Friday, 31 December 2010

Christmas trees brought to you by...

I took these photos in early December. Christmas had been going on prior to Bonfire Night and I mentioned yesteday how the logistics of putting up Christmas trees had a lot more to do with commerce than it did with Christmas. I read in today's paper that this particular tree in Lancaster is criticised in one letter because of the barriers and the adverts on those barriers. The author is correct. They look a mess.

What really took my attention was the reply from the Lancaster District Chamber of Commerce who provided funding and put up the adverts. They think that the barriers and signs could be better but the benefactors (I don't think benefactors is quite the right word but it will do) deserve recognition. And then there is a jibe at the author asking for their support next year.

So Christmas is about commerce. It's about recognition of commerce and it's about tacky adverts. I chose this angle in the photo on the right because it is just about the best view. There may well be more adverts now. There are other lights on other trees (and you can just see one on the left) that look really nice. Maybe next year we will know who sponsored them.

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Thursday, 30 December 2010

A happy November and December to you

I was listening to local radio yesterday and there was an interview with a council worker who put up and took down Christmas trees. It seems that all the trees for the Fylde come from Scotland. they are cut down months before Christmas and they are now being taken down. It takes months to put them up because there are so many of them.

If struck me that the trees were nothing to do with Christmas. We have some references to the actual 12 days in the Christmas song but "Christmas" for this person and for many others was totally commercial. For me the reason why the trees could not be put up in the Christmas period was because there were not enough council workers to put them up. I tend to get my tree up at the appropriate time, and I can take it down at the right time too.

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Wednesday, 29 December 2010

Trusting the people

Yesterday I wrote about political apathy because all votes are not equal in our present system and many will not vote because they see their vote as not counting. The obvious answer is to change the system but another idea has made the headlines. According to "a plan to allow popular online petitions to be debated in Parliament within a year has been given the go-ahead by the government".

I have written previously about trying to reverse the decline in voter turnout by such things as changing the way we vote with the aid of technology. Perhaps changing the voting day from Thursday would be a good move, but the most important move would be to make sure that votes count. However if we can improve the democrativ process by involving members of the public in setting the Westminster agenda then my first reaction is that this has to be a good move.

A few years ago I read that a survey in Calafornia put the need for breast reconstruction (boob job) as a higher priority than hip replacements - one of the best surgical procedures you can imagine. You can't trust the people all the time but my instinct is that the public generally get things right and we should be listening.

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Tuesday, 28 December 2010

We need to change the voting system

Almost everyone is entitled to vote. There are a few exceptions and one that I discussed recently is whether prisoners should be allowed to vote. if you divide the number of those who vote by the number who are allowed to vote and then multiply by 100 you get the voter turnout percentage. This figure improved a litte at the general election this year. It improved to 65% but generally the voter turnout has been declining in the last few decades.

One reason for this is that our votes don't usually matter. I have never known an election won by one vote. There will be many other reasons why people don't vote. Some may genuinely forget that they have to go down to the polling station. Others may genuinely not want any of the candidates to get elected. Some will cast their vote by spoiling it. "None of the above" may be their first choice. whatever the reason, the lower turnout damages the legitimacy of the government and is a sign that politicians are failing to connect with the electorate. If this failure to connect gets worse we may have riots in the streets and bishops calling for legitimate protests. Oh we already have.

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Monday, 27 December 2010

Anyone want to support FPTP?

Tactical voting is when you don't vote for the person or party that you want to win, but you vote for someone else in order that your least favourite candidate doesn't get in. You only find this type of voting when you have a first-past-the-post system. If there is a two-horse race then if you prefer the third of even fourth placed party you are going to waste your vote. In fact there is a strong argument that says if you vote for anyone other than the winner then your vote is wasted.

On this basis most people will waste their vote. Elections are won and lost in the marginal constituencies and this means that the vast majority of the electorate are almost wasting their time by voting. It also means that someone with a bit of money can distort our democracy. This is one factor in the declining number of voters but what tactical voting meant in 2001 and 2005 is that Liberal Democrats voted for Labour when they thought Labour could beat the Tory, and Labour votes went to Liberal Democrat candidates if they had a chance.

