Sunday, 31 May 2009

I’ve written a book

Well three to be precise, but not on purpose. The first one was a serious attempt and although I say it myself I am pleased with the result and so are the family members and others who have read it and passed critical comment. It will not however find its way onto the publishing list any day soon. Author reluctance and lack of confidence I suppose. It was written during a difficult period in my working life as an escape mechanism I suppose, during the last recession when people were being made redundant all around me.
The other two have been by accident. What amounts now to a book of poetry has grown since I retired and with over three hundred posts the blog also has given me enough material for a book. Needs a lot of editing but who knows might be worth looking at on another of those wet afternoons

Saturday, 30 May 2009

Euro elections.

I got my postal vote ballot papers last week. Glancing through I see we have 12 parties in which to choose. Of these each has a list of candidates which the final representatives will be chosen from depending on the proportion of votes they get. On further investigation I see that only three of the possible representatives are actually known to me. Two Labour candidates and a Lib Dem.
Liz Lynne for the Liberal Democrats and that is because they sometimes add a piece about her when they have nothing else to say in their Focus newsletters usually she’s got a hand into something recyclable. This time she’s pictured with Vince Cable who I think has talked more sense about the economy than all of Brown and Cameron’s lot put together. Michael Cashman & Neena Gill for the Labour party have made an effort to make themselves known to the electorate but I can’t say I’m impressed with either. The last local labour newsletter back page was an insult to the people of Newton. The other candidates could be a bunch of Disney characters as far as I’m concerned. Some interesting quotes on what the parties stand for: - Greens- Say No to Racism, what’s that all about? BNP – Protecting British Jobs, does anyone believe that?
I feel awfully sad in a way that I have to choose to vote tactically this time it’s not natural territory for me and I can’t help but think just how undemocratic the European parliament is. It’s never going to represent me only add to my tax bill. I’m not voting out of spite but because I firmly believe that Gordon is never going to face up to his responsibilities over pensions and pensioners and we are going to continue to see the now boring rhetoric of how many they have taken out of poverty. When they recognise that there is no difference between a failed bank and a failed pension scheme we might start to have a proper dialogue. I do hope that my peers do not decide to vote BNP in the way they did in some parts of Sandwell a couple of years back to make a protest vote. That did not help anyone just clouded the issues. So who’s it going to be Bob? I’m warming to Liberals but there’s plenty of time. Who knows Gordon might wake up one morning and think “why haven’t I treated our pensioners fairly? I must do something about that very urgently” He might even sack his sec of state for being just as complaisant to his scam. Oh dear I’m really into fantasy land again. I better go look to see if I can see those flying pigs again or the men in white coats. Aaaaaaaaaaah

Friday, 29 May 2009

I’ve been doing some reminiscing on the blog.

It must have been my post on the big birthday of youngest daughter and the fact I seem to be writing to myself mostly these days. I write when the mood takes but often these days in the early hours of the morning because one of the side effects of drugs I’m taking to keep me alive is sleep disruption. It’s not easy living life in six weeks blocks as I have to these days. Visits to the consultant can often mean a dramatic change to what you had planned but I’m pleased to say the last couple of times things have been progressing well and BBCB has much better prognosis these days than at the start of the year. Eventually though I suppose I will have to come to using a wheel chair or other devise to help me get around. It’s very common to see these scooter type chairs in shopping malls etc. I personally hate em and having had to use the wheel chair on a couple of occasions I’m not to plussed with that option either. They are very hard work on the arms and shoulders. I’ve been a cyclist since I was a kid and although I can’t ride the bike anymore I wonder if an electric version which I could probably still ride would be as acceptable as a disabled scooter. I very much doubt it. I’m seriously looking at the possibility of doing just that.

Wednesday, 27 May 2009

The pee problem

This raised its ugly head again at the week end when I was caught short in Currys in Sutton Coldfield. Another of my stores to name and shame. There’s a lot of them and the list is growing. I can’t understand why these days we could not legislate so that stores of that size have to provide facilities of that type.
Anyway because of the circumstance I was forced to use a corner behind my car door. A lady who was looking for a parking space saw me and although I was very properly covered she could ascertain what I was doing. The look generated on her face said it all; I was filth of the week. Well by the time I was finished she and her car had disappeared and perhaps this was just as well because I was in no mood to take prisoners.
The missus though has come up with one of her brilliant ideas which we are running by NHS on a scheme which could help to solve some of this problem because it does not just affect older people. It is very wide spread, pregnant women, nursing mothers, and about fifty medical conditions and drug side effects which can all give suffers problems at some time.
So to the snotty cow in Sutton “up yours” and I won’t be using Currys in fact I bought the item I was looking for at Currys in Wednesbury which does have a loo.
This might be one of those items David Cameron is suggesting the public could take up with parliament. Mind you by the time it will take to get it on the statute book I’ll be completely incontinent. Once the expenses issue as died down I might get a local MP offering to sponsor a private members bill. Now that would be good news.

