Monday, August 29, 2011

One of My Cigars is Missing

Bank Holiday Monday, autumn has arrived early, the weather is a typical disappointment, no flying today and one of my Cuban cigars has gone missing!

It wasn't a great deal better over at Weymouth yesterday between some very heavy showers. The beach was busy but not what the south coast tourist trade might hope for on a Bank Holiday weekend. The restaurant at Compton Abbas airfield was packed with visitors, some to watch, some to take short pleasure flights in their vintage Tiger Moth aircraft and others simply to enjoy lunch and shelter from the rain.

That said, the visibility between showers was excellent and from 2,500 feet passing Brighton, I could clearly see the City of London and the 'Gherkin.'

Thankfully, everyone who got into difficulty in yesterday's RNLI charity swim race at Joss Bay, in Broadstairs yesterday, were rescued by the inshore lifeboat without mishap. There must be a moral to that story somewhere.

Now, if I can get that cigar back from the usual suspect to enjoy over the remaining holiday, without the end being chewed off, I'll be lucky!

Sunday, August 28, 2011

On the Blink in Margate

I’m not quite sure what to make of last night’s ‘Blink Margate’ event on the seafront. Like many thousands of others, I came, I saw, I stumbled around Marine Parade in the darkness and then went home. In danger of being accused of being an artistic vacuum, I’m not really any wiser for the experience. Perhaps others can share their views. The Thanet Waves weblog doesn't pull any punches in a very lucid opinion piece, so what did you think of it all?

Anti-social behaviour in its many ugly and different forms, is a constant theme if you happen to be a councillor and as the Cabinet member for the environment (health etc), aspects of this falls on my patch. It’s pretty diverse and can involve dog-fouling, tall tree and hedges disputes between neighbours and of course late-night noise; the one most likely to drive the most reasonable people over the edge.

Yesterday evening, having returned from ‘Blink’, I parked-up my motorcycle and was amazed to hear what sounded like a music festival coming from the direction of Westgate village. 'Loud' would be an understatement here, the sound was bouncing around the houses and could be heard well into Westbrook. So I followed the noise and eventually wound-up at a house in Roxburgh Rd where a party, in full swing, was being held in the back garden being entertained by a live band at ‘full amp’. Guests were walking in and out and so I asked for the owner who appeared a few moments later. I then politely introduced myself to this gentlemen householder and asked “As a courtesy to your neighbours and the residents of Westgate” if he might turn the noise down as it was unreasonably loud at such an hour. He said he would, I thanked him and then left, thinking that was the end of it.

Thirty minutes later and at the other end of Westgate I could still hear it, so I called the police. Apparently their Maidstone switchboard was receiving a stream of complaints from the public about the noise but of course, they were preoccupied in Margate. However, with a little polite persuasion, the operator said they would send a car to the address and deal with the complaints and about fifteen minutes later, the noise stopped.

The point I’m attempting to make here is that nobody minds an energetic party but within reason. Whether this be ‘Blink’ on Margate’s main sands or a family celebration in Westgate. There are however sensible boundaries set by society on what is considered acceptable and what is not and as a general rule, if adults can’t exercise restraint and consideration for their neighbours, then why should we expect our children to do the same?

Loud and sustained noise is often regarded as a form of assault and I’m presently dealing with the complaint of one local resident in social housing, whose upstairs neighbour keeps unsocial hours and allegedly enjoys playing her stereo loudly, reportedly robbing him of sleep. Resolving the problem is awkward, takes weeks and involves several different agencies.

In the example of last night, a polite request from a passing local councillor should have been enough for common sense to prevail. Our hard-working, over-stretched police, here in Thanet, have, I’m sure, much better things to do on a Saturday night than remind people in a residential area, that others and particularly young children, need their sleep too!

Tuesday, August 23, 2011

A Burning Issue

It's too wet to venture outside and I've a few minutes to spare and so I will share the news that the toilets in West Bay were the subject of yet another arson attack last night.

To be frank, I've now lost count of arson incidents and the total costs involved. Last night's at West Bay, is, I think #3 in the last six months - I wrote about the last one here - and then there's Minnis Bay as well with toilet and beach hut destruction wreaked as far as Ramsgate, although we have a particular problem with juvenile arsonists in the Westgate area.

The police had told me, last month, that they had caught one teenager who had confessed to earlier incidents but obviously they come in pairs or even small groups and as much as I might like, I can't speculate on where these teenagers might be coming from.

