Sunday, November 30, 2014

The Battle for Blaydon Day 2 - the Focuses arrive

If my feet thought they were going to have a quiet week, they were rudely awakened to the reality of a large tonnage of Focus newsletters arriving at lunchtime. 2000 copies of my Sunniside Focuses just waiting to be delivered, sitting expectantly in my living room. It is the first leaflet to announce my selection for the constituency. Labour are missing so much by not bothering to produce newsletters here when we are outside the official election period. They must miss the exercise, the bracing autumn air, the worn out shoes and fingers chewed up by letter boxes! That's their loss!

This afternoon I met up with some of our councillors in Dunston and Whickham. Labour are proposing to make £1 million of cuts to leisure services in Gateshead but a third of these cuts will be in Dunston. This hardly seems fair. Having proposed these cuts, some in Labour are claiming to be opposed to them. This rather reminds me of the anti-cuts protest before the budget meeting earlier this year in Gateshead. Labour councillors were tripping over themselves to appear in photos of the protest to oppose the cuts and then rushed upstairs to the Council chamber to vote for them. Labour councillors in Gateshead regularly inform us in council meetings that Labour oppose cuts, in marked contrast to their leadership in London who say that if Labour were to win the election, the cuts would continue. Quite who to believe is a challenge. The rich, private school educated New Labour snobs of London, or the "socialist" brothers and sisters of Gateshead? Not a pretty choice!

Christmas markets next weekend

There will be two Christmas markets in the Whickham area next weekend which I am helping to run. The first is being hosted by Lighting Up Whickham on Saturday 6th December and will be in a marquee on St Mary's Green. Opening times will be 10am to 2pm. We will be using a shop on St Mary's Green as well for extra stalls and for Santa's grotto.

The 2nd is at Marley Hill Community Centre on Sunday 7th December from 12pm to 3.30pm. We have just got a new license at the Community Centre so the Deputy Mayor will be officially re-opening the bar at 1pm. Whickham Wind will be playing at 2pm. Sadly, Santa will be too knackered after the Whickham event to attend. The cafe will also be open.

I will be selling self-sufficiency produce at both markets. Alas, I have none of our honey left to sell but we've got lots of preserves, eggs and bacon, sausages and joints from our Tamworth pig.

Both markets were held for the first time last year. Both were a success and we are hoping they will again go down well with residents. Everyone is welcome to attend.

Saturday, November 29, 2014

The Battle for Blaydon Day 1: Mud

My first day as candidate in Blaydon constituency got off to a flying start - I was dive bombed by one of my hens who thought it would be great fun to fly in my direction from the top of the goat fence early this morning at feeding time. Mud, however, was the real story of the day. Our land is under lots of mud and the livestock churn it up in an attempt to recreate something more akin to the Battle of the Somme without the blood.

My new wellies are therefore proving their value. I got them on Monday. They were a birthday present. Practical presents make sense. My old wellies are in the bin. They weren't a good purchase. They lasted only a few months before they started disintegrating.

Ducks, goats, hens and quail were fed and I returned home to breakfast and a morning of writing Focus leaflets. This had not been the original plan but I got a message from Cllr John McClurey, our printing supremo, that he was on his way to the office at midday, which was now the deadline to complete the Sunniside Focus. I beat the deadline by 10 minutes!

Back to the goats this afternoon. Milking time at 3pm. More mud. I milk by hand so it means sitting on the milking bench next to Pinkie, our milking goat, who occasionally leaves muddly hoof prints on my favourite gardening trousers. If she doesn't do that, she leaves lots of mud on the stand for me to sit in. So terribly kind of her!

Then back home for some cheese making. We are still learning how to make cheese having had our milking goat for only 3 months.

It's now 8pm on a Saturday evening and I'm back on the laptop. It's the turn of eFocus to be written. I have too many photos to go into it. Time to do some deletes. There will be room for 2 videos I shot recently of local events. EFocus should be ready soon.

Friday, November 28, 2014

Selected to fight Blaydon

I now have the ideal excuse for not tidying the house for the next six months. Tonight I was selected as prospective Parliamentary candidate for Blaydon. And with the election clock ticking, the battle will be getting underway immediately.

Blaydon has no Conservative presence at all. They lost their last council seat here (to us) in 1988. UKIP have no active campaigning presence other than in one ward. The Greens have no active presence but field some local election candidates. Labour have held the constituency since 1935 and since 1997, the Lib Dems have been in second place. The current Labour MP is Dave Anderson, first elected in 2005. I quite like him as a person though his politics don't quite coincide with mine. He is on the left of the Labour Party but in the last Parliament, he never rebelled against his government, despite protestations of opposition made by him to some of the policies of Blair and Brown.

