Friday, March 31, 2006

Armed Central

I’ve never tried Blogging” from the stage of a conference before. I’ve heard here from a reliable source that that one can’t assume that any drug you receive, here or abroad, is bona fide. It’s much worse, indeed acute in Asia and Africa, so a recommendation I would pass on is to take your medicines with you when you travel to more exotic locations or simply rely on the “Placebo effect.”

Pictured the respective heads of the Australian and Ukrainian Hi-tech Crime Units today.

More mystery from Birchington this morning. According to Kent Online, a 14-year-old boy has become the third person arrested in connection with an armed robbery at a shoe shop earlier this week.

The teenager was arrested at a house in Ramsgate, on Thursday afternoon on suspicion of conspiracy to commit robbery and possessing class C drugs.

It follows yesterday’s s arrest of two men when armed police intercepted a white car on Margate Road, Ramsgate. The men are suspected of conspiracy to commit robbery. All three suspects remain in custody at Margate police station where they are being questioned.

Meanwhile, a 47-year-old man has been arrested in connection with the attempted armed robbery at a shop in Ramsgate just after 5.30pm on Thursday evening.

Gone Missing

That's strange. The story of the police arresting the two alleged desparate shoe-shop gunmen in Ramsgate has disappeared from all the news sources on the web. I wonder why? Perhaps they were Special Branch undercover officers, in the style of the "Sweeney" programme of twenty years ago?

I'm meeting the head of our National Crime Squad in half an hour and so maybe he knows something about the mystery. Were the desparate shoe-shop gunman and his accomplice not what they seemed?

Ironically, one of the senior officers here was based in Thanet once upon a time. I know your'e reading this with some amusement, so any clues?

Thursday, March 30, 2006

Time to Go

Sorry folks, I've been busy. I met the lad who created the "Million Dollar Home Page" today, Alex Tew. He was the final speaker at the conference I was chairing in London and did very well, I thought. Just twenty and already $1 million richer in a few short months, I wish I could tour him around some of our local schools as a working example of what a good idea and a little energy can achieve. Mind you, he's one in a milion, quite literally!

An Airads flying job for the coming weekend is attracting a little attention. The Southampton FC Supporters Club have booked a banner over St Mary's Stadium on Saturday afternoon with the message, "Time to go Rupert Lowe" and the tabloids, BBC, Sky et al, are getting a little excited by the protest. Apparently, the supporters aren't allowed to bring any kind of banner into the stadium to express their views and came up with this one. Hopefully the weather will be rather better than last weekend. I don't want to disappoint them. It's another exercise in aerial democracy I guess!

Some good news now. Kent Online reports that police have arrested two- left-footed - men in conjunction with the armed shoe-shop raid in Birchington. Armed officers intercepted a white car on Margate Road, Ramsgate this afternoon.

Nobody was injured during the arrest, which happened just before 2pm and caused some traffic disruption.

What's next I wonder? A shotgun raid on the corner sweetshop? The trouble is that such an idea is no longer in the realm of the ridiculous!

Wednesday, March 29, 2006

What a Mess

The owner of Pav’s cafe in St Mildred’s Bay, Simon Alex, has complained to ThanetLife that the council are failing to move rubbish and seaweed from outside his cafe, despite repeated calls and requests to Thanet Council.

Despite paying his business rates, Simon has been generally unimpressed with the service he receives from the council throughout the season, with unsightly rubbish frequently littering the promenade and the beachfront. One mother, giving her children a late breakfast this morning, - pictured – said that it was disgraceful to see such a mess left on the promenade for so long. “Dogs are leaving their mess in it”, she said.

Sounds like Westgate has a “poo problem” too, like Ramsgate but come on TDC, buck-up and do something about the mess in front of Pav’s. After all, that’s what he pays his rates for isn’t it?

Concrete Always Wins

The scene of destruction at the St Mildred's Bay car park early this morning. Surprisingly nobody appears to have been seriously hurt except of course the car.

Apparently this was "borrowed from dad" for a little rally practise around the car park last night and the result is there for all to see.

The police are there as I write, like me, wondering how on earth the car could plunge through a concrete wall and drop two metres without considerable physical damage to the kids inside. This says a great deal for the car's protection structure and even more about the driver's ability and intelligence.

Now, I wonder, how long before the debris is cleaned-up and the wall repaired or will we have to wait until next year?

Tuesday, March 28, 2006

Future Tense

There will be a public meeting to discuss the’ future’ of the Turner Contemporary on 4th April at 7pm at the Queens Halls, Winter Gardens Margate.

This is a combined TDC and KCC effort to “Announce the progress on the new building for the Turner Contemporary in Margate and exciting prospects for the regeneration of the surrounding coastline."

Should I give a prize for the best and wittiest comment?

Ghost of a Chance

Spooky Thanet is looking for haunted homes to explore and test for ghosts. If you think your house is haunted and you would like to find out more about your invisible guests, then visit

In case you wondered, then the photo is the famous CCTV camera shot of the Hampton Court ghost.

No Quick Fixes to a Very Real Problem

From today’s papers, news that Britain’s youngest drink-driver attacked a lawyer and threw a jug of water at magistrates yesterday as she was sentenced for her second offence of driving while drunk.

Leanne Black, 14, screamed obscenities and kicked over a chair before lunging at the prosecutor and punching her in the back.

As the three magistrates who had sentenced her to four months in a young offender institution tried to flee, the teenager picked up a two-litre jug of water and hurled it at them.

The reality I suspect is that the law is close to giving up on a rising social problem that it is quite unable to contain. Let's be honest for a moment, if the crumbling criminal justic system can't protect you from a 12 year-old drunk driver, there's very little hope further up the growing food chain of organised crime.

Ironically, I showed the front page of the Thanet Times to a meeting of police officers this morning but sadly I can't repeat their comments on the story.

Back in Thanet, however, we have a significant front-page challenge in the shape of young Jason Mobey, from Cliftonville. Although a juvenile can have his picture published when he is given an ASBO, breaching the order means that he can’t be pictured, unless of course the court believes that it is in the public interest to do so. In Jason’s case they did and the law will be changing in a month to remove this ridiculous irregularity which hides the identity of feral youngsters from the public.

Juveniles like Jason and Leanne present a different kind of terrorist threat to the public but one that is more immediate and visceral than the risk of being bombed on a bus. They are everywhere it seems and the law still appears to be broadly unsuccessful in controlling their anti-social and violent behaviour with ASBOs. Giving the lad a 24-hour attendance order and a twelve month parenting order to his mother are hardly likely, I would suggest, to have any effect in removing this sad and disturbed local problem permanently from the streets of Cliftonville. I suspect that we’ll be hearing from him again in the not so distant future. Tell me I’m wrong.

Shoes Robbed at Gunpoint

Kent Police detectives have released a CCTV image of a man they would urgently like to speak to in connection with an armed robbery in Birchington just before midday today.

A man walked into Peter Newman shoe shop on Station Road, Birchington about 11.45am, pulled out what appeared to be a small black handgun and threatened the lone woman staff member.

The victim handed over a small amount of cash from the shop’s cash register, which the man stuffed in his pocket before running from the shop toward The Square.

The man is described as 5ft 4in tall and aged about 30. The victim believes he may have been drunk.

Armed police officers were called to the scene and assisted regular officers to search the area for the man.

The victim wasn’t injured during the incident.

Officers have released a picture of a man, wearing light coloured trousers, a brown jacket and a red hat, who may be able to assist them with their enquiries.

Anyone who recognises the man or who sold alcohol to the man is asked to contact Acting Detective Sergeant Lee Goodey at Margate Police Station on (01843) 222 192. (ref 28-0503)

Drugs Free Exercise

Kent Police is working with Thanet’s pubs and clubs to keep the isle’s nightspots free of drugs and to keep partygoers safe.

On Friday night Escape Night Club, on Margate’s waterfront, teamed up with Kent Police to check its patrons for drugs before they were allowed inside the venue.