Other than the inconvenience to the public 'convenience' before the Bank Holiday weekend, the costs are becoming a real problem. Significant amounts are now being spent across Thanet, dealing with the consequences of arson and vandalism and last week alone, the beach huts from Minnis to Westgate were attacked.

These are difficult times and budgets are under real strain. The mounting costs of constantly repairing damage along our coastline are bound to be felt elsewhere. This may not be Tottenham or Croydon but the actions of a small group of troubled teenagers are costing our community far too much and if you live in any of the areas affected, as I do, please be vigilant. As a local citizen rather than a councillor, I plan to start taking my dog for a regular late evening walk along the seafront at Westgate to keep an eye on things and if you would like to join me for some fresh air, do let me know.

Update:

I've just walked over to have a look and the damage is more than I expected. The men's toilets are a burned and blackened disaster area with the pervasive smog of arson still clinging in the air. Apparently this happened in broad daylight early yesterday evening!

Monday, August 22, 2011

When Birds Strike

In the aftermath of the Red Arrows tragedy on Saturday I've had several conversations over the last twenty-four hours or so with people asking me about ejecting from an aircraft and to be honest, I don't know the answer and can't. Until the formal investigation in concluded by the RAF, into what happened at Bournemouth, everything else remains media speculation.

The first thing however that occurred to me was a catastrophic bird-strike at low-level and I did notice the usual sea-bird activity around the cliffs when I was flying on Friday afternoon. When a large bird hits an aircraft the damage it can do is quite remarkable.

Parallels are being drawn with Rob Davies' miraculous escape at Duxford a few weeks ago, where he managed to bale-out of his P51 Mustang, 'Big Beautiful Doll' moments before it smashed in the ground after a mid-air collision with a heavily built Skyraider. Rob was extremely lucky as he left the aircraft well below the advertised safety height for his 'Fast Reaction' emergency parachute and only picked-up bruises. The £2m Mustang, between owners, wasn't so lucky and it proved to be uninsured.

When things go wrong at low-level there's very little time to do other than react and fall back on one's training, as any deep thinking process can take too long. During a display, like the one shown below for the Glider FX team at Shoreham last weekend, the aircraft is down to 300 feet along the crowd line during part of the display. Whoever shot the excellent video also got a little mixed-up on the pilot roster for Saturday.



In a relatively complex and delta-wing-loaded jet aircraft like a Hawk trainer there isn't the same level of gliding distance that may be available in propeller aircraft and when the engine goes silent time to impact is measured in fleeting seconds as this cockpit video from Canada illustrates. You can see the 'kamikaze' Canadian Goose hurtling in from the left of picture just after the video starts with the aircraft just above the runway.

Hopefully it will explain more clearly what goes on and in this example, there are two pilots in the aircraft working the problem and not one.

Saturday, August 20, 2011

Risky Business

The tragic death of a Red Arrows pilot at the Bournemouth Air Festival this afternoon has added a somber note to the weekend. I last saw the team at 18:40 yesterday evening as I was waiting at the Echo hold for the Memorial Flight to get underway ahead of me. The 'Arrows' were enjoying a BBQ with other pilots and friends about 50 yards away at the flying club. If I hadn't had a flight to do over Bromsgrove this afternoon, I would still have been at Bournemouth today.

My thought are with Flt Lt. John Egging's family and team mates and the awful incident illustrates only too well that air displays, while conducted under strict safety rules, are never without an element of risk and to lose any pilot is bad enough but one of the Red Arrows is a national tragedy, given their massive popularity and professionalism. They are also really friendly, nice guys too, as I find are all display pilots.

Bournemouth's Air Festival has been incredibly well organised and yesterday morning, while I waited for the car to take me back from the Queen's Hotel to the airport for my small part in the performance, I wandered down to the seafront to enjoy the view and admire how well the local council have arranged everything to show the town off to its best. There are some useful lessons to be learned from both the Bournemouth and Dawlish events of the last few days and I'm hoping we can put some of these into practice for Margate's own 'Big Event' in 2012.

Thursday's thunderstorm at Bournemouth was quite unbelievable; even one of the roads collapsed under the weight of water and the evening 'Night Air' display was cancelled. I had been finishing-up the afternoon with a flight after the Arrows at Dawlish, where the weather had completely collapsed into a claggy drizzle. I left Exeter climbing straight into the clouds, up to 5,500 feet to avoid the high ground, with no chance of breaking through into sunlight. Fortunately I popped out back again a half hour later, at 600 feet in front of the runway on a vectored instrument approach into Bournemouth and when I landed I watched the Memorial Flight Lancaster attempt to leave, take-off and return very promptly having seen what the weather was like.