My council ward of Whickham South and Sunniside is in the constituency. I've held my ward for nearly 28 years. I was first elected in 1987 when the Conservatives were on a high, but not high enough to stop me winning my seat from them. I've held the seat ever since, each time with over half the votes cast.

So, with my background in self-sufficiency and webcasting, are the voters ready to adopt me as the food growing, goat keeping, bee buzzing, video making MP for Blaydon who will fight their corner? They will decide whether I'm heading to Westminster or heading home to do the tidying up!

What you can do with Black Friday

Have you seen the scenes of chaos and near riots in department stores today as crowds battle for special offers? Awful! This is not a good advert for consumerism. Thank goodness I abandoned commercial consumerism 5 years ago when I gave up paid work in favour of becoming self-sufficient. So, today, instead of fighting my way with debit card to the tills and elbowing my way back to the shopping centre car park, I'm off to the allotment to milk Pinkie, one of my goats, and to collect the eggs from my hens. And later I'll be doing some cooking in the kitchen - making goat cheese flans and then some goats milk and sprout soup.(We have something of a glut of goats milk at the moment!)

And then tonight I'm off to a Blaydon Constituency Lib Dem meeting which may result in an extra role for me. But more about that later.

Meanwhile, I have some thoughts as to what should be done with Black Friday.........

Wednesday, November 26, 2014

Whickham Christmas lights - the video

You've seen the photos of yesterday's Christmas lights switch on in Whickham. Now see the video!

Christmas Lights switch on on Whickham

Tuesday 25th November was the day we chose for the Christmas lights switch on in Whickham. Cut backs means Gateshead Council no longer pays for the Christmas lights and tree in the village. Instead, Lighting Up Whickham, a voluntary group set up to raise funds for the lights, now pays for the lights and arranges the switch on. I am a member of the group but my job today was to be the photographer of the event (and wearer of a daft hat - see above, left to right, me, Cllr Peter Craig and Cllr Chris Ord.

The photos of the event can be seen on this link.

Thursday, November 13, 2014

Swalwell Remembrance Sunday wreath laying

I attended the Swalwell Remembrance Sunday wreath laying to film the event for Councillors Chris Ord, Sonya Hawkins and Peter Craig. This is the video.

Monday, November 10, 2014

Remembrance Day

Remembrance Day and as usual, I attended the parade in Whickham. I also laid the wreath on behalf of residents of my ward, Whickham South and Sunniside. This year I was also able to get to Swalwell for the wreath laying service.

I have a full set of photos on this link.

Saturday, November 08, 2014

Feeding the dog on action days

We held the next of our Blaydon constituency action days in Whickham North today. As is almost always the case when out delivering, my ward colleague, Cllr John McClurey, was accompanied by his labrador Coco. The dog's main job is to drool next to each person attending the action day when the lunch is being served long enough to be offered some food. Sandwiches, sausages, chocolate biscuits or crisps - they all get consumed so fast that they never have time to touch the sides. Today was no different, as Cllr Chris Ord discovered - see photo above.

The action day saw Swalwell delivered with the latest Focus and surveys delivered in Whickham. And back in HQ, a tonne of administrative jobs was sorted. I had to leave at 3pm to milk the goat and feed my hens.

Wednesday, November 05, 2014

Planting up Swalwell

Austerity cuts have meant the end for many flower beds in public locations throughout Gateshead. (Labour overlooks the fact that the cuts to flower beds started well before the 2010 general election.) Anyway, Swalwell residents and their three Lib Dem Councillors have not taken this lying down. Instead, they have taken on the job of planting up and maintaining the flower beds themselves. Most of the work has been done on the beds next to Holy Trinity Church.

Alas, I was persuaded recently to lend a helping hand by Cllr Sonya Hawkins who negotiated a load of plants from the neighbouring B&Q store. My job was to help plant them. Fortunately it took three of us only an hour to do. We were reasonably satisfied with the results.

Tuesday, November 04, 2014

My vote in the Presidential election goes to....

I got back from a trip to London yesterday afternoon just in time to milk the goat, collect the eggs from our poultry and get to Gateshead group meeting before going to the Lib Dem Presidential hustings in Newcastle. All three candidates were there: Sal Brinton, Liz Lynne and Daisy Cooper. I have met Sal and Liz in my previous days as a policy officer in HQ. I have met Daisy once before when I did some filming for her before the 2010 general election outside Parliament. Sal mentioned to me her interest in my self-sufficiency activities.

I had gone to the meeting with a vague idea in which I would put the candidates. By the end of the meeting I had changed that order. My 3rd placed candidate moved provisionally to first. I have not yet made a final decision and I think all are capable of doing the job.

So, I shall be voting for all the candidates! As to what order I will place them, that's for you to guess and me to guard.