Friday, September 30, 2011

In The House Again

This afternoon I was back to the Big Brother House again, with a message for a young lady called 'Maisy' from her father. That's four flights I've done over the place in the last six years, Jade, Ulrika, Maisy and a message, one year, "there is another house" which made no sense to me!" I suppose the emotional reaction was predictable though!

Over Essex I photographed the Red Baron through the thick thirty degree haze. Unlike the Fokker Dr1 in the photo, I don't have a machine-gun but I 'm a little faster!

Four days of flying in these temperatures beats the very best weight loss programmes. Working at low level, as I do, the cockpit can be uncomfortably warm and I have every sympathy for the helicopter pilots in Afghanistan, where temperatures can reach 50 celsius while they are going through start-up checklists, which can take twenty minutes or more, in the case of the Apache.

It appears we are expecting a bumper weekend here on the coast and I'm already getting reports that our local traders are benefiting from the extraordinary Indian summer weather.

I noticed driving out of Birchington this morning, the steady line of cars coming in with more than one,  occupant, as people did the sensible thing in this temperature and headed for the seaside!

Wednesday, September 28, 2011

Red Hot Chili Peppers

Absent-mindedly managed to mix up a homegrown live red chili with a red pepper this evening and munched on the wrong one. Not a mistake I plan to repeat in a hurry! Reminds me of the time many years ago when my poor father confused my tube of deep heat ointment in the bathroom with a similar-looking tube of red and white Colgate. The scream could be heard for miles.

I was out at Northampton today and in the descent towards Kent this afternoon, the inversion caused by the high temperatures really stood-out as a purple layer of smog drifting down the Thames estuary from a city of London almost hidden completely in the thick haze.

If the temperatures continue to build as predicted over the coming days, I would expect one heck of a thunderstorm unless the wind changes direction dramatically.

Thursday morning sees me out over Essex again playing hunt the scrap metal caches with a suitably powerful camera lens. I suspect that if I gave readers a map of the county and a few flagged pins, they could take a pretty educated guess as to the route.

I thought I might add something about local politics and the council but as other blogs are quite happily indulging their own fantasies in this direction,  I would hate to spoil the fun and to be honest I could do with an early night for a change.

Monday, September 26, 2011


For those of you still young enough to remember 'The Fast Show' here's the Thanet weather forecast for this week from the lovely Paula, with temperatures predicted to be in line with the best Mediterranean weather.

I'm sure if the show were still running it would have something to say about the size of the Greek national debt as well, given that the country is expected to default this week and potentially drag the Eurozone down in the process, unless of course a cunning plan of remarkable ingenuity is discovered.

To be honest, I prefer it to the BBC's own regional weather coverage. Sorry Kaddy!

Saturday, September 24, 2011

Rocking All Over the World

The wind has picked-up enough for the colourful giant kites to start flying over Margate Beach as part of the annual 'Big Sky' international festival on the seafront and I'm just home from a 'Rock Doc Walk' local geology interest with Alasdair Bruce at Kingsgate and Botany Bay on a stunning September morning.

A German television crew were in tow, filming a documentary and they were suitably impressed with the light and the Thanet weather; it's like this all the time as we know and a good a reason as any to come and admire the famous sunsets from the Turner Contemporary gallery in Margate!

Alasdair was holiday trekking in Yellowstone Park last week so the contrast in geology between there and Botany Bay must be remarkable.

You can book a place on one of these walks here and having an expert like Alasdair living locally, makes it even more worthwhile for the outing to enjoy our coastline.

Other news of the day, is that I'm reliably informed the Thanet Gazette's 'Captain Thanet', Saul Leese,  has departed the paper suddenly, for a new career outside journalism in London and I wonder if we'll be reading about it in Smudger.

Reportedly, the title's future is uncertain enough for people to be worried and Saul, who will I'm sure be sorely missed, appears to be the first overboard. I wish him luck in his new role.

Staying with Smudger a moment, there's a nasty catty piece in the paper this week, taking a swipe at Laura Sandys for promoting our tourism and decrying our ' Knee deep in rotting seaweed 'covered beaches as if we had some control over the tides and the largest seaweed harvest, by orders of magnitude in Britain.  I've visited much of our sixteen-mile coastline in the last twenty-four hours as you can see from the photos and our Thanet beaches look magnificent and picture-postcard attractive; quite enough to impress a foreign TV crew today and I hope, even David Tennant, who spent some time filming on the sands, this week.

