Wednesday, February 28, 2007


Windy walks followed by lengthy absences

I am just about to go leafletting on the Hilton Lane / Butt Hill route, braving the showers and the winds. There is a fair chance that this will be the last blog for a few days, as tomorrow evening I am out with friends, and then on Friday I am off to Harrogate for the weekend for the Lib Dem Spring Conference. Ever since my quasi-Stalinist workplace IT people, with their virus paranoia and impenetrable firewalls went and blocked every website under the sun (including this one), I can't update the blog in my lunch hour, and so it is an evening job. And, since I am not here for three evenings ont he bounce, I can't blog. But, there are worse things in the world I suppose.

As well as the conference to talk about on my return, there is the Tulle Court update after the Planning Committee Meeting, as well as news of my latest 10k run challenge... But they will all have to wait (see if you can hold your breath until Sunday to find out about it!) for now, because I am off out onto the streets of Prestwich, and if I wait any longer we will all have been blown and washed away.


Tuesday, February 27, 2007


Spring in Winter

Out leafletting tonight, in the gusting winter winds, I met a resident in Spring Vale asking about when his road is going to be fixed. There are so many pot-holes in it that driving down it is like riding through a fairground funhouse on a penny-farthing, so I will make some enquiries with the Council tomorrow and find out more.

Last night another resident rang, this time about the traffic problems on Highfield Road. What was once a quiet residential street has been turned into a nasty rat-run, partly because of the apocalyptic traffic nightmare that is Prestwich Village, with its half-dozen sets of traffic lights in 500 yards. The situation is made worse by the decision to build the Radius apartments with nowhere near enough parking spaces, and to build a loading bay for M&S with its entrance at one end of the street. All this has left the road (which, let's not forget, has a primary school on it) akin to a car park, and more than a tight squeeze for the residents, rat-runners and unwise HGV drivers wishing to get down it. Wing mirrors have a life expectancy of about quarter of an hour, I'm led to believe...

The Council installed a chicane to try and slow down the rat-runners, which has worked to a certain degree. Unfortunately, they placed the warning sign so close to the actual obstacle that many drivers don't know they're approaching it until they're at it. Cue lots of reversing and road-blocking. I contacted Cllr O'Hanlon, and we will try and get something done about this.

The resident also wanted me to check on bin collection times. Our Lady Of Grace school is on Highfield Road, and often the parents and children are forced off the pavement by bins waiting for collection. I was asked to check that the bin men themselves aren't coming along with their wagons at busy times and making the situation even worse. I emailed Mr Morris, the Council's Head of Waste Management, who replied within 10 minutes saying that bin crews plan to avoid school busy times on their rounds. So, thanks to Mr Morris and his very speedy response, we have an answer for our resident.


Monday, February 26, 2007


Weekend highjinx

The weekend was great. Tam's birthday was fabulous, and our friends made it so.

On Friday night we welcomed a couple of friends up from London, and they were joined by more on Saturday, turning our house into something approaching an upscale refugee camp for twenty-something professionals in search of a bed for the night.

In the daytime we went to the Heaton Park funfair, which was Tamsin's choice. She put life and limb at more risk than I am comfortable with by riding the types of rickety rides that clatter my bones as soon as I look at them. My motto is never to ride on rollercoasters that can be folded up inside a trailer, and so i spent my time losing lots of 10p pieces in those sliding machines that always promise to shove out hundreds of dangling coins, but somehow never do.

We went to dinner and then to the 23rd floor Cloud Bar at the Hilton later, and then on Sunday gorged ourselves on the world's loveliest and most expensive cake, purchased for a King's ransom from Slattery's in Whitefield. It was nice, yeah, but for that price I was expecting Kylie Minogue to pop out.

Photos of the festivities are available here



Working from home? We might all just have to!

Monday's are always a bit of a nightmare for me, as I'm sure they are for many people. After all, the worst thing about weekends is that they end, and if they've been hectic like this last one, then it's all the worse. So today I have been working from home, negating the need to do things that normally spoil Mondays - like putting on a tie.

I have achieved a reasonable amount from home though. First off I completed two fairly large pieces of work, and I also delayed commencing them for long enough to head down to the Scholes Lane / Hilton Lane / Bury New Road junction this morning to do a quick pedestrian count at rush hour. If we're going to push Bury Council into making the junction safer, we're going to have to use up to date usage statistics. So I will do a few head-counts and report back on the findings. It is certainly very busy there at peak times - buses, cars, trucks, bikes, not to mention school-shildren and other pedestrians.

