Monday, May 30, 2011

Margate Meltdown 2011

A lovely day on Margate's seafront and I have been enjoying a very good cappuccinno at Cafe G, watching the thousands of motorcycles roll-in; some of the more remarkable models with considerable envy.

Thanet council has gone to considerable effort to make the town both welcoming and spotless this Bank Holiday weekend for both the annual Ace Cafe motorcycle rally and the Steam Fair at Dreamland. So I rode along the seafront with a critical eye and only spotted one black bag of dumped rubbish opposite the Nayland Rock hotel, with a council refuse truck busily collecting the rubbish from the  familiar problem areas; giving the stream of motorcyclists a clean and pleasant view of the town as they arrived.

The previous two years of the 'Meltdown'witnessed some pretty awful weather but today is definitely 'Third-time-lucky' and the Old Town, Harbour Arm and seafront cafe's and bars are already gearing-up for a roaring trade.

Only a couple of week's to go before Margate's 'Big Weekend' and it looks as if the flypast by the Vulcan bomber, seen at Abingdon is now firmly on the programme. Bring your earplugs and don't forget that this year it's on the seafront at Margate and not Palm Bay and so the cliff-top at Westbrook will be a great spot for deck chairs on the eastern edge of the display line.

Friday, May 27, 2011

Age Before Beauty

A quick read through Friday's soar-away issue of  the Thanet Gazette and I see that the early signs of an epidemic of suicidal depression among Staffordshire bull terriers is once again making the news. Not so long ago, I wrote of how upset I was coming across the body of one that allegedly drowned itself in the paddling pool in St Mildred's Bay and today's Gazette reports that a second, also apparently staying with neighbours, in a sudden fit of despair, threw itself out of a first floor window in Margate onto spiked iron railings below. Sadly and from the more recent conversation I had with an RSPCA inspector, I predict this won't be the last such tragic story of suicidal depression in this breed and I would recommend that worried owners ask their vet about the benefits of Prozac.

Curiously enough and according to Labour Leader, Clive Hart, I'm an 'elderly man.' At least this is how it's reported in the local paper with Labour alleging that the Conservative cabinet is made up of the same elderly men as before and with apparently no new ideas to offer. But hold on a moment, I think you might find that the average age of the Conservative cabinet might be less than that of Labour but my guess, now that Cllr Bruce has replaced the retiring Cllr Latchford, is about 55 and I can happily report that I still have all my own teeth although I do admit to needing reading glasses these days!

Of course, if Cllr Hart swiftly appoints young Cllr Will Scobie (the younger) to the shadow cabinet, then that will scupper my argument and the average with it! Which on a much lighter note, reminds me of 'Hot crumpets' and Blackadder III

Thursday, May 26, 2011

19th Century Sailing Ship View

Through the heavy rain this afternoon, a view that Turner might have recognised. I managed to get very wet taking this photo and wonder if anyone can supply the name of the sailing vessel now moored against the gale between Margate and Westgate. She looks to have a Danish flag.

Westgate's Own Micro Pub

It's wonderful to see new businesses opening in Westgate over the past weeks and while I haven't yet been drawn to have my toes nibbled by specially trained fish at the new Foot Spa parlour in Station road, I did go along to the opening of our first 'Micro-pub' at the Old Bake & Ale House, in a secluded spot between the bookmaker and the Carlton cinema.

This tiny pub stocks local beers, Gadds being popular, ciders and wines mainly from places like Ramsgate, Canterbury and; Chatham and has a website to tell you more.

In fact, writing about it reminds me that I should pop-along for a pint soon so please add your support if you can. The more entrepreneurs we have starting businesses in Westgate the better and meanwhile, I'm off to have a coffee at Fredericks and to find out more about those feet-nibbling fish, as it's far too windy for me to do the flying job scheduled for this morning

Tuesday, May 24, 2011

The Train Now Standing

I was expecting a thirty minute queue at the security entrance to Westminster yesterday evening but it was just me. The Great Hall was being laid out for President Obama's visit today and so Parliament was very quiet indeed, possibly with more armed police than visitors.