This week gave me plenty of opportunity to ask several of the pilots who took part in our our air show this summer, what they thought about moving the venue from Palm Bay. The answer I received was that Palm Bay is great location but Margate sea front with a sweeping display line from the Harbour Arm along the sands towards Westbrook is even better. The Hawk pilots also suggested changing the display line angle slightly to maximise the run along the cliffs for the jets to take in the crowds gathered there. I'll pass these ideas and others to my cabinet colleague Alasdair Bruce.

Tomorrow, I've a marriage proposal to do at Botany Bay towards the end of the afternoon, so you may see me running a banner along the seafront on the way there. The name is unusual enough not to confuse any of the thousands of lady visitors on the beach into thinking it's aimed at them.

Tuesday, August 16, 2011

Too Late to Blog

I think I did eight display sorties today but haven't checked my logbook yet and dinner finally beckons; I only just got in from Bournemouth and Dunsfold. Anyway, if I get a moment to add some more pictures and text this evening I will.

Below is "Jules" the RAF's talented lady display pilot, who you may have seen flying the black Hawk at Margate's Big Event. She's been promised a ride in the Fox when the airshow reaches Bournemouth on Friday but quite frankly I know which of the two aircraft I would rather take a flight in.



Monday, August 15, 2011

Gone Fishing

With several airshows to cover  across the south of the country this week, I'm 'sort of' on a busman's holiday, although I think the last proper holiday I took was back in 2007 and I've still got a TDC meeting to attend this afternoon.

Tuesday is the press day for the Dunsfold 'Wings & Wheels airshow which looks like a lot of fun for anyone planning to visit the Top Gear testing track. Next weekend also sees the big  Shoreham Airshow, which is always packed and further west this week we also have the Bournemouth Air Festival and Dawlish Airshow.

I think we've done the subject of last week's riots to death now and it's very much up to the politicians and the police to come-up with a solution that reverses the damage of the last twenty to thirty years done to inner-city communities by a series of well-meaning but misguided Government policies and a society that has steadily lost sight of its moral compass.

The really big question surrounds jobs and opportunities for the young and for those not qualified enough or financially capable of making their way through university. Once upon a time, a university degree was a passport to a career but that's no longer so. Young people that didn't go to university used to find office or banking or factory jobs but these have now been lost to China or India or even Mexico with the call centres and cheap labour. So where does that leave us I wonder as jobs, even skilled jobs, are outsourced, off-shored or simply automated out of existence?

Europe's politicians, in the middle of their own crisis, really have no firm idea of how to meet the challenge of globalisation as the planet's economic centre of gravity slips towards Asia. Once I even asked Mr Barraso the European president what the answer might be and he couldn't offer an answer, other than pointing at the Lisbon Agenda, which has, in retrospect, failed miserably in meeting its objectives: "Sustainable growth and employment are Europe's most pressing goals and underpin social and environmental progress."

The fact that Britain still lies outside full European union gives us a ray of hope that we can fix our own social problems but the remedy won't be without pain and soul-searching and many might ask whether we have the time to fix the deep-rooted problems of a generation, as populations rise and pressures increase.

Saturday, August 13, 2011

Facing Up to The Task Ahead

Watching the re-run of this week's Parliamentary debate on the riots, I was left with the feeling that MPs were struggling in their efforts to understand the social dynamics that lay behind it.

There have been a number of good TV debates this week. Harriet Harman blamed the riots on Conservative policies, while Michael Gove, the Education Minister, tersely pointed out that Labour had overseen the steady collapse of the family for over a decade, with her as Minister watching over the dismantling of the institution. In a recent survey 49 per cent of British parents did not know where their children were in the evenings or with whom.

Harriet Harman and Patricia Hewitt, were Labour's ideological enemies of the family and the leaders of the Party's radical feminist wing, arguing in pamphlet after pamphlet that “It cannot be assumed that men are bound to be an asset to family life, or that the presence of fathers in families is necessarily a means to social harmony and cohesion.” After decades of agitation, which influenced social policy as well as social workers, their attack on men and their role in modern life has reached its nadir in Tottenham. Local MP David Lammy put it bluntly last week: “We are seeing huge consequences of the lack of male role models in young men’s lives"

Ironically and as Peter Hitchens, who I mentioned previously and others on the right have argued, socialist governments everywhere are notoriously anti-family and anti-tribe in principle, because if you follow Marxist theory, loyalty to the state comes first and the presence of a strong family unit is an impediment to the Orwellian concept of central political control. We could of course argue such matters until the country sinks around our ears but Britain, a class-ridden society, has, for the last sixty years been a testing ground for many failed experiments; multi-culturalism being the last and possibly the most damaging blow to an already fragile social fabric. According to the ONS, of the 1.8 million new jobs created over the Labour years, 99 per cent went to immigrants. Since David Cameron came to power, the figure is 82 per cent.

