Tuesday, July 31, 2012

Early Riser

Out early to fly down towards Hastings for a regular maintenance check.


Driving down Beach Road in Westgate, I encountered the Seagull in the photo, outside the 'Nott', neatly wrapped in a plastic Tesco bag and incapable of flight.

It had been scavenging in the black bin bags left out by a house opposite and the mess was all over the pavement.

It took me some time to chase the bird down and corner it, with a healthy respect for his beak, before I freed it.

Once again this illustrates only too well why the Council asks people not to leave bin bags out between collection days.

Another reader has just sent in a comment that he's seen the corpses of six seagulls shot near where he lives in Westgate. Has anyone else seen anything similar?

Monday, July 30, 2012

Policing Matters

It was a little strange, being woken-up, just before two on Sunday morning, by a police operator, calling to apologise and inform me that nobody would be attending the call I made before midnight.

Without going into any great detail, a group of possibly South London youths, who had left the pub nearby, were rather noisily taking drugs in the side road leading to the beach, outside my house. I could hear the conversation very clearly from my bedroom window. They had seen a passing police car and retreated into the shadows and then one named 'Kiery' popped-an ampule of something unknown and promptly collapsed on the street. Then, for about ten minutes, the panicked conversation surrounded whether they should call an ambulance because they were worried more about the consequences of the police catching them than their friend expiring.

So I called the police, as a concerned local councillor and suggested they turn-around the car I had seen drive past on the main road, a few minutes earlier and and scrape Kiery off the pavement and about half an hour later, an ambulance turned-up and I heard the driver reporting on his radio, attending a group of 'IC3 males' and the unconscious lad was scooped-up and taken away.

I'm sharing this because once again, I called the police and once again, like so many incidents I have written about here in the past, they never arrived to help. Now I realise that our local police resources are strained and indeed, that many of our hard-working officers are on duty at the Olympics but I'm fast reaching the point, like so many other people I talk to,  that I simply won't bother anymore.

And that's what people here in Westgate tell me again and again, the police aren't visible or available and there's no sense of deterrence, particularly in the evening hours when most of the anti-social behaviour which blights people's lives occurs.

On a much lighter note I'm beginning to sound like the iconic Conservative TV politician, Alan B'stard, so here's his famous episode on policing to enjoy.



At 6.30pm on Thursday 9th August, there will be a community safety meeting with local police officers at St John's Church Hall, Cuthbert Rd, Westgate. If you have concerns of your own to add, please come along.

Thursday, July 26, 2012

Light and Dark

Out of an early morning breakfast radio show flight for two hours over Birmingham and back to Thanet, in time for this evening's Cabinet meeting which James Maskell reports in greater detail.

The Pleasurama, Royal Sands development was back for decision but that was on 'pink' and I would be hunted-down by council democratic services officers if I dared to reveal its contents. Fellow blogger, Tony Flaig, was in the public gallery but during the course of the meeting, I heard a larger than life commotion behind me and it appeared that he had been spotted, using his phone and suspected of covert 'twittering' by a security guard.

Last I saw of Tony he was headed out of the door, off home or perhaps to the Victorian holding cells beneath the Old Town hall building, until his case could be heard in the morning.

Catching-up with today's political news, it's alleged that a Thanet councillor, was ejected from a well-known Margate bar last week, for lewd and inappropriate use of the public facilities; one more unfortunate local politician's indiscretion among rather too many of late.

It's equally likely however that the media won't touch a report of this kind, although nobody seems surprised and everyone now appears to know who, when and where it took place.

On a very serious note, I was also shocked this week to hear from another councillor, of an attack on a young man at the St Mildred's Bay toilets, who, while visiting the facilities, was reportedly dragged into one of the cubicles and sexually assaulted. I'm assuming that is why it was closed over part of the weekend for forensics. The police are reportedly looking for the suspect but this is a real source of personal concern, as are reports of increased anti-social behaviour in the Lymington Road area. I spoke to one very distressed lady this week who had her car vandalised by youths.

I have taken this up with our Inspector Fox, our area commander but he also tells me that he, along, I assume, with  other Thanet police officers, are being re-tasked to Olympics security for the duration of the Games. Like every reader, I 'm rather less than happy about Thanet losing any of its police coverage for any reason.