And it's going to get worse once the Metrolink replacement works get underway and there are extra buses in the area. There may have to be about an extra bus every 90 seconds if they're going to accommodate everyone from the trams. Whilst I'm sure commuters would want them to go past this junction (it is on the most direct route from Prestwich to Manchester), I don't think they will - so the pedestrians won't have to risk anything in addition to the regular perils. I imagine most of the replacement buses will go from Prestwich to Heaton Park stations down Heys Road, then onto Bury Old Road, Sheepfoot Lane and Meade Hill Road to Bowker Vale. So it will be the people living and walking on those streets that suffer instead...

The junction and the Met are two major issues, and ones which local Lib Dems are continually trying to get answers to. Sadly, at present the Council are silent on the junction improvements, and GMPTE are still being extremely slack on details about the Met shutdown. I was talking to a friend yesterday who uses the met every single day to get to work from Prestwich. She has no idea what's going on, or how she'll get to work. The options are all extremely unappealing: Get a replacement bus that takes a lot longer; get a regular bus that will be absolutely packd; drive on the even-more-congested-than-normal roads, and then pay to park; cycle or walk!

We're being deprived of a transport lifeline for six months, and it's being done on the quiet! The Lib Dems are trying, but if you write to GMPTE or Bury Council as well, about Metrolink and the Hilton Lane junction, then hopefully we can achieve more together. At this rate, we might all have to start working from home! We won't be able to get to work!


Friday, February 23, 2007


Happy Birthday Tam - Have A Blog-free Weekend!

It's Tam's birthday this weekend. She is 26 and I become the Toy-boy to her Older Woman for a few weeks before it's my turn.

Since we're having friends up, I shan't be blogging over the weekend. We see them infrequently enough without me spoiling procedings by sneaking off to type several times. Rest assured I will update the waiting world as to the weekend's shenaningans on Monday. And there'll be photos...

But now I have to go and clean the house. There's NO WAY our friends get to see how we live the rest of the time when they're not here...



Tulle Court - Last Chance To Have Your Say

There is a residents' meeting tomorrow at 11.30 about Tulle Court. The Planning Committee meeting where this is being discussed will take place on Tuesday. I can’t make the meeting, but there will be a Prestwich Lib Dem presence there, and I will be briefed afterwards. Issues for the Committee to discuss at the meeting have to be received by the Council 48 hours before the meeting, so now is really the last chance for anyone to submit their views on the proposals for consideration.

So, if you want a say, get cracking! And, if you want any help with submitting anything, give me a bell or drop me an email or message via the blog, and I will do my best to help - whatever your point of view.



"The Producers" WON'T change your life shocker

Last night we went to see “The Producers” at The Palace Theatre in Manchester. It was fairly amusing, but I don’t think it was the “greatest musical in the world,” as proclaimed by lots of reviewers. It was also slightly worrying that a number of audience members left at the end of the “Springtime for Hitler” sequence, clearly failing to grasp that this wasn’t the end of the entire show. They hadn’t understood the satire, which made their laughter at the Nazi jokes a bit concerning – they obviously didn’t get the irony, and saw the Hitler sequence as the natural conclusion to a show about how great Nazism was…

We seemed to pick the night when various local “celebrities” went as well. There must have been a fair number of famous people, because every couple of minutes there was a series of flashes, jostling and shouting from men with expensive-looking cameras, before someone was ushered under a velvet rope into a bar that would've laughed me back out onto the pavement had I tried to gain entry.

Maybe I’m showing how out of touch I am, but I barely recognized any of them. Tam got excited by some Coronation Street people, all of who looked significantly younger than me. And there was the guy from “Max and Paddy’s Road to Nowhere” who isn’t Peter Kay (which prompted me to say, sadly within his earshot, “Look, it’s Max or Paddy from Max and Paddy!”). At one point we asked a photographer to identify the girl he’d just accosted and photographed. He mumbled “Shameless,” but I wasn’t sure whether he was describing the TV programme she was in, or his own profession.

The musical is worth a gawp if you've nothing else on, but since the tickets sold out in the time it takes to read this sentence, it's unlikely you will be able to buy a ticket as a result of reading my blog... But, as ever when something I attend is hyped-up to such an extent, it leaves me feeling a tad disappointed. One day I'll go and see a play, or a film, or read a book, that genuinely changes my life or leaves me joyous with some earth-shattering idea. It hasn't happened yet.


Wednesday, February 21, 2007


If I could offer only one piece of advice, it would be..

...Never put Haribo Kiddie's Super Mix inside a rolled up pancake, to see how good it will taste. It just wan't worth the hassle. "Hmm," I thought, "that seems like a nice idea. Sweet Haribo to complement the batter mixture and sit alongside the chocolate sauce." Unfortunately, I hadn't reckoned on the heat, which melted the sweets into the consistency of pizza cheese, and rendered the pancake just a bit rubbish all over.

