Friday, 29 February 2008

I’m hearing rumours.

With only two months to go before our local elections the parties are by now starting to choose their candidates. I’m hearing that labour have chosen the wife of our newly elected councillor to contest the seat on their behalf. This is another smart piece of thinking on behalf of the labour group because in Newton we have a history of voting for husband and wife teams and with the name being foremost in the minds of people, now our new councillor is finding his feet and getting things done it’s got to be a good choice. I know Shirley and I’m sure she will make an excellent councillor if she is elected. But will the electorate agree? And who will the other parties select to contest the seat? If they would like to email me I’d be delighted to publish it on my blog. I won’t hold my breath. We can I suppose expect to see some of the early leaflets Focus 270? Labour Rose, not the Tories they usually only put one out. I’ll perhaps give a write up on what I see as main issues concerning our ward with urgent next year and low priority ratings. The Hosells will no doubt have Saatchi and Saatchi or Alistair on the editorial team. I’ll write them for any of the candidates for an enormous fee.
Have laptop will travel. Will it be as I predicted earlier Hosell V Underhill?

Thursday, 28 February 2008

4 d cyba kids

Hello Lola, Oscar, Freddie & Hippy. Put down your guitars, flute and close the piano put away the karate suits, pompoms and basket ball kits take five minutes from your busy lives and text Granddad. how r u im rite in this bit in txt again so u can un stan it. Can u do me a pic to match mine. I will only show if you want me to luv grd. Tanks for d txt so far dey is good

Wednesday, 27 February 2008

I’ll retire to spend more time with my blog

When I retired some seven years ago I knew I wanted to do some voluntary work in and for my community but had no real idea what it was I wanted to do. Blogs of course were still in their infancy and I had never heard of them. I need not have worried though because once I started to get around and look for things to do the offers (that’s not quite the right word) came rolling in and very soon Pat & I were very busy. Since then I have had two new part time careers championing older people’s issues around West Brom and despite some health concerns for both of us we are still busier than ever and have no plans to change this situation. Being retired has allowed us to develop new interests and skills. Pat has become a very talented artist and I have been able to champion some of the wrongs that I see in the world about me. Things like the introduction of car parking charges for blue badge holders at our local hospital and of course cleaning up Sandwell. I have campaigned for better pensions for all, removal of the despised means tested benefit brought in by Gordon Brown and much more. When I came to write this bit I realised there was a long list of issues I have taken up over the course of that time. I suppose in some ways I have become a pain in the ass to some of our local service providers, our MP, some local councillors and council officers and I intend to continue to be that pain whenever they fail in their duty to our community. A classic example I suppose is our current campaign to get a clinic for Great Barr & Newton. Our PCT probably think we have gone away on this one but, Oh No We Haven’t.
My editor in chief, better known as my wife, sometimes reads the blog and although she still thinks I’m barking mad "talking to myself" largely approves.

Tuesday, 26 February 2008

Some good news for Sandwell residents, well for most of us.

Recently there have been two what I see as good news reports in our local press. A lady was fined 165 quid for dropping a cigarette end in West Brom. It would have been fixed 75 quid but she claimed she couldn’t pay and it went to court. The second was a guy given a fixed 75quid penalty for walking his dog in a cemetery. Not only were these people named and shamed but their pictures appeared in the local evening paper. I don’t want to go into their excuses but to give a big well done to the Express & Star for publishing the stories and to our neighbourhood wardens for getting the result and the publicity. I’ve nothing against dogs or dog owners parse only when they are irresponsible with their pets. Litter though is one of those things that can really get my heckles up because I just cannot understand the mind set of the litterers. I tacked a bloke in Hamstead village one day about dropping a paper bag, only to be severely reprimanded later by my wife who reminded me he was about six inches taller than me, a lot younger and a couple of stone heavier. I never considered the risk I only saw the offence. He picked up the bag, then dropped it again followed by a barrage of four letter expletives with me following him telling him he should be ashamed of himself. Sadly I ended up putting the offending bag in the bin.

Monday, 25 February 2008

Bloggers view two

Thought I would have a change of image. I hope you like it. The old pink background did not work for me and to be honest the picture of yours truly was not that good. The view of Sandwell Valley is just a few minutes walk from my house. I suppose in many ways we are lucky to have such a wonderful facility right on our door step. Although we have a motorway and railway running through the valley it does not distract from its beauty. I am hearing that there is talk that wind turbines are to be erected in the valley. I do hope that this is just idle gossip because that would get the locals hopping mad. On the other side of our ward we have red House Park which is constantly the subject of conjecture over its future and that of the Red House which is now vandal hit and in need of repair. I challenged the candidates at our bye election to give commitment to getting an answer on the future of the park. No such commitment was forthcoming. A worrying scenario I think.

