Saturday, June 30, 2012

Welfare Wishes

Out canvassing this morning and was that the TIG election team I spotted relaxing in Station Road?

"Morning John," I said in passing.

Labour have bussed in their activists from far and wide today and together with the candidate's pledge to 'Free Nelson Mandela', I was struck by another of many remarkable political claims,  printed on the bright red and yellow leaflet; one in particular, that the candidate, 'Jodie, knows our local issues here in Westgate inside-out.'

I suppose it's now too late for her to introduce herself locally, perhaps to the Westgate Residents Association and discover what those 'local issues' actually are, as I can't find one, even remotely familiar to me, on her glossy election materials. So she knows, should anyone ask her about it, the Minnis Bay Day Centre is actually in Birchington; so in fact is Minnis Bay and I will look forward to seeing her for the very first time in Westgate on election day.

I noticed a statement on the local Labour website earlier, that caught my attention: "Your Labour Councillors will do everything they can to defend the Welfare State," alongside what looks like a badly photo-shopped photo of the Prime Minster and Chancellor; apparently laughing at voters, we're told.

Fair enough but what does it actually mean beyond a grand soundbite?

Is anybody actually attacking the Welfare State or in the face of economic pressures not seen since World War II, are we facing a dramatic reassessment of what the State can actually afford to spend on welfare to avoid us going the way of Greece, Spain and Ireland? All following thirty years of such remarkable generosity that even a former Taliban fighter from Afghanistan, will reportedly travel several thousand uncomfortable miles in the back of a truck to claim asylum and enjoy our legendary welfare extravagance.

After, all, some 30% of our National Insurance numbers in circulation are reportedly fake and benefit fraud under the last Government was in the billions, endemic and a drain on the economy. In 2011 alone, the amount overpaid to claimants due to false claims and official mistakes had soared to £3.3billion up from £3.1billion in 2010, according to the National Audit Office.

Here in Thanet, as we all know, we swim in a sea of welfare grants and subsidies. If we had to survive on simply what is raised from the community charge or even income tax then everything would grind to a halt very quickly like Athens. So quite how the minority Labour administration, with its unblemished record of exaggeration, embellishment and failure, can in six short months, make promises about the Welfare State, I don't quite know, other than exercising the kind of financial prudence and restraint that you would normally associate with Conservatives. It's a mystery!


Molly's Bar are holding a charity day for the Viking day unit at QEQM this morning. If you have a moment, please support it with a small donation. I also see St Saviours are running their annual church fete today, so lots to do in Westgate.

I'm off to the aviation section of B&Q at Westwood Cross, to get some bits and pieces for Tuesday's job at Southampton, where I have six hours flying over the P&O Cruises 175th anniversary grand event in the Solent, weather permitting of course.

Finally, I spotted Margate football club's Keith Piper, shopping in Westgate this morning. The last I heard of the club's development plans, is that the Travelodge hotel development has been replaced by a proposal for an ice rink. Perhaps we'll have another 'decisive decision' from Clive Hart on this idea as well?

Thursday, June 28, 2012

The Comic Strip Presents

It was a long hot day, both on the ground and in the air, with some temporary relief from the humidity and the Sun above 3,000 feet before I arrived back in Kent.

Paperwork finished, I was enjoying a much-anticipated cold beer and what was left of my birthday, with my feet up in the garden, just before 7pm, when I had a call from one of our local hacks. More accurately perhaps I was given fifteen minute lecture and despite reminding him at least twice that as a journalist I was happy to answer his questions but not to listen to a monologue of his opinions, the penny didn't drop. So I tried telling him that I had had a long hot day and really wasn't in the mood to speak with him beyond offering a simple three line quote and I really didn't care what he thought of this blog or indeed, anything else.

Having left him to talk to himself for a minute while I went hunting in the freezer for another cold Stella, on my return, unable to get a word in between his opinions,  I concluded I was trapped in an endless Blackadder sketch and simply hung-up on him, returning to my beer and an excellent steak and salad birthday dinner which were waiting for me.

Anyway, the last post provoked some interesting comments and I'm quite happy that the information offered is accurate, so time to move on and find another subject to write about before the weekend.

Yesterday's Facebook story somehow reminded of me of Tompkinsons Schooldays. I can't think why. A normal blogging service will be resumed later.

Wednesday, June 27, 2012

Facebook Fuddles

Hardly a week passes here in Thanet, without a political Facebook gaffe of one kind or another and I've just been passed another, made it appears, by the young Mayor of Margate, Will Scobie.

For those of you who are unaware, the role of Mayor of Margate is rigorously apolitical and even the formidable Iris Johnston, to her credit, managed to keep it that way last year.

Sadly, with the Mayor's girlfriend and choice of Margate Mayoress now running as the Labour candidate for Westgate, it seems that the bony hand of politics has reached into the Mayor of Margate's 'official' Facebook page and poked him in the eye, with young Will, in a breach of protocol, rather shamelessly promoting Jodie for the Westgate vote in a week's time.

Once again, my advice to local politicians of all flavours and colours, is to treat Facebook with caution and resist the the urge to make any political comment there.


I bet he'll have a firm telling off from Iris within minutes of this being published.

