Thursday, 30 July 2009

Rocking the boat II

Steady as she goes. Don’t panic!
It’s not all bad news for us wrinkles’. The labour government have given us some things to be proud of. £10 Christmas bonus (oh dear that was the Tories), free prescriptions for the over sixties and free eye tests again for over sixties. Free public transport up and down the country on local services, winter fuel allowances, free TV licenses for over eighties and a sixty quid recession bonus. We have more doctors and nurses than pre 97 waiting lists have been cut and recovery from some cancers is better than ever. What more could we ask for? Gordon also gave us 200 quid for help with our council tax and took it away after the election. Sorry: this piece is about the positive aspects of being old under Gordon. Did I mention our Christmas bonus (ten quid yes ten, however am I going to spend it)? He gave us means testing or pensioner’s tax credit which has taken many pensioners out of poverty but is the most despised scheme ever. There I go again moving back to the negative. I must try harder. Now let me think is there anymore positive stuff?
I’ve been and had a lie down to think, did I mention our Christmas bonus? No there is no more. Still I suppose we should be grateful for the crumbs from the table. Like hell we should. Wake up you lot this is not good enough. Many pensioners have to live on less per year than an MP’s expenses that do not need a receipt. Puts it into perspective don’t you think? What an absolute bloody disgrace. I think I should remind you of the last two lines from my poem which summaries what our demands are: -

Our claim we feel is not overrated,
a fair share of the wealth that we created.

Wednesday, 29 July 2009

Rocking the boat

I wonder if this is the right time to start to rock the political boat? My regular readers will know my feelings on the Brown premiership but there are many issues that need addressing and the conference season is almost upon us.
I’ve campaigned for a better deal for pensioners ever since I joined the ranks as an early retiree in January 2001. I’ve attended the Pensioners Parliament and participated in protest marches. None of these seems to have had much influence on our policy makers. At one of the Pensioner Parliament meetings the then minister Steven Timms addressed the assembly. To say he was arrogant and unfeeling would be a classic understatement. He was addressing a largely retired trade union membership but with many who had lost their pensions through the likes of Murdock and Co. I can remember his words to this day “you’ve never had it so good” The hall fell silent and then the furore broke out. “Shame, disgrace and lynch him cries started to emanate from the floor. I was just really sad that a minister of the crown responsible for the well being of us pensioners should feel like that let alone make his views public knowledge. His views on that day though do seem to reflect what as been a steady decline in the governments attitude to us. I was sponsored for that event and had to do a short report on the proceeding. Because I had been required to do this during my career I decided to do this one in verse: -

I went to the conference of the NPC,
the pensioners Parliament at Blackpool by the Sea.
The minister came to give us his view,
there’s no more cash for folks like you.
You’ve never had it so good was his outrageous claim,
the cry from the floor was shame shame shame.
Pensioner credit is here and its going to stay,
it doesn’t really matter what the pensioners say.
He can’t understand why we make a fuss,
you now all get free rides on your local bus.
We paid for our pensions, was the cry from the floor.
why cant you help us, you paid for a war.
Turner reports this year on the pension position
the government wont say if it will really listen.
A future that’s fair for one and all,
is labour`s motto and rallying call.
There’s nothing fair for pensioners today,
look at the council tax and what we pay.
Our claim we feel is not overrated,
a fair share of the wealth that we created.

June 2005

He was eventually escorted from the room by his minders. I have a lot of other examples of lobbying of MPs in respect to pensions so perhaps I might make post more on this later. PS he’s still a member of the government at the treasury. Ummmmmmm.