Finally and on an equally sombre and serious note, the tragic death of a Westgate man, David Chamberlain, in Afghanistan, reminds of the everyday risks our armed forces and civilian contractors take on a day to day basis in helping to rebuild that country. I would like to express my condolences and I'm sure those of everyone who reads this weblog, to his family on their sad loss.

Wednesday, July 25, 2012

Olympics Free

I must remember to take a telephoto lens with me today as I run past the edge of the Olympic village and prohibited zone, this afternoon, at Stratford. Not close enough to have the battery of surface-to-air missiles take an interest but enough to see the scale of the operation, which is, I understand also drawing police, as well as other resources out of Thanet for the duration of the Games.

I could see Weymouth basking in the bright summer sunshine from a distance yesterday. That's where the yachting is being held, with the added attraction of a large wall, I'm told, across the seafront to prevent the public seeing the spectacle unless they pay. This also has an aerial exclusion zone, although why a terrorist might consider a kamikaze raid on a yacht race is anyone's guess. In fact, from where I sit,  it's really much more about keeping me out, I suspect, as I frequently spend time over the beach there in the summer. A large part of the Games security is about keeping the Olympic sponsors happy and preventing the risk of ambush marketing. I even get a mention in the secondary Parliamentary legislation that prevents me flying, which is a rare privilege that doesn't earn a medal of any colour!

The Olympic airspace security process has improved visibly over the last week after the fiasco of its opening days. They now have enough controllers on duty to deal with the workload and my own flight plans have been accepted quite quickly, with the authorisation code pushed directly by SMS to my phone. This I have to give the controller on first contact to avoid the attention of any marauding RAF Typhoons.

Manston is supposed to become quite busy in the days ahead with some heads of state from less well-know nations, likely parking their jets there. The premier league of Presidents and Prime Ministers, will probably be in to Stansted or Northolt.

I'm off to Birmingham, which is presently Olympics-free, until they block of part of Coventry next week.

Have a nice day!

Monday, July 23, 2012

That Monday Morning Feeling

Back from my meeting at the council offices and I'm informed, that not content with trying to close down this blog with allegations of 'homophobia', that 'Anti-semitism' is now the latest gambit being threatened by one local councillor, with an existing complaint, now under review by the council standards committee.

Matters are now moving swiftly from the sublime to the ridiculous and are, I believe, a colossal and cynical waste of officer time and public money.



You may recall that the rather vague allegation of 'mental illness' that one independent councillor attempted to claim was being made against him in a comment here, was thrown-out over a month ago. I'm now waiting for the 'racism' card to appear, lining-up three of the gravest sins in modern public life, into a single neat complaint of 'homophobic, anti-semitic racism;' thereby saving the local taxpayer money.

So that's three standards complaints for the price of one as the council has a special summer standards sale on this month!

Change of Use

I'm just off for a Monday morning meeting at the council offices. Among the the things I have to do, is deliver a petition of objection from the residents, living around the Lymington road area of Westgate, to plans for a micropub in the former hairdressers (pictured).

This application appears to have generated strong local feeling and over two hundred signatures of opposition and so I have 'called-in' the planning application for review.

I understand from the director of the council's licensing department that no applications has been made for a premises license as yet and until that happens I can't proceed much further.

I would like to add here that any individual, business or group is free to ask their ward councillor to represent them and with the Ale & Bakehouse, Paul's Bar and Molly's in Westgate, they were quick to ask if I could represent them when they made their applications. So if there is a contrary view to represent, we have two more ward councillors available to choose from.

I have asked if this application could also figure as an item for discussion at next month's WWRA meeting, which I think is on 13th August, at the Westbrook bowls club.

Meanwhile, I see that one of the gates has been ripped-off the tennis courts in Old Boundary Rd and I have had a complaint that the St Mildred's Bay toilets were closed this weekend. This could be vandalism but all on my morning's 'To Do' list.

Sunday, July 22, 2012

Busted

If you want to race your off-road motorcycle illegally around Thanet, then entertaining visitors, doing wheelies at St Mildred's Bay Car park is possibly not the best place to do it, as the photographs of everyone involved are with the local Police patrol vehicle out looking for you,  within fifteen minutes, thanks to the wonders of the World Wide Web.