PS.. As an afterthought, here's a useful guide to safe social media habits to share with councillors, candidates, mayors, mayoresses, teenagers and readers alike, with the preface from my good friend and Labour peer, Toby Harris. Do please give it a glance to avoid future stories like this one.

Tuesday, June 26, 2012

Dog Latin

A Communication from 'Claire'
It's one of those strange quirks of our legal system that along with tax evasion, 'irregularities' in the electoral process carry the most potentially eye-watering sanctions; so simply knocking together an election brochure without the correct and proper details being visible, verifiable or otherwise, correct in the eyes of the electoral commission, may lead to the most unfortunate consequences for the candidate.

Westgate is presently enjoying a fevered summer of electioneering as candidates lobby for the public eye and popular imagination. Today, I've just been passed the latest ;TIG communication, shown below, which displays some cheerful North Korean goose-stepping in tandem with a little shaky Latin wisdom.

You'll note that opposite "Your Choice is Claire" is the phrase:


"Quis imputo genitus metuo commoveo."

Struggling with my own schoolboy grasp of Latin and with the help of Google this becomes:

"Well, I was born, who ascribe to shake"

Michael Child, whose Latin is much better than my own, translates it as: "I'm so afraid of waking, please don't shake me."

This is perhaps the most opaque if not a profound political statement, I have ever read from a candidate and maybe someone, possibly even 'Claire', who apparently now lacks a surname on her election materials, I think I know why, could explain what this means to the good people of Westgate, who like me may, be struggling.

I suppose if candidates are going to campaign with Latin slogans we could have:

"Amicam ego maioris" and "Etiam Cicero coepi iuvenes" or even "Libertatisque enim Westgate."

Sunday, June 24, 2012

Deliverance

It's not unusual to worry about the Liberal Democrats and their policies, after all, Conservatives spend a great deal of time experiencing a level of coalition angst, which appears to become increasingly more pathological as time passes.

I read in the papers today, that a London Liberal Democrat-run council, seriously considered sending a child to the Congo to undergo a course of 'deliverance' or exorcism, because the boy's family claimed this was necessary. Apparently, they believed he was possessed by "kindoki" or evil spirits. Islington social services officials then paid more than £4,000 for an expert to travel to Africa to investigate.

This is of course a rather extreme example of the 'lunatics running the asylum' in the culturally-inclusive spirit of political correctness but what worries me more, is that I'm not really surprised and the same could be said of a number of metropolitan councils in Britain which place 'cultural sensitivity' over common sense and children's welfare.

Here in Westgate, with a by-election under way, I'm not entirely sure what constraints I'm under but if you happen to have received a copy of the Thanet Independent Group's (TIG) election flyer, I'm sure that like everyone else who has who had one stuffed through their letterbox, you may have been rendered temporarily speechless by the candidate's rather unusual policy platform, which appears to focus more on diversity and 'political thuggery,' rather than any Westgate  issues whatsoever.

I'm in two minds whether to put a copy up online before it too disappears as "It woz that fabulous Mr Fox wot wrote it and he's scarpered again,without leaving a forwarding address."

The last analysis on democracy, goes to none-other but Edmund Blackadder who only had only two political parties to muse over in Regency times.



It's the big football game tonight and I've discovered the wonders of Jalepeno-flavoured crisps, which in conjunction with some chilled Budweiser, give me an evening to look forward to!

Friday, June 22, 2012

Indefinitely April

I'm starting to wonder if summer is every going to arrive and stay more than a day or so. If it doesn't make an appearance soon, then the sea will have no chance of warming-up and we may be stuck with an indefinite April until the autumn. That said, you may recall that April did look rather a lot like summer and one beach trader told me he sold out of buckets and spades and sunglasses.


Watching the final episode of 'True Love' the other evening, I was fascinated at how the characters managed to almost instantaneously 'teleport' between scenes at Westgate's West Bay and Botany Bay and Joss Bay on their romantic walk. This may lead to some confusion among tourists attempting to retrace the route. I couldn't but notice that the school featured in the drama, was the Charles Dickens in Broadstairs and wondered if they knew what the story line was?

Some of you may have noticed from the drama that Margate beach only allows two people on at a time.

Staying with the subject of film for a moment and quickly reviewing Thanet Watch's latest batch of protest videos; the most recent being the Concordia surgery protest, starring Cllr Ian Driver, I thought of suggesting something along the lines of more a light-hearted political production from that loose association of crusading 'lefties' filmmakers and resting anarchists often found at Broadstairs' 'Red Hall,' than simply following the megaphone diplomacy of Cllr's Worrow and Driver's personality bandwagon around Thanet.



Don't forget tonight, Tracey Emin in conversation with Stephen Fry , a live broadcast from the Turner Contemporary at 8pm!

Thursday, June 21, 2012

In Difficult Times

Yesterday, I gave a short interview to a national newspaper which is writing a story on Margate and the issues surrounding local housing pressures and displacement of the vulnerable and homeless from London and elsewhere.

Readers here will have heard my views on this subject before but in the space of a week that's seen a TV series, 'True Love' which shows the very best of Margate, and together with the Mary Portas visit, a BBC News night report that illustrates some of our more serious social and economic challenges, I'm going to recap and you may or may not agree with me.

