Thursday, 31 July 2008

Slowly clearing the fugg

Managed to stay awake until 10.00pm last night and didn't wake up till 6.00am this morning so body clock adjusting quite quickly. Ten days touring down the East Coast from Toronto to New York (via Washington) is not a fair way to get an overall impression of two huge countries but three quick initial impressions of the holiday were:

Canadians are really polite
Yanks are very parochial
New York is very dirty and noisy

Toronto is a lovely little city and I was really impressed. Their Metro system was clean, efficient and CHEAP, made London Underground look really tatty and overpriced. My mother was offered a seat every time we travelled on it. CN Tower was impressive and the Rogers Stadium (The Skydome) was very good and made the new Wembly Stadium look distinctly third rate. Overall Toronto was very impressive.

When we crossed into the USE our guide told us to change any sterling we had with us at Canadian Banks before we crossed the border since US Banks didn't trust funny money and we might not be able to get British Pounds changed. More or less summed up the Yanks for me, sort of "You all come from England? What part of Texas is that in? They do know about Iraq but most other foreign countries and their geography gets a bit hazy. Went to Arlington National Cemetery and visited the Kennedy Graves, very sad and all but it didn't make me want to weep, but then if I ever visited Dianna's grave I doubt I'd be crying much there either (unless it was over how much it costs to go there, at least its free to see the Kennedy Graves). No doubt he was a great President, tragically cut down young, but he wasn't MY President.

New York was a typical big city to me. Hot, dirty, noisy. Empire State building good, Statue of Liberty bit disappointing, Maceys my daughters favourite place in the world. New York Metro system actually made the London Underground look good, although New York was cheaper. In fact that was the first thing we noticed back in the UK, prices here were the same as New York but obviously in pounds not dollars. So maybe that's the final impression of the Holiday, we came home to rip off Britain!

Wednesday, 30 July 2008

Home again

Landed at Heathrow at 6.30am this morning (UK Time) and hopped on a shuttle to Newcastle getting us home just after 11.00am. Piles of post and nearly 1,000 e-mails waited for me. Also my son received his long awaited response from his application to join the Royal Navy as an Engineering Cadet this September.

Some good news and some bad news! Edward passed the three day selection board and was shortlisted for a place, that's the good news! It means he made it through to the final hurdle, beating over 2,000 other youngsters who also applied and so I'm very proud of him for getting this far. The bad news is that there are only 30 places and the Navy lists the people who pass the boards in order of preference and unfortunately despite getting a pass mark Edward was not in the top 30 when all the boards were completed and so will not be getting a place in September. That's the bad news.

Better news is that as he passed the Board they would like him to attend a careers guidance meeting to discuss sponsorship through 6th form (but home based) and then possible university scholarships so all is not lost for a Naval Career.

PS Edward's mum is secretly pleased he didn't get in! Her baby (He's 6 foot tall now) was far to little to be going away to sea!

Monday, 28 July 2008

New York New York

Didn't I do well? No electronic contact of any type for over a week. however I've just had to go on line to confirm our flights home tommorow night and couldn't resist a quick look at the message boards and blogs? Sad or what!

Leave JFK tommorow at 18:15 US East Coast Time so will be landing at the now infamous Terminal 5 at just after 6:00 UK time. Catch all you readers soon with stories of my adventures!

Friday, 18 July 2008

Well I never Knew that!

It was necessary to keep a good supply of cannon balls near the cannon on old war ships. But how to prevent them from rolling about the deck was the problem. The best storage method devised was to stack them as a square based pyramid, with one ball on top, resting on four, resting on nine, which rested on sixteen.

Thus, a supply of 30 cannon balls could be stacked in a small area right next to the cannon. There was only one problem -- how to prevent the bottom layer from sliding/rolling from under the others.

The solution was a metal plate with 16 round indentations, called, for reasons unknown, a Monkey. But if this plate were made of iron, the iron balls would quickly rust to it. The solution to the rusting problem was to make them of
brass - hence, Brass Monkeys.

Few landlubbers realise that brass contracts much more and much faster than iron when chilled. Consequently, when the temperature dropped too far, the brass indentations would shrink so much that the iron cannon balls would come right off the monkey.

Thus, it was quite literally, cold enough to freeze the balls off a brass monkey. And all this time, you thought that was just a vulgar expression, didn't you?

Wednesday, 16 July 2008


So, Councillor Akers-Belcher is going to set up a committee to investigate the pothole situation in Hartlepool’s roads! Oh good, that problem’s solved then!

The Committee will need several months to complete its work and I couldn’t help thinking of an animated cartoon my children watched when they were young. Babar, King of the Elephants, wants to do something; unfortunately he is fighting bureaucracy which comes up with the classic delaying tactic, set up a Committee!