Westgate Memories

A couple of photos from this afternoon's well-attended ceremony at Westgate's United Services Club, as the Hambidge family donated a special bookcase in memory of 'Mr Westgate', Dick Hambidge.

Perhaps Lorraine Hambidge, could add some more detail on what this was all about and why in the comments section for interested readers, who remember Dick as a pivotal character in the Westgate community and a fine local historian.


Saturday, July 21, 2012

Keeping-up Appearances

The Sun's out but Westgate's Station Road looks like a rubbish tip in places and I'm fuming!

Why the mess, because once again it appears that anti-social residents living between Adrian and Ethelbert Squares, are simply dumping their food waste in black bags outside the shops and the hungry seagulls are on these in minutes.

I've had a word with the street cleaning team, who compared the mess with Cliftonville and my thanks to those traders who have valiantly cleared the alleyway that runs behind the shops.

I'll not mince my words here and if people are 'shocked', then so be it. Parts of Westgate are experiencing a level of displacement and migration that we have seen elsewhere in Margate and Cliftonville. Many of the the larger, late Victorian houses in the squares have been turned into cheaper rental accommodation with the landlords, many of whom, I'm sure, don't even live on the island, floating profitably on the generosity of our benefits system.

Like those well-know hot-spots in Margate that suffer from a litter problem, a number of our newer residents, who may come from as far away as London or distant countries in Europe or even the Sub-Sahara, have no immediate sense of the community spirit that exists in Westgate. As a consequence, the council is having to put more resources into keeping the community squares and gardens clean and tidy. Unfortunately, the end result, is that this minority, see that their broken black bags are picked-up and so they simply do it again and again.

Dumping household rubbish in the streets and problems of anti-social behaviour among the young, - Londis in Lymington Road hits windows broken last week - are a first symptom of decline in any area and I have every intention of using any instrument I can to resist what I see is happening around me in my town. That's not a lot of course because seaside towns are invariably the victims of someone else's problems but I'm determined not to give-up without a struggle.

Yesterday, Cllr King called me and told me that the War Memorial in St Mildred's Road, now appears to be a magnet for late evening anti-social behaviour and that's another problem to try and deal with.

On a lighter note walking through the town today, I hear that local Westgate-based talent with entrepreneurial spirit in the adult services, industry,  described last week, is even larger than I thought. Apparently these two new examples involve premium phone lines at £1.75 a minute and yet another familiar face in the town. As one trader commented. "Nice money if you can make it."

Thursday, July 19, 2012

The Torch at Westgate

I'm posting this from Wolverhampton but here's a picture to remember the Olympic Torch by.

A very impressive turn-out along the route I thought. In the end I decided not to join the VIP's at the Ursuline and found a comfortable spot with the crowds and Bill Parr's Taiko drummers outside Westgate library.

Tomorrow morning I have Thanet pilot, John Waller flying a banner from Medway Council to welcome the Torch to Rochester at 8am while I fly a Heart FM breakfast show up at Birmingham, before heading off to Southampton and then Brighton for another job.



National Treasure

Olympic Torch day today and I have the information that the relay is scheduled to arrive in Margate at 12:22 and Westgate at 13:02, arriving at Birchington from a brief welcome stop at the Ursuline College at 13:36.

The route then goes off to Canterbury on the A28 so beware rolling road closures out of Birchington while it takes place and best not travel unless you really have to!

I wrote earlier that I have a flight plan filed out of here to Birmingham at 14:30, so it could prove interesting trying to reach the aircraft in the traffic.

Yesterday, I had a call from an old friend, one of the very last highly decorated and surviving RAF heroes of World War II. Apparently he had been taken into hospital with a virus and while he was there, he slipped and broke his hip. That meant another month in hospital until they discharged him home - his wife  died last year - and twenty-four later, he had a stroke and lost the use of his right arm. So back into hospital again for emergency treatment, where he promptly caught CDIF and he ended-up in an isolation ward for several weeks.

He's from a generation that's a tough as nails and his principal concern is that he won't be able to finish his  book and his email doesn't work, which is why he called me for some advice, as he's stranded without it.

