Wednesday, 30 December 2009

I remember

A couple of weeks ago I published a poem from St. Bernard’s Hamstead church magazine. I mentioned at that time I had written a poem in a similar vane. The following poem was written in 2007 and inspired by a poetry workshop run by Poetry Wednesbury. What I wrote (sorry Erne) on the night was second rate but a few days later I came up with this version. I hope you like it.

I remember!
I remember when chips were tuppence a bag
and the News Chronicle was the daily rag.
Adolf’s air force bombed our town
and lots of houses came tumbling down.
We played on the bomb peck in all the rubble
And very often got into loads of trouble.
Pig bins were common with an awful smell
Recycled food for dogs, cats and tramps as well.

I remember my trousers ragged and torn
Mom shaking her head and looking forlorn.
Charity boots from the Daily mail
they were given out free and not for sale.
The boots were too big by a size and more
For the first few days my feet were so sore
“Yo’ll grow into um” my Mum explained to me
When your feet hurt that’s hard to see.

School dinners were wholesome and also free,
they kept us nourished my brother and me.
Marked with an F my ticket cried shame
We stood in line we weren’t to blame.
Dinner ladies in white with spoons of wood
“have some cabbage it’ll do you good”
Lumpy custard, treacle pud or rice
Our meals were cheap at half the price.

I remember the loo at the top of our yard
with newspaper wipes that were ever so hard.
You never lingered on our bog
Especially on cold nights or in a fog
You often went with hesitation
But none of suffered with constipation.

The cold at night when we said a prayer
the faces around all in despair.
Fire in our grate when we were ill
No Doctor to come with a magic pill
I remember the cock roaches under the stair
And lying bed thinking this aint fair
The room was filled with the sweet smell of pee,
From the chamber pot that you couldn’t see.
Lumpy mattress and cold floor,
Oh yes I remember and lots more.

Sunday, 27 December 2009

Christmas cheer

It has become a family tradition over the last few years (I haven’t been counting) since the English grandkids stopped believing in Santa. The whole family go to the cinema on Christmas Eve. Our grandkids usually choose the film. This year they chose the Disney version of Christmas Carol. I was much impressed by the standard of animation achieved throughout the film. Storey line followed Dickens book well and great special effects. Not bad value for money either at 4 quid for us wrinklies. The cost of pop corn though is scandalous at £3.75 a pot is disgraceful. I guess you’re wondering why I’m rabbiting on about this. Well about ten days earlier the misses & I went along to the Repertory theatre to see their version of the same book. I was much impressed and I think live theatre won hands down. The cost though was more than double the cinema. When I mentioned that I thought the Rep version was better the rest of the family looked at me with total incredulity. Granddad has finally gone of his rocker.
“Oh no he hasn’t”.
I bet the first comment is “Oh yes he has”. I used to like it when the little uns were little and we could go to the panto.

Thursday, 24 December 2009

Happy Christmas & such

A very Happy Christmas to all my regular readers.
Not very original that is it but sincerely meant.
I think perhaps I ought to review a few of the campaigns I’m working on seeing as it’s almost the end of the year.

Clinic, this is not looking good at this time. The PCT are playing their usual game of perhaps, maybe, never. They were supposed to let me know the date time and venue of the board meeting when our clinic was to be discussed but true to form no info yet. We were told the meeting was end of January but I’m hearing 11th of January is more likely. The questions remain, why does it need to be discussed behind closed doors? Why will they not release artist’s drawings to the press and why are they coy over date and time? The action group are discussing tactics.

Smoking at Sandwell Hospital. PALS got back to me to assure me they are trying to move this complaint forward. They have apparently had other complaints. I gave them some practical suggestions on how this might be tackled. 1) New larger posters around all entrances.
2) The Sandwell stop smoking banners displayed inside the hospital with leaflets on help available.
3) The areas need to be manned from time to time handing out the leaflets. If these fail then policing of the areas with some form of penalty applied. I think 1 & 2 will be enough but why the chief exec would not even consider such basic approaches is a mystery to me. If PALS approach does not work then its letters to Chair of trust and the strategic health authority.

West Midlands Travel. Surprise surprise these folks have not yet acknowledged my complaint. I’m sure this will run on for awhile. I’m not sure but I think a criminal offence was committed here so maybe if they do not action it satisfactorily I might have to bring in the cops. With other problems I have witnessed on No16 route maybe the franchise for this company needs to be reviewed.

What was it Churchill said “the way that evil can prosper is for good men to do nothing”? For us it is not evil as such just incompetence. I don’t intend to sit back and do nothing.

Tuesday, 22 December 2009

Bus drivers grrrrrrrrrrrrr

Well, West Mids Travel being the chief source of my present frustration. Warning this is likely to become a bit of a rant. The wife and I went into Birmingham on Sunday to meet up with some mates for a coffee and seasonal chat. We took the No16 bus from Hamstead terminus. You would think that seeing an old bloke having difficulty getting on and using a walking stick would register in the brain of the driver to take a little care. Not so this knuckle head. I think he might have sadist macho tendencies. As soon as I was on the bus he started to move off throwing me against the stairwell bulkhead. Although I shouted he ignored me and carried on until he was required to stop to pick up other passengers. I then managed to get to my seat but now in some pain. The rest of the journey was; how can I put it? Eventful. He drove as if it was a formula 1 instead of a double decked bus taking islands far to fast and breaking hard. I had to hold onto my seat. The final humiliation was when he drove past our selected stop. When he finally stopped I was about to remonstrate with him but my tame rockwiller (the misses) stomped off and set about him verbally. I felt quite sorry for the bloke because he protested that they (West Mids Travel) did not stop there any longer. He ignored all the other complaints against his driving. Folks could not get on or off his bus whilst we held court over our journey. He was correct about stopping places but WM Travel has not notified customers of the new arrangements. We had a long walk to get to our destination which was not good for me. Apparently Diamond buses do stop there and we used their service on the way back. What a difference, polite driver who waited for us, waited until I was comfortably seated before moving of fand drove carefully all the way back. I have written to WMT about their driver because he is in need of some serious re-training before he either badly injures or maybe kills someone. They also need a company wide training package in customer care. His actions spoiled my day and left me in considerable pain in the late afternoon.
My advice to local residents “Go Diamond” we will be using this service again.

Monday, 21 December 2009

Nice doggy poem

The poem was written by Dorothy Gray and appears in the 1984 Friendship Book. It came to me via our local church St. Bernard’s magazine. I’m very fond of poetry but not so fond of irresponsible dog owners but I have to say in the main they are behaving themselves locally these days. Not so the litter louts who have left their evidence recently. More on that later.

Friday, 18 December 2009


I was getting ready to go to the theatre when the misses came into the bedroom and said “you’re not taking me out looking like that” I protested that there was nothing wrong with my trousers they were casual. After a brief discussion which the wife won by stating that I could make a dinner suit look casual these days. I changed my pants to a pair she approved of. This post has been approved by my editor in chief.

Thursday, 17 December 2009

Smoking at Sandwell Hospital again

I had to go to the hospital yesterday for my regular poison fix. I was feeling a lot better, that is until I got to the main entrance to check in for my treatment. The smokers were there puffing away and ignoring the signs. They smoke in packs it’s a sort of mating ritual. I had had enough. There was a small group at one entrance a lady on her own not far away. Big brave Bob chose the lady, well easiest route I thought. The conversation went something like this.
BBCB excuse me Ma but this is a no smoking area would you please put your cigarette out.
Smoker (S) uh ya what
BBCB would you please put out your cigarette this is a no smoking area I have to go to the hospital for treatment and I do not want to breath your second-hand smoke.
By now the small group had moved off and were looking at the heavens for divine guidance.
S do you buy these she said pointing to her lit cigarette.
BBCB No Ma and I do not want to breath your second hand smoke.
S then mind your own business.
Clearly I was getting nowhere. She did however move away from the door so that we could enter without further conflict.
I complained at reception who said it’s not our job and it’s not securities either go around the corner to PALS.
Which of course I did once I had reported in to the ward to get my drugs.
I gave them my details and they assured me it would be followed up. Apparently they have a lot of complaints but if they had more something might get done.
I will wait with great interest to see what does happen.
Mr Adler if you think Bob the Black Country Brummie was going to go away with a pat on the head you are so wrong.
On the way out there was another group puffing away. My minder the misses whispered “don’t even think about it”

Wednesday, 16 December 2009

Copenhagen two too

Since having the electricity monitor fitted some interesting facts have been revealed to us. Firstly how expensive it is to use an electric kettle. New policy in BBCB household is now to only fill the kettle for what we need and switch it off when it boils. Don’t wait for it to switch off automatically. Secondly the dishwasher although ours is an A rated machine it’s still greedy. We now only use it every other day, washing up by hand the odd few items that the new policy does not cover.
Best idea I’ve heard though is youngest daughter who has introduced a ban on using her dishwasher if the grandchildren leave unnecessary lights on around the house. They are instead made to wash up by hand. Strangely enough I have not heard any complaints about this policy. Perhaps they are at last turning off unnecessary light. More likely they’re blaming Dad.
Any other ideas? I like the idea of saving money whilst saving the planet.