Kent Police officers used special drug detecting ION-Track machines to swab the hands of people going into Escape to determine if they had been in contact with drugs.

During the evening plain clothed police officers and uniformed officers also went into more than 20 pubs and clubs across the isle using drugs dogs to search for banned substances.

This is the second weekend in a row that Kent Police has run this operation.

Acting Inspector Gordon Etheridge, of Thanet’s Crime Reduction Unit, said the purpose of the operation was to keep drugs out of pubs and clubs and to ensure the safety of those people wanting to socialise.

“It’s part of a long term plan to make Thanet a safe place to socialise and to drive down crime and we work hard with pubs and clubs to achieve this. All of the pubs and clubs we visited on Friday night welcomed us and what we were doing.

“But our other goal was to send a clear message to drug dealers that their activities wont be tolerated, which I think we achieved, especially when our officers walked into venues with drugs dogs.”

Escape Nightclub operations director Phil Thorley supported the police’s campaign to keep drugs out of Thanet’s nightlife and worked with Kent Police to eradicate drugs from his club.

“We have less of a problem with drugs than other areas, however drugs do exist in our venue and we work hard to minimise and reduce drugs by working with the police and local authorities, investing money in technology like CCTV and having fully trained and licensed door stewards.

“From our point of view it’s part of the joined up work approach between us and the police to eradicate drugs from the night time economy of Thanet and to give clubbers a safe night out.

During the operation on Friday night six people were searched after the ION-Track machine detected traces of illegal drugs, leading to two people being were arrested for possessing cocaine, while three grams of cannabis was seized from a customer in another pub.

Acting Inspector Etheridge said that some people, particularly young people, often didn’t realise the dangers of using drugs.

“Drugs have a much darker side to them than many people realise. Most illegal drugs are made in clandestine laboratories with no safety procedures to ensure the drugs are pure or safe, while others are highly addictive often leading the users into a life of addiction and crime.

“This operation went really well and I’m pleased with the results. Drug dealers can be sure that there will be further drug operations to come.”

Tidy Beaches Please

Thanet beaches on the BBC South-east news this morning, with a report from the Marine Conservation society that our shores have better water quality than ever before but the average amount of litter per square kilometre is up on the previous year.

In other words, visitors are increasingly slinging their refuse on the beach or as the summer experience shows, there are simply not enough rubbish bins to cope with the consequences of any hot summer weekend. The rubbish piles up, the seagulls attack and bottles and cans remain on the sands, sometime for years.

In 2006, I hope you’ll join me by calling on our rubbish conscious council to work hard to address the perennial litter problem in the popular family bays, such as St Mildred’s and West Bay and not just focus on the huge task of keeping Margate beach tidy.

Monday, March 27, 2006

Rubbish is Coming Home

The BBC reports that Thanet District Council is to run its own waste collection and recycling operation after 20 years of contracting out the services to private firms.
Thanet is also taking street cleaning back in-house after years of complaints about litter from residents.

The council previously had five separate waste and recycling contracts.

Council leader Sandy Ezekiel said: "We had umpteen complaints about waste and recycling so we decided the best thing to do was bring it back in-house."

The council has spent £1.8m on 14 new dustcarts which will take to the streets from 3 April.

"We have a terrific workforce who are so enthusiastic about the change," said Mr Ezekiel.

"What people have been complaining about most is litter and I think we will see an end to the majority of that."

He said he thought the council would also save money, although that was not the main thrust of the change.

"I believe we will save money because we will hit our recycling targets," he said.

"If we don't hit the targets the residents of Thanet will face severe penalties from the government."

Trust Me I'm a Tree Surgeon

From long experience, you know I joke about the probability of any South Eastern train actually arriving at its destination; the odds against a successful trip doubling with every passing station but even I didn’t expect the train to hit a tree!

This happened on the 16:24 train from Victoria to Ramsgate, just outside Faversham, when a depressed tree threw itself across the line and the train conveniently ran into it, splinters and sap everywhere, a gruesome sight by all accounts.

The next thirty minutes was spent with the power off and the driver and conductor attempting to extricate the remains of the tree from under the cab, before we limped into Faversham.

Just as the passengers thought they might arrive home without further hitches, fate threw another cruel spanner in their path, with the announcement that the train would now run fast to Margate, so tough luck for anyone, including me, who lived in between.

Every day’s an adventure with South Eastern trains and I have to repeat the experience twice more this week. I can’t wait.

The Policy of Neglect

With Thanet having more than its fair share of homes for troubled children, an interesting story in today’s Times newspaper.

“What is being alleged by leading lawyers and other professionals is that local authorities are failing this group for two different reasons. Cock-up and conspiracy. Either they don’t know and understand what their legal obligations are, or they are doing the bare minimum while being fully aware that these young people will be sucked into the criminal justice system, at which point they cease to be the financial responsibility of the local authority. One ruse is to accommodate them under the Housing Act, probably in a bed and breakfast or hostel; that way an authority can avoid its obligations to care and support. It amounts to a de facto policy of neglect.” Read on....

Sunday, March 26, 2006

Normal Service Will be Resumed in a Week

The week ahead is the busiest of my year and so if I go quiet it's not because the hoodies have got me or I'm on a secret mission to deliver a banner to Baghdad. No it's just that I'm likely to be too tied-up to write much here until the weekend. If I meet anyone on the way, I may send some pictures though.

Thanet Needs You

I have a project that I’m asking as many readers as possible to help with.

The website uses the Google maps feature in a new an interesting way. There’s an editorial in Wired Magazine that tells you a lot more but here’s the short version.

Platial allows you to add comments and photos to any place or address on the map. As an example, if you follow this link, you’ll see that I have defined St Mildred’s Bay in Westgate on the map as a “Popular family seaside resort” and I have attached one of the aerial photos that you can find on the ThanetLife photo library.

What I am asking readers to do as part of a unique community project which I don’t think has ever been tried anywhere else on the planet, is to register on (it’s free) and use the features to add interesting local information. I don’t mean ‘Yellow pages’ detail but more personal detail even a small local story, e.g. “This is the best spot to view one of the famous Turner sunsets”, “Here’s where I first fell in love” “This is the Two Chimney’s Caravan park”, or “This pub sells the best real ale in Thanet.”

I think you know what I mean but you can elaborate your comments and add a photograph, which is where of course your own digital photos or the online library here comes in to the picture.

With so many thousands of readers, we could, with your help, in a very short time, build an unusual and personal picture of Thanet that would make this community “leading edge” for the first time in its history. Perhaps even schools could help out.

So I’ve started the ball rolling but I get quite busy writing the Weblog. If you could help out we could, in a few weeks of just one person adding one picture or comment, have the start of something remarkable and newsworthy; an example of how the internet can really make a difference. I have created a unique definition for "Thanet" and so when you create an entry, add it to the map of "Thanet". This should be a tick box option which means that everyone can share "Thanet" as a single project. If it's a private entry, don't add it to the "Thanet" map.

PS. If you think about it, if the council 'Tourism' department used a selection of photos from the library here, plus some of their own to "map" the island, they could do it and help create a unique picture mosiac of life in Thanet for the world to see for absolutely no cost at all!

Wot Thanet?

Something new I discovered about Thanet and I’m sure there’s a great deal more:

“Wat Thanet, pronounced ‘Wot Thanet’, in the ancient Thai capital of Sukhothai, is hell on earth. Literally.”

“This temple's grounds are littered with life-size plaster statues depicting the torments that people endure in the hell realms if they are evil during their human lives. Emaciated figures beg for mercy before the judge of the underworld, their naked figures exposed to the torments of demons. Nearby, hell-beings disembowel wrongdoers and force them to swallow their own innards. Animal-headed figures languish, remade in the image of the creatures the abused during life.”

