Wednesday, 31 December 2008

What is the world coming to?

Last night I went along to my GP surgery. Nothing unusual about that except I had a little time to study the notices. A series of notices pasted to the wall proclaimed “Free condoms available at this practise” I got to thinking about the first packet I bought I think it took twelve months before I used them. Later in the evening I was reading our local paper and came across a piece proclaiming our MP was delighted that three theatres in Birmingham had signed up to a government scheme to provide free theatre seats for people under 26. There must surely be some qualifying criteria to both these initiatives but on the face of it life’s great if you’re young these days. Get your date, the government pay for the theatre tickets the NHS pay for the jonnies so all you have to do is “enjoy” Well I console myself I get a free ride on the bus and free prescriptions. I hope there is a logical explanation for the apparent freebies but I can’t help thinking “what is the world coming to?”

Tuesday, 30 December 2008

Roll on the bed

Ok hold onto your dirty minds this blog is not going smutty.
In bygone days a roll on the bed had a completely different connotation than it does for me today. I won’t go into its past meaning because I guess most of you can guess what it meant. Nowadays when I suggest this the misses knows it’s time to change my surgical stockings. I can just about manage getting them off and showering is OK but putting clean ones back on requires some assistance. The wife gets into an awful sweat as we pull and shove grunt and grown to get the wretched things back on. Romance is out of the question, nothing remotely attractive about seeing me half naked in surgical stockings. Oh the humility of getting old. Good job I have a good memory and the wife a good sense of humour.

Monday, 29 December 2008

Primary care

I’m never quite sure where Primary Care ends and Acute Care begins. Our GP seems quick to send me off to A&E these days. Anyone would think I’m an awkward old git instead of a sick old gentleman. We have had a long running campaign against our PCT over the provision of a clinic in our area and over the number of GPs we have. We’ve been mislead, blatantly lied to and politically manipulated with a patient survey that was amateurish in its content and designed to give the PCT the result it wanted. The person responsible for Primary Care provision in our area is not trusted and we have a major difference of opinion in what we see as adequate GP provision. I have commented before on how we have lost doctors and how when a surgery had building repair problems it had to be closed for two weeks whilst the work was carried out. Our PCT claim it is a perceived view that we have inadequate facilities but during the surgery closure about 1300 patients had virtually no health care. Our MP did get an apology from the chief exec over the surgery closure but it was the patients who should have had the apology. Although our local politicians give some support to our complaints as far as I can see our MP who could make a difference seems to accept that things are OK. From a sick patients point of view primary care in our area is poor. I can give many examples of not being able to get appointments or having to wait for hours in a surgery full of people with coughs and colds (last thing I need these days is flu and before you shout get a jab, I can’t at this stage of my treatment) The problem is not with our GPs but I think with the system. We have little choice of GP provision so it’s a case of take it or leave it which I feel is unsatisfactory to many patients in Newton. Our Primary Care Trust won an award recently from HSJ as the best trust in England. Things must be pretty bad in other parts of the country. But until we get full political support for the campaign we will get nowhere. It’s difficult to see how this can happen in our ward with two lib dem councillors, one labour and a labour MP. It will take a major incident for things to change; I just hope I’m not it.

Sunday, 28 December 2008

An evening at A&E

A visit to Sandwell A&E dept can be a great leveller.
A couple of days ago I displayed some symptoms that we were a little concerned about. I rang the emergency doctor because it was out of hours and I was advised that I needed to be checked out at A&E we’ll send an ambulance they said. I didn’t think it was an emergency so I offered to be driven in by my wife. Will you tell them we’re coming? Oh no we can’t do that just go along to reception they’ll triage you, you wont have to wait long. This seems absolutely potty to me they’re quite happy to send an ambulance for me which means they have to notify the hospital but to tell them I’m coming by car, sorry can’t do. In Sandwell we have a new A&E dept attached to our local hospital. Opened only a couple of years ago it should be state of the art, it is a smart facility which is being ruined by the people who are using it. There were bloody rags left on the floor and spilled fluids. Most of the patients like me were suffering in silence. The majority were Asian with some afro Caribbean and a few whites. The silence was broken when a family who I can only describe as “shameless” were brought in by ambulance. The injured party was a young woman in her early twenties, very vocal and dissatisfied with her lack of attention. She was followed a little while later by what I assume was her dad and then her boy friend. These were equally as vocal complaining about being here all night. I was ashamed of my own race. Seeing a doctor was in my opinion very quick and he ordered some blood tests which were done quickly and I assumed sent off to the lab. I discovered later that the samples had not been identified and as such not tested. Another doctor comes along takes some more blood and advises us to wait in the waiting room for the results. Shameless family are still making a fuss. They loudly announce they are leaving. Plonk the girl in a wheel chair and exit the hospital to the relief of the rest of us. The boy friend had tried to intimidate me while I was sitting waiting for my test results. We ignored him and my wife threatened me not to make a fuss. I’m not sure what I could have done except wave my walking stick at him. A few minutes later a couple of Bobbies arrived but as usual too late. I noticed a wheel chair abandoned in Little Lane when we left. Hospital staff and sick patients should not have to deal with this kind of behaviour. They have the details of the patient so perhaps proceedings can be taken against them although I’m not sure what laws they broke except for perhaps disturbing the peace and intimidating me. We are all entitled to health care but we should also respect the care providers and fellow patients and leave the hospital in a condition in which we would expect to find it.
I suppose the question we should be asking is how safe are our A&E depts?

Saturday, 27 December 2008

Light on the blogging

This is because my health has not been so good lately. Trying to blog while you are in pain is to say the least difficult. I was very unhappy with the results of my scribbles so I have not published them. Because a bit of real anger came out I might also have got sued. The wife propped me up in my computer chair surrounded by pillows so that I was as comfortable as possible which made for some light relief. I’m pleased to be able to report that a couple of days ago the pain subsided and although I am very stiff in all my joints I’m able to look more positively at the world. Getting up stairs is a bit of a problem and getting up from low chairs is almost impossible without help but I’m getting there. The other aspect of this was that as health issues seem to have taken over my life completely these days who the hell wants to hear the ramblings of a sick old man? I’ve become an expert on the workings of our local NHS and I’ll comment on the short comings of our primary care and A&E in the next few days. In the meantime it’s good to be back.

Friday, 19 December 2008

The proud granddad bit

We went along to see 12yrs old Hippy perform in his school’s Christmas play. This was a production by sixth form but included a couple of first years as urchins. Well he looks the part most week ends in fact he looked smarter dressed up in his costume than he prefers. Excellent production, really well acted and produced. As it was the last night they had a photo spot after the production. Little Mr. was in his element he enjoyed every minute of the attention he got and well deserved. He made a small part all his own with a wonderful performance. I guess some of the older kids were thinking never work with kids and animals.
For his first term at this school he certainly made his mark. The down side that it was little too much for granddad and I am suffering for the long day this morning but I would not have missed it for the world.

Thursday, 18 December 2008

It’s not just a case of taking the pills

I went along to the Anti coag clinic for the first time this morning and I got a bit of a shock. I’m under the impression my clots have cleared and the rat poison is just a precaution to make sure no others form. Not so the nurse tells me it takes three to four months for a clot to clear and my other health conditions can cause clots to form. So you need to take great care. Was I wearing the special stockings? Well no I thought they were just for use in the hospital. I got measured for a special pair of tights to wear for a least 23hrs per day. Given a long list of things to look out for and advised if in doubt call the clinic or an ambulance and as for getting back to normal that is a long way off. On the plus side though, no hoovering, this action can apparently cause the clots to move which might cause a stroke or heart attack. Every cloud has a silver lining. Looks like we may be looking for a cleaner in the New Year.
Despite this being a very busy clinic I wondered why the nurses knew the patients by first name, well it’s because they see a lot of us over the first few weeks.

Wednesday, 17 December 2008

Double standards

A couple of days ago Vince Cable, who I regard as one of the outstanding Liberal Democrat front bench politicians, embarrassed the government by revealing the mess up with public sector pensions. This was of course originally a conservative cock up but happily carried on by labour. What is interesting and alarming is how quickly the minister concerned came forward and said no one would be asked to pay back the over payments. Apparently this is a mistake that could date back 30yrs. So increases on the over payments have been compounded over that period. Public sector pensions are largely inflation proof and the majority are the better off pensioners. It was a different story last year when anomalies were discovered in pension credit over payments which were clawed back in a very aggressive way (although when the outcry became loud enough the aggression eased). These were largely very poor individuals without any other source of income. What a shabby pensions service we have.
I would like to know what the government are going to do about the thousands of people who they are deliberately under paying pensions to. I refer of course to all those pensioners caught in the Pensions Protection Fund trap who are being slowly stripped of their pensions by Brown & Co. Will we eventually see the people responsible for the mess fired and who will foot the bill? My guess is no one will be fired, the tax payer will foot the bill and PPF pensioners can go starve.
When Turner looked at pensions I thought that perhaps we might see a light at the end of the tunnel but all that seems to have happened is the mess gets worse.

Tuesday, 16 December 2008

The big energy con

I got my quarterly gas & electricity statements last week. Three months ago I complained to them about the amount they were asking for direct debit. I am now 80 quid in credit on my gas and 20 quid in debit on the lecky. What annoys me is that they are asking for an extra 14 quid a month on the lecky but not offering a reduction on the gas. To me this is profiteering. They know that eventually they will have to reduce the price because of world energy prices falling. They were quick enough to increase charges when it went up let’s have the same response now and bring it down. Or the government should step in and put a windfall tax on their profits. In the meantime they are holdoing on to my money and getting interest on it such as it is these days.

