Sunday, April 30, 2006

Message from Manda

One man's view of White Hart Lane stadium at 4:15 this afternoon. Whether, “Steve” who was proposed to by his partner, “Manda”, said “Yes”, I don’t know but it must have come as a bit of a surprise to be sitting among thousands of fellow Spurs fans and have a banner float by; a message from your partner asking you to marry her. Definitely a first in my experience!

I wonder what Sven thought when he saw it? Apparently he was at the match looking to fill the holes in the England squad. No sign of it on the tele though even tough it was a bit difficult to miss. Now, if it had said something "Marry me Sven" or "John Prescott is throbbing love machine", I'm sure the media would have noticed.

Funnily enough, the Labour Party were in touch with me over the weekend, requesting two aircraft to fly over London, encouraging voters to support the party in this week's elections. In the end, it fell through as they couldn't, I suspect, sort out the logistics by Tuesday, when they wanted the fly-by. However, it occurred to me that I could organise a whip around for our own special ThanetLife readers' message instead. What might it say, "Vote None of the Above?"

Ready to collapse in front of the television, I've made six flights today, at least six yesterday and I've a backlog of email to catch-up on. Tomorrow is, with a little luck, a day of rest for the wicked and time to catch-up with this weblog among other things..

Police Seek Help in Clocktower Assault

Police  are seeking help to identify a thug who allegedly punched another man in the face, breaking his jaw.

The assault happened outside the Clock Tower Kebab House on Marine Gardens, Margate, between 2.15am and 2.40am on April 15.

The 28-year-old victim was with his brother and a friend when a commotion broke out behind him. He turned to see two men having an argument and being restrained by other people.

The victim stepped between them and tried to calm the situation but he was punched to the side of his face hard and was knocked to the ground. He suffered a fractured jaw.

The man who punched him is described as white, of solid build, about 6ft 1in tall, with shaved dark hair. He was wearing a black hoody.

Anyone who witnessed the incident or knows the identity of the man is asked to contact DC Katrina Whitehead at Margate Police Station on 01843 222072. (ref 4417)

Human Torch

Kent Online reports that a  35-year-old man who doused himself in petrol and then set himself alight at a filling station has been arrested by Kent Police.

The man covered himself and his van in fuel and said he was going to light a match at the Tesco Extra station at Broadstairs at about 2.30pm on Saturday.

He set himself on fire when a crew from Kent Fire and Rescue arrived on the scene but the flames were soon smothered,

The man was taken to hospital in Margate with minor injuries. He has since been charged with arson with intent to endanger lives.

Saturday, April 29, 2006

Away Day

Sorry, been down towards Land's End today and just got back. White Hart Lane and Great Yarmouth beckon tomorrow, so I'll try and catch-up with everyone's comments somewhere in between here and there.

Meanwhile, a report in Kent on Sunday will reveal what you will have guessed already. Alcohol-fuelled crime has gone through the roof in Kent since the "relaxation" of the licensing laws.

Friday, April 28, 2006

Opt In or Opt Out

It’s not so long ago that a paragraph from the Guardian newspaper, like the one that follows, would have been beyond the boundaries of political correctness:

“The government is looking at ways to fast-track criminals out of the country as part of a series of measures to gain control of the crisis engulfing the Home Office.
As police continued their attempts to trace hundreds of foreign criminals who were released without being considered for deportation, ministers were yesterday considering ways of improving removal procedures between the UK and other countries, particularly Jamaica and Nigeria, whose nationals make up a significant proportion of the foreign prison population - more than 130 of the prisoners freed recently came from there.”

The Home Office revelations of the last week have clearly revealed that living in the Guardian and BBC’s multi-cultural paradise has its disadvantages when a government discovers that alongside those who arrive and make a genuine contribution to our society, there are thousands who see us as a “soft-touch” and an environment where appalling crimes can be committed with relatively modest levels of retribution in contrast with the countries they have come from.

But what to do? Any country that doesn’t offer its prison population, Playstation time and a colour television in every cell is deemed to fall on the wrong side of the Human Rights legislation, which as a result, means that we can’t deport some of the nastiest criminals in our jails and have instead, let them back loose on our streets with a pat on the head and welfare payments to tide them over until they can find more lucrative forms of employment again.

In the greater  interests of public safety Should we opt out of the Human Rights Act or at least interpret it as loosely as the French? You tell me.

The Kennedy Story

You may have listened to North Thanet MP Roger Gale’s interview on BBC Radio Kent this morning and you may even be picking-up a copy of the Thanet Gazette to read his ‘Gale’s View.’

In fact, I’ve had the same editorial for several days now but decided to run it this morning, just in case you were tempted to compare the version you find here, with the version in the Thanet Gazette. They should be both identical and if they are not, then you should ask why?

I offered Roger space here to write a reply to last week’s story in the Gazette, as far back as the morning of its publication. I would have done the same for anyone, Steven Ladyman, or even John Prescott in similar circumstances because I thought it was the right thing to do and having walked into the NTCA office,I saw how deeply upset the person at the centre of the allegations was.

In employing someone with a criminal conviction in a trusted role, Roger Gale did a brave and some might say foolish thing. It was however sincere and his decision to give someone a fresh start should not be held against him in the way in which it was in our local paper.

Roger Gale had, I believe, hoped that the Gazette would enter into some form of sensible dialogue over the story and the damage it had caused, which is why I chose not to run any comment here. Until late yesterday afternoon, a “head to head” BBC Radio Kent interview between Roger Gale and Gazette editor Rebecca Smith had been on the cards but at teatime, the Gazette reportedly pulled-out, issuing a statement instead and preferring to "Stand by" their story. Draw your own conclusions as to the true reason.

So here is Gale’s view, his account of the story and until today, the side you weren’t allowed to see. Nothing has been changed, other than a couple of punctuation corrections!

Gale’s View

This will not be the last "Gale’s View" that I write but it will be the last that I write for publication in the Isle of Thanet Gazette.

Let me explain why.

Last week's Gazette carried a front page banner headline that screamed "Asylum Shame of Gale’s Aide". The author of the story that followed likes to describe himself as the Gazette's "Chief Reporter" and the tale was awarded the slogan "Exclusive".

This "exclusive" piece, not of news but of history, related to a crime committed by one of my constituents four years ago, to a trial and conviction that took place two years ago, to a sentence that has been served and completed and to a lady who has moved home and re-built her life with her lawful husband.

She worked briefly, as part of her rehabilitation process, under strict supervision in my office and subsequently she was interviewed by the officers of the North Thanet Conservative Association who were aware of her background. She has since been employed for many months as a loyal and hardworking secretary in their offices.

I am completely satisfied that the security and confidentiality of my own records has not been compromised by this lady and that the only breach of confidence has been perpetrated by the Gazette’s malcontented "source".

The "justification" for what many might regard as a piece of gratuitous spite with no news value whatsoever "might be" according to the Mirror Group's local "Editor in Chief", a Ms. Lesley Finlay, that “the MP had demonstrated double standards in his attitudes to asylum seekers".

For the record, I handle a significant number of asylum claim cases. Whether I agree with the manner in which people have entered the country or not they are entitled to the representation of their MP and if they live in my constituency that is what they get, without fear or favour, from me.

Carrying out my duty in no way compromises my unequivocal view that immigration must be firmly controlled and that the present government has signally failed in that regard.

In the "exclusive" case, widely reported in all of the national press at the time of the court hearing, the lady concerned was convicted of bigamously "marrying" two immigrants. Recognising her foolishness, she had reported herself to the local police, acknowledged her crimes, taken her punishment and served her sentence and, at the same time, she had brought about the conviction of a crook who had been helping to smuggle illegal immigrants into the UK.