It does, I think, make you wonder at the many contrasting, anti-social and criminal justice challenges shared between these twin towns but I can’t find any reference to a vacant amusement park or plans for a Turner centre in Wat Thanet but I’ll carry on with the research.,

Local Hero

I’m sure that as a community, our best wishes go out to Captain Peter Norton, a former Dane Court student and Broadstairs resident, who was awarded the George Cross last week for his gallantry in Iraq. - see Kent on Sunday story opposite

Captain Norton, a married father of two, lost his leg and part of his arm at the scene of a roadside bomb attack in Baghdad in July of last year and despite his severe injuries, he continued to protect his men.

Along with the Victoria Cross, the George Cross is the highest medal for bravery Britain can award. The Victoria Cross is awarded for action in the presence of the enemy, the George Cross for bravery in all other circumstances.

The attack on a U.S. convoy killed four American troops before Norton's bomb disposal team arrived. He made sure other soldiers remained in safe positions and searched for other bombs when he stepped on a mine and was thrown six metres into the air.

He said he was "only doing his job" by remaining in command and ensuring that colleagues who rushed to give aid would avoid other bombs. Another device was later discovered 10 metres away.

Pole Position

The clocks have gone forward and spring is in the air, as you can see from the graffiti on the beach huts at St Mildred’s Bay this morning. Although its blue skies now, you wouldn’t believe the weather past Ashford and after another attempt to deliver the hopeful young man’s proposal banner at Bexhill, I turned around again when the cloud descended below five hundred feet. As the hills around Bewl Water rise to over six hundred feet, you’ll understand why but that doesn’t help our young romantic with a girlfriend to propose to and no banner in sight. Perhaps I should just ring her up – I know her full name – and propose for him? It’s a new ground-level service that might catch on!

Lots of comments about foreign drivers in Thanet on the site today. Although it’s hard to gauge the scale of the problem, it appears that we have one and readers are generally fed-up of migrant visitors from eastern-Europe and elsewhere taking the P**s where our vehicle and traffic regulations are concerned. One again, it appears that the law has its hands tied and the police may be as frustrated as anyone else.

Mind you, with on average, someone being raped or murdered or seriously injured each week by a criminal supposedly under the supervision of the probation service and the government admitting that criminals are being released from jail little more than a year after they have been sentenced to life imprisonment, hoping that someone in charge may take action to deal with the influx of eastern-European white van drivers, maybe over optimistic.

A retired police-officer friend has commented that what makes the British people so unique is our tolerance. We’ll put up with just about anything with little more than aggravated grumbling and we have a touching faith in the law that goes back to the days when ‘Dixon of Dock Green’ or even ‘Softly Softly’ were the most popular shows on television. But now he says you can see how the attitude has changed. People in every walk of life are ‘Fed-up’. They’re fed-up with Big Brother, the crumbling welfare state and a criminal justice system that appears to work for the criminal and anti-social members of our society against the interests of the great majority of hard-working and law abiding people. They’re all so fed-up, like him, he says, that maybe one day soon, something will appear to act as a catalyst for people to show they’ve had enough in a more direct and unified way.

The trouble is if course, that there’s so much to be fed-up about, finding a single issue to take a stand on is the challenge, which explains perhaps why so little works or does what it says on the box; education, health, taxation, criminal justice, just to keep us all conveniently off balance an grumbling on ad-infinitum.

Saturday, March 25, 2006

Dangerous Driving

A number of comments today on the court result of the Victoria traffic lights tragedy. A derisory fine and community service.

We've written about the problem of reckless, unlicensed 'guest drivers and the havoc and human tragedy that they have left behind them in Thanet in the past; the last time being the death on the A228 out of Birchington, a head on fatal crash where the guilty driver fled to London.

You may recall a comment from what may have been a local police officer on the difficulty they experience in preventing refugees buying un-taxed and uninsured 'bangers' and that while they may confiscate one in Cliftonville, they can find the same people driving a different 'new' car outside Dreamland the same afternoon. I can't remember which month this was written though, you may have to look for it in the archives.

That said, last week, I couldn't help but notice two young men with broad Scottish accents climbing out of a car in a local pub car park last week. A Vauxhall, it's tax disc was a cheeky April 2005.

I challenge anyone to spend more than an hour or two in Margate or Cliftonville on any day of the week and not spot a car, probably with two 'visitors' in it which is beaten-up, close to the end of its road tax date, if taxed at all and possibly not insured or driven with a valid UK drivers license?

For every Marek Tomi that is caught, there must be a hundred more driving around Thanet at any given time, day or night.

One Man's Peace

I’m delighted to see that hostage Norman Kember is now home safely from Iraq, having been rescued by British Special Forces, who he appeared to thank in the most ambivalent manner. This rather leaves me wondering what we might be thinking today if a single soldier had been killed or wounded during an attempt to rescue a group which has displayed the most astonishing naivety.

As one security advisor put it some weeks ago, “You don’t go to Iraq unless you can afford the very best personal protection” and Norman Kember and his fellow peace activists couldn’t with their admirable but idealistic objective of spreading the Christian message of peace among the people of Iraq.

But let me offer you a different perspective. What if a Moslem peace group of devout Sunni and Shi’a activists decided that they should spread the word of Islam, which means ‘peace’ among the sectarian streets and communities of west Belfast. How would they be received? Would the people want to know whether they were Protestant Moslems or Catholic Moslems and would their peaceful objectives and religious devotion guarantee their personal safety?

Many years ago, I recall in Saudi Arabia, a car stopping by the side of the road and a friend of mine being offered a copy of the Koran by the driver to “save him.” Ironically another teacher from the same school had been killed the year before, when a rock was thrown at him from another passing car. What I’m saying of course is that in a world of such pronounced religious divisions, one man’s missionary is simply another man’s spy or 'economic opportunity' and this, sadly, is something that Mr Kember and other equally well-meaning peace ambassadors fail to grasp, having never experienced the more fundamental realities of life and religious belief in southern Arabia.

Strange But True

Somewhere, on a cliff top near Hastings, a young man is gazing at the sky, waiting for an aircraft to appear with the message “CORRINA WILL U MARRY ME”.

He’s going to be disappointed!

We had two jobs to do today. One at Southampton for three hours and the other being the wedding proposal for the unlucky and as yet un-engaged Corrina. However, the weather towards the south coast collapsed even faster than we though it might and after a quick conversation with the London controller, we decided to call-off the attempt in six hundred feet of cloud near Shoreham and run back ahead of the front towards Thanet, climbing back to the blue sky on top. There was never a chance of being able to operate from Bembridge on the Isle of Wight safely in the weather that is slowly making its way east.

With luck and some help from Cupid, the disappointed lover may have his chance to “pop the question” in a possible gap in the weather at around 10am tomorrow morning. There’s a very good weather site called Theyr.Net which gives excellent animated forecasts and you might like to store it in your “Favourites” file as an aid to predicting favourable BBQ weather over the summer.

The huge reservoir at Bewl water isn't just low, it's dramatically low and now has a wide expanse of what looks like beach to prove it. From the air, it's rather like a large pond which is slowly drying-up and I predict that by July, if we don't have an unexpected monsoon the water problem will become severe.

Casting my eye over the pages of the Thanet Gazette today, I see that Eastcliff Richard’s “Blog” has a mention. He is of course our own mystery celebrity psychic millionaire and it’s great to see how a Weblog satirising life in Ramsgate, can become local news in its own right. There’s even a tongue-in-cheek mention, in the ‘Smudger’ column, of my efforts to track down the job application and ‘apply’ for the role of “Director of the Margate Renewal Partnership”, you know, the one that was advertised but wasn’t.

I’m desperately trying to find something profound among the human tragedies in the local paper, an item of news that is truly different or simply hasn’t been mentioned here first but all I’m left with by page 32, is the sad but true story of how poo is a growing problem in Ramsgate, the burglary, by a desparate sex maniac, I assume, of a Cliftonville sex-shop and the news that a man driven to a life of crime, attempted to break in to the Ramsgate Esplanade bowls club with intent but the story does say what he intended?

