Thursday, 31 December 2009

Celebrate with Slim Harpo

I have disovered courtesy of Spotify and its ability to suggest music you might like a new passion. James Moore also known as Slim Harpo. Many of his songs have been covered, I never knew where the Fabulous Thunderbirds had taken their top track Baby Scratch My Back from. This perhaps is his best known song - I'm a King Bee - although you may know it via the early Rolling Stones or the majestic Muddy Waters. Here's the original and best, a song to Shake Your Hips to, as another of Slim's songs goes.

I would like to wish everybody a Happy New Year and to thank everybody who has read, commented and sent me ideas and information through the last year.

I hope you're able to buzz into the New Year...

Thursday, 24 December 2009

The Simple Pleasures of Life

Seasons greetings to one and all, I hope everybody who comes to read from time to time has an enjoyable Christmas. I have been harvesting produce from the garden for tomorrow; potatoes, squashes, swedes and beetroot which are still enduring the weather. Are they sweeter after a frost?
Onions and apples are stored away but will make an appearance, and there are still red peppers and yellow tomatoes ripening in the greenhouse.
I needed 8 ounces of beetroot for a loaf of beetroot bread, a luscious aroma when baking and even better to taste. It gave me pleasure that I was able to select the beetroot you see from the couple of dozen still in the ground, which weighed in at 10oz. Nice that my eye could judge the produce to the need.
The beetroot came with a free added slug which had made a few holes, so once they were cut round and the skin removed there was just over 8 ounces left. A small task that gave me a nice warm feeling inside.
I am off to prepare vegetables and other delights to entertain tomorrow, and I hope you get as much pleasure from the simple things as I do in the coming year.

Monday, 21 December 2009

Ramsgate's maritime heritage 40 years ago

Thank you to reader John for sending me a copy of a magazine called Sea Breezes dated April 1969. He draws my attention to two articles

"The first of Hoverlloyd's two SRN4 Mountbatten class hovercraft was delivered by the British Hovercraft Corporation to Pegwell Bay (pictured) on January 15 1969. A brand new international hoverport is nearing completion there. Trials are being carried out in preparation for the start of the service due on April 2 between Pegwell (Ramsgate) and Calais."

and in a separate article on the last of the square-rigger ships...

"The Alastor was a 850 ton 3-masted iron barque, built at Sunderland in 1875 by Mounsey and Foster for Robert Penney of Shoreham, Sussex. She carried many emigrants to New Zealand, and from 1928 brought timber from Finland to the Kent coast. In 1946 a Thanet company bought her and brought her to Ramsgate. They renamed her Bounty and converted her into a floating restauarant, and she lay in the inner harbour by the fish market (ironically just across the quay from where the Hovercraft terminal now operates) until 1951, when she was taken round to London River in connection with the Festival of Britain. Later she was broken up.

She was a very good-looking vessel, typical of the thousands of undistinguished, hard-working little barquesthat carried so much of the world's ocean-borne commerce in the late 1800s and early 1900s, and it was a great pity that she ould not have been saved like the Cutty Sark."

I wonder if any readers recall dining on the Bounty?

Wednesday, 16 December 2009

Can You Hear me Doctor?

I was a substitute councillor earlier this evening at Thanet District Council's Planning Committee. There was an item on part of the old Ellington School site in Grange Road, Ramsgate. With the new Ellington School having been built as part of the brilliant government programme of building new schools the old site is being sold off.

The old playing area is proposed for another excellent development - a new health centre. The current Dashwood House surgery in Southeastern Road is on a cramped an difficult site and would benefit as so many surgeries have in Thanet from moving to new premises like the pictured Moses Montefiore Medical Centre. The problem is that the new proposed site is cramped and difficult for access and parking. The committee agreed to a site visit on the morning of 8th January to examine the area.
The thing that caught my eye was this paragraph tucked away at the end of the report which is available here:
"Kent International Airport has requested a condition requiring noise attenuation scheme be submitted. However, a Health centre is not considered to be noise sensitive use, and therefore it is not considered necessary to condition such a requirement."
What this means is that everytime anybody applies for planning to do some building in Ramsgate under the flightpath to Manston Airport; Kent International Airport asks the Council to tell the people building that the should have double or triple glazing so that they will not hear the noise of the planes so much. So if you're thinking of going into business in Ramsgate double glazing looks like a good business opportunity to consider. Kent International Airport wrote on this planning application:
"no objection, subject to suitable noise prevention scheme being put in place and maintained."
However, because the proposed new health centre is not a residential use the guidance is that extra glazing is not necessary. This leaves the bizarre situation that Kent International Airport is objecting to, and therefore opposing a desperately needed new health centre because it will not be putting in extra glazing!
My view which I expressed at the meeting is that there should be extra glazing as many people using health centres will have hearing problems and the noise of planes could delay and interrupt consultations. It could even lead to mistakes in communication, something to be avoided when diagnosing medical conditions.
I also think double or triple glazing should be mandatory when any planning permission is granted to help with heating costs, and reduce the use of energy to help the environment with the current Copenhagen talks on global warming. Other Councils take a more proactive view on this than Thanet.
Heathrow Airport helps local councils with the costs of extra glazing for schools. It would be good if Kent International Airport as well as requesting people install double glazing could make a financial contribution to help with the glazing needs of schools under the flightpath. I think they should also review why they are opposing a new health centre for the community, because it does not have sufficient glazing.