So not only are the number of voters declining but most people waste their vote. On top of that you can't tell who they really want to vote for anyway. Does anyone want to support FPTP?

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Sunday, 26 December 2010

Let's slow down

On Monday I wrote about the devastation caused by the weather according to one reporter. My view is that we need to put things in perspective and a delay in a journey of an hour or two is not particularly devastating. On Wednesday one of my sons came home for Christmas. He made the journey from Chester to Morecambe and it took him an hour or so longer than usual. He told me that there were scenes of panic when a slight delay was announced and when one train was five minutes late a long queue developed to ask why.

When I was in London a couple of weeks ago I used the Underground and you stand on the right on the escalators in order to let people walk up them. Most people were in a rush! I don't know why because I never had to wait more than five minutes for a train. They were running for the sake of running.

If these examples are commonplace then I think we all need to relax a little more. I am writing this on Christmas Day, one of the quieter days of the year. Maybe Christmas can remind us to take our time.

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Saturday, 25 December 2010

The politics of religion

The Right Reverend Nicholas Reade, the Bishop of Blackburn is asking for "legitimate Christian protests" against government cuts. The bishop uses the word legitimate in order to distinguish his protest calls from those who organise violence. That's the easy bit. The complicated bit is knowing what he is calling for. Are Christians called to support the Coalition cuts or are they more inclined to become members of another party? I have a book written by three MPs, one Liberal Democrat, one Labour and one Tory and each put their case for Christian values within their party. They all make a strong case and they all have their strong critics.

I know that Jesus is fairly happy with a capitalist system as he will render unto Caesar what is Caesar's, but I am certainly not clear as to His wishes on the fine detail of British fiscal policy. What should be our aim if we protest? To ease the cuts by 10% or 20%?

Debt is not a good thing for any individual but it isn't a good thing for governments. I really don't think that Jesus would get involved with detailed Coalition policies so I am not quite sure why the bishop should feel the need to get involved. I don't mind individuals having opinions. On the contrary, I think it is really important to have opinions and get involved in politics. My problem is that he has made religion party political.

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Friday, 24 December 2010

An explanation for Christopher Samba

Blackburn Rovers recently acquired new owners and one of their first actions was to sack manager Sam Allardyce. Nothing new there then. It seems that in football contracts are not worth the paper they are written on. Don't get me wrong. I don't feel sorry for the players or the managers as they earn enough to get by even if their contract is broken after a few weeks. I know there are lots of things that cause me to write blogs about football, but this time what bothers me is the attitude that contracts don't matter.

Christopher Samba, the Blackburn captain has spoken out about the sacking and now says he wants to leave. I like this bit. According to the BBC website the new temporary manager, Steve Kean is going to "sit him down and tell him what the plans are." This means that Christopher could be sacked at any time if he falls out of favour with the Indian owners. How dare I suggest such a thing? Well they weren't bothered about sacking the top man so why should lesser mortals be safe?

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Thursday, 23 December 2010

Say what you think

On the 10th December I wrote that "some MPs voted with the coalition because they have ministerial responsibility". Well at least four Liberal Democrat ministers have been secretly recorded expressing their concerns for government policies. Ministers can't do this but just because they are ministers doesn't stop them having individual views, it's just that they can't express them.

All ministers are individuals and all have different views if you look closely enough. The problem here is that undercover agents of the press have uncovered their weaknesses. Vince Cable's disagreement with Mr Murdoch highlighted bias which should not be present in the decision making process. We are human and bias is there but Vince was caught in a kind of honey trap. I know that politicians are not held in high esteem and having to disguise your true views won't help but using subterfuge won't help the standing of newspaper journalists. Nobody is perfect but if we have not broken the law should we be subject to a possible newspaper sting in order to sell a few more papers?

I don't think that I could be a Liberal Democrat minister. I would have to say that I am standing by many decisions with which I do not agree. That might be fine if there is broad agreement but I prefer to say what I think. The big changes for government should not concern ministerial unity, they should embrace individuality and allow more decisions to come from the body of the house. Let people say what they think.

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Wednesday, 22 December 2010

As seen in Lancashire Life

I write two blogs per day and today I thought I would share the photography blog with you to reach a wider audience so here it is...