I know of no justification on news grounds for regurgitating this story now.

"Asylum Shame of Gale's Aide?"

I would cheerfully employ the lady concerned, who has proved herself to be diligent and efficient but I do not, in fact, do so.

She is not, therefore, "Gale's Aide" and the Gazette's lurid headline was clearly designed to give credibility and spice to a clapped out piece of malicious gossip.

The group "Editor in Chief", Ms. Finlay, asserts that I was offered the opportunity to comment.

When I met, for the first time, the Gazette's new editor, Ms. Smith, she said to me that "I don't want this political crap - I want your constituency casework". I found it necessary to explain to her, as I have explained to other journalists, that constituents` casework is confidential and that only in the rarest of instances and only at the request of the individual do I discuss cases with reporters.

The lady referred to in the Gazette's front-page story had, some years ago, sought my assistance in relation to what was clearly a very real problem. Of course I declined to discuss details of her private and personal concerns with a journalist.

Ms. Finlay says "As I understand it the news desk did want to speak to her and to talk about her experience and was given a flat - sort of basically - bugger off" ". Demonstrating her ignorance, she adds” I’m not involved in the story - she's still tagged, isn't she"?! (No, she is not, and has not been for months!)

Why is my constituent required to talk about past experiences, relating to a debt to society that has been paid and to matters that she wishes to put behind her, to a jumped-up journalist trying to manufacture something out of an old story? Under similar circumstances I suspect that most of us would have said "go away!" or words to that effect!

On the morning of the publication of this story I called in person to see Ms. Finlay at her office in Canterbury. Later she whined that I had "arrived unannounced and without an appointment at 09.00" and had "dragged me back from Surrey to meet you".

A publication for which this woman holds responsibility as "Editor in Chief" had sent reporters "unannounced and without an appointment" to doorstep the NTCA offices and had used a photographer to snatch clandestine pictures, in true gutter-press style, of my constituents.

So it's alright for the Gazette to behave like thugs but the Mirror team don't like it when someone pays a call on them!

In the event, we have gained no satisfaction from this squalid episode. I am not remotely concerned for myself: I stand or fall by my record, but I regard with contempt the fact that a deliberate attempt has been made to damage people - my constituent and her husband - who have already suffered considerably. Those responsible for this unwarranted intrusion offered the opportunity to apologise to them, have declined to do so. They will no doubt continue to peddle the half-truths that are their stock in trade.

Suzy and I have, like many others, spent much of our lives and the last 23 years connected with public life, trying to help those less fortunate than ourselves. As long as we have breath in our lungs and energy in our bodies we will continue to do so and as long as the electorate of North Thanet decides to return me to Parliament I will use that office to try to better the lot of the people that I have a duty to represent.

What I do not have to do, however, is to allow my name to be associated with newspapers that, after many proud years under dignified proprietorship and good editorial control, apparently believe that they will enhance circulation by descending into the muckraking business..

That is why this is my last column for the Gazette and why, in future, I shall not engage with its journalists.”

Thursday, April 27, 2006

A Game of Two Halves

An interesting afternoon partly spent over the top of Beatle, Paul McCartney’s house. I never realised he had one in this part of the world but it’s modestly tucked away in Farmland out towards Winchelsea.

Sunday should be another unusual day. A desperate housewife of sorts wants her football crazy partner to marry her and has asked us to tow a “Will You Marry Me” banner right over the top of the Sunday game at White Hart Lane just after kick off. An ardent spurs fan, she’s hoping that the aircraft will attract his attention long enough for him to be embarrassed into saying “Yes”, as I happen to have helped her push a press release out to the papers and the TV for a little moral support.

So what do you think? Will he marry her or will it all depends on whether Spurs beats Bolton on Sunday. It’s a game of two halves you know.

The Show Must Go On - Not

Now here’s an interesting little story. I called Rebecca Smith at the Thanet Gazette to ask what time the live debate between her and Roger Gale would be aired on Friday morning. Reporter Nick Dorman took the call and told me: “It’s not going ahead.”

“Why’s that” I asked. “Better ask Rebecca”, Nick replied but “She’s out and I’ll ask her to give you a call when she returns.”

So the plot thickens, has the Gazette chickened-out of a head to head confrontation with North Thanet MP Roger Gale over last week’s story?

So the next thing is to call Roger and ask him directly.

“Funny you should ask”, says Roger, “because I’ve just heard from BBC Radio Kent who have asked me to do a solo interview as Ms Smith has declined to do a head to head interview and no doubt your readers will want to know why."

"I have agreed", said Roger, "to honour my undertaking to take part in a live interview on BBC Radio Kent at just after 7am tomorrow morning and no doubt all will be explained at that time.”

Anyone seen Rebecca?

Listen In

In tacit recognition of the growing reach of ThanetLife, Council Leader, Sandy Ezekiel, has kindly agreed to take reader’s questions in a regular leader’s audio interview, which will start this coming week.

I’m delighted that Councillor Ezekiel is sparing the time from a busy schedule to work with me in improving the dialogue between our elected representatives and the people of Thanet. This won’t be Paxman on NewsNight but in the five minutes or so of each recording, I would like to be able to put your questions to him on a range of local issues that concern us all, so please start the ball rolling by adding them to the comments section for this entry. I’ll take a selection of the best for each interview.

Head to Head

Thanet North MP, Roger Gale and Thanet Gazette editor, Rebecca Smith, will reportedly be going “head-to-head” in a BBC Radio Kent interview on Friday morning. This will take place sometime between 7am and 9am. I haven’t got the exact time yet but will add it to this post once I find out.

The subject is of course the allegations made by the Thanet Gazette on the front page of last week’s paper and I’m sure it will prove most interesting listening, raising questions as it does over the standard of accuracy and reporting employed by our local paper in regard to Mr Gale’s choice of office staff.

Wednesday, April 26, 2006

The Truth is Out There Somewhere

You may have wondered why I haven’t yet commented on last week’s “Exclusive” and dare I say, “grubby”, Thanet Gazette story involving North Thanet MP Roger Gale and his decision to employ a local woman who has re-built her life, while working at the NTCA office in Birchington.

To be honest, I’ve known everyone involved for some time and with this the more accurate history behind the story. So I have decided to wait until Friday morning before publishing a separate account here, so you can better compare at contrast it with what you might read in the Thanet Gazette.

To quote Albert Einstein: “Whoever is careless with the truth in small matters cannot be trusted with important matters.”

Wrong Way Tragedy

Yesterday, when driving back into Westgate from London on my motorcycle, I narrowly avoided a head on collision with a car coming from the other direction. Increasingly I worry about my own chances of survival when motorcycling in Thanet and this concern is reinforced by what happened on the Thanet Way on Tuesday, after a fatal crash claimed the life of a motorcyclist.

The tragedy happened London-bound near Herne Bay at about 6.30pm on Tuesday when a motorcycle rider collided  with a Rover Metro.

The motorcyclist, believed to be a 37-year-old man from Sittingbourne, died at the scene. The driver of the Metro, an 86-year-old woman from Herne Bay, was taken to hospital.

A police spokesman said: "It is believed the Metro was travelling the wrong way along the A299.

"Both carriageways of the road were closed and did not reopen until after midnight to allow for the crash investigation."

With a Sea View

The demolition work has started on Sea Tower at St Mildred’s Bay this morning. Very soon, the easterly view of the property’s neighbouring houses towards the morning sunshine and Westbrook cliffs will be blotted-out by four luxury retirement blocks, adding to the Manhattan Skyline effect along our coast.