Monday, 14 December 2009

I know they're in there somewhere

And we thought it was the squirrels. Neighbours cat caught in the act. Better get the lid off first.
For those interest the moggy is called Dusty.

Sunday, 13 December 2009

Councillor switches on Christmas lights.

I know it’s not the town centre or town hall but our lights are just as important to us. Since my kids were little we have always had a small but tasteful display of Christmas lights around our house. The grandkids have done the honours of officially switching them on but now they are both teenagers they were not interested this year. We needed to find a local celebrity to do the honours. I wouldn’t call our local councillor a celebrity exactly but he did help us to put up the lights so I felt he was the right person to do the switch on honours. I hope you like the display. Seems in a way to contradict the climate change argument but I do my bit for eleven and a half months a year so I’m going to enjoy Christmas. And thank you David a) for getting the lights on the tree and b) for doing the honours. This year they are the best lights in the road. My friend Barry used to do a tasteful display and we are missing his contribution.
American granddaughter who when I told her her cousins would not switch on our lights this year suggested I ask “that bloke with the big necklace”. She had met our Lord Mayor on her last visit couldn’t remember what we called him but remembered he went around starting walks and switching on lights. Nice one lola.
Apologies for the poor quality of picture 1 I have no idea what went wrong.

Saturday, 12 December 2009

Happy birthday Bob's Blog

It’s been two years today that I made my first post. Since that time I’ve made to date 470 posts with I hope not repeating myself to often. I’ve made some new friends via the site and had the opinions of lots of folk on some of the things I’ve said. Not all of them have been complimentary. I have only had one offensive comment which never got published. My first comment was a week after my first post and from a friend who I had no idea used google. What surprised me most was the international interest in the site with 56 countries visiting since end of May.
I have used the site to promote our fight for better health facilities in our area and I intend to continue with this. Local newspaper picked up on the clinic campaign form reading the blog.
The down side is that I started the blog just after being diagnosed with the condition I have to live with and probably die from. I have tried to report on my feelings and concerns at times but without making it an overriding aspect of my life. I’m not about to give in although at times life is getting more difficult.
Many happy returns Bob’s blog

Friday, 11 December 2009


A couple of weeks ago I posted on my involvement with a political leaflet I had helped design for our local labour councillor. At the time I mentioned how pleased I was with the design and how pleased the Councillor concerned was. I am now happy to be able to publish the front page. I hope you like it. Distribution around the ward will begin early next week.
The back page ends with my catch phrase: - keeping his promises, no outrageous claims and no knocking the opposition.
To enlarge the image double click on it.

Tuesday, 8 December 2009


56 different countries have visited this blog since end of May 2009 when I introduced flag counter. That is roughly a quarter of the nations attending the climate change conference. If all of us make a small contribution to this then we will have done our bit. I am firmly of the belief that it is man who is causing the changes on the scale we see today. One of the biggest affronts to our climate was when George Bush refused to sign up to Kyoto and his expansion of dirty fuels during his early years of office. We all now have a chance to put things right including the Americans. About ten years ago I got teased by my American family for trying to get them to use energy saving light bulbs. It’s still a bit of a problem but they have moved in the right direction.
Just to make sure we were doing our bit we invited the local Warmfront charity to come around and check us out. We are apparently doing it more or less right. Any new savings would have to come from some big investment in new kit such as new double glazing with wider gap or a solar panel on the roof. As there is no grants for any of this it is not likely to get done. They fitted us with an electricity monitoring devise and I have ordered a smart meter from British Gas. The monitoring tool is making us more aware of when our usage is high and how much devises are costing in units of electricity terms.
Eldest granddaughter was doing a project at my house the other night on saving the planet. She knew exactly what was required and very happy with her project until I pointed out she had every light on upstairs in my house when she only needed one. Use the finger I indicated but I had to go around switching off the lights.
What I’m trying to say but not very well is that we all have to do our bit if we are to save the planet for our grandchildren and great grandchildren.
I wish them well with their deliberations in Copenhagen and “switch it off” Freddie.

Monday, 7 December 2009

Round up of the week

A funny old week really. I had a lot of pain and great difficulty walking for a good part of the week. I found myself driving the misses and waiting for her whilst she ran the errands or did the shopping. This gave me the opportunity to observe folks going about their business. The usual mix of bad manners and traffic offences at the Scot Arms. I was parked up there one morning just over the red line indicating a loading area. Along comes traffic warden who insists that despite my displaying my blue badge I can’t park there. At this point he disappears and negotiates with white van man behind to move his vehicle back to give me room to park legally. He then guides me back to a correct parking position. I thank him and off he rides on his little motor bike. Talking of motor bikes the worst piece of dangerous driving was a youth driving a mini moke in the dark with no lights, no crash helet and on the pavement past my house. When I yelled at him he accelerated left the pavement and sped off. I’d tell the local cops if I thought they’d do anything about it.
Another piece of pure piggish behaviour was a young man who drove past me in a shopping arcade car park, opened his window and spit out his gum.
I had to wait while my wife delivered some papers to Sandwell Hospital and guess what folks? the smokers are still there puffing away surrounded by No Smoking signs. My letter to the Chief Exec was a total waste of time. I wonder what the legal position is because they are failing to provide a safe environment for patients to receive their treatment.

Saturday, 5 December 2009


You have to admire the Tories for their absolute conviction that they are the party of government. Not all but most of the top bankers and city financiers are Tories. It was irresponsible bankers (Tories) who caused the worst banking crisis and subsequent depression since WW2. The audit commission recently reported on the amount of bail out funding and praised the government for taking the decisions they did to bail out the banks. RBS now want to pay out massive bonuses to their top staff or as I understand it the board are threatening to resign. In my view not a penny in bonuses should go to this bank until some essential criteria have been met. Every penny of script issue money to share holders as been paid back. Every penny of government money used to bail them out as been paid back with interest at 10% and Sir Fred has had his pension stripped. The treasury should now sack the board of RBS for attempting this scam. They clearly have not learned. Which brings me back to the Tories. They have consistently blamed the government for this crisis and to some extent Brown is to blame but his actions to get us out of this mess have now been seen to have been wise. (Me praising Gordon I had to go and have a lie down). The Tories are now saying we (the public) are going to have to repay this enormous debt to bail out their chums in the city. If that is not bad enough they are threatening cuts to health services, education etc ect. I don’t think any of this rhetoric is acceptable. Cameron today is promising to double the money given to service men returning from a tour of duty and Gordon is refusing to extend the winter fuel allowance to cancer sufferers. Double your money David (to his chums) might think this is a vote winner but I don’t. What is an absolute vote looser is refusing folks with chronic illness winter fuel allowance. Although I get the allowance being a cancer sufferer I know just how harrowing it would be to be cold on top of everything else. I do hope Gordon will have a re-think he has a good record on care for cancer sufferers and cancer treatment now they get free drugs but much more needs to be done,

Friday, 4 December 2009

Great Barr & Newton Forum

I went along to our local resident’s forum the other day. The usual mix of concerned residents and a few Councillors. I had a couple of issues I wanted to air and of course the man from the PCT came along to give an up date on our clinic. I won’t bore you with the agenda because that is what it is, important but a little boring, the clinic is still a hot chestnut for me and many others.
The usual standard rhetoric from the man from PCT about supporting our area then the possible get out clauses. The next key stage is January meeting of the PCT board. I have asked for date time and venue for this because someone from the action group needs to be there. I have I think mentioned before dealing with our PCT is like handling a greased snake. I have many concerns that the plug will be pulled on the project due to funding. My concerns were heightened when I could not get them to release the artists drawings to the local freebie newspaper with an accurate story. The reasons given for not doing it did not stack up for me. During a discussion on car parking at the clinic a local councillor suggested we should approach the management of a Tesco Express being built about 600yds away for use of their car park. This tells me just how much this Cllr. is out of touch. Some wag suggested if we did not get our clinic we should march on Tesco. I was forced to mention that I thought if this project did not happen there would be a riot with a march on PCT headquarters and stopping the traffic in the High St. When I relayed this fact to my wife she said did I mention lying down in the road because if I did the man from the PCT as probably gone back to his office to hire a steam roller.

Thursday, 3 December 2009

Council meeting

I went along to Sandwell Council House for a Council meeting this week. I felt I ought to because I had complained about the public address system in the public gallery and this was the first meeting since the new equipment was fitted. Very nice, with two large TV screens so that the councillor speaking can be seen clearly. The new system is better but not good. It did not pick out some of the speakers and the sound was better but still poor. Some Councillors could be heard very clearly the best being Cllr Elling the worst being Cllr Smith who had a bad hair day which showed up well on the screen. My editor in chief insists I have to be nice so some heavy re-writing as gone on here. Some of the Asian members were also difficult to hear and understand because of their heavily accented English. A good well mannered debate though. Tories did absolutely nothing positive with silly questions on swimming pools which had already been answered and of course their old chest nut THE PUBLIC. The question claimed the audit commission had said in their report the building should be moth balled or demolished. They had clearly not read the report properly because the Chief Exec had a copy and spelled out very clearly where the relevance of that item came, which is apparently a standard phrase if projects do fail and THE PUBLIC is a long way off this. There was a call from cabinet member that it was now time for cross party support for this building. I can’t see that happening somehow.
During the exchanges on extra care housing the leader of Lib Dems who is one of our councillors made an excellent response and subtlety asked for a site in our ward (we all know this is not going to happen). It was a pity she did not lead on the other liberal responses the quality of debate would have been improved. Well done Joyce and I like the top/frock.
Cllr Darren Cooper was elected leader and I wish him well in his new role. Our council have promised two new pools one for West Brom and one in Tipton the first being ready for 2011. Long overdue but a result as far as I’m concerned. There is a lot to do but I think Sandwell are doing well under the circumstances.
On the negative side a short discussion took place on a consultation about elected mayors. It was reported that only 21 people had replied. The council accepted this as public apathy. Not so councillors. I take a keen interest in local politics and I knew nothing of this consultation so I suspect a bit of slight of hand here. This matter should not be allowed to drop off the political horizon. It will be scandalous if it does.