I had an opportunity to walk through my thinking in the hairdressers this morning, a forum which is never short on local opinion.

In difficult times, every community has a part to play in sharing, what is after all, a collective burden but there has to be a limit on local goodwill when our own finances are so strained.

I've shared some of the alarming statistics surrounding Margate and Cliftonville West here in the past, so there's nothing new in my telling you that we hold the county record for teenage pregnancy, 39% of the population are on benefits, 10% are on disability, 18.5% are on incapacity and roughly only 17% of the population of these wards are from Thanet. Some 30% of the population changes every twelve months in an environment where 80% of the properties are flats with an unusually  high density of single occupancy and hospital admissions are the worst in Kent.

What's been revealed of late, is the level, of what I heard described as 'forced displacement' of people from the big city and elsewhere to our seaside towns and in particular, Margate. It's not just the profitable industry surrounding troubled children and teenagers, but a strategy of offering an indefinite seaside vacation at great local expense, to former criminals and sex-offenders on probation, the mentally ill, the involuntary homeless, asylum seekers and eastern European migrants and more. As Jeremy Paxman revealed last week on the BBC, the police and local government are not even entitled to know where those who might constitute a risk to children or local people are living or indeed, the location of all secure homes and hostels and the nature of their patients or residents.

"What use am I, as a local politician, "I ask myself, "If I can't protect my own ward from such risks and pressures that we can't possibly cope with?" "Where does a community, any community, draw the line and say enough is enough? This has to stop if we are to have any chance of building a future on the opportunity given to us by the Turner Contemporary to follow a path of successful regeneration."

"Were any of us asked if we wanted our community changed so dramatically and in such a relatively short period of time? At the very least we need a breathing space, here in Thanet, where agencies of every description  and the worst-offending London local authorities, commit to a binding agreement to stop solving their problems by sending their most vulnerable people to Thanet. This, in addition to firm action by successive Governments to recognise the scale and true seriousness of a problem outside of our control and deal with it proactively instead of wringing its hands."

We have some great opportunities for the future here in Thanet, just give us the space we need to live up to the vision of Margate we have seen all this week in 'True Love' rather than the dystopic and unhappy consequences of ill-considered and consistently damaging policies of displacement revealed in BBC's Newsnight

Wednesday, June 20, 2012

True Love

Thanet Council Press Office
I've been enjoying 'True Love' on the BBC, which is  wonderful publicity for Margate as well as being a very watchable series of overlapping love stories.

Of course, it's hard not to be drawn-in to the programme because the scenery is so familiar and the filming draws-out the very best in our local scenery. There's also a sense of 'deja vu', as you can see from my photo, having seen some of the filming from behind the camera.

I had a word with director, Dominic Savage's brother, Jason and told him that the series had 'Missed a trick' because they could have easily had me towing a romantic aircraft banner along Margate seafront for free. It's ironic that I do most of these at Brighton! He said it's a pity they hadn't thought of it as it would have offered a lovely shot. You can find my other posts on the making of the series here.

Thanet Council Foyer
I've got to run off towards Hastings to a maintenance facility to check some electronics on one of my aircraft now but will probably write a little more as the day passes.

On a completely different subject, I wanted to add the news that next Tuesday, Chris Grayling MP, Minister for Employment, will be speaking at Thanet’s first MPs’ jobs and apprenticeships fair.

The event organised and hosted by Thanet’s two local Members of Parliament, Laura Sandys and Sir Roger Gale, will be held at The Winter Gardens in Margate from 10.00-15.00. There are reportedly 400 jobs on offer with over 80 stands and for one day, The Winter Gardens will transform into Jobs ‘R’ Us, so it's a positive sign in very difficult times for employment here in Thanet

Tuesday, June 19, 2012

Rude and Abusive

I see that Cllr Worrow popped-up on BBC's Southeast Today on Monday evening, as they gave further coverage to the homophobia allegations which have plagued the council in recent months, with inappropriate and unacceptable comments from councillors from both of the main political parties.

There are times when I think we are stuck in some ghastly 1970's political sitcom, given the crude nature of the remarks that have been flying around the internet this year. The subject has been covered in great detail across the local weblogs and so I won't add much further comment, other than remark that with only weeks before a local by-election, councillors are supposed to refrain from media appearances and political comment under the 'Purdah' guidelines. As a consequence, I'm somewhat surprised that the BBC, who know the rules asked Cllr Worrow for an interview.

Other than announcing a 'Protest' against Cllr Ken Gregory outside the Council offices at the next meeting - let me guess, organised by Thanet Watch? - what was interesting is that our 'Diversity Champion', Cllr Worrow and his TIG party, failed to mention or condemn Labour's derisory 'One month' suspension of Cllr Mike Harrison at all for his equally well-publicised 'shirt-lifting' comments directed at Cllr Driver on Facebook. It's also worth noting that they are calling for a new council code of conduct which outlaws offensive remarks and 'Rude and abusive behaviour.'