Up to the committee room for an AGM and meeting on next generation broadband, where we were joined by our Technology Forum President, Adam Afriye MP,  Chairman and MEP, Malcolm Harbour and MP's Ian Taylor, Therese Coffey and Rory Stewart.

I'm somewhat of a TE Lawrence and Wilfred Thesiger fan having once travelled across much of the Middle-east on a mountain bike and told Rory how much I enjoyed his TV documentary on that great World War I hero, Lawrence.  Stewart is a new Conservative MP and an adventurer and Arabist of that same determined character that once gave us an Empire. In January 2002 he walked across Afghanistan; surviving by his wits, his knowledge of Persian dialects and Muslim customs, and the kindness of strangers. "Along the way he met heroes and rogues, tribal elders and teenage soldiers, Taliban commanders and foreign-aid workers. He was also adopted by an unexpected companion - a retired fighting mastiff he named Babur in honor of Afghanistan's first Mughal emperor, in whose footsteps the pair was following."

Back to Victoria station for the 20:51 that wasn't and I wondered if it might have been quicker to walk home. Eventually the delayed train made an appearance and for once the journey continued without any surprises. I've written before that SouthEast trains have a record of punctuality second to none and once again they proved it last night. The sooner the franchise is given to another company, the better where I'm concerned.

As for the limitless sands of Arabia, I have to narrow my own horizons to the beaches of Thanet and regular business trips to Abu Dhabi and Dubai. However, unlike Thesiger, I don't have to struggle across the endless 'Empty Quarter' on a camel, because I can hear many different Arabic dialects within easy walking distance of my home.

Sunday, May 22, 2011

Touch and Go

After yesterday evening's run along a dazzling Brighton beach with a marriage proposal, I've just had to let today's client know that the forecast for Kent is so bad that he's going to have to cancel or postpone his noon proposal at Leeds castle; wind speeds are expected above 30mph. It's all very stressful for people I know but invariably, it all works out if a little patience and a 'Plan B' is involved.

What interested me most yesterday was the volume of 'Tweets' from Brighton beach as people watched the banner go past. When I arrived back home, much like the results of last week's Millwall banner at Wigan, I could follow a running commentary of the flight and people's opinions.

Not content with a simple T-shirt trophy I see that the happy Millwall fans are now getting into commemorative 'mission badges' as a host of merchandising opportunities have appeared since last Sunday. At this rate, a thousand or more Chinese factory workers will be turning out collectors items like the badge shown below. The next step up is probably a leather flying jacket with a hand painted design, much like those worn by USAAF aircrew in World War II. There's a company in Scotland that does them!

Friday's Daily Mail report was likely another example of the paper not letting a good story get in the way of the facts. In many ways it's quite funny as the Mail uses me as a pilot from time to time and all they had to do was ask:

"Have you heard from the CAA" - "No".

I've lost track of the number of football matches we've done over the years and so over the course of any season, we might do several trips for fans around different clubs, Liverpool, Norwich and Manchester United being among the most popular.

Collecting a banner is a difficult exercise, which is why only a handful of pilots do it. On a day like today, the strong winds would make it far too dangerous to try and work at 100mph ten feet off the ground, much like being in a small boat in a stormy sea.  As I'm having so many hits from different football fans sites, the video below gives you an idea of what's involved. The orange bucket, eight paces from the posts is vital as my aiming point and you can just see it as the G-force pulls the camera away from the passenger.

The first video, I thought visiting  fans might enjoy just for fun!  What one might achieve, given a little more performance and budget to sneak-up on a football game! There's always next season!

Thursday, May 19, 2011

Another Four Years

The annual meeting of the council tonight and as a consequence of the balance that now exists between the two main parties, we have a Labour Chairman and Deputy Chairman of Thanet District Council, Doug Clark and Kay Dark and a Conservative cabinet, led by Bob Bayford and which now welcomes the very capable Alasdair Bruce to fill the vancy left by the retiring Roger Latchford.

A standing ovation was given by all present, to the outgoing Chairman, Margaret Sheldrick, who has been unwell but made a valiant effort to appear and pass her best wishes to all. Her firm but good-natured presence in the chamber will be sorely missed and we all wish her well.