With almost non-existent parking already down the adjacent roads, I’m wondering what the effect will be as we move into the holiday season, with builder’s lorries and cranes trying to park-up and gain access to a road which is barely wide enough for two cars to pass each other. There’s no point saying anymore as one can’t stand in the way of progress.

A poor day for government. John Prescott has been having an affair. I would have more easily believed in life on Mars but not in the Office of the Deputy Prime Minister (ODPM), otherwise known as “One Day Pigs Might.”

Life at the Home Office isn’t any better. Poor Charles Clarke, who works from 8am to midnight in the most brutal of ministerial schedules has lost a thousand foreign criminals; rapists, burglars, murderers, you name it. An easy mistake to make of course and if you happen to spot a suspicious looking foreigner (pictured), please ignore him or her or it, as the law isn’t quite sure what to do with them once their sentence has been served because in many cases, deportation isn’t an option under the Human Rights legislation.

North Thanet MP Roger Gale has said this morning that asylum seekers convicted of serious sexual and violent criminal offences should be immediately deported.

Speaking at Westminster the MP commented:

"It costs a minimum of £35,000 a year to keep a prisoner in custody. British taxpayers have a right to ask why this money is being spent on those whose ultimate destiny should - if the Home Secretary was doing his job properly - be deportation.

It is hard to find a reason why, once lawful appeal processes have been exhausted, those convicted should not be immediately returned to their country of origin.

We have to accept that there are difficulties: the Chinese, for example, refuse to accept returning asylum seekers. That cannot, though, be a reason for paying a prison bill for five or more years before commencing the process."

Commenting on the Home Secretary`s position following overnight revelations relating to convicted asylum seeker released into the community without trace the MP from North Thanet said: "Simply, untenable".

Tuesday, April 25, 2006

The Changing Threat from the Web

Blogging from the InfoSec Show at Olympia this morning. My apologies if you had problems on the site yesterday, so did I. Blogger, owned by Google, appears to be having database difficulties and there's been a certain amount of frustrating interruption over the last week.

Here at Infosec the packed show is testament to the sheer size of the security problem facing us all from the internet. The headline from the PWC /DTI survey released a few minutes ago is that small businesses are now suffering with security breaches up by 50% in the last year and the overall cost to UK PLC being in the order of £10 billion.

Please, please be very careful when you share your personal and financial information over the Web. I don't wish to alarm readers but the the criminals are becoming ever smarter, their tools more sophisticated and identity theft and fraud are soaring. Make sure then that your PC is as protected against risk as it possibly can be and monitor kids and teenagers on the system because they are the ones that are most easily lured to bogus websites with nasty payloads behind them.

Monday, April 24, 2006

New Coastguard Station Opens

The new Margate Coastguard Station covering the area from Reculver Towers to the River Stour (North Side) was officially opened on Friday.

Margate Coastguard Rescue Team is one of the busiest teams in the South East. Last year the Coastguard in Margate dealt with over 100 incidents. In more recent years the Coastguard station was based at Foreness Point sharing the building with Southern Water Pumping Station. This new prominent station will not only be more accessible to the public but will greatly assist with the incident prevention work. It will also ensure that the Coastguard presence will remain on the island for many years to come.

Blogs and Blogging

I’m just waiting for BBC Radio Kent to call me for the Pat Marsh (pictured) show at 10:30. I’m in two minds whether to record the interview but the quality over my phone will be a little tinny and I can’t find any “triple A” batteries for my recorder which has conveniently died.

I’m sure that if you’re interested you’ll simply turn on the radio, “old technology” or use your PC to tune in to the station, “new technology.”

It’s all about blogs and blogging, so standby, ten minutes to go.

Later.. thanks to a publishing glitch on Blogger, this entry hasn't published... the new technology has fallen flat on its face again. Think I'll go back to pen and ink!

Arm of the Law

With local law and order – an oxymoron - such an emotional local issue I really would like to know why police resources might be applied to mid-morning speed-trapping drivers on the Canterbury road, towards Birchington, two hundred yards after the dual carriage-way drops from a 40mph to a 30mph  past King Ethelbert’s School and in the school holidays?

This strikes me as nothing less than cynical revenue gathering loosely wrapped around a road-safety scheme, when other roads, such a Westgate Bay Ave are far more of a dangerous racetrack at any time of the day, as motorists attempt to bypass the Canterbury road traffic.

As I wrote a week or so ago, I’m certain that our police officers would be more usefully employed in a visible patrol of our streets, building community confidence in their presence, rather than hiding in the back of unmarked white vans or behind the shrubbery on the Canterbury road, waiting for a relatively easy radar catch.

One retired local police officer commented last week that members of the public increasingly see the police as tax gatherers and paper-shufflers that exist for the benefit of the insurance companies who require a crime number to support any claim. “The job isn’t what it used to be”, he told me, “I’m glad I’m not in it anymore.”

Naked Conversations

I once had the privilege of standing in for friend and columnist John Naughton in the Observer and John, another early “Blogger”, has written an interesting essay on the importance of the Weblog to business. However the same argument might be true of any other organised activity, up to an including politics:

Blogging is 'the most powerful two-way internet communications tool yet developed' and is growing at an astonishing rate (one new blog every second). Increasingly, new bloggers are not teenagers talking about acne and angst, but workers talking about business. 'Chances are,' Scoble and Israel write - in their book “Naked Conversations”- , 'that if people aren't talking about your company in blogs today, they will be soon. You would be wise to join these conversations, if only to thank those who sing your praises or to correct factual errors. If you ignore the "blogosphere" you won't know what people are saying about you. You can't learn from them, and they won't come to see you as a sincere human who cares about your business and your reputation.'

Read on.

Sunday, April 23, 2006

Losta Costa

A sobering look at seaside regeneration in the The Sunday Times today. Among the resorts examined: “Margate, brutalised as it is by time and neglect, “is a breathtaking place potentially”.

So some good news but we are reminded that:  “Cheap and cheerful went on down through the floors to the deep subbasement of cheap and cheerless. Hotels, bed and breakfasts and seaside landlords all too literally went for bums in beds. “Costa del Dole” became the headline writers’ shorthand for what the seaside was now becoming. As MPs, councillors and shopkeepers fulminated, the Department of Social Security (as it then was) funded a seaward migration of job seekers, single-parent families and others who had fallen through holes in the working economy. A latter-day Dickens would have sketched human tragedy not through the Bridewell but through a Hastings bed and breakfast.”

Read on.

Naughty Boy

According to the government’s youth justice tsar, Professor Rod Morgan, a generation of British children is being "demonised" because of misplaced hysteria over teenage crime.

Professor Morgan, in the Independent, says that discretion should be exercised in cases where children are being sent to court for offences that would once have been dealt with by a slap on the wrist. This would be fine, if a slap on the wrist didn’t carry a criminal conviction for the adult who might be prepared to administer such a thing and besides, I doubt that Professor Morgan has visited Birchington or Cliftonville recently.

NACRO, the crime reduction charity, is calling for youth workers to patrol the streets in an effort to stop children from going to jail but it would be equally useful if the police and social services adopted a zero tolerance policy to the frequent teenage behaviour problems we see around us in places such as Thanet

A World of Arts

A cultural “blogfest” on the Arts & Elbows weblog today with a celebration of local girl, Tracey Emin, described as: “Britain's Greatest Living Artist.” I might not agree but I’m delighted that we now have a website from our very own answer to Brian Sewell that takes an original and critical look at the local arts scene and more importantly proves that we have one to support the ambitions surrounding the building of the Turner Contemporary.

