the rain stops I really need to get out and start delivering leaflets in my own ward or I may find myself sitting out the next four years!

Sunday, April 03, 2011

The Willy Petes

Home from the martial arts seminar at High Wycombe, which took place within convenient walking distance of Booker airfield. When I left very early this morning I was the only person on the radio and with no traffic in the way, Heathrow radar kindly gave me a direct route through their zone, which allowed me a good close look at the now finished Olympic Stadium, The Emirates Stadium and of course Wembley.

It was a great privilege to have Kyoshi Carl Long present from the States to teach the small group of us which included Kent Iaido in Broadstairs. It's a sign of the times that Carl was unaware that his recently released series of lectures on CD had already been 'ripped' on to YouTube.



Arriving back into Maypole, I noticed a cluster of pilots around Brendan O'Brien's Cub aircraft. Anyone familiar with aviation will recognise Brendan as one of the nation's best-loved flying characters and most recently may have seen him teaching aspiring young Dam Buster and Spitfire pilots on different series on TV. This time however, the centre of attraction was the presence of what appeared to be a small rocket launcher tube attached to his strut for use at forthcoming airshows.

Brendan's remarkable aviation history goes back to Air America and the Vietnam War and so I asked him if this time, as the RAF are a little short of aircraft and pilots, whether he was planning to volunteer as a Forward Air Controller for the rebels over in Libya? In the Second World War and to a lesser extent in Vietnam, variants of the Cub were used to direct artillery and airstrikes and they used to fire small white phosphorous rockets, 'Willy Petes' to identify their targets. However with Brendan, who frequently lands his aircraft on top of a moving truck at airshows, nothing would surprise me!