Still, it was a fairly successful evening, the tossing photos from which I will upload next week. None of them star me, I must say, although I promise I was there taking them.

Tomorrow I won't be blogging because I am going to the theatre to see The Producers in Manchester. But, it is an important day for Local Government tomorrow, as the Comprehensive Performance Assessment results are published.Comprehensive Performance Assessment (CPA) is the way that central government measures the progress and improvement of Councils. All Councils are audited by the Audit Commission, and lots of performance indicators and inspection results go into a big mixing bowl, to produce a final "star rating" for Councils every year. ANd tomorrow is the day when the new star ratings are released. So, check out the Audit Commission website in the morning to find out how Bury Council did (and every other Council, for that matter). When I am back blogging on Friday I will link to lots more details about CPA.


Tuesday, February 20, 2007



Happy Shrove Tuesday one and all! Now that my Grandma is no longer with us, I feel it is incumbent upon me to continue the tradition of tossing pancakes every year, to the amusement of friends. Unfortunately, whereas she did it with grace and style, ensuring a perfect 180 degree loop back into the pan, mine become folded anddangle over the side. Or else my aim is woeful and they end up splattered on the floor.

A few onlookers are joining Tam and me tonight for the festivities, along with bottles of lemon juice, chocolate sauce and strawberry sauce that were opened ahead of Pancake Day last year, and have been undisturbed since. Yum!


Monday, February 19, 2007


Typographical Errors and Precipitation Issues

Tonight we went out leafletting in Prestwich Hills. I say this every time I go there, but I'd love to live there. It is so quiet and peaceful, definitely my number one place to live in the Ward. Although, having said that, it is a bit out of the way - not as convenient to walk to Sainsbury's and buy a needlessly massive bag of crisps like I can do from Clifton Road at the moment...

It was raining throughout our trip tonight, so apologies to any resident on the receiving end of a soggy Focus and Crime Survey. Also, a resident pointed out a couple of things wrong with the new Focus. First, it's "St Ann's Road," not "St Anne's Road" as I put on page 2. And also, the article about Belvedere Court may not have quite been explicit enough about the causes of the problem with parking there. I wasn't saying that Belvedere Court residents were creating the issue - in fact they are the victims if anything.

Maybe we can run a "What's Wrong With Focus" competition and offer a prize. The prize could be 200 Focuses to deliver...

The rain was fairly irritating tonight actually. I don't mind it normally, but tonight the drizzle was so persistent that I felt like screaming at the sky "RAIN!! Either rain properly or don't bother! This spitting drizzle really isn't worth your effort! Come on, get a move on!" But that would probably have had me carted off to another part of the ward (Prestwich Hospital) for at least a temporary stay, so it is perhaps a good job that i kept quiet.


Sunday, February 18, 2007


Swearing at babies on a sunday morning stroll

Today we went to Heaton Park to attempt to get the cold air to blow away the remnants of our illnesses. It looks like the ducks have been stricken with the same lethargy - they seemed very reluctant to take the bread we were chucking at them. Normally they bite my hand off.

I love wandering round Heaton Park. I think it's one of Manchester's finest treasures and I am sceptical of any plans to build on it, as are being mooted at present. But one thing that got me today was the unbelievable language being used by parents in front of their kids. Now, I don't have any kids, so I don't know what drives parents to do it, but on a number of occasions they were just screaming obscenities towards them or about them, or between themselves comfortably within ear-shot of them. When I was growing up I don't think I heard my parents swear once! Even now it's a rarity, and I wince when I hear the swear to be "cool" towards me. And I certainly don't swear in front of them, excpet on the rarest of occasions.

And yet here there were toddlers, little kids, swearing like they were sailors on the deck of a Navy frigate in a war-zone hurricane, and being sworn at by their parents. How hard can it be not to swear around children? Surely they've got to be taught that certain words are unacceptable in public? Am I asking too much of parents? I don't know - I'm not one. But surely that's the minimum expectation?

It almost took the shine off seeing the alpacas. But not quite.

I'm off leafletting in half an hour. I will steal a few hundred more to do in the week as well. Now that I can withstand an hour in the park without keeling over, I can manage a leaflet round!


Saturday, February 17, 2007


Still ill... It's just not funny now

I'm still suffering. It's got better, yes, but I am still coughing lots and sleeping little. I was supposed to be in Newcastle this weekend, but since we are both stricken by Plague, we've decided to stay here.

I spent yesterday trying to get further information on Tulle Court for a local resident. We are still getting to the bottom of who owns it, and whether or not the Council got the best deal when selling it. I have requested the information under the Freedom of Information Act, so I will get it at some point!

That's an interesting tip actually - I have been fobbed off many times by Councils, or just plain ignored by officers and Members alike. But if I insert the phrase "Freedom of Information Act" into any request, they are legally obligated to provide it (with a few exceptions and with the small possibility of a charge). So if you want to oil the wheels on a query, try that.