Monday, 15 December 2008

He’s done it again.

Back in October I likened our PM to my old comic hero Captain Marvel and not Superman who one of his parliamentary colleagues referred to him as. Those of you of my age group will remember Capt. Marvel’s role was to save the world from all sorts of super villains. Whilst I was away twiddling my thumbs in hospital he let it slip (Gordon that is) that that was what he was doing saving the world. Ooops what about saving his own patch first?. He also announced big increases in pensions which is going to help us hard pressed old uns through his slump er sorry recession. What he has announced is exactly what it should be based on the inflation figures he uses to calculate pension increases in September and not a penny more. So once again he has tried to hood wink us into believing he is generous during these hard times. The extra 60 quid we are getting in January seems to me to be another of his bribes. Last time just before the election he gave 200 quid to each pensioner household for help with council tax and then hurriedly clawed it back. Based on his history I predict an election in the spring of next year. That is if anyone wants the job of trying to sort out his economic mess.

Friday, 12 December 2008

Carted off to hospital 2+

My regular readers (both of you, thank you for your patronage) will have realised I have not posted for about ten days. This is because I have been detained at NHSs pleasure in Sandwell Hospital. The first emergency visit and subsequent diagnosis and treatment were way off the mark and I was taken by paramedic car this time, back to Sandwell A&E and this time admitted. Amongst other things after a lot of prodding, stabbing and a CT scan they discovered I had a blood clot in my right lung. When giving me the prognosis the young doctor said “oh and by the way one of the treatments for this is complete bed rest” This had to be explained to me in more detail I’m thinking I’m in here what more do you want. Well it means just that virtually confined to bed and bedside chair for at least four days. I was banned from even drawing the curtains around the bed and from leaving the space bordered by the curtain. I never realised how tiring it can be doing nothing. Pee bottle delivered and taken away, commode delivered, well you get the idea. I’m pleased to say that the treatment is now working and I’m back home on ward leave for now.
Some comments on Sandwell Hospital and its staff. Well run, efficient, friendly and spotlessly clean wards. The staff are totally dedicated and once on the ward I felt safe. I met some wonderful people. Sister Kelly Cooper is an inspiration to her team, leading from the front she demonstrates the best of the best in NHS care. This was the first time I had been in hospital for a protracted stay and I became the longest serving patient. Great camaraderie with other patients.
Sadly it was not all good the gents bathroom had a cracked loo which leaked onto the floor and a broken window catch which meant the window could not be closed. It’s been pretty cold during my stay so nobody lingered in the loo.
Food was good, typical canteen stuff but warm and tasty. The menu is designed so that all options give you a balanced diet. The staff were so helpful. Cleaners, health care assistants’ student nurses, staff nurses, junior doctors and med students. We are going to have some great doctors and nurses coming through in the next few years.
With just a little more tender loving care of the infrastructure we could have a first class hospital here. Why should we be planning to close it for a hospital with less beds and many miles further away?

This is also a significant day for me in that it is exactly one year since I started to blog. So a very happy birthday to Bob the Black Country Brummie. My thanks to all those people who have commented during the past year and passed on you views by phone.

Monday, 1 December 2008

It’s back

Litter and dog shit as been found on the grassed reservation in front of my house. Some time back I posted a poem for the dogs’ looks like a Christmas greeting might be in order. If I can catch em it will be so much easier but that may not be possible so I suppose it’s back to the poetry, that seemed to work for months. I get so angry with irresponsible dog owners who can’t be bothered to clean up after their pets and as for litter louts grrrrrrrrrrrrrrrrrrrrrrrrrrrrrr. Better go and have a lie down.

Friday, 28 November 2008

Carted off to Hospital.

Wednesday morning I awoke to a severe pain in the back (I usually let her sleep). Well I say awoke because it was a sort of half awake a place between being on this planet and somewhere else. My wife who is one of the worlds gentlest people was somewhere in the background having a heated argument with someone. This situation was unreal because usually our house doesn’t function until my wife has a cup of tea delivered by me and I was in a land of pain and semi consciousness and she was arguing (this had to be serious). I tried to move but with that amount of pain I was going nowhere. After what seemed like ages she appeared at my bedside and announced you better get ready the ambulance is on its way. The row had apparently been with our locum emergency doctor who did not want to come out because his shift was nearing its end and he thought she should wait and contact our GP. 11th commandment in our family is “thou shalt not pee off Nan” this rule applies to all who threaten her family or who fail to respond when she asks for help. This was not an unreasonable request as it turned out when I got to hospital and my condition was diagnosed, pain relieved and I was almost human again.
The misses was magnificent throughout this crises but I guess with my condition she has had plenty of practice. Back home now and recuperating. The drugs used to treat my new condition do have an unsavoury side effect which means I may have to stay close to a loo for a few days. With any luck though I might be able to catch up on a lot of my delayed computer work. I wish I had a copy of the argument with the Locum.

Wednesday, 26 November 2008

I came second

Last night was the awards ceremony for West Brom libraries autumn writing competition. My short story Upper level south side USB2567T266/1966 was awarded second prize in the short story category. My poem and word/pictures entries did not get awards but I’m rather pleased with myself because this is the first time I have entered a short story. It’s now smug the black country brummie. Great bunch of people our local writers see Tuesday, 11 November 2008
Short story

Tuesday, 25 November 2008

A leaflet from Labour

We’ve been waiting for months and then like waiting for a bus, two come together. What is going on? Cllr. Hosell’s leaflet contains some relevant and well thought out stories. Our ward being the best in Sandwell for recycling on the front page is inspirational and although the picture quality is poor it clearly shows a very smug Cllr. proud of the fact. Other stories were also relevant. Fighting for improved road safety on the Newton , I’m involved with him on that so well done. A good piece on the campaign for a new health centre and an update on the Durham Estate. A lovely swipe at the Liberals for not attending Town Committee meetings. I know this is accurate I’ve commented here on it. A direct comparison with recent Liberal leaflet Dave wins but if he is going to get reelected we need at least four of these per year. The downside I suppose is his inclusion of our MP as part of the team. Except for doing his monthly surgery I don’t think he spends any time in our ward and I think more likely to be a vote looser. The second leaflet was from our MP which quite frankly I felt was poorly put together with low quality pictures. During his first term we used to get a full colour Parliamentary Report which was an excellent publication this one falls far short. My summary; - “needs to do better”

Monday, 24 November 2008

Economic incompetence

And no I’m not a bloody Tory but a responsible centre right socialist. The wife’s been reading the blog and she insists we should take the money whilst we can. So I’m overruled but today’s budget statement must rank as one of the most irresponsible of all time. I would rate it as verging on criminal incompetence. Gordon did it again short changing pensioners with the inflation based increase. Increases for pensions are based on the rate of inflation in September before the budget but the inflation figure used is approx half of real inflation figure we face in the shops. Apparently we are going to get the pension increase in January this year instead of April and on top of this a sort of one off payment of 60 quid, not sure when this is going to be paid. There might also be some gain from tax changes but these are not clear. I did a little mental arithmetic on how much I thought Gordon owed each pensioner and I think it amounts to about 90 quid a week which he has cheated us out of since taking office. Thatcher started the downward spiral when she changed the system of linking pensions to pay but Brown has had 12 years to put it right and ignored us.
The Gordon and Alistair show reminded me of two blindfolded bull elephants wallowing up to their necks in a mud pond with on idea how to get out. 2.5% reduction in VAT is not going to get us going to the shops. It will help a little with our fuel bills I suppose.
The one good aspect of this package was the bringing forward of capital investment package for our infrastructure.

Sunday, 23 November 2008

Gordon can stick his increase in fuel allowance for pensioners.

The news and papers have been full of speculation this weekend about the fiscal stimulus Gordon (sorry Alistair) is going to announce tomorrow. One news bulletin gave a bookie as offering 10/1on on a £100 increase in fuel allowance for pensioners. Well Gordon I don’t want it. I am not happy with the way he has treated pensioners over his period as both chancellor and PM. He has constantly short changed us with inflation increases and resolutely failed to put right the underlying inconsistencies with pensions preferring to add to the complexities of the pension’s credit system instead of giving pensioners a decent pension and letting us manage our affairs. These short term giveaways are a poor substitute for what really needs to happen. He used a £200 bribe before the last election then took it back at the first budget opportunity. No thanks Gordon I have a long memory and don’t trust you anymore. I watched the Politics show at lunch time and your body language when asked if you were considering an election next year gave it away. This is not a cure for the mess you have gotten us into but a bribe for an election next year. I also don’t want to lumber my children and grandchildren with paying back this loan at an undefined time in the future. There are other ways of stimulating the economy without massive tax giveaways. We have already had the first warnings of how he might be planning to claw it back by eliminating the free travel we currently have. I’m not making anymore predictions because as sure as sure he will be planning to get it back as soon as possible.
We need decent pensions now, an end to the Pension Protection Fund policy of not having inflation increases and a full pension for those caught in the Financial Assistance Scheme trap of only getting 90%. So come on Gordon do the decent thing at last and put your pensions mess right. I won't be holding my breath tomorrow.