Sunday, 24 February 2008

A bloggers view

From the window at my office from home which was my youngest daughters bedroom. I can see a green area which stretches across mine and five other properties. From my property boundary to the road it is council property and should be maintained by them. Over the years my wife and I have adopted the area in front of our home and in later years our neighbours have done the same, We collectively cut the grass and generally care for the site. When a tree died Sandwell did not have a budget to replace it and we replaced it with an oak I had nurtured from an acorn. We have planted shrubs, wild flowers and bulbs which make it a very pretty place throughout the year. This year the daffodils do not appear to be doing well but I was reminded of a few years ago when we had an exceptional crop that flowered just before Mothers day. When I went to look at the front garden on Mothering Sunday the whole lot had disappeared. Some Mom had a very special bunch of daffs that year. Our oak is now a strong sapling surrounded by orange crocus and I have to say since my doggy poster appeared on the hedge in front of my house not a doggy poop anywhere.
I wonder if we can get a council tax refund for cutting the grass, litter picking, sweeping the pavements etc.? I won’t hold my breath.

Thursday, 21 February 2008

Meals on wheels go into orbit

Last night our local newspaper reported that Sandwell Council’s Adult Services & Health committee had unanimously approved a massive 30% increase in charges for meals on wheels. Quite rightly some local people are disgusted by this decision and so am I. Last May Sandwell Council adopted a report from a select committee it had formed to consider the needs of older people in the borough. I gave evidence to this select committee. The philosophy behind the report was that all older people should be able to live, safe, dignified and fulfilled lives. There was a lot about reducing poverty and providing help when it was needed. A strategy document call Living Well in Later Life underpinned the select committee report and an Older Peoples Partnership Board is being formed to monitor what should be happening as the strategy unfolds.
If the newspaper report is correct it would appear from this decision that either the Adult Services & Health committee have not read the report or have ignored its findings.
There as also been discussion documents from the local government association called All Our Tomorrows which this decision seems to fly in the face of. I hope the Partnership Board will take this matter seriously and censure the committee to get this decision reversed. In the meantime I am calling on my Councillor to lobby to get this appalling decision reversed and I am calling for this uncaring committee and the officers who advise it to resign.
A 30% increase on meals after a 15% increase in fuel costs with only a 2.1% increase in pensions is an absolute disgrace. Where do they think the extra money is going to come from? It only affects 495 of the most vulnerable people in Sandwell. Shame on you.

Wednesday, 20 February 2008

4 d grd kids

Hi lola, oscar fred and ? how is ya Im getin the ang o dis texin I tink

I am going to try to include a regular spot for you guys because I know the Americans are quite good at it but the brits are still a little behind. Eldest grandson is waiting for results of 11+ so I guess a little pre occupied hence no nickname for him yet and why I called him ? So over to you lot I wont publish the comments unless you want me to.

Nan sez hi n tex her on d mob

Tuesday, 19 February 2008

The Prime Minister, council tax and pensioners.

Yesterday Bruiser Brown and hapless Alistair were trying to sell the idea of nationalising Northern Rock to a somewhat hostile press in Downing Street. All very interesting stuff. For almost the full length of the BBC News 24 broadcast the ticker tape announcing breaking news was reporting a pensioner from Norfolk being sent to prison because he couldn’t afford to pay his council tax. I wonder if Bruiser saw this and if so how many more pensioners need to spend time in jail before he realises how unfair this tax is to pensioners.
I’m sure we are going to hear a lot more about this. In the meantime I think I’ll start up my PAB campaign again.

Monday, 18 February 2008

Local elections the thank you notes

It’s been a month since our bye election and the thank you notes are appearing through the letter box. First to show was the Lib dems with Focus 269 thanking us for voting and stressing they will continue to provide an all year round service and pushing their candidate in a subtle way for May election proper. Slight mistake, when they forgot to put in their voting numbers and had to pencil them in afterwards. Labour followed with a slick little thank you card from our new councillor. Dave is learning fast. Headline “Got a problem” Tell Dave and Shirley. What’s the betting it’s Hosell V Underhill in May? Dave’s card is really clever because he distances himself from Labour and pushes his name. That’s got to be a vote winner. Clever understates this card, brilliant is more like it. Who is writing his material these days? Saatchi & Saatchi or Alistair Campbell? Whoever it is is getting it right. Well done to team Hosell. If this is round one I’ll give it you on points.
I don’t expect to see any further correspondence from the Tories they don’t usually bother and the Greens, well, on their showing who cares?
I think if the standard of material produced for these thank you notes is repeated in May it will be a very close race. I better start re programming my guesstimometer. Will the Tories and Greens bother? I intend to do another Bonus and Banana Skins game about three weeks before Election Day.

