Monday, October 31, 2022

Halloween in Sunniside


It is Halloween and this morning, while I was delivering Focus newsletters in Sunniside, I spotted this garden full of Halloween figures. Someone has certainly put in a big effort.

Meanwhile, heading home after feeding the livestock and I encounter a T-Rex on Gateshead Road!

eFocus Birtley edition 10

The latest edition of eFocus for Birtley was published tonight. The main issue covered is Gateshead Council's threat to Birtley Sports Hall. Other issues covered include the removal of the footbridge over the A1 and plans to build 22 new houses. You can ready eFocus on this link.

Sunday, October 30, 2022

New business in Sunniside


Simply Local in Sunniside closed earlier this year. I'm pleased to see that the shop did not remain closed for long. It is now the home of Walkers Xchange estate agents. They had an official opening a week ago so I popped in and had a chat with them. I've already seen two of their For Sale signs up in Sunniside while out delivering Focus newsletters. So good luck to them and hopefully they will be here for years to come.

Saturday, October 29, 2022

eFocus Low Fell no. 114

The next edition of eFocus for Low Fell was published this afternoon. Issues covered include:

  • Gateshead Leisure Centre threatened with closure by Council
  • Meanwhile, Newcastle plans to open new Leisure Centre!
  • Petition calling for locking Kells Lane park at night submitted
  • Organised displays for bonfire night
  • Gateshead Lib Dems lead call for tax fairness
  • Shop refused alcohol licence

You can read eFocus on this link.

Friday, October 28, 2022

Whickham eFocus 175

 The latest edition of eFocus for the Whickham area was published this evening. Issues covered include:

  • Proposals to close Dunston Leisure Centre and Pool;
  • Flower beds at Church Green ready for planting;
  • Fun dog - great day had by all;
  • History talk about the Roman fort at Washingwell;
  • Whickham Bank house update;
  • Road repairs;
  • Sunniside Community Garden closing for winter;
  • Collecting the weight of a baby elephant!

Wednesday, October 26, 2022

My Vindolanda trip


I went to Vindolanda Roman fort and settlement on Friday afternoon last week. I was doing a bit of filming for a history video I am making about the Washingwell Roman fort in Whickham. I needed some footage of the reconstructed timber gateway to give viewers an idea of what the Washingwell fort would have looked like. I also used the opportunity to look around the site. It's all in the video above.

Bye bye Fiesta

I am not particularly interested in cars. I have one small car for personal use and a pick up truck which is the workhorse of our farm. However, I did notice the story today that Ford will stop producing the Fiesta next year. It reminded me of my first election campaign back in 1982 in Whickham South ward in Gateshead. All out elections meant we had 3 candidates in the ward and one of them was a motoring journalist who got to try out vehicles before writing about them. At the start of the campaign he was driving a Lada. This was in the days when Lada as a brand was regarded as something of a joke. By the end of the campaign he was driving a Ford Fiesta with a Lotus engine. It could do 0 to 30 mph in a fraction of a second. I had never experienced the sensation of being sucked into a car seat under extreme acceleration before (or since). Alas, this motoring experience was not enough to win us any of the 3 seats in the ward. It was another 4 years before a Lib Dem won (in those days we were SDP). And it was another year after than before I was elected in 1987 (though I've been there since). Quite what happened to the Ford Fiesta and Lotus engine, I do not know.

Tuesday, October 25, 2022

Lib Dems closer to Labour policy than the Labour party

At full council in Gateshead last week, the Lib Dem group submitted a motion for debate welcoming Labour's new found support for proportional representation (as agreed at their conference) and calling on the Labour group to support its use in both local and general elections. In the debate I pointed out that back in the 1980s, when both myself and Martin Gannon, current leader of the council, were first elected, Martin was a supporter of PR.  In his contribution to the debate, Martin said he now "sometimes" supports PR, but not for local elections (after all that would damage the near one-party state over which he presides.) Any progressives hoping that Labour in Gateshead would make the bold step of supporting their own party policy would have been disappointed with the result. Labour voted against the motion. I did point out however that Gateshead Labour's opposition to the motion actually puts the Lib Dems closer to Labour policy than the Gateshead Labour party themselves!