It's worth noting perhaps the overwhelming support for Kay Dark, despite the best efforts of the suspended and now ex-councillor Mark Nottingham's supporters to discredit her online in the most reprehensible fashion. I've written before that politics in Thanet can be a dirty business and to reinforce this view we now have a new Northwood councillor and a new Labour weblog that makes Mark Nottingham sound almost moderate in comparison. This describes the Queen's visit to the Irish Republic this week as: "She won't give a proper apology for 500 murderous years of tyrannical occupation of Ireland. She won't abdicate and take her rotten, corrupt family of scroungers, grafters and racists with her."

Why I ask do Labour councillors feel obliged to express themselves in such a crude and forceful manner? Did the people of Ramsgate really want to use their votes to re-introduce the eccentric hard-left political views of the Socialist Workers Party or Militant Tendency back into Thanet?

Thanks to the abstention of the three  independent members, the political future of the island and its direction is in safe hands for the next four years. For this we have to thank them, as led by Cllr Tom King, they clearly recognised the natural strengths of the Conservative group in contrast with the trite and rather tired left-wing political slogans on offer from the Labour front bench

Wednesday, May 18, 2011

Down Time

I was supposed to 'drop-in' on the Home Secretary at Bournemouth about now but the weather on the South coast has other ideas. So I'm back at home catching-up on a week's overdue paperwork and associated business and political housekeeping tasks.

The Bournemouth banner flight was actually for the Police Federation conference and so for once, rather than worrying about a police helicopter getting in the way, I would have had an escort, in contrast to what sometimes happens around football stadiums!

Sky Sports were on a little earlier asking for a banner around Twickenham on Saturday, without realising that it sits right on the final approach to Heathrow's RW27 and you can see the stadium out of the window just before landing. Somehow I think I wouldn't be very popular if I popped up there unexpectedly!

As an observation, there seems to be unusual Spitfire activity this week. On Monday, the memorial flight zipped across my nose near Canterbury and yesterday, when I was doing a display near Winchester, another dashed past me at Popham, once again on the way to Manston, the pilot said, so I wonder what's up.

As you might expect, there's a great deal of talk surrounding the future of local politics in advance of tomorrow night's council meeting and reading through some of our local blogs, I see that wildly speculative rubbish isn't in short supply. I would expect a packed public gallery in the council chamber tomorrow evening, as people arrive to see what takes place; so best get your seat early, I will.

Monday, May 16, 2011

Millwall Legend

It's all gone a bit crazy!

If you saw the coverage of West Ham vs Wigan yesterday you'll understand why!

From my point of view it was just another flight over a football match, one of four jobs on Sunday afternoon but the Millwall fans and the media have become excited enough to invite me to a match,  kick it off as a Twitter 'trend' and start selling t-shirts!

It's all in rather bizarre contrast to the local debate surrounding the future of Margate Football Club.

Friday, May 13, 2011

Home Front

I'm back home from Dubai by a few hours and after catching-up with rather too many overnight emails and several flight bookings for the weekend ahead, I'm just about ready to fall into a comatose sleep before I start all over in the morning.

For the irate reader who has complained I may be censoring him by not publishing his overnight comment, I should add that I have been keeping an eye on this 'Blog. from my laptop in the Emirates and I started travelling home at around 2AM our time, which might go some way in explaining the delay, together with Google's unusual 'Friday 13th' Blogger outage which appears to have been resolved only moments ago at 6pm.

Now I'm back, I'm also battling post-election council email to add to the personal stuff, even though I've been trying to manage my different in-boxes while I have been away.. So I hope readers will be patient and forgive me in trying to catch up with business,family,  personal, politics and outstanding calls before I disappear for another four days of flying, which is actually a job, rather than a hobby; contrary to what I've seen written elsewhere.

At least it's pleasantly cooler here than the 38 degrees in Dubai. I did notice for the first time that Chinese tourists are now far more visible there than ever before, illustrating only too well how the economic balance of power is shifting towards Asia.

Wednesday, May 11, 2011

Interesting Times

It's been a busy seven days, a local election, an airshow and I had to pop-over to Dubai for a quick job as well. To be honest, with the outside temperature at the airport at 36 Celsius at 10pm, I rather think the weather in Thanet is preferable to that of the Middle-east's Manhattan in the sand, although an earlier view of the building outside my hotel window, is in ironic contrast with our more modest Arlington Tower on Margate seafront.