In the aftermath of the infamous 'Minnis bay of Pigs' affair, Birchington's Cllr Worrow, quite possibly now holds the local record for standards code complaints, from both the public and his political colleagues. How his introduction of a tighter code of conduct for councillors and perhaps even diversity blog wardens, will actually work in practice, I don't know. However, as Clive Hart's struggling minority Labour administration depends on TIG for their survival, I'm prepared to bet that anything that is put before the Council by the independent Cllr's Driver and Worrow, will be carried on the nod by Labour, regardless of whether it makes any sense or indeed, involves wearing ones underwear on the outside!

Changing the subject completely, is anybody noticing a 'Lost dogs' pattern locally? I'm struck by the apparently growing number of small, microchipped dogs, much loved by their owners, who appear to have gone missing this year. Dogs don't simply run away from home, rather the opposite, which leads me to wonder whether they are being stolen either to re-sell or the more unpleasant thought of being kidnapped to train fighting dogs, which isn't uncommon elsewhere.

If anyone else has noticed the same trend, do let me know.

Monday, June 18, 2012

The Lost Boys

I watched the Children's Minister, Tim Loughton, on Sky News this morning, as the deplorable state of the 'Looked-after Children Business' figured on today's 'Outraged' and 'shocked' headlines.

I've a lot of time for Tim, as I have worked with him once before and he's deeply committed to achieving positive outcomes in the face of overwhelming bureaucratic odds. He explained that he had been meeting with local MPs who were concerned at the 'dumping' of looked-after children far away from their point origin and expressed anger that some local authorities, no prizes for guessing which ones, are ignoring his instructions of a twenty-two mile limit and are depositing their vulnerable wards in already deprived and problematic areas like our own. He plans to take action and in the view of many of my colleagues, tomorrow wouldn't be soon enough!

I had an email from one of my readers this weekend, that perhaps sums-up what I see as an increasingly common level of concern, here in Thanet. I've had his permission to publish it with his identity removed.

"Dear Simon

I have followed reports on your blog about behaviour, drugs and London borough dumping with interest and not a little concern. Apart from the overall decline in standards at my daughter's school, there is an increasing trend for youngsters from the more violent and drug ridden world of some inner London boroughs to impact on the lives of our own children.

My daughter was with two friends in a Westgate after school, when approached by a group of unknown teenagers. These youngsters made conversation and one snatched my daughter's bag, rummaged through it and removed her new Blackberry, a sixteenth birthday present, and her purse. They then made off. Fortunately our daughter and her friends were not hurt, but very frightened by the experience.

Police enquiries led to a care home in Ramsgate though no prosecution followed due to identification difficulties as to who actually stole the items.

Only yesterday, two 14 year old German girls currently staying with us, were accosted by two youths, one black and one white, in Pierremont Park, Broadstairs with demands for money watches and phones. The two girls ran towards a group of other youngsters in the High Street whilst the young German boy with them, who had tried to assist, was being punched in the head by the two youths. Calling for help, our two visitors were greeted with "F**k off, Hitler" by the people they had turned to for assistance. Nonetheless, the three German youngsters all managed to get away down to the Baptist Church Hall where they were meeting up with their teachers with property intact, although the lad had a badly flushed and swollen face. Police attended though early days for any outcome."

Sunday, June 17, 2012

Timeslip

A long day out at Coventry with a stop at Sywell for fuel on the way home, before passing over the top of Luton airport and out towards Essex and the Isle of Sheppey.


Over at Sywell, spotted an unusual visitor and wandered over to take some photos. The chap I spoke to apparently builds these Fokker DR.1 Triplane replicas with a Lycoming 150HP engine and they are, he said, a bit of a handful. Still, I could be tempted and apparently he's building the classic WW1 fighter the SE5a to full size plans and that may be hard to resist.

I've a marriage proposal banner to prepare for the end of Brighton pier tomorrow afternoon, so maybe, more thoughts and photos later on local elections and more as the evening wears on.

In case you hadn't noticed, there's by-election brewing in Westgate and the Council and councillors are now in a state of 'Purdah.' What this actually means is rather vague and depends very much on who you happen to be speaking with and proper guidance, where blogging is concerned, is rather hard to come by. It's all rather like the Council's Standards Committee dealing with complaints about blogs without really understanding how they work.

From what I could see canvassing on Saturday with James Maskell and some familiar faces opposite, every Party has been out delivering leaflets through people's doors except TIG and the LibDems and perhaps they were somewhere I wasn't.

I 'tweeted' on Saturday, that I was rather bemused by the suggestion that Labour would reverse the coalition's benefits cuts, which are without doubt a source of concern to many people.

Quite how Labour, locally, might achieve this I don't know as it would demand rather more than the parking and the flowers budget. However, it does illustrate, once again, what I wrote last week, that national issues are muddying the waters of what is a very local by-election and people frequently don't know the difference or simply vote along the well-established fault line of tribal loyalty, without caring that much about the value of 'localism' as I understand it at least.

Anyway, I'm just waiting for a bright red, Trades Union sponsored banner to be delivered from the States, which will be aimed fairly and squarely at Ed Miliband in the near future, with a message from the shop floor.

