Jonathan Wallace

About me, my life, my politics, my travels, my thoughts

Monday, October 13, 2014


The Monday Morning Blog - Missing Conference

Some years ago, when I worked in London, I used to write a blog post on the train to London each Monday morning, hence the unimaginative title I used of "The Monday Morning Blog". It was a title that warned that I was about to blow off about something political. It's now five years since I wrote a "Monday Morning Blog" but I thought I'd reintroduce it. I won't of course, be sitting on a train when I write it. Instead I'll bash it out on my laptop at home, in between feeding my goats and heading to Hexham to get the coming month's supply of fodder for my livestock.

Today I am looking back at Lib Dem Conference last week, or rather, why I wasn't able to get there. I had booked a weekend pass and had hoped to go up to Glasgow on the Saturday morning and return on the Sunday evening. What got in the way of these political travel plans was my new goat Pinkie and the local history society.

We got Pinkie at the end of August. She is out first milking goat. In our roadmap to becoming self-sufficient, getting a milking goat was a key milestone. Until we had one, we would have a large hole in our self-sufficiency diet, filled by trips to the dairy section of the supermarket. I'm pleased to say those trips have now ended. Pinkie provides us with 2.5 litres of milk a day. We are not yet at the point where we are bathing in the stuff, but our milk lake is growing and cheese-making, yoghurt-making, soap-making etc are on the agenda. The need to milk Pinkie on the weekend of Conference meant I was staying in Gateshead rather than travelling to Glasgow.

The second reason for not going to Conference was the decision of Sunniside History Society to invite me to be their guest speaker at their monthly gathering on Tuesday 7th October. I chose as my subject "The Good Food Guide to Medieval Sunniside". The talk was actually about what medieval Sunniside and the surrounding area would have looked like in the 1340s as well as what people ate in the medieval period. Landscape and diet were closely linked then as people were largely self-sufficient. The talk seemed to go down well but it required a huge amount of research and long walks around the area to take hundreds of photos. Conference therefore had to give way to medieval food, village duckponds and feudal community ovens.

Had I been at Conference, I would have been tempted to say something about the daft decision to lock out any further airport runways in the South East of England. It seems that many in the party have simply not learnt the lesson of tuition fees. Personally, I thought the suggestion that Gatwick should be expanded was a bit wet but was nevertheless a suitable compromise. My preference is for a 3rd runway at Heathrow. 

Those opposed to a 3rd Heathrow runway claim such a development is environmentally damaging. My argument is that not building an additional runway is even more environmentally damaging. When I am at my house in South East London I can see dozens of aircraft at any time through the day circling over London waiting for their landing slots to become available at congested Heathrow. The amount of pollution from these aircraft is incredible. When flying low and slow, they drink fuel at an alarming rate for no appreciable benefit.

If the anti-runway policy makes it into the manifesto, and we are in Coalition with either of the other parties after the general election, the ghost of over-my-dead-body decisions will come back to haunt us.

Friday, September 12, 2014


Visiting the Dunston Staiths

The Jetty Project is an Arts & Humanities Research Council funded project led by Newcastle and Manchester Universities. It has created a temporary large-scale architectural artwork, “The Cone”, on the wooden structure of Dunston Staiths in Gateshead, a landmark Scheduled Monument and Grade II structure on the south bank of the River Tyne. The Staiths are the biggest wooden structure in Europe and are undergoing restoration. I was able to visit the Staiths to look at the restoration work last week though at the moment they are not open to the public. I filmed the above video whilst on the visit. Photos will follow in a later post.

If you visited the Gateshead National Garden Festival in 1990, you may recall walking along the Staiths which formed a significant feature of the show. Restoration has had to take place because of vandalism. A significant section of the Staiths was lost to arson a few years ago.

The Staiths are part of the coal mining heritage of the North East of England. They were built in the 1890s to load coal from the North Durham coalfield onto colliers to export from the Tyne.