There's much speculation over what the council will look like politically in the days ahead. It's not really for me to  comment beyond that well-worn expression; 'We live in interesting times.' I'm sure the up and coming council meeting where this will all be decided will be packed, which is no bad thing, as people will have the opportunity of seeing for themselves how our system of local government works at an important  time in our collective history.

Monday, May 09, 2011

Noisy Arrival

From what I understand may be the rules, I've a welcome gap from being a councillor for a few days, as there's a limbo period between the election and the formation of the new council. There's a real temptation to speak freely for the first time in four years but I'll resist it!

A good day at the first airshow of the season yesterday, with the Vulcan making it's very noisy and impressive appearance. Not only did it set off car alarms but almost shattered my eardrums, as I was standing on the opposite side of the runway display line when it climbed with full power directly above me.

Taking part in my own first-time display, I don't know what was more worrying, the prospect of 'cocking-up' the tight routine in front of 5,000 people of the potential to dig a small crater if I got it wrong. As it was, it all went pretty well, although I couldn't hold 200 feet along the display line in the strong wind and ballooned up to almost 300 feet as we came through with the glider pirouetting behind me.

It all rather reminded me of motorcycling. I used to write for several UK magazines in the 80s and 90s and would take super-bikes down to the track at Brands or Donnington and the low level work and tight turns felt much the same except that in the air, both hands and both feet are working very hard at the same time, with throttle, stick and rudder and your eyes are glued to the airspeed indicator and the altimeter looking for precise numbers.

I'm really along for the ride to set-up the glider for its low-level aerobatic display and the really hard work is done by Guy Westgate in the glider and having been there in there with him once, I can tell you that unless you have a cast iron constitution, you wouldn't want to repeat the experience!

Friday, May 06, 2011

Thanet Election Results Special

The final result of the all-night count in the local elections has yet to appear but as I type it looks very much like Thanet will remain in Conservative control with three independents balancing the narrow margin of victory. This is of course subject to final confirmation from the bleary-eyed returning officer.

No sign of any impact whatsoever from the LibDem's Bill Furness or Bloggers Tony Flaig or Matt Brown but this may reflect the national trend of punishing the party for Nick Clegg.

Despite this week's rather nasty leaflet campaign in Westgate, I held on to the ward with Brian Goodwin and Independent Councillor Tom King. My commiserations to my Conservative colleague Richard Chapman who worked very hard during the campaign.

My thanks to all the local people who voted for me and those who approached me and told me how offended and outraged they were by the smear letter they received on Wednesday. The intention was clearly malicious but the content was far from intelligent and in the footsteps of Labour's Phil Woolas debacle at the General Election, people don't like this kind of thing and certainly don't want it here in Thanet.

Over the coming four years I plan to continue to work hard for the people of my ward in Westgate and Thanet at a difficult time when decisions won't be easy and money is short. There's real room for optimism though, simply looking at the number of new shops and businesses opening in Westgate will confirm this and I'm looking forward to working both with my Conservative colleague Brian Goodwin and the ever popular Tom King of the Residents Association.

Final results: Conservatives 27, Labour 26, and Independent 3 so much to think about and more later!

Wednesday, May 04, 2011

Politics Can be a Dirty Business

I was writing a little earlier that politics was an unpleasant business but never thought that I would be the focus of a leaflet campaign in Westgate, the day before the local elections.

Posted through many doors in my ward this afternoon alongside leaflets for local taxis, a prestigious local health club and the animal hospital was a letter with the title: "Do Not Vote For Simon Moores."

I've since been into the council offices to take proper advice but I will share some of the headlines with readers:

Apparently I have admitted on this weblog that I am answerable "Not to the electorate but to the unelected council officials."

It claims that I have "attended less than 20 council meetings" and that I have been" linked to inappropriate websites."

The letter adds that I complain that being a councillor gets in the way of my 'Hobby of flying' and that I'm hiding the truth that the alleged "£2 million annual cost of the Turner Contemporary is paid for from our council tax!"