And finally, the Gazette reports that "Living in North Thanet makes a person six per cent more likely to die prematurely than South Thanet", something to do with the Seagulls perhaps, even the harsher climate in contrast with the millionaires playground. Perhaps it's time to follow the money and move south to Ramsgate; now re-developed as you can see in the photograph. You tell me?

It all happens here. East Enders has nothing to offer in comparison with Thanet life.

Friday, March 24, 2006

The Chartfield 'Marathon' 2006

As promised to the friends and parents of Chartfield School in Westgate earlier today, photos of the 2006 ‘Chartfield Marathon’ one of the toughest races on earth, a fierce endurance competition conducted with great excitement around the playing field in Minster road.

Well done to all the children who competed of all ages in this annual test of endurance and short legs.

All the photos can be downloaded.

Big Bang

Stargazers might like to know that Thanet has its own chapter of SEKAS, the South East Kent Astronomical Society. The Society has over 170 members and still growing, making SEKAS one of the most active astronomical societies in the area.

To find out where they meet each month and what their activities are, visit their website at .

Mosquito Squashed

We said this might happen and it has. A new sound device described here a couple of months ago and which has been used to drive away gangs of teenagers loitering outside a supermarket has been banned in case it infringes their human rights.

Yesterday the Newport Community Safety Partnership, which was set up by the local authority and the police, ordered the shop to switch off the Mosquito until human rights and health and safety issues have been “fully resolved”.

The Sonic Teen Deterrent, also known as the Mosquito, emits a high-pitched sound that can be heard only by those under the age of 20.

The ear-piercing noise is so annoying that teenagers can bear it for only a few minutes. Adults barely notice it.

The £495 device has already been bought by dozens of shop-owners, shopping centres, local authorities and police forces, including the Metropolitan Police. Because it is non-confrontational, non-violent and can be easily avoided by moving a few feet it was hailed as the ideal solution to the problem of teenagers who ignore requests not to congregate outside convenience stores and on street corners.

Since the device was installed last October in a Spar supermarket in Newport, the number of times police have had to be called to the shop to deal with gangs of rowdy youths has decreased by 84 per cent.

A spokesman for the Spar described the decision as absolutely disgusting.

He added: “These louts can infringe our rights to run a profitable shop for the community yet we can’t dare infringe on their right to make life a misery for our shoppers.

Ed: Back to playing Chris De Burgh or Barry Manilow album tracks I suppose. That normally does the trick.

Thursday, March 23, 2006

The Broadstairs Pub Crawl

For choices of unusual websites on Thanet topics you can find two on the BBC “H2G2” website.

One of these is the “Broadstairs Pub Crawl” which writes: “The gentle stroll around Broadstairs is around 2 km and takes in 16 hostelries, as well as a fair amount of Broadstairs' historical elements and architecture.

The pub crawl starts at Broadstairs station and from there, it slowly samples the liquid delights on offer from this most famous of seaside towns; describing every tavern in conscientious detail. It should, in my opinion at least, award a medal or a special mention to anyone who reaches the last pub and is able to stand unaided.

Any mention of pubs and “pubbing” in Thanet can’t be complete without a mention of another local institution, the Thorley Taverns and a team of dedicated researchers just happen to have spontaneously written the history of these important landmarks, together with a biography of Mr Frank Thorley as well:

The story begins:

“Frank Thorley is the man behind Thorley Taverns, a multi-outlet public house chain, with many of its hostelries in Thanet, The Isle of Thanet, Kent, England, Kent. There are so many that locals call the area Planet Thorley (The area is known as Planet Thanet, as it is a 'World away from anywhere else', this researcher has been told!!!). He works with his son Philip, continuing to build the business.”

I had no idea that there were so many Thorley Taverns, I counted 32 before going cross-eyed but for a better glimpse of a local business success, story. Please read on....

Mont Blanc Challenge 2006 - Auction

On Behalf of the Motor Neurone Disease Association

A Grand Charity Auction To be held at The Winter Gardens, Margate, on Saturday the 29th of April.

Please come and Join us for the auction at 4pm

We would still like 'loads more lots' so if you can help, please contact us as soon as possible.

All donations for our auction can be collected (please contact Mick on 07966 225217 or e-mail us on or can be delivered to Ramsgate Glass, 103 Margate Road, Ramsgate from 8.30am to 5pm Monday to Friday or Summerhill Surgery, 243 Margate Road, Ramsgate from 8am to 6.30pm Monday to Friday (please do not leave donations outside of these opening hours). In the event of your wishing to make a monetary donation please make cheques payable to the M N D Association or, to sponsor us on line and view our progress, please visit our official website .

MND is an extremely cruel debilitating and fatal disease and your consideration in helping our cause would be greatly appreciated. Although there is currently no cure, a remarkable amount can be done to improve the life of those people living with the disease.

Simple Question

I don't have the answer. Does anyone else?

Do Quinetiq test depleted uranium shells at Shoeburyness? Does this explain why Thanet seagulls occasionally glow in the dark and grow to an enormous size or is this phenomenon explained by the rich diet of leftovers offered to these terrifying, vulture-sized creatures, that Eastcliff Richard refers to in his weblog

Horses for Courses

I was asked yesterday to fly a banner over the Grand National at Aintree next month. A nice job with a good view but with one small problem when the final message was read out to me.

This took the form of a short but very direct sentence, protesting at the risk to our fast, four-legged friends and left me politely declining the offer for fear of being shot down by the police helicopter or any local farmers with a handy 12-bore.

Another pilot told me this morning that he’s actually been fired-upon by rockets while flying over Liverpool – fireworks that is and not SAM 7s – and so I’ve suggested to the advertising agency involved that I’d be happy to take the job if they would be equally happy to make some small cosmetic changes to the message, which in its present form would guarantee an energetic reaction and some interesting TV coverage I'm sure.

A fun video below - best viewed with the music off - of how the Americans might deal with an intruding banner aircraft in similar circumstances!

Don't Fly Phuket

Several selections from the papers today but the last story is the one which is relevant to everyone using this website.

It's not a local story but the family of a schoolboy expelled for drug dealing is to receive £1,750 compensation after the local council Ombudsman decided he had not been found a new school quickly enough. The teenager was expelled at the age of 14 and received five hours a week home tutoring paid for by the council. This rose to 10 hours but the family complained that it was still below the legal minimum of 25 hours.

Supermarket chain, ASDA, has offered a mother whose husband died when an ASDA car park barrier smashed through his car windscreen, a Center Parcs holiday on the eve of his inquest. - Not Disney or Dubai I might add but Center Parcs. Such extravagence and sensitivity!

Our homes are slowly falling apart. B&Q points out that rising household debt, petrol prices and utility bills have eaten away at consumer confidence - a phenomenon that can also be seen on the high street. Yet the home improvement sector appears to have suffered more than other industries. "The major reason," says a spokesperson for B&Q, "is fragile confidence in the housing market and the fact that some larger home improvement projects such as redoing a kitchen or a bathroom often involve the taking on of additional debt at a time when household borrowing is already very high."

Don't fly Phuket. An airline used by thousands of British holidaymakers to fly to Thailand heads a list of 92 "dubious" carriers which are to be banned from flying to or over all 25 EU countries after failing safety tests. Phuket Airlines, which was barred from British airspace last year after an in-flight fuel leak, has been added to the banned list which will come into force tomorrow.

And finally, please read:

A political argument that erupted in a remote corner of cyberspace and descended into vicious name-calling could lead to a spate of libel actions by contributors to internet message boards, the man at the centre of the case claimed yesterday.

Legal experts said the case should be taken as a warning to the millions of people in the UK debating contentious issues on message boards, in chatrooms and on their own blogs that the laws of libel applied just as they would if the comments were published in a leaflet or newsletter.

So please watch the name calling in future readers in line with this website's "politeness" policy.