Wednesday, 2 December 2009


As many of you will know I am very fond of poetry and at times I put pen to paper and use verse to express my feelings or to highlight wrongs. My first poem Dirty Sandwell was written because at the time many parts of Sandwell were litter strewn. I am happy to report that is no longer the case and I like to think my poem and some campaigning work I did helped.
I am also very appreciative of other poets work which brings me to the above poem. The author is as far as I know unknown but if anyone recognises the piece please let me know. I always like to make sure the original author is credited. I wrote a similar piece called “I remember” a couple of years back and it was published in St Bernard’s Church Hamstead magazine which is where I saw this piece. Thank you Glenis and keep up the good work with our church mag.
And yes it was very much like that. Oh yes I remember it well.

Saturday, 28 November 2009

Smoking at Sandwell hospital

Reply from chief exec above:-
Bobs comments.
I do wish our civil servants would not give such willy nilly responses to what are serious complaints. This letter says to me sorry old mate we know about this problem but we don’t ever intend to do anything about it. I don’t think this response is adequate in any way. In view of my experiences at the hospital a few days ago and the recent reports and concerns about Basildon and other hospitals I am concerned that other more serious poor practises might be revealed.
What to do about it though is another matter. A second letter now seems pointless. Going up the tree might be the only option.
To see the image larger double click the image.

Thursday, 26 November 2009

F for Foxtrot

Having family in America we have over the years sorted most of the language differences. Things like trunk, in English boot. But occasionally we get one which is new. Over there the grandkids and Dad are on holiday for Thanksgiving. As is our practise now we Skype at these times. Yesterday I told them the joke about my mate who had Gammon flue, he said he had a touch of swine flu but he is now cured. My son in law thought this funny but the grandkids never understood. Gammon of course is ham over there.
Son in law then had to read out a long identity number which for some reason got confused in the email. Things were going well, he improvised with the letter id D for delta etc until we came to U he then said U for udder which at the English end caused us to burst out laughing.
There must be a dictionary somewhere of these ID codes because they are used by police and emergency services. A google search is required I think.
Anymore swine flu jokes?

Wednesday, 25 November 2009

Getting behind or making excuses

I guess you noticed my posts have been a bit sporadic lately. Having a couple of days at the pleasure of our local hospital trust and this week being packed with fun activities like meeting with consultant and chemo. Life’s a little thwart at the moment. Never mind and no ahhhs please. I mentioned in an earlier post how the entrance to the hospital seemed to have improved with no fag ends or smokers on one visit. I’m afraid I can’t report the improvement as being maintained. The fag ends are back at both entrances and smokers puffing away like there’s no tomorrow. Best couple of examples I saw whilst I was checking in were the guy who was leaning against the wall between two No Smoking notices. I counted the notices in the area at seven. Another was a young Muslim man in a wheel chair who got his wife draped in scarf to push him outside to the same spot for a ciggy.
Having made enquiries of staff I know other complaints have been made so I wonder what it will take for hospital security staff to fulfil their duty and do something about it. The chief executive appears to have ignored my letter so perhaps it is time for letter number two a little harsher perhaps or a complaint to the Health Authority. I am not scheduled for a return to the hospital for three weeks so who knows there may still be time.

Monday, 23 November 2009

Ah yes I remember it well.

Fellow blogger Fat Prophet sent me his book on his early life. I wrote a similar effort many years ago now and entered it in a British Library Life Story competition. Fat Prophet is 14years younger than me so the differences between his early life and mine are quite significant and show me the progress being made to rebuild our country after the war. My thanks to FP for stimulating those memories.
My book was written in the early eighties mostly during my lunch breaks at a particularly bad time when people all around me were being made redundant. Immersing myself in writing helped to block out the horrors of what was going on around me day after day. My close family of course have all read it and have pressured me a little to publish but I’m having none of it. Youngest daughter has requested I leave it to her in my will so that she can publish it. I have also had requests to do a later volume on my career. Perhaps now is a good time to do this and perhaps the blog is a good place to do it.

Chapter ??? Extracts from my probable book “can yer read a drawin it” or something like it.

Back in the early eighties; at this stage my daughters and grandkids usually raise their eyebrows start to yawn and make excuses to leave. As you are still here I guess I should continue.
Back in the early eighties during one of the Tories recessions I was working for a large engineering company. Six months earlier I had been made redundant but saved at the eleventh hour and given a new job. I had found myself another job so it was a bit of a dilemma as to whether I should stay. Although I was enjoying what I was now doing redundancies were still a common occurrence near the end of almost every month as new business was hard to find. I had a couple of very talented daughters at school so I needed to keep my job.
We were a jobbing foundry but we had some other sophisticated services many of our competitors didn’t. Tool design, repair & manufacturing, Lab testing and a top end quality control system coupled with some excellent metal pouring facilities.
Our directors had decided to concentrate on one product which we were very good at manufacturing to see out the recession. I knew the technical & manufacturing aspects of this product very well. Getting towards the end of every month I expected to get the call to the Works Directors (WD) office. My wife was on full alert so that when a call came for me to see him by appointment I feared the worst. I telephone her and told her. At the appointed time I knocked on his door and entered. After the usual niceties I sat facing him at his desk. The conversation went something like:- WD why are you looking so down in the mouth? BBCB well I don’t suppose this is good news is it? WD (smiling) why would you think that Bob in fact your stars are on the ascendency. I thought what the bloody hell he is talking about. He went on to explain. The directors had decided that when we came out of recession we would need to embrace new technologies if we were to stay competitive and ahead of our competitors. I thought what the hell does this have to do with me and I wish he would get on with it so that I could start to look for another job.” We want you over the next year or so to do some research, get out into the wide world, look at new technology and how it can impact on us and make recommendations has to what we should invest in”. I was gob smacked, at first I must have sounded like a blithering idiot before I finally got my head around what he was offering me. We discussed the project at some length but it was pretty open ended and down to me. When I got up to leave as I was approaching the door he said “oh and by the way you will have to run it in with your existing job. I never argued.
Back at my desk I pondered the situation for awhile and then phoned my wife. When do you leave she asked. I don’t I blurted out I’ve got a new project. Did you get a pay raise was her next question. She seemed disappointed in me when I told her no and I still had to do my existing job. Having more or less guaranteed employment for at least a year did not seem to impress her or the potential the project offered us.
Three weeks later I was on a plane with our MD bound for Hamburg to look at some machine tools. I was 42 and this was the first time I had been on a commercial flight. I couldn’t believe what was happening to me. Six months later my salary had doubled and I had my first substantial bonus.

The above was a taster on what the book might contain. I wonder if I continued to write extracts like this the stories would be of interest to anyone? No perhaps not!

Saturday, 21 November 2009

The patient’s journey

A couple of days ago I was taken to A&E at Sandwell by para medic. This was the result of a “funny turn” a medical term when they can’t establish what caused it. I accidently tried head butting our kitchen floor from a standing position. When they mentioned funny turn I thought I better get on stage quick before it wears off. I digress. I possibly fainted but when I was lying on my side on the floor I noticed the bottom edge of our sink unit and thought, “that is starting to break up”. The misses quick as a flash dials all the nines then her mate from down the road. It wasn’t long before I was on a trolley in A&E then relatively quickly transferred to Medical Assessment Unit where I was kept overnight for observation. It was early hours of the morning when I got a bed so I was very tired. I was awakened very hour with a bright light shining in my eyes followed by blood pressure, pulse, temp ect. I had difficulty getting back to sleep and this routine continued all night. Come the morning I was, well; knackered. I don’t want to go into the gory details except to point out the good bits and unfortunately the bad bits.
The good bits; they did a very thorough job of checking me out. They were straight and honest throughout even when the news was not particularly good.
The not so good bits. In the morning they took away my bed and never found me another. I was there all day with nowhere to lie down. It is essential I stretch out during the day. Although I asked for a bed and told them why they never took me seriously. So by late afternoon I was in pain and really stressed out. I felt abandoned and neglected. It wasn’t until the wife started to make a fuss that action started. The ward does not have adequate washing facilities and I did not have the motivation or strength at that time to shower.
But the worst bit is the food and the way it is served. I can honestly say lunch was the worst meal I have ever had, in fact it was uneatable. I asked for lamb casserole but got some sort of pie which was almost cold. I got my wife to bring in a sandwich when she came in mid afternoon. At tea time no food at all was served. The service was poor. When I asked for toast at breakfast she said something like toast (with a sneer) you must be joking mate, bread and butter or cornflakes or porridge. I watched the porridge served to another patient and decided against it. As for B&B in the mornings when I’m not feeling well is not an option. I thought the hospital trust had been praised recently for the quality of its food. Not on this performance. More needs to be done.
The good news though is I’m now back home bruised and sore but without any more major damage.
Our PCT used to organise a training course call “The Expert Patient” I’m becoming an expert in all the disciplines and all the departments.
Am I really becoming a moaning old git?
Perhaps if someone from the PCT reads this blog they may want to ask the hospital trust some searching questions on this.