I could go on with allegations about 'not supporting the Carlton Cinema' or 'fighting against Westwood Cross' but I won't and I'm sure the local media will have their own copies to explore if they feel so inclined.

It's contains very tacky, personal, nasty stuff, designed to damage my prospects in tomorrow's polls and I have an idea of the possible source. This raises questions on electoral law and I've now left this in the hands of council officers to investigate.

Your Vote Counts on May 5th

The final hours before the polls open on Thursday and I've dismantled the "Vote No to AV" I flew over David Cameron last week. The entry polls for the referendum are suggestion around a 75% 'No' vote and there's been no request for any final air support in the run-up to the big day.

Meanwhile, Aviva have asked me to fly a giant digital banner over Norwich Football Club to celebrate their promotion, this weekend and I'm racing to have it produced and rushed from the States in time to do it. "The impossible I try and achieve right away but miracles are by appointment only", I told them!

Of course, as the clock ticks away the minutes until May 5th, I'm seeing some rather unusual if not downright outrageous statements from the political opposition, which really show the contrast between the style of the main parties. Leaving aside the local LibDems who are clearly struggling with any viable message whatsoever, Labour has a reputation in the media at large with being 'Economical with the truth' at the best of times and particularly when it comes to the Internet or Twitter or Blogs these days, as you may remember from the Derek Draper, No10 and other scandals before the General Election. However, I read some of their local election materials and I do wonder if 'controlled substances' were involved, in their arriving at some of the more bizarre and over-imaginative local policy messages coming from their leader and other sources.

I do suspect that May 5th will be marked by a great deal of apathy. We've had elections of one kind or another every year for the last four and many people are becoming a little wearied by the sport. Perhaps that's why they should get out and vote or risk seeing an activist and left-wing minority dominating the result, which ultimately, may not be good for Thanet.

A great deal has been achieved over the last twelve months, culminating in the opening of the Turner Contemporary and I'm rather hoping that even more can be achieved in the next four years unless of course local people in some wards, really wish to turn the clock back to welcome back the same familiar, tired and strongly trade-unionised faces that gave us so many of the problems of the past.

Tuesday, May 03, 2011

A Small Fire

Two days before the local elections and I suspect that one or two council candidates have their own very firm views on tackling anti-social behaviour! Anyone recognise the chap in the rather dated picture?

A little earlier, I was on the seafront at Westgate when two fire engines screamed past in the direction of West Bay. I followed on foot to discover them parked on the promenade outside the public toilets, where they were busily putting out a small fire. These are of course the same toilets that were vandalised - read trashed - only a few weeks ago, after having been repaired following another attack last season.

Three teenagers were observed running-off and I notified my colleague Cllr Wise to get a repairs crew sent but it all begs a broader question. Who were these teenagers, why weren't they at school and were they in any part responsible for the previous damage to the public toilets which now counts in the many thousands of pounds?

I think some people have their ideas, as I 'm sure do the police but I feel quite certain we haven't heard the least of this, given we've now had several arson incidents in Westgate over the last year and one of these was at an empty house at the end of my own road.

So if you see anything suspicious, the best thing is to call the local police non-urgent  number on 01622 690 690

Monday, May 02, 2011

Finding Osama Bin Laden's Compound

I'm not sure that the news media have realised yet that Google Earth gives remarkably good resolution of the area surrounding the entrance to the Pakistan Military Academy, (PMA) where Osama Bin had his residence off the Kakul Road, Abbottābad in Pakistan.

Aerial photography being one of the jobs I do for the media from time to time, I'm really quite surprised that BBC and Sky News didn't look for this immediately and the commercial version of Google Earth can offer much higher satellite resolutions if one is prepared to spend a few shekels to examine an image in greater detail.

What I find particularly interesting in the light of media reports of Bin Laden's medical condition is that he is within walking distance of two of the best hospitals in Pakistan. None of the media sources I have seen have picked that up yet as an item of further interest.

Less than 10 minutes after I sent the image to Dermot on Sky News, Tim Marshall pulled up an image and identified it, so a good result or simply a coincidence! - NB thanks to a reader giving me the exact Latitude and Longitude I have now updated the photo to dead centre and to the SE of the military Academy as shown in the White House briefing.