Sunday, October 31, 2021

Getting a soaking


I was in Whickham this morning to help volunteers plant up the flowerbeds on Church Green. My coat is still soaked through from the experience but all the beds were planted. There should be a colourful display next year.

Saturday, October 30, 2021

Meeting Brodie


Before Richard passed away, he said he wanted to see his new great nephew Brodie. So the family came up from Wales and on 21st October, Richard got his wish and was able to hold the baby. This is the video I filmed on the day. Two days later Richard passed away.

eFocus no. 163

The latest edition of our email newsletter eFocus for the NE11 and NE16 area has just been published. Key issues covered include:

  • Woodland proposed for Whickham and Dunston Hill;
  • Can you help plant up Whickham;
  • Remembrance Day;
  • Peter awarded medal;
  • Tour of Britain in Sunniside;
  • Central Gateshead congestion;
  • Sunniside Post Office closes;
  • New houses;
  • Something completely different.

eFocus Low Fell edition 99

Only one more edition to go for the Low Fell Lib Dem Focus Team to reach 100! NO. 99 was published recently and includes:

  • Gateshead Council say Dryden Centre will close from September 2022
  • Dawn Welsh joins Focus Team
  • Update on Methadone in Low Fell
  • Kells Lane Park gets new ship!
  • Residents give their views to the Police
  • Low Fell's new Post Office opens.

Rest in peace Richard

Richard passed away on 23rd October. An infection of the heart which he could not fight off because of liver failure, he died peacefully in the Queen Elizabeth Hospital. My thanks to the hundreds of people who have sent messages of condolence. 

Richard had been in hospital since 23rd September. It was only a few days before he passed away that the doctor treating him told us to "Hope for the best but prepare for the worst." He did however get to see his new great nephew Brodie who was born in September. We had planned a trip to Wales to see him but instead, Richard's family had to come to see him.

Richard had been part of my life for 26 years. When I bought the flat in London he moved in from Wales. He lived there for 17 years before illness took its toll on his health and he moved up to Gateshead so I could care for him here. He made lots of friends wherever he went and although he broke all the house rules about not campaigning for Labour in Gateshead, he made many friends across the Lib Dem/Labour political divide. Many have been in touch with me since learning the news of his passing and I thank them for doing so.

The funeral will be on Tuesday 16th November at 1.15pm at Mountsett Crematorium. At 12.45pm the funeral procession will start at the Whinnies Community Garden in Sunniside (Richard had volunteered there and we keep some of our goats there - including his favourite Ramesses). There will be a humanist service at Mountsett and I am planning a wake back in Sunniside. More details to follow.

I will be taking his ashes back home to Wales and we will be scattering them on his parents' graves in Penmaenmawr. I also hope to take some to London to scatter in Crystal Palace Park, a place Richard loved and only a few minutes' walk from our flat. Again, more details to follow.

So, Richard, thank you for so many things, but especially thank you for just being you. At 49, you were taken far too early from us. And we are all missing you.

Photo above - taken in 2004 on the London Eye. We were both younger then and my hair was a different colour to what it is now!

Monday, October 18, 2021

Back together


Recently, Sunniside History Society held its first in-person meeting since March 202. It was great to be back together after so long apart. This is the video I filmed at the meeting and includes my chairman's remarks.

We can't isolate ourselves

The appalling murder of Sir David Amess MP has again put the safety of elected representatives into the headlines. In my 34 years as a councillor, I have experienced one person coming into my surgery and intimidating me by pointing out he was considerably bigger than me; one incident of paint being thrown over my front room window; a brick being thrown through my car windscreen and more recently, threatening abuse from a bunch of conspiracy theorists (Gateshead Council took legal action against one of them and I was twice a witness in court).

None of this comes close to what happened to Sir David but none of it will stop me from seeing my constituents. There have been suggestions that more barriers need to be put up between the people and their elected representatives. In some circumstances, there may have to be barriers, but we need to remain as open as possible. I live in the community I represent. People stop and talk to me every day. Many know where I live and if they don't, finding my address would be easy even if all references to it were removed from the internet. It is not physically possible to isolate ourselves and frankly, I would not want to. One of the activities I enjoy most as a councillor is speaking to people. If we lose that, we lose democracy. And the terrorists would therefore have won.

Tuesday, October 12, 2021

How did we ever let ourselves get into this situation?

If any evidence is needed that our way of life needs drastic change, look no further than the current state of affairs with energy supplies in the UK. Not only have we made our country dependent on foreign fuel supplies, the sources include some of the worst regimes on the planet, such as Russia and Saudi Arabia. Furthermore, we continue to burn fossil fuels at an alarming rate. Meanwhile, even though we have an abundance of renewable energy sources, we have not yet tapped their full potential and we have failed to build the energy storage systems which can be used to soak up the surplus renewables. Meanwhile we are becoming increasingly reliant on imported electricity, produced in the Single Market. That significantly weakens our negotiating position with the EU. They can simply flip a switch to turn off the UK's power. Meanwhile, we are heavily dependent on imported natural gas so an international shock to demand, supply and price hits us hard back in the UK.