For further information on Rock Doc walks please contact Thanet Coast Project on 01843 577672 or email

Friday, September 23, 2011

A Despicable Business

Normally, as readers will have guessed, I always carry a camera but not this morning unfortunately.

I was getting money from the station cashpoint in Westgate when I noticed something unusual happening outside the Piggy Bank nursery. My suspicions were aroused when one of our more vulnerable children in care, who doesn't apparently go to school,  shot across the road on his bicycle, to join a group of pupils from King Ethelberts school, who were involved in some kind of  veiled financial transaction with a man in a yellow hooded tracksuit top.

He appeared to be passing them something in silver paper and money was changing hands. He then went into the newsagent and re-appeared with three packets of SuperKings, more money exchanged hands and the kids went on their way, boys and girls happily smoking their cigarettes and the 'dealer' wandered off towards Beano's cafe, I assume to buy his breakfast with the profits.

I can't express how angry seeing this made me and so I followed him into Beanos and confronted him at the counter there,  politely explaining that this was a criminal offense and that I intended to call the police. Very surprised, he retorted that the kids were his, which was a poor excuse, given his darker appearance and he then made a quick exit, leaving a cafe full of interested onlookers watching.

I did try reporting it to the police but with no answer, I've tweeted and sent an email instead. I can easily identify him if required as can the manager of the newsagent. If I had my camera I could have recorded the whole thing. It may appear to be a minor business but what starts with exploiting our local children with cigarettes and soft drugs invariably leads to more substances as time passes.

I should add that if the police wish to recover the CCTV footage from the shop and outside (08:40) then I'm happy to act as a witness and I would hope the store manager would too as he confirmed the purchase.

Thursday, September 22, 2011

A Birchington Tennant

Quite by chance on my cycle ride this morning, I came across the house where David Tennant is filming a new BBC drama series, 'Love Life' with Billie Piper. It's just back from the seafront at Birchington at Epple Bay.

I'll take a bigger camera along next time and see if I can grab some better photos. The film crew were busy setting-up as I came past, the only thing narrow enough, on my cycle, to get down a very busy road, with all the parked up production vehicles.

Frying Tonight

Council cabinet tonight and as the Labour group normally have their speeches well prepared in advance, so they pop-up on the internet shortly after the meeting concludes, I even thought I might have a quick bash at writing the inevitable starting monologue for them. This  normally has absolutely nothing to do with the business in hand and is simply a reminder that the outdated notion of 'class-war' remains alive and well in Thanet;

Invariably, this takes the form of an introductory political speech from Cllr Poole on 'Greedy bankers,' 'millionaire public school' toffs and how the economic crisis is a fantasy, made-up by the ConDems, as an excuse to steal public sector pensions and smear the outstanding work of fifteen years of Labour Government.

Short pause then, for the regular finger-pointing chant on how a Labour government gave us new hospitals, schools - and several small foreign wars, before the important business of the evening starts-

I wonder what David Miliband would make of it all and if you don't believe me come along and see how local government works, despite the exhausted slogans and regular interruptions, for yourself.

Fed-up with watching re-runs of small boys cage-fighting for the delight of the audience at a Lancashire Labour club on Sky News, I'm going for a cycle ride to Reculver before I read through this evening's papers again. I wonder what the national outcry would be in contrast,  if teenage pole dancing was the evening's entertainment at the local Conservative club.

In the photos, yet another Minnis bay car park puncture and pictured, Sammy the Terrier who is 90 today. In dog years anyway. She's had 1 candle in a corned beef sandwich to celebrate!

Tuesday, September 20, 2011

Nothing in the World

I must admit, having David Tennant filming in Margate is good for the town in terms of attracting good publicity and of course raising its profile. I hear he's enjoying his new TDC press officer acting  part so much that he's thinking of giving-up acting and moving down permanently!!! Without a doubt he's made a number of friends around the town and reportedly the public and his fans have found him very approachable.

If you fancy being an extra in his new TV drama then follow the link here. Or call the Casting Network on 0208 391 2979 during office hours.

From looking at Twitter, it seems that the link between the two is encouraging some people to think of giving it a visit and in particular, the Turner Contemporary, which is of course showing it's 'Nothing in the World but Youth' exhibition.

I'm out flying tomorrow, with a marriage proposal at the pier at Southend and a secret mission for Channel 4 somewhere else in the country. I can't say where because they are very sensitive about it. To be honest, I don't know myself what it's all about but I'm sure I will find out soon enough! The projected wind speeds for the target location are however very 'iffy', so I'm only giving them a 50/50 chance of pulling it off.