Meanwhile, from the southern side of the island, some arts news from Eastcliff Richard who writes: “I see one of our poodle sized seagulls has made a rather substantial deposit on the recently restored statue of Pugin opposite the Granville…”

For any of you with artistic aspirations, please follow the link to Art.Com to create your very-own online masterpiece to rival the very best of Tracey Emin. You can of course paint your unique contemporary gallery for rather less than £9 million - nothing in fact – and send the results along here for judging by our panel of experts. Here’s one, seen above, I did earlier.

Saturday, April 22, 2006

Going-Up and Up

A couple of illustrations from a BBC survey from February showing relative house prices in Thanet and across Kent as a whole. these show us that local property is in demand and this is driving up prices, as more millionaires drive their Bentleys along the A229 looking for a new home with a sea view.

The leading question is of course one that asks how many thousand new homes need to be built to bring the pricing down to the county average and where are we going to put them all. There's not a single vacant car-parking space I can see left in Westgate which hasn't now got a doll's-house sized two up, two down on it.

Insularity Rules OK

Well, the Thanet Council website is back on its feet but so many people have written-in to say how much they enjoyed yesterday’s brief spell of independence from the rest of Britain, that a return to one-party state rule has come as a bit of a blow.

Already, this morning, a team of workers from the council landscape and gardening department have been seen filling-in the attempt by some of our readers to widen the Wantsum Channel past the St Nicholas roundabout and the border control post, kindly provided by one of our local farmers, has been quickly taken-down by Kent Police. A party of visiting government council tax inspectors, detained in a barn under guard overnight, have now been released.

Becoming an island again, like the Isle of Man or Guernsey, would have its advantages, attracting off-shore banks, motorcyclists and millionaires in search of a marina and a tax-free existence. The Turner Contemporary would flourish and Margate waterfront would become the new Cannes.

No, I think that becoming an island again maybe the answer to many of our problems. Does anyone remember the 1949 Ealing Studios film comedy, Passport to Pimlico?

Friday, April 21, 2006

It's Gone - All Gone

The Thanet District Council website has completely disappeared from the Internet. I've established this with a "Ping" test which confirms "Destination unreachable." Whether this means Thanet or simply the website, I don't know but I'll make some calls and try and find out.

Two minutes later and from the Chief Exec's office, yes.. the website is down or more accurately the hosting company is having "difficulties". Until an online government is returned to the island, I'm declaring emergency rule and Thanet will be run from here and EastCliff Richard's weblog until further notice.

The first acts of local legislation are to flood the Wantsum Channel and turn us back into an island with a border control and to place a moratorium on all further building projects until we've sorted out the roads mess. Those in favour vote here please. Those against can go and vote somewhere else!

Later... It's back, so that was the fastest change of local government in history. TDC is carrying the message "WEB, SERVICE CENTRE AND AUTOMATED TELEPHONE PAYMENT FACILITIES TEMPORARILY UNAVAILABLE" but you can always send your cheques here if you prefer.

Ten minutes later... No, it's gone again, so the people's 'Free Thanet Liberation Party' are in charge until further notice.

It's a Sign of the Times

Posting has been a little late today as the server has been unavailable for some unknown reason. Still, it’s fixed now or appears to be.

I had a call earlier from the BBC, Radio Kent’s Pat Marsh Show. Apparently, they want to have a quick look at the “Blogging” phenomenon at 10:30 am on Monday and have honed-in on this one for an interview. Mind you, if we knew who the mysterious “Eastcliff Richard” was, I’d recommend him instead, as his is much funnier than mine and you can’t have enough coverage for Ramsgate as the millionaire’s playground of the south-east.

Mind you, I had a look at one of our other local “chat” sites today which has a “name and shame” feature and I was alarmed at some of the content, which wouldn’t be permitted under the site rules here and which sails very close to the libel laws. Most recently, someone there was accused of having “Aids” and I believe that there is a real danger of some people misunderstanding the nature of free speech in regard to the law.

On another note today, I suppose that if you wish to sum-up politics today, then read the news that during the last election, Cherie Blair spent £7,700 on having her hair prepared by a personal stylist, which says it all.

In her role as Ms Booth, a high court judge, Cherie rumoured to earn as much as £700,000 a year – not including speaking and appearance fees but it’s convenient that when ‘Bad hair day’ arrives, the Labour party will pick up the bill. Now I’ll lay odds that John Prescott’s wife – she of the really big hair – may have run up a similarly large bill, allegedly but that has yet to come out in the wash. – That’s a pun!

A Labour spokeswoman said: "So what? We won the election."

I wonder how our very own New Labour – New Hairstyle, Iris feels about this use of party funds. Did Thanet have a hidden political hair-care fund during the last election?

Meanwhile, County Councillor Clive of the immaculately coiffured hair writes to tell us that he’s delighted that “KCC Cabinet Member Keith Ferrin has finally acted to remove the large scaffolding-like structures that supported two huge motorway type signs on the main pedestrian promenade in Margate.”

However, Cllr Clive’s original request, made during a debate last year at County Hall, was for the supports and signs to be replaced with more appropriate designs given the seafront location and the negative impact on people entering the town.

Cllr. Hart said “I have to say I’m somewhat bemused by the way this matter is being dealt with by KCC. The removal of the scaffold-like structures will undoubtedly help with the free flow of pedestrians along the promenade and I’m very thankful for that. "

“However”, adds Clive, “we are still left with the hugely offending motorway-type signs in a conservation area. To make matters worse one of these signs directs people to the Margate Caves, which are closed, and the Turner Contemporary. Directions to our much-loved Shell Grotto and our beautiful Theatre Royal on smaller, more appropriate signs would be far more useful for visitors.”

Sit it Out

From the BBC, yesterday, news that facilities in a prison are being built so Muslim inmates do not have to face Mecca while sitting on the toilet.

The Home Office said two new toilet blocks are being installed as part of a refurbishment at Brixton jail in south London.

Faith leaders had told prison bosses it was unacceptable for Muslim inmates to face Mecca while using the toilet.

“The refurbishment has been carried out with due consideration for all faiths”, a Home Office spokeswoman said. “Following consultation with faith leaders within the prison, various small adjustments were made to ensure the faith issues of all prisoners are taken into account.”

Writing as one who travels extensively in the middle-east and who has driven around the “Christian by-pass” which defends Mecca from chance incursions by non-believers, I find this whole notion insane. In the region, I have not been aware of buildings being designed so that their toilets face in a particular compass direction. East is a very big place.

Are we suggesting then, that Saudia, the airline of the Kingdom of Saudi Arabia, should ensure at all times that on flights to the magic kingdom, it should never have the aircraft toilets pointing in the direction of the Moslem Holy Places?

Should all prisoners be issued with a GPS device to reassure them that they are not passing waste in a vaguely south-eastern direction? Have we gone completely barking mad in this country and should we be surprised that the British National Party is attracting more support?

As a passing note, The government will argue in Britain's highest court next week that foreign officials who commit torture abroad should be immune from civil action in the English courts.

Christopher Greenwood QC will argue for the British government, which has intervened in support of Saudi Arabian officials accused of detaining and torturing four Britons in Saudi jails. Why would we do this you might ask? Well, you may have heard that Britain's aerospace industry received a massive boost yesterday after the Government announced a deal worth an estimated £10bn to supply Eurofighter Typhoon fighter aircraft to guess who..?

Thursday, April 20, 2006

Life and Times

I see my little Airads flypast protest banner over the top of St Mary's stadium in Southampton made the morning edition of The Times. Pity there were not any credits though!

I've been in London all day and haven't had time to post anything here, just read the different comments being "pushed" to my mobile phone.

What I would say is that while Thanet needs the commercial injection of tourism, if that tourism is "locked-up" in a self-contained caravan village, I struggle to see where the real benefit lies for the local economy in contrast with the objections expressed by visitors to this web site.