I had promised photos of London from my trip last week but normal service is temporarily suspended, like most of the transport network since my return, in order to give you the latest photography news. There are some great photo on page 96 of the January edition of Lancashire life with the headline "Lancaster Medical Book Club dinner in Morecambe".

Alright they are my photos and what is more they have given me the credit. The editor has chosen thirteen of the photos with more formal poses but there were plenty that were less formal. I am not bothered which photos he chose as it is just very nice to see my photos in the magazine.

I can now look forward to adding some wording on my website that says my photos have been published in Lancashire Life.

Happy snapping

And here is the link to the Lancashire Life website which includes some of the less formal poses: -

Tuesday, 21 December 2010

Thoughts from the motorway

As I was driving back from London two things caught my eye. One was that the road was worn in one particular section of the motorway. It wasn't bad but you could see a slight dip in the road wher the weight of vehicles was taking its toll. You often see this effect much more obviously on some drives where the foundation is not good enough. It made me think. Is it worth building roads that are slightly wider and have space, say with a cycle lane, that could mean that the next time that lanes are painted the lanes could be moved to stop the wear in those specific lanes. I am no civil engineer but it might be worth it, a bit like putting car mats down so they take the wear rather than the carpet in the car.

The other thing I noticed was a sign that said the lights would not be lit between midnight and 4am. The main objection to turning off street lights is not traffic safety but to put off thieves. Thieves don't usually break in with the help of motorway lights so there is an element of traffic management. Could more lights go out after midnight? I don't suppose it matters to the vast majority of people but if you are in the miniority then you should have a bigger say. I noticed that in London there was a lot of activity regardless of the hour, but many streets may be lit for nobody.

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Monday, 20 December 2010

Save our superlatives

I am back in Morecambe after three days in London. My trips there and back were uneventful because I left London at 10am on Saturday. If I had left thirty minutes later I may have seen much more snow as when I got home I was hearing reports of our terrible British weather. One BBC reporter was "really scared" as she had to endure a trip from the north to the south of Wales. The weather was bad in parts and I know Wales was affected badly and so too was London and if London is affected then that made the weather atrocious. In fact it was so bad I couldn't bear to listen to this particular reporter who had never been so afraid in her life.

The part of the report that I heard lasted three or four minutes. I don't mind her reporting on the weather. I did mind the emotion and the constant use of superlatives. It turned out that it her journey was delayed by a couple of hours, but it was just a bit of snow. It was no big deal. We need to save our superlatives for important things and get on with driving through bad snow, postponing our journey or at worst being stuck in our cars for a few hours. I think this reporter needs to experience other parts of the world and other hardships.

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Sunday, 19 December 2010

Bring on the link road

Last Monday I went shopping along one Morecambe street that used to be famous for its shops. I didn't take a photograph as the lighting wasn't brilliant (see my photography blogs for photos that I do take) but I would have shown you an empty street at 3pm. It is not a good time to be a local shopkeeper. Partly this is because our spending patterns have changed, but Morecambe is exceptional. The town is by the sea which means that no shoppers are drawn from the west and those from any other direction are hindered by our terrible road system.

I don't think there is a great deal we can do to change the nation's spending patterns and we can't move Morecambe, so the only answer is to improve the means to get here. Bring on the link road. There are many valid concerns about the building of this road but that doesn't include outright opposition.

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Saturday, 18 December 2010

A healthier lifestyle

We spend too much of our time in front of the television or sat at a computer. We eat the wrong things and one in five pupils who leave primary school are obese. According to the school measuring programme if you just look at figures for being overweight then there are more than one in three pupils falling into this category. Compare this with reports that we live too long. We are paying out too much in pensions and we simply can't afford these costs.

It is obviously better to be fitter but the benefits do not come along without risk which is not just a risk to pay for pensions. If you want to walk to work then you might get mugged. Play a contact sport and you might get hit (if you are playing it properly). Work yourself to a peak of fitness and you are close to causing illness. You can't push your body to a limit without passing that limit from time to time.