We can talk in terms of tough sentencing, as our Thanet North MP, Roger Gale, asked the Prime Minster last week but this is in the hands of the magistrates and the local courts and with the UK's prison population now at an all time high, we have to face up to the fact that many, if not most convicted rioters will either 'walk' on appeal or have community service orders. This is unless the crime was serious enough to warrant a prison term. In regard to the juveniles involved, the courts and the society they serve are more or less impotent and the kids and their families know it.

Politicians need to cease wringing their hands and confront the unthinkable. The overwhelming evidence that in our liberal society, soft sentencing is no longer a deterrence either to juveniles of those at its fringes, a lost generation, who have no sense of personal responsibility as you and I would understand it, nothing to lose and are quite unconcerned by a criminal record,as they have no intention of working and plan to live-off the state for the rest of their lives.

Making changes before this happens again requires an effort of political consensus, will and energy from all parties that I fear does not exist. Conservatives want a tougher regime, Liberal Democrats will block anything that appears too harsh and Ed Miliband was bought-up a Marxist and will be content to wait it out, make promises and lay the blame at the feet of the coalition policies as his deputy Harman did on Newsnight.

What do readers think I wonder as the public at such times often show more sense and speak more bluntly than the politicians

Thursday, August 11, 2011

Out and About

It all became a rather long day for everyone involved, starting with the press day for the Shoreham airshow and a series of sorties for tomorrow's newspapers capturing the aftermath of the riots. The Sony distribution centre in Enfield still burning when I left it.

The weather today was simply awful for airshows. Eastbourne lost the greater part of its programme and I struggled to get into Shoreham in the low cloud, strong winds and drizzle. My FX team leader, Guy Westgate (pictured) had an even longer trip which started  on Wednesday evening in South Africa, bringing back his BA 747 to Heathrow and then on to RAF Halton to pick up the PA25, which had a flat battery, followed by a real challenge to reach Shoreham airport before the weather closed in completely.

The poor members of the press, present in some force, then had to make do with all the available display aircraft gathered together, much like a circle of wagons and then between interviews with the pilots, imagine that we were putting on a preview display in advance of next week's big show.

Guy and I finally managed to escape in formation from Shoreham below the clouds at low-level just after 2pm to drop the 'Tug' over at 'Top Gear' Dunsfold, for the press day there next Tuesday, and then for me to ferry Guy back into Halton to get his car. From there I ran on to Rochester to get the plan for the newspapers and then spent an hour cris-crossing London for specific photos of the riot damage.

What amazed me most about the destruction of the Sony depot, is that it's miles from any of the riot areas on the edge of the M25. So I suppose that a number of  people felt aggrieved enough by the society in which they live, to drive all the way to Enfield and set fire to this huge building as a form of self expression, while selflessly attempting to save millions of pounds worth of high-value electronic goods at the same time. These were of course safely stored in their homes to be returned to Sony at a later date.

Anyway, time to get out of my flying suit and put my feet-up watching the news.

Tuesday, August 09, 2011

A Game of Consequences - The New Generation Game

For those of you who haven't read Peter Hitchens' book, 'The Abolition of Britain' I recommend this is a good time in our history to find a copy.

I've been fortunate, if you can call it that, to have seen the destruction in London relatively close-up and from a 'bird's eye' view. However, what occurred across the capital city these last few days, is not completely unexpected and in fact has been the subject of various predictions for over a decade . Today, new technology, such as the Blackberry Messenger or Twitter, simply offered a catalyst which enabled the nightmare of a potentially serious public order problem to become a very real and dangerous one.

In the eyes of many observers, what we have seen on our TV screens or indeed, experienced at first hand, is the consequence of a failed social experiment that started in the late 1990s with the politicisation of Government and the police service by Tony Blair.