This story illustrates some of the deeper problems we now face as an ageing society. Someone like Steve, is a national treasure and won't be with us much longer. He deserves far more from a seemingly ungrateful country in his final years. While we build memorials to celebrate the courage and example of the brave men and women who have died in the service of our nation, there are a remaining few who are still with us and they need remembering too!

And finally, in Westgate, on Sunday the 22nd of July, The Hambidge family will be unveiling a memorial cabinet containing the minute books of the first 50 Years of the United Service Club  and Royal British Legion history. This will be in memory of their Father Dick and Grandfather Bill Hambidge and the family along with the United Service Club will be joined by the Royal British Legion.

Wednesday, July 18, 2012

Sport Matters

I'm attempting to plan Thursday afternoon, so I can attend the Olympic Torch event at lunchtime at the Ursuline College, where it stops briefly and then make a dash for Birmingham to arrive before 5:30pm.

The wonders of Olympic airspace transit planning and approval in addition to a temporary route closure between me and the aircraft is making it a bit of a challenge. Last week I could climb into the cockpit, start the engine and leave at anytime I wanted but for the next month, Olympic 'security' wants my blood-type, inside leg measurement and the minute by minute details of my track entering and leaving the restricted zone. As my route to Woverhampton, takes me within a whisker of Stratford and the Olympic village, I will be able to watch the surface to air missiles, conveniently mounted on nearby tower blocks, following me past the stadium.

On a personal note, I'm finding it hard to get excited by the Games. Perhaps its my age or more simply, a tired cynicism over the blatant commercial exploitation of the event, which is, I believe, far too large and inclusive; distant from the principles that gave birth to it.

Arguably, what I am today, is a product of the Olympics and namely the Munich Games of 1972 which inspired me as an athlete and developed my own character. Steve Ovett, Steve Green and even David Bedford, were among the names, familiar to my generation, great athletes I was lucky enough to meet and even train with at the Crystal Palace track and I would come down all the way from Westgate to work-out with them. Inspired by the Russian Olympic Champion, Valeriy Borzov, as teenager here in Thanet, I desperately wanted to be a junior international sprinter in the 100 metres but was never fast enough to make the grade and strangely enough, over the years, finally drifted towards tennis, triathlons and longer and longer distance running events, like the Marathon Des Sables.



However, what's really important, is not what I think of this year's Games but what sport and athletics can do for young people like me, growing-up here in Thanet, in terms of developing a sense of personal achievement and aspiration. It was sport, that helped gain me a place at University in the United States and it was sport that almost had me expelled, because I was making so much money from tennis, that I wasn't turning-up for my studies; another story.

We see on the news today, that inactivity is a deadly as smoking to some 90,000 Britain's a year but I also see and understand why the virtual world of the Playstation and the X-Box is so attractive to today's teenage generation. I predict, that as the technology continues to improve, almost exponentially, it will become increasingly more difficult to wean young people away from the sofa on to the football field or running track. Once the wrap-around immersive spectacles or even contact lenses (now being tested by the US military) become cheaply available young people will increasingly compete in virtual words and physical participation in sport will increasingly become a minority interest.

On the other side of the coin, if you are middle-aged and don't have a PlayStation or an X-Box then I recommend you buy one? Why, because once you've mastered using the console, the mental agility required to play many of the games, can play a vital part in staving off the quietly insidious effects of ageing on the brain and with it, the potential for the onset of signs of dementia in some of us.

So on the one hand we need to see more young people leaving the X-Box aside for real physical activity and on the other side of the coin, older people, like me, can benefit dramatically from physical activity and the kind of mental agility required in the virtual worlds that can help keep us sharp.

Hope to see many of you in Westgate tomorrow!

Tuesday, July 17, 2012

Carry-on Running

I see the BBC SE Today team are whipping-up the Olympic Torch relay excitement this morning, with the cheerful announcement that the flame had entered Sussex. Switch to camera footage of lots of people milling around trying to find out where the flame is in Brighton. The BBC did explain that it does move rather quickly and if you aren't exactly at the right spot at the right time, then you risk missing it as it flies past on lightly running feet or even a fast-moving wheelchair.

At Westgate Station, you can see from the photograph that someone has been up bright and early, indulging in some vigorous, pre-Olympic Torch preparation for Thursday lunchtime. Please note the judicious and proper use of the Lucozade, to ensure the proper level of athletic hydration.