Wednesday, March 22, 2006

Six Figure Ambitions

On two days this week so far the site has recorded well over 1,000 impressions and new visitors are still outnumbering the existing readers by an average 3:1. Where everyone is coming from all of a sudden I can't tell but this leaves us with just over seven thousand more visits needed to hit the magic 100,000 mark.

It doesn't seem so long ago that I thought 10,000 was a big number and now I'm wondering if I should arrange some kind of pub celebration when the counter ratchets up six figures?

Anyway, as a point of interest I reckon we can hit the number before the second week of April and if you want to help the experiment, then ask your friends to tell their friends and we'll see how quickly the site clocks 100,000, a number that I think makes a statement about this site as a source of collective expression and an alternative to other, more conventional local media resources.

Rise in Marlowe Applications

The Isle of Thanet Extra reports that the number of pupils planning to go to Thanet’s Marlowe Academy - the first of its kind in Kent - has increased four-fold over last year.

This said Head teacher Ian Johnson was a sign that parents were increasingly confident about the school’s future and that the new academy was beginning to shake off the negative image it had suffered when it was the former Ramsgate School.

The number of parents opting to make the school their first choice has gone up from 32 last year to 134 - an unprecedented increase.

Mr Johnson said it was a deserved fillip for the part-privately sponsored academy, which is due to move into £28million state-of-the-art premises in September.

"We could not be more pleased; particularly as between 80 and 90 per cent are local families. The fact that so many more are choosing to send children to their local school is brilliant," he said.

The academy still remains only about half full with 560 students but expects its numbers to steadily increase once it transfers to a new building adjacent to its existing site.

Mr Johnson, who joined the academy from a headship in Oxford, said his aim was to develop the academy as a local school serving the local community.

Since his arrival as principal, he has introduced two-hour lessons and a school day that ends at 5pm, allowing students to complete homework and other assignments in supervised study periods.

The academy has been sponsored by Roger de Haan, the former boss of SAGA, who has ploughed £2million into the venture.

Armed Robbery - Can You Help?

Police have revealed that about £70,000 in cash was stolen during the armed robbery at the cashpoint outside the Nationwide building society in The Square, Birchington. A Securicor van was ambushed at 9.30pm by two men with shotguns.

After taking the cash the masked pair made off on foot. No shots were fired in the attack and no one was injured.

Detectives are continuing to appeal for witnesses to come forward.

They would like to speak to a man that walked past the robbery on the same side of the road, turned around and walked backwards while watching the incident

They would also like to talk to two women and a man who were on the opposite side of the road during the robbery, as well as five men that had about three rounds of drinks in the Powell Arms pub before leaving at about 9pm.

Golden Brown

Listening to Gordon Brown’s budget speech, as a technology business, the category that he believes holds the key to the UK’s economic future; I’m struck by how far he misses the point or simply prefers not to see it.

The Chancellor speaks extravagantly about the need for 14 million skilled graduates and cutting edge technologies but fails to recognise the problematical link between these and the education required to improve the skills base he predicts we will need by 2020. Throwing more money at the recruitment of 3,000 more science and maths teachers and free 'A' level education for all is good, but does not truly address the fundamental malaise in education that ten years of this government has failed to solve. The British workforce has declining productivity and our record in the generation of science graduates is dismal, it’s going backwards.

Not only does Britain need a skilled workforce for the future but it needs a flexible and competitive one as well and writing from the position of having built-up a successful company, The Research Group, from scratch, in the eighties and nineties, I can say with some confidence that the barriers to doing the same again today are too great, in the shape of a small mountain of employers legislation and associated red-tape. In other words, government is making it more difficult to create the entrepreneurial business environment that it tells us we need.

But here’s the bad news. 4p on a bottle of wine, 1p on beer, 9p on fags but at least the inheritance tax threshold is raised to £325,000 if you are thinking of shuffling off this year. Gordon B. did not mention the fact that this Budget adds £5.5bn to Britain’s tax bill – already the highest ever – over three years. Of this £5.5bn, £4.8bn was not even contained in the Budget measures announced today.

If you have a “gas-guzzling car” you are going to wish you didn’t but there is a new low rate of road tax for fuel and emission efficient cars of £0.

So nothing that I can see that is unusually dramatic and no mention of the health service, which would be embarrasing but as I write, beyond a commitment to keep public spending high on a year by year basis, which would be fine, if we could see any true signs of a return on investment for what has been squandered over the last decade on the NHS, education, crime and everything else we’re all concerned about.

Oh, and a final piece of good news, VAT has been slashed on condoms - it's true - so we should all go out and celebrate!

At the next budget, I’m guessing that Gordon will be Prime Minister.

Quick Save Needed

The ICKent Website has a discussion forum running on the future of the Dreamland amusement park in Margate and an online survey you can complete for the Thanet Gazette, if you have strong opinions over its future.

There’s also a “Save Dreamland” website that you might want to visit too.

Living on a Budget

It’s “Budget day’, so let’s all prepare ourselves for the pain that inevitably follows ‘Generous Gordon’ standing up and shouting: “I commend this budget to the House.”

Brown has already admitted that “Taxes will rise in this year's budget” and data from National Statistics showed that in the first 11 months of the 2005-06 financial year, the government was £31.7bn in the red - little different from the £31.2bn in the same period of 2004-05.

We can’t tell for sure whether the oil windfall of past months will allow the Chancellor to relax the squeeze on our wallets just a little this afternoon. However, with borrowing still at undesirably high levels and Mr. Brown's tendency to build a war chest in the early stages of the electoral cycle, several city economists suggest the possibility of reasonably sized tax increases today, “Possibly in the region of £3bn-£4bn" and that’s bound to hurt us all at a time when community charges are up by 5% energy and fuel bills are going through the roof and the country is holding a £trillion of personal debt.

The Best Ideas of Mice and Men

Even the best ideas on solving the problems that every community experiences with bored teenagers can come to nothing it seems.

In The Telegraph today, there’s a story of how one  policeman's plan to keep young hooligans off the streets by giving them football coaching has been postponed because he is too busy dealing with the offences they have committed.

Pc Ken Venning secured a £1,000 grant, a pitch, football strip and volunteer coaches for a group of troublemakers in Romsey, Hants, after listening to their lament that they had "nothing better to do" than roam the town making a nuisance of themselves.

"I hoped”, he said, “that by getting on the pitch with these youngsters, setting targets and getting them involved, they would think about the consequences of their behaviour. I planned to have the first match last week but they have caused so much trouble of late that I am too busy dealing with it.

He added the youngsters were responsible for thefts, criminal damage and assault. "Some of these kids have been disowned by their families and are sleeping rough, which is really quite alarming in a town like Romsey."

Tuesday, March 21, 2006

There's Lumps of it Out the Back

Thanet North MP Roger Gale, has written to the Environment Agency and expressed his concern that while the South East of England is being subjected to drought orders Southern Water are proceeding to construct a sewage treatment plant extension at Weatherlees in Thanet which will, when completed, continue to pump millions of gallons of treated effluent effectively into the sea instead of making provision to recycle this water for at the very least industrial and very possibly for domestic use.

Gale is: “Also concerned to note that so little progress appears to have been made towards an agreement for the construction of a further reservoir.”

He Adds: “I would also be grateful if you would indicate to me what representations the Environment Agency has made to the Office of the Deputy Prime Minister to indicate a need to ensure that adequate water and sewage provision is available before the Deputy Prime Minister’s house construction programme in the South East is implemented: It would be sheer lunacy, would it not, to build houses without an adequate water supply? “

Ed: So we can expect to be swimming in effluent while filling a paddling pool with water carries a £1,000 fine and or six months in jail. A good result all round, don’t you think?

A Drink in Time

For my sins next week, I have to play host to officers from the FBI, the Australian Police, China’s Ministry of Public Security and of course, the Met and National Crime Squad.

I rather though I should invite them along for an evening at the excellent Powell Arms in Birchington, to watch Sky Sports, enjoy a passing armed robbery and explain to our friends from China, the South Korean and Hong Kong police what a ‘Hoodie’ is and perhaps take note of their own unique suggestions for dealing with our wide-ranging anti-social behaviour challenges, “The Chinese Way.”