Friday, 20 November 2009

Smoking at Sandwell hospital II

You will remember (I hope) I wrote an open letter to the chief exec of the hospital trust concerning the above. My minder and I had to go to outpatients this morning and I have to report that not a fag end or smoker was seen at this entrance either going in or coming out. Could my letter have worked? I have not yet had a reply but I’ll settle for the entrances kept like this.

Thank you.

I wish to make a big public thank you to fellow bloggers Fat Prophet and Methodist Preacher and to my friend Gerry. A couple of days ago I was taken into Sandwell hospital by para medic because of a fall. Because of the blogs prays have been said for me by these folks which I appreciate very much. I am happy to say I got away with it quite lightly and although I am still very sore and feeling sorry for myself the news of their concern cheered me up.
I’ll do a more detailed blog on it later.
Many thanks BBCB

Wednesday, 18 November 2009

Local politics & such

I haven’t blogged much over the past few days because a) my minder (the misses) keeps finding me “little” jobs around the house and b) our local Labour councillor asked me to help him design a newsletter. I was flattered by the request and very happy to do it. He and his wife have helped the misses and me on several occasions over the last few months without being asked. He is also a leading member of TAG Tanhouse Action Group which is lobbying for our clinic. I couldn’t do much worse than the bland effort put out recently by the Liberals I thought. Although I say so myself I’m pretty good at these things. It is something I can do well and am not prevented by my physical limitations from doing.
I was given a free rein in terms of design. Dave outlined what he wanted to say and a rough idea of layout and then left it to me. I have to say Dave is delighted with the design and so am I. It covers more on the front page than the last two Liberal efforts put together. I will perhaps publish the front page at a time I am sure no political advantage will be given away. The content is reminiscent of “Election Specials” put out by a now deceased ex councillor who could make a something and nothing story sound like he was saving the world. Well our ward anyway. This one contains none of the usual swipe at the opposition or any outrageous claims. In fact in a piece on the clinic, councillor colleagues are thanked for their support. I coined the quote “Keeping his promises, no outrageous claims and no knocking the opposition” at the finish of the leaflet. It’s full of surprises like that and those of you who get a copy I hope you enjoy it.
I referred to the bland nature of recent Liberal efforts and I suppose they lack the input of the ex councillor I mentioned. Newton as always been the battle of the leaflets. Martyn Smith realised this some 30yrs ago when he started his quarterly newsletters. Residents thought somebody was actually working for them. Labour never engaged with this process and as for the Tories we get one very poor quality leaflet just before an election. They spend most of the leaflet complaining about THE PUBLIC in West Brom and little else. It will be interesting to see if this starts a leaflet war so to speak. Will the Liberals raise their game? Will the Tories actually print one? Will Labour match the quarterly output of the Liberals? I ought to offer my services to the other two parties. I would of course have to make a small charge for Liberals and a much larger fee to the Tories to help pay for my health care and the education of my grandkids if they do come back into power. I might have to learn to talk propa. You know plumb in the gob.
Casting becomes carsting Sandwell becomes Sarndwell etc. Gi us good ol black cutra any da.
If anyone wants a good quality leaflet/newsletter designed I’m your man. Have computer, have software but can’t travel far.

Saturday, 14 November 2009

Round up of the week

I never intended for this blog to become an online diary. "Dear blog went to bed early tonight etc etc." That could get incredibly boring but looking back over this week I have seen some ups and downs. With my disease I suppose just living with it is bad enough particularly at the stage I now find myself. The stress on me and my wife is enormous. She copes very well and we continue to try to live as normal a life as possible. Today for example I am incredibly tired; in fact I can hardly keep my eyes open to write this. With this tiredness comes a feeling of great frustration because I am so capable yet today almost incapable.
I mentioned in my previous post bad driving which seems to have been prevalent during my journeys this week. We are trying to cut down our mileage in line with the latest fad 5 miles per week but walking for me or the bike is not an option.
I have mentioned many times traffic conditions at our major road junction The Scot Arms. The Birmingham side of the Scots is a duel carriageway with three cross over points within about 500 yards of the junction. Going towards Birmingham the first crossover is for traffic coming from Brum side only and is designed to allow buses to turn. The other two allow traffic to turn both ways. Simple enough wouldn’t you think? Thursday I was driving from the direction of Brum on the north bound carriageway and was forced to stop partly blocking the one way cross over. This crossover has two signs on the south bound carriageway instructing “Non entry” I happened to look to my right where a large LDV high sided, long wheel base van was ignoring the sign and attempting a U turn from south bound to north. Because I was waiting for the lights to change it never dawned on me the vehicle was performing an illegal move and I moved up to assist him. It was at this stage the lights changed and I moved off and I realised what he was doing. Yes girls it was a bloke and he gets wanker of the week award. But dur to yours truly for not realising earlier what he was doing. This must be the ultimate in driver idleness because he only needed to drive another two hundred yards to be able to do it legally.
No response yet to my letter to the Chief Exec of Hospital Trust. Watch this space. I have to go to the Hospital on Friday so I’ll see if there is any improvement and report back.
We had a good press from our local freebie newspaper concerning our Clinic campaign. I understand the PCT are putting out a press release which I hope includes some pictures. More on that later I’m sure. The Tahouse Action Group or TAG was mentioned. Legit or what?

Friday, 13 November 2009

Animal behaviour

No I’m not talking about our local drivers although I could talk for hours on their behaviour this week. I mean the local bird (feathered variety)life and squirrels.
My second picture shows one of only two remaining pigeons visiting our garden. One you will remember was eaten by a sparrow hawk and two have since committed hari kari on my patio windows. This one which I’ve called “I’m the king of the castle” is looking for his now deceased mates.
Picture one shows a squirrel trying to get into our new small bird feeder. He and his mates have been crawling all over it but so far without success. The picture I have entitled “I know there’s food in there somewhere” The lid is designed to tilt to allow easy access to refill the table. I fully expect to see the lid on the lawn one of these mornings.

Wednesday, 11 November 2009

Smoking at Sandwell Hospital

I have commented many times in my “Bulletin on the railings” series on the disgusting habit by smokers at my local hospital. Despite notices to the contrary smokers continue to bloke the main entrances puffing away in complete oblivion. Last week was the worst ever with about ten around the main entrance blocking my escape and the car park pay machine. I’ve had enough. The following is an open letter to the Chief Executive of the trust asking for some action. Let’s see if the power of the web can get something done.

"John Adler Chief Executive.
Sandwell & West Birmingham NHS Hospital Trust.

Sandwell Hospital.
Dear Mr. Adler,
Because of a serious illness I have to attend Sandwell Hospital has an out patient on a regular basis. I am pleased with the treatment I have received over the last two years.
There is however an issue that needs to be brought to your attention. At both entrances to the hospital there are notices advising people that they are no smoking areas and you have supplied a smoker’s cabin where smoking is allowed. I have to advise you that these notices are being ignored. Because the pay machines for the car park are situated near the main doors it is impossible to avoid breathing in second hand cigarette smoke. Because of the blatant disregard of others it is time I feel for further measures to be taken against these smokers. I have no objection to them ruining their health and putting at risk any treatment they may be getting but I do not want my health to be put further at risk by their behaviour.
I propose to make this an open letter to you and publish it along with your reply on my web site at
Something needs to be done and urgently.
Yours sincerely,"

Monday, 9 November 2009

Clinic update

On Friday afternoon, along with a couple of other action group members I attended a meeting at our local PCT headquarters to get an update on progress with our clinic at Tanhouse Community Centre. My wife has been working on a snappy name for our group and finally came up with Tanhouse Action Group or TAG. It does what it says on the tin and gives us a bit more legitimacy I suppose, but I digress. The meeting had initially been with elected representative and we had been invited at the eleventh hour a fact not missed by one councillor who sitting next to me ringed up the fact on the meeting papers which were handed out. This particular Cllr. I have not been well pleased with lately because of what I see has spurious claims on her web site and in the press. I found her meeting etiquette unacceptable interrupting other speakers and she was very rude in fact at one stage I though my wife was about to jump on her. This Cllr. was more concerned with a clinic for her ward which however way you look at it is a long way off but she persisted although she was careful to prefix her remarks with the caveat that she did not want to prevent this project going forward. It was not until another Cllr. pointed out quite forcibly that we were there to discuss the Tanhouse Clinic feasibility that she quietened down.
The feasibility study is progressing well and we were shown architects drawing of what the site might look like. Two local Doctors have expressed an interest in going into the new facilities. The proposal along with full costing is to go before the PCT board in January and in February the Council who are the other partner, should sign off any funding if it is required from them. We were given assurances that the costs would be included in the PCTs financial projections for next year. A consultation process will take place but I have concerns at how this might be conducted. The PCT do not have a good record in doing surveys in our ward. Why do they have to waste money on this consultation when it is the local community who have been pushing for the facility?
The time line for completion gives me concerns because if you listen to what they say you could be mistaken for thinking they are building the Forth Bridge instead of re-furbishing an existing building. My estimate for completion would be May next year; theirs is August to Christmas 2010.
So, progress I hope. We will continue to monitor the situation and keep TAG together just in case further protests are required. I requested a joint press release but I don’t think that had much support.
I’m convinced that without a Labour Cllr. in our ward forcibly pushing for this facility within the controlling Labour group and the work of TAG and support by MP Tom Watson this project would not be moving forward. All our ward Cllrs. are behind it but clearly adjoining ward Cllrs have their own agenda. The Tories never turned up. Can they be trusted with the NHS? Not on this occasion.
What did surprise me was the amount of money that had been spent on refurbishing the PCT headquarters. The loos were so posh it was a shame to pee in them. I do hope they don’t try to tell us a little further down the line that they can’t afford our project.