Saturday, 22 November 2008

Oh yes we will

Front page of our local evening newspaper The Express & Star was a story about Centro the company that provides bus services for the west Mids. Apparently they are trying to screw some more money out of the councils who provide the funding for the free bus & train services we pensioners are provided with. I was going to say enjoy but that would be stretching things a bit. The threat is that unless the councils cough up we will be forced to have to pay or at least travel half fare. This threat raises some interesting issues. Firstly with Centro who I do not believe have provided a good enough service over the time they have held the franchise. So perhaps we should be turning the threat around and asking for a better service at a lower price.
It is a good negotiating ploy; raise the spectre of withdrawing free OAP travel, see who complains, screw a bit more out of the councils and carry on as normal. Oh dear what have they forgotten? Don’t screw with pensioners. I expect if this issue does go to the next stage there will be a lot of opposition from pensioner groups including me. It’s been a long time since I was involved with a good protest this might be just the one.
So a message to all West Mids Councils, don’t be intimidated, negotiate a better deal with Centro or fire them and whatever you do, , do not even think about introducing charges for pensioners. We will make a tremendous fuss.
Oh yes we will.

Thursday, 20 November 2008

Have Labour abandoned Newton Ward?

And have the Liberals been reading my blog. We received our Liberal Focus on Newton yesterday which was much as I had predicted in my earlier post “Another first for Bob’s Blog? Leading story was the saviour of Sons of Rest followed by a nice little piece on the lack of GP services in our area and their concerns that poorly maintained facilities will cause the existing doctor to leave. I would take issue with them on their story claiming there are plenty of clean public toilets in USA and the working for you year round bit. Public toilets are almost always provided by businesses over there. Regular readers will know that I tried to tease our MP to lobby for the provision of toilets in stores above a certain size in this country (blog action week). Of course this went nowhere but it might be worth raising again. Regular readers will also remember I suggested to our labour councillor who I feel is doing a splendid job that it was no use him working hard if he is not telling constituents what he was doing. The Liberals most certainly are and their policy of regular leaflets is what as kept them in power here for the last thirty years. It’s not rocket science David. Labour have not put out a leaflet since the last local election, Liberals I think it’s three.
So what conclusions might we be able to draw from this situation?
1, local labour party don’t care about the ward?
2, funding is tight and they do not have enough local support to deliver a leaflet?
3, they do not have the ability to write regular leaflets?
4, David has come to the conclusion he is a one term councillor, is trying to make an impression and get as much done as he can in the time left?
5, he is sidelined by the labour group who are not used to having a Labour councillor in Newton and perhaps he is thinking that running as an independent would be a better choice next time. Now that would be an interesting scenario. Newton as always has been a white elephant to Labour, partly because of the talents of the late Martyn Smith who was a massive champion for Newton and well deserved his longevity on the council. Things are different now which can clearly be seen by the poor quality of Liberal leaflets.
We never see our Labour MP in our ward and perhaps this is a reflection on the parties approach to us. The MP is a career politician great friend of Gordon and a junior minister so perhaps that is not so surprising. With what is happening nationally and Gordon offering a big tax bribe this Christmas could we perhaps be seeing a general election next year? How would the voters of Newton see Labour and our MP then I wonder? My guess is a big thumb’s down. But in the meantime come on David talk to us.


I just can’t seem to shake off this lethargy. Tuesday I was a panel member for a break out group at the Association of Colleges annual conference and exhibition. The group were looking at learner involvement. It was a privilege to be asked to participate but I found getting there a trial. As soon as was possible I made my apologies and left. I’m thinking I need to see my GP because this ain’t right but I can’t get an appointment until Friday evening. The alternative is to wait for X number of hours in a crowded waiting room with half the population of Newton coughing and sneezing all over me. Our PCT tell us we have plenty of Doctors for our area but surely this can’t be right. When the ceiling fell in at our surgery we were without any GP service for two weeks. What do we have to do to get a good service in our area? Go Private? I went along to the surgery to check out what the wait position was like. My wife insisted that I was not too ill to wait but I knew better. The surgery was heaving. One of the receptionists was sat behind her computer in the waiting room coughing and sneezing, next to her was an old mate doing much the same. The other receptionists are behind a screen in a small side room which means you have to enter the waiting room to talk to them. I decided I’d book an appointment whilst I was there. What I did not notice was the lady standing in the corridor that I had to pass on my way out was coughing and sneezing like the rest. If I hadn’t got when I went in I must get it on the way out. Looks like I have to suffer until Friday.

Monday, 17 November 2008


My house backs onto the Tame Valley Canal. Because of the height of the canal above my garden and the prohibitive growth of bushes it is almost impossible to gain access to or from the tow path. We can however at this time of year see movement on the canal. The usual dog walkers and the odd barge but the creatures that own the tow path are Herons. I sometimes walk and cycle this path and it is amusing to see their behaviour. They have no fear of humans. About four of them live off our patch of canal and we see them strutting along the path as if they own the place. When they are fishing if you approach they wait until you are a couple of yards away give you a look of total contempt and then gracefully fly off to the other bank and wait for you to pass. I have cycled up to within almost touching distance before getting the look and leisurely flight before they resume fishing. A wonderful experience from such a graceful bird. My mate though was not so impressed they have allegedly pinched his prize carp.

Sunday, 16 November 2008

Oh yes it is

With my current treatment regime I am suffering more from the side effects of the treatment than I did from the disease itself. I am advised that this will only last for about a week and I should start to feel better. Current status is I’m doubting this to be the case but I have a few days to go so please forgive my lack of posts and the lack lustre posts I have been making. Bob the Black Country Brummie will be back in the not to distant future. I hope!

Saturday, 15 November 2008

The proud Granddad a bit more

I speculated awhile back about my lack of posts lately. Well this is undoubtedly because of my recent change in treatment which is leaving me lethargic, in a little pain and lacking in enthusiasm. My grandson does not lack enthusiasm in anything he puts his mind to. Thursday evening is quality time for us with our UK grandkids. This week Hippy was anxious about a trip he was going on from school on Friday and how he might miss out on his school work because of it. It appears that he had won a competition at school and he and a small number of other boys were off to Brum for a day of culture.
After dinner he said can I borrow your mobile phone Granddad I forgot to give Mum my report card. What did you get I asked? A “B” he replied. That’s OK I tried to console him. Oh I got four “A” stars and 8 “As” as well he advised me. Later that evening I got a call from his Dad, what Hippy forgot to mention was there was a letter from his headmaster telling them he was one of only six boys in the school who had achieved this score. Well done Hippy. I need a bigger car to allow for my chest expansion. he gets it from his Granddad Bob, oh yes he does.

Thursday, 13 November 2008


Gordon gets us into the worst financial crisis ever because of his liberal credit policies and financial controls on the banks and FSA. He then claims we are in a better position than other countries to weather this storm. Last week an IMF report claimed we were in a worse position than most of the developed world and the recession would be worst in this country. One of the reasons for the credit crunch and hence recession was the fact that more money than should have been had been lent to people who could not pay it back. We now hear from Gordon and the other party leaders that we need to borrow more money to fund tax giveaways so the people can start borrowing and spending again. Now I’m having a confused dot Bob moment, wasn’t it irresponsible borrowing that started this mess? To some extent it makes a little sense because without a feel good factor people will not spend and without money moving into shops and factories we have no economy. What I challenge is the need to increase our national debt at this time. GB PLC will eventually have to pay back this debt and I personally don’t think we should be selling the family silver or racking up huge debts that my grandkids will have to pay off. Prudence is telling me to baton down the hatches and save. But according to latest opinion polls Gordon is gaining on the Tories and the public are warming to his “get out the shite” policies. Personally I think they are just another crisis waiting to happen. The Tories or Lib dems policies are little better. Perhaps I’m on the wrong planet again. Have we learnt nothing in the last six months?

Tuesday, 11 November 2008

Short story

I mentioned before I had entered a poem and a short story in West Brom libraries Autumn writing competition well this is mt shorty story entry I hope you enjoy.

Upper level south side USB2567T266/1966

I was nothing special in the big scheme of things. On the micro level though I did what was expected of me. I did my duty and I was pretty important in providing the services that I did. I suppose like many of us, our lives, duty and destiny are planned out before we are born, hatched or planted. I am by comparison with my cousins a handsome specimen with broad shoulders and strong features. We learn from our parents or guardians, try to improve things then bye bye it’s all over. Life is very short and getting shorter by the day. My name is not important or that you know the names of my peers living as they do in close proximity to me and working at the same tasks that I perform day in day out. You don’t need to know where I live, in fact, I suspect many of you would not recognize me or my colleagues if you walked past us and you certainly would not understand the important role we play in world affairs. These last two seasons we have been turning carbon dioxide into oxygen by a process know as photosynthesis. Sounds complicated doesn’t it? but to us it’s every day run of the mill stuff nothing special. Never had to learn how to do this task it was born with the talent, in my genes so to speak. Collecting rain water, filtering it, along with large inputs of air, a chemical marker from our supervisors and out comes oxygen. It all started back in late spring when I fully matured along with my peers in our branch. I suppose it’s a bit like a call centre where we all have our quota to achieve. We’re out in all weathers this is not a job for the faint hearted. As the summer days grew warmer and longer so the work intensified. Thunderstorms can play havoc with our quotas because the heavy rain and nitrogen present in the air upsets the chemical process for awhile. This fortunately is only a temporary thing and the work soon continues. We all have problems with birds, squirrels and assorted bugs and beetles who for all sorts of different reasons want to hold up our production process in different ways. A colleague was almost totally affected by a bug which disrupted his ability to work for many days. I myself have remained bug free for most of the summer. For a while now I have been finding it more difficult to operate effectively and I have noticed changes in my colour and flexibility. This change is affecting all my colleagues in our branch. Rumour has it that we are being closed down. The weather is getting colder and the days shorter so there is not such a demand for what we do anyway. I noticed some of our colleagues have already left us and the wind a few days ago played havoc with some branches.
As my colour changes have intensified the effectiveness of my work as diminished and I feel really tired. Some of my colleagues just disappeared into an abyss below yesterday and today I feel so tired I can hardly hang on. The changes are now profound and I’m loosing contact with my twig ah ah I’m floating gently down into the abyss ……………………………………….