Monday, 27 July 2009

Councillors and such

Recently I have had a lot more involvement with our local councillors than I normally would because of the problems with our lack of progress on health facilities in our ward. I must say I have had a lot of support particularly from David & Joyce. David especially, who has beavered away to get political support for Tanhouse from within the labour group. When needed the Tories turned up to support the campaign but I think it is only fair to say their support has been placid. The reality I suppose is that they and other Liberals represent neighbouring wards and their priorities are different. It leaves me with some concerns though over the future of the NHS under the Tories. Can they be trusted with NHS when the talk is of massive cuts in public spending next year? Health care will be a major issue at next years elections both locally and nationally and I will be happy to post my thoughts on who to trust.
This got me to thinking about the bigger picture and how we are represented at local level. All our local councillors live in our ward. Their surgery times are advertised well and I guess they are known to the electorate in much the same way I know them. They all make a contribution to the ward. I have always believed that our councillors should live in the ward they represent and I don’t think I have ever voted for a candidate who lived outside the ward. Conspicuous by her absence at the lobby of our MP was the defeated Liberal candidate from the last but one election who might be considering standing again next time. This issue of living in the ward is the difference between the chicken and pig in bacon and eggs. The chicken is involved the pig is committed. If they live in the ward and things do go wrong they suffer with the rest of us. This theory to me applies to our MPs also. Our MP used to live in the constituency but I understand now lives next door.
The biggest concern for me though is councillors who live in our ward but represent other wards on our council. I don’t know how they all organise local branch/group meeting to discuss local issues but at these meetings their loyalties must be stretched in favour of the ward they represent and not the ward they live in. I see little involvement with some of these and certainly I see no visible support for our clinic campaign. Shame on them. If any of my analysis is incorrect please tell me and I will be delighted to correct my error. Perhaps it's time to change the rules on candidates.

Saturday, 25 July 2009

Norwich North

What’s that got to do with you? I hear you all say! Well perhaps a couple of you who will have noticed the Tories won a significant victory there on Thursday. I must be getting REALLY OLD because the new MP looks as though she just got out of sixth form in the same way as coppers and junior doctors do to me these days. Anyway I digress. I had completely forgotten about this by-election when I wrote my last post on the Green Paper and suggested that if Sandwell’s MPs didn’t wake up and do something one of them would loose to a far right candidate. Well from memory because I can’t remember the numbers but I think if this swing was continued into next year we just lost Adrian Bailey and perhaps if my fears are correct to a far right candidate. The Tories have not tried very hard in West Brom over the last few general elections but the far right did a while back and won three council seats. Are the warning signs not there?
Now remember any significant changes in policy: Pensioners first. I can write you a comprehensive list of vote winning changes. You know it makes sense. The clock is ticking loud:- Tip-ton,Tip-ton,Tip-ton,Tip-ton.

Thursday, 23 July 2009

Green paper.

The long awaited green paper on adult social care was published last week. I haven’t commented much lately on the Brown government performance because quite frankly it depresses me, lurching as it does from one crisis to the next. This is another of Browns to little to late measures. He knows what needs to be done his own constituents have a scheme in place which is far better than that outlined in the green paper. If the Scottish parliament can pay for it why can’t we? We are going to spend the next few months talking about payment systems when we should be talking about quality of care.
The health secretary said radical reform was needed to end the cruel lottery of the current system which sees some older people selling their house to pay for care while others receive it for free. The three payment options do not remove the risk though; they all only cover part payment. This whole topic depresses me because I have known pensioners who had to loose their home to pay for care and it is a very distressing time. I think if it ever gets near that with me a trip to Switzerland would be on the cards. I’d never rest if I thought a Tory or even Labour government for that matter had seized the assets I have worked for all my life when over the border it would not be necessary.
Gordon will never win a general election with this kind of animosity towards him present. The damage done with pensions and pensioners is to deep and to long to be repairable so wake up all Sandwell MPs now is the time to act.
I think unless they act one of them will loose their seat to a far right candidate. The clock is ticking, Tip-ton, Tip-ton, Tip-ton, Tip-ton. Or have Labour decided to throw in the towel and loose with him?
I do hope not.

Wednesday, 22 July 2009

Gremlins in the tech stuff

Have you ever noticed how things seem to go wrong in threes?
On Monday I was asked to set up a sound system for a music appreciation group. I always like to have a plan B when I do these things so I took along a lap top “just in case” The music repro part of the system failed to power up, a situation I had not encountered before. No probs I thought the lap top will do and so it did until the last piece of music when silence. Absolutely nothing not a note. We had to shorten the program because knuckle head here never realised there was a mute button. In my defence though the icon and size was very misleading. It took me about half an hour on my own yesterday playing with the software to identify the button when all sweet music filled my room. The sound system music bit is now at the suppliers for repair.
Last night my wife and I wanted to skype with our grandkids in USA. No probs we do it all the time. Switch on, grandkids call, video linked and away we go. We must have done it a hundred times. Last night skype failed to recognise our video camera and hence no pictures being sent. Great pictures from over the pond though. The grandkids thought it was hilarious granddad trying to fix his computer while they were on line. It took about an hour of fiddling before the big blue button for video on which the grandkids had been telling me to find came on and we had contact. I have no idea what I did to get things back to normal. Why it failed I have no idea, is it still working I guess so because the “camera on” light is showing this morning.

