Wednesday, June 23, 2010

Hard and Fast

So that was the emergency budget then and as we might have guessed, VAT will have to go up to 20% in January, to claw back, in part at least, the hidden £12 billion or more that the last Labour government kept out of the books. In fact, the Treasury was so bare when they left office that even the most hardened political mouse would struggle to survive.

Elsewhere, the budget cuts are starting to fall hard and fast. Pro-rata, they appear to be falling hardest on those areas that have the highest levels of deprivation because, they relied so much upon them in the past. My guess is that it will take six months before the public start to realize what austerity really means to them, as local government comes to terms with the new financial landscape and some people if not everyone, will be very unhappy with the result. However, on a local basis, people may begin to grasp that council tax only covers a relatively modest proportion of the running costs of providing hundreds of different services through the Town Hall of any community and that the greater balance comes from County and Central Government in terms of grants, which in a number of cases since May 6th, no longer exist.

Both rich and poor, young and old, none of us will remain untouched by the consequences of the utter recklessness of the last decade. Gordon Brown started with our private pensions and effectively destroyed the best personal pension system in the world and having pawned-away our Gold as well, he left us as the most indebted nation in Europe weighed-down by an almost unimaginable burden of public sector deficit. I do note though that the new Chancellor has moved-on from the blame game to the challenge of balancing the books within the term of this new coalition government.

I was sent a new 'Blog' link earlier. It's a page devoted to the old Ramsgate airport. I'm too young to remember it but I do know some people with very happy memories of flying in and out of there.

The world, I suppose, stops for the England vs. Slovenia game this afternoon. All except council business of course; the show must go on and let's all hope that the England squad finally pulls some inspiration out of a previously lackluster performance and doesn't follow the disgraced French team home to Europe with a second class airline ticket and a nation's football hopes disappointed for another four years!

Sunday, June 20, 2010

Mons – The Overture

I've just been watching with some interest, a programme on the History Channel, which describes the first action of the First World War; the 23rd August 1914, a cavalry engagement at Soignies in Belgium, between the 4th Royal Dragoon Guards and German lancers. This had me running upstairs to my bookcase and my great uncle's book: 'Unwilling Passenger', because on page 24 and a new chapter 'Mons the Overture', he describes the action in some depth as he was present.

The German cavalry he refers to as 'Bavarian ploughboys' who were routed by the professional British cavalry and adds: "Some of our men pursuing them had refrained at first from running them through because their backs were turned. This gallantry was not to last very long!"

He adds: "I asked one of the prisoners for a button, which he cut off, my first souvenir! Rather tearfully he insisted that his brother had been shot at Munich for refusing to join-up and that he himself was very pleased he had been taken prisoner and would not have to take any further part in the war."

I've written before that it's a fascinating book and one that I recently loaned to Ian Hislop to read. It's somewhat ironic that the historian on the television programme was forensically piecing together the facts of this first action of World War I without the benefit of the eyewitness account that exists on my bookshelf.

Saturday, June 19, 2010


My own flight was blown away by the weather this morning but from the look of it, everything else went according to plan at the ‘Big Event’ and when I was up there at lunchtime, there were so many fairground amusements, it did rather remind me of Dreamland in its heyday.

I had lunch at the Phoenix club mess and watched the Red Arrows take-off at Manston and almost instantly disappear into an intense downpour but assume they popped-out of it in time to entertain the crowds at Palm Bay.

A little later, I was at the seafront in Westgate waiting for the Lancaster, Spitfires and ME109 to appear and managed to get some photos of the mock dogfight swirling over Margate.

How times have changed! As I photographed the Me109 fly past back along the coast towards the west, followed by the Spitfires, a group of boys playing football didn’t even look-up, not even when the Lancaster swept by in the opposite direction towards the airshow. I was of course raised with the excitement engendered by the appearance of a Spitfire and remembering back to the making of ‘The Battle of Britain’ here in 1969, the thrill of seeing Messerschmitt 109s or Heinkel III bombers was almost too much to bear for a thirteen-year-old schoolboy. But this is a different era and why, as one passer-by commented when he observed the same as I did, we need to remember the events and the fragile aircraft of seventy years ago and the sacrifices that a generation made to keep us free.