But perhaps we’ll just order in some stir-fry, watch the football instead. Thank goodness it isn’t the Russians. Last year I joined them and the US Secret Service around a table and somewhere along in the conversation after the argument about the .357 Sig Sauer being a better personal sidearm than .40 calibre Glock 22, our friends from Moscow produced bottles of Vodka from a duffle bag they had smuggled in with them. I can’t remember much after that.

Blessed Albion - Better Green than Blue

Councillor David Green has written-in to express his concerns over the fate of Albion House in Ramsgate unable to resist a quick “pop” at the opposition – only fair I suppose after what I wrote about Miliband earlier – he writes:

“I don’t know why, but this Conservative Council administration seems to have a mental block concerning Ramsgate.

So Albion House is no longer required to house TDC staff. We can agree on that.

I believe we should see this as an opportunity to enhance the community facilities in Ramsgate, not an opportunity for a quick sale. Making the Ramsgate Mayor jump through hoops just to retain a suitable office and chamber is disrespectful of Ramsgate and its residents.

Without Albion House, Ramsgate will have no public meeting place, nothing to compare with even the old Broadstairs Pieremont hall, let alone the proposed £1M centre. Ramsgate has no adult education facility, No place where a public meeting can take place, no public space where the residents may meet.

I’m going to take it as read, given public reaction in Ramsgate, that retention of the ground floor and basement for the use of the Mayor and Charter Trustees as a public facility is a must. Forget public consultation over this, don’t waste our money. Listen for once to Ramsgate Councillors of both parties and concerned residents.

What I would like TDC to do is to decide to adopt this option, then to move on to do what government guidance tells it to do and the Council’s own Asset Management policy suggests. That is, to really consult over potential public uses for the remainder of the building. That means talks with potential partners such as Thanet College, The Community Development Trust, Kent County Council, and most importantly, the people of Ramsgate.

Ramsgate recently lost its Library, Museum and Gallery to fire.

Because the Conservatives at KCC are insisting that it be rebuilt with no new money, Ramsgate is going to loose its Town Museum Space and Gallery. What better place for this than Albion House? Would KCC help facilitate this? Have TDC explored the possibilities here? I suspect not.

Have they explored the potential for adult education , I suspect not. Have they explored possible public uses at all? If so, let us see the results of their efforts. Why were they not in the report before Cabinet?

This is not a multi million pound Turner Centre that Ramsgate is asking for. It’s not even a £1M Community Centre such as proposed for Broadstairs.. We only wish to retain and enhance one of the few public facilities left to us. Albion House is part of the history of Ramsgate, let’s do it justice.”

Morning Gridlock

A car crash gridlocked the road from Eastry to Broadstairs and around Ramsgate, Cliffsend early this morning.

Three people were taken to the Queen Mother Hospital at Margate following the accident between two vehicles.

Thanet Extra reports that frustrated rush-hour drivers waited hours to move a short distance as the traffic jam worsened. Some abandoned their vehicles by the roadside and set off on foot.

The traffic jam illustrated how close to gridlock the roads through the centre of the island are on any weekday.

Birchington Armed Robbery

The real Thanet Mafia struck last night in an armed robbery in Birchington of all places. I’m surprised nobody told me more quickly!

Thanet Police are hunting two robbers armed with shotguns who held up members of a Securicor crew as they delivered money to a Nationwide cash machine in Birchington Square at 9:30pm last night, Monday.

After threatening the Securicor staff the masked pair stole a quantity of cash and made off on foot.

Police say no shots were fired and no one was injured. At this stage it is not known how much money was stolen.

Det Insp Nick Greenan, said: “We know that members of the public saw this robbery occur. Correctly, they did not intervene at the time but we would now ask that those witnessed the crime or who can assist us in the investigation come forward.”

Anyone with information is asked to contact police on 01843 231055 or Crimestoppers, confidential and free, on 0800 555 111.

Drinkers in the Powell Arms public house opposite watched as police arrived on the scene of the robbery.

Landlord Chris Comber said later: "We didn't see the robbery because we were watching the football (on television). We then looked out of the window and there were police officers everywhere."

Police were still at the scene today and the area is taped off.

Would anyone like to send ThanetLife a photo of the scene please?

Ask David

Our Junior Prime Minister in waiting, David Miliband has prompted a heated debate by becoming the first government minister to launch his own blog.

It is hosted by the Office of the Deputy Prime Minister, where Miliband is Communities and Local Government Minister and is prettier than ThanetLife but doesn’t have so many pictures. It describes what you might expect, his thoughts on achieving the New Labour paradise that has been promised to us under the third term of our Dear Leader, Tony.

No mention of loans though!

Reported in eGov monitor, Miliband says the aim of the blog is to "help bridge the gap – the growing and potentially dangerous gap – between politicians and the public". - ed: You must be kidding!

It will be monitored by the independent Hansard Society as part of a Department for Constitutional Affairs pilot investigating the way central government uses ICT to communicate with the public.

Miliband has been experimenting with the blog within his department since the beginning of the year, but it only went live at the end of last week.

Because it is being run as part of an official government site, Miliband said it would focus on his ministerial duties and not "lapse into party ranting" or link to other party political sites.

But the minister’s inaugural blog has already drawn criticism from respondents.

One, 'Harry', said: "If you intend this to be a personal blog why are you using your Government Department's website? How much civil service time is spent drafting/vetting your 'personal' comments? Doing this via a Government website is a misuse of the taxpayers money and also renders the claim of it being a genuinely personal blog suspect."

Another, John Zims, wrote: "Another New Labour gimmick/ego trip with the taxpayer picking up the bill."

And Kingston councillor and blogger Mary Reid questioned how Miliband would write a blog without being political.

She said: "Would his blog become political if he mentions the Labour Party by name? What about endorsing Labour Party policies? Or does it only become political if he comments on the views of other parties?"

But if Miliband does become "political", Reid said she would be "celebrating any small step that he takes to give dignity to political activity".

John Prescott may be next with a blog aptly named "**** Off and Leave Tony Alone" so I'd stick with Eastcliff Richard if I were you!

Bring Me the Head of Eastcliff Richard

Illustrating how the media and some local councillors struggle to understand the Weblog “dynamic”, Eastcliff Richard’s (ECR) very funny ‘Blog’ is the subject of a story in today’s Thanet Times.

Under the banner headline “Rich Pickings” with the subtitle “Cyber nerd has pop at Isle in poison (sic) Blog entry', there’s a photo of the harbour and some of the entries are commented on.

Cllr Ward is then quoted as ' he slammed ECR insisting he should spend less time hiding behind a computer', followed by further comments on praising town instead of denigrating it.

Times reporter Nick Dorman then asks people to ring in if they know the joker.

Personally, I think it’s just what Thanet South needs, an irreverent but funny ‘poke’ at life in Ramsgate. I only wish that I could offer the same tongue-in-cheek humour here but we’re more serious types in North Thanet, something to do with the cold prevailing north-easterly climate as ECR points out.

Is ThanetLife next in line for a one-way ticket to the Siberian Gulag I wonder?

Dry and Drier Still

The Telegraph reports that water companies have announced the toughest drought restrictions in fifteen years that could leave public fountains dry, swimming pools empty and sports fields parched.

Three suppliers have applied for emergency orders to ban non-essential use of water for 2.5 million people.

If the Government approves them, it will be illegal to fill a garden pond, use a sprinkler in a park or wash a car with a bucket and sponge.

Public golf courses, cricket pitches and historic gardens will be particularly badly hit. Only those with private water supplies will remain green.

The application follows the driest 15 months for more than 70 years and two winters of below average rainfall. Levels of underground water sources are worryingly low.

The application covers customers of Mid Kent Water, East Surrey and Sussex Water and Southern Water in Sussex and Kent.

