Monday, September 30, 2013

Going Dutch

Looking at last night's Thanet Gazette, 'Tweets' it very much looks as if there was an attempted murder at either the QEQM A&E or that it reportedly started in Westgate's Adrian Square and ended there with the police cordoning part of the hospital off. I'm sure we'll find out more on the BBC's Southeast news later today.

Having visited Rotterdam briefly yesterday, I think I now grasp a few of the words of the song from the band, 'The Beautiful South.'

I had a client from Redhill,who fancied taking his family to the city for lunch, never having visited there before. Alderney and the Channel Islands, the preferred choice were sitting in low cloud. So we left the gloomy weather at this end for the bright sunshine and gusty wind on the Dutch coast.

Two things I learned. Rotterdam's big modern airport isn't really set-up for visiting aircraft smaller than a Learjet and you can take a good hour, simply getting in and out of the terminal building, complete with your own set of boarding cards and a gate number. Secondly, Rotterdam, appears a modern 'European' city with much of its native culture invisible or lost after the war and the heavy bombing it experienced. Having instructed the taxi driver to drop us somewhere with nice restaurants, is reminiscent of the multi-cultural East-end of London but with lots of coffee bars, a fine new mosque and an absence of restaurants but lots of take-aways; Afghan, Indian, Chinese, Jamaican, you name it.

So we found a nice cafe, enjoyed some pizza and spaghetti and I refiled my flight plan with Schipol, to leave two hours earlier back to England, once I had convinced airport handling security that our unusual-looking group actually had an aircraft outside and weren't having them on.

I did avoid the Dutch lager and the hidden delights of the Bob Marley coffee bar, for fear of falling asleep at the controls on the way home but I suspect one can find both of these just as easily within a short walking distance of my home in Westgate.

Brings a whole new meaning to the idea of a day trip; 1:10 minutes each way but next time, I have suggested France perhaps as a better choice of lunch location, as there's no shortage of good restaurants close to many of its airfields, private or public.

Thursday, September 26, 2013

Today in Parliament

I must have missed something really important in local politics while I was away or perhaps, I was simply asleep?

It appears that following this week's Labour Party Conference and full to brimming with new cliches, our young County Councillor and former Mayor of Margate, has swiftly promoted himself to the role of of MP. He is holding his first 'Parliamentary surgery.' I'm sure the Labour leader, Ed Milliband will be delighted and Laura Sandys, somewhat surprised at this latest election result, almost two years early.

Given his current racing form, I can safely predict that MP Scobie, the new leader of Labour's 'Ramsgate Popular Front.' will soon be given a seat in the House of Lords but not before assuming the role of Prime Minister, an inevitability that has yet to dawn on Ed Milliband, who had hoped to have the job first and all before a General Election. Quite what Nick Clegg will make of it all, it's hard to say but I do wish him luck and recommend that he acquaints himself with the definition of 'Hubris' in the dictionary.

On to more mundane matters and watching the lunchtime news, I see that the collective and voluntary decision by Ipswich traders, to remove strong lagers and ciders from their shelves, has achieved a remarkable drop in the levels of anti-social behaviour in the town over the last twelve months. Police and residents are reportedly delighted.

Strong alcohol on sale is a problem I've written about before and particularly its impact on my own ward Westgate, which as many readers may also know, is a higher than average, mental health  pocket, here in Thanet with a number of recovering alcoholics and drugs users being treated here.

I plan to approach all our licensed traders in the weeks ahead to ask if they might consider a similar voluntary code. Obviously, they would all have to agree if it were to work. It would be, I believe, a real benefit to our community to see an end to XXX cans and cider bottles strewn around the grass in Adrian Square and on our seafront. I may be asking too much but wonder what you think?

Wednesday, September 25, 2013

Bagged and Tagged

I've just come from Dalby Square in Cliftonville, where council staff and the Dogs Trust, in the absence of a working command of colloquial Romanian, are doing a valiant job, micro-chipping a long line of dogs today; mostly excited Staffies and larger breeds of 'Guard dog' from what I can tell.

Every dog owner in England will have to microchip their pet to help decrease the amount of stray animals on our streets. Owners who do not comply could face fines of up to £500. Thanet council is offering a chance for people to turn up and get their dogs. microchipped:

The dates are today, Wednesday 25th September, Dalby Square, Margate, 10am-4pm  and Monday 21 October, Government Acre, Ramsgate, 10am-4pm

One family, as you can see from the photo, turned-up with a washing basket and a carrier bag holding eight Staffie pups which caused a little consternation. "Have they been vaccinated, how old are they" etc.

Very clearly and from the evidence of this morning, the many reports of dog-related incidents and strays in Margate and Cliftonville may have some real substance behind them. I can't fathom how some owners can live on benefits and support several large dogs at the same time and I have to wonder, is there some kind of informal breeding programme taking place?

This is one of those blog posts where I would like to explore a delicate subject more but would prefer not to invite political suicide and have our Council's diversity champion jumping up and down, finger pointing at next week's full Council meeting.

It's one of the problems with blogging or tweeting of late; a natural reluctance on the part of anyone in politics to say what he or she really thinks in order to encourage debate. What happens instead, as we see only too often here in Thanet, is that intelligent debate is immediately hijacked  by the lunatic fringe or stifled by the left or the very right of local politics and it becomes very difficult for those of us who really care about our island to make observations about its problems and think out-loud about the causes.

How many Staffies in the bag?
With that final thought. I'll sign off with one further local announcement, below but don't forget to have your own dog chipped if you haven't done so already.

"Dementia Friendly Communities."  There will be a meeting to discuss the results of the latest local survey and the progress of this important campaign in Westgate, at the Lymington Road Community Centre on Thursday, between 1pm and 3pm.