While the council may be acting quite properly and within the tight straightjacket of planning regulations that are imposed upon its officers, it seems very clear that people know quite instinctively what is right and wrong for Thanet and are deeply frustrated by what they see taking place upon the island in which they live and in the name of progress. But perhaps it's always been like this, if you think how much change we have seen here in living memory.

Wednesday, April 19, 2006

Thumbs Up for Two Chimneys - Thumbs Down for Local Concerns

Just in from one of our regular readers:

“I’ve just been told Two Chimneys planning application to extend their site has been approved and that the march of the caravans continues. It was approved this evening by the whole committee except Councillor Anne Chater. What upset my source was that the discussion time given to this important local issue was minimal and about one-tenth of the time was spent in discussion of unapproved doors in someone's barn. It fulfills the management training example of more time spent by the Board discussing the colour scheme for the executive toilet and the type of toilet tissue to be used than on the purchase of a multi-million pound computer system.

My source is thoroughly dispirited by this first experience of our local government in action and the way in which decisions are taken but that’s democracy in Thanet for you.

As you said in an earlier thread "It’s just another brick in the wall". I wonder if there is any point in trying to enhance the attractiveness of this area as has been done for the past ten years by planting over almost 17,000 hawthorns and trees into 4km of hedgerows, when the local council allows such an eyesore to occur and then allows it to expand.

Ed: I’m very disappointed in this decision by our council to allow the expansion of what is visibly a second permanent village on the outskirts of Westgate. I am unable to see any valid reason for allowing such an expansion, given the environmental impact it will undoubtedly have on the area and from what you have told me, I would have liked to have thought that the matter would have been debated with a little more attention to the interests and requests of local people. Apparently not and I look forward to reading any comments on this thread from other observers and local councillors who may have attended.

Three on One

More thuggery in Ramsgate on April 8th as police release the story of an early morning assault on a 22-year-old man, near the Charcoal Kebab House at Ramsgate harbour. This left the victim with a broken jaw when he came to the assistance of his girlfriend and her friends who were “having difficulties" with three men”. As he tried to intervene, the three men attacked him.

The main assailant is said to be aged about 20, 5ft 11in tall, medium build, and wore a white jacket and blue jeans. The attack happened between 1am and 2am on Saturday morning, April 8 and Thanet police are seeking witnesses.

Tuesday, April 18, 2006

Another Brick in the Wall

“Nightmare” is an expression I heard this evening to describe the traffic problem now facing Thanet. One parent, who has to take her son to Chatham house in Ramsgate from the direction of Birchington and Westgate, commented that during the rush-hour it’s becoming close to impossible.

I recall that when I moved back to Thanet three years ago, the traffic was a welcome change from South West London and the infamous Wandsworth one-way system. Today, we’re close to having one of our own and all we need is a Ken Livingstone as Mayor to give us a congestion charge too.

I don’t know what the solution is but in my opinion, even the best laid plans of KCC are unlikely to be able to address the problem of a rapidly expanding Westwood “locking-up” the two main arteries of Thanet. Put another way, Thanet now has a bad case of Angina and on days like today, it’s having the occasional heart attack.

If you could see what I can see from the air, as Westwood Cross ‘Phase Two’ starts to take shape, you’d be equally worried. It’s not that I’m against Westwood, I love the convenience of having all have the stores closer to home; trouble is that on days like Easter Saturday, it’s very difficult to get there, with the traffic jam starting at B&Q lights on the Margate road and the inevitable “shunt” on the Westwood Cross roundabout because so many local drivers haven’t a clue as to who has right of way on a roundabout.

Throw in more stores and more homes on the island and you’ve got a recipe for disaster without an integrated and efficient public transport network and simply crossing my own road in the mornings is now difficult enough because of the noticeable increase in traffic flow.

So what are we to do, develop ad infinitum, pouring concrete regardless of the impact on our community? How do we achieve a balance between local economic benefit and quality of life? However, if it carries on as it has been doing, I know one person who won’t be staying around to watch as Thanet is “bricked-up.”.

Sorry - Broadstairs is Closed

Apparently Broadstairs is closed. An hour’s attempt to get there past the QEQM “No access into Broadstairs.” Westwood is gridlocked as a result of an accident which has stopped everything by all accounts.

Another example of the problems that we’re facing with our local road system which is no longer up to the task. So let’s build a thousand more homes and see what that does to an already impossible situation.

A Ticket to Ride

More thuggery and mayhem in Thanet last week when police had to stop a bus after arresting fourteen teenagers on board the vehicle following a fight in Ramsgate.

Stagecoach allowed the vehicle to be taken from Oscar Road at Broadstairs, where it was stopped by officers, to Margate Police Station. The teenagers aged 12 -15 were interviewed and bailed pending further inquiries.

The Isle of Thanet Extra also reports that police say two men aged 26 and 27 from Ramsgate were attacked by a large group of youths and some adults in King Street just before 5pm last Thursday.

Air Mail - Special Delivery

I haven’t put the Southampton banner away yet and already, there’s another group of fans who want to do the same thing at the last game of the season for another big club. It strikes me that the popular way of telling an unpopular manager of chairman to leave a football club is by air mail!

Team in a Million

The Millionaires favourite team, Ramsgate football club are celebrating their second promotion in only two years after a 3-2 win against Dover Athletic yesterday.

Jim Ward's team will now compete in the Ryman League Premier Division next season.

Monday, April 17, 2006

Just Flash

Apparently, the Flashmob in Margate happened today and not yesterday, which rather explains why I had Cecil Square to myself!

See the details at

Did anyone notice?

Coming and Going

St Mary' Stadium 3-170406
Originally uploaded by DrMoores.

Sorry, been busy today but I notice that the website has been equally busy in my absence. My cellphone kept filling up with comments to read on the ground at Bembridge between flights.

A successful flyby over St Mary's Stadium this afternoon I'm told it's on the tele but haven't seen it yet. Any lower and we would have been in the stadium. Much of the western and southern side of Southampton was covered but the north-east was barred because of incoming airport traffic.

Click on the stadium photo to see the others, which can be downloaded in high resolution if you wish to have copies.

A bit tricky for us to fly, as the stadium is right on the final approach to the airport and so our thanks to air traffic control for making it possible and slotting-in the display between landing flights.


Time to Go

Tighten your belts; just about all the big newspapers are reporting today that the final bill to British taxpayers for President Blair's cave-in on the EU budget is about £20 billion more than was announced at the time. This is a truly stupefying sum. The additional amount conceded by Mr. Blair last December is £7 billion, is equivalent to the total police budget for England and Wales. The United Kingdom's annual gross contribution to Brussels, £12 billion, is equivalent to the combined revenue raised by inheritance tax, capital gains tax and stamp duty. We are, in short, paying in an awesome amount of money and add this to the news today that two million people owe more than £10,000 on their credit cards and you have a financial elephant in the living room which can’t be ignored.

I’m off to the Isle of Wight and Southampton today for the second attempt to fly a banner over the St Mary’s Stadium, this time for the Saints game against Millwall at 3pm. We have to be over the top at exactly 15:05 with a message asking Southampton chairman, Rupert Lowe to resign. There’s a huge amount of pressure from the fans to make it happen today; the last attempt was aborted because of high winds and I’ll take some video shots of the stadium from above to share with you if all goes well.

Sunday, April 16, 2006

Cop That

The scene at 3pm this afternoon at Cecil Square in Margate. No visible signs of any “Flashmob” or anyone else come to that!

Margate seafront is in a rather subdued Easter holiday mood but the Big Wheel is a great success. Because of the problems surrounding its planning permission, a smaller model is waiting to take its place in Godden’s Gap and is now standing in the harbour piazza.