I missed a trip to see some allotments in the Ward today. Cllr Ann Garner made the trip, but I wasn't really well enough to attend (I would've coughed enough paracetamol and cough syrup vapours over the vegetables to have ended any claim to "organic" status they may have had!). It's a shame really because I'd have liked to have learned more about them. Allotments intrigue me. I don't know anyone who owns one, but there are loads of them and they always look like the most fertile corners of the Ward!

Tomorrow sees a return to leafletting. The new St Mary's Focus is ready to go, so my I'd better get better or they'll never get delivered...


Thursday, February 15, 2007


Less ill, but all's not well...

I am at approximately 60% today, which represents a steep improvement from yesterday and the day before. I was at work all day, spreading infection and coughing lots. It was both distressing and strangely satisfying to note that three of my colleagues have gone down with the same bug.

I had a few Tulle Court related dealings today, ahead of the planning committee meeting on the 27th. I have been working with a local resident to try and ascertain a few facts about the proposals - namely who owns the land, whether the Council have sold it, and if so for how much. We aren't getting very far, and it seems odd that the people who have put the application in for the developments don't seem to own the land. I have asked the Council to provide some more details.

Tonight I am off to Northern Air Hospital Radio, where there is an open night. I have been a volunteer there for a number of years, formerly presenting and gathering requests from patients, and more recently as membership secretary. Of late I haven't been down as much because of the Lib Dem work, but I am going down tonight, shivers / headaches and all!


Wednesday, February 14, 2007


Getting better?

Well, it seems the living will / phone call to the undertakers / emotional letters declaring years of undying love to a number of female acquaintances may have been a tad premature. I am getting better, and probably now won't die of the man-flu / head-cold / stop whining there's nothing wrong with you, that I have been suffering loudly with in recent days.

Unfortunately my recovery has not come quickly enough for Valentine's Day. I was supposed to be treating Tam to a day at Chester Zoo today, but the headache / runny nose combo that always signals "romance" was too great for that. Instead, I have mooched about the house all day feeling sorry for myself.

I did make it out for an hour though, to spend £100 on a new wing mirror for my car (which is going through a "crumbling to bits before my very eyes" phase at the moment). Somebody kindly smashed it the other week, and its constant flapping was becoming off-putting.

Tonight we are treating ourselves to ready meals from Marks and Spencer. On previous Valentine's Nights I have cooked, but this time there is too great a risk of me sneezing violently into our dinner.

Hopefully tomorrow I can get back to work, start catching up with ther goings-on in Prestwich, and put this sorry, sneeze-filled week to bed.


Tuesday, February 13, 2007


Death Becomes Me

I don't care if they say it's man flu. All I know is that my head is being pounded by a thousand tiny hammer-carrying elves who have taken residence in my skull.

Off work today. Have made it downstairs at last. There's nothing for me here except groaning, shivers and mucus. I am picking up a dozen grapes and going back to bed.

I may be goen for some time.


Monday, February 12, 2007


Tulle Court, The Retreat, and Feeling Like Death

I am ill this evening. I left work at 3pm, with a head that felt as if the British Percussion Orchestra were attempting a world record for "World's Most Bang And Bash Filled Performance" inside it. I made the warmth of my bed by 15.45 amidst much groaning and moaning. The general consensus amongst colleagues and friends is that I have a case of "Man Flu," but I may pass away during the night, so prepare for this to be my last posting...

I did speak to a couple of residents this evening though, after they'd rung me during the day. One local lady was very angry that the Retreat is subject to possible legal action, and will probably have to remain (with a granite wall replacing the glass one) rather than be demolished and replaced with a green space and seats as local people want. A neighbour of mine also rang with concerns about Tulle Court. The rat-run fears have been dispelled, but there are still major concerns over flats overlooking people's gardens, and problems with parking and construction vehicles. I told the neighbour what I have told everyone - the application for planning goes to the Planning Committee for their consideration on Feb 27th, and concerns submitted in writing before the 25th Feb will be put forward for consideration. I can help if people want - just get in touch.

I missed the Lib Dem Exec meeting tonight due to my generally unpleasant head area. Apparently Cllr Ann Garner is also unwell - perhaps it is a Lib Dem bug going round...

Hopefully I will be back feeling better tomorrow.

Either that or I am amputating my head.


Sunday, February 11, 2007


Cameron's no dope

So David Cameron smoked weed in school... So what? I think he is exactly right in demanding a pre-political private life, and he'd be right ot demand much more than that as well. I've said this before, and I'll say it again - the press should leave these kinds of stories well alone. It does nobody any good at all, and I applaud Mr Cameron for not coming out and admitting his childhood prank (because, let's face it, that's what it was). He could make a lot out of this story - come clean, lambast the press for its intrusion, say it was childhood experimentation - but he's keeping quiet and not engaging with a media who are so desperate for scandal that they dredge up decades old classroom japes.