Sunday, 8 November 2009

Busy week end

Although I was not feeling 100% we decided to continue with our plans for the week end. Saturday evening we went along with some friends to Hamstead annual fireworks display at Tanhouse Community Centre. This is one of the best value for money events throughout the year and attracts a good crowd. Nice display of fireworks and the kids having a great time. Because of the amount of time I would have been required to stand and the fact I was in some pain we decided to take the wheel chair. My friend who accompanied us is wheel chair bound permanently these days and his wife is very good at manipulating him. The misses is a delicate lady and inexperienced at pushing a chair so it was going to be fun. The first problem was drivers who left their cars parked across the pavement so that a wheel chair could not get passed. The worst piece of parking though was from a large BMW who parked across the wheel chair cross over point which was at the road junction. Only one car with a blue badge was allowed to park inside the perimeter and I wonder why? Before the display started I needed the loo and decided I would propel myself to the toilet inside the centre. There is a ramp for chairs but I have to say I could not propel myself up the ramp it was too steep, despite me “having a run at it” A couple of kids decided to help, despite me telling them I wanted to do it myself they pushed me up the last bit. Getting into the loo in a chair is not possible without a lot of manipulation. Using a chair in a crowd can be a harassing experience because people do not look where they are going. The entrance ramp needs to be re-designed because I don’t believe a chair user was consulted on this design. Finally for the inconsiderate drivers who had parked illegally, when they are caught they should be sentenced to spend a week in a wheel chair they would soon become more considerate. Grrrrrrrrrrrr
I’m thinking of producing some “Polite Notices” telling them about their inconsideration and warning them that their parking will be reported. Now should I be polite or down right rude?
Interesting footnote there were plenty of cops at the event enjoying the show but non on the approach roads making sure drivers parked correctly. Ummmmmm
Perhaps Ch. Supt. Dugmore you would like to look into this?
Sunday morning the misses and I attended the memorial service at the war memorial in Dartmouth Park. What a splendid turnout and a very emotional service. I can’t remember seeing that many for a long time there must have been 2000 people there of all ages.

Saturday, 7 November 2009

Nice surprise

I was feeling a bit below par (BBCB terms “crap”) this morning so the wife got up to make the tea. When she came back she had a small package in her hand addressed to me. Be careful she said when opening that it could be from Cllr X who I have been giving a hard time to lately. I fondled it carefully and decided it was safe to open. Surprise surprise it was a copy of the book “A bang or a whimper” written by fellow blogger over at Fat Prophet
The accompanying note said to an honorary black contra man; hope it cheers you up during your treatment. Thank you FP I will treasure it and I’m sure it will cheer me up. Your web detective work in tracking me down is also very impressive.
Best wishes BBCB

Friday, 6 November 2009

President Blair

Or not depending on which newspapers you read. Personally I don’t give a toss who gets the job but I have some concerns on what the post represents and how much it is going to cost us Euro tax payers. He will technically not be elected so who does he represent? I suppose he/she will be a bit like a Lord Mayor chairing the council but largely ceremonial. Tony would I’m sure turn it into a powerful role and would be respected abroad. I can’t understand why we need one and why now? If some Europhile in Brussels think that having a single voice for Europe is going to work he/she must be off their trolley. Britain can speak for itself in the world and long may it continue. We have enjoyed peace in Europe for all of my adult life and I think this is largely due to the reliance the Euro nations have on each other. With the rise of far right parties and with some of them getting MEPs elected I have concerns for the future. I was listening to the Today Programme when they interviewed Lord (on your bike)Tebbit who as I understand was defending Cameron’s stance on referendums as more or less what ever it takes to get rid of “this wretched government”. I can remember when he came out with his now famous “On your bike” statement the state of our economy and the uncaring approach they showed to the unemployed at that time. If ever there was “a wretched government” it was the one he was associated with. I’m afraid the nearer the election gets and the more I listen to his smug lot the more I realise a vote for them would be putting us back 25years. Leaking school roofs, waiting lists and run down hospitals etc. No, not for me, I like fairness in our society and we will certainly not see it under Cameron & Co. Brown has done a poor job for pensioners but I prefer his approach to the alternative. The lesser of the evils not much of a choice is it? Coming from a dedicated anti Brown campaigner this seems like a U turn but not so, just a realisation of what we now face. It would seem inevitable that Labour are going to go with Brown whatever the consequences. I wish I understood this strategy. Cameron’s smuggies on the other hand don’t seem to have any real policies except that they expect to win. Remember Kinnock?

Thursday, 5 November 2009

Bulletin on the railings

His majesties blood numbers continue to give cause for concern. The medical team looking after him advise me that the disease has not spread to other organs. A more intensive course of treatment is now required. We do not expect his majesty to be able to continue much of his voluntary and charity work in the short term.
No further bulletins will be posted unless there is significant change in his condition.

In real life;- Oh s**t Its disease 1 Bob 0 which I suppose is not a bad result. My defence played well against overwhelming odds but the mid field and strikers played total rubbish. I’d put the lot on a free transfer if I could but I guess I’m stuck with em. The treatment regime is has I expected and I started the first cycle yesterday. I have not been very reliable recently and I expect this to continue at least until I see what after/side effects of the new treatment are. So far so good if this continues I should be out and about a lot quicker than I thought.
Three of my regular readers are what I would describe has religious and I envy them in some ways having the commitment they do to their respective churches. I was discussing this on the phone the other day with one of them when she said in answer to my doubting frame of mind that god finds you not the other way around. Well he better hurry up in my case. But thank you all for your good wishes and prayers. Something seems to be working so keep up the good work.

Tuesday, 3 November 2009

Blogging & such

Blogging is likely to be a bit sparse in the next few days. I have a crunch meeting at the hospital this afternoon and the treatment options are not likely to be pleasant.
The action group campaigning for our clinic have finally been invited to the meeting with Councillors/PCT on Friday and I hope to be well enough to attend. I will report on that in due course.
I expect a “Bulletin on the railings post “sometime later in week might allow me some time to continue blogging. In the meantime please be patient I still have plenty to say.

Saturday, 31 October 2009


I had to visit my doctor and had almost the last appointment of the evening. It has been a long time since I visited the surgery in the dark and what a depressing place it is. Poor lighting around the site only adds to the gloom. This is the only surgery on the south side of the canal that splits our ward. During my consultation it was interrupted by yobs climbing on and rattling the window protection screens. The doctor was about to start a delicate procedure on my body when the interruption started. A second or two later and the result would have been eye watering for me I jumped but the doctor who was used to this stayed calm. The yobs were peering through the slits in the blinds at me on the couch. These facilities are old fashioned and totally inappropriate for our need. The doctor deserves better and so do we. Apparently this type of interruption is quite a common occurrence during surgery hours. I felt quite intimidated by the behaviour. The perpetrators were not around when I left the surgery. Cllrs. from Great Barr with Yew Tree please note when you are considering the health facilities in our area these are the kind of conditions we have to put up with. There is no practical alternative. I think if the Tanhouse Clinic does not get the go ahead there will be a massive public outburst of anger.
In Oldbury a temporary clinic was constructed using Porta Cabins. We need these facilities now. Why is no one from the authorities asking for a recovery plan? The very best possibility is our clinic will be at least a year late. We need these facilities NOW. Councillors/PCT PLEASE NOTE. I can see some difficult times ahead. 6/11/2009 2pm meeting with PCT and Councillors when I believe we will be getting news on “some positive progress”. Could the long suffering residents of Newton at last be getting our clinic? More on this after 6/11/2009.