Friday, June 15, 2012

What the Dickens

Laura Sandys at the Opening of The Charles Dickens
It's the eve of  the Dickens Week Festival  in Broadstairs once again and this afternoon, I was over at the Old Charles and Copperfield restaurant for its grand-reopening and very nice it looks too!

Frank Thorley and Laura Sandys MP (pictured) each made a short speech and I had a good chat with author,  Jane Wenham Jones about the unhappy state of local politics.

I see from the pages of the Thanet Gazette today, that the Council's Standards Committee has at this stage, exonerated Cllr John Worrow from all responsibility in the now notorious, 'Minnis Bay of Pigs' blogging story on the basis, I assume, that it was all the fault of the mysterious and fabulous 'Mr Fox', the website's editor and TIG secret- agent who has disappeared without trace or any forwarding address or telephone number and was unable to be present to give evidence.

Also in the local paper, I read that  this 'High flying Councillor Moores'  was 'Ushered away by security at Google's HQ at Victoria', when I dropped my business card into reception on passing last week. Google are soon going to be photo-mapping London from the air and as I already do this kind of thing, I sensed an opportunity.

Apparently, this was 'Another blow' to my career, which comes as news to me but shown below, is what I actually 'Tweeted'. However, the Thanet Gazette, which is overly smug and  I suspect a little worried by the competition of rising number of readers visiting on local blog sites like this one for their information, turned it into something completely different and very personal. You judge who is making-up stories and I have expressed my disappointment at yet another example of shoddy and vindictive journalism to the editor, Rebecca Smith, at the Gazette:

"It appears that Google don't do casual visitors. Reception shielded by heavy security from the street. Don't call us we'll call you!"

If the little local news items are open to such cynical embellishment how can you trust that the really important issues are reported truthfully or not written without a personal or political agenda? 

Thursday, June 14, 2012

A Cultural Break

Aside from the prevailing  fuss over Margate's 'Portas Pilot' plans for a fly-on-the wall documentary, which earned an hour's BBC Radio Kent phone-in this morning, the BBC also spotted that London councils are still sending children in care to Thanet, in large numbers, in breach of their own rules and their agreement with both us and KCC.

Please see BBC NewsNight Special report on Wednesday. I missed it but you can watch it again as it looks directly at our problems here in Margate. Do try and watch it and see what we are up against. "Vulnerable children placed in Cliftonville alongside Drug dealers, paedophiles and criminal gangs."

Kent Online reports, that a list of councils that have placed troubled and looked-after children in Kent shows they include Aberdeen, Guernsey, Neath Port Talbot and Blaenau Gwent in Wales. Others are Newcastle, Middlesborough, Lancashire and Northamptonshire - all several hundred miles from Kent. By far the largest number of placements of children at risk is still coming from London councils. The London borough of Greenwich tops the table with 134 placements - twice as many as neighbouring councils like Newham and Lewisham. Laura Sandys said, “This issue has gone on for too long and desperately needs to be resolved. In Thanet we now have a situation where 243 vulnerable children from outside the area have been placed hundreds of miles from their original homes.”

We all recognise this as a significant problem and more recently, the police and schools disclosed their own concerns that vulnerable young people were being placed in environments, here in Thanet (principally Margate and Cliftonville) where they were exposed to unacceptable risks, both sexual and criminal, which are quite unacceptable. A link with the character of 'Fagin;" in the Charles Dicken's novel, Oliver Twist was made to illustrate the dangers of criminalisation through gangs.

We can argue the benefits of 'Portas Pilots' until our eyes glaze over but the looked-after children issue is part of a much wider symptomatic problem which, as I've written before, creates havoc with the education of local children in specific areas and prevents Thanet and in particular Margate and Cliftonville, regenerating in any meaningful way, as a net recipient of massive social services,aid, intervention and spending.

Last night, on the late train back from London, I commented to the lady guard that we were having a 'Yob-free' journey and she remarked that I should see the weekends. When she saw I was going to Westgate, she commented: "Aren't there a lot of children's homes there?" Apparently my little seaside town is well-known known for its problem kids on the trains, which somewhat reinforces what I saw taking the 16:20 out to Victoria yesterday afternoon. I sent my photographs to the local police inspector to try and identify the youths in question, who I'm now seeing rather too much of around the town.

Why aren't the Police told?

In a system dependent on private provision, reportedly, a single cared-for child with more difficult personal problems is worth as much as £200,000 in income to a care faculty, a staggering statistic if it's even close to being correct. Apparently, the police don't even know where many of these care homes are, I don't know and I'm not entitled to know, here in Westgate and OFSTED are accused of dramatic failings and simply 'ticking boxes', so overwhelming is what is described as a 'badly broken' system of care.

Anyway, in London last night, I found myself having a drink with Michael 'Kell' Ryan and did my very best to try and promote the benefits of Manston as a potential hub for Ryan Air. At least he knows where it is now and what the supporting infrastructure is. I didn't mention our Labour administration's opposition to night flights however.

On the beach at St Mildred's bay this morning a little cultural interlude and the charming sound of chamber music being played on the promenade. I do hope it becomes a regular feature.