Tuesday, 26 May 2009

Like waiting for a bus

Regular readers will have noticed that comments on the blog are very rare these days. It’s a bit like waiting for a bus. You wait for ages and then three come along together. Thank you Margaret for contributing, you made my day. I would like a better idea of the number of hits but this blog software does not allow it. Anyone have any ideas on what does? I think perhaps a little update on layout or a change of server might be in order. But I like the old American saying “If it ain’t bust don’t mend it. Layout needs a rethink though don’t you think? Perhaps one of these wet afternoons I’ll get around to it. Or maybe not I’m warming to the idea of winning procrastinator of the year award. Yesterday though the old health problem took over and wrote me off for the day. I’m really pi***d when that happens. Wife insists it’s a side effect of some treatment I had last week.
I must get around to finalising the details of our little protest against our Primary Care Trusts treatment of our area in respect to our clinic or more to the point lack of one. I’ll publish details later. No procrastinating on that one.

Sunday, 24 May 2009

Re Naughty naughty

Post 9th May I can now report that the fast food container as now been removed from the safety camera pictured. Took a couple of weeks though so perhaps this camera is not that well used in the case of its victims. I always avoid that stretch of road if I can as do a lot of other drivers by using my road as a rat run.

Friday, 22 May 2009

The garden

At this time of year our garden seems to metamorphose across the colour spectrum. The blues and purples are predominant for the next couple of weeks. Thought I’d share this picture with you. The sad thing is though that we will have to do a major pruning of this rhododendron but not until well after the flowers have finished. Well done to Mrs. BBCB who manages our little plot so cleverly.
Although it takes us a lot longer to maintain our little plot we don’t begrudge the time. I can report that my health always seems to improve after an hour in the garden. An hour is about as much as I can manage.

Wednesday, 20 May 2009

Euro elections & such

Leaflets are just starting to come through the post. First off the blocks were BNP telling me people like me are voting BNP. I don’t think so. This was followed by UKIP whose logic for getting out of Europe fails me if they are seeking election to its parliament. The quality of these publications though is first class they must have a big budget to do it. I wonder how many of these would be MEPs are genuinely interested in how they would represent me if elected. The Tories took a different line with a poor quality leaflet telling me it was delivered by local Tories at no cost to the tax payer. I remember the last local elections when their message on polling day was an urgent message from my neighbour, what a load of tosh that was, Except for a couple of poor quality leaflets I don’t think I’ve heard from our members since the last election. Proportional representation clouds the issue for me. It makes it difficult if you decide to tactically vote to decide how best to send the message to Gordon that things ain’t going well mate and it’s time you jacked it in so that the party can re group for next year. Put our pensions injustices right first though. You know it makes sense.
More on Euro elections later, this could be a half interesting topic this year with no local elections in Sandwell. Perhaps I’ll try and find the biggest porky (porky pie, lie) not to be confused with current noses in trough debacle. I fear that with the current outcry over MPs expenses small far left or right parties will do well in the backlash. This can only be bad news for everyone except their biased leadership. It will not help the political process and will harm our rating in Europe.
Leader of UKIP on the Politics Show claimed a vote for them would help get rid of Brown? Now there’s a thought! I’d like to think though that there was some way of getting the pensions position sorted before he is forced to quit because I can’t see how else we are going to get any justice. I asked my MP to let me have a face to face with Brown but that never made first base. Can’t have subversive old nut like me down there at No10 now can we? What would I know about pensions and pensioners problems?