Friday, 30 October 2009

Word of beak

Tits are the smartest. Yes it’s true folks The Great Tit is the smartest bird visitor to our garden. Within five minutes of Mrs BBCB’s installation of our new small bird feeder, it’s top up of seed etc and the humans leaving the site a Great Tit was in and eating away. He was followed shortly after by a Robin who took a little while to examine the new restaurant before entering. The misses and I had a little wager over which bird it would be but I have to say she cheated a bit by adding grated cheese to the menu because she almost has the Robins eating out of her hand with it and as one was watching us preparing the site I was surprised. We didn’t have many visitors yesterday but I suppose it has to get around by word of beak so to speak “new restaurant open at BBCB’s great new menu ect ect”
It also struck me when I read my previous post about construction of the feeder how what is a tiny and irrelevant structure such as this can be so important to us. It’s not the feeder itself or what it does in our lives it’s the fact that I could actually do it (with a little help from my wife). My wretched illness prevents me from doing a lot of the routine physical stuff I used to do without thinking about. Twelve months ago I couldn’t change a light bulb so although it was painfully slow the wife was patient and we finally did it. For me it was progress.

Wednesday, 28 October 2009

A Sparrow Hawk ate my pigeon

My wife has always fed the birds in our garden and as such we have a lot of feathered visitors. Some years there is a preponderance of one species and later years others are predominant. A year or two ago Magpies were by far the largest number and what a nuisance they were. They are perhaps one of the noisiest birds with that warning rattle they have. We rarely see a Magpie these days but Wood Pigeons have taken their place. These birds are an absolute nuisance. This year they bred extremely well. We have designed and built a small bird feeder from an old hamster cage fitted to the top of an old bird table. Small birds can get in, Pigeons can’t. These however are smart birds and they are persistent until some of the seed is worked outwards.
One afternoon last week I came home to see a Sparrow Hawk eating his lunch of Pigeon on our back lawn. He saw me but ignored me. I stood still watching him strip the flesh off the bird. I called the misses who arrived a little too enthusiastically and the Hawk took off leaving very little of the Pigeon. No tears shed for helping to redress the bird balance in our garden. Birds have no gratitude for the food left; they nosh away and poop wherever it takes them. I forever have to clean the patio table and chairs.
This week end we got a new bird table and modified it for small birds only. See picture.
I hope it works. Wada ya think?

Tuesday, 27 October 2009

Care & Support Green Paper.

There are no ends to the lengths this blog will go to too get the facts. I have involved myself in the above debate because I feel it is something that is long overdue. Last week along with 100,000 others I received the following email from the Secretary Of State for Health. I can tell your impressed, both of you. It is however serious and about time the position was clarified. The options were giving a lot of disabled and older people cause for concern.

"Health Secretary clarifies Government position on disability benefits"
"The Secretary of State for Health has made it clear that Disability Living Allowance for the Under 65s will not be affected by Government plans to create a National Care Service.
Speaking at the National Children and Adult Services Conference in Harrogate, Andy Burnham MP said: "I am encouraged by the response to our Big Care Debate and welcome the fact that other political parties are beginning to put their ideas on the table. There are big differences between what we are saying but we are beginning to create what I wanted to see - unstoppable momentum for legislation in the next Parliament.
"But, while the debate is moving quickly, I do want to stress that the door is wide open for discussion. We are still in a consultation period. No decisions have been made on funding options. We are still listening – about funding, about structures, and about how to build a forward-looking system of care.
"One avenue I do want to close down, however, is the debate and controversy over Disability Living Allowance.
"We recognise that this is an important benefit for disabled people, and I can state categorically that we have now ruled out any suggestion that DLA for under-65s will be brought into the new National Care Service.
"This is because, whilst there will be increases in the numbers of disabled people of working age who need care, the majority of the people needing care in the future will be older people.
"However, we do think there may be a case for bringing together elements of some disability benefits, such as Attendance Allowance, with social care funding, to create a new care and support system to provide for the needs of older and disabled people.
**"But the important principle is that people receiving any of the relevant benefits at the time of reform would continue to receive an equivalent level of support and protection under a new and better care and support system.**
"And let's not forget, everyone - regardless of wealth or asset base – will benefit from the protection and piece of mind that the National Care Service will provide."
The Government is currently carrying out a consultation – the Big Care Debate - on the new National Care Service, a vision for which was set out in July’s Green Paper Shaping the Future of Care Together. The Big Care Debate continues until 13th November."

On the face of it, it seems that at last a realistic approach to this is being made. The re-assurances contained in the email (para 8 asterisked) are good news and something that the labour party should be trumpeting in its lead up to the next election. There is still a long way to go with this consultation but I hope the positive aspects are continued. Getting the Bill before Parliament before the next election is unlikely I think and I hope it is not one of those vicious cuts the Tories are planning. For me, although very late in Labour’s programme it sets clear water between them and the Tories. Let’s have a lot more of this and start telling the electorate.

Monday, 26 October 2009

Royal mail

I went along to our local mail collection site to collect a long overdue parcel which was a guaranteed next day delivery. I noticed some of the posters displayed in the window of the collections area. “Trying to build up a business?” this poster was suggesting the royal mail could help. Their current behaviour and recent history (industrial disputes, loosing money etc) would not give me any confidence in using them to help me build my business. A couple of real classics though. “DISABLED BELL: - please ring”. And No Smoking: - “from 1st July is it a no smoking area in this building”.
We had an email from an art company who supply the wife with a lot of her art materials which said basically they were suspending their contract with Post Office until both sides started to act like adults again. I’m tempted to write a lot more on this later because of my past experience I can see this dispute from both sides. At the present time though a strike like this is just about the daftest thing any company should be involved with. I urge them both to get back and talk whilst they still have a business to talk about.
Adam Crosier interview on the Politics Show did nothing to help the situation telling your customers and others (in the nicest possible way) to shut up is a bad idea. I think he is the real problem here.

Sunday, 25 October 2009


I’ve mentioned before on the blog how much I enjoy Thursday evenings when I collect my English grandkids for tea. Seeing the enthusiasm from them I know they enjoy it to. It is the only time during the week I get them all to myself. It is also the only time I don’t mind being stuck in traffic. During the joke spot this week grandson said “I got a text from my mate which said BNGA, so I texted him back and said that’s BANG out of order”. I collapsed laughing. Perhaps telling jokes while driving is as bad as using a mobile phone because at that stage my driving was appalling.
Granddaughter who is now old enough to appreciate how talented she is and that with her school results straight A/A* she can do whatever she wants as a career. She has over months come out with some amazing career choices all of which show great aspirations. I of course have encouraged this. This week she calmly announced she was going to be Prime Minister and would I help her get started. You know that MP guy granddad could you ask him if I can do my work experience in his office. I explained a bit about local politics and how it worked and suggested she write to him directly. This morning I collected her letter just to check it over and I was amazed. She could indeed be a future PM the quality of her prose and the detail are most impressive. But I would say that wouldn’t I.
I never got to establish what party line her politics might follow so I guess that is a mark of a good future politician.

Saturday, 24 October 2009

I’m famous

Well, sort of. I went along to our local Neighbourhood tasking forum the other night. Minutes from the previous meeting made interesting reading. The previous meeting was held at a community centre attached to local Roman Catholic Church on the north side of the canal. It was attended by 14 residents which included four councillors plus cops & fire service. An item from the minute said “PCT to bring report to the next meeting to talk about the Health Centre for the area”. The following meeting was held at a church community centre on south side of the canal and attracted 7 residents including one councillor (the chair) cops & fire service. Someone from the last meeting must have raised the Health Centre but no one from that meeting was present. No one from PCT was present and no report was given in fact the whole situation seemed embarrassing to the chair who did not seem to understand how the minute came to be there.
So what is going on here? Did the PCT deliberately snub our area again? Two of the councillors present at the earlier meeting have spoken out against the sighting of the clinic on the south side. Why call for a report then not attend the following meeting? Is it to much of a coincidence? I was pondering all this when the better of our local freebie newspapers the Observer arrived. Our MP Tom Watson chose the Health Centre issue for his regular Westminster Observer feature. He mentioned me and the work of the campaign. He also included as he has done in past articles to the importance of all the political parties being behind this and how Newton Cllr’s were supporting this. It appears from his piece that negotiations are well underway with Sandwell Council and a scheme should be ready for presentation to PCT board in January. This would make the clinic a year behind schedule and I put the blame firmly for this on the shoulders of Cllr’s from adjoining wards. That all sounds fine except he also feels that we should continue to keep the pressure on by our action group. A big difference to the article in the Chronicle a couple of issues ago. A much more balanced and accurate assessment of the present position.
After the meeting I had the chance to talk to a couple of the campaign members. Knowing now how easy it is to cause traffic chaos at Scot Arms perhaps it would be better if we protested at or near the home of the Cllr at Scot Arms. I wonder would we be breaking any laws. Still not convinced that a new protest is essential but it looks to be moving that way. My agent/manager or principle carer has she is now know (the misses) is shaking her head and giving me that don’t you dare look. Ummmmmmmm
I’m going to write to the Chair of the PCT to see if I can establish what did happen over the minute I mentioned above.
Well done Tom keep up the good work.

Friday, 23 October 2009

Customer service

In days of old when I had a propa job with a salary, exes and perks I used to run an engineering business which was part of a large group. To keep supply and demand in the correct proportions it was necessary at times to sub contract a lot of work. This was usually done by specialist companies with highly skilled workforce. I would visit these suppliers regularly to keep up to date with what was happening within the sector and because our competitors used these same suppliers to understand what the market was like. It only took the loss of a couple of skilled workers to change the picture in some cases. The company could go from a reliable quality supplier to a lame duck in a very short period of time. I could tell almost as soon as I set foot inside the factory what was going on. They also knew me well and I almost always got a warm welcome. A valued customer who they looked after. Nowadays I see this same change in stores that I use regularly. We have a small office supplies store at the Scot Arms usually they are very helpful and go out of their way to look after their customers. The misses and I recently went into the store at the same time but for different items when we came out we both commented how unhelpful they were. I thought very little of this, dismissing it has having a bad day until another friend quite without prompting made a similar observation. I wonder what is going on here? As anyone else had a similar experience with this company. Locals will know the shop so I need not name here.