Sunday, 17 February 2008

An ASBO for Sandwell?

I have been thinking about my earlier post (The System 3 Residents 0 )and my concerns after our community forum meeting. One of the buildings referred to is a local authority project. If the revelations claimed are true and the planning laws are such that they can in effect get planning permission for a bungalow and then build a block of flats its time the law was changed in favour of the residents. If my local MP should by chance read this blog how about leading a campaign to get the law changed? There are a lot of votes over here in Newton on planning issues. In the meantime the behaviour of the developers is just as bad as any yob who whose behaviour affects peoples lives so I am awarding the first citizens ASBO to Sandwell MBC it’s officers and councillors.
I don’t suppose for one minute they will take the slightest bit of notice but I feel much better.

Saturday, 16 February 2008

The system 3 Residents 0

On Thursday we went along to our local residents’ community forum. This is usually attended by a mix of our local councillors and concerned residents. Agenda includes police report, planning issues, education and young people and health issues. Yesterday the Tories had a table of their own with three councillors present sat in a line. Lib Dem councillor sat at the back and gave apologies for other members. Labour bloke asked me to give his apology.
The planning issues part of the agenda thru up some alarming news if what was claimed is true. It is claimed that two significant building projects in our ward do not meet with the approved plans. Residents have complained about the adverse effect these changes are having on their lives. The Tories insisted that nothing could be done despite my wife pointing out that private residents dare not stray from a plan. We were told the planners are not responsible to anyone.
A concern from a resident that a newsagent and off license is to opened in an area that it is alleged is a hot spot for underage consumption of alcohol. It was claimed that no planning permission had been given and no advisory notices published locally. We were told that this had been approved under what are termed discretionary powers and as it was only a change of use no planning permission was required. “ Get up a petition is what you need to do” One councillor claimed he could not help because he is on the planning committee another because she was on licensing committee and another said he would receive the petition but no guidance on the best way to go about it to ensure success.
The real body blow though was from the man from our PCT who advised us that they were not going to replace the doctor who had closed his branch surgery. This was despite reassurances in the past that he would be replaced. My wife had done some research into the project timings for a clinic which as also been promised for our ward. She identified that despite having written confirmation on the start date the project had slipped by two years. Yes I know said the man it’s all in the plan. When will we be getting our clinic I said? It is now alleged that a date as yet to be fixed. 2011? 2012? Sometime never?
The real tragedy here though is that not one of our councillors challenged this slippage or indeed showed any interest in the position with our clinic.
Remind me again! Why do we need councillors?

Wednesday, 13 February 2008

Culture for kids.

The government announced plans today to introduce culture into the schools curriculum. When I was a kid this would have been frowned upon. We were lucky if we got to the kids matinee on a Saturday morning. My wife and I though always felt that culture was an important part of life and subsequently introduced our kids to many cultural activities. We have also tried to do the same with our grandchildren. For a birthday treat for us the whole family went to the opera in Birmingham. Eldest granddaughter age twelve grandson aged eleven, mom, dad and us. I took the time to research the synopsis and explain to them the story line. At the end of the show I enquired how they enjoyed it. Granddaughter- “don’t they take a long time to die in opera” grandson- “why couldn’t she have died in the second act and we could have all gone home early, great dinner though granddad”. We got a much more enthusiastic response after Fred Clause at Christmas. We clearly have a lot to do.

Bus passes resolution or is it?

Local evening newspaper had a report on this yesterday. It seems Centro the organisation that is West Mids Passenger Transport Authority are concerned that thousands of us have not applied for our new passes. They listed a phone number in the article which I subsequently rang. The number charges you, does not answer and then cuts you off. I tried their web site and got the following info which I think satisfies our concerns. Web site lists the same phone number.
What is the English National Concessionary Travel Scheme?
It is a new scheme which is to be introduced by the government from 1st April 2008 giving all Senior Citizens and eligible people with a disability free travel, on bus only, between the hours of 9.30am to 11.00pm Monday to Friday and all day Saturday, Sunday and Bank Holidays anywhere in England. Please note that this concession does not include coach services.
If you are a resident of one of the seven districts of the West Midlands County (Birmingham, Coventry, Dudley, Sandwell, Solihull, Walsall or Wolverhampton), you will also be able to travel free on Ring & Ride and rail and Metro services within the Network West Midlands area until the end of daytime service.
I’ll tell my mates but continue to monitor. Why are we so distrusting of our local services providers?