Fortunately,the long-arm of the Olympic brand police won't reach Thanet until Thursday and so the Tetley's 'Original Ale' is unlikely to be confiscated before then. My advice is to drink Heineken to play safe, as they are an approved Olympic sponsor and of course 'carb-up' before the run with plenty of McDonalds french fries too.

Wearing purple caps and tops, the real Games security police, the experts in trading and advertising working for the Olympic Delivery Authority, (ODA) are heading the biggest brand protection operation staged in the UK. Under legislation specially introduced for the London Games, they have the right to enter shops and offices and bring court action with fines of up to £20,000 for anyone caught with a can of Stella, a Nike banner or wearing a loud beard in a built-up area.

In Westgate, Bill Parr's traditional Japanese Taiko drummers will be welcoming the Torch outside Westgate library and I'm guessing around 1pm. Don't forget, there will be a certain degree of road havoc around the Torch route and so driving is probably not a good idea.

Yesterday afternoon, I had my first experience of attempting to transit the Olympic airspace security zone; moving an aircraft back to Rochester from Thanet in awful flying weather.

Responsibility for aircraft movements through the red airspace, has been passed-over to a military controlling unit named 'Atlas' and could have proved disastrous for a less experienced pilot, in similar circumstances, left hanging, off Whistable for over seventeen minutes in a battering wind, rain and low cloud.

I've made a complaint to the CAA as a flight-safety issue and you can read here, what is worrying other pilots attempting to move around the heavily restricted south of England.Much like the G4 security debacle, it appears that Atlas, is overworked and unprepared to deal with the demands being made upon it and Sky News may be doing a report in the next or day or so.

Locally, weeds are proving to be a subject of concern and politicians of all parties and colours are keen on opportunities to be photographed by a good urban crop of dandelions. I took the picture below, this morning and these have to be the biggest yet. I did report the phenomenon to Kent County Council some weeks ago but as you may be aware, until the vegetation dries out, they can't spray them to any real effect and so parts of Westgate are now starting to look like a scene from the movie 'Day of the Triffids.'

Saturday, July 14, 2012

Micro Management Challenges

A quick run-around this morning on some local ward issues, principally the concerns from Lymington Road residents over the application for a micro-pub to replace the hairdressers.

I've already had several emails on the subject and have been over there for a chat with people. A petition is being gathered and is available in both general stores. In a nutshell, residents feel that any pub of any size or type, is quite inappropriate in the vicinity and they are worried by the potential for anti-social behaviour, in an area which has suffered from it in the past.

I will put in a objection to licensing at Thanet District Council and I will ask if Cllr Tom King will do the same. I'll be back next Saturday to collect the petitions.

In our own small seaside corner of 'Little Britain'everything happens. Last week it was a cannabis factory in Ethelbert terrace and yesterday, I returned from Birmingham to discover that we enjoy an interesting and quite funny position in the adult entertainment industry. What, I can't say here and dare not link to the website but I'm sure any of the traders along Station Road will volunteer the details.

As I write this, one of my aircraft is supposed to be targetting Ed Miliband up in Durham, with a personal message (pictured) from RMT Trade Union leader, Bob Crow. I hope someone has a camera to hand!

Tomorrow, it's also the annual Tolpuddle Martyrs Festival in Dorset and I've two aircraft ready to go and follow the march with Trades Union messages. Given the rainfall predictions, I've my fingers crossed. Yesterday's first attempt to do the first of four weeks of a Heart FM radio show at Birmingham was a complete washout. At 06:30 at the airfield, the clouds were down to 300 feet and the rain was so bad that it actually started to leak through my aircraft window seals into the cockpit. "Can't we fly in this?" asked the Heart producer. "See that hill over there," I replied. "No," he said. "Exactly," I retorted.


Ironically, I'm now booked, with a giant banner, to support Medway Council's torch celebration next week as the flame arrives at Rochester. If anyone asks, this same opportunity, was offered to TDC at cost but I guess that politically, this would have presented a problem for the present administration although I would have enjoyed being over the Turner Contemporary for the start.