Thursday, 22 October 2009

Lateral thinking

I have been critical of our MP Tom Watson on occasion but last week he really excelled himself. Our local Tories have continually sniped about our cultural centre in West Brom THE PUBLIC but without any real practical alternatives being offered. At one stage they wanted to turn it into a bowling alley. The thinking I suppose from them is whenever they moan about THE PUBLIC will always get the majority view against it. As you all know I don’t hold this view. Tom came up with a brilliant idea which he is going to put before Parliament. The plan is to permanently house the Staffordshire Hoard at THE PUBLIC for display. He also criticised the Arts Council for abandoning the project. Well done Tom this is exactly the kind of out of the box thinking we need and sets Labour apart from the Tories who have not changed and never will. Let’s have more Mr. Tom.
West Brom is the southern most town in Staffordshire and a perfect place for the treasure. I just love the idea. Sandwell needs a cultural/arts centre the idea of a bowling alley is a load of balls.

Wednesday, 21 October 2009

Birthday cards

One of the better things about getting old is seeing your grandchildren growing up and turning into proper little people with minds of their own and more importantly senses of humour. This is evident from some of the birthday cards I received this year from them. The best though came from the youngest granddaughter in America. Knowing my dislike of George W and all that he stands for she sent the above card. Inside it read “Err unless unequivocally means don’t”.
The youngest grandson sent a card which played “Hail to the Chief” smart lad.
It’s good to have a president that is articulate and shares many of my core values. I do hope he can eventually win the health care debate over there.

Tuesday, 20 October 2009

Incident on the Queslet Road.

I mentioned before on this blog problems I sometimes have with getting to toilet facilities quick enough. My condition dictates that when I’ve gorra pee I’ve gorra pee. I also mentioned I had recently had a CT scan. One of the preliminary procedures is drinking a pint of liquid to enhance the images. The literature supplied with this liquid states “you may experience loose bowel movements this should pass within a few days” This statement must have been written by the worlds most optimistic estate agent because it kept me confined in the smallest room for a good few hours. On the day of the scan a further 1ltr of another enhancing chemical is drunk and you are advised to drink plenty of fluids following the scan to clear the toxins from your system. This was fine until it became time to visit my youngest daughter and her family for a meal in Sutton Coldfield (proper name dropper me). I planned it down to the minuet which was fine until we arrived at Scot Arms the busiest road junction in the midlands when we were told by this police officer who I swear was no older than 13 that Queslet Road was closed due to an incident. The cop was not local because when I quizzed him on alternative routes he looked at me with that blank face which was saying “what planet is this guy on I’m only stopping the traffic”. Being local a plan B was quickly devised but by this time the junction was totally snarled up. Moron of the month, dope of the day, wanker of the week etc were all there doing their best to screw things up. We decided to take a diversion past our local swimming baths because by this time my waterworks were somewhat uncomfortable (same estate agent must have written that). The traffic by this time was screwed up for a couple of miles around the junction so by the time I got there a quick dash across the car park was the only way. I was followed in by some ghoul who wanted to see what I was doing. The Great Barr flasher was happy to oblige.
When we finally get to the restaurant I again have to visit the gents. Getting my aim right these days for a urinal can sometimes take a few minutes. On Saturday I’m aimed and ready to go when the guy behind started the hand drier. This was one of those high pressure things that make a lot of noise. I will admit to being somewhat startled by this (same estate agent)and subsequently sprayed the wall a nice shade of yellow.
The incident turned out to be a false alarm bomb scare. Scared me I can tell you.
Better not show this to the editor in chief. She was not a happy bunny on Saturday evening.

Monday, 19 October 2009

Bulletin on the railings

The medical team looking after his majesty have expressed concern over his present blood reading. More detailed tests and examinations need to be made. His majesty has asked that you all remain positive. Further communiqu├ęs will be made later but in the meantime he will have to cut down on a lot of his public duties and charity work.

In real life;
What a difference a day makes. I wrote my previous post a couple of days before my routine visit to the Consultant. Since then I have been prodded and poked, zapped, scanned and had enough blood taken to feed Count Dracula for a week. All to try to establish where things have gone wrong. My agent/manager (the misses) insists I need to cut back on a lot of my voluntary/charity work. I had already cut back quite a bit. I got rid of some of the more ungrateful groups that I belonged to like Neighbourhood Watch. NHW co-ordinators have a completely thankless task. So it was good riddance there. Some of my other activities though are really worth while and I am valued by the groups concerned. It will hurt to have to stop (even for a short time). The action group role in respect to our clinic and the antics of some of our councillors is a likely casualty but I’m reluctant to stop at this stage. I’ll try and negotiate this with the boss but I’m not confident on that and if it comes to a trade off with my kid’s charity it’s a “no brainer”. Shame though because if it made them stop and think before making outrageous claims it would have been worth it. I intend to keep on blogging because I can do this whatever happens. So keep the comments coming?
In fact with the exception of hospital stays I’ll have more time to do it. The best case scenario I suppose is some unpleasant treatment which I have had before. The worst case I suppose is something I don’t really want to think about with some scenarios in between that are unpleasant and painful.
As soon as is possible I’ll be back operational with all my interests.
PS there will be queues at the bulletin board in Little Lane.

Friday, 16 October 2009

Gutter politics?

You can’t believe everything you read in the press.
Last week one of our local freebie newspapers carried a story on its front page with the headline HEALTH CENTRE NEARER. It contained a comment from a Cllr. in Great Barr with Yew Tree ward and a quote from a deputy director at the Primary Care Trust (PCT) but no reference to Cllrs. in our ward or to the action group. Very strange this particularly has Cllrs from Great Barr with Yew Tree have spoken out against the clinic being situated at the Tanhouse Centre in our ward. It was claimed they now had an agreement over the clinic. Nice work Cllr. but no one else seems to be aware of this agreement. The man from the PCT’s quote was standard non committal blah blah blah stuff we have come to expect. The PCT are holding a meeting with Cllrs on 6th November to outline their plans. Despite being asked by our MP to invite people from the action group they have not done so. We need to ask the question, why not?
Some members of the action group have asked me to organise another “protest”. This one would have an element of surprise, be more focused, larger, louder, and disruptive and to invite the press. To achieve this we would need to hire a mini bus. I’m not convinced by the need to do this yet because there are indications that things are moving in the right direction and I may not be around to participate. When I read the remarks in this article and the way it was presented in the newspaper I fear for what might happen to health services in our area. If this scheme fails, funding and time to organise an alternative would not be a viable proposition so we would loose out for about ten years on facilities. All because Cllrs. from other wards delayed the process. This is a now or never situation but they don’t seem to have grasped that. We have a situation here where local residents are fighting for much needed facilities in their area and from what I believe Cllrs from an adjoining ward are using this fight to tout for cheap votes.
For many months these same Cllrs sat on their hands and did nothing excepting month in and month out the excuses the PCT were telling us. It wasn’t until local residents became angry with the lack of action and started to galvanise local (Newton) political support and protest that something was finally done. For this newspaper to print an article which by its very nature suggests that the Cllr. mentioned has actually achieved what is so far only a moderate success is credit by association. It is gutter politics. I have spoken to the editor of the newspaper concerned and to the reporter about my concerns with the article. I have also asked Sandwell Council for advice on referring this to the Standards and Ethics Committee. I was asked a few days earlier by a rival newspaper to give them an update on the clinic situation. Except to mention the meeting date I declined because at this stage there is nothing really to report and I’m not a politician with other agendas.
I do hope the Cllr concerned will have the decency to apologise.

Thursday, 15 October 2009

Traffic chaos.

I’ve mentioned before on this blog traffic conditions at our busiest road junction the Scot Arms. I don’t often go there but on occasion it is unavoidable. It doesn’t seem to matter at what time of day parking is impossible and our Liberal Councillors for Great Barr with Yew tree want to add to this chaos by having a clinic built near this junction. Totally bonkers in my view. Today the misses and I had to go to the bank. Usually the folks are very polite and although crossovers are sometimes blocked and double parking is very common motorists accommodate each other. Today there was horn tooting angry encounters and poor behaviour and that was just me. No; I jest, I’m talking generally here I was my usual self effacing self. The best bit of bad behaviour though was the lady (this is not knocking lady drivers, honest) parked in front of me on the duel carriage way she moved off did a U turn and drove about fifty yards the wrong way along the duel carriageway until she came to a cross over place that enabled her to move to the correct carriageway. My open mouth must have been big enough to park a bus. I just couldn’t believe my eyes or that she was lucky enough to get away with it.