Tuesday, 8 December 2009

Waiting for the Great Leap Forward

There’s no doubt the new High Speed 1 service to London is going from strength to strength. Next Monday sees the launch of the full service.
There are many advantages. Occasionally there are signal delays between Ramsgate and Ashford. The guard will apologise, and confidently announce that they expect to be able to make up the time, and time after time that proves to be the case. Most days the trains arrive a few minutes early at St. Pancras.
Just like one of my favourite films “Field of dreams” where a baseball ground is built in the middle of nowhere yet becomes a great success, High Speed 1 could have the slogan “If you build it they will come.” Numbers are steadily rising as the word gets out, and often at Ashford the train will almost fill. One of the great attractions is that the trains are never full, so you know you will always get a seat.
One slight glitch that it would be good to see addressed is having trains ready on time at Ramsgate. One of the bonuses of being a Ramsgate station commuter is that you can choose to catch a train that starts from the station. This means that you can arrive in good time, and know that you will go straight on to a train sitting waiting for you, no standing waiting in the cold on the platform. With winter coming this was always a positive for the older Southeastern trains services. Frequently the High Speed 1 service comes out of the shed or sidings at Ramsgate, only a minute or two before departure time. As there seems to be empty platform space it would be much appreciated if the trains could do as the older train stock and be sitting ready for 5-10 minutes before departure.
Another positive is the guaranteed seat with a table so you can work, that boarding at Ramsgate guarantees. The new trains thankfully have seating 4 abreast. It is always dispiriting when you find yourself on one of the 5 abreast carriages where people are forced to squeeze next to each other. These might be fine for short commutes around London, but for journeys over an hour they are uncomfortable.
As the word spreads more and more people are switching from Victoria, Cannon Street and Charing Cross. There are fewer delays, easier with only a partial service from St. Pancras at present and also the advantage of a dedicated line that does not have to fit in stopping services too. Finishing work near Charing Cross recently, I opted to take the tube to St. Pancras and even with the additional tube journey I was back in Ramsgate before a similarly timed train from Charing Cross.

I have also met people who previously took the train from Sandwich, Broadstairs, Margate and Birchington who have made the switch to High Speed 1 from Ramsgate. Some take connecting trains, but others drive. I think parking for Ramsgate station is going to become more and more of a problem. There may be an impact on the pictured Dumpton Park station which serves east Ramsgate which has the lowest passenger numbers in Thanet.
Using mobile internet connections is a slight problem, particularly for the Ashford – St. Pancras part of the journey as half the journey is in tunnels or deep cuttings. I have solved this by not battling for a connection. As there is a reliable free if not ultra quick wifi service throughout St. Pancras station a few minutes there allows any surfing or message sending before travelling onwards. Similarly in the evening and early arrival for departure allows messages to be checked and responded to before the journey home.

For those who do not want to pay the supplement the service is the same cost as current Southeastern trains to Canterbury West and Ashford International. This should be advertised more widely as there are people who are unaware of this.

Saturday, 5 December 2009

Ramsgate joins National Tree Planting Record attempt

Ramsgate residents played their part in the National Tree Planting Record attempt (Tree O'Clock), planting 25 trees in the hedges of the Rose Garden on the Westcliff, next to the boating pool. The trees are mostly acer and thorn and will fill in the gaps in the hedge. At present there are several gaps, particularly on the seaward side. The plan is to fill them in so that the Rose Garden is less exposed and a better place for relaxation and contemplation, also to keep out unleashed dogs.
The group planting the trees are the ‘Westcliff Conservation Community Group’. The trees were supplied by the Kent ‘Free Trees Scheme’. This is an excellent scheme from Kent County Council and credit to Network Rail for sponsoring it.

I spoke to Pegwell and Cliffsend councillor John Kirby who has helped fund replacement roses in the garden with money from the allocation each Thanet District Councillor receives. John is an active councillor and we both share concerns about the future of Albion House. Others present were Dr. David and Sarah Neden, George and Wendy Arnheim, Robin and Pat Hills, Shirley Harris, Julie Ferguson, Vera Taylor, Valerie Sturgeon, John and Terry.
It is great to see local people nurturing their environment and working with Thanet District Council and Kent County Council on a project which will be part of the green tourism regular readers know I am an advocate of. For more on local green tourism issues click here, here, here, here, and here.

Friday, 4 December 2009

Sandra wins big for Labour as Tories slump to third

I predicted Sandra Hart would win in Dane Valley but I never expected almost half the Conservative vote would disappear leaving them slumped in third place. Labour's swing was 8.5% since 2007 but set against current national trends in the polls the swing is 13.5%.