Monday, 18 May 2009

Clinic/ Community forum

I went along to the community forum last week. I missed a couple of meetings but I knew the messenger from our PCT had been invited and I wanted an update for our clinic campaign. Well surprise surprise he sent an apology with a brief report that told us nothing new but reading between the lines everything. I think it’s appalling the way they are treating the people of our area. We are after all their customers. Two meetings are to take place, a feasibility meeting on using our preferred option of the Tanhouse Community Centre and a meeting with all the Doctors from our area. Without patient/local political involvement both of these meetings can be manipulated to give biased results. A discussion is also going on with neighbouring PCT re their plans to build a clinic in the Aston/Handsworth area. This option is what we believe to be the preferred one by Sandwell PCT because it moves the problem across the border and gets rid of the 3years late position which our facility now is. It must not be allowed to happen. We want a patient & local political presence at all meetings and reassurances that the local clinic funded and run by Sandwell is the preferred choice. The Chair of Sandwell PCT is to be invited to next meeting. In the meantime we need to keep the pressure on. Time I think to start planning for stage two of our campaign.
Interesting footnote. The leader of the Tories commented that in his ward at Yew Tree a clinic had been built and was now operational and it had happened whilst ours was still being talked about.

Saturday, 16 May 2009

40 today

No not me stupid, my youngest off spring. I can remember it as if it were yesterday. I was perhaps the happiest man on the planet. A beautiful strawberry blond haired daughter. He elder sister was two and her arrival made our family complete. She was born at home. Non of the nonsense we have nowadays. Everything was ready I called the midwife and few hours later out popped our little one. I was present for the delivery and what a great experience it was. In those days there was no maternity or paternity leave I had to take a couple of days holiday to care for my family. The misses had had to give up her job when D1 came along. Where did those years go?
I’m safe making this post because she never reads my blog. She has got over the fact that her Dad writes to himself on the internet. Perhaps she’s right they ought to take me away.
Happy Birthday

Friday, 15 May 2009

Hospital branding.

Our local hospital trust who are about to start a build program for a new hospital are spending a small fortune on consultants and consultation exercises to establish a brand identity for the new hospital. Best current thinking is the phrase “where everyone matters”. Don’t quite work for me. I picked the misses up after the event and to say she was spitting teeth about what went on would be ever so slightly understating the case. Most expensive venue in West Brom, expensive buffet supplier. Poor PA quality. Best piece of rhetoric apparently came from a member of the team who claimed that when an emergency ambulance came to pick you up you have a choice of which hospital to go to. With my problems before Christmas the misses is perhaps the best person in West Brom to know the ropes on that one. If we had a choice it’s not much of one when you look at the performance of local hospital trusts. Good Hope, No hope as it is known locally. City Hospital where you risk being shot or stabbed in the waiting room. Walsall Manor, not if I can help it! QE too far to travel.
They are right though the service is in need of re-branding but it must come from word of mouth by patients who are delighted with the service they have received. My experiences with Sandwell Hospital are mostly very positive except perhaps with A&E who lack direction at times. Even when in pain and suffering you are still able to asses what is going on around you. My first stab at a slogan is :- Exceptional health care from caring people.

Thursday, 14 May 2009

Not fit to govern

Bring back Oliver Cromwell. I was appalled by the attitude of senior Tories who were named and shamed this week. As this shameful debacle unfolds their attitude to parliament and constituents leaves me convinced the Tories are not fit to govern but then neither are labour at the moment and now we know the Lib dems are not squeaky clean. When you examine the party leaders though I am warming to Cameron who I think acted very positively in telling them pay up or go. If you compare him with Browns dithering and Cleggs skirting around the issue I thing Cameron wins outright. I need to have a lie down! Me praising a Tory as never before been heard of. The worst offender thought was Hogg with a name like that it was not difficult to visualise him with his nose in the trough. I think Cameron should fire him whatever he agrees to pay back and Brown should fire Smith and Blears.
As an electorate we have another consideration when we cast our votes next year and that is “was this person involved in the expenses fiddle?” I don’t feel like voting for any candidate who was and had the brass cheek to seek re-election next time. We need a completely new parliament as well as the new rules on expenses. I’m looking forward to see how many MPs actually pay back a penny. But when I think about arrogant members such as Peter Haine who said he had to make sure the Financial Assistance Scheme for people who had lost pensions was value for money for the tax payer my blood boils. Whatever happens now surely even Brown must realise that on the back of this lot he must put right the injustices of the Pension Protection Fund and Financial Assistance Scheme. Because MPs are not value for money neither is he and pensioners are.
Other outstanding issues concern Fred Goodwin who still hasn’t paid back a penny and another of his failed team at RBS has just left with a whopping £500000 pension. Are you taking the p**s?

Tuesday, 12 May 2009

MPs expenses

The following is taken from the blog site of local blogger WestBrom Blogger. He/she refers to our MP’s expenses which were reported in the Telegraph which unfortunately I did not see.