Educators and social psychologists have warned now for over a decade, that the bonds that previously defined communities and families, have been steadily eroded by a determined and reckless 'Guardianista'  liberal  Government policy which created a benefits dependent class. This isolated community on the fringes of society, had little or no prospects and equally little sense of what many readers would recognise as an intrinsic and fundamental sense of social responsibility. 'A culture which makes no value judgements about how we raise our children is creating tomorrow’s looters and rioters.'

It can be argued that we've steadily been following the American experience as an aggressive, 'Hip Hop', violent, inner-city gang culture has emerged and now defines large areas of Britain's largest cities, many bordering as effective 'No Go' or 'culturally sensitive' policing areas. This has spilled over to other parts of the country and when I chaired the 'Tackling Organised Crime' conference a few years ago, I was surprised and quite relieved to hear that the influence of the violent Jamaican 'Yardie' gangs hadn't spread as far as Thanet.

What the solution is I couldn't say. The sociologists warn that once the teenage population of an area exceeds 20%  where both life prospects and aspiration remain low, then anti-social behaviour rises in a predictable manner. In cities like London, where we have had an  birth explosion over the last decade the results are writ large for all of us to see.

Where do we go from here I wonder but with university graduates unable to find work in their tens of thousands the life chances for those in the vanguard of the riots look increasingly bleak with accompanying consequences for the rest of society.

Monday, August 08, 2011

Volunteer Editor Required

Cllr Tom King, the Chair of the Westgate & Westbrook Residents Association (WWRA) has asked if I can help advertise for a volunteer editor for the association newsletter, The Record, which is distributed in the two wards.

Internet and PC editing skills are needed to put the content together before its printed and so if you have the time and are able to assist, please send Cllr King an email.


Sunday, August 07, 2011

A Column of Smoke by Day

I was woken-up early this morning with a request to get an aircraft up over the centre of Tottenham to photograph the smoking consequences of last nights riots. You could see the columns of smoke rising over the Lea valley from some considerable distance away, as I cut across the London zone near City Airport and the West Ham football ground. By the time I arrived, some of the fires were still burning fiercely and the area south of White Hart Lane resembled a war-zone.

With the Sky News helicopter conveniently leaving to refuel, you'll see the photos appearing in a number of the tabloid newspapers and to be honest, having seen the results of last night's mayhem from a bird-eye perspective, it's all rather shocking, as the community will have to live with the consequences for a long time to come.


Saturday, August 06, 2011

Rapide Travel

An unusually varied day today, which started with a summons from Steve Stevens DFC, to Shoreham airport, where a documentary is being made about one of the last heroic members of a now dwindling band of WWII RAF pilots.

I wrote about Steve in an earlier blog entry and he's written a number of books about hs experiences, the best-known being 'Beaufighter over The Balkans.' The book cover is an actual photo of a famous raid he led against a Nazi headquarters. Today, he was being given a ride in a De Havilland Rapide  from the wartime period and he last flew one of these in 1947, on a mercy mission to Africa.

It was touching seeing him make friends with a young boy clutching a model of an A10 Thunderbolt, who also wanted to be a pilot when he grows up. Steve said to him: "I used to fly and aircraft like that over sixty years ago but war is a terrible thing and when you grow up fly for peace instead."

He gave the little lad a signed copy of both of his books and I wonder if it will make a lifetime impression on the boy as a link between different generations over half a century apart?

From Shoreham it was a run through some heavy rain to do a marriage proposal for 'Zoe-B' over The Playgroup Festival at Eridge Park and then a trip from Rochester to the Big Brother House near Elstree Studios to photograph what they are up to on the production set for one of the tabloids in advance of a new series of the reality TV programme.

So I can't say the day wasn't 'different.'.


Thursday, August 04, 2011

Incoming

Time to put this week's fly-posting campaign behind us but lost in the outraged and exaggerated static being displayed elsewhere in the blogosphere, is the fact that the local council didn't spontaneously decide to take down roadside adverts but was responding to a number of complaints from residents and businesses about them. One could argue about this decision until hell freezes over but if any reader particularly wants one of a number of tax-expired, tatty white vans displaying adverts across Thanet to park, for weeks or months at a time, outside their house, then please do drop me a line and I'll happily put their address under the windscreen wipers of a couple of fine examples we have locally before they are carted-off by KCC.

A dramatic change in the weather and temperature from yesterday and looking at the weather radar map, it looks as if the English channel is migrating in our direction from the blue mass of rain heading our way. Fortunately and apart from Cabinet this evening, I've nothing on until the weekend, when the Big Brother House is once again in the sights.