Tuesday, 12 February 2008

The texting laureate

I got to thinking about texting and how a couple of my grandkids had used by blog in text format to communicate with me. If I could encourage the others to do the same it would be good. Unfortunately when I rang the eldest grandson yesterday he said “sorry grand I’m at a sleep over can’t talk bye” and put the phone down, it’s pretty clear where I stand in his order of priorities. Texting though seems to be the way to go. Being a bit of a poet I got to thinking about writing a poem in text just for them well here goes.

Texin 4 dumys this cld b fun
2 tlk 2 my grd daughters + grd son
They don’t spk English the way I do
But som of d lingo do come thru
D tings dey do keep dem on de go
To talk to der grd dad I don’t no
I no dey rite poems and they nt bad
So cum on u lot do a poem 4 grdad
In tex o corse hav yor say
Or nex time del be hel to pay

The first ever published poem in text! Or is it?

Monday, 11 February 2008

Bus passes II

There might be something in my earlier post on travel passes. I have been doing a little research and it appears that the new CBT Act (Concessionary Bus Travel Act) which comes into force on 1st April will help many people. But! It sets out minimum requirements; there is no requirement for local authorities who at present provide services above the minimum to continue to do so. Without a statement from West Midlands local authorities we should be vigilant. I know with my own local authority that pensioners are distrusting of their motives. So if you hear of any changes to our scheme please post it here. I will be monitoring it and lobbying my councillors.

Saturday, 9 February 2008

Pensioners’ concessionary travel

I’m hearing rumours that the new national travel pass scheme for us seniors might not be what we thought it was going to be. Our dearly beloved Prime Minister in one of his last acts has chancellor announced an improved scheme for pensioners across England. This scheme was heralded by Better Government for Older People, The National Pensioners Convention and a few other bodies as being a big improvement. I suppose for many it will be but I am hearing that here in the West Mids where we have an excellent scheme which gives us access to free travel on trains and metro system; we may be in danger of loosing free trains and metro travel. One union I am advised is telling its pensioner members to be vigilant and hold onto their existing passes when the new ones arrive in March. I hope this is not true but if it is I predict our Midlands MPs and mine in particular will get a rough ride leading to the next election. Better get a repeat prescription for my blood pressure pills, my banners prepared and chants rehearsed. How about for starters “hands of my travel pass you stingy ass” I’ll do better given a little more time. Watch this blog for updates on this story.

Friday, 8 February 2008

Poop! read all about it

I swear our local dogs can read. Since the posting of my notice not a single blob anywhere. I have surprisingly been asked for copies of the poster for display in other areas of our ward. I better start making a modest charge for this service. It got me thinking though how difficult it is for the wardens to actually catch the perpetrators in the act. It took a long time and some heated debate before the council got this far so I shudder to think what the following suggestion will do. If the emphasis was changed so that the dog walker had to prove they were carrying facilities to clean up after their pet and the warden had the power to request to see this evidence then if no evidence was available the fine was administered. We would see a completely different picture. So come on councillors let’s get the bye law changed and really get our borough cleaned up. Paws here from telling the tail (if you will pardon the pun). This blog doesn’t get any better. Latest on the perpetrator it is a Golden Lab.
I wonder which party will have this suggestion in their manifesto first. This could go national. It’s a break though from the rest of the crap in the news.

Thursday, 7 February 2008

doggy poop III

After thinking about my earlier post I decided that it was a good idea to appeal to the dogs and I have put up the following notice outside my house. This should get interesting. I'll post the results.

Dog poop the sequel

Last night was the regular meeting of our neighbourhood tasking forum. This is the platform where residents can bring concerns to our town coordinator, neighbourhood manager and the police. The forum covers all residents in our ward. These events are not usually well attended and last night was no exception. By the time it was over I was thoroughly depressed. Too many items still outstanding from last time and loads more genuine concerns to add to the list. My wife has a way of interjecting at crucial times with practical suggestions and ideas. Last night without warning she raised the dog poop issue and asked if we could display a warning notice on our property addressed to the dogs because clearly many of the owners cannot read. This humour was lost on most of the audience except the town coordinator who could see why and to his credit offered to look into it. A couple of years back I did a poem on similar lines which was published in our local free paper. The depths us amateur poets have stoop to get stuff published. Anyway I thought I would publish it again here, I hope you enjoy.

