Monday, January 26, 2015

Self-Sufficient in Suburbia - a look back at 2014

I have just finished and published my latest email newsletter to people who follow my self-sufficiency activities. It is a look back at 2014. So if you are into sustainable living, or just want to have a look at the non-political side of my life, you can read it on this link.

Sunday, January 25, 2015

On the doorsteps in Whickham

We had a Whickham action day today. It started with delivery of our latest Focus in Swalwell, my old home turf though I didn't do the patch where I lived from 1987 to 2002 (when we moved to Sunniside). Back to Cllr Chris Ord's house for lunch (pictured above). In the afternoon we headed out as a team to canvass in Whickham North. We found no Labour voters, 2 Conservatives (both at the same household and I remember canvassing them nearly 30 years ago when this area was part of my Whickham South ward - they were Conservative then as well), some Ukips and a good number of people voting for us locally and nationally and a further number of people voting for us locally but voting for other parties for the Parliamentary election. The split voting does not surprise me. We have endured this for as long as I've been politically active in Blaydon - ie over 30 years.

The biggest issues raised with me by residents had nothing to do with politics. My self-sufficiency activities continue to attract interest from residents. "How are the goats/allotment/bees/hens?" were the most frequently asked questions! I had a number of conversations about goat breeding, keeping pigs and how to use goats milk. Alas, all that time spent on swotting up on policies and key messages was not put to productive use today. Hopefully on the next canvass outing the questions will be as much about politics as it is about me and the good life!

Wednesday, January 21, 2015

Comparing Labour's economic stats to the Coalition record

I have recently been putting together the first edition of Parliamentary Campaigner for 2015. This is the newsletter/campaign manual for Lib Dem Parliamentary candidates. I've been the editor of it for 11 years. I included in the forthcoming edition a copy of the above table.

It is up-to-date as of this morning when the latest unemployment figures were produced. Yet another fall in unemployment means we have half a million fewer people out of work than in May 2010 when Labour left office. The other figures speak for themselves.

I am reminded of the Labour Councillor in Gateshead who, 2 or 3 years ago, claimed that Labour had left a "golden legacy" for the Coalition. The real world statistics suggest otherwise.

Tuesday, January 20, 2015

A self-sufficient year in photos - 2014

Lots of my constituents take a great interest in my self-sufficient, food growing activities so I've put together this short video looking back at 2014. It was a year in which we had a number of new projects, such as getting a milking goat and keeping quail. We also won a number of prizes at local agricultural shows and, as usual, made loads of preserves.

Wednesday, January 14, 2015

The Washingwell History Project

I had to leave the Lighting Up Whickham meeting early last night as I had another to attend at 7pm. This second meeting was the first of the Washingwell History Project. The catalyst for this project was a proposal by me a couple of years ago that the historic orchard at Fugar Bar be restored. I took this proposal to Sunniside History Society to see if they would be interested in leading it and very quickly, the proposal grew into a bigger project to record and publish the history of the Washingwell Woods area - which includes Fugar Bar.

Washingwell has an extensive history going back to the Romans. There is a Roman fort on the site though it is only identified by crop marks. The area also has an extensive medieval story to tell, based mainly on the former Fugar House (to which the orchard was attached). There was also a great deal of early industrial activity. And finally, the site was also the location for the last deep pit to be sunk on the Durham Coalfield. So there's lots to cover.

We are in the process of applying for funding from the Heritage Lottery Fund. The application will be submitted shortly. We will put in a separate application to environmental funds for the orchard. So, lots to do and to keep me occupied in the months ahead.

Back to the 60s

We had a meeting of the Lighting Up Whickham committee last night to kick start the arrangements for the next Whickham Community Festival. We have chosen Saturday 4th July as the date but the main discussion was around the theme. We had had some discussion by email in advance and I had suggested pets and animals. I would have gone for a history theme but since I have successfully pushed for the past two festivals to commemorate historic events and periods, I thought I would be pushing my luck to get a 3rd historic theme.

In the end however, someone suggested the 60s as a theme and we decided to go with that. We will be able to dust down our hippy outfits and engage in a bit of flower power. It was also agreed however that we have a pets competition and, assuming my goats have given birth by then, I'll bring along the babies for people to see. (The drawback is that moving the goats requires a large amount of DEFRA form-filling.) Someone also suggested we have jam and baking competitions for residents. As I have lots of experience of going in for these competitions at agricultural shows throughout the North East, I was given the job of drawing up some ideas and proposals for these competition. Sadly, that will preclude me from entering.

Saturday, January 10, 2015

Campaigning in Dunston Hill

The snow started to fall just after the ward surgery in Dunston this morning but at 11am we met up to do a bit of campaigning against Labour's greenbelt grab. Labour want to take a section of land out of the greenbelt to the south of Whickham Highway and allow it to be used for over 500 executive homes. Lib Dems have been fighting these plans since they were first announced. The problem is that as Labour have such a large majority on the Council, on this issue they will get their own way. The battle on this is just about over and sadly, it is one Labour have won. Interestingly, Labour have tried to claim they are against their own plans, a trick they tried to pull in the Ryton area as well.

The photo above was taken this morning in Watergate Park, next to where Labour want their homes for the rich. Left to right, Kevin McClurey, me, Cllr Chris Ord.

Thursday, January 08, 2015

Whickham Lib Dem Councillors' annual report - the musical!

I decided to have a go at putting the 7 Whickham Lib Dem Councillors' 2014 annual report to residents into a more interesting format. The inspiration for what I eventually produced came from Facebook and Google+ who automatically generated reviews of the year using uploaded photos. The Google+ version went one step further and added the music I use for the introduction and credits on my self-sufficiency webcasts.

As there are 7 councillors and 2 further activists to include, much had to be left out. This video is really intended to give a flavour of the work the Lib Dem Focus team does in the 3 Whickham wards and in Lobley Hill and Bensham ward.

So, here it is - Carry on Councillor: the Musical!

Normal service is now resuming

It's been a month since my last post. Various activities got in the way of my blog writing over the past 4 weeks. In that time I've made two trips to London and one to Barcelona (all now carefully logged and explained on my travel blog). We've had one full council meeting (more about that shortly). And we had to take one of our goats up to Northumberland to get her mated. Filling in the DEFRA movement forms took ages - time I feel could have been better spent on other things but one of the things I have learnt since starting to keep goats in 2013 is that there is a huge amount of bureaucracy.

Anyway, now that we are into the new year, normal service is being resumed on this blog.