It's the time of year when the airshow season reaches full swing and I've four to do over the next couple of weeks, Shoreham, Dunsfold, Bournemouth and Dawlish, either towing banners for clients like Airfix or as a part of the Glider FX team which has some impressive displays planned, among them, a dusk display at Bournemouth.

If you missed it last time I put the video up, here's Bournemouth from a previous year and what Guy, who's a national aerobatic champion, can do with a glider, is nothing than less than miraculous. Over in Holland for an airshow last month, he had an engine failure in one of the small Twisters, during a display and still bought the aircraft back in to land without a hitch.




Wednesday, August 03, 2011

A Sign of the Times

Mission accomplished this morning, although it's much hotter inland today as you might expect. From a working pilot's point of view, the temperature means that the equivalent density altitude makes it closer to 4,000 feet, which in my job, can make life awkward, when there's little or no wind and the drag of a large banner behind the aircraft.

In fact, I managed to knock the line off the posts on the first pass this morning, which then led to a mad and sweaty scramble, to land again, reset the equipment and get the flypast back as close to time as possible for the waiting group at Headcorn.

On the way over and before just about anyone else was flying, I heard my old instructor on the London Information frequency, 'Captain Clive', flying himself in from the Channel Islands where he now lives. He's now a training captain on much bigger aircraft these days and by the time I had finished my own short job, he'd landed and we managed a brief catch-up in the airfield cafe.

This morning's sultry heat rather reminds me of Cuba and so I settled down with one of my remaining two Partagas cigars to unwind, before writing this entry, pretending for a few brief moments, that in lieu of a summer  holiday, I was back in my favourite spot in Havana but without the benefit of one of Ernest Hemingway's favourite Mojito cocktails at the La Bodeguita del medio.

It's quite remarkable how many people must watch BBC South-east news because total strangers appear to recognise me out of my suit and tie and either comment on Thanet's seaweed problem or last night's story on on 'fly-posting around the island.'

You can watch it here if you missed it and I thought the BBC did quite a good job presenting the facts, which are not that the council is in any way unsympathetic towards the needs of local business but that the law clearly states what any business can and can't do outside its premises to promote itself.

As one chap this morning commented after recognising me: "I think I will go down to Westwood Cross and stick up a sign on the roundabout advertising my upholstery business. (sic) You've got to draw a line somewhere."

The fact of the matter is that residents, like the elderly lady from Westgate in the BBC report, who came out to have a cross word when we were filming, are quite understandably outraged when abandoned vehicles are used as mobile advertising hoardings for months on end, obstructing their roads. I'm told the council have had a great many complaints about these and other examples of fly-posting in its different forms around the island.

People will hold different opinions on whether this should be tolerated or not but as the BBC report points out, it's classed as a criminal offense rather than a nuisance and in the circumstances and when complaints are made, the authorities have little choice but to take action or in this case, remind businesses what constitutes acceptable and legal forms of advertising and what doesn't. The law, which changed in 2003, is quite clear on the matter and the BBC summarises it quite neatly.

Monday, August 01, 2011

On the Beach

It's officially summer. Why, because I finally managed to find the time to take my kayak out at high-tide today, at least two months later than usual.

The beach was packed this afternoon and contrary to the somewhat unhelpful rumours that I'm hearing of migrating 'killer' French seaweed invading our coast, everyone I saw today appeared to be alive and well, with a number enjoying ice creams too. Unlike the Brittany coast of France, we don't have wild boar roaming our sands, eating the seaweed either but should anyone spot any of the same, munching their way along the shoreline and stirring-up the weed with their short tusks, do please let me know through the usual channels.

Some readers may have noticed the change in wind direction today and with it, the seaweed being pushed out with the tide. Whether it will return I can't say but as I wrote in the previous entry, there's a great deal of effort being made to find ways of disposing of the hundreds of tons that comes our way each summer.

On Friday, Dr Alasdair Bruce and I asked both our local MPs if they could represent our personal concerns to English Nature over our chalk reef being visited by gangs of migrant cockle pickers on a regular basis. This is now visibly an organised trade and I understand it's having a potentially negative impact on the local marine environment as week on week, they collect, if that's the right word, mussels, cockles, oysters, you name it. There are regulations that govern this type of activity but generally fall outside the remit of the local council and no longer reflect what's happening in the Britain of 2011. I'm sure the same is true in seaside towns across the country.

Another BBC Newsroom South-east interview in the morning. Local news must be in short supply for them to be travelling out this far from home twice in under a week.