Tuesday, 21 July 2009

Scot Arms road hog

The Scot Arms road junction is one of the busiest in the country. On the Birmingham side of the junction there is a long parade of shops, mostly banks and building societies. A chemist, green grocer, off licence that sort of business. Since the introduction of Red Route parking has been restricted but with enough short term places to be able to get to the bank etc if required. Parking is usually civilised because a lot of double parking takes place drivers are usually sensible about it and business is done. Traffic wardens patrol from time to time but mostly the “Scots” gets on with its business fairly well.
Yesterday I was feeling a lot below par when I took the wife to the Scots to put a cheque into the bank. I parked as close as possible and because I knew she would only be a few minutes I partially blocked a passageway leading to the rear of the bank. This is not usually a problem. If someone wants to use the passage, well move up a little. Behind and to my side a Jag stopped. No problem double parking takes place all the time. Then he starts to toot his horn. I look around to see him gesticulating to me to move. Normally this would not be a problem but I notice he has a mobile phone held up at his ear. Using a mobile phone like this is not only illegal but one of my pet hates. I put my finger to my mouth and thumb to my ear to indicate the use of the phone. This only irritated Jag driver more. He starts tooting harder and waving his left hand to me to move and showing me he wants to drive into the passageway. This time I indicate the phone and cut symbol with my hand across my throat. He’s getting more irritated; driving rules don’t apparently apply to him. He’s not going to be told what to do by some old geezer in a tiny Peugeot car. His tooting is getting longer and his hand waving more animated. No thought that perhaps just perhaps he should put the phone down so that he could drive safely. I decide that unless I move on this is going to get nasty and feeling as I did I could do without it. I smiled demurely pulled away to see him shaking his fist.
What should we do about this kind of behaviour? I think we should have a phone number where incidents of this type can be reported. It is a simple matter of checking times with phone usage and a reliable witness to punish these drivers. I just hope that Jag driver does not kill anyone.

Sunday, 19 July 2009

The big sh** and the Twirly part two

Hamstead Road bus terminal
The picture shows the site where buses stack up during the course of the day waiting for their timed slots before moving off to turn around and pick up passengers at the bus shelter shown on the right. The picture was taken awhile back because we now have a lovely new blue shelter which has become a total rubbish tip and a disgrace to the area. I love the little old lady just waiting to be run over and the gentleman on the left watching. Look at the grassed area which has been destroyed by buses. To his right is a service road. There is plenty of room to make a four buses length lay-by here without any disruption to pedestrians or families living on Hamstead Road. Why I ask can’t Centro provide a Porta Loo facility at this and all termini where toilet facilities are not available?
I raised the traffic calming measures on this Road at our last forum meeting where a guy from Highways told us very forcefully that changing the shape of the roundabouts on Hamstead Road would be very expensive and he did not have budget for it. So I guess no budget for making road junctions safer no budget for creating lay-bys. A lady was given the job of Road accident monitor for our road junction with Hamstead Road. This was an interesting suggestion because she does not live on our estate but she was complaining bitterly about those of us that do who short cut the roundabout (we are all effectively criminals). I think she should mind her own business. I’m going to continue to do it. It’s the only sensible way to get around it.
This is fresh in my mind because yesterday I went into Birmingham by bus. A three line whip you understand by the wife who insisted I meet her for lunch after her shopping spree.
I’m warming to this debate.