"It was bound to happen eventually, the Telegraph has revealed the expense claims of our local MP, Tom Watson. There are few surprises. Aside from the £100 per week “Two Dinners Tommy” claims for food -I’m not quite sure why MP’s can claim for food, I too work and I too eat food, yet I have to pay for it – Watson along with Iain Wright MP managed to lavish a whopping £100k of our cash on his second home* in London. That’s some gold plated pigsty. Tom even managed to spend so much taxpayers cash in one shopping spree, that Marks and Spencer’s presented him with a free Pizza Wheel as a show of gratitude. The irony clearly wasn’t lost on them.
In 2006-2007, Watson pocketed the basic MP's salary of a shade under £60,000. His parliamentary expenses amounted to £150,000-plus - bringing his total package to £211,000- the second-highest among MPs in the Midlands.
As previously revealed, when you add in the money paid to his wife, who he employees in his office, and the various other Watson’s dotted around the West Midlands offices of various Labour figures, that comes to state funded package of £300k for the family. Not bad going.Tom represents one of the most impoverished constituencies in England where the average wage is a mere fraction of the Watson clans state funded income or expenses. I’m sure they will be pleased with the way he spends their hard earned wages…
*Which, incidently
they purchased freehold at the taxpayers expense, thus adding significantly to the value of the property.They are under no obligation to pass on any of the profits to the taxpayer on selling the home".
Posted by Posted by WestBrom Blogger

The argument though seems to me to have some flaws. I would expect Mr. Watson to want to respond to this but let me make a couple of observations. He mentions spending on food. This can be a genuine expense in the case of off site expenditure when for example on a business trip or out of normal environment arrangement. I don’t know what Tom’s schedule is but it could be a genuine expense.
In respect to his wife working for him and the reference to his being one of the most impoverished constituencies in the country. When I have had to deal with his office I have always found them very efficient and helpful. This I am sure is in no short measure due to the effort put in by his wife and other members of his team. Because the constituency is impoverished it would follow that a lot more people have problems and hence a higher expenditure for dealing with them would it not?
The second home issue seems to me that because he is sharing with another MP he is in effect saving the taxpayer money. Although the sum published seems very extravagant.
The M&S shopping trip! Well, I once purchased a series of gift vouchers for a project I was undertaking and negotiated extra vouchers as part of the deal. It was not a substantial amount of money but they did it in good faith. So without the details of the shopping and exactly what happened I would be reluctant to criticise him on that.
In respect to the other family members surely unless they are paid directly from Tom’s expenses and they are in other parts of the country this is irrelevant to this argument.
I think though that Tom does need to put the record straight.
The voters of West Brom East deserve it.
My thanks to WestBrom Blogger for permission to use the post.
So come on Tom lets hear it from you.

Monday, 11 May 2009

MP’s expenses.

I think a “Dear Gordon” post is long overdue but for the moment I’m going to register my disgust at what is now coming out in the press from by the sound of things all parties. They haven’t got to our MP’s level yet and I’m sure he will be whiter than white. I think what makes me so mad is their appalling attitude to pensioners who are living on less than some of their minor claims and the governments stock answer to those who lost pensions because of Brown policies and the continuing under funding of PPF and FAS (by the way the highest proportion of these live in the West Mids).
“We did nothing wrong” “it was only a porno video the old man watched while I was away” “I’m ever so sorry I’ll pay it back” “whoops sorry about my overpayment for council tax” don’t work for me. When I had an expense account and even now when I claim expenses for something I’m involved with I take care to make sure the expense is accurate, justified and allowed. My bosses always had to sign off expenses but down there it seems that anything goes. I can image what is going on. Going down to London on the train “what can I claim for this week end? I know that barbeque is a bit rusty I’ll get a new one on the second home exes, now what else etc etc. It stinks. Only a couple of em so far revealed is considering legal action so I guess most of revelations are true. I don’t feel so bad about Gordo’s first You tube cringe level 9 at least he knew what was coming out and tried to do something about it.
Get em a block of old council flats, tidy em up a bit (can’t have our MP’s living in squalor bad enough pensioners still having to live in it) and lay on a bus service to Westminster similar to services provided at airports I say. I have no objection to genuine expenses being claimed but this lot must do a training course on “how to get the most from your expenses claim” when they get sworn in.
When we have a real crisis in the world which requires leadership of the highest calibre we get our lot preoccupied with their own personal greed. How can we have any confidence in our parliament?