Monday, September 19, 2011

A New Tennant

Days like this one don't come along too often.

On the one hand, as you may see from the photo, the former Dr Who and Casanova,  actor, David Tennant, is filming this afternoon at the council offices in Margate and so I have to tiptoe about the second floor, until he's finished perfecting his new TV series role of a Thanet District Council press officer.

And on the other hand, I had a call from the Studio agency today, asking if I could be Hollywood action man,  Brad Pitt's pilot for a film on Thursday. Why is a long story but unfortunately for me, it's Cabinet evening at TDC, which of course takes priority over everything else and I can't be sure of getting back to Margate in time.

So I guess that ruins any chances of a future date with Angelina Jolie either!

Saturday, September 17, 2011

A Faustian Dilemma

It's the Liberal Democrat conference in Birmingham this weekend and the Deputy Prime Minister, with his attention trapped between his political survival and the really important policy issues, such as education and the NHS, has pledged to make his Party less 'male and pale'; reinforcing the case that this country is now run by a coalition government and not simply a Conservative one.

Labour's future is now directed by the Edwardly lesser talent of the two Marxist-educated Miliband brothers and the equally left- wing Shadow Chancellor, Ed Balls, which should give some of us good reason to worry over a future in their hands. At least a generation will have to pass, before the record debt left to this country - £140 million a day in interest alone - by the last Labour Government, may reduce to manageable levels, under an unavoidable regime of tight austerity, regardless of which Party happens to hold power.

At Westminster, what might appear to be a number of common sense policies to the bulk of the population, are frustrated by the 'Eurocentric' LibDems that stand in the way of Conservative manifesto commitments, while holding a disproportionate number of Ministerial appointments as their Faustian bargain to keep Labour out of power. It's the political equivalent of the lesser of two evils but without a clear majority, no single party can easily or swiftly deliver a complete programme of Post-Labour reforms, political, legislative, social and more.

Here in Thanet, people also forget that the situation is not entirely dissimilar to that at Westminster; the balance of power held by the Independent group, which can lead, almost inevitably, to a drawn-out process of compromise, which is not without its challenges, with so much to do and so little time available in the execution.

Time to take the dog for a walk I think and mull-over the potentially awful consequences for the Eurozone of Greece defaulting on its eyewateringly large national debt. Thankfully, for all of us, the LibDems, distracted perhaps by their more important diversity agenda, aren't quite able to achieve their policy goal of full European fiscal and legislative integration or complete surrender to the Brussels bureaucrats.

Thursday, September 15, 2011


It started as a dazzling September day and I made an early morning visit into Damyns Hall airfield just outside London, where the Good Year airship was readying to fly off to Manchester to cover the football.

It's big enough but flies quite slowly and must be a handful in any strong wind.

Back to a very unexpected award in the mail from PADI for twenty years as an instructor member and then shower and change for several council meetings this afternoon. Meanwhile. here's a view of the Canvey Island oil refinery on the way past. From there you can clearly see the start of Thanet's chalk cliffs reflecting the light from Minnis Bay.

From time to time you can see the cooling tower from the Stoke power station on the Isle of Grain, sticking-up on the western horizon past the Isle of Sheppey and opposite Sheerness. It's a feature to be avoided on a foggy day as it's on a direct route from Stapleford back into Thanet. (Click the image to enlarge)

Wednesday, September 14, 2011

Flying Fred's Kite

Many readers are far too young to remember the classic 1960's Boulting Brothers film: "I'm Alright Jack' , starring Peter Sellers as the pugnacious, slogan quoting Shop Steward, 'Fred Kite.'

Today's Congress, I think proved that Fred still lives, at least in spirit as the Trades Union movement wallows in such as perilous state of denial that yesterday, even the Leader of the Labour Party was heckled when he attempted to level with delegates over the link between a struggling economy and public-sector pensions.

I noticed that the NUT and others have it firmly fixed in their minds that there is no public sector pensions crisis, a problem which is only too familiar to local councillors of all parties, who, like me, have had the simple mathematics explained to them in briefings. While Cabinet Minister Francis Maude points out the necessary steps that Government must take to avoid following Greece, Ireland and Italy down the pan, nobody seems prepared to listen.

Perhaps standing with one's eyes closed, one's fingers in one's ears and shouting 'La La La' loudly, is enough to avoid the negotiation and common sense required of the movement during the worst financial crisis since the end of the Second World War.