What next?

""Cameron incontinent as new-born!" says ex-midwife"
"Tony Blair snogged two girls in one night at disco in 1968!"
"Campbell swore, in 1954!"

It's ridiculous.



No Prawn Sandwiches, but no atmosphere either

Yesterday I skived off leafletting for the day to attend Manchester United v Charlton, and take advantage of some hospitality tickets won in a raffle. After a beautiful carvery meal involving more food than was strictly necessary (and no prawn sandwiches in sight!), we assumed our seats in the North Stand for what was a fairly straightforward victory for Utd. It was the first time I'd been to Old Trafford in a while(I refuse to call it "The Theatre of Dreams" since, first, none of my dreams involve Utd, and second, it's the Premiership not Disney World), and it's looking very good with the new quadrants built in.

It was pretty disappointing to see the hundreds and hundreds of people leaving the game early though. I know we were in the hospitality area, but I reckon there were people there missing about twenty minutes of the match, including leaving five minutes early for half time, coming back five minutes late, and then leaving for good after the second goal on 82 minutes. Why bother going to the game at all? There is a waiting list for tickets that's thousands of names long (not helped by chancers like me turning up with winning raffle tickets and getting in, I admit), but there are loads of people with tickets who just don't care. I was joking with my friends on the way home thateveryone should be tagged going in and out, and once 90 minutes had been missed through leaving early, they should be banned from a match! It was only a joke, but I imagine there is provision for it somewhere in the recesses of the Terrorism Act...

I don't like the way football has gone these days. Tickets are stupendously expensive (£30 won't get an adult into Old Trafford these days, so it's well over £100 for a family of four). Even at Bury, where I had a season ticket for £42 in 1993, it's £14 to get in. That's over £50 to take the family to see football that is, frankly, rubbish. And I love Bury FC!

And there is just no atmosphere at all. Quite how quiet 76,000 people can be in such a confined space is a mystery... I applaud plans mooted by the Conservatives to explore the possibility of bringing back safe standing at football matches. Standing is where the noise comes from. And it'd be cheaper than seats. And I think Richard Caborn's plans to encourage clubs to lower prices is also a great idea. I must confess I have little idea what we Lib Dems think about this as a party. But I know where I stand.

There's so much money in the game these days, far more now with the new foreign TV rights deal, that it's short-sighted and silly not to encourage a better atmosphere and a more affordable day out for real fans. Seeing just how much of Old Trafford is given over to Corporate seats (and it's the same in other grounds as well, I know) makes me sad. Football used to be about so much more. Now it's about a few very rich men, a few very rich clubs, and lots of scrabbling about in mediocrity for all the fans and everyone else.

I love live football, and I fear for its future. It isn't how it was, and crowds almost everywhere are reducing, especially for the cup games. It should be worrying those running the game more than it is.


Friday, February 09, 2007


Less money in my pockets for another busy weekend

I received the agenda and policy documents for the Lib Dem Spring Conference todya - and remembered that I hadn't got round to booking a hotel. As appealing as two nights in my car is, I feel that now I am old enough to work for a living, I am also old enough to afford an hotel room. And so I am now £144 lighter than I was an hour ago.

Which is a concern, given the weekend that awaits me. I am not leafletting tomorrow, and am instead going to see Manchester United. I am not a fan, but someone I have met once, and who lives far away, has somehow bagged some hospitality tickets, and since he knows I live in Manchester, has very kindly offered one to me. So I will be joining the prawn sandwich brigade, for one day only.

After that, somebody has suggested that I attend a greyhound racing meeting. I have been once before, and know that, enjoyable or otherwise (and I am still on the fence on this one) it spells certain wallet-emptying disaster. I may just curl up into a ball and go to bed.

I will make up for Saturday's dereliction of duty in favour of hob-nobbing with corporate types, by doing a double shift leafletting on Sunday, so watch out on the streets of Prestwich, for there I shall be! And I'll have to scrub up nice, as Cllr O'Hanlon and I are having photographs taken for Focus. Neither of us are super-models, so for once I am glad of the appalling quality of my camera, which renders us so grainy as to appear interesting, and have the mysterious air of people who may actually be very attractive...


Thursday, February 08, 2007


Almost half of Bury aren't satisfied with the Labour Council. Are you?

Today the Department for Communities and Local Government (DCLG) released satisfaction scores for Councils across the country. The satisfaction rate for Labour-run Bury Council is just 52%. So, 48%, that's almost half of everyone surveyed, were not satisfied with the Council. Out of every ten people dealing with the Council, 5 will go away unhappy. This is unacceptable.