Sunday, October 23, 2022

Planting Up Whickham


I was on Church Green in Whickham this morning helping the volunteers from Planting Up Whickham to strip the flowerbeds ready for replanting next week. My job was to take all the waste to my farm where it will be rotted down to make compost. The beds will be replanted next Sunday.

Friday, October 21, 2022

Don't mention Labour incompetence

Don't mention Labour incompetence. I mentioned it once but I think I got away with it! (to paraphrase Fawlty Towers.)

For the second year running, Labour in Gateshead have failed to fill all their committee places on the Council. In October last year, 5 months after the Council's annual meeting, I raised this failure and questioned Labour's competence. This brought an angry response from the Labour Group secretary John Adams who claimed he had been too busy looking at covid infection figures!

This year, Labour have again failed to fill all their committee places. And again, I raised the issue of Labour incompetence, at full council last week. Yet again, there was an angry response from John Adams who claimed that I should not have raised this matter while the pound is falling! Yes, I kid you not! (As it was, on the same day, the pound had rather a good day!) He then went on to explain that because Labour had such a "massive majority", they didn't need to fill all their allocated places.

That's quite an interesting point as it basically means Labour believe the Council is too big. It is, after all, a rather pointless exercise to elect 66 members to the council if the ruling group don't feel the need to fill all their places. With places unfilled, the Council still operates smoothly. So what's the point of having 66 members when the Council is already demonstrating that it can function perfectly well on a smaller number?

John Adams' claims come just as the size of Gateshead Council and ward boundaries are about to be reviewed and revised. Lib Dem members in Gateshead have been putting the case for a smaller council. So thank you John, your suggestion that places remain unfilled will be added to the evidence we will submit to the Local Boundary Commission supporting a smaller council.

And another thank you to John Adams - the failure to fill all the Labour committee places leaves the Lib Dem group in effect slightly over-represented. If Labour incompetence continues and they continue to fail to fill the places, Lib Dem group members are happy to take them off Labour's hands.

You cannot be serious!

Did I hear this correctly? Boris Johnson is to make a bid to get his job back? It seems some Conservative MPs are backing him though they are fewer than those backing Rishi Sunak. But Bouncing-Back-Boris as PM? You cannot be serious!

Thursday, October 20, 2022

Did she order the new wallpaper?

Well, she's gone. Liz Truss will go down in history as the shortest ruling PM. 44 days will be be difficult to beat. Though I expected her to go in my blog this morning, I was expecting her to cling on for a few weeks more. I just hope Liz Truss hadn't ordered the new wallpaper!

Focus delivery underway


Autumn edition of Focus on Whickham South and Sunniside has arrived from the printers. Delivery is already underway. I'm about to head out to do another patch.

Getting rid of a PM - good luck with that one!

It feels like deja vu. A prime minister that the country wants removed from power and who is clinging on by their finger tips. It was the same in 2007-10 when Gordon Brown was appointed unopposed by Labour MPs  to the post of PM. No matter how many resignations, Brown clung on for 3 years. Similarly Theresa May clung on but at least had the decency to realise the game was up when her Brexit legislation was repeatedly defeated. And then we had Boris Johnson who could have remained the dominant figure in politics throughout the 2020s if he had managed to follow his own covid rules. But it took a mass resignation of his cabinet and ministers before he let go.

Prime ministers don't give up easily and quickly even when the writing is on the wall. Having got to the top of the greasy pole, they have a habit of not wanting to let go. So good luck everyone with getting rid of Truss. I think she will eventually go but it will take a bloody battle to crowbar her fingers off the prime ministership.

Monday, October 17, 2022

Chase Park dog show


On Saturday I visited the Fun Dog Show at Chase Park, Whickham. This is the video I made of the event.