Don’t forget to leave water out for the birds. This is, I believe permitted, as long as the bird bath is not filled to the top.

Monday, March 20, 2006

Kent Police Reprieved

Good News. Kent Online reports that the county will continue to have its own "stand-alone" police service it has been announced by the Home Office.

Kent, Hampshire and Thames Valley have all won "a reprieve" in the merger shake-up of some forces and will remain as they are.

But the number of police forces in England and Wales will be slashed from 43 to 24, it has been revealed.

In the East Midlands, five existing constabularies will merge to form one "super force".

Two other new forces will be created from six existing county forces in the east of England, and Surrey and Sussex will also join together.

Thanet North MP, Roger Gale, comments:

"In the light of the Home Secretary`s written "further response" issued at lunchtime today - and without the benefit of an oral statement to the House, it would seem that the Home Secretary is still intent upon the imposition of unnecessary bureacracy.

Quite what the "reconfiguration" of Kent, Hampshire and Thames Valley as "strategic forces" will mean has yet to become clear but "reconfiguration" usually means the deployment of management time and effort that otherwise could and should be expended upon the fight against crime."

Every Little Helps

It appears that thanks to the efforts of all the “Little people” and some helpful councillors on this website, the Two Chimneys application is being bounced back to the TDC Planning Committee for a review. Meanwhile, some of the earlier comments in the last post are suggestive of my being fitted for a pair of concrete overshoes in the near future.

This little exercise in “flashmob” democracy has demonstrated that if enough people feel strongly enough about an issue, even one apparently set in stone, as Two Chimneys was even last week, that there is always some room for manoeuvre if you can use the growing reach that ThanetLife is now offering.

Let’s use this sensibly in future. Direct criticism where it’s deserved and praise where it’s due. Above all, I would ask everyone coming to the website to be cautious about their language, however harshly they might feel about a subject. Being rational and lucid in the discussions here adds a great deal of extra weight to any argument. Be satirical by all means, because this is what we all need to lighten our days but if the thousands of visitors to this website are going to use it to make the outcome of even one or two local issues better than they might have been, then help me by sticking to the rules of “Honest, decent, truthful” and occasionally funny!

Finally I’m encouraged to see one huge improvement in services from last year. This morning, a small army of gardeners, armed with strimmers, descended on the seafront and tennis courts at Westgate and tidied the area to an extent I haven’t seen in ages. You may recall last year that nothing was done where I live, until the council were fed-up with my complaints towards the end of the summer. This may be a sign of the changes and new efficiencies that Council Chief Executive Richard Samuel promised when I met him a year ago. I do hope so but there’s still a very long way to go in making the Thanet seaside as neat as I remember it years ago.

Omerta by the Sea

Lots of room for thought this morning, encouraged by this weekend’s many comments and several hundred new readers from a galaxy far away.

So who are the so-called Thanet ‘Mafia’ that several of the comments allude to? Do they exist or are they stories to frighten small hoodies with?

Before I left the island to live in London in the early eighties, a number of names were as familiar to me as everyone else. One of course was Councillor Cyril Hoser, arrested for counterfeiting and forgery of documents but there were two other ‘Godfathers’ whose names I can’t mention on a public site and were allegedly linked to well-known south London gangsters. Being quite close to the law, I used to hear some of the unpublished details of their activities and what was revealed did shock me.

A good twenty years on and those names have either passed-away or are wearing incontinence pants and we live in a very different world with a shopping mall at Westwood Cross. But in the Thanet of the 21st century there’s still a sense, from what I read here, of a handful of respectable and well-established local businessmen exercising a disporoportionate influence in the community. Do they, I wonder, have as much say in our future or are they instead a force for the progress that readers are asking for?

What do you think and please remember to include the words “reportedly” and “allegedly” if you happen to have any unusual stories of your own.

Sunday, March 19, 2006

Over a Thousand

We shot past one thousand impressions yesterday. Actually just over 1,100 in a single day, (9,510 total for the month so far) but I still haven't worked out what exactly triggered the sudden jump in new visitors beyond a thread on the Dreamland discussion thread at Joyland books.

Lots of activity on our own conversation threads though and I'm struck by the differences between our own report of what's happening at Two Chimneys and the one in the Thanet Gazette, which one of our readers has copied to the comments section. Are we both writing about the same caravan park here or did the Gazette interview a different one?

The Sunday Reader

It’s hard to find one’s hidden optimist reading the Sunday papers today. I’ll give you some examples of the headlines as a good reason for escaping to a quieter life in one of the more isolated monasteries in the Sinai desert.

  • Dentists are expected to remove more than half a million children from lists entitling them to free NHS treatment when a new pay deal comes into effect next month.
  • In this month’s budget, Gordon Brown is about to raise Britain’s tax burden to its highest-ever level, higher than in the 1970s under Denis Healey, when the top rate of income tax was 83%, and the early 1980s, when it was 60%.
  • Trevor Philips warns that white people will soon become a minority in Birmingham and other major British cities, posing a “critical” challenge to social stability.
  • One thousand English football hooligans will be allowed to travel to the World Cup in Germany because their "banning orders" have expired.
  • Hundreds of West Indian families in Britain are sending their children back to the Caribbean to get what many see as a better state education.
I can’t say I’m looking forward to the budget but I’m relieved I don’t own a 4*4 Chevy anymore, as it’s being predicted that there will be a new super-level of excise duty for anything with more horsepower than a “Yugo”, which will severely limit the antics of the BBC Top Gear team in future.

However hard one looks for a ray of sunshine in the newspapers, the sense is one of overwhelming gloom; a hopelessness surrounding the future of the NHS, education, taxation, race, crime political sleaze and of course, Iraq. Like the decline and fall of the Roman Empire, this isn’t all happening overnight but a glance around at Europe, shows a society that is crumbling away at its edges, obsessed with regulation and legislation but unable to tackle the more basic demands of the population for efficient services in return for the vast sums of money being squandered on the public sector.

As Simon Jenkins writes in the Sunday Times today:

“This week’s budget must begin the process of somehow meeting a massive public indebtedness, not just in the form of public borrowing but also hidden in Brown’s reckless private finance initiatives and chaotic pensions policy. Brown is condemned to lead Labour from the right. As Thatcher said, there is no alternative.”

Tackling the disenfranchisement of Britain’s electorate, he adds: "They will be the elderly without protected public sector pensions, people dependent on a welfare state that cannot afford a soaring health and social services bill. They will be the 19th century’s unthrifty and “undeserving poor”, an underclass reliant in part on their children and on charity. They will be the second-generation immigrants, the poor whites of the inner suburban ring; the graduates of sink “community” schools so derided last week.”

What he describes is what we can see growing around us in Thanet, in areas of Cliftonville and Ramsgate, the evidence of our own eyes and the pressures that are placed on any population which is out of economic balance. Raising taxes since 1997 hasn’t solved this problem and arguably the divisions and the challenges are even more pronounced than they were ten years ago. I wish I had an answer but the economic time bomb continues to tick away and the mathematics is irrefutable, it’s a law of diminishing returns regardless of how much the middle classes are taxed to bolster a welfare and health system in terminal decline. Sadly none of our political parties have a clever solution that offers much more than re-arranging the deckchairs on our Titanic economy as is sails majestically on toward the iceberg on the horizon.

Saturday, March 18, 2006

Cliftonville Green Space to be Sold - Official

By Councillor Clive Hart.

Cliftonville West councillors Linda Aldred, Doug Clark and Clive Hart have finally discovered TDC's true intentions with regard to the large open green space in Dalby Square.

For over a year now, the ward councillors have been extremely concerned about the fate of the only inland green public space in their densely populated ward and a planning appeal held recently has finally exposed the TDC scheme which identifies the site for housing and the intention of TDC (the owners of the site) to pursue its sale in the coming financial year.

The large green open space is a much loved area for young families who live predominantly in flats in the surrounding area with no garden space for their children. It lies at the heart of the Renewal Area and due to its location, could also benefit from a share of the proposed £3.7million Safer and Stronger Communities Fund which will have a core focus on 'cleaner, safer, greener public spaces'.