In addition, and perhaps of particular note given the troubles with Metrolink and possible congestion charging at the moment, less people in Bury were satisfied with public transport information and with bus services than similar Authorities. How can Labour in Bury sit idly by and do very little about the looming chaos when so few people are satisfied with the buses they are being forced onto? And why are they still telling so few people about it, when even the Government are now saying their public information campaigns aren't working?

It worries me that things have been allowed to get to this level by Labour. What is interesting to note is that often, satisfaction with services is nowhere near as bad with satisfaction with the Council as a whole. It would be wrong to say that people are angry with the services provided - it's true for some of them, but not for all. And we should praise Labour for that. But, as the Local Government Association point out it is often more about drawing a link between the services provided and the people providing them.

Council officers do a great job of providing services, in often very trying circumstances. But so often they are let down by Councillors more interested in serving themselves or their parties than the public who elect them. So often the public are treated like children - kept in the dark, not consulted, and riddden rough-shod over like they don't matter. The Retreat in Prestwich - Why was it left derelict for so long? The Hilton Lane junction - Why have the Council been so dismissive? Heaton Park - Why is there so much clandestine negotiation and secrecy?

So often the needs of local people are put second to the desires of big political partie fund white elephant schemes like ID Cards, or fund the latest gimmick rather than put police officers on the local beat. Only last year the Liberal Democrats in Prestwich fought Labour to keep local schools open. Bury Labour wanted them closed, and the Conservatives dithered. Is it any wonder local people are dis-satisfied with the Council when its biggest political parties don't stand up for them?

We need local people in office, serving the people who sent them into office. These people need to be the public face of the Council, to provide the links between improving services and the institution that provides them. They need to be the Community leaders, working as the conduit between the people and the people's wishes. We need more decent, honourable Councillors, representatives of the people, serving Bury and not themselves or their party masters. Only then will people become satisfied with the Council. People know that difficult choices sometimes have to be made. But it is their lack of say in decisions, and the lack of respect they're shown by distant politicians that makes them unhappy - not always the decisions themselves.

Last year in St Mary's, Cllr Donal O'Hanlon, a local Liberal Democrat who has lived in Prestwich his whole life, was elected, defeating the Labour incumbent who lived right across Bury in Holcombe Brook! All of Bury's Lib Dem Councillors live in the area they represent. All of them are easily contactable, and all care passionately about their wards because they live there themselves! I think that this is the way forward. More locally responsive, committed Councillors will help to heal the obvious wounds that have arisen between Council and citizen.


Wednesday, February 07, 2007


Snow Joke...

Snow is on the way, so I'm told. And although I work for a Council and know exactly how hard the gritting people work (very), I'll bet all the money in my pockets that lots of people are angry tomorrow when they're skidding about all over the place.

The traffic on the way home tonight was as bad as if the snow had arrived a day early. The motorway was closed at Simister Island which, for non-locals, is not the palm-fringed and sandy beach haven you may imaginre from the name, but is instead a concrete roundabout where three motorways converge in traffic oblivion. The closure meant that I was divertted onto unfamiliar side-roads, tripling my journey time, and at one point delivering me full circle round the Moston area.

The entire experience was made even more unpleasant after the latest car-bashing incident which has befallen my poor little Punto. In the last year I have had a hub cap removed (Tam beats me there, she has had all of her's taken), and a buttock-shaped dent inflicted to the rear wing. This on top of the 2002 scar which arose when someone threw a brick in the window to steal my radio. This incident was made more bearable because the man concerned was stupid enough to commit the crime in full view of two policemen, who arrested him whilst he was choosing which of my tapes to nick (Simon and Garfunkel Greatest Hits or Les Miserables - the original cast recording. No wonder he dilly-dallied over that one!). Last night my wing mirror was snapped, leaving it dangling. The outer rubber tube still stands, but the inner plastic casing has snapped, so it wobbles when I move, making driving at any speed above 3mph seem like a speed-boat trip through a hurricane.

And last time it was icy on the roads, I lost control of my car whilst doing about 5mph and went hurtling into a high curb, knackering the suspension. SO tomorrow's cold snap doesn't bode well for the car either...

However, aside from motoring disasters, I have been working on some more of the new Focus tonight. The Hilton Lane junction story is coming along - it transpires that a petition has been started, and I will certainly be adding my name to it. Th resident who originally contacted me has also been in touch with my colleague Cllr Ann garner from Sedgley ward (the road concerned is the border between Sedgley and St Mary's), so I think we are all going to meet up.
In addition, we are finding more out about the latest legal wranglings over The Retreat, and letting all of St Mary's know the good news about Tulle Court. I sent a residents' letter out to 200 of my neighbours last week after the public meeting, but now everyone can know about plans to stop the rat run. Which is great.