Friday, 17 July 2009

The big sh** and the Twirly

Yesterday morning about 9:30 I was driving along Hamstead Road towards Birmingham. Just before its junction with Spouthouse Lane there is a bus stop for Nos 406,16 and some other smaller bus services. A bus was parked taking on passengers when a little old lady was hurrying towards the bus helped by her walking stick. I can’t say she was running because I would estimate her age as being in her eighties but she clearly was anxious to catch the bus. I overtook the bus and started to turn left when I noticed in my mirror the bus driver moved off leaving the little old lady walking towards the bus stop and within a few feet of it.
Why did this driver do that? What kind of a sadow is he/she? The lady would have about twenty minutes to wait for the next bus but we don’t need that kind of driver on this bus route. I wish I had taken the time to get vehicle details. This kind of behaviour is not public service. The No16 buses terminating at the top of Hamstead Road are always a source of complaint at neighbourhood meetings with drivers peeing in passageways and fag ends and littler left at the stops. Grass verges destroyed by parking on them. Can I feel a good moan coming on here at the next neighbourhood meeting? On yes I can.

Thursday, 16 July 2009

I’ve got a project granddad

Don’t I just love it when the grandkids need help? The conversation went something like. I’ve got a project granddad, that’s nice son I’m sure you’ll do really well. He usually corrects me if I call him son but not this time he needs my help. You don’t understand I need you and Mum to help. It appears he wants to enter a hobbies competition at school which he has known about for a while and ignored. I’m impressed though he has all the appropriate materials and as used his other granddad to provide his demo board. At 12yrs old he’s been learning about mass production because he quickly gets me and his Mum in a line doing the work whilst he arranges the finished goods on his display board. I’m impressed and we get an invite into school to see the exhibition. He came second in his category for year 7 so well done Hippy and granddads and Mum and Nan.
I’m going to get into a lot of trouble over this blog I’m not supposed to tell anyone. Shushhhhhhh it’s a secret!

Tuesday, 14 July 2009

Flag counter and such.

Firstly can I thank all my regular readership whoever you are for your continued patronage. With flag counter I can tell how many hits I get and of course the countries across the world I get them. I’m delighted at both the hit rate in UK and the interest from abroad.
I suppose when readers log on it’s a bit like arriving in the car park of a restaurant if you see plenty of vehicles parked you think this must be an OK place to eat and hence the blog “this might be worth a read. The comments section from abroad though is none existent and I wonder why. It’s not my American family who are the USA interest for example I checked that out.
My clinic campaign attracts some local interest as does the local political items but there must be a lot more of the silent majority who read and leave. I’m following a lot more blogs than I used to. Methodist Preacher for example got very few comments until he did a piece on global warming which attracted 24 comments to date.

I’m not heavy into the spiritual stuff or the totally biased political bloggers who seem to dominate the blogasphere in fact what is happening to me on a day by day basis and the issues here in Newton keep me focused.
We do however have a general election coming up and next year local elections to so I’m sure health permitting I’m going to get involved with these.
As a taster I think Sandwell MPs need to wake up to the threat of far right parties because I think one of them could loose their seat. We only have to look at what happened in Tipton, correlate that to fed up pensioners and unemployed in those wards and others and we have our first far right MP. What a disaster for Sandwell.

Monday, 13 July 2009

A quiet week end.

Not totally as I planned it but perhaps for the better. The disease/drugs did one of their catch up routines on Sunday and washed me out again. Fortunately we had pretty much completed what we wanted to do before hand and a lazy day was a bit of a bonus for me. I did a little political lobbying with our local councillors and MP via email just to get a better understanding of their views on the position with our PCT and clinic. I’ll report on the outcome in due course. I’m convinced the only reason we are making any progress with our clinic campaign is because of the cross party support for this, the adverse publicity the PCT are getting and the now clearly demonstrated public frustration at the position here in Newton. I’m sceptical I suppose because I have been in a similar position with PCT a couple of years ago when a doctor closed his surgery in our ward. Together with a friend from the Great Barr & Newton forum I went along to meet with them and we were promised a replacement doctor. An offer which was later withdrawn/denied. A lot more witnesses this time but a lot more “get out” references also.