Leaf No USB2567T266/1966 ceased to function on October 20th 2008 along with fifteen hundred similar leaves from his deciduous horse chestnut tree. The codes in his identification are U= upper section S=South side B=branch number T= twig number and finally the number associated with this twig.
I hope that is perfectly clear. This is a work of fiction although the chemical stuff is taken from my school boy memory and after 60plus years my be a little inaccurate but the principle is correct.

Monday, 10 November 2008

Fireworks night

My regular readers will know I believe that our local councillors should live in our community and be committed to it. On Saturday we had what is becoming an annual event the Tanhouse Fireworks Display. What a great show. This year it cost a quid but nevertheless worth the money.
I went along with the missus and my folding chair(need to sit these days). I was delighted to see our Labour Councillor in his wet coat on the door and the leader of the Tories doing his bit. Both were accompanied by their wives. The Liberals were as usual conspicuous by their absence.
The evening was spoiled by the fact it chucked it down with rain and despite being dressed for the occasion we were soaked and glad to get home and dry off. Very well done to the organising committee we need more of this community stuff in Newton. It’s a pity involvement in these things isn’t turned into votes.

Sunday, 9 November 2008


I’m not really making excuses because I don’t really know why I’m not blogging as much as I used to. It’s not that I haven’t got plenty to say but time seems to have rushed by this week. Very busy and because I can’t do as much physically as I used to things are taking a lot longer to do. Anyway I’m back, well sort of. Which brings me to Trevor Phillips who is the head of some government quango on race relations. His claims yesterday that a black man could never become Prime Minister in this country because the Labour party is institutionally racist really annoyed me. Firstly Obama is not black he’s of mixed race. Second there is absolutely no racism in West Brom East we have had three Asian Mayors (all labour) in the last six years our council is a good mix of cultures BME being roughly the proportion of BME residents and we have the first Asian member of the Lords in Lord King of West Brom. If Labour are discriminatory it is on the subject of all women short lists. What Mr. Phillips seems to have forgotten is that we should be looking to get the best people for the jobs of whatever race sex or creed?
I’m male getting on a bit and white and I feel I’m discriminated against every day of my life. Perhaps whoever appointed Mr. Phillips should look again at his motives here and perhaps they might feel like I do that he is not the right man for that job.

Thursday, 6 November 2008

One of those where were you when moments.

I think that the election of Barack Obama is one of those times when the world changes course and I feel sure for the better. We can certainly look forward now with more optimism than for a long time. Bush is just another bad memory but his mess will take a long time to clean up. It will be nice to have a President who is articulate and able to communicate.
When all this was happening I was nursing painful calf muscle strains obtained during a short walk but also partly due to the side effects of one of the drugs I’ve been taking. Anyway I was virtually unable to walk and when I could I move it was painful and I looked like an old man who had filled his pants. It’s not funny! Oh well perhaps it is if your not the one in pain. Good luck President Obama.
I had a letter from Gordon. It said Dear Robert and went on to tell me he had been in contact with Barack and wished him well. He went on to say that he looked forward to months and years working with the new President. Years he said that’s enough to cause another run on the market and spoil my week. Somebody was quoted has saying the real Brown government only started a month ago what happened to the last year when he got us into this mess? I better go blood pressure is rising and I have to prepare a presentation for this afternoon.

Monday, 3 November 2008


My contribution to West Brom Library's autumn writing competition. I hope you like it.
Comments, critisisms or praise are most welcome.

utumn leaves are gold and brown
Under the trees they fall gracefully down
The witches appear and fireworks glow
Umbrella’s distort when high winds blow
Mornings are foggy, damp, and cold
Nights get darker, and shadows unfold

Autumn comes but once each year
Upon us the fall and winter is near
The time to remember summers feast
Unfolding before us is winters beast
Master the harvests kneel and pray
Nurture the seasons come what may

Friday, 31 October 2008

What a difference two.

Margaret Macklin’s comment (What a difference) got me thinking about some of the broader issues. I don’t think it’s got anything to do with Dave belonging to the majority party in getting the basic things done he has. All councillors have access to member services and are treated equally. He is reporting the issues and actively following them up until he gets a satisfactory answer and it is this that I think is the difference. I agree with Margaret concerning Cllr. Mrs Underhill who responded well to a couple of concerns we have had recently but our other councillor seems to do very little and I have been aware of missing town committee meetings and full council meeting. I have complained that you can’t claim to be a strong voice for the ward in a newsletter if you don’t attend meetings and if you do not speak at meetings. Local elections in Newton are won on telling constituents via newsletter what is happening and it is this ability that has won the ward for Liberals for years. Labour has not recognised how important it is to us. I became interested in local politics when I was off work sick some ten years ago and really studied what the Liberals actually said in their Focus. By attending town committee meeting you also get better idea of what is actually going on. Sadly most constituents don’t have time or can’t be bothered so they remember Focus think well at least the Liberals are doing something and vote liberal. I know this is perhaps an over simplification but the principle here in Newton is correct.
Our MP is now actively campaigning against the Sandwell Gateway structure and again Margaret makes the point about him having a regular piece in our local free newspaper. I think that all local councillors should have a spot in the paper. You will remember I asked that they give a regular report at the town committee on their activities although no one volunteered to do this. I can’t help thinking that the MP’s intervention will amount to very little but it is good press for him and right in his back yard. His record of successful interventions is not good. I’m thinking of his very public spat with the chair of towards twenty ten program concerning the loss of our A&E. He lost and we are not only loosing our A&E but our hospital which is being replaced by a plastic palace in Smethwick. I’m not sure I would agree with Margaret concerning the effectiveness of the Tory opposition in Sandwell. The council meetings I have attended recently have shown them to be poorly organised. If you are right about Councillor Ward I will of course apologise but so far I have not seen it. Margaret suggests that we might have a Tory MP soon. Now although I feel our MP has let our ward down during his second term a swing sufficient to unseat him would be unprecedented. So although on his end of term report I think it needs to say “needs to improve” I think we are going to have him for a few years yet.

Thursday, 30 October 2008

What a difference

I got to thinking about my earlier post “Another first for Bob’s Blog” and the difference a labour councillor is having on our patch. I don’t think it’s necessarily a political thing any party would have done but what we needed was a different party and that’s what we got. The improvements may be due to a lot of reasons and I suppose for me I have had more to do with Cllr. Hosell than the other councillors so I have seen first hand how it works. I have to ask the question if he can get things done why have our councillors for years been happy to keep on blaming the council for not doing things. There are probably several things going on here. The new guy is very enthusiastic and wants to make a difference and get re-elected in a couple of year’s time. The existing members are thinking we better get going and start doing stuff. All round a win win for Newton. Our worst grot spot is still largely clean. No more pictures of Councillor “more needs to be done” with his arms folded at this site. Two issues here, one is that Cllr. Hosell’s walkabouts are highlighting problems but many of the people who were causing this mess are being moved out as part of the clearance work on what we know as the Durham estate.
This brings me back to my earlier comment that our Liberals are good at publishing and delivering regularly their Focus newsletter and Cllr. Hosell seems good at getting things done but lousy at publicising what he has done. My prediction for the next local elections a Liberal win by a mile.
What we need to see now in Newton is some real investment and some genuine action on things like our request for traffic lights and road improvements to Newton Road without being tied to schemes like Red Routes.
So there’s a challenge. Perhaps I’ll do a list of capital projects needed in our ward but perhaps you might like to tell us on this blog what your priorities are?

Wednesday, 29 October 2008

Confused dot Bob

Let me try and put the current state of our economy into some kind of perspective (for me that is). Borrowing from the banks with no real collateral causes a credit crunch which quickly spreads across the world and starts a recession. Banks have to be bailed out to the tune of £trillions whatever those numbers mean. Along comes our beloved PM who has allowed our economy to function on unrealistic credit for 11 years and calmly tells us that what we need to do now under his expert stewardship is to borrow more to allow us to spend our way out of recession. Now excuse me for appearing a little old fashioned but if you can’t afford to pay it back you should not borrow money and as far as I can see UK PLC can’t afford to pay back its existing debt let alone take on more. My grandchildren will eventually have to pay this back from increased taxes long after Brown and Co are history. How can he and his lackeys have the audacity to tell us that it is the right thing to do? All my instincts tell me to batten down the hatches, reduce debt and save. Today we heard about massive profits from BP, our PM although he feels the reduction in oil prices should be reflected at the pump he is not actually going to do anything about it. Although massive bail outs of banks have not yet stopped the run on the stock markets he was quoted again today in the same old way of how pensioners are to be treated. Tough, you lot take your £250 per household and get on with it you aint getting a penny more. You may have fooled some of the folks Gordon but us old uns aint so daft. Your measures to help poorer families and the more vulnerable in our society fall far short. I was not clear why he entered the row about Ross & Co when there were clearly far more important issues affecting the country. We all know that Ross and & Co are a bunch of overpaid piss takers who should be taken off the air but we all have choice in this country it’s called “switch off” which is exactly what I do when the mention of his program appears on Friday evenings.
I suppose Gordon is taking the best advice from Bank of England and the treasury on what he should do but aren’t these the very people who got us into this mess in the first place? The only politician recently who talked sense on this issue was Vince Cable. Now Gordon how about inviting him onto the team?