On the cycle ride into Margate I quickly noticed that the Westbrook car park is being used as a race track and training area for mini-motorcycles. At least four on the last count. Seeing signs of low-level anti-social behaviour along the route, I’ve spent the last hour on my cycle ride looking for a policeman in Margate but have found no evidence that the species exists in Thanet on a Bank Holiday Sunday.

I spoke to one concerned resident who had called Crime Stoppers, you know the one-stop shop to report all crimes short of 999. Crime stoppers said "Call Kent police." "What’s the point of calling Crimestoppers then", they were asked, “You should be called ‘Crimetalkers’ instead!’ “I’m sorry you feel that way", was the reply.”

So if anyone in Kent Police is reading this, you can pick up four mini-motorcycles in one shot if you simply wander down to the Westbrook car park, you’ll hear them from a long way away and they are still there now at 15:20.

How, I ask, can you have a Bank Holiday weekend in Margate and even the suggestion of a “Flashmob” in the town centre with not a copper in sight? All praise though to Thanet District Council who have an army of beach cleaners operating between Margate and Westgate. Pity half of them couldn’t be community police officers but maybe that’s for another day.

More Thoughts on Dreamland's Future

I thought this latest comment was so well-written that I’ve decided to give it a thread of it’s own for you to comment on:

“The Isle of Thanet Gazette (IOTG) also gave space to Mr Hunter of Waterbridge Developers or as they now seemed to be called Margate Town Centre Regeneration Company Ltd (MTCRC) to knock the Save Dreamland campaigners.

I am seriously impressed by Waterbridge's PR/spin team.

What a great name and what a great tactic to ridicule your main opposition group!

IOTG quotes Mr Hunter:

1) ‘Margate is a tremendous town with a huge heart and great potential’ - PR speak for praise the local plebs and butter them up.

2) ‘Please look to the future’ - PR speak for you're hidebound old reactionaries and we're the sole people of vision.

3) 'Recognise that MTCRC is here to develop some world class facilities in leisure and supported by mixed use’- PR speak for we want to maximise our profit by building flats, houses, shops.

4) ('Not financially supported but for the good of an attractive urban regeneration') - PR speak for stress other use of Dreamland site to make sure we can maximise profit.

5) ‘Your campaign against me is starting to look vindictive and small minded’ - PR speak for your a serious threat to our plans to maximise profits so this slur will make you look small and pathetic.

Waterbridge or MTCRC has every right to maximise its profits when investing and developing and good luck to them. However, they are sitting on a critical site to regenerate Margate. The Local Planning Inspector stressed the need to keep it for development as a major tourism puller and that idea is already being watered down.

Sorry, Mr Hunter, either you make your money developing it as we and TDC and our local Inspector have outlined or TDC should compulsorily purchase it and do it itself.

The more you slag off Save Dreamland Campaign and try and kid us that a small big wheel is a big deal then you lose your credibility.”

Gordon of Khartoum

Some years ago, when I was visiting Africa, a friend who worked for the World Bank, pointed at a non-descript African gentlemen sitting at a table in the restaurant we were in. “There”, he said, “is where the £36 million pounds of aid to repair the country's road system went. You’ll have noticed the sorry state of the roads I’m sure.”

In today’s Sunday Times, Rod Liddle writes:

“What a lovely photo. Gordon Brown in Maputo, the Mozambique capital, last week beaming like a big benevolent white god, a bunch of happy little black children hunkered down at his knee. It was only when you read the copy that you found out that the benevolence was all yours.

Brown had flown a bunch of hacks to Mozambique so he could be photographed being nice to Africans with enormous amounts of your dosh. In a week when we learnt that our National Health Service is some £750m in the red and a British woman had to go to court to screw the money from it to have her life prolonged with Herceptin, the requisite anti-cancer drug, Gordon bunged a staggering £8 billion over 10 years to Africa.“ Read on..

Ed: It's sad that the actor Charlton Heston, who has played Moses, Ben Hur and Gordon of Khartoum in his time, is now too old to play Gordon Brown. It would be a great part in an epic movie but the role will now go to comedian, Rory Bremner.

Ticket This

After a reading a complaint about traffic wardens on the website yesterday, I see that the same unpopular species of local government contractor are to be told by the government to stop victimising motorists.

Attendants will have to curb the petty habit of ticketing motorists who have overstayed by a minute, or whose wheels stray just an inch over the line.

Ministers facing local elections next month have finally awoken to the fact that many motorists are infuriated by the behaviour of wardens who are under pressure to extract maximum revenue from drivers.

A transport department memo sent to members of the Commons transport select committee accuses local authorities of employing wardens without proper training and allowing staff to reject valid appeals against fines. It also calls for an end to “confusing” and “incomprehensible” parking restriction signs.

The committee is investigating parking enforcement across England amid a backlash against the behaviour of some wardens as recent figures show fines in 2003-04 surging past £1 billion for the first time.

My most recent experience of the warden scourge was three years ago in Westminster, when on two consecutive days, traffic wardens ticketed my motorcycle on private property. Only the presence of my digital camera on appeal, saved me from almost £200 worth of fines issued by men who spoke little or no English, could have been Rwandan war criminals or Albanian brigands for all I know but had all the power of the establishment because they happened to be wearing a uniform.

Saturday, April 15, 2006

Northern Lights

Ramsgate may be the new millionaires playground but the north of the island has it's own unique cultural and epicurian attractions such as Godden's Gap, the Margate Caves and the Hanging Gardens of Cliftonville.

To prove my point, I invited the former Prime Minister of Australia to join me this morning for a full English breakfast at Anton Mossiman's "Beano's cafe" in Westgate where we disussed the pros and cons of building the Turner Contemporary in the style of the Sydney Opera House, turning Thanet into a republic and the problem of feckless teenage hooded-Kangaroos in Birchington.

Farming Fears

One of our regular visitors writes:

"Some sad news. The firm of E. S. Linington & Son has pulled out of farming after 85 years and made 14 staff redundant two weeks ago. The farmland around Birchington and Westgate was recently put down to spring cereals by contractors and all farming on the Liningtons will be contracted out. No more mass cauliflower growing of Thanet’s best quality cauliflowers and the end of an era.

Other sad news was that Mr. Powell-Cotton died last week and this throws up problems for the future possibly of Quex Park and the whole estate and farmland around Birchington. His surviving family are his two elderly nephews living in Australia.

All in all tough times now and for the future in regard to farming in Thanet.

The Planning Committee will consider the Two Chimneys caravan site application on Wednesday 19th, which the planning officers are recommending be allowed!! There are all the usual points about landscaping and screening as provisos but the march of the mobile homes continues down the field. I took some ground level piccies an hour ago in the gloom to provide evidence of lack of enforcement by TDC planning except on swinging gibbets?

I have attached two views of Two Chimneys showing view from Minster Road and a close up of a “House” called a mobile home if you would like to share them with other readers."

Ed: They look like bungalows to me. Try towing one of those behind a car with our without the concrete foundations its stuck to!

North West Frontier

I had planned to "buzz" the CH4 Time Team digging-up the ancient remains of Ramsgate, in an attempt to catch presenter Tony Robinson with the aircraft's banner hook before releasing him out towards Belgium but the weather has defeated me.

Instead I notice from tomorrow's Kent on Sunday newspaper (I'm psychic) that the plans to run flights to and from West Virginia have reached a stalemate, as the Americans have concluded that Manston sounds too much like 'Manstoon', a Taleban-controlled province on the border between Afghanistan and Pakistan and have decided that the good people of West Virginia would much prefer to holiday in Miami instead.