Anyway, I'll leave you with Fred Kite, who if he were alive today, might have been deeply shocked to learn how much Trade Union bosses are paid these days; with free housing and pension rights thrown-in for good measure.

Margate Rooftop Protest

14:30 Update: I'm hearing that the man has now come down safely.

The protest taking place on the roof of Boots the chemist in Margate still appears to be on-going.

Police have cordoned-off the approach roads and you will see from the photograph, that this is a young man, locally-known as Daniel, seeking parental access to his children. He is following the controversial example of "Fathers 4 Justice" in taking 'direct action' of this kind. If you have a car parked in Cecil Square, then I suspect it's going to be there until this incident is peacefully resolved.

Comments are now switched back on and the photo is available for use with attribution.

Meanwhile, the police presence continues to build, with the helicopter now arriving on scene, I suspect from the sound of the clattering noise overhead.

See Thanet Gazette link full story here. Photo with a Samsung EX1 (F1.8) at full digital zoom.

Friday, September 09, 2011

Dear Comrade - A Day in Politics

Misquoting Oscar Wilde: 'To lose one Councillor for Northwood, may be regarded as a misfortune; to lose both within six months looks like carelessness.'

Reports coming in of political skulduggery in Thanet's Labour Group today, with one of the comrades apparently having torn-up his party card and resigned to start his own 'Hard  Labour' party.

In the absence of further news of this driver-less train, I will leave readers imaginations to enjoy a classic Monty Python interlude. This may offer a comic parody on events so far and the intemperate language (warning) reported by the local paper today.

Thursday, September 08, 2011

Tides and Thames

I have the greatest admiration for David Walliams and his charity raising swims but when his PR company contacted me a few weeks ago to inquire whether I could follow him along the Thames with an aircraft banner, I did remark that I feared he wouldn't make the full distance. In particular, the heavy rainfall of the last week will have triggered considerable drainage, so not a time, I would have thought to go swimming in Father Thames.

I competed in the Windsor triathlon in 1997 and the mile-long swim took us along the Thames from the old town. I think everyone I spoke with viewed the muddy water with some trepidation. After seeing a large dead rat float past my face during the race, I made sure to start a course of antibiotics when I arrived home; I had made the point of going to see my doctor before the race. The London event later that same year had the swim in the black waters of Docklands and didn't seem so bad although it was bitterly cold in the water and somewhat faster with no current to fight.

I can't imagine a sustained immersion in the Thames, even in these modern cleaner times, as the personal health risks from a variety of risk factors, such a e-coli and Weils disease  are far too high in my opinion. So why his advisors didn't talk Walliams out of the project, I can't quite understand.

Walliams is swimming downstream and so if he works the tidal flow he will at times be moving very quickly. If he completes the challenge, my admiration for the man and his remarkable physical and mental determination, will grow even further.

The subject of rivers leads me on rather loosely to the topic of flooding and I'm giving a BBC Radio Kent interview this morning on the start of work on Margate's new coastal defences.

Roughly every hundred years or so, tides and low pressure conspire to deliver a giant storm surge, as in 1897 and 1953 (pictured) and the new work along the seafront at Margate is designed to protect the Old Town against the risk of one of these flooding events occurring in the next 50 years.

Wednesday, September 07, 2011

Seagull Proof

I've been out and about in Ramsgate this morning with  council officers, showing visiting Hastings councillors how successful Thanet's 'Seagull Proof' bag campaign has been.

Augusta Road, in the photograph, used to be a regular black-bag pecking disaster area before the introduction of bird-proof bags led to the end of the marauding seagull problem. Now,with thousands of these, now liberally distributed across the island's problem areas, Thanet's 'Staffy-sized' gulls are now having to hunt for their takeaway meals elsewhere.

Our guests were impressed at how efficient and cost-effective Thanet is at rubbish collection and keeping its streets clean in contrast with the challenges and successes of neighbouring authorities. While we may have well-known pockets in the towns, that absorb a disproportional amount of effort in tidying up, our streets are, in general, as I reminded the Labour Group at Cabinet recently, the tidiest they have ever been with the highest satisfaction rating to match.

In the past, it wan't unusual for house-holders of another generation to take a personal interest in keeping the path outside their homes tidy. My own wife (pictured) was bought-up that way and she takes it upon herself to sweep the pavement and remove the weeds from growing under our wall.  Perhaps if more people followed her proactive example our own streets would be the tidiest in Kent.

Tuesday, September 06, 2011

Blogging Up

It's a toss-up between 'How Facebook changed the world' or write a new blog entry.