Tuesday, 28 October 2008

Another opportunity missed

The Public Gallery in West Brom is one of the most controversial buildings in our borough. Although the building itself as been open for some months now the money spinning part of it, the interactive gallery, is still not open. I have been an outspoken supporter of this project since its conception (well almost) but I feel let down by the fact that this week is half term and the gallery is still not open. We are taking our grandkids to a couple of workshops there and had hoped we could spend the morning in the gallery. We now have to start asking the difficult questions about the competence of the team leading this part of the project. Enough of the delays and soft promises,we need action now.
At a town committee meeting a verbal response to a question concerning the cost of hiring rooms in this facility suggested that hire charges would be affordable for voluntary and community groups. This is not the case and a commercial charge is being applied to all potential users. If this is incorrect then our cabinet member for urban form has a different idea of affordable to me. Difficult to see how we move forward with this project now because of its bad press and cost so far but something needs to be done without the leader of the Tories relentless whinging about it. My support is wavering.

Saturday, 25 October 2008

Another first for Bob’s Blog?

I met up with our hard working Councillor Dave Hosell yesterday and was he feeling pleased with himself. One of the perennial problems along the Newton Road which borders our patch is blocked gullies which cause flooding whenever there in any significant rainfall. Although the gullies themselves are mostly not on Dave’s patch he had volunteered to get them cleared along with a litter hot spot near a busy local pub. These issues had been long standing items from community forum meetings, from neighbourhood tasking meetings and from neighbourhood watch. So it was refreshing to see a councillor actually volunteering to take it up. He now has confirmation from the Drainage Manager that all the Gullies on Newton Road, Queslett Road and Birmingham Road have now been cleansed. The litter from the pub is cleared and a notorious litter grot spot is also clean and staying clean. Again a Hosell monitoring exercise on one of Dave’s walkabouts. So, it’s a well done councillor and about time we had this kind of enthusiasm on the patch. Keep it up. But David please tell me why you are not shouting your achievements from the rooftops why are you not telling the constituents in a newsletter? Your opponents seem to be doing much less yet sending around the Focus on a regular basis. Let’s have a newsletter please.

Thursday, 23 October 2008

200,000 needless deaths this winter

This was a featured news item on 6oclock news last night. Yesterday was the annual lobby of parliament by National Pensioners Convention and was one of the items on their list. I also watched Prime Ministers Questions at lunch time and I could not help but notice how uncomfortable he is answering questions that relate to pensioners. Judging by his answers and that of his new minister for energy old pensions minister Mike O’Brian (sorry Gerry) we aint getting a penny more and we can go and rot as far as they are concerned. Hot shot bankers are getting bailed out to the tune of millions and still getting bonuses in many cases but bottom end of the food chain pensioners tough. No change in government thinking there then. Ever since Brown started to tax pension schemes the process as been going on. His bail out schemes of the Pension Protection Scheme and Financial Assistance Scheme are failing pensioners as is the pension credit. I’m not sure what proportion of that 200000 will relate to Sandwell. Last year it was 350 needless deaths this year probably nearer twice that number. This is from a labour government proud of getting pensioners out of poverty.
On the brighter side our MP got some good publicity with the arrival of his new greener mini ministerial car. Puts it into perspective doesn’t it! I better go turn the heating down another notch to help pay for it and put on another jumper. I look like the Michelin Man with all these jumpers on.
Don’t let us ever forget Captain Marvels 75p increase when the country was supposedly doing well. What now when we are in the depths of recession? Tony Blair said they were listening I think this bloke is bloody deaf. I wonder if we could name and shame him every time a death was reported?

Wednesday, 22 October 2008

Insomniatic rant

I’m at the stage in my treatment cycle when I have to increase the dose of steroids which as the side effect of keeping me awake. So this morning I am suffering from a serious dose of sleep deprivation. I have some sleeping pills but they can affect you for most of the following day so I’m reluctant to take them when I know I want to drive later. I’ll catch a nap before driving today.
But first the proud granddad bit. My two English grandkids were awarded their black belts by their Karate association on Sunday. Having been privileged to witness the grading I know why this belt is so coveted. Well done Hippy & Freddy.
Yesterday the consultant told me if I wanted to visit the states now would be a good time. The currency market this morning tells me the £/ dollar has slipped to a five year low so I can’t afford to go.
Good news is that oil prices continue to fall and subsequently petrol prices have been falling albeit miserly pennies per ltr. Come on Capt Marvel (Gordon Brown) stop dithering now would be a good time to steal Cameron’s fuel regulator idea. Bring the break even point at say 98p per ltr and have a two pence each side tolerance. I know it’s not that simple because prices vary so much across the country and location sites but the principle is simple and surely our new business sec could work something out. To my mind this would achieve what you want in keeping petrol prices high and hence less dependency on cars but it would also give some stability to the market and help to reduce further inflationary pressures.
The governor of the bank of England has been suggesting this week that gas prices could fall by as much as 100 quid by Christmas am I dreaming?
My grammar software is telling me that the above sentence should read “100 quid by Christmas is I dreaming?” I think I better go back to bed.

Monday, 20 October 2008


You need to be of a certain age to understand this post. Well to be honest old. After my last post and the references to our leader as Superman I got to thinking. After the box office success of Superman back in the forties it spurned some other super heroes who inspired me as a kid well into the fifties. One such character whose sole aim in life was saving the world was Captain Marvel. I used to buy the comic every week from my earnings as a paper boy. Captain M had a word he shouted when he wanted to change to his super hero role which was SHAZAM and poof he turned into a lycra clad hero with cape and helmet who could flew around the world saving the planet. I think Gordon fits in better with Captain Marvel because he uses the term Billions of Pounds before turning into his world saving outfit and jetting off to where ever to save us from, now let me think, who was responsible for this recession over here? Why none other than himself. SHAZAM! don’t panic Gord I’m on my way!

Saturday, 18 October 2008

Super who?

I watched Prime Minister Questions earlier this week when Harriet and William were sparing with each other. I think I prefer watching those two than old misery face. Anyway one of the Labour MP claimed she was sitting in Supermans chair. Obviously a planted remark as were the cheers etc that followed it. I’m thinking Lex Luther but what would a poor pensioner from Sandwell know eh. This scenario where he has suddenly become a hero is a bit like a little lad setting fire to his brothers bedroom forgetting to tell his Mom he started it but getting praise for calling the fire brigade. You have to have respect for the Labour spin machine turning this one into a success story is classic and having the cheek to compare him with Churchill. I can’t remember from my history but Churchill didn’t start the war did he? There was a big debate about pension annuities this week which again I thought was typical Brown. Pensioners come at the bottom of his list although if you have managed to keep your pension pot up until 75 you must be doing pretty well so I don’t think this in itself is a major issue. What is more important is how he is planning to protect all those pensioners whose pensions were stolen by his policies and are supported by PPF and FAS which do not have inflation increases. The whole system seems to have forgotten this very large group of pensioners.

Friday, 17 October 2008

Rush Hour

I don’t usually do rush hour. Being retired I prefer to wait until the streets are aired before venturing out into the big bad world. Yesterday the wife and I had to attend a conference some 50 miles away which required an early start for us and we were caught in the rush hour traffic. For the last few years before retirement I worked in West Brom and despite its many faults traffic problems are not one of them. The missus and I got to talking about how it came to be known as rush hour because yesterday nobody was rushing anywhere. It reminded me of a picture the missus had painted in what I called her contemporary period. Picture courtesy Mrs BBCB. The number of lanes portrayed suggest her inspiration was probably drawn from our American trips experiences.
Perhaps I ought to write a poem for each of her works of art. The trouble is she paints em quicker than I write and the subject matter does not necessarily inspire me.

Wednesday, 15 October 2008

Blogging irregularly

You may have noticed my posts have been a little less prolific these last few days Well this is because I have sort of been challenged by a close friend to enter a Autumn writing competition being organised by West Brom Library. I’m not so happy with the way our library service organise competitions because last year they had an art competition which failed miserably letting down some artists me included who had excellent entries. But I’m up for this one and giving it a lot of thought. The categories are, words & pictures, poems, short stories with an autumn theme. I’m thinking of entering a poem in picture form for category one and I have a short story which is nagging at my fingers to be written. So my with my other commitments I’m falling behind with a few things and getting stroppy according to the editor in chief. I blamed the pills. Perhaps nearer the time I’ll publish the poem on the blog but Poetry Wednesbury will of course get to hear it. It’s a cracker.

Monday, 13 October 2008

What is going on?