The Olympic flight restrictions are now a complete pain to me and passing Faversham towards Whitstable yesterday afternoon, it occurred to me that to do the same today without an authorised flight plan, would risk having me shot down. The restrictions say rather more about preventing "ambush marketing" that might upset the Olympic (monopoly) sponsors like McDonalds, now demanding that only their french fries can be sold around any of the Olympic venues and less about practical aviation security and deterrence around London.

I see that the BBC have now concluded from a survey that 61% of the population are not really interested in the Olympics at all, many see it as a cynical and greedy exploitation of sport and every business I have spoken with to date, with no exceptions, wishes that it was somewhere else other than London, because of the disruption involved. In any event, we have it, so let's make the most of it, cheer-on our athletes and torch-bearers and hope that the weather doesn't ruin it for everyone involved!

Finally, why the photo of the dog? I promised the owner in Norman Road, I would put her picture online, because she's a beautifully behaved Labrador!

Wednesday, July 11, 2012

Thanet Olympic Torch Relay Information

Having finally arrived home, having been stuck on a train from London, thanks to a lightning strike on signalling points, I see I have some questions about the Olympic Torch route through Thanet.

To make life a little easier for people, I have uploaded the council information as a PDF document you can access and download.

The official lunchtime stop-over for the Torch will be at the Ursuline College in Westgate, before it heads out towards Canterbury, so if you are planning to drive in and out of Thanet, 'Beware.'

The crowds at Victoria and on the Underground were pretty awful today, even past the rush hour and it looks as if the tourists are arriving, 'en masse', as predicted.

Tuesday, July 10, 2012

Metro Matters

Not much to report this week, beyond the weather, which remains pretty much unchanged and an Olympic torch route briefing at the Council chamber this evening.


For readers interested in the progress of Sainsbury's in Westgate, it has now been pulled from the planning committee on 18th July and as yet, I have no idea when it will re-appear on the agenda.

At the WWRA meeting in Westgate last night, there was a presentation on the plan to build a small Tesco 'Metro' opposite Molly's Bar in Station Road and this attracted a great deal of interest. Beyond the immediate plans, there's nothing tangible quite yet but while many residents would like to see competition to Somerfield, its choice and its prices, others were concerned that the provision would be quite inadequate and lead to even more congestion.

I asked the representative of Tesco about this and it was his view that most people would walk and not drive to do their shopping there, to which I replied, "This is Westgate and I think your'e quite wrong." Without a doubt, Kent Highways will have their view on this and so for now, we need to wait and see how the plan evolves in the next couple of months, towards a target development  of a new store by Christmas.

I may not be writing as much as usual over the next four weeks, 'Hooray' you say, as I've got a regular slot flying for Heart FM up in Birmingham for their breakfast show; subject to weather of course. That said, the Olympic airspace restrictions start on Saturday and much of England is pretty much unavailable to normal air traffic, forcing me up into the airways, like a much larger aircraft, if I'm to go north without having to detour around East Anglia to avoid the attentions of the RAF.

This week, I had an email from Transport for London, suggesting that I don't travel on the London Underground during the Olympic period as it will be very busy. "You don't say!"

My examiner for my annual instrument rating test yesterday, is an Airbus Captain for a large charter holiday company. He told me he's going part-time for the Olympics because he "Simply can't be asked" to deal with the security restrictions at the airport. I know a great many people who feel the same way and are equally low on enthusiasm about the Games disrupting their lives in one form or another.

Finally and if you had not noticed already, the Internet speed from the Westgate exchange has visibly doubled to 16 MBs since they made the scheduled changes, that's a result I'm quite pleased with!

Sunday, July 08, 2012

A Temporary Greek

I've reached the conclusion, that with the jet stream now so far south of where it should be, we will count ourselves lucky to have a few days of real summer before the autumn arrives.

In fact, it suits me this Sunday morning at least, as I have to go and do a little practice over the Dover beacon for my annual instrument rating test tomorrow,

The CAA examiner, who is also an airline pilot, must have a sense of humour, as he's sent me the plate from the Greek island of KOS and I've to run this approach over Dover, before breaking off to do a vectored ILS approach into Manston. As I won't be seeing anything outside the cockpit until the last couple of minutes, I suppose it makes no difference at all, although a short visit to a Greek island would have been nice!

News on the Westgate Sainsbury's application, is that it will be put before the planning committee for a decision on 18th July and I have put my name down for public speaking that evening.