Support Your Local Bloggers

You may notice that I have now split local Weblogs into their own section on the sidebar links. If you find one that I don't know of or happen to be writing one of your own, then please let me know.

Clear and Present Danger

You may recall from last year, that Kent Police, when confronted with my request under the Freedom of Information Act, that they reveal how many registered sex-offenders had been parked out of the way in Thanet, declined to do so.

This was on the grounds that revealing such information "May lead to public disorder."

Now it seems that sex offenses against children in Kent are rocketing as revealed in "Kent on Saturday." The trouble is that here in Thanet, we have good reason to suspect that we have more than our fair share of perverts lodged in social housing but parents are not permitted to know, as in my letter to the police, "how many of these have a record of offenses that might constitute a danger to our children."

If we at least had an idea of the numbers we could make an educated guess over the risk.

Flash Dance

Eastcliff Richard has a “scoop” story about a “Flash mob” descending on Cecil Square at 3pm on Monday

Last time I saw a flash mob mentioned, it was on CSI Miami and involved a body being found in the bunker of a golf course, after a mob of students, triggered by a single SMS message, descended on the 18th hole to protest over the cost of beer or something equally daft.This type of thing now becomes a kind of self-fulfilling prophecy now that we’re writing about it but it does seem rather too trendy for Margate

Thanks for the reader updates.

Friday, April 14, 2006

Iron Maiden

I’ve just been watching and Iron Maiden front man and commercial Boeing 757 pilot, Bruce Dickinson in his “Heavy Metal” programme on the Sky Discovery Channel. What caught my attention was him pitching-up at Manston with a number of trainee Boeing 747-pilots for circuits around Thanet.

In the series, Bruce looks at and often flies a number of aircraft from across the history of commercial aviation. There are some quite surprising aerobatics done in rather large aircraft and next time I see a white, unmarked Boeing 747 doing the rounds over Margate, then I’ll know that it’s crewed by a dozen or so sweaty-palmed individuals who will be having their first attempt at putting a “Jumbo” down safely on the runway.

If your happen to be watching from Ramsgate, just close your eyes.

Very Sad

A poignantly sad banner flown over a funeral at Cardiff this week. A double tragedy from the message but an impressive send off, with a fleet of white Rolls Royces and hundreds of people at the cemetery service.

A diversion for the waiting passengers at the airport was provided with several attempts to pick the banner up in the crosswind, which was strong enough to lift it as you can see.

Westwood Halt

I’ve just been trying to drive to Westwood Cross to buy some new printer cartridges at Staples, The traffic is insane and the queue starts at B&Q on the Margate road.

I nipped around the back via Poorhole lane and found it easier to get in and out this way. On the way back, there was no traffic going back towards Margate. From the sounds of the sirens and speeding police cars, an accident on the Westwood roundabout had brought Saturday afternoon to a complete halt.

I wonder that if it’s this bad now, what’s it going to be like when all the new superstores, PC World and others are up and running. It may even be quicker to go back to Canterbury again!

Local Flight

The Gazette, I see, has raised £2,485 for charity with its auction. Twenty-two companies and individuals are thanked along with the prizes they donated, except one. Guess who?

I’m assuming someone else has donated the “Flying high photo flight” over your home and I hope they have fun doing it too!

An honest oversight of simply being petty! – You tell me.

Fast Micros - Fast Service

A special note of thanks this morning to Fast Micros in Westbrook, (tel. 227522) who successfully rebuilt my desktop PC over the last 24-hours.

I’m going to spend the rest of the summer re-installing all my software but at least I’m up and running again and should be back to a near normal state by Monday.

A great service and much appreciated. Thank you!

Reason Number 431

It’s all happening this weekend in the Thanet Gazette.

First-off, a fourteen-year-old boy accused of making his own “porn movie” with the assistance of two ten year friends, not girls, I should add. This small story has left me temporarily speechless, so I’ll move on to the Scorpion in the bananas, allegedly purchased from Asda in Broadstairs, reason number 431 to shop at Morrisons!

In an effort to save money and the NHS, Margate hospital is cutting free coffee for its volunteer workers, who contribute 1,000 hours a week. Please bring your own thermos in future. (photo from Kent Observer)

Westgate is to be given its own beat officer, with the credit being given to pressure from, well of course, the Thanet Gazette. Apparently the local residents, me being one and lost for any kind of representation, have been calling for more policing and the Gazette has intervened, with the result that PC Chris Bungard is to become the new beat officer; better than none at all but 9am to 5pm I assume? Tell me it’s not so please!

In its new-found role of concerned public champion and ‘righter of wrongs’, the Gazette has also taken residents complaints involving cars being sold off the streets of Westgate to the council. The same story you may remember ran here last year, when after a number of calls and letters to the council, a collective effort succeeded in having Westgate bay Avenue and Westbrook Avenue re-zoned. All that’s happened of course is that the street traders have moved their business to the roads that aren’t restricted, St Mildred’s road being one.

A couple of new local websites for you and you’ll find links to them in the sidebar.

The first is aims to offer the definitive news and information resource for the different towns in the area and the second is a Weblog, Tony Flaig’s

Finally, I see Smudger is after his own back in his column, describing me as an “Extra from Top Gun.” but I’m a little too old now and aerobatics makes me ill.

Thursday, April 13, 2006

Lost and Found

Ramsgate may indeed be the new millionaire's playground but from the look of it, the new arrivals have some unusual tastes in pets!

Time Team Tales of Thanet

Eastcliff Richard has revealed exciting local news that the CH4 Time Team, “Tony Robinson and his gang of hairy, beer swilling professors are expected to descend on the area in search of a long lost tribe known only by their initials, EDF”

Ramsgate is being dug up in preparation for the visit and several serving Thanet councillors have been unearthed from their burrows to illustrate the island’s unbroken historical link with the Middle Ages. Their continued presence after eight hundred years of uninterrupted service should provide us with some fascinating viewing.

Child Injured in Ramsgate Accident

Kent online reports that a child was rescued from underneath a car following an accident in the centre of Ramsgate earlier today.

The nine-year-old victim was freed by fire crews and taken to the Queen Mother Hospital at Margate with serious leg and head injuries.

Police say two occupants of the vehicle ran off away from the crash scene in Thanet Road and a spokesman said: "Inquiries are under way to find them."

Ed: The accident happened at around 11.30am and police cordoned off an area around the accident site. Both female occupants of the car having reportedly left the scene of the accident, returned shortly after.

Walk on By

The prognosis on my Personal Computer isn’t good. I’m told that shooting it would be the kindest thing to do or failing that, re-install Windows completely after first copying-off all the data files. Of course re-installing all the applications after this could take weeks, months even, as many of them are now downloaded, such as music files and subject to a digital rights nightmare. As a result, I’ve broken my promise not to eat chocolate until after Easter in a fit of despair!

In Westbrook this morning, carrying my mortally-wounded computer, I couldn’t help noticing one of our local “hoodies” quite blatantly sauntering along the road and pausing to examine the inside any car more expensive looking than a 1973 Volvo.

Perhaps he was innocently searching for a particularly fascinating example of leather trim or a glimpse of David Beckham waiting patiently for “Posh” to find something interesting for the Easter weekend in the small fancy dress shop next to Goodwins and the K9 pet parlour?

Hidden Peril

While thugs and armed robbers continue to make their presence felt, in Birchington, the interim solution is to set-up a hand-held speed camera service on the A28 leading in and out of the village. Beware anyone driving along the 40mph dual carriageway from Westgate into the the 30mph built-up zone that leads on to the Thanet Way!

Personally, I would have thought that a visible police presence in the Birchington square would be preferable to an officer disguised as a bush along the A28.