Interesting to hear the responses from World Bank the IMF and G7 over this week end. I don’t think any of them know what to do. I have some sympathy with Gordon and Co. at the moment because the crisis is now truly world wide and it looks as though he is going to get away with his part in our cock up. The markets appear to have gone completely and independently haywire to the extent that it must surely be being considered that there is a wider force at work here trying to bring governments down. History shows us some notable rises to power of tyrants after stock market crashes. Could this be part of a terrorist plot to undermine the world economies or is it still the greedy unregulated market speculators in money making mode but in a new guise? I don’t know whether I prefer Brown in charge at this point because now is certainly not a time to be changing leaders. Perhaps his next move is “blame the terrorists”

Friday, 10 October 2008

Shock, get me a chair, moments

We all have them don’t we? those little moments when things are just better than expected. I had a couple recently which although not earth shattering I have commented on the down side on the blog. I went into the bank the other day. Knowing there is always a queue I left plenty of time. I was putting money in which these days I think we should have a special lane but anyway no queue and there was two tellers just waiting for me. I’m not telling which branch because it will cause a rush on the bank. I asked for a chair but sadly they never understood the joke. The second moment was my friend the Prime Minister who must have been reading the blog because last night he was being interviewed on a train for BBC news and he mentioned pensions and pensioners. Although he never actually said how he was going to protect us from the economic storm ahead. I definitely needed a lie down after that. Perhaps it's got something to do with the new cabinet enforcers "The Sandwell Two" ? nah

Thursday, 9 October 2008


I watched most of this yesterday because I wondered how our beleaguered PM would get on. To my surprise he looked better than he had for a long time. I gave him the result over Cameron, but if you can’t win on a day like that you’re never going to. I wish him well with his new measures because failure is too hard to contemplate. I like to follow the body language of the front bench. Yesterday they reminded me of a bunch of naughty school kids waiting outside the headmasters’ office for a reprimand. I never gave this much thought until I read Bob Pipers blog this morning. It appears two of our local MPs are responsible. What is the world coming to? What really pisses me off with our Prime Minister is his almost allergic reaction to even thinking about how this current crisis is likely to affect pensioners. An Age Concern report today claims that inflation for over sixty fives is running at 7% which is twice what his figures show. He keeps mentioning hard working families and jobs and mortgages but never pensions.

Wednesday, 8 October 2008

Neighbourhood watch

It was our regular monthly meeting last night and although I am vice chair I found it difficult. The usual round of crime reports which still show crime falling in our area so we must be doing something right. Our beat Sgt. is leaving which is particularly annoying. It takes about six months for them to learn the patch, get to know first the NHW (THE GOOD GUYS) and then the bad guys. Once the Sgt. is “trained” as it were, the police move him/her on and we start again. With neighbourhood policing it is not as bad as it used to be because the team is already in place and they have a commitment to the community but it is still disruptive and it does not take the villains long to catch on and I suspect our crime figures will increase later this year and early next, I wish Richard well in his new posting.
We submitted a petition to West Brom town committee on road safety in our area. This is the subject of a meeting later this week with councillors. I like to see how some people try to manipulate groups at meetings. One guy who is very vocal in writing to local papers sent a letter to the police objecting to our proposals. This was about six months ago. The letter was duly read to the group and included fully in the minutes. I was extremely miffed about this because a couple of meetings earlier the police civilian officer had read a statement to the group but this was never included in the minutes and they have persistently ignored efforts to have it published since. The guy who objected to our proposals last night claimed that the introduction of traffic lights at one of the junctions would impede emergency vehicles and thus endanger life. I never heard such tosh. This is typical NIMBY behaviour and I was having none of it. I don’t think he likes me much but then with an attitude like that he can get in the queue. The majority in our group want these traffic lights PDQ.

Tuesday, 7 October 2008

Is it just me?

I hear that hostilities have ceased within the upper ranks of the Labour party. I know we have a crisis at the moment and all families pull together at these times but to end hostilities seems a bit premature to me. Getting Mandy back was a master stroke (I think) and what a man. Yesterday he attended a meeting of the National Economic Committee and then went to hospital to have kidney stone removed. I feel for the bloke having had one myself how he managed to concentrate on such heavy affairs of state in that condition is amazing. I digress! hostilities are not over as far as pensioners are concerned. My pensioners against Brown campaign continues. There is a mass lobby of parliament later this month but unfortunately I will not be able to make it due to treatment obligations so I will have to rely on my peers.
I watched Alistair and Gordon yesterday trying to calm nerves in the city by talking reassuringly to the commons. Well it never reassured me or the city and after last nights meeting with the banks it never reassured them either. I’m afraid it looks like Gordon’s dithering again. I would be a lot happier if he went on TV and addressed the nation giving us some real news on what he is going to do with a time scale and then actually do it and at the same time come clean on his part in the build up to this crisis (oh silly me that would mean admitting to ignoring credit controls for last ten years and owning up to the bust situation we now see ourselves). I like his ideas for the NEC but again it’s a bit late. Ah well we better resign ourselves to watching him bumble along from one crisis to the next over the next couple of years. He will go down in history as the plague and pestilence prime minister.

Monday, 6 October 2008

I remember

This is one of my favourite poems although it brings back some moving images it was how many kids grew up in the forties.

Friday, 3 October 2008

Cultural services

I have not been happy with what I have seen of the performance of this department of Sandwell Council recently and I have in a previous post suggested a couple of officers should be considering their positions. I need to do some more research to find out what exactly they do. They had a stand at the Full of life festival which was quite lavish compared to ours and although we are a voluntary sector organisation ours is pretty professional. They must have had six pull up display boards at £200 each =£1200 we had one which did the trick. Can’t help feeling that the overkill was a bit much. Interest on the stand which was just across the way, so, could be easily observer was poor all day. Although they should have officer with some interest in older people I wonder if this relates just to Sons of Rest because no interest was shown in what we were doing. I have said before we would not want it if it manifests itself anything like their approach to SoR and we would not want any interference. I think this might be one of those areas were a merge with another better managed group would get better results. I wonder if they are fully behind THE PUBLIC?

Thursday, 2 October 2008

THE PUBLIC’S first successful event

Yesterday was the United Nations International Day for Older People. We celebrated in Sandwell by holding an event called Full of Life Festival at our new arts centre THE PUBLIC. This was a very successful even. Sponsored by Sandwell Council and our Primary Care Trust. Two levels of the building were used and it was packed all day. The organisation I am heavily engaged with U3A had a stall there which was overwhelmed with enquiries all day. We gave out more info and talked to more potential members than any other event we have ever attended. We also had the theatre for an hour to do a virtual antiques auction and to run some short films our interest groups had put together. We were second act on. I had rehearsed with the technician before hand how this was going to work with timings. We should have had a ten min break following the first act to hand out all that was needed and be ready to start on time. I had been asked by the organisers to stick strictly to time. The first act was a dozy gospel quire who arrived 15mins late. They were totally engrossed with there singing and blissfully unaware that their actions were in fact messing up a carefully choreographed following act. I hate being late and this failure of the organisers stressed me out. Eventually they got them off but our preparations then seemed confused and rushed we started about 20mins late. The quire then stayed for our act, they talked amongst themselves had sandwiches etc. I did manage to get them involved with the program but a major failure on behalf of the organisers and very bad manners on quires part.
It’s a well done to Sandwell for having the foresight to do this and a well done to the PCT for organising it and to THE PUBLIC for the venue but a big thumbs down to the theatre organisers on the day, these sorts of cock ups should not be allowed to happen. If we had been consulted before the first act started or they were made to keep to time then our performance would not have been affected.

Wednesday, 1 October 2008

Sons of Rest saved

You heard it on my blog first.
In a surprise turn around Sandwell Council announced at the full council meeting this evening that the three Sons of Rest buildings scheduled for closure on 1st November will not now be closed and the other four groups who were going to have to be self funded will continue to be free. The reason given was that Cllr. Horton had listened to the lobby of the Sons of Rest and she did not want to burden our older citizens any more. This on the one hand is good news about the closures but I do not support the groups being funded totally by the council. There are lots of other groups just as deserving who have to be self funded. One of the areas concerned is our ward Newton. Although this is good news the underlying situation remains the same, underused buildings and an organisation with falling numbers. These issues need to be addressed urgently. But first let me turn my attention to the council officers who have been involved with the initial decision. They of course should be considering their positions. I am not convinced the consultations with the groups were done well and I certainly would not want these officers anywhere near anything I was involved with. This also raises some issues with the bigger picture as to who is monitoring the report on the older people’s select committee and also some issues on how many of the older peoples groups are funded. For further information and advice on this consult Bob the Black Country Brummie. We are in need of a comprehensive review. Other groups do get concessions at some of the smaller leisure facilities but the rules and usage of larger leisure centres seem somewhat vague and variable.
Other recent decisions that now need to be looked at: -
Charges during week days for entrance to Sandwell Park Farm,
car parking charges during the week at this farm and finally:-
the massive increase in charges for meals on wheels.
Sandwell Council, you know it makes sense. Let’s see the spirit and letter of the report being addressed properly.

Tuesday, 30 September 2008

It’s bulletin on the railings time again

I am pleased to announce that his majesty continues to respond well to treatment. His blood numbers are normal except for one which continues to fall rapidly in the right direction. We will not make any further announcements of this kind unless his majesties condition worsens.
The reality, things looking good but would be happier if the rouge blood number was nearer the norm. I saw the best and worst of the NHS today. Treatment first class but because of events outside of their control the consultant was running 1&1/2 hours late. This would not have been a problem but the support staff knew this and never thought to tell the patients. In fact they became a little miffed when I pointed out that it was easy to calculate how behind they were and that perhaps they should tell the patients. I wouldn’t have minded so much if they were rushed off their feet but they were hanging around waiting like the rest of us. What time I have left on this planet I want to spend constructively not waiting around unnecessarily in hospital waiting rooms.