Tuesday, June 12, 2012

Prometheus

Sunny June
Looks like the Thanet seaside has re-opened just in time for what feels like the start of winter and Mary Portas has been spotted, wandering around Margate High Street in the pouring rain, in advance of tonight's meeting at the old Woolworth building.

'Quite what' said one person I listened to on the news, "£100,000 will actually achieve in terms of town centre regeneration, is anyone's guess. Ten times that probably wouldn't be enough for any single town." It's a start at least. I think we would all agree that Margate needs rather more 'TLC' than we can afford but all the right noises are being made in the right places and the 'Turner effect' that so many skeptics sneered at, is steadily working its magic in regenerating the resort in the public imagination.

The overall problems that plague Margate are bigger than most of us can imagine but there's an awful lot of good will and enthusiasm from a committed community who are working very hard to turn it around.

I'm off to see the movie, 'Prometheus' at the Carlton Cinema in Westgate this evening. I'm told it's a prequel to that old favourite, 'Alien' so I'll be settling down to a large container of popcorn, content in the knowledge that I'm not missing a pleasant summer's evening while I'm munching along through the film.



Monday, June 11, 2012

Monday Madness

I wanted to remind Westgate and Westbrook residents that tonight's monthly WWRA meeting is at the United Services club, just behind the Carlton cinema. I have a late meeting in London this afternoon and so it's unlikely I will be able to attend but it's quite possible that several of the Westgate by-election candidates will be present to introduce themselves at the end of the meeting. This is not a political meeting and anyone attempting to make it one will be politely asked to leave by the WWRA committee.

In today's post I've just received the decision of the Council's Standards Committee,on the complaint made by Cllr John Worrow, that I "had made remarks about his mental health on the blog site, www.thanetlife.com."

The Council's decision is that "No further action will be taken in respect of the complaint" and that it was "Not in the public interest to expend tax-payers' money in an investigation". The Committee further commented: "That there was a danger that a complaints process, intended for use by persons who interact with councillors would be used by councillors to pursue political and personal differences."

So that leaves the complaint made by TIG's Cllr Dr Jack Cohen yet to be decided upon.

If I'm honest, I can't recall any comments on this weblog that might lend credence to Councillor's Worrow's allegation that I "made remarks about his mental health" but I would invite readers to visit his recovered blog archive at www.tigabout.blogspot.com and draw their own conclusions about the mysterious and conveniently missing webmaster,'Mr Fox' instead!

Southern Water have been busy overnight scraping the seaweed from Thanet's beaches into huge piles along our coast. I very hope that the Council or the contractor move these rapidly and before the Sun comes out and constitutes and incubating health hazard. Obviously, I'm no longer the Cabinet member for the Environment but I would urge my Labour colleague to act swiftly in restoring some level of public confidence in our coastline. I hear there may be a possible class-action brewing from those traders and concessionaires whose business has been damaged by the fiasco of the last week.

Saturday, June 09, 2012

Going Local

Out and about this morning and I see that the different political parties are already working hard in Westgate.

I had a friendly chat with the gentlemen from UKIP and did point-out that almost everyone of their pledges for Westgate had absolutely nothing whatsoever to do with Thanet District Council's remit; i.e. wind farms, weeds, resisting social housing, introducing a parish council and a referendum on supermarkets etc. "Isn't this all a little disingenuous?" I asked.

James Maskell is the Conservative candidate, Jodie Hibbert is Labour's choice, Jeff Elenor is UKIP's champion and Bill Furness is running on the Liberal ticket.  I haven't seen a TIG presence yet, no doubt peddling their unique mix of animal rights, parking and LBGT marriage policies. I've heard that the Green Party and perhaps even the BNP may be circulating, seeking a quick-by-election publicity opportunity.



For some reason, the iconic image of the helicopter scene in the movie, 'Apocalypse Now', sprang to mind, an embattled Westgate, it's beaches closed, suddenly the focus of attention of every political party in the land; that's with the exception of George Galloway's 'Respect' Party (Bradford Spring T-shirts now available on-line) and who knows if they will put in an appearance.

We have seen of late, the independents in particular, straying beyond the more mundane, day-to-day responsibilities of a local ward councilor and seeking to position themselves on county or national issues. These may sound grand but it's the local case work that really matters, helping often vulnerable people navigate their way through what can sometimes be a maze of local government services and regulations.

Then, there's issues like a Sainsbury's superstore on the Canterbury road and plans for a new Tesco in Station Road, to be presented to the Residents' Association meeting on Monday night. From what I can judge, many people I speak with, want neither. I'm particularly irked by the proposed plan for a Tesco, having approved commercial use for three small shop units opposite Molly's, to reflect the look and feel of Westgate and then seeing that, coming back a couple of years later as a Tesco Metro. I'm in London on Monday and so will miss the WWRA meeting as I may not be home in time but I have passed me feelings on this and other local issues along.

Friday, June 08, 2012

A Bad Case of Wind

Thanet has escaped relatively lightly today, given the force of the wind on the south coast. That said, with our beaches closed and reportedly yet another sewage leak after yesterday's heavy rain, perhaps and in an  ironic sense, it's not such a bad thing that the gale is keeping tourists away from our lovely but embattled beaches. but that's no consolation to the businesses suffering along our coastline as a consequence.