Wednesday, April 12, 2006

Tall Ships

I wondered why there was an exclusion zone around Sandhurst today, I had to route around it on the way to Cardiff and it transpires that the Queen was there this morning to see Prince Harry graduate. I wonder if he will be posted to Afghanistan or somewhere closer to home? Knightsbridge barracks perhaps.

The reason for going to Cardiff was to tow a farewell message over a funeral. Very sad it was too as there were two women's names on the message and when we were over the top of the cemetery, I could see two freshly dug graves surrounded by hundreds of mourners. It was a big send-off without doubt. White horses and white Rolls Royces too.

Weblog posts may be limited for a brief period. My main PC “died” again this morning, announcing it had lost its configuration file and the system backup CD won’t restore Microsoft’s Windows to life. A terminally ill Operating System strikes me as a regular fact of life these days and I’ll have to rush it to “hospital” again in Westbrook tomorrow. The worst case scenario is having to re-install Windows and the lengthy process of having to re-install all my applications that goes with it; takes days.

One thing I recommend to anyone reading this is to have a 30 gigabyte backup USB drive connected to your PC hard disk which can mirror everything you have on your main machine for problems like this. It’s not a question of “if” your computer will die one day, just a question of “when” in my experience.

The BBC reports that Ramsgate’s Royal Harbour Marina is gearing up for a busy summer season, with classic ships and visits by World War II heroes.

In the “Millionaire’s Playground”, the maritime season starts on Thursday 20th April when a flotilla of 22 tall ships are due to sail into the harbour, as the Race of the Classics makes its only British stop in Ramsgate, weather permitting.

Just under a week later, the Royal Harbour Marina will play host to more history, when the Grand Turk arrives, followed by a visit by the little ships made famous at Dunkirk in 1940.

For more information on events at Ramsgate’s Royal Harbour Marina, call 01843 572 100 or visit

Tuesday, April 11, 2006

MP's Fury at Ward Closure Proposals

North Thanet`s MP, Roger Gale, is today describes as "furious" over proposals to close wards in the QEQM hospital and other hospitals in East Kent.

Speaking in his constituency the MP said of the proposals:

"We have faced many years of pain and anguish and taken great criticism over the re-organisation of hospital healthcare in East Kent. We have seen that programme through and now, at the very moment when the programme is reaching a conclusion and when we should be reaping the benefits in terms of patient care, the East Kent Hospitals Trust is facing funding cuts that threaten to destabilise the service.

On top of £15 million of "savings" already in the pipeline Government policy is placing the burden of a further £20 million of cuts upon the Trust.

This process is demoralising for medical and nursing staff, for ancillary staff and for managers alike - particularly when the prospect not only of ward closures but of staff cuts is on the agenda.

This Government never tires of telling us how much more taxpayers money it is spending on the health service. If that is so then with shortages of doctors and dentists, patients still having operations cancelled, staff being laid off, wards closing and budgets across the country overspent I believe that we are entitled to ask "where the hell has the money gone"?.

The responsibility for this situation lies directly with three people: the Prime Minister, the Chancellor of the Exchequer, and the Secretary of State for Health, the "nation's nanny", Patricia Hewitt.

My constituents will suffer as a result of this administration's inability to stop meddling with reorganisations and it's determination to mend things that are not broken - often at great expense. Am I furious? On behalf of those that I was elected to represent, yes.I am."

Tandoori World

If you’re wondering where Tuesday’s entry has gone, so have I. It’s mid-afternoon and I haven’t thought or found anything remotely newsworthy or witty yet.

I popped along to the council offices this morning with my plans for an iconic art display, pictured in yesterday’s entry (seen further below) but this has been reluctantly rejected on Health & Safety grounds, even though the suggestion of having Iris Johnstone suspended as the principal exhibit until the Turner Contemporary is finally built in 2009, did have some support.

Meanwhile, the good news is that the Winter Gardens may soon to be turned into a giant Indian restaurant until something better can be done with the building to fit the cultural ambitions of the new Margate Waterfront Project.

Monday, April 10, 2006

Ramsgate Woman Jailed for Knife Attack

The Isle of Thanet Extra reports that a 30-year-old woman described by a judge as emotionally unstable has been jailed for two-and-a-half years for stabbing her former boyfriend.

Maria Halliday knifed Alan Naylor four times while he was fighting with her new partner, Canterbury Crown Court was told.

Halliday, of Clements Road, Ramsgate, appeared for sentence having admitted unlawfully wounding Mr Naylor in April last year. The court heard that she had had a drink problem in the past, for which she received medication.

Jailing Halliday, Judge Adele Williams said: “You used a knife in the context of a complicated domestic situation. You are an emotionally unstable person who misuses alcohol.”

Iconic Art

I'm popping along to the council offices tomorrow with a controversial new design idea for tackling persistent anti-social behaviour and as a deterrence against rogue architects, with a single display outside Droit House.

It will remain there until the new Turner Contemporary is built as a symbolic reminder and local work of art.

Is anyone against the idea?

Welcome Aboard

On the same day that the government’s attempt to curb "marriages of convenience" that allow immigrants to move to the UK has been declared a breach of human rights by the High Court, a party of illegal immigrants discovered on a boat off Margate's Nayland Rock and brought ashore at the town’s harbour are to appear in court.

Kent Online report that the twin-hulled vessel was towed into the harbour soon after 10pm on Friday and officers then pushed the boat up the hill to Margate Police Station and locked it in a cell as evidence and to prevent it being stolen.

Twelve of the 14 people on board who at first insisted that they were international art lovers visiting the Turner Contemporary were found to be illegal immigrants and are now in the loving care of HM immigration.

The other two were a 57-year-old German man and 26-year-old Germans woman. Both were arrested and charged with facilitating unlawful entry to a member state.

Much easier and less risky, I would have thought, to offer to marry them to a local girl or boy for a grand or so, now that little escape route to the UK has been left open by the judges.

A Touch of Snow

Rochester is under snow this morning, as is much of Kent. I have a “Will you marry me” banner to display for another Spring romantic over the Bluewater shopping centre at lunchtime but it’s all looking rather “iffy” for the poor chap, as Rochester airfield is presently closed and the wind isn’t helping much either.

Kent Online reports up to 12 centimetres of snow in some areas of the county with West Kent being particularly hit. As I write, Headcorn and Rochester airfields have now announced suspension of traffic for the remainder of the day so today's marriage propsal is sadly "off."

The gale which is battering us here in Thanet seems to be very localised and should, with a little luck, move off by later this afternoon.

Fire Escape for Bleak House

The fire risk that is commonly associated with Margate found its way over to Broadstairs last night when a fire badly damaged part of Bleak House.

Around 40 fire-fighters tackled a blaze that began in a residential first-floor bedroom but Charles Dickens was away as was the new owner, Thanet jeweller, Richard Hilton and his family and nobody was harmed, as the famous seaside building overlooking Viking Bay, was standing empty at the time.

The Fire service reports that the Charles Dickens Museum was not affected but flames have destroyed one second-floor room and a snooker room on the floor below, was badly damaged when part of the bedroom floor collapsed.

Charles Dickens wrote David Copperfield at Bleak House, which was originally called Fort House after the captain of the small coastal fortress which stood in front of it.

Sunday, April 09, 2006

No Banana

Just in, a CCTV image of a youth that police wish to interview urgently in connection with a series of armed robberies that have recently taken place in sweetshops across Thanet.

If your recognise the person in the photograph, please call CrimeStoppers immediately.

Ed: We can treat this as a caption competition but it's very sad that even something that should at first appear funny, is much closer to home than we would like. You simply can't expect anyone to tell the difference between a real or replica firearm anymore, placing both the police and the public in an impossible position, in incidents we have seen across the island in the last month.