In the Words of King Babar’s Chancellor,

“We’ll set up a committee to discuss and interact.
Then authorise a study to investigate the facts.
Then summarise the data to find out what we have to do.

We’ll call in all the experts, to hear just what they say.
Get their general agreement and consensus today.
And then we’ll take a survey to get the public point of view.

Then we’ll circulate a memo to all the parties concerned.
Discussing all the options and note what we have learned.
Then submit the mater to a democratic, thorough debate.

It’ll be glorious, glorious, Glorious.

A Committee substitutes talking about a problem for actually doing anything about it. Committees take up resources and cost huge amounts of money. A couple of blokes with shovels and a wheel barrow full of tarmac going round filling in potholes would be more cost effective than any number of committees. I've been trying for months to get some repairs done in an alley way on the Headland, but no luck.

If there is one thing Hartlepool doesn’t need it is more committees!

Sunday, 13 July 2008

Pleasant Valley Sunday

Sunday afternoon, had a lazy morning reading the papers (only possible, reading the papers that is, because my sister in law turned up at 9.00am to collect the bag she left here last night and so I thought if I'm up now I might as well go get the papers!). Went down to the Wheelhouse on the Marina for Sunday lunch, £98 for 7 of us so not bad including drinks. The Wheelhouse is Rosie's favourite place, after Starbucks. Rosie thunks Hartlepool would be immeasurably improved by a Starbucks. I pointed out that this time next week we'll be in New York so I'd take her to Sterbucks on 5th Avenue, unfortunately this time next week we'll actually be in Toronto so 5th Avenue will have to wait.

Lots of over lunch teasing of Edward who was actually out with a girl last week. They are just friends, of course, but it didn't stop him going very, very red. Ah the Allison Male curse, babe magnets every one of us!

Arrived back home determined to do some work. The expenses return for Henley has to be submitted before I go to the US and I have several hundred UKIP Enquiry forms to complete and a few hundred stamps to stick onto letters inviting people to the North East Regional Meeting on 26th July. However, the Wheelhouse lunch is now making me very sleepy so I don't think any of these jobs will get done before a nap!

The TV is also calling me, Rosie is watching "East is East" on the DVD, its part of her Sociology Course work for the summer vacation. Edward of course has no course work, or indeed work of any kind so his aim for now is to master Guitar Hero on the Wii.

Saturday, 12 July 2008

Win a Seat Ibiza

Although the current round of Post Office Closures is completed the salami slicing of post office counter services continues ready for further closures in the future.

Should your local Councillor or your MP make mention of their “support” for post offices why not ask him about the latest government scheme to take even more revenue away from the Post Office Counters.

Tax disc renewal forms are now offering free entry to a draw to win a car if you renew online. Obviously this is an attempt to even further reduce Post Office usage by offering an incentive to switch away another service. If you still want to support your local Post Office and renew your tax disc over the counter you can do so but are not automatically entered into the draw. You can however apply, on line, to be entered into the draw separately.

The reason for what is in effect a discount on your tax bill if you go on line is being justified as a green measure. The scheme doesn’t say when all the Post Offices are closed no-one will need to visit them ever again and hence reduce unnecessary journeys but actually offers a Seat Ibiza as the prize due to it being the vehicle with the best combination of safety ratings and CO2 emission.

Save the planet and win a Seat Ibiza. Aren’t we lucky to have such a caring government! Shame the about the Post Offices but you can’t make an omelette without breaking eggs!

Friday, 11 July 2008

You must come to Tea!

I have just received a complaint from a regular treader of my blog that I have not added any tit bits for over a week. I must offer my apologies for this laxness but I have been very busy the last few days. I had no sooner finished with the Henley by-Election than I was straight into the last stages of UKIPs selection procedures for MEP Candidates. As a member of the Political Committee this has taken up a great deal of time. I went to London for a meeting on Tuesday and didn't get home until Thursday evening, unfortunately I was expecting to be there and back in a day so didn't have an overnight bag with me! The first thing I did when I got home was have a long hot shower.

I then went down with a vicious sore throat, felt like I was gargling broken glass, not fun. According to the doctor it was "a virus" so all I could do was sweat it out. I surfaced briefly to visit the Maritime Festival but after a short visit I headed back to the warmth of my bed. My son was there for the full two days in his Sea Cadet Uniform, very damp he was most of the time. I really felt sorry for the organisers of the event and remembered being told a story about Napoleon considering the appointment of a new General. After experience, qualifications, training etc were all taken into account the Emperor only had one question “Is he lucky?”

The “General” in charge of the Hartlepool Maritime festival must obviously fail that vital test. No mater how good her qualifications, experience, the attractions she lined up, the car parking arrangements, the preparations and the contingency planning it all ultimately came down to the weather! One must feel very sorry for her and her team. This event was scheduled to attract 150,000 visitors (according to the event website) in preparation for 1,000,000 plus for the Tall Ships in 2010. We can therefore only hope that in two years time the Tall Ships Weekend will pass Napoleon’s key test.