So what is the best answer? It is to motivate people to want to exercise, preferably in a not so dangerous sport. This may include supporting healthier ways to get from A to B, or by promoting sport. Maybe the best way to get the computer nation to exercise is by using computer games. There are quite a few games on the market that promote fitness. Ultimately we have to support a healthier way of life because it is the right thing to do, but you don't do that by telling people they are unhealthy and it seems that at a local government level all the resources we could be employing for a healthier lifestyle are too expensive.

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Friday, 17 December 2010

Role of Academies

Imagine you are in charge of a school and you have the ability to change the terms and conditions of employment. You think you can keep your staff whatever you do, so do you make things worse for them so you can give more to the children? Do you give the staff a greater reward on the basis that you could get more out of them for the sake of the children?

Academies were created to take failing schools out of local authority control. If you have the ability to increase your income you just might be take up better terms and conditions if they are offered by an academy. The academy may also be able to put more educational resources into the school as well if they get the right sponsorship. The role of academies has changed and it now looks like successful schools are looking to be even more successful as they break away from local authority control.

This week teachers at Clitheroe Grammar went on strike over plans to convert it to an academy. There is no threat of change to the terms and conditions of the present staff which means that the difference could be in the school's ability to raise its own sponsorship or the terms and conditions will change for new employees. I don't think they will fail to attract excellent candidates even if conditions worsened, so my guess is that they will worsen. As an employer why would you offer more money when you could offer less?

It looks like terms and conditions will worsen with academies. I have questions about the role of sponsorship too. I had issues with the role of academies when they were looking to support failing schools. I have even more questions now that they support successful schools.

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Thursday, 16 December 2010

The meaning of matriculation

The next time you see a report on a failing school or a failing educational system that needs reform just compare it to the reports that we receive whenever the A level or GCSE results come out. Our schools are getting better and better despite what you may hear. They have to be otherwise we cannot believe the year on year improvement in results. The results are so good that academic degrees have become necessary for many jobs, not just the professional posts. If the goal is to get half our students gaining a degree then half the candidates for jobs will have degrees. Does every other job require a degree? Obviously not but there are so many personal gains to a degree that we can't complain if the degree doesn't fit the job requirements.

This week I heard a professional chatting. She didn't know the difference between east and west. It didn't matter for the chat, and it doesn't really matter in this context, but how many times do you hear people who don't know the difference between left and right but have academic qualifications? I am not complaining at the people who don't have basic common knowledge. Sometimes you just have a mental block on simple things. My point is that a piece of paper saying that you are part of an academic elite may not mean much.

Knowing left from right may be really important in some circustances but good communication is more important. You don't need to have basic information to get on well in life, but I would question the need for so many degrees as well as their value.

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Wednesday, 15 December 2010

Innocent till proven guilty

It costs £41 000 to keep a prisoner in prison for a year. Just imagine if that person was in prison for theft, the chances are that we would be paying more to keep the thief in prison than the amount that was stolen, and this is just the cost of prison. Add on to that the cost of the policing and the judicial system and you soon realise that the real losers are us. There must be so many other costs associated with prisoner rehabilitation and that should be a major goal for prisons otherwise we are paying out a lot of money on prisoners who will come back if they don't mend their ways. What could you do for them with all that money?

It doesn't matter whether you limit the number of prisoners by one or a hundred, for one day or for a whole year. The principle is the same. In the case of Julian Assange he is in prison without trial pending an appeal from Swedish prosecutors and the slight problem of finding £240 000 in cash. What do they think is going to happen to Mr Assange? He is hardly likely to disappear as he has a significant role to fulfil. I don't know if he is guilty, not guilty or innocent but I like the idea of innocent till proven guilty. It has a nice ring to it and will save us a lot of money too.

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Tuesday, 14 December 2010

Factors in easing congestion

I cycled to work yesterday. There is nothing special about this except that it was the first time that I cycled back through the centre of Lancaster and I felt quite safe. I am used to cycling along the cycle path that skirts the city and a very pleasant route it is too. However it must save at least five minutes on the journey if you are prepared to risk the main road. Alright it wasn't rush hour but it was busy.

I spoke with someone last week who felt that a proposed new cycle path near their house was not worth the destruction of an old hawthorn hedge. It depends on how many people you can take out of their cars. Hawthorn is nice but new hawthorn grows at a reasonable rate and should not be the sole factor or even the main factor in coming to a decision on creating a cycle path.