Disgusted pensioner name and address supplied.

Saturday, 9 May 2009

Naughty naughty

I was out and about with my camera yesterday. Not that I wanted to be but I was abandoned in West Brom by the misses and had to take the bus back home. The bus stops near a speed camera which is just over the brow of a hill and very poorly sign posted. Unless you know it’s there and take care, more than likely you’ll get caught.
The wag who did this to the camera though is worthy of some mention. I’m trying not to smile here. OK I’m not trying very hard. I know it’s an offence but no real damage done to the camera and he could have thrown the box on the floor like a lot of folks around that bus stop. I wonder how long before it gets removed? I’ll keep an eye out. This might start a national campaign “Litter Louts Against Speed Cameras” LLASC. The picture says it all. What ingenuity. I’m not sure who’s side I’m on here but I’m still smiling.

Friday, 8 May 2009

Are Newton & Great Barr in Sandwell?

Express & Star – 6 May 2009

“Healthcare plans shown at meetings Public consultation over plans for new health facilities in Sandwell is under way. Sandwell PCT and other partners are investing in new healthcare facilities, which could include three new neighbourhood health centres in Cradley Heath, Dudley Port and Hill Top, as well as centres in Wednesbury and Smethwick. Meetings have already been held to discuss locations of the proposed facilities and the public will be able to hear feedback at follow-up sessions in May and June”.

Call me paranoid but I don’t see any references to Newton and Great Barr in that press release. Our clinic is running almost 3yrs behind schedule. We have made representations to PCT and given them a site which is ideal for purpose and yet nothing is happening but in other parts of the borough? “well come on in folks and lets talk about your new health care facilities”. The evidence is growing that we are not going to be included in any new facilities. The references made at the last but one forum meeting to discussions with Heart of Birmingham PCT re their plans for clinic in Handsworth and that we should use that now looks the likely outcome. This will only further outrage local residents and will mean larger deputations to MP’s surgeries in coming months.
Sandwell PCT should not misunderstand local feeling over this issue.

Wednesday, 6 May 2009

Garden update.

I’ve commented before on the state of the grassed areas on our estates and others in Sandwell. We have three, two of which are cut by the council and ours which is cut by myself and a couple of neighbours. This last week the council did their bit, and what a mess with grass lumps left everywhere. They never attempt to touch our patch and I have concerns about this because of my health I may not be able to continue to do it for much longer. My neighbours and I did our patch a few days after and what a difference. It looks like a lawn which of course it is with lines in the grass. So tidy with all the cuttings put in the green bins for recycling. I suppose I view it with a mixture of pride and disappointment. Pride that a small proportion of us have taken ownership of this and look after it and disappointment that the rest is, well, so scruffy. I can’t help feeling that with a little out of the box thinking our council could leave the sites tidier without adding to the cost. Birmingham do it just over the border from our ward.

Sunday, 3 May 2009

Our clinic, a sort of update

I did the rounds of our political surgeries this week just to get an update on where we were and to keep the pressure on. Labour came first with Cllr. Hosell who I knew the position with but did his surgery anyway. I had to wait in line a very busy surgery. Second came Liberals no queue here but a bit more info and they are still very much on board. Saturday saw a small deputation of us attend our MP’s surgery. He wasn’t there (cabinet office duties related to swine flue, sounds a bit Reggie Perin) but his deputies assured us he is very supportive of getting the clinic at Tanhouse and they would ask him to support the actions we outlined. I’m sure this will happen. At the moment I don’t want to report anymore on action we think we need to take. Let’s wait and see.
I never thought I would have to spend my retirement fighting my local PCT on a basic issue such as this. If all PCTs up and down the country are run like this one it’s about time the dept of health took a fresh look at how local health care is managed.

Friday, 1 May 2009

The proud granddad bit

I know it’s boring but us granddads just have to do it from time to time. It’s a lot better than banging on about Gordon & Co’s performance this week, isn’t it?
Last night we went along to grandsons’ school for an evening’s promenade concert. He is a talented flautist used to playing at a very high standard with Birmingham Flute Choir. This was the first time we had been along to his new school for a concert so we did not know what to expect. Its easy picking him out in a group he’s the smallest and being a first year easier still he’s the smallest. What he looses in height he more than makes up for in talent and personality. Super concert, very high standard, not quite what he’s used to playing at but very good and well done Hippy. I enjoyed every note.