Thursday, 9 July 2009

Clinic campaign update

It’s good news, I think! It’s a sad reflection on what as gone on between us and the PCT that I have to be cautious about what I have heard. Today the Chair, Chief Exec and an officer came along to our local community forum to update us on plans for our long overdue clinic. It appears that they now favour using our first choice site of Tanhouse Community Centre for either the main clinic or its satellite facility. This would be a joint venture with Sandwell Council. They were anxious to stress that a lot of work needed to be done before they could make any promises. Funding for the facility might not be straight forward because basically this would be the first time a joint venture of this nature has been undertaken. The Chief Exec explained he was aware of the frustrations from within our community at the lack of progress on this and stressed that Great Barr was a priority for them. A lot of people from the floor underlined this frustration both from councillors and public. During a discussion on local doctors attitudes to a clinic Cllr Hosell made what I thought was the most positive observation of the day and that is that it is the patients that come first. If exiting doctors don’t want to work with the new arrangements (and there is no evidence to suggest that this is the case) then we should recruit doctors who do. One of the most positive sides to this is that it will be Sandwell PCT commissioned. News that a HOB clinic planned for neighbouring Handsworth had been put on hold was also good news for us.
From my point of view there were two issues that were not addressed: - no time scale was laid down and no recovery plan tabled. Without these two items being established the group must not sit back and think things are going well. Today we won a battle we have not yet won the war. There is still much to do. We do however now need to consider a change in tactics. I would like to think the confrontational aspects are over and we need to develop a cautious partnership approach to this but just in case be ready. The PCT are promising full consultation as the project moves on and we must ensure that the groups voice is heard during this consultation period. The next forum meeting date of 15th September is to long before we need to talk again.
More I’m sure to follow, but this just might be a win win situation for all concerned.

Monday, 6 July 2009

The clinic campaign a bit more.

Our local community forum meeting is next Thursday and although I believe in being open about these things to say too much now would be naïve and give the opposition a big advantage. We must therefore at this stage hear what the PCT have to say but have our next campaign stage ready to implement. Planning for this is going well but I do hope we do not have to implement it.
It is quite common these days to hear of people with life threatening illnesses having to fight their PCT over the provision of a life extending drug but rare to hear of a community having to fight theirs for the provision of basic health services.

Sunday, 5 July 2009

I went for a lie down

I should keep my big mouth shut (yesss! I can hear half of Sandwell Council cheer from the rooftops) about feeling well. The following day after my swim attempt disease/drugs caught up with me and just about wiped out my day. Everything I attempted ended with me asleep in a chair or in bed. I even fell asleep watching the Williams sisters.
Happy to be able to report today I’m back to normal if I know what that status is nowadays.

Saturday, 4 July 2009

I’ll go for a swim.

Woke up one morning feeling fine. This is unusual for me. I pinched myself a couple of times just to make sure I wasn’t dead. No I was alive and totally pain free. I lay in bed for a few minutes to savour the moment then down stairs for a cuppa.
My oncologist has been suggesting I should take more exercise so I decide a morning swim is possible today. I haven’t swum since before my diagnosis because to be honest although I was an extremely good swimmer and a qualified advanced teacher I never felt confident enough to get back in the pool. I persuaded my wife to come along to act as my minder and off we set to Wednesbury baths where I know they have a disabled group.
When we arrive we are flagged down by three pretty young ladies who advise us they have a power cut at the pool and the pool is closed.
One of the most contentious issues in West Brom is that although we are the biggest town in Sandwell we do not have a swimming pool and from what I can see are never likely to get one. We considered our options all of which required a lengthy drive. We gave up on the swim.
Free swimming in West Brom under the government’s new rules would appear to be bit of a farce for us senior Sandwellians. Birmingham has a pool which is not to far from me which I’ll try next time I have the urge but surely Sandwell have a duty to provide these facilities.

Friday, 3 July 2009

I’m a ferret II

This is starting to pong a little
I got an answer to my letter re my post of Wednesday 17th June: - “I’m like a ferret”: - Local news. Concerning my concerns about posters and the procedure for displaying them at community centres. The letter makes interesting reading. The reason for the delay is stated as “the council had recently issued instruction on certain political parties” No political party was mentioned on our poster. If you take the letter on face value centre managers or indeed their managers can’t take any decisions for themselves. The head of service had to rule on this one. There is no explanation why the thing was stuck on someone’s desk for four days. The whole thing smacks of cover up to me. I went along to the community centre today to check on the “facts” and got a completely different story.
I think we lost this little spat but we have a piece of intelligence we did not have before and that is again if you take this letter on face value there is an element on the management committee who do not want a clinic at this centre. I am though not going to let this rest. Something is very wrong here and it needs sorting. As far as I’m concerned the management committee and local management should be working for the best interests of the centre and community at large. Preventing our poster being seen did neither.