Dear Dogs,
Hello, Fred, Spot, Zoe and Rover,
are you a dog with an irresponsible owner?
Do you run free, bark and whoop?
does your owner have a poopa scoop?
I thought not because they don’t care
but to kids in the park it’s not very fair.
Your mess you see can make folks sick,
so could you please their conscience prick?
Next time you go for your walk in the park.
if they’ve got no scoop, please start to bark.
Or better still be a good dog,
stay at home and do it on the bog.

whuff whuff.

Wednesday, 6 February 2008

Txtin 4 dumis 2

Our local evening newspaper ran a piece last night on texting. With the headline “Sub-text of youth’s new language” When I read the headline I thought they must be reading the blog. It appears some phones have a predictive text facility but some youngsters use the first word that comes up. Usual high standard of reporting from Express & Star with a list of words that the user might enter and what you might get. Things like book for cool now how on earth are you supposed to figure that out. And I thought I was getting the hang of it. Back to the drawing board Bob or is the keyboard?

Tuesday, 5 February 2008

Dog poop is back

Nothing is more likely to put me in Victor Meldrew mode than irresponsible dog owners who do not clean up after their pets. At the front of my house is a grassed area with some bushes and trees which is a very pleasant outlook. Since the introduction of fixed penalty fines and the introduction of some other council initiatives we have been dog mess free for several years. Recently I have noticed our front drive as become a doggy bog once again. Because of the way our house is situated we would not normally see out the front of the house, so the perpetrators can get away with.
Some years ago my wife caught one of the dog owners in the act so to speak and promptly told him off. The wayward fellow dared to suggest that we were not animal lovers. This comment enraged my wife who promptly verbally attacked this owner and followed him to his home finger wagging and giving him a good ear full.
I might have to monitor our driveway to catch the culprit and name and shame him/her on the blog.

Monday, 4 February 2008

hav I fnd d way?

To communicate with my grandkids.
And I thought I was alone in thinking that texting for dummies was unique to me. I did a google search and there are plenty of us who appear to be in the same position.
Try this link my thanks to "all info about” For the following list of useful text abbreviations I don’t think my grandkids read the list though.

Text messaging shortcuts

Abbreviation Meaning
<3 heart
404 I haven't a clue
ADN Any day now
AFAIK As far as I know
AFK Away from keyboard
ARE Acronym-rich environment
ASAP As soon as possible

There about three pages of this, so well done to them.
Just to add to the complication eldest American grandchild tells me her mobile puts some of the words in when you enter the first letter. And I was just getting the hang of this. I still don't think they think their grandad is cool about this blogging stuff.

Sunday, 3 February 2008

Texting for dummies

I don’t speak the same language as my grandkids. They were born and brought up in Brum but they have developed a new language all of their own and their mates of course. I refer to the use of mobile phones and in particular the way that they text me. Hw R U is OK ,got it, no probs there but the text are now so complex I take longer to try to work out what they are saying than the message itself. This method if writing is now spreading to emails so I recognise I better learn it fast. I was just wondering if anyone had written a book on what these abbreviations were and what they meant. It might be a good project for me, should keep me quiet for a couple of years.
I’m no dummy when it comes to the use of new technology and in fact taught them their early skills in the use of computers. Now when I ask for help I get the “oh must I look” a quick run over the keyboard,if I’m lucky, and if I should dare to ask to show me again I get the impression I am some kind of sub being who should no better than to ask. Such is progress.
Se ya lt8r ad n al Where’s that dictionary texting for dummies by btbcbrmy?

Friday, 1 February 2008

Pensioner power! I luv it.

Last night was the regular meeting of our town committee. This is usually a civilised affair with a few councillors a couple of dozen members of the public and a few council officers. Last night though it was standing room only. I was late getting there and all I could see was rows of elderly people listening to a petition being read out eloquently by one of our senior councillors. It appears that a bus company has without consultation removed a bus service to one of the most deprived neighbourhoods in Sandwell. This action as in effect cut off the residents better than a 6ft. snow fall. The chair who I know was doing her best to move the meeting on but the old folk were having none of it. It was good to see Age Concern being there to advocate on their behalf. Eventually the residents succumbed and left the meeting after being given assurances that everything would be done to get their bus service replaced. I’d like to bet that this happens pretty quickly because there’s nothing like a bunch of pensioners who are angry about an injustice. I also think our MP’s surgery is likely to be pretty busy next Friday and Saturday.
Our new councillor was there doing his bit and raising one or two very important issues our Lib Dem councillors though were absent. These were the party who only a little over a week ago were telling the electorate they were strong voice on the council. No voice last night.