Our dependency on foreign food and energy supplies is a national security risk. We have to aim to be far more self-sufficient. And that will probably mean changing our lifestyles, as I know from personal experience.

Frosty the No Man

Lord Frost seems to be everything Brexiteers hate - a jet-setting unelected bureaucrat who gave Britain a rotten Brexit deal which abandoned British sovereignty in part of the UK, while attacking MPs who  had the audacity of exercising Parliamentary sovereignty. Now, he wants to junk a significant part of the Brexit deal, the Northern Ireland Protocol. He helped write it. The Conservative government implemented it, despite Johnson's promises there would never be a border between GB and Northern Ireland. Lord Frost tells us that the rules which he wrote are being followed too vigorously by the EU. If there is no new deal, Lord Frost tells us, he will rip up the Protocol. 

It seems that Lord Frost wants to mark his own homework and for the first time ever, he is giving his work a score of nought out of ten.

Saturday, October 09, 2021

Mopping up


We have a small number of patches in Whickham South and Sunniside to deliver with our latest Focus newsletter. I delivered one of the Whickham patches this morning, and picked up casework about ash die back disease (lots of ash trees in the area are now suffering from it.)

Thursday, October 07, 2021

Back together


The Sunniside History Society met in person last night for the first time in 19 months. It was great to be back. It will take time to build ourselves back up to 60 members attending each month but 35 attended (both in person and online, more than I expected. Good talk by David Goldwater on the most recent excavations of the Roman town and fort of Vindolanda in Northumberland, just south of the Roman Wall.

Monday, October 04, 2021

Pot of gold?


I took this at about 8am this morning on the way to feeding the animals. A rainbow over Sunniside. Sadly, there was no pot of gold at the end of it. Instead, in Johnson's Brexit Britain, there's no gold (no lorries to deliver it) and it was all a myth anyway. But at least the rainbow looks nice.

Sunday, October 03, 2021

Securing our supplies


The current fuel crisis was anticipated by us a few weeks ago when the HGV driver shortage first started to hit the headlines. We did not rush out to buy petrol and diesel but given our dependency on manufactured feeds for our poultry, we doubled up the quantity of pellets and wheat we bought and have borrowed a friend's shed to store the feed. Fortunately, we don't need to buy in feed for our goats and sheep as they are grazing and we have also collected about half a ton of apples as winter fodder.

Our stockpiles also stretch to fuel for the house. A friend has been supplying us with firewood - enough to get us through to May 2022. It has cost us half a lamb, a fair exchange in the world of self-sufficiency. 

Meanwhile, our solar panels continue to provide electricity to the house and surplus energy goes onto our battery. The drawback is that the panels and battery only work when the grid works. A power cut would stop the electricity supply in its tracks. Fortunately, we have another back up plan. We don't need much electricity on our smallholding, but what we do use is generated from an off-grid solar panel and battery

Our food supplies are also secure. We have 4 freezers full of food we have grown and we still have a potato crop to bring in from our smallholding. We also have a couple of hundred jars of preserves in our garage.

When I was candidate in Blaydon in the 2017 general election, Labour attacked me for growing my own food and being self-sufficient. Labour suggested that someone who was living the "good life" was not a "serious" contender. It seems that Labour were content with people being reliant on complex and long supply chains and anyone who wanted to be more sustainable was to be derided. I don't know if the individual who attacked me on behalf of the Labour party has had his smug grin wiped off his face by recent supply issues but I make him an offer - come and join us in the world of self-sufficiency and sustainable living. And discover just how seriously we need to act now to save the planet.

Saturday, October 02, 2021

RIP Kevin

I visited The Whinnies Community Garden in Sunniside yesterday. The news I picked up there was not good. Kevin, one of the volunteers who had worked so hard to make the garden a success, had passed away. It was a shock as he had always appeared to be in good physical health. Sadly a heart attack and stroke had taken him from us.

RIP Kevin. 

Friday, October 01, 2021

Celebrating Vic and Sheila


In my role as chair of Sunniside History Society, I attended an event at the Tanfield Railway recently to celebrate the lives and contributions of the steam railway and the History Society of Vic and Sheila Gascoigne. We also donated £100 to the Tanfield Railway to help ensure this great historic asset continues on our doorstep. Vic and Sheila both passed away last year and this was our opportunity to remember their work. Both will be missed.

Skin of their teeth

There was a time when the Labour vote in Sunderland was weighed rather than counted. Those days are now gone. In recent local elections Labour's losing streak has seen a whole strong of seats lost to a variety of opponents. Labour's decades of one party rule is being replaced by multiple parties. Quite how long Labour's majority there will last is an interesting debating point.

One seat that Labour have managed to retain in recent elections is Hetton. They also held on in a by-election yesterday though with only a slender majority of 27, down from 704 in May. The Lib Dems went from 6th place on with 63 votes to 2nd place. With such a slender skin-of-their-teeth majority, Labour will now find that another ward is vulnerable after decades of taking it for granted.

So well done Sunderland Lib Dems and good luck in the battle for Hetton in May next year.

One final thought - Labour are spinning that their conference this week was a success. That didn't help them in Hetton.