Also for local interest, Tesco, will be coming to the WWRA residents' meeting in Westgate tomorrow, Monday, to give a presentation on their plans for a store in Station road, opposite Beanos. This will be at the United Services Club at 7pm I'm told.

At this rate, I suppose, it's only a matter of time before ASDA make an appearance somewhere!

On a separate note of grand commercial enterprise, a sizeable cannabis factory was discovered at Ethelbert Terrace on Friday. Am I surprised? No. I'm guessing that there must be several more in the close vicinity but traders had reported the smell from this one wafting along the shops.

Finally, I see from my email that the Margate Football Club application for a hotel in Hartsdown park is back, seemingly with an attempt to revise or alter the conditions recommended by Cabinet. I'm not sure from the detail what this is but when I find out more, I will share it.

Friday, July 06, 2012

Winners & Losers in Westgate

While Labour's Jodie Hibbert was declared the winner of yesterday's council by-election in Westgate yesterday, it was arguably the UKIP vote from disaffected Tories, that determined the result and as a consequence, handed the historically Conservative ward to Labour on a plate. Strangely enough, the overall winners remain John Worrow's TIGS as they now firmly hold the balance of power at Thanet council.

From the results and a turnout of 30.56%, one can also see that Ash Ashbee's Independent supporters also drew-in many Conservative voters and that the LibDems and John Worrow's 'TIG' party, are almost equivalent in terms of total voter indifference to their policies, whatever these might be.

Jodie Hibbert [LAB] - 482 James Maskell [CON] - 377 Ash Ashbee [IND] - 316 Jeffrey Elenor [UKIP] - 298 Bill Furness [LIB] - 64 Claire Mendelsohn [TIG] - 22.

A look at the May 2011 local election results for Westgate may help put yesterday in a little more perspective and in particular that Labour's position actually appears to have gone backwards as a percentage of the overall votes cast but they still managed to win.

Several thoughts of my own here. The first, is that this sends a strong message to David Cameron, that Europe remain an important if not pivotal issue, even in local politics and that the groundswell of support for a national referendum on leaving the European Union is too great to be ignored by the Conservative party.

European membership, in a town or village like Westgate, isn't such an issue for Labour, as their votes are normally consistent with a firm Orwellian, tribal loyalty to the Party; i.e. "We've always voted Labour and always will." Conservative voters are for more likely to switch their votes along personal issues as yesterday's result clearly demonstrated.

Of the main parties, only the Conservatives campaigned on purely local Westgate issues and I'm sure that with yesterday's shock result, Westgate residents will be delighted that the Minnis Bay Community centre, among other matters is now safe in Labour's hands!

Congratulations to Jodie Hibbert, commiseration to James Maskell on a well-fought campaign and a plague on UKIP for muddying the water. This goes to show once again, that many voters have little true understanding of the difference between local, county and national politics. That begs much deeper questions over the value of local democracy, where the political  fate of a community may be determined by sentiment towards a something that has absolutely nothing to do with their council tax or cleaning their streets.

I now wait to see with some interest how Labour plans to reverse the benefits 'cuts' here in Thanet and particularly here in my own ward of Westgate-on-Sea as the surviving Conservative Councillor.

Off for a walkabout in the village and I may write more as the day passes.

Thursday, July 05, 2012

By-election Thursday in Westgate

I've been out already to cast my vote in Westgate this morning and already, the crowds are queuing all the way back to the doctor's surgery in their enthusiasm to cast their ballot in this vital mid-term local by-election.

In pure tactical terms, voting Independent, TIG or UKIP will help secure the future of minority Labour administration here in Thanet, in thrall to the 'Banana Spliffs'Cllrs Worrow, Driver and Cohen and with little doubt of more unusual policy decisions to come. I can't really add anything more until the day is over and the result is made public. So, I will leave you with an incisive Monty Python commentary on the election process instead.



Tuesday, July 03, 2012

Down the Line

While I have been struggling with the PO 175th anniversary extravaganza Grand Event at Southampton, I see Margate has been in the news, with the tabloids, The Sun included, not only trawling this weblog but asking if I could get up and take an aerial photograph of the street in Cliftonville, where allegedly, as many as fourteen registered paedophiles live, all in close proximity to a children's home and a bail hostel in the same road.