And now I am off to watch the England game. Which, since it is a friendly and the team is missing half of itself, is bound to be utter rubbish. But we can only live in hope...


Tuesday, February 06, 2007


Building a team

Today was an odd day - it was our annual team away day at work, where the morning is spent planning our service for the next twelve months, and the afternoon is spent doing "team building exercises."

I have been on numerous team-building days in the past few years, since starting work. In my very first job, after a couple of days in work, I was forced to attend a WEEKEND of these activities with the entire team (all of whom knew each other). The indescribable horror of being placed in this unwinnable social disaster zone was made worse when the sleeping arrangements were revealed to me (communal dorm), and most of my new colleagues appeared utterly unaware of the concepts of personal space or modesty. I saw more nudity that weekend than I care to reminisce about. Needless to say my time at that firm was short-lived and mentally distressing.

However, it did plumb the very depths of "team-building" despair. I doubt very much whether such experiences will come my way again. Despite this though, each subsequent suggestion of a team building day has been greeted with a familiar string of emotions:

1) What on earth are we doing this for? Why can't I just be left alone? Please God don't let there be dorms and nudity...
2) We don't need to "team-build." If the team weren't "built" already, then 8 hours a day together would result in murder. Since it doesn't, we are therefore already a team. So I'm not doing it.
3) I feel a slight twinge. I'm not doing it.
4) Ok, since the threat of disciplinary action looms, I am doing it.
5) Who the hell is this guy in the military fatigues? Is that a stopwatch he's carrying?
6) So, let me get this straight... You want us to lift that bucket of water over there, using only some twine and those gloves?
7) Man alive, I didn't know she could do THAT with her legs... I thought she could only type.
8) Actually this is quite good fun.
9) It is clear to me that private fantasies about winning The Krypton Factor couldn't have been further from the truth.
10) YAY! Our team won! Ha ha! Brains over braun my friends. Brains. Over. Braun.

And so it was today, when my ragged bunch of colleagues and I assembled at the City Learning Centre in Chadderton to be put through our paces on the coldest day of the year by the friendly folk from British Military Fitness. There were numerous tasks, including steering my blindfolded colleagues through a "minefield" and carrying a bucket of "nuclear devices" out of a "dangerous part of town" using only a rope.

The repeated collisions with mines in the minefield, and the spillage of the entire bucket of nuclear weapons, reminded me why I never joined the armed forces. There was also a moment during a mission involving the recovery of a radio from a "swamp" when parts of me came physically closer to parts of a female colleague than should be illegal outside of a fully consenting and serious relationship.

But good fun was had by all. And our team won which was the important thing of course.

So we are well and truly team-built now.

Unfortunately the business planning part of the day got away from us somewhat. So although we can all now construct 8 equalateral triangles from six poles in a field of grass, we don't have a service improvement plan for 2007-8...

Since I had the taste for the Great Outdoors already, I went leafletting on the way home as well, knocking off Butt Hill Avenue, Butt Hill Drive, that little bit of Bury New Road, and the Kersal Road stretch too.

And now I think I am in for the night. Because it is far too cold to go out again!


Monday, February 05, 2007


The Young Ones

This evening I am starting the job of composing the new edition of St Mary’s Focus. There’ll be lots more information on the new Lib Dem plans to combat crime and make Britain safer, as well as local news about the Metrolink closure, traffic congestion plans, Hilton Lane, Tulle Court and other things.

But not before I fill in my membership extension form to Liberal Democrat Youth and Students. It turns out that, since I am about to turn 26, I am no longer automatically eligible. But I can continue to be a member until 30 if I pay them money. I don’t begrudge them a few quid, given the work they do to attract young people to the party, so a few quid of mine they shall have.
I think it’s a real shame that more young people aren’t involved in politics, at a local or national level. People under 26 make up a sizeable chunk of the population, and yet virtually no elected representatives are young. Of 20,000 local councillors in England and Wales, only 62 were under 26 when the last census was taken in 2004. That barely a quarter of one percent. The youngest Councillor in Bury is older than that. And of course there are very few young MPs indeed.

Young people like me have so many concerns that government (local and central) have control over. The national curriculum, student loans, rising house prices, you name it. And yet we seem unable to attract young people to the party and to formal politics.

So many young people speak to me about the issues they’re really bothered about – the environment, the war in Iraq, the value of their degrees – and yet won’t make the leap from talking about it to doing anything. A few may sign petitions for Friends of the Earth, but nobody seems willing to go beyond that.