We often hear people say that a link road from Morecambe to the M6 will not cure Lancaster's problems and they are right. We have to look at a whole range of factors to ease congestion and easier access to cycle paths is one small part.

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Monday, 13 December 2010

Jon Sopel again

I saw Jon Sopel a few days ago interviewing Paddy Ashdown. He really gave Paddy a hard time but Paddy gave as good as he got. Jon would ask a question and not wait for an answer, then he would ask another question. It would be good to see this interview again but I can't see it on the iPlayer. I have written about Jon Sopel's interview techniques before when speaking with Liberal Democrats. If he isn't prepared to listen to answers then he really shouldn't be asking the questions.

The reason why I am writing about him now is because I watched the Politics Show yesterday and Eric Pickles was on the programme. Jon's first words to him were about wearing a donkey jacket and how Eric used to own one. How they laughed. I would be happy with just the time to answer the question.

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Sunday, 12 December 2010

Don't touch the referee

I can't help it, I have to write two blogs today. The Washington Redskins are playing the Tampa Bay Buccaneers and a player was angry near one of the referees. The commentators were almost angry too. You don't touch a referee or, in American parlance, you are ejected from the game (sent off in English). Earlier in the game Nick Halling suggested that referees had been making mistakes. His co-presenter, the American Kevin Cadle refused to make any remarks against the referee.

We have a problem in England (well Scotland definitely has it too) that we don't respect our referees. I really don't blame the Scottish referees for their recent strike and until we start supporting the decision makers our games and our attitudes are not going to improve.

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Saturday, 11 December 2010

Alex Salmond must be wrong

Scotland's Transport Minister Stewart Stevenson decided that he should resign over his handling of the travel chaos caused by last week's extreme winter weather. He obviously thought that his actions were so poor that he was not worthy to remain a minister and this is a commonly held view. However I saw Alex Salmond on the news on Saturday evening. He seemed to think that Mr Stevenson should not have resigned because the weather was bad.

"I am very sorry that a decent man a competent minister has been forced into resignation basically because of the extremeties of the climate". Maybe Alex Salmond has had time to reconsider his opinion and does not stand by this statement. However this is what made the headlines and it makes Alex look incompetent just like his ex-transport minister.

I don't think that we can hold ministers responsible for failures in the weather forecast. I don't think we can hold them responsible for a failure to deal with a "perfect storm" but we can hold them responsible for failures of communication. On reflection Mr Stevenson must feel that he has failed. What is definite is that he failed to communicate this failure to Mr Salmond, so logic says he has to go on the very simple point that he cannot speak with his leader, never mind the much more complex vagaries of the weather.

As for the weather, we have to decide whether we want to deal with the worst weather possible and keep roads open,or whether we need to close roads.What we don't want is a 20-mile stretch of the M8 closed for 48 hours with hundreds trapped in their vehicles overnight.

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Say no to kettling

The recent vote on tuition fees has been to some extent overshadowed by the associated student protests. It has been on a scale such that it is very difficult to argue that it is "just a few troublemakers". As David Cameron put it, "I don't think we can go on saying a small minority were there. There were quite a lot of people who were hell bent on violence and destroying property". It would be easy to look at the violence and to say that it de-legitimises the students' cause.

Tempting though this analysis may be (and it's certainly the case that there are a few demonstrators who set out with the aim of causing trouble) it ignores what seems to me to be a big cause of much of the violence. It's called "kettling", and it's a police tactic which has no place in any country which calls itself civilised. It has been going on for some time (see my blog on the Peterloo Massacre, 28th November) and which has been demonstrated over and over to be counter-productive.

The demonstrators, along with any bystanders who just happen to be in the same place, are blocked in by police cordons at every exit. For maybe eight hours or so they will have no access to food or water or toilet facilities. It gets its name, presumably, from the way it forces protesters to boil over like a kettle, no matter how peaceful their initial intentions may have been.

Sometimes small numbers are allowed to leave, but only if they give their names and addresses. They aren't legally obliged to give their names and addresses, but if they don't then it's back into the kettle for them.