Some brief discussions on the school closure program with several concerned residents and I must admit to a small amount of amusement a the Labour Party and the hole they dug for themselves. All 23 Labour Councilors felt i was important the public knew where they stood, wonderful, of course there is now a fight going on to see how far some Labour Councillors can distance themselves from their party's position. Interesting that several Labour Councillors now feel it is acceptable to stand ass Labour Candidates, on labour party manifesto's, presumably to get Labour votes, but feel they can then ignore those manifestos once they are elected. Vote for me. I'm Labour, unless of cursed I get offered a Cabinet post with the extra money and then I'm not Labour really I make decisions based only on the cabinet position! Have your cake and eat it more like.

TS Trincomolee had its annual Royal Navy Inspection on Monday, outstanding performance and a burgee recommendation was made by the inspecting officer. A member's seminar on Tuesday about the Tall Ships Organisation resulted in the admission that only £750,000 of private funding has so far come forward for the race, however as this is from ONE North East I felt the definition of "Private" funding was stretching a bit. I unfortunately wasn't at the seminar, I was back in London attending a Garden Party at Buckingham Palace. Apparently two Councillors go every year, I've been on the Council since 2002 and it was the first time I'd heard about it. Maybe its another of those little jollies the public aren't supposed top know about? Paid all my own expenses I must add, including travel and overnight accommodation, plus £3.50 to get my suite dry cleaned. Very nice experience, cucumber sandwiches were served and at the Palace the tea goes into the cup before the milk.

Missed Planning on Wednesday as it included the Hartlepool 6th Form College application for a new college building. I'm a Governor at the college so it would have been a conflict of interest to have attended. Thursday went to the Central Estate Management Committee Meeting and today (Friday) I'm trying to catch up on paperwork and get a newsletter put together. One piece of good news in my Green Bag was it looks like the Anhydrite Mine is holding up OK for the next 80 years so that will be a relief for those people worried that their homes were going to fall into a hole in the ground. Headland heritage event at the weekend and then week after that I'm going on my holidays! Looking forward to it very much.

So there is a whistle stop tour of the last ten days or so. I haven't spent more than three consecutive nights at home since mid April and so sleeping in my own bed is a bit of a luxury! I've been told its tough at the top! If I ever get there I'll let you know if its true, at the moment I know its tough enough where I am without worrying about those at the top.

Friday, 4 July 2008

Prom Time

It's "Prom" time again and this year its the turn of son and heir Edward to trip off into the night. In my day we never had a prom! I do remember having a rather drunken evening at the Carlton Club to celebrate the end of A Levels but not a "prom" with stretch limos and girls in evening gowns. My son Ed (picture below) went through agonies about what to wear, even buying the hat specially from the USA (via e-bay of course), he had his hair done (big girlie I thought, I never had streaks or highlights in my hair, and now a days I don't have enough hair to bother with that sort of thing! So maybe I'm just jealous).

We had a long serious father/son talk before he left and after the night was done I picked him up from Judges Hotel in Yarm no worse for his experiences. I then dropped him at an "after prom party" in Norton and the dirty stoppie out didn't come home until almost lunchtime the next day. Ah the wonders of youth!

All in all I'm very proud of him. He worked hard for his GCSE's and is now awaiting his results. What the future holds in the next couple of years depends very much on these results, but no matter what happens I will always be proud of him!

And now for something completely different......a picture of Rosie in her party frock. It only seems like 5 minutes since I was changing their nappies and now look at her and Ed, all growed up but still my little boy and girl

John Lewis List lives on

Hartlepool MP Mr Iain Wright was reportedly one of the 172 MPs who voted to keep the generous expenses allowances for MPs known as the "John Lewis List"

This name came about as it is reported that MPs can use this to buy themselves anything they like from the John Lewis Department Store Catalogue.

As the leading political comment site so aptly put it...........

"For if there’s one thing more than anything else that has undermined the reputation of the house (of Commons) in recent months it was been the continual drip-drip of media allegations about the misuse of the allowances and the lack of proper scrutiny. For these individuals to support the continuation of aspects of the system, against the recommendation of the committee, is breathtaking."

Not the first time Mr Wright MP has taken my breath away.... for example, his ability to twist and turn over the Hospital issue has been a wonder to behold

Tuesday, 1 July 2008

Happy Birthday Derek Allison

Not only was the NHS 60 on 30/06/2008 there were several other birthdays that day,

1470 - Charles VIII, King of France
1942 - Robert Ballard, explorer/geologist/author/discoverer (Titanic in 1985)
1966 - "Iron" Mike Tyson, NY, youngest heavyweight boxing champ (1986-90)

but most important it was also my father's Birthday. So happy birthday Derek Allison. Many happy returns of the day.