Labour's win is all the more impressive because residents were forced to battle some of the worst weather of the year to get out and vote.

Sandra Hart said

"I'd like to thank everyone who made the effort to vote, especially those who turned out on such an extremely cold, wet and windy December day.

After the events of the past two years the residents of Dane Valley ward now deserve strong representation at TDC and I will certainly do my very best for them. I am fortunate to join a large group of Labour councillors with enormous experience and I know that as a team they will support all my efforts".

Star man Clive Hart the Labour Group Leader and Campaign Organiser said

"My wife Sandy was a first class candidate and I know she'll make an excellent councillor.

This election was my first real test as the Leader of Thanet Labour Group and I was very proud of the way our members campaigned. We fought a very clean fight with no mud-slinging whatsoever on our part and the residents of Dane Valley ward responded positively. I thank them sincerely for their support".

The repeated issues of poor conduct by Thanet Conservative Councillors, and the tolerance for misconduct within Thanet Conservative group were regularlry raised on the doorstep. Many former Conservatives were clear that they could not vote for their party in such circumstances.

Bill Furness' second place was an excellent result from no candidate last time.

The result

Labour 34% previously 37% 318

Liberal Democrat 28% from nowhere 260

Conservative 24% falling from 44% 222

Independent 14% previously stood as Grey Party 19% 130

Regrettably turnout was a very disappointing 17%.

For more on Sandra and her campaign click here, here and here.

For background on the previous Conservative spending most oif his time in Panama click here, here and here.

For Thanet Conservative misconduct read this or any of the non-Conservative local blogs.

Wednesday, 2 December 2009

Predicting the Dane Valley result

The Dane Valley by-election is tomorrow. The circumstances behind it are unfortunate with former Conservative councillor Stephen Broadhurst having spent most of his time since his election in 2007 in Panama. Credit to Tony Flaig for his role in exposing his local councillor. Together with my Labour colleagues we finally managed to force a by-election.
I note that Tony Flaig rejoined the Liberal Democrats recently and think with his frequent comments on the by-election campaign it would be best if readers saw writing or an image or clear writing so that they knew they were reading a yellowtinted opinion. I put my Labour party membership at the top of my page and my fellow Labour councillors Dave Green and Mike Harrison say the same clearly on their front pages as does Conservative councillor Ken Gregory. Simon Moores is different. There is nothing on his homepage to indicate his Conservative affiliations. I think local elected representatives should be transparent about their views and affiliations, and I hope he will review his site so that casual readers are clear as to where he is coming from. With a by-election on all the more reason to be proper.
I was asked by the way whether I would be declaring this blog as an election expense. As this blog is done entirely on a voluntary basis I'm happy for a nil return to be recorded.
Sandra Hart is an impressive candidate and it is good to see her Independent rival acknowledging this. Sandra recently wrote saying:
"Unlike some in this election I don’t have to pretend to be local – I am local. I live in Margate and have done so for forty years, twenty of them in Dane Valley ward. My business premises are in Margate and so is the office that I work from with a strong team of Local Labour councillors.

I don’t have to pretend to work hard for our local community either; through my business I have supported many local community events over the years. I was the membership secretary for a local residents association for several years and in my spare time I currently work within a local fundraising committee supporting elderly people right here in Margate.
The fact is – residents have most certainly received a regular newsletter, several times each year, from our Local Labour team at 44 Northdown Road, and for well over 6 years now. I have been delighted to help deliver many editions myself."

Having delivered leadlets in Dane Valley outside of election time I can confirm that this is the X Factor that Sandra offers over her rivals. She also would hit the ground running as part of an team.
The national opinion polls would predict an easy Conservative hold. Let's have a look at the mathematics. In May 2007 nationally the Conservatives had a 2% lead over Labour, now they have polls giving them average leads of 12% so a 5% swing from Labour to Conservative.
Last time in Dane Valley the result was
Conservative 44%
Labour 37%
Grey Party 19%
Wendy Allan although standing as an independent this time, has omitted to point out that she was a member of a different political party at the previous election and thought that the Grey Party leader John Worrow would be the answer to all of Thanet's problems.
There is now a Liberal Democrat standing as well. Let's assume he takes 5% of each candidate's vote and polls 15%. Pure guesswork he will not win but I expect he will get into double figures in percentage terms.
This adjusts the figures to
Conservative 39%
Labour 32%
Lib Dem 15%
Ind ( Grey) 14%
If the national swing of 5% applies the Conservatives win 44% and Labour goes down to 27%.
Putting it another way if the Dane Valley turnout is 26% like the last election then the results should be
Conservative 627
Labour 385
Lid Dem 214
Ind 200
Now the assumptions I am making are clear, but they are just assumptions and will not be what happens. These figures though do illustrate how the Conservatives should coast home more than doubling their majority.
My prediction? Labour's Sandra to win of course, but even if she does not, she will demonstrate that when people actually have to vote, not just moan or talk to an opinion poll Labour's vote is a lot stronger than received opinion currently reports.