I'm not able to tell you which road this is because of the rules surrounding the 'safeguarding of children.' If that's not crazy then you tell me what is? The newspaper photographer on the same street yesterday, told me he watched two drugs deals and two prostitutes being picked-up by clients in the space of fifteen minutes and was appalled that vulnerable children were being placed in such an environment, without even knowing how many sexual predators were within a hundred yards.



Over at Southampton, the line of cruise ships, Oceana, Adonia, Azura, Oriana, Aurora, Arcadia and Ventura, was certainly impressive, that's if you could actually see them in pretty awful conditions. The Red Arrows cancelled their display but I managed a single pass down the line before running for cover at Lee on Solent airfield. I'm reminded of the quip by Mel Gibson in the film, Air America: "Here at Air America, what's considered psychotic behavior anywhere else is company policy."

The view down the line of great cruise ships was great but to be honest, you can see I was a little preoccupied with the bad weather that ambushed me when I got there.

Monday, July 02, 2012

Viva Los Tigos Splifficos

If you haven't read about it already, those long winter council meetings may soon feel much shorter, given Cllr Ian Driver's latest personal crusade, the legalisation of 'Prostitition' - an unusual local variation of prostitution and the free availability of soft drugs.



Ian, who has announced he will be running as a candidate for Kent Police Commissioner, freely admits to 'inhaling' on a regular basis, which may go some way in explaining the Thanet Independent Group's more bizarre and unorthodox policies and performances in the council chamber. Whether this sudden interest in 'Prostitition' and 'Spiff' or is that 'Spliff', extends to his TIG, colleagues, Cllr Dr Jack Cohen and Cllr John Worrow, remains uncertain but in future I will be watching Thanet's very own 'Banana Spliffs' closely, for any tell-tale signs of the 'munchies' in addition to the sudden laughter, giggles, incoherent mumbling, blowing of kisses, sticking out of tongues and more.

Ian writes:"Without the backing of a big party machine I will be reliant on donations from the Kent public to fund my campaign and pay the £5,000 election deposit. This is a chance for the people of Kent to have powerful, independent and non-party political person heading up law and order in the county".

He adds: "Most drugs do not cause loutish behaviour. Quite the reverse they help people become tranquil and relaxed. If drugs were legal then there is a strong possiblity that the alcohol fuelled violence and disorder would actually reduce. In an ideal world I know what I would prefer more people smoking spliff or dropping E, than drinking Stella."

It's too good an opportunity not to show the Woody Allen's cameo on addiction from 'The Sleeper' and Michael Child has already quipped, that he had assumed, from watching recent webcasts of council meetings, local councillors were already stoned out of their minds. However,  in conjunction with the proposed introduction of mandatory diversity training as one more part of TIG's next power-sharing deal with Clive Hart's local Labour, I think many of us on the opposition benches  might well prefer the comfort of a Thursday-evening, spiff-induced haze than watch our council business descend further into comic political farce.

So please don't lose this important opportunity to lend your support to Cllr Driver and TIG to gain even greater responsibility, diversity and authority over policing in our county. Give generously. I know you will.

Thunderbolt

As an aviation enthusiast, I rushed outside this morning when I heard the unmistakable whisper of General Electric jet engines approaching my home in St Mildred's Bay. What I saw, caused a brief double-take on my part, two USAF Thunderbolt A10's (Fairchild Republic A-10 Thunderbolt II) passing along the seafront at low level.



Apparently, they were doing what's called the 'Dover Tour' for visiting USAF airforce pilots, from Lakenheath, I assume and Manston Air Traffic told me that more were expected at 3pm. Keep your camera to hand if you want to see a very unusual visitor, more often seen causing considerable grief to the Taleban in Afghanistan, where I assume they have returned from on rotation.

I suppose it could always be one political party or another calling in close air support for Westgate's by-election this week or perhaps they were searching for TIG's mysterious Mr Fox!

I was supposed to be flying a romantic message up at Birmingham this afternoon but yet another biblical rainstorm is heading towards the Midlands and I have no intention of finding myself in the middle of it when it arrives. The P&O extravagenza for tomorrow morning isn't looking that optimistic either with fog forecast along the south coast.