Cllr. Linda Aldred said 'Local residents are achieving truly great things in Dalby Square. They have accessed large amounts of money from the New Opportunities Fund to renovate the square and work is moving along at a startling pace. The open green space on the south side of the square currently compliments the residents wonderful work but it really would be a travesty to ruin their efforts by building on it. Cllr. Clark, Cllr. Hart and I will therefore do everything in our power to stop the proposed plans and preserve the green space for local residents and visitors'.

4:1 Weekend

The number of new visitors to the website has soared this afternoon, which is most unusual, because normally the weekend shows most of the activity from existing readers and instead it’s 4:1 the other way around. Somewhere out there must be a report or link to ThanetLife I don’t know about, so if you can let me know, I’d be grateful.

Amnesty International called me on Friday. They want a big aerial banner displayed over central London – can’t tell you what it says – but I need to source a twin-engined aircraft to do the job. All a bit complicated of course, the rules involving flying over Big Ben but perhaps one day we should organise a whip-around through this site to fund the exercise, at cost of sending Mr Blair a personal message of our own from the people of Thanet. How about "Goodbye?"

Read All About It

Eastcliff Richard, Thanet's answer to Blackadder, has been given the inside story on the new Dreamland rides for the coming season, beating both the Thanet Gazette and Adscene to the scoop and winning a Pulitzer Prize in the process.

He writes:

"A flurry of excitment over in Margate, the Arsonists' Playground, where a gentleman called One-Eyed Pete has got pulses racing by announcing that he is going to 'fill Dreamland with rides for the summer'. Mr Pete's list of exciting attractions includes:- Stepladder climb (tickets available for both the upward and downward legs)- Stuffed cat spinning on a turntable- The Pirate Bench (new from Latvia)- Bogie picking- General arsing about- Burgers. That should bring the tourists flocking." Read on....

Meanwhile, the LibDems are rumoured to be planning to fight for the council leadership with a local candidate of their own. On a manifesto of more bling in politics, she promises a rough and ready solution to all our problems?

Backup Website

After yesterday's interruption, thank you for the reader suggestion that I create a backup site. I have done one of these on MSN and it's really only for informational purposes if something happens to the main site again. Please bookmark:

There's nothing to prevent you putting-up content there if you wish but it's really only for "business continuity" purposes if this one should temporarily vanish.

Why Cats Talk

I have just received my 2006 Council tax bill and I'm tempted to kick the cat. As I don't own one and the dog, very sensibly, has gone into hiding, I'll have to squeeze a laugh from the video clip shown below and a stiff drink to dull the pain of a 4.67% rise in the annual extortion demand. I'm sure everywhere across the country, other people like me are having to sit down and wonder when the magic £200 a month charge will finally be with us? Within five years perhaps.

I can't wait for the first property inspectors to arrive and start surveying any improvements in advance of next year's charges. I have a 10 degree sea view, between the two houses in front of me and that must be worth at least 10% more in the scheme of things.

If Your'e a Seal - Don't Read This

Roger Gale, our MP for North Thanet and President of the Conservative Animal Welfare Group, joined the International Fund for Animal Welfare (IFAW), for the parliamentary launch of its landmark report, ‘Importing Cruelty’, which documents the cruelty of Canada’s commercial seal hunt and the need for a UK trade ban on seal products.

Roger, who has himself been to Canada to witness the brutality of the hunt firsthand, is pictured with an ice sculpture commissioned by IFAW to symbolise the cruelty of the hunt.

IFAW’s report examines all aspects of the hunt, including the UK trade in seal products, and clearly makes a case for ending the commercial hunt.

As part of IFAW’s campaign, the organisation is urging the UK Government to ban the trade in all harp and hooded seal products.

IFAW marine campaigner Ellie Dickson said: “This is the largest marine mammal hunt in the world. If we stop the UK trade in seal products, we can play our part in helping to stop the hunt.”

Members of the public are being asked to contact the Minister for Trade, Ian Pearson, and urge him to introduce a ban on the import of seal products into the UK.

Roger Gale said: "I welcome IFAW’s report which raises awareness of this important issue. As parliamentarians we have the power to act and help end this cruel hunt.”

Between 2003 and 2005, more than one million seals were killed, with the vast majority harp seal pups aged between two weeks and three months of age.

On the same day that IFAW launched its report, the Canadian government announced the quota for this year’s seal hunt – 325,000 seals.

All veterinary reports on previous hunts have documented high levels of cruelty, with thousands of seal pups still alive when they were skinned.

Friday, March 17, 2006

Service Interruptus

We're back. What a relief. I had thought that the number of comments against the Two Chimneys story had killed the website but even those are back and visible now. Sorry about the interruption which was completely beyond my control, in the Servers of Blogger.Com on the West coast of America.

For a moment there, our little exercise in real democracy in Thanet was in danger of being snuffed-out!

Meanwhile, a depressing note from Cllr David Green on the local politics and caravan park comment thread. A vote of thanks to David for attempting to raise this issue I suspect that many if not most of our local representatives have never seen this website, aren't interested or simply are unable to use that internet "thingy." However, a phone call I received this morning tells me that Two Chimneys has now gone to the top of the agenda and so we have achieved something. A point that has been made to me is that it's all well and good for people to express their concerns here but in the real world, it's letters to your councillors and MPs that have the most impact. As there have been very few letters on the subject, it has not been seen as a priority issue. So if you have a concern, don't just "Blog-it" write a letter too!

David writes:

"I promised on another thread to try to get the Two Chimneys application into committee so that all could have their say. Here is the reply from Cllr Hayton, TDC Chair of planning."

'David, with respect, you must leave other people to consider what the reputation will be in the wards they represent, and I have not received any indication from any of the three councillors representing that ward. I understand that the officers are dealing with the application and are finding no great problems apart from Highways and they talking to one another.

Regards, Bill.'

Staying with politics, Westminster isn't much better. Matthew Parris writes in The Times today:

"My ancient doubts are less important than new doubts among new Labour’s friends, but let me put my own opinion delicately. I believe Tony Blair is an out-and-out rascal, terminally untrustworthy and close to being unhinged. I said from the start that there was something wrong in his head, and each passing year convinces me more strongly that this man is a pathological confidence-trickster. To the extent that he ever believes what he says, he is delusional. To the extent that he does not, he is an actor whose first invention — himself — has been his only interesting role. " - Read on.

Between the Taleban and the TDC

"Newspeak - The official language of Thanet. Newspeak is "politically correct" speech taken to its maximum extent. Newspeak is based on standard English, but all words describing "unorthodox" political ideas have been removed. In addition, there was an attempt to remove the overall number of words in general, to limit the range of ideas that could be expressed."

The Thanet Gazette is reporting that Council leader Sandy Ezekiel will be facing a leadership battle next month when KCC and local councillor, Chris Wells challenges him for the job of political ‘Top-dog’ in Thanet.

I’m all for Chris Wells having the job. He’s made every effort to communicate and deal sympathetically with the concerns of our readers here at ThanetLife since it first started. This is in contrast with Sandy Ezekiel, who appears too important to communicate with anyone I know, including me. One is representative of the “old style” of politics in Thanet and one offers hope at least that things will change for the better, even if this is in very small steps.

Or you could always vote Taleban!

Does the photo look familiar? Time for change then. Which one is which?

The Invisible Kid

Magistrates in Thanet have decided not to reveal the identity of the teenage ASBO offender who has reportedly been causing havoc and distress to shopkeepers and the public along the Northdown road in Cliftonville.

This attempt to name and shame him was reported here a couple of weeks ago, as a precedent has already been set in Garlinge. Sadly for the public however, it is not considered in our interest or the teenager’s interest to let us in on the secret, so he can be spotted more easily in future.

Powerful evidence of course of the case for ASBOs working as a practical deterrent to anti-social behaviour in the community?