Presumably one purpose of this practice is to reduce the likelihood that any of the protesters will ever re-"offend", by making the experience as humiliating and degrading and uncomfortable as possible. But in a democracy people should have the right to protest without being humilated and degraded. Many of the protesters in the recent demonstrations were children, being kept out in the cold until late while their parents could only worry impotently about them. That seems to me to be the opposite of what police should be doing. Previous instances of kettling have led to serious injuries and deaths. Fortunately there have been no deaths reported in the recent instances, but I can see no justification for the continuing use of this tactic.

Change the world.

Friday, 10 December 2010

I am a member because...

Why would you abstain if you held a definite view? In yesterday's vote on tuition fees Liberal Democrats voted every way you can think of but I think that all these MPs hold strong views on the subject, so strong that they may have signed a pledge. I also read yesterday that splits weaken parties, and sometimes destroy them. There is a problem here if division weakens the party but the answer lies in the reason why I am a member of the Liberal Democrats.

I am a member because I can participate in forming policy. I am a member because the emphasis on the individual rather than big business or trade union. I am a member because this is the party that most closely fits in with the liberty of individuals including the liberty of MPs to make up their own minds rather than follow three-line whips for things they don't believe in. I am a member because policy comes from the members, not from a top-down leadership.

Some MPs voted with the coalition because they have ministerial responsibility, and maybe they thought the rise in tuition fees was the best choice. Some abstained because they did not want to destroy party unity or they could not break their pledge or they could not support their leader but did not want to vote against him. You can work out more reasons why MPs voted for or abstained or even voted against - something along the lines of voting for pledges. All of them voted decisively. That's why I joined in with this topic. Not because it shows the disharmony within the party but because it shows the diversity.

Personally, I would have preferred a party vote against the motion but that would mean ministers could not have come up with the idea of multiplying tuition fees by three. I would rather find cuts elsewhere. I think that is what the ministes believe too, but they just can't say it, but all the other members can. I have also written a few blogs on how university expectations are far too high. We really shouldn't be funding so many places simply because it is a great experience. Liberal Democrats may be divided but they are not clueless, and this division supports my reasons for membership.

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Thursday, 9 December 2010

A complete cycle path

The social sciences rarely have yes/no answers. Yesterday's blog should have been a yes/no sort of problem. Should we have a roundabout which follows the Highway Code? Somebody decided that there should be a variation allowing for a complex change to the usual road markings.

A much more complex decision has to be made over the planning of a new cycle path in Morecambe. The problem is that the path, as well as a bus lane, will cause the destruction of a very mature hawthorn hedge as well as producing much more tarmac. What sort of influences are there on the decision makers? How long would it take to adequately replace the hawthorn hedge? Would this stretch of cycle path increase the number of cyclists when there is another path fairly near? Would the additional bus lane put more bums on bus seats?

Each of these questions may lead to more and more complex answers.

Of course, the destruction of a mature hawthorn hedge is a bad thing. Producing much more tarmac when we already have more than enough is also a bad thing. Both these unfortunate consequences are pretty much guaranteed if the developments go ahead as planned. This much is simple to see. The gains are much harder to predict or quantify, but one is that the cycle path might make it easier for cyclists to escape the all-pervasive tarmac and find hawthorn hedges elsewhere.

I'm all for cycle paths in general, but not every proposal for one should necessarily be accepted. Because this is such a complicated issue, I asked my brother what he thought. I think he came out in favour of the proposals. "Only a complete cycle path would justify the destruction of a very mature hawthorn hedge as well as producing much more tarmac" were his exact words. At least, I think that's what he said. Personally, I would have to make sure that there was a replacement screen for visible traffic as well as for noise pollution.

Change the world.

Wednesday, 8 December 2010

Lancaster's roundabout code

If you take a look at a road map of Lancaster and Morecambe you will notice that there are quite a few roundabouts to negotiate. On one of these roundabouts the road markings have changed in recent years. Locals did get used to the changes but strangers are not aware that the markings don't follow the Highway Code. Even the locals have to be aware that the driver in front of them may not know the area.

You may think that if you want to go straight on, as if you were following the road between Lancaster and Morecambe, then you would be in the left lane. Not so. On this particular roundabout you have to be in the right lane. Late manoeuvring is a common and dangerous experience.