The aim on Thursday will be to consider the survey findings and identify whether there are things that those involved, individuals or organisations, can do to help people with dementia and make their community dementia “Friendly”.

Tuesday, September 24, 2013

Bloggers Block

If you have wondered why I've been quiet of late, then its because I'm suffering from a kind of 'Bloggers Block' of sorts; finding it very hard to conjure up the enthusiasm to fire my thoughts off through the keyboard.

Fed-up with Blogging
The other week, I was conferring with one of our other popular and still surviving local bloggers and I noticed that he and I shared much the same feelings about a medium under constant attack by the unpleasant, the obsessive and perhaps the borderline insane. If you wonder why I'm now the only local politician passing comment on anything of local importance, it's because the others gave-up long ago, trying to deal with single issue topics and abuse from the same people, over and over again.

For some, I might recommend increasing the dosage of their medication before they contribute and for others, perhaps a strong shot of whiskey, depending of course on which side of this often bizarre and paranoid Thanet digital divide, you might be sitting at the time.

I'm sure, that eventually, I will start posting regularly again but until then, like everyone else with an appreciation for our local environment, I'm enjoying the Indian summer while it lasts.

On a local note, I'm very pleased that the two vulnerable teenagers and their puppy, living under a tree in the Sea Road gardens have hostel accommodation from today. I would really like to thank the genuinely devoted people at TDC and Cllr Iris Johnston for their help in getting them off the street into a hostel.

This was one of the worst cases I have had to deal with in my ward and seeing a young boy and girl living-out under a tarpaulin,  in the pouring rain in the 21st century and within walking distance of my home, came as a shock. I know other local people helped-out with blankets and food over the last week and I would like to send them my thanks.

While we all have our problems and Thanet, more than most, the Council, for all its faults and shortage of resources, does try very hard to manage some very difficult and often heart-breaking situations to a successful conclusion. On occasions, the public can too easily focus too much on single issue stories and forget the good work that goes on in the background in an area of high deprivation. That's where the role of a ward councillor is so very important in making a small difference and if a member of the public hadn't alerted me to the plight of the two teenagers in Sea Road, I would not have known about it and they would still be outside.

So as a final request to readers from Westgate, please do let me know about problems like this or indeed, Cllr King or Cllr Hibbert if your prefer, so we can move quickly to try and help where we can.

Sunday, September 15, 2013

In Kiev

I was working over in Kiev, in the Ukraine at the end of last of week and the legendary autumn weather was a disappointment in a distinctly damp and English scene.

If you ever happen to visit the country, be warned that you can't find its controlled currency before you arrive and then, when you do, there's a long queue to change Euros into local notes. This I timed at the airport kiosk, took over four minutes for each person, three separate signatures and a photocopy of the passport. It took me forty-five minutes before I could leave with money for a taxi into town; about half an hour away.

Kiev has some wonderful historical sites, churches, monasteries and the museum of The Great Patriotic War. The latter is quite jaw-dropping in parts and unlike our own Imperial War Museum, they have very cleverly told the story with thousands upon thousands of photos among the exhibits, of the faces of all those who fought. suffered and died in the German invasion of Russia; men, women and frequently, the faces of small children.

Kiev is also home to the Scythian Gold, the most amazing collection of gold artifacts from around 500 BC. Unfortunately, taking photos inside the museums is prohibited and so I couldn't share some of the most spectacular exhibits.

As a final comment, Kiev enjoys some of the worst traffic I've seen in Europe, taxis are few and far between and the underground is a mystery unless you speak Russian and I don't. So I walked everywhere and grabbed a couple of taxis when I could, at extortionate rates. If you are up to walking around 10k then you can take in most of the sites and an IPad, with GPS-driven Google maps and a tourist guide app, very quickly routes you to the most interesting locations.

Like visiting anywhere new for the first time, you need to keep your eyes open and Kiev featured in a UK TV documentary a couple of weeks ago on the drugs route into Europe. There are some shady looking characters about and at times I almost felt at home.

Footnote: Be warned that arriving back at the Kiev airport, if you think you can change your local currency back into Euros after going through passport control, then your'e in for a big surprise. No foreign exchange desks, so you are stuck with any local notes. Just as bad perhaps, Borispol airport may be very large and impressive in a post Soviet sense but short of three tiny concessions, you can't even get a decent cup of coffee and a decent sandwich which isn't curled-up at the edges.

Thursday, September 12, 2013

Out of Town

Back soon but I'm flying elsewhere at the moment and the weather at home in Kent, this weekend is looking pretty awful and it's not much better here.


Thursday, September 05, 2013

The Bridge to Nowhere

(c) Airads
An absolute miracle nobody was killed in todays huge accident in fog, on the bridge leading to the Isle of Sheppey. Some more photos here.

I've been running back and forth all morning and at one point had to share the airspace with the police helicopter, Sky News and the BBC, so a little crowded!

Tuesday, September 03, 2013

Grounded

Basking in the grip of another Indian Summer, I don't think the method of mooring one's yacht at West Bay, shown in the photo, is recommended but it will probably float clear of the reef with the high tide, later later this evening.

With the remarkable good weather, I'm all over the place in the days ahead, between Bournemouth and the Ukraine but with luck and the arrival of the the shock of real Autumn weather, I will be back to normal form again.

I'm delighted we now have Dreamland under public ownership, pending, of course, the results of an appeal later this month and we can only hope that this time next year, we can be talking seriously of the part the amusement park has to play in Margate's regeneration.

There's been a lot of good publicity for Margate in recent weeks and I see that we've even been approached, as a location for the filming of a new twist on the story of Frankenstein, set in the Old Town.

I'm sure there will be no shortage of volunteers to play extras and of course, I can think of several Councillors who might be ideal for the part or should I say parts?

Anyway, I'm sure we'll be hearing more before long!