Welcome to Brum David

So the Tory party binge comes to brum this week. I watched the shadow chancellor’s speech at lunch time yesterday and I have to say a little disappointed. Plenty of attacks on Gordon & Co but very little substance. I warm to the prospect of having council tax frozen for a couple of years but that’s only for participating councils and I can’t see our lot collaborating with them. Perhaps whilst you are in town David you could get together with our opposition over in Sandwell and try to organise them into a coherent lobby so that we have an effective opposition and perhaps you might also have a little whisper in the ear of the leader to perhaps consider stepping down or altering his stance on talking down our town. Thank you in anticipation. Osborne mentioned that Gordon had had his hand in the pension’s pot robbing many of us of our pensions. What he never divulged was how he would put it right in fact he never mentioned their policies on pensions at all. This will not get the pensioner vote any more than dear Gordon so a sorry time ahead I fear. I look forward to his speech later in the week.

Monday, 29 September 2008

Catch up

I haven’t been posting much lately and that’s because I don’t know how to find the time. How politicians manage to post as regularly as they do is a mystery to me. I’m retired and although very busy in the voluntary sector in effect I can to a greater extent please myself how I manage my time. Politicians I know are renowned for talking to much they also write a lot. Recently I bought some capital equipment for an organisation I am involved with and have had to spend a lot of time working out how to work this stuff. I must be getting old or perhaps all modern equipment is getting more complicated. One of the items is a document visualiser, which when linked to an overhead projector acts a bit like the old overhead projector but capable of showing almost any sort of image. It can be linked to a microscope and makes even grotty old photos look good on the screen. I’m spending the awards for all money we were awarded recently. I never thought it would be so hard spending other people’s money.
This week on Wednesday is United Nations International Day for Older People. In Sandwell we are having a fun day at our new arts centre call THE PUBLIC the event is called Full of Life Festival and is being funded by Sandwell Council and PCT. I will be participating and presenting at this event. I do hope some of our cabinet attend because I will be asking some awkward questions. Unfortunatley I have to leave to go to hospital for my regular treatment mid afternoon. I wonder? Parliament being in recess and our MP’s office being just across the road will he appear? Should get plenty of publicity this event so unless Gordon needs him I guess he will and a bunch of councillors. Ummmmmmm

Thursday, 25 September 2008

Flat Stanley arrives in Sandwell

I had a lovely letter yesterday from my 8yrs old grandson in America. Thank you Oscar.
Flat Stanley is a character created by Jeff Brown. He apparently gets flattened by a bulletin board. Stanley has a lot of adventures when he is flat. By sending his version of Stanley to me he wants us to show him around and send back some souvenirs. The exercise is to help the children learn about other communities. What a good idea. We’ll be taking Stanley around and sending some souvenirs back.
Any ideas where we might take Stanley? One of our first visits must be to THE PUBLIC next week for “Full of Life Festival”
The picture is Oscars drawing of what he thinks Flat Stanley looks like. Not bad for 8yrs old well done Oscar.
His sister Lola did a similar thing about four years ago so Stanley is welcomed back. We better find some new things for him to do.

Wednesday, 24 September 2008

Parallel Universe

Since I retired I have often thought I am not living on the same planet as most of the younger generation and certainly not the same universe as most of our politicians. Regular readers (both of you) will know I am not a fan of Gordon Brown. I made the mistake yesterday of wanting to give him a fair hearing so I watched his speech on the box. I must say in places I was impressed. I like the way he used his wife to do the introductions and although BBC did not show the video Labour have done a lot of good stuff since they came to power. Sadly they have failed a lot of what should be their core supporters.
The good news I suppose was that the party gave a display of unity which was good. Divided parties don’t win elections and Cameron & Co don’t seem to have any better pensioner friendly policies than Labour are offering at the moment.
Gordon actually mentioned pensioners in his speech which is extremely rare for him. Some of the references though were ambiguous and no doubt will fool some. He mentioned security and dignity in old age which was linked to keeping people in their own homes for longer with care in the community and touched on home owners not having to worry about loosing their home to pay for care but in none of this did he say how or when. He mentioned sales people who do not reveal the product but his references to the above was typical Brown rhetoric which does not endear him (I wouldn’t buy a used car from him). Free prescriptions for cancer sufferers are great but in Scotland and Wales all prescriptions are free. A similar thing with personal care in Scotland. His reference to why he went into politics left me wondering. He said it was to do his best for his country which of course is Scotland. Pensions are to be linked to wages which is very nice. Nothing new here he has been promising that since the Turner Report. This should have been done 10 years ago.
So marks out of ten 5. Do I trust him any more? NO. Will pensioners against Brown continue? Oh yes it will.

Tuesday, 23 September 2008

Sandwell rides rough shod over pensioners

Once again Sandwell Council penalises its older population for getting old.
In what can only be described as another act of pure meanness they have decided to close three Sons of Rest buildings and insist that four more become self funded.
I have reported on this before but I never expected them to finally do the dastardly deed. This is not really a political decision because the three areas mostly affected do have labour councillors but ours is the weakest. The closure will not affect that many people but the way it was done is nothing short of shot gun tactics. No consultation not idea what will happen to the buildings. Presumably they will fall into disrepair become vandalised and an eyesore to the area. Saving will be miniscule.
As far as I know there have been no proper investigations into what other uses these buildings can be put to or indeed how the wider community could get involved and use them when SoR are not. Council tax payers deserve better than this.
Councillor Horton you should be ashamed of yourself as should your cabinet colleagues. You are at least in breach of the spirit if not the letter of the report of the select committee on older people. I’m ashamed of you.
As for the lead officer on this my views on his professionalism are unprintable.
This is not Sandwell’s finest hour.

Sunday, 21 September 2008

Community Forum

I mentioned our local community forum briefly in a couple of posts recently but I thought a more detailed post was necessary.
Ours is run by one man, a retired, community spirited ex councillor who organises it, takes minutes and does follow up letters and actions. The town team type up the minutes for him. I was particularly miffed with our local councillors who want to be seen at these meetings but don’t want to help. The chair pointed out that more people attend our forum than the West Brom town committee.
We have had some sheds broken into recently and our police showed some very positive pro active policing by providing free shed alarms for anyone who wanted them. We had reports from police on crime figures. Education, but this is confined to our local children’s centre and a debate on whether our newly formed academy would eventually have provision for swimming pool.
The Red House in the park of the same name is having a difficult time with the friends group trying to get a resolution on the future of the house. I for one do not feel that this property is of sufficient historical value to warrant spending millions of tax pounds to restore it. I’m afraid I upset the Chair of the Friends group over this. I have in the past tried to help them with advice on how they should get listed status for the park and a proper constitution for the group so that they can apply for funding from a variety of sources. They don’t seems to be listening unless you go along to their meetings which according their chair most councillors don’t.
Usually you get our local councillors who are happy to blame the council for pretty much everything. They are of course in opposition and it is easy because no one from the controlling labour group attend. This time however the newly elected labour bloke for our ward was present and I’m impressed, he’s learning fast and gave several well argued support for items blamed on the council. When it came to offering to do something he was again the only one who did. I had to point out to him his enthusiasm was commendable but one item he was offering to deal with was not on his patch. The councillor who’s patch it was never volunteered to do anything.
Planning items are always contentious with this one being no different. There appears to be a lot of concern and very little knowledge on the part of planning committee members what the new regulations mean. I think they mean it’s a free for all as long as you meet building regulations it’s do as you please.
It’s a big well done Tony who organises these meetings because this must be one of the longest surviving and best attended forums in Sandwell. I feel guilty because I can’t help him with the meetings. One of the most vocal of concerns is usually litter with one of our local pubs being a big offender. I like the labour bloke’s style he offered to visit the landlord that afternoon and get it sorted. Action Man Hosell. It’s a pity the wider electorate don’t see this.

Saturday, 20 September 2008

Isn’t it great when things just work!

Earlier this week I posted (Threes) how things had been going awry recently. The last offending piece of kit being one of my printers. I had to take it back to Staples who sent it off to HP for repair. I was doubtful about their 7-10 days for completion. Well yesterday I was pleasantly surprised to be called and told “your printer is ready Sir” 5days max. What a surprise. All I need to do is persuade Staples to have toilet facilities.
Some minor software changes and a little fault finding online to get it fully operational but better than expected service.
I’m a bit of a gadget man me so I suppose at times things will go wrong big time. Loosing a regular used piece of kit though is like loosing your wheels. I don’t like it. Calm is now restored to BBCB household everything is working as it should. I think!