I'm experimenting with 'Daedalus', a new iPad app and so with luck, I will manage to get through the entry without my usual spelling mistakes. At times I find the iPad virtual keyboard does strange things, as readers will have noticed from time to time. However, I've found the Apple device has made such an important contribution to both work and personal tasks, I can't recommend it enough.

From a councillor's perspective its invaluable. Local government produces mountains of paper documents and correspondence and now I can carry what I need, with me, fully searchable and up to date with portfolio briefing documents and council papers going back months.

If you go into the big computer store retailers, then you may notice that they are almost desparate to off load this year's generation of laptops. Why? Because the industry is about to experience a convulsive technology change as the end of 2011 approaches and a new generation  of devices starts to appear. Already, we are seeing the impact of such generational change on cameras, with the convergence of GPS and wireless built-in. So, if you are holding on before buying a new PC, you are either going to get some very good deals in the Xmas sales or with a little extra wait, like that for the Apple iPhone 5.0, you will be in at the beginning of the next leap forward in terms of integrated features and processing power.

So, Daedulus appears to work without a hitch. Let's see if I can now upload the results to my blog!

PS.Anyone remember the Apple Newton, pictured. I have one and it still works!

Sunday, September 04, 2011

Paws for Thought

It's that day, each year, where hundreds of  brave and tortured runners tackle our coastline for the annual Thanet coastal marathon and half marathon. Today, the brave souls have quite a strong wind to reckon with and having cycled to Reculver and back earlier, I can confirm it's it the wrong direction to favour any part of the run, which means a struggle in both directions.

Some thirty years ago, I reached St Mildred's Bay, the race having started at Ramsgate, only to find my Labrador had escaped and was sat on the promenade, watching the runners pass. So I had to briefly interrupt the race and take him home; none too pleased with the detour. A local character. he had a habit of running off on little adventures of his own and could either be found on the railway bridge, watching the trains go by below or comfortably settled outside the butcher's shop in Westgate, looking for a free lunch.

As he got older he became much wiser to my daily running routine to the end of the promenade and back and so rather then run with me, he would stop outside the cafe at West Bay, rest his paws and wait for me to come back the other way. On reflection, he was probably smarter than me.

Times have changed quite considerably since 1981, and I was quite shocked last month to discover how many stray dogs were being picked-up off our streets, 52 in July alone and predominantly abandoned or unsupervised 'Staffies' I'm told. The bigger picture involves predictable hot-spots across the island with links to anti-social behaviour, dog-fouling and fines.

I'm hoping to kick-off a new campaign to try and address some of these problems during the autumn but when I see the likes of the old putting green in Westgate, which I've opened to the public as a dog walking, play and picnic area, littered with dog mess from larger animals, I can see that educating an anti-social minority of dog-owners isn't without its challenges.

Finally, I think we may be expecting some heavy weather over the coming days, as an increasing number of vessels, including one giant construction rig, seek shelter from the wind off Margate.

Thursday, September 01, 2011

Loose Metal

Not much happening today over the Essex Travellers site at  Dale farm. I assume that the authorities will seek every opportunity to find a peaceful compromise but looking down on site from my vantage point, I might loosely describe it as well-fortified encampment and the occupants have made it very clear to the media that they do not intend surrendering back the greenbelt land they have occupied without a struggle.

I dropped into the giant PC World at Rochester on the way back to refuel and to have a look at some cameras. Over the weekend I did visit Westwood Cross and was very disappointed in the lack of choice and apparently higher prices across several stores. In fact, I had the distinct impression that even with our own large shopping mall, we appear somewhat out on a limb in terms of quality, quantity and pricing of electronic goods. Why I can't say.

The two cameras I was looking for weren't however in the store. Why? One they couldn't seem to have delivered and the other was out of stock. The sales assistant told me that they have big problems with their display cameras, of which they have rather a lot, being stolen. That said, I was told earlier this week that the brass fittings from the clock tower building in Ramsgate have been stolen, a story, which rather ties in neatly with another of the aerial reconnaissance tasks I've been doing recently and that's photographing several scrap metal sites in Essex from above.

What continues to amaze me locally is how we can lose lengths of promenade railings or the fittings from one of our historic buildings without someone noticing. Perhaps in a way we are lucky. I read that one village elsewhere has been without telephone and broadband connections for two weeks now after thieves ripped out over half a mile of BT's copper cabling. I suppose if the the thieves arrived in a white van, together with a man in a day-glow vest carrying a clipboard, then nobody would have taken any notice at all!