As you can see from the photo of a 'passing pooch', I've been out for a stroll with my camera but really couldn't catch anything that might dramatically sum-up the gale. Let's all hope that the bad weather will expend itself before the Olympic torch relay arrives in Thanet on July 19th and Tracey Emin get's her tracksuit on to join all our local runners in procession towards Canterbury and Medway where it looks as if I may be flying a form of air support to welcome it.


Thursday, June 07, 2012

Mischief Central

I see that Cllr Dr. Jack Cohen has joined Cllr John Worrow of the Thanet Independent Group, in filing a standards complaint in what appears like a joint effort to close this weblog and perhaps just as importantly for them, the TIG archive.

A little earlier, Cllr Tom King called me, none too amused that Cllr Worrow appears to be signing himself  the 'Leader of the Independent Group' on last night's press release, which has of course been properly corrected on the TIG website.

Meanwhile, Cllr Iris Johnston has taken umbrage at my referring, in an earlier entry to the Labour candidate, Jodie Hibbert, as the 'Mayor of Margate's girlfriend' and I'm duly instructed to tell all my readers that she has been active in the Labour Party for ' a while' with lots of good works and that her canvassing is going down a storm here in Westgate.

So it's all a mistake, she's not the Mayor of Margate's girlfriend, just a flatmate and there must be a grave error on her Facebook  page - now seriously edited.

Night Flights Online

The very heated Council debate on the matter of Night Flights for Manston airport is now available to view online here:

For readers on both sides of the argument, who didn't have a chance to attend the meeting or experience is 'highlights' this is a chance to listen to the debate, judge the facts and arrive at your own conclusions.

As a pilot, it does worry me that a number of comments made during the debate and presented as fact, were uninformed personal speculation. However, among the speeches, you can enjoy Sandy Ezekiel's very passionate speech and the moment  (97:00 minutes) when Cllr Driver predicts the end of the aviation industry and a return to carts and horses; "The sooner it closes down the better."

Cllr Mrs Fenner and Cllr Mrs Johnston firmly believe that the airport is bad for tourism on the island. Cllr Mrs Green appears to believe that in some third-world countries night flights are not permitted and that this has an impact on Manston. Which third-world countries I would like to know as I'm sure would British Airways too.

I try and correct some  of these misconceptions at minute 99:00 and dismiss the idea of Manston being turned into a CenterParc or local heritage attraction.

And finally.. I'm going to start alternating the background images on this weblog and today's is one I've entitled 'Another View of Margate' which is receiving some popular traction across the web's photo sites.

Wednesday, June 06, 2012

Closed?

I wandered into Margate this morning but couldn't see any sign of beach closure notices, following-on from the weekend's serious sewage spill at the Foreness treatment plant.

I think the email I received earlier, sums-up public confusion over where we stand or more importantly, where we can swim?

"I was intending to bathe in the sea today until I met a friend by chance in Westgate who told me all Thanet beaches are closed. I went to West Bay at 10.15 am to consult the lifeguard but the hut was closed and a chalked notice announced there would be no lifeguard on duty today. No flags were flying and there was no notice that I could find about beach closure.


I've checked on TDC's website and sure enough there is a notice of precautionary closure of all Thanet beaches from Monday until further notice. I phoned TDC at 10.45 am but no-one on duty could explain why red flags were not flying, nor why there were no prominent notices on the beaches. I am expecting a call back from TDC but I did express the opinion that red flags should be flying and warning notices displayed prominently within the hour.

I'm a amazed in these days of a collective obsession on the part of authorities about health & safety that a genuine and important risk such as sewage contamination of our lovely and normally safe beaches should be treated in a less than responsible way.

I hope I can rely on your support to get TDC to raise red flags and place warning notices on the promenade as a matter of urgency. What is more alarming is that my granddaughter and friends went to Viking Bay to watch the fireworks on Monday evening and played in the sea when the firework display was cancelled but none of the marshalls on duty warned them or their parents of the contamination risk.

Many thanks in anticipation."

Tuesday, June 05, 2012

Big Day at Buck House

The day after the big palace concert the night before, London had its fireworks and Broadstairs didn't. Quite how the 'Elf n' Safety' differs between the two, I'm not sure, as when I returned last evening from flying at Brighton, Thanet seemed quite calm in the early evening summer sunshine; perhaps Broadstairs was under the influence of another weather system?

I'm a little disappointed that nobody wanted to use the giant flying Queen's Jubilee banner locally for the celebrations as it would have been such an easy thing for me to arrange for an impromptu air display.

Back briefly to the increasingly sordid bear-pit of local politics for a  moment and I hear that not only are UKIP and Labour fielding council candidates for Westgate along with the Residents Association (WWRA) but TIG has now reportedly put-up Claire Mendelsohn from Ramsgate. I'm guessing that Labour are hoping to try and split the solid Conservative vote so that the 28-year-old Mayoress of Margate Jodie Hibbert, of recent "I love that our PM's such an asshole"  and "All my friends are drunks" fame, can find a quick seat on the Council. One might have thought that after all the recent online fuss with Cllr Mike Harrison, now suspended for a month, the former Mayor of Margate, Iris Johnston and Clive Hart might at least have trawled Jodi's Twitter and Facebook pages before recommending her so wholeheartedly to the people of Westgate, even before Cllr Goodwin's funeral.