I had not thought about this but when approaching the roundabout and travelling toward Lancaster, if you want to drive into the housing estate (almost a complete 360 degrees) you have to stay in the left lane all the way round. This is a notorious accident zone and somebody has been busy with the white paint. It would be nice to think that accidents have decreased but I just can't see it.

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Tuesday, 7 December 2010

Answers from County Council?

I may write about local, national or international subjects for these blogs and I used a couple of local blog entries as the basis for a recent Focus leaflet. I received a message on the answerphone yesterday from someone who wanted to make a few comment about the points I had made and to make a few of his own.

I won't tell you where he lived, as his first concern was about the effect on his and neighbouring houses caused by the building of a new road. Their houses were built on a flood plain and water is dangerously close to the house when it rains heavily. I have lived in east Lancashire and seen the effects of heavy rain as it flowed along streets making them look like rivers. I have even seen water run through houses. The main difference yesterday was that there were no hills. There were no easy drainage answers.

My first reaction was that the County Council would have assessed the changes to drainage and would have made plans, after all, the road is costing enough. I will be contacting the County Council for their view and I have already written to a local councillor for advice. The person who mentioned this to me feels that I won't get an answer and you can see why he may not get complete support from his neighbours. I'll keep you posted.

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Monday, 6 December 2010

Morecambe to Edinburgh return please

I heard some interesting news two days ago. It seems that if you book train tickets exactly two months in advance then they are cheaper. I thought I would give it a go as I like a couple of days here and there rather than a week or ten days holiday in one go. If you follow the photography blog you will see photos of the breaks that I have been taking, and one of the favourite cities from earlier this year was Edinburgh so if the price is right I would be going again in two months.

Try it yourself. It's fairly easy to see how much things cost and the price to travel from Morecambe to Edinburgh is £108. I don't count that as a cheap holiday as it only took £15.50 to fill the tank up in my car when I arrived at Edinburgh and that was for two people. Out of interest I looked to see how much it would cost to set out tomorrow and come back the next day. £95. I won't be letting the train take the strain.

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Sunday, 5 December 2010

Morecambe Marina

A large proportion of the Netherlands is below sea level. We have the technology to reclaim land and the Dutch do it very well. We have the opposite problem in Morecambe. We want to reclaim the sea, specifically we want a marina and we have wanted one for years. The ideal time would have been when the speed limit was imposed on Lake Windermere five years ago. Business at Windermere was really hit hard and there was an obvious gap in the market but Morecambe didn't look through that window of opportunity.

In this week's Morecambe Guardian there is a headline "Report revives marina dream". It sounds a lot more sensible to build a marina near the Midland Hotel than it does to build flats there when coastal defences are failing just around the corner in Heysham and Sunderland Point.

Morecambe used to have a boating lake. I remember it well. The lake was man-made with dyke-like walls attached to the prom. The Netherlands would have been proud of us except it didn't hold water. It isn't beyond the wit of man to build a marina in Morecambe. It would be a great attraction and it would be wonderful for the local economy. Many have thought of building a marina but it strikes me we are at least five years too late and who is going to invest in the present economic climate? I won't be holding my breath.

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Saturday, 4 December 2010

David Chaytor and Phil Woolas

MPs have never been popular but things have gone worse for them since 2009 when The Daily Telegraph revealed the details of how there was alleged misuse of expenses. Most MPs claimed it was a matter of interpretation. They had to live in a second home because they had to do their job in London. Even this defence was not particularly strong as the household items that were bought didn't fit with the need to carry out the job. Decorative and artistic items were an expense. They did get advice and they did get the expenses, but some things were obviously wrong. And now we know they are illegal with the news that David Chaytor has pleaded guilty to three charges relating to his expenses. The previous claims of innocence and not guilty pleas mean that it will be some time longer before MPs return to their normal level of contempt but at least David Chaytor admits (finally) he was wrong.