Thursday, September 04, 2014


Judging at the New Sands Allotment Show

I was judge today at the New Sands Allotments Annual Show in Swalwell. The show was held at the Sun pub. In the past I have swapped produce with some of the allotment holders and sold some of them ducks.

There were no individual competitions for different vegetables. Instead, each allotment holder entered a tray of produce and the judging was on all of the contents as a whole.

So congratulations to the winners and commiseration to those who did not come first, second or third. The contents of the boxes were sold after the show to raise funds for flower beds and planting in Swalwell.

Sunday, August 31, 2014


Whickham Flower Show

When I am not wearing my self-sufficiency hat, I am wearing my local councillor hat. Alas, that restricts me (morally) when it comes to entering our local flower show. One of the sponsors of the Whickham Flower Show is Gateshead Council and were I to enter the competitions and win, it would look decidedly dodgy that the local councillor has won competitions put on by Gateshead Council. Nevertheless, I did visit the show on Saturday and took a stack of photos and video. The video is not yet edited but here are some of my photos. You can see more on this link.

Friday, August 29, 2014


Big Lib Dem win in Newcastle

We can look across the River Tyne to Newcastle today with a sense of achievement - the Lib Dems won a by-election to the City Council yesterday in North Jesmond ward. In one of the most hotly contested wards in the city, Labour had high hopes of picking up the Lib Dem seat but ended up seeing their vote nosedive.

In May we had a slender majority of 33 votes. Yesterday, victorious Lib Dem candidate Gerry Keating romped home with a majority of 391. The Lib Dem vote was up on May, Labour's vote collapsed to just over half their previous total. There was an interesting three way contest between UKIP, Conservatives and Greens to come last. In May the Greens and Conservatives had a modest vote with the former beating the latter by one vote for 3rd place. This time the Greens suffered a more horrendous collapse than the pitiful performance Labour clocked up. They ended up with only a third of the total they got in May. The Ukippers achieved 4th place, jumping ahead of the Greens only because the Green collapse was more substantial than that of UKIP.

The Lib Dems were returned with over half the votes cast. Well done Gerry.

Wednesday, August 27, 2014


The summer recess ends

For me, the Council recess ended today (Wednesday 27th). I was in Gateshead Civic Centre for the chair's meeting of the Corporate Resources Scrutiny Committee at 3pm. The agenda will be published shortly but there was one issue in particular that caught my attention. More about that once the agenda is in the public domain. The time of the meeting was not ideal for me however. I was filming a video today about pickling quail eggs (our quails produce nearly 400 eggs a month). The wonders of the editing suite will remove all trace of the gap in filming caused by having to head over the meeting.


3.5 million YouTube viewings

Hot on the heels of my Flickr stats, I am pleased to report that another viewings milestone has been reached. My videos on YouTube have now been watched 3.5 million times. There are 884 videos on my channel with a long queue of more waiting to be edited and uploaded. The most viewed video continues to be the one I filmed in a former Soviet submarine base deep inside a mountain in the Crimean town of Balaklava with 266,000 viewings.

In recent times however the most viewed video is one of my self-sufficiency ones, how to dry tomatoes, which typically gets about 4-5,000 viewings a month.

My next targets are to reach 4 million viewings and have 1000 videos uploaded to my channel. You can visit the channel on this link.

Monday, August 25, 2014


1.5 million viewings on Flickr

There is a Labour member in Gateshead who loves to sneer at my use of social media. Actually, there are lots of Labour members who sneer at everything I do, but one in particular springs to mind. So, especially for him, I'd like to announce another milestone reached. On Flickr, I have just clocked up 1.5 million viewings of my photos. My Flickr site is used nowadays mainly as a place to show my self-sufficiency photos though I also add local campaign photos in Blaydon constituency and travel picture to it. But it is the self-sufficiency pics that attract the most viewings. Typically, within a few days of posting them to the site, they have each had hundreds of viewings.

Anyway, if anyone (including the Sneering Socialist) really feels the need to look at my photos of hens, quail houses, goats and jam making, click on this link and enjoy!

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