The next four weeks, I'm sure, won't be short of  local political gossip and stories and I'm guessing that by Friday, quite a few local politicians Facebook pages will have been vigorously redacted as both Mike and Jodie's have in the last week or so. Unfortunately, the deletion of more outrageous online social media statements doesn't mean they are not there anymore and they have a nasty habit of coming back to bite at us vital moments when we would rather not be reminded of them and the best are invariably kept until last.

Monday, June 04, 2012

Barbara Whitlock Goes Global

I'm delighted that the iconic photo of Barbara Whitlock at yesterday's Queen's Diamond Jubilee party, held by the Westgate & Westbrook Residents' Association at the Bakehouse has 'gone global.'

I syndicate my photos on Flickr and this particular image, was spotted very quickly and seen to reflect the true national spirit of the Jubilee celebrations in 'Little Britain' from around the world.

'The icing on the Jubilee cake!'

Well done indeed Barbara!

While all this excitement was happening, I had taken a chance with this morning's awful weather and headed-off towards Brighton, for a client who was very inisistent on my having a go at getting airborne over the beach this afternoon.

Quite remarkably, the weather changed dramatically after lunch and I managed to get my display done to plan and if you would like to see a pilot's eye view of Brighton Beach, then there's a short YouTube clip below.

Little Britain

Looking at the weather forecast for today, it's all looking rather grim for the continued Jubilee celebrations and the annual 'Margate Meltdown.'

I'm scheduled to be running a display over a crowded, Bank Holiday, Brighton beach but I somehow don't think this is going to happen or that many people will be sunbathing either.

Sunday's WWRA Jubilee party at the Westgate bakehouse was a huge success and great credit goes to Allison, Debi, Jennifer and Lorraine (also pictured) for all their hard work in preparing the food, drink and decorations and the many others who helped make it a local event to remember.

The WWRA President, Eileen Cunnew, pictured in black and white further below and soon to be 90, was crowned 'Queen for the Day,' with an iconic portrait of Barbara Whitlock, pictured above, celebrating as her 'Princess.'

I wandered around with my iPhone camera as usual, looking for images that might sum-up such a great day of community involvement for everyone and have put all my 'snaps' in an online collection for anyone to view or download.

Spare a thought for all those brave motorcyclists, in their thousands, now heading for Margate in the driving wind and rain and for Her Majesty, the Queen, today, who has no choice but to brave one of our finest examples of the great traditional, chilly, wet British Bank Holiday, for her Diamond Jubilee Concert at Buckingham Palace with Sir Cliff Richard, Elton John and others.

Quite how the coastal beacons will be lit tonight is anyone's guess, given the 40mph winds that are expected to blow for much of the day. Unless the the weather changes quite dramatically, more than a box of Swan Vestas and a can of petrol may be required to get the fire going.

Just remind me, are we still in a drought?

Sunday, June 03, 2012

Wales vs Barbarians

A short break from politics and Saturday proved to be a bit of a trial thanks to the weather.

I made an early start off towards Wales with a banner asking the public to "Save QDG - Wales Only Tank Regt,' before any of the airfields at the other end were open, relying on a reasonably positive forecast and low cloud lifting for around 9:30.  So making my way to Kemble to take on fuel for the job and skirting around London on instruments, I wasn't too happy, when I called-up Kemble on the radio from about 20 miles out and heard they had a blanket of fog and a ceiling of 300 feet.

Everywhere else in the south-west for miles around seemed much the same, and with limited diversion fuel and needing to make a decision I had to drop into Oxford for a full instrument approach, which popped-me out of the cloud at 500 feet above their runway. I had enough time to land, take-on coffee, full tanks and then jump back into the clouds towards Wales, hoping it would be a little better when I arrived, given the call I had made earlier, on the ground at Oxford to the owner of the small private airfield  at Abergavenny.

It wasn't. Descending from 6000 feet over the Severn Estuary, visibility was non-existent, which gave me quite limited options, as on the opposite side of the road from Abergavenny, there was a rising, 2,000 foot mountain or in this case, a cloud with a very hard centre.

Using both GPS units in the aircraft, I spiraled down looking for a gap in the thick cloud cover and eventually found one, quite close to the ground on the eastern side of the airfield; dropped quickly into it and managed to find my destination, more a stroke of luck than judgement.

After that most of the day was spent sitting at the airfield waiting and hoping for the weather to clear sufficiently to get airborne over Cardiff. The first schedule, which was a parade from the castle went out of the window and so did the second, which was the start of the Wales vs Barbarians match at the Millennium stadium but by 3pm, the cloud base had lifted just enough to get going and catch everyone coming out of the match; tens of thousands of red shirts, pouring into the surrounding streets and so everything worked-out in the end.

It just goes to show that even the most accurate aviation weather forecasts can be completely and utterly wrong, which is how unwary pilots encounter unpleasant and unexpected surprises. Here's a short video of the pickup so you can see what it was like over there.