If the wind drops within manageable limits tomorrow, I’ll be airborne as scheduled but it’s a little too rough up there to risk towing a banner. The best analogy I can think of would be putting to sea in a rowing boat in the same conditions!

Friday, June 18, 2010

Big Event

Here's a sneak preview of the next in a series of television advertisements from  filmed earlier in the week. What is the strange purpose you may wonder of the ornate 'Tardis-like' box in the middle of the room at  the  Tudor stately home, Dorney Court and why is Basil the butler in a suit of armour?

All will, I'm sure be revealed in the not too distant future, as will my own small part, as the 'Master'; one of the most bizarre things I've ever done to be sure!

It's the  'Big-Event' and air show of course this weekend and the forecast is a little iffy, for  me at least, as I'm up at the start with a banner for a local business, each day. If the winds don't die-down a bit, it's going to put me out of the picture and with a northerly wind blowing, may impact the vintage aircraft trying to operate from Manston's runway in a cross-wind. Finger's crossed though, that the gods will bless the event as they've done in the previous years with thousands of people coming to Thanet to enjoy the spectacle.

I'm particularly looking forward to seeing the visiting ME109. I haven't seen one at Manston since they filmed the 'Battle of Britain' in the 1960's and they are a very rare sight at the best of times!

Monday, June 14, 2010

Extra Vigilance

We appear to have a teenage mugger robbing the elderly in Westgate. After a call from the police this morning, I'm asking readers to put the word around and recommend a little extra caution in protecting one's handbag until the thief is caught. I'm sure people share my own strong feelings on the matter.

On Friday 4th June at 9am and Wednesday 9th June at 10pm two elderly ladies were knocked down and had their bags stolen at Dent de Lion road and Station road respectively. The suspect is believed to be around sixteen years of age wearing a dark grey 'hoody.' At the first robbery he may have had an accomplice of about the same age, wearing a lighter hooded sweatshirt.

Clearly we all wish to avoid a third robbery in a similar style and so I would ask Westgate residents to keep their eyes open and report anything they might have seen on those dates on anything suspicious to the police or community wardens. You can always pass any information to me confidentially, if you prefer me to forward it on.

Residents may also have read the sad news of the closure of Westgate pavillion in the papers. As a Cabinet member I'm unable to comment here beyond saying that every effort is being made to attract a new lessee given the pavilion's importance, both as a busy community activity centre and iconic local building. The official Thanet District Council press release with my comments can be found here.

Difficult times as I'm sure you will agree!

Tuesday, June 08, 2010

Tough Landing

I've just realized I haven't written an entry for over a week!

What with extra Cabinet responsibilities to keep me busy and the middle of the flying season, I'm finding myself a little short on time to do much more than send out the occasional 'Tweet' to the sidebar.

I was airborne on Sunday evening when three Spitfires and a Hurricane from the Battle of Britain flight left Manston to go, wherever they were going. One can always distinguish a Spitfire pilot in the air, even without the 'Spitfire' call sign because of the characteristic sound of the microphone in the face mask. It sounds as if he's breathing some kind of gas that changes his voice frequency. Anyway, hearing them lining-up on the runway at Manston, I positioned myself over Westgate to watch the fun and one after the other they rose, wheeled in a tight circle over the airport and then sped-off towards Dover and some rather nasty looking thunderstorms.

I've included a little video I made of a Spitfire some time ago for interest.

Derek, one of my contacts at Manston has just sent me a video of what can happen when you misjudge a landing in a Harrier operating in Afghanistan. With the RAF now down one of the aircraft as a consequence, I suspect the poor pilot will be filling paperwork for some time to come. It illustrates the point that flying can look easy but invariably it can be a great deal harder than it looks!