Forthcoming history talk


There has been growing interest in the talk I gave last week on the lost forts of Whickham. I will be giving the talk again to Sunniside History Society on 2nd November. I will be talking about 5 forts: the Roman fort at Washingwell, Ravensworth Castle, Hollinside Manor House, a possible fort in Washingwell Woods and a possible fort at Lambing Hill, next to Clover Hill School. The video above was filmed recently next to the mound in Washingwell Woods which may be part of a motte and bailey Medieval castle.

The talk will take place at Sunniside Social Club at 7pm. Sunniside History Society members £1, visitors £2.

Friday, October 14, 2022

Whickham eFocus no. 174

 Efocus no 174 for the Whickham area has just been published. Issues covered include:

  • Chase Park house-building plans approved;
  • Whinnies Christmas market;
  • Fun dog show at Chase Park;
  • Free food at Kingsway community orchard;
  • Angela Lansbury's connection to Whickham;
  • Help needed to plant up Whickham;
  • Former Dunston Fed brewery could be developed soon;
  • Medieval fort discovered in Washingwell Woods;
  • Can you sponsor a Christmas tree?

You can read eFocus on this link.

One invite leads to another


On Monday I was the guest speaker at the Mothers' Union in Whickham. I was first booked to give a talk last year but covid delayed things for a year. I wasn't sure if I had on my history, self-sufficiency or local politics hat on when the invite was made but I offered to speak on a number of issues and they opted for history. I spoke about the Romans in Washingwell where a fort was discovered in the 1970s. And then I talked about my theory that there are the remains of a medieval fort in Washingwell Woods and a smaller one next to Clover Hill School.

The talk went down well with the result that my contact details were passed onto the Whickham U3A who have now invited me to speak to them in February. This time the talk will be about "Living the Good Life"

Wednesday, October 12, 2022

Low Fell eFocus 113

 The latest edition of the Low Fell eFocus was published recently. Issues covered include:

  • Covid Booster delay ‘not good enough’ for people with allergies
  • Time running out to sign petition about Kells Lane Park
  • New arrangements for Council Elections
  • Remembrance Day Service
  • Pavement parking on Durham Road

Tuesday, October 04, 2022

Standing charges are a rip off

I received my energy bill for August to September yesterday. The gas charge caught my attention. The standing charge cost me £8.04 and the actual amount of gas used cost me £8.88. In other words, the standing charge was nearly as much as the gas used.  Compared to most people our gas bill is low because we make sure we use as little as possible. Our house is heated by our wood fired stove and short showers are taken instead of baths. We have made every effort to bring down the amount of gas be use and the financial benefit is seen in lower gas bills. But we can do nothing to reduce the standing charge. 

This daily charge to be connected to the gas and electricity grid, regardless of how much energy someone uses, falls most heavily as a burden on lower income households. As it is a fixed charge, it does not reward those who go out of their way to save energy. So, not only does it clobber the poorest the most, it also discourages energy efficiency and damages the environment.

Personally, I feel standing charges are a rip off. The energy suppliers should at least offer a payment system that does not charge just to be connected to the grid while a compensating increase in the unit price of energy could offset the scrapping of standing charges. A reasonable price to pay to help the poorest and protect the environment.

Monday, October 03, 2022

Growing tall


Some years ago I bought a small Christmas tree in a pot. It was 50cm high and had a full, intact root system. After the festivities were over, we put the potted tree outside in the garden and watched it grow. After we repotted it, we watched it grow yet further. It was about 1.5m high when we planted it at Marley Hill community centre. As you can see, it is now flourishing and is continuing to grow. There will come a point soon when a cherry picker will be needed to put the Christmas fairy on the top!

The weight of a baby elephant


I donated 20 cans of baked beans to Sunniside Church's collection for Gateshead foodbank on Sunday. They told me that they had collected food equivalent to the weight of a baby elephant! So well done Sunniside Church and their interesting comparison of weights!