Friday, 19 September 2008

The man from the PCT

I mentioned in my previous post our local community forum was held yesterday. It was a very interesting and at times fractious meeting.
I suppose there are three very distinct areas in Great Barr and Newton. The area south east of the canal, our bit which is south west and the really posh bit on the north side of the Newton Road.
Oh and yes the man from the PCT came to explain what had happened to our doctor’s surgery.
The really posh bit’s biggest concern seemed to be that the mini bus service on the estate was always speeding. This item along with a lot of others was resolved by asking the chair to write to the bus company. I took along my note book. I don’t need to take notes but I thought it might irritate some councillors and the man from the PCT if I was taking notes. As you can imagine the biggest problem facing our area was the lack of GP services. The man from the PCT gave the standard script which was “the facts” presented to our MP and to myself and our councillors. This despite him knowing there were errors in the information going out. I refer to signage and message service. It seems that the PCT approach is if a doctor or practise manager tell them its fact if the patients tell them its supposition. He used terms like its unfortunate and normal service will be resumed asap but not once did he apologise. The corporate line from Sandwell PCT is: - it’s not our fault guv it’s those nasty people from Heart of Birmingham. If this is true and I doubt it, it’s time the rules were changed in line with the PCT geographically being held accountable. He claimed that we have a perceived view that we do not have sufficient GP cover in our area. Last year a GP closed a surgery and 1200 patients were forced to either go to Birmingham or change doctor. This year 1500 patients are left doctor less or have to traipse half way across Birmingham that is if they can get through on the phone to get an appointment. I wonder what their view of reality is? There’s a great NHS buzz phrase “Patient Centred Care” which is popular amongst labour politicians. Seems to be missing over here in Newton. I pointed out that Sandwell PCT had a clinic at the local church which is only used a few hours a week. This could have been made available to the doctor immediately the surgery was damaged. No one thought of using this asset. I want to know why.
When the dust as settled on this row, heads need to roll, from HOB and Sandwell and I know which one needs to be first and so does he.
I was impressed by our Labour and Lib Dem Councillors who are firmly supporting this campaign. The Tory bloke did his usual look at the ceiling act it’s got nothing to do with them. That side of the canal they have a doctor on almost every street corner. Which is why when the area analyse is done it looks on paper that we have enough cover but because of the way the canal divides our area and the access routes it leaves this side of the canal in effect doctor less.

Thursday, 18 September 2008

Primary health care

I’ve been having my own private battle with my Primary Care Trust over their treatment of our area. We lost a doctor 12 months ago and although initially they said he would be replaced they later claimed they could not fund a new doctor because of the way funding with neighbouring PCT was held. We in Sandwell are supposed to be getting three new surgeries funded by new government money. Now surprise surprise a new surgery is not coming to Great Barr. I want to know why.
We have one surgery which is a branch of a doctor some three miles away in Birmingham. Recently this branch was forced to close without warning because of a failure of heating system which brought down a suspended ceiling The upshot is we now do not have effective GP services in our area.
We were not aware of this until the misses needed to contact the doctor. No message on the answer machine or what to do. A visit to the surgery was no help either because it was locked up and no notice to tell patients what was happening or what to do. I understand there have been queues of patients waiting.
I think it’s time some political pressure was put on our PCT to meet their duty of care. I don’t blame the doctor or his staff because the PCT own the building but they could have dealt with it better. I firmly blame our PCT who despite having had one doctor leave they did not effectively deal with GP services in our area. I have emailed my MP to advise him on what is going on and been in contact with my local councillors. I must say I’m impressed with Dave Hosell who is in touch with the neighbouring PCT who are holding the funds and with Joyce Underhill who is also on the case. I understand Cllr. Hosell is arranging an offer of temporary accommodation at our local leisure centre. Perhaps now we will get the impetus needed to get GP services put on a properly funded basis befitting our needs. My email to the relevant people at our PCT prompted a detailed reply to our MP with a copy to me. Unfortunately the facts were not correct because I had checked a couple of hours earlier. Intriguing, I’m sure there will be much more on this story. We have a local forum this morning where one of the agenda items is health care. I do hope they send the man from the PCT to explain why.

Tuesday, 16 September 2008

200 not out.

If you had told me back in December when I made my first posting on this blog that I would still be doing it 200 posts later I would have laughed at you. But here I am still largely talking to myself. That’s not entirely true from comments I have received and phone calls I have a small but distinguished readership here in Sandwell and beyond. So thank you all for your comments because I suppose that is what we bloggers need, recognition. Until I retired I had never actually written much except for technical stuff and I had never even considered writing poetry or indeed a play, short story or a blog. Come to think of it when I retired there were no such things as blogs. I’m not running out of things to say, in fact I am often spoiled for choice by some of the cranky things that happen during a week. Some of my regular features I hope to continue ie Pensioners Against Brown and I hope to find new regular topics as we progress. My health issues have slowed me somewhat and will continue to do so but when all else fails I can still sit at my computer. So thank you all and keep commenting.

Monday, 15 September 2008


My Mum used to tell me that good and bad news came in threes. This myth also applied to things going wrong in your life. Good old wives tale I suppose but I can tell you it’s a load of crap. In our house at the moment if it’s mechanical or electronic it’s going wrong. I’m not just talking about old stuff but new equipment as well. Problem is it can take an awful long time to sort out. Taking stuff back, getting engineers in, replacing old stuff. I just want to get on with doing what I do. Good example my HP printer which has not done a lot of work suddenly spit out some tiny plastic bits and then refused to accept that it had paper. End of print run and now a trip to West Brom to get it replaced. This was a relatively expensive printer which is only a few months old. The real rub is that if the machine is more than three months old it has to be sent back to the manufacturer for repair. Grrrr do I believe their promise of how long it will take? No

Sunday, 14 September 2008

Smoke alarm

A couple of years ago I had two ten year smoke alarms provided by one of those help the elderly to stay safe schemes. This week-end one of my alarms stared to blast out its warning. I checked my house including the loft only to find nothing amiss. Following the instructions I tried to switch it off. Nothing doing. After awhile I did manage to stop it blasting my eardrums only for it to start again about two hours later. I’m not daft, I thought “I’ll take out the battery”. With this design the battery cannot be disconnected. After several removals of other key parts the thing is still apparently alive. We decided that a replacement was needed and one was duly purchased. I disposed of the old one in the rubbish bin outside. Late evening I saw a couple of my neighbours walking up and down our road trying to find the source of the alarm which had started up again. Removing the offending object from the bin I decided that if a scientific approach to removing the key bits was not working a more practical approach was required so I hit it with a brick. These things are virtually indestructible because even that failed to stop it. Silence eventually prevailed until about 11oclock this morning when, wail, wail, wail, it started again. This time however it is well and truly silenced. I have dismantled all the electronics.
I wonder how many other units of this model have failed in the same way?

Friday, 12 September 2008

Petitions Public Question Time & Such 3

In my post Petitions, Public Question Time and Such on Friday 27th June & Friday 29th August labelled politics and such. I referred to three issues at our last Town Committee meeting. A petition regarding road safety on the busiest stretch of road in our town ( I presented this on behalf of our local neighbourhood watch association) A question concerning transparency with the claims made in political leaflets and a comment about how I thought the leader of the Tories would carry on doing what he does, whatever.
Well last night was our town committee where these issues were responded to. It’s a bit of good news and a lota bad I’m afraid.
My question about Councillors giving reports which had been the subject of such a lovely letter rejecting me completely took a new turn thanks to the Chair. She liked the idea and asked for volunteer councillors to come to the next meeting and tell the assembled crowd what they actually do. One of the volunteers is a cabinet member and the other none less than my old friend the leader of the Tories. The issues about big fibs on political leaflets can apparently be referred to a scrutiny committee. I might just do that next time. It may just be enough to keep the next whopper of a leaflet and help keep campaigning by the other partieson a level playing field.

The road safety petition got kicked into the long grass of a Red Route enquiry which yippy we were told would start a consultation process late 2008 or early 2009. This almost certainly means NO TRAFFIC lights. The lead officer though made it sound like all is well we are listening. The words in the report and in the press take suggest though that that is not so.

Oh and the other issue the Tory leader carries on just as I said but I do look forward to his report at the next meeting.

Thursday, 11 September 2008

The Cabinet in Brum

Is this the real world? I better be careful in writing this post because it is impossible for any pensioners I suspect in mentioning Gordon Brown in a sentence without real anger creeping in. And it’s not just pensioners who are feeling the pain.
I wonder how much this PR exercise of bringing the gravy train hunch bunch to brum cost? And why? I don’t believe any of that propaganda that they have been putting out this week.
The PM and his cabinet must have been told to “smile and look happy” a lot more because this week I am sick of seeing their happy little faces leering at me from my newspaper headlines. I want to see them suffering like the rest of us. We had a lovely picture of Brown laughing his head off before the cabinet meeting. What was the joke I wonder? Was it something like! “I seem to have got away with that one they are starting to believe I’m the only bloke in labour who can understand what is happening in the world and lead this country” We had the headline “I’m listening” followed by we feel your pain etc etc. but every time we see him lately he’s grinning like a Cheshire cat along with his senior cabinet colleagues who are probably thinking “am I keeping my job” It might be better if they were thinking “ how the hell do we get rid of this nutter before he bankrupts the country".
I wait in eager anticipation for a policy announcement that is going to really help me and my family over this winter. There is some glimmer of hope though in that I think some of the policies on helping people faced with loosing their homes might help but I can’t help but feel it’s too little and too late. Why have they not done more on energy prices. We can all help to get our household bills down but to do it requires investment which most low income families and pensioners can’t afford to do. The so called deal with the energy companies is not new money and I have reported on the sham that is the “no hot water" requirement before a new boiler can be fitted”. This real world they keep mentioning is a long way from the ICC and Jaguar Cars. John Denham did a good job Tuesday evening in feebly defending his boss’s policies and trying to assure us GB is the only bloke for the job. Now let me think who has the smallest majority of all the cabinet members? Am I being too hard on Gordon??? No, did anger show in my post?, well just a little, is there a lot more bottled up? Oh yes there is.
Gordon as to ~GO~