I think a lot of the problem is to do with communication. Most of the people I speak to can’t see beyond the leafleting and the endless committee meetings. But the leaflets spread the message, and the meetings get results. The only way to change things is to be involved, and decisions are made by those that show up. We need to get more young people showing up.

Work with young people from school, through university and into their working lives to show them how what we do makes a difference, and how they can stand with us and make a difference too. Mock elections in schools are fantastic – lets see more of them. Engaging with young people about issues, giving them information to debate the topics and get involved themselves is great. The amount of people who marched on the fees issue when I was at university was brilliant. We need to strive to keep these people, and get them involved locally and nationally. And to do this we need to keep the pressure on – get into the schools and talk to them. People are shocked when I turn up at places and say who I am – they expect someone who looks like my Dad.

Organisations like the LDYS do a great job. I only hope that if I become more influential, or get the opportunity through the Bury Liberal Democrats to get more young people involved in politics, I will take the opportunities.


Sunday, February 04, 2007


Leaflets, Frogs, Theatres, and Religion

Lots of leafletting over the weekend - so much so that next week we'll probably print the new Focus, having dispatched most of this month's already. In fact, we've covered so much of St Mary's that attention turned to Sedgley. Yesterday we stomped around Downham Crescent (I am told that Prestwich's angriest dog has died since tearing a chunk out of my finger, so I leaflet less gingerly than before). And today the streets connecting Albert Avenue and Kings Road, which gave me a not-really-much needed excuse to pop into (the shop formerly known as) Deli King for some bagels. Six, in fact. Although three were for Tam.

We got chatting to a lovely man who debated all things political with Cllr Vic D'Albert for quite some time. He was a member of the Jewish community, who I think are woefully under-represented in local politics around these parts. I hope that if I ever get the chance to serve the people of Prestwich, I can use the fact that I am Jewish to help some of the people from the community who may be disengaged. But in the meantime, we are working on this local resident and maybe he'll join the Lib Dems himself!

I was disappointed to hear from my Mum today. Normally it is lovely, but today I was greeted with a very audible frog in her throat, announcing to me that she won't be able to help leaflet this week, and I shall probably be out alone. I may have to press-gang Tamsin, or my neighbour who has recently shown increased interest. And it only took six months of persuasion, a significant bribe and three restraining orders...

Yesterday we went to see Will Young leading in the Noel Coward play "The Vortex." After the obligatory "I think I'd better leave right now" gags from all and sundry in my party, we settled down to watch what was actually a pretty impressive turn from the Pop Idol turned actor. I am not a particularly sophisticated theatre-goer, but I know when I'm entertained (the secret is whether I start thinking about traffic-calming measures in Prestwich during the action, or keep my mind on the story. Actually, who am I kidding, my mind is far more likely to turn to football and girls than anything else. If it's a REALLY bad play I might start thinking about traffic calming!). And entertained I was last night. It was the last play of the season, and once again I am going to renew my season ticket for the next one. Four Saturday night plays for £45 can't be beat.

Well, it could be, clearly. They could make it £25. But they won't.

But, what has vecome clear from the weekend's non-theatrical activities, is that the election season is coming closer to us. I wonder how many times between now and May 3rd I will use the word "election" in my blog? I could open a spread account or something... Whatever the final tally, the next 87 days until polling day will see us working very hard across Prestwich. I think there'll be a letter for local people asking if they want to help us, going out with the next Focus. And hopefully this weekend's leafleting adventures will be just the latest step on the road to winning in May.


Friday, February 02, 2007


Bleeding lips and the weekend ahead

The weekend is upon us once again. It seems only a week ago I was making a similar lame joke to this one about how it was the weekend again.

I will be out leafletting on Saturday and Sunday, so look out for us on the streets of Prestwich. I am also going to see the Noel Coward play "The Vortex" starring Will Young, at the Royal Exchange. And that's what I have planned.

I also need to repent after yesterday's food-related mishap which saw me drive to, sit down in, and consume vast quantities of meat/vegetables/sauce at, an all-you-can-eat curry house.

It was a disaster, for which I am still paying to this moment due to the unsavoury rumblings coming from my stomach area.

Tonight I am grilling some home made chicken kebabs, which would have been much healthier had I not already had a sandwich and a yoghurt and an "Ainsley Harriot" soup in a mug when I got home from work. And an ice lolly. Which got stuck to my lip and tore the skin off causing my mouth to bleed. I look like I've been out hunting and eating my prey. Quite disturbing.

So, it's back on with the issues tomorrow - Cllr Donal O'Hanlon and I are going to take a closer look at the Hilton Lane junction on behalf of a resident, and there will be the regular weekly round-up of things we've spottd and been contacted about, bringing us all up to speed. So hopefully this blog can return to issues of St Mary's and the Liberal Democrats' work therein, rather than detailing my descent towards the dietary abyss.


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