Wednesday, 14 October 2009

MPs expenses

This lot are just back from their hols and what do we get? The whinging goes on about their expenses. They don’t seem to understand the public anger over what went on so they start to dig it all up again. Ann Widdecombe was on the lunch time news complaining about what she feels is an injustice and claiming that some MPs are just about getting by and some may not be. Now if they can’t get by on 65 grand with exes should they be there in the first place? The other complaint was that the auditor had in effect changed the rules. If you have an expenses account and theirs is a very generous one although the local accountant may approve the expenses claim when the accounts are audited if the auditor feels the expenses are not justified then the recipient would have to reimburse the employer. This is in effect what has happened here.
I would say this to all Labour MPs pack it in, smile, pay back any monies if you are asked to and let’s move on. Labour have enough to do if they are to even get close at the next election without this constant whinging. The public have had enough. Cameron once again takes the moral high ground and Clegg seems to me to be about to shoot himself in the foot. You are in effect undermining our democratic process.

Tuesday, 13 October 2009

Senior moment.

I was having dinner on Sunday with some close friends including my friend Gerry who sometimes comments on this blog and occasionally gives me a tough time. She thinks David Cameron is such a nice man. I must address this issue of my tastes in friends. I digress because when she reads this I’m going to be in deep dodo. Getting back to my tale! I was given a birthday card from her addressed to herself. I haven’t opened it yet because it was sent a little early and no I’m not revealing the date or my age except to admitting I’m past it. The misses has a birthday a few days before me and has to have a special delivery because she literally gets a ton of cards. I get the regular six or seven which I’m extremely grateful for. The misses leaves her cards on display to make mine look better. How thoughtful is that?
Sorry Gerry please read the poem and have a nice day. I hope you are still speaking to me.

Monday, 12 October 2009

Council meeting part IV

I now have permission to publish the response from Democratic Services at Sandwell Council. My thanks to them for permission to publish and for their timely response to this problem:-

"Dear BBCB" (I edited this bit the rest is as it came)

Thank you for your recent e-mail to the Leader regarding you attendance at the Council Meeting on 29th September.

The Leader has asked me to look into the issues raised and rather than provide the information to the Leader I thought I would reply directly to you in case you had any follow-up questions and also to reply by e-mail because of the current postal difficulties. I hope this is acceptable to you.

I will try to answer the points you raise in the order of your e-mail.

In relation to the speaker system I am pleased to advise you that the Council is already in the process of making improvements to its audio visual system in the Council Chamber which will include a new microphone and speaker system. Similarly, the Council was aware that it needed to improve its presentations equipment and this is also being addressed as part of the improvements. The work begins in two weeks time and should be completed before the end of the month.

The Council has known for a while that it needed to take some action but it is one of those situations where we felt we cannot win. In the current economic climate it was considered that the Council may be criticised through the media for spending money on such equipment so we held back from doing the work as long as we were able. However, we reached a point where we felt we needed to take some action and your comments have borne out that we were right to do so which is reassuring, thank you. We still do expect to get criticised as Walsall MBC recently were for doing similar works but again we are now a little more assured that there are residents like yourself who will appreciate the need to have such facilities in good working order.

In an attempt to improve accountability and because not all the Council Chamber is visible from the public gallery, the Council has also agreed to link its microphones to a camera system so that when a member is speaking, visitors sitting in the public gallery will be able to see the member clearly on two large display screens, to help identify who they are and to provide a complete message as body language and facial expressions can also add to the understanding of what is being said.

This conveniently links to your point regarding the comments made by Councillor Sadie Smith. Unfortunately I was unable to attend the Council meeting on this occasion but my Democratic Services Officer representing me at the meeting tells me that the exchange of comments between Councillor Smith and Councillor Rowley were light-hearted banter based on an ongoing series of events at recent meetings and that both members appeared to be smiling as they exchanged comments. With the difficulties with the sound system and not being able to see both members fully from the gallery, I can understand how easily what was said could have been perceived as rude or offensive by anyone sitting in the gallery. Had it been anything other than political banter, I am confident that the Mayor would have intervened.

The comment made by Sadie Smith to Councillor Derek Rowley related to the decisions which are made by Cabinet Members during the weeks running up to a Council meeting and on which they take questions from other members. At the last two Council meetings, Councillor Rowley has not had any decisions placed before Council and Councillor Smith picked up on this by asking, light-heartedly, if we therefore still needed a Cabinet Member for Community Safety if he isn't taking any decisions. Councillor Smith will, of course, have been aware that Councillor Rowley has a much bigger role than just making decisions. Councillor Rowley took the comment in the spirit it was made and responded in the same way.

Exchanges like this within the Council Chamber are not uncommon and do provide a little light relief between the consideration of what can sometimes be very serious matters of business or quite dry subjects but which the Council has to address. I understand the evening was quite a difficult one in terms of the political exchanges around some of the issues but we do have times like this in the political environment in which Council's have to operate. As well as representing its citizens, members are affiliated to political parties and are expected to represent the views and policies of those parties.

I do hope that the events of the 29th have no disillusioned you too much and that you will attend future meetings of the Council. The Council does find it very disappointing that more of its residents do not take an interest in local affairs as you and your wife do but again looking at national figures for attendance at public meetings, it appears to be a reflection on today's society.

Can I thank you again for taking the time to contact the Leader as feedback from the community we serve does help us to improve our services for the future and in closing, could I take the opportunity to promote our CMIS system which allows you access to all the decisions the Council takes and the reports that members will be considering or have considered. For example, you can se what will be on the agenda for the full Council Meeting before you attend. If this is of interest to you, log on to the Council's website and click on the link towards the bottom of the page 'committee information'. The system is quite easy to use but if you need any further guidance please do not hesitate to contact any member of my Democratic Services Team who will help you (0121 569 3184 - direct line)

Please do not hesitate to contact me if you would like any further clarification of any of the points in my response."

Two issues come to mind for me. 1) The over reaction to what the press might say. We live in a democracy it is the people’s views that matter not what the press say but I can understand to some extent where they are coming from here. 2) Cllr Smith’s remarks seem to me rather flippant during such an important debate. I am unhappy with the behaviour of this particular Cllr. on some local issues but more on that later in the week.

Sunday, 11 October 2009


I have always believed that if you are found to be in the wrong you should put your hand up admit your mistake and apologise. I have of course had to do this on numerous occasions during my career. Not everyone shares this view and many people will never apologise even when they are shown to be clearly in the wrong. It is simply below them to stoop to apologise. I won’t mention of course politicians who have been forced to after a mountain of evidence was piled up against them.
Recently I felt it necessary to apologise to Sandwell’s democratic services chief for comments I made on my blog. Following this I got to thinking about how I might apologise in a more elegant way in future. The following poem expresses my initial thoughts on this. My editor in chief (the misses) chose the title. I hope you like it.

To whom it may concern

I’m sorry for the things I said,
unkind thoughts came into my head.
I’m sorry if my words brought you a tear,
my apology is most sincere.
I’m sorry if I hurt you so,
please forgive me and let it go.
I’m sorry if my actions were sharp and terse,
I make my apology with this little verse.

Sick bags available on request!

Saturday, 10 October 2009

Council meeting part III

I owe democratic services an apology. I am now in receipt of their reply concerning the audio system in the Council Chamber. The reply is detailed, positive and polite and does not include any of the put offs I suggested in my earlier post. I have asked for permission to publish this but in the meantime please accept my apology and keep up the good work.
My thanks also to Council Leader Bill Thomas for the way he has dealt with this.
I look forward to being able to see and hear the debates in the not to distant future.

Friday, 9 October 2009

Incapacity benefit

In my posting on Tuesday 6th October “Vicious cuts” I touched on the Tories and Labour for that matter treatment of Incapacity Benefit. This prompted a couple of comments and discussion by phone etc, So I thought I would put the record straight so to speak in respect to my concerns. I am a socialist by heart and believe in a fair and caring society. We have not been able to achieve this but Labours aims are the closest that I know.
I was extremely annoyed by both the Tory party rhetoric and the way ITV news covered this item. They both suggested that pretty well everyone who was getting this benefit was in some way a skiver. The evening news coverage interviewed a couple of women from what appeared to be a council estate and asked some leading questions to support the case that they must all be skivers. I’m sure there will be a few but to paint the picture in the one sided manner they did is an absolute disgrace.
A friend of mine was a fireman for many years. He was invalided out of the service by what at the time was thought to be arthritis but later turned out to be something much more serious. Here was a man who had worked all his life had never claimed any benefit and had made a significant contribution to his community. Every year he was called in to have a medical assessment until a couple of years before he became pensionable age when it was clear what his condition was and he was eligible for the motability scheme. At times he told me he felt like a criminal having to justify his eligibility. Under the new rules would he be expected to get a job say as a receptionist or stuffing envelopes or perhaps doing a menial part time job if he could get to work?
My point is that checks already exist. I was surprised when labour suggested more checks. The Tories just felt that when labour announced it, it was seen has having support so they just embellished it. I wonder have the costs of carrying out the new checks been factored in and do we have the necessary medics available to do them? I doubt it. What we have here is a situation where we are in danger of throwing out the baby with the bath water.
The “free press” showed their Tory credentials and I’m sure this is going to continue over the coming months.
Labour has three problems as far as I can see 1) the press 2) the Tories and 3) Gordon Brown. Ummmmmmmmm