Compare that with Phil Woolas. Five judges have now found him guilty but Phil prefers to listen to the electorate, but the electorate will not get another chance to vote for him in the next three years. Phil does not recognise any mistakes. He feels that he is a victim of law and does not regret anything. I only heard him defend himself on points of law, not on the points of criticism. He doesn't like his punishment that bars him from standing in the by-election. He just doesn't get it. There is no contrition. It is also really annoying to hear his Labour supporters claim that he is not a racist and the "Liberals" have called him racist. They (his supporters) are reading different newspapers and watching different television reports to me. In fact they are on a totally different wavelength. It must be their way of dealing with the guilty verdicts. Phil is guilty. His sentence should include rehabilitation and maybe one day he will accept the verdict. Like all those found guilty his punishment should relate to his behaviour and if he starts to say sorry then we should reduce the punshment.

Maybe MPs will never rise to their usual level of contempt in the public's eyes.

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Friday, 3 December 2010

Is it corruption?

So England has lost out in its bid to host the 2018 World Cup. Fifa president Sepp Blatter described England's final presentation as "excellent and remarkable", but the results suggest that he needs to reassess this description after we won only one non-English vote. Both Russia and Qatar had high risk technical assessments but both beat us and the World Cup will be played in these countries in 2018 and 2022 respectively. In fact everyone beat us even though it seems that we had the best technical and commercial bids.

Let's presume that the English hype is correct. We may have lost because the best bids were not good enough against Russia's (and Qatar's) trump card that they have never played host in uncharted parts of the FIFA world. There is another answer. There may be corruption involved in FIFA as highlighted by The Sunday Times and Panorama. If there is corruption it wouldn't matter whether you had the best bids in the world as the winner could just buy their votes. If the English bid has been affected by the British media exposing corruption then corruption is deeper than previously suggested.

The 22 members of FIFA's executive committee vote in a secret ballot. This makes it a little harder to investigate corruption but let's hope that the next time they vote there is no hint of corruption.

One final thought. Did you see the excited delegates from Qatar when it was announced that they had won? There was one youngster who looked bewildered. He was part of the delegation but he wasn't there on merit. He was there because of privilege. How close is that to corruption?

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P.S. The first question on Question Time is whether the BBC's Panorama affected the bid. If it did then FIFA is corrupt. If it didn't then it doesn't matter when Panorama went on air.

As for Ken Livingston's idea that if we were one or two votes away from winning then we could blame the BBC, this is simply ridiculous. If we can blame them for losing one vote we could blame them for losing twenty.

P.P.S. It is now 1pm and we know that Cameroon voted for us. So much for the secret ballot. We also know that votes did disappear because of the British media. If that is the case now is the time for a full investigation of FIFA's alleged corruption. Allowing media reports to influence votes is proof to me of corruption.

Thursday, 2 December 2010

Someone pays for bad weather

Last winter I wrote about problems caused by bad weather. People couldn't get to work. Well here we go again. I even heard that a university rugby team did not want to travel up the M6 because they could have been delayed getting home. These are possibly the same students who choose to walk across the antarctic as a hobby, but slow driving on the M6 is a bit too challenging.

A year ago I called for a mandatory interview question. How would you get to work if it snowed? Are we really so unfit and so incapable that we can't wear boots and walk through snow to get to work? One survey showed that 57% of workers arrived late for work yesterday, but who should pay for failure to work? One person interviewed on the news last night felt it was unfair that he should lose out. Well somebody has to.

My experience of Lancaster traffic was that it was lighter than usual. I suppose the weather put some people off completely and even though it was snowing heavily as I drove home I was driving faster than usual. I had the same experience driving to work yesterday. It did take five minutes to defrost the car but it just meant setting off five minutes earlier and my twenty-five minute journey took fifteen.

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Wednesday, 1 December 2010

The Gillian McKeith school of self-control

We live in wealthy times. Most of us live in houses and drive cars. I saw one headline that said that the average household has more televisions than people. This is true in my house but only because one of my childen has left the house and left a TV. Is it true in your household? We expect holidays and plenty of leisure time. We expect the good things in life even if we are unable to work to pay for them. This is why I am so pleased that celebrities in I'm a Celebrity can get excited at receiving salt and pepper.

I know these celebrities are receiving plenty of money to experience life in the jungle but we should all learn to enjoy the simple things in life. Well let's hope this is what we learn from the programme rather than take a lesson from the Gillian McKeith school of self-control.

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