Sunday, June 30, 2013

Beyond Redemption?

Jesus Saves in Brighton
One of my more unusual jobs over Brighton this weekend, puzzling the thousands of beach visitors with the banners pictured here.

People here in Thanet, may be relieved to know, that this is not coming in their direction, either because the client has concluded that we can't be saved and are beyond redemption or because Brighton has been singled-out for special treatment.

Normally, one sees this kind of banner flying in the mid-west of the United States, rather than Sussex and for me, at least, it's a first.

I can't wait for that telephone call from the Church of Scientology though!

I had rather hoped that summer had arrived at last this morning but now, as it's briefly clouded-over, this gives me time to write a short blog entry. Today being the last day of June, we appear to be moving in to the mid-summer blogging doldrums, with not very much happening and no single Thanet Council crisis for at least a week.

Reculver Towers Descending Back into Thanet
I had to go up to London on Thursday evening for a business event at Gordon Ramsay's and once again, SouthEast trains were reliably unreliable.

Rather than taking the 15:53 high speed to St Pancras, I decided on the 15:20 from Westgate. The latter was late but I subsequently noticed on Twitter that the former had been cancelled altogether.

As it was, I arrived at my appointment somewhat hot and bothered but near enough on time but if I had relied on the high-speed service, I would have been in trouble.

On the way home on almost the last service from Victoria, I speculated on Twitter what the train for Ramsgate might have in store for me this time; there's almost always something disturbing or intimidating on the north Kent line.

This time, it was the drunk opposite waking-up and complaining that I had stolen his can of drink and his mobile phone. I've noticed now that on the late trains from London that the conductor or guard, rarely if ever leaves his spot at the back of the train, possibly because, from conversation with them, they are too worried over encountering a difficult or potentially violent situation between Chatham and Ramsgate.

Most recently, I have been in dialogue with the British Transport Chief Constable, Andy Trotter and the BTP inspector at Maidstone but if my personal experience in any way mirrors those of other travellers, the late night trains from Victoria require some kind of presence on a regular basis and more recently, there have been far too many stories of unpleasant and often violent incidents on the route.

Several of my fellow travellers that night  in the carriage, were easily identifiable as being on a one way trip to Margate, even past midnight. Where are they coming from and more importantly, who is sending them to us? It's a mystery that we badly need to solve if we are to be given any control of the deprivation statistics that are too often thrust upon us, here in Thanet.

Thursday, June 27, 2013

An Unreconstructed Dinosaur

I've to "sing for my dinner" at a private gathering at Claridges this evening, with a short presentation on the evolving world of Big Data. It's all very topical in the last week, with cloak and dagger story surrounding the a project called 'Prism' the NSA defector Edward Snowden and suggestions that GCHQ may also have been involved in communications intercepts through the tapping of fibre-optic cables.

Few people realise, that this revelation is anything remarkably new under the Communications Act because in the past and when BT was was the sole player, such things were almost taken for granted during the Cold War. However, the sheer volume of personal data and the rapidly evolving sophistication of the technology can now deliver very useful intelligence on selected individuals.

I'm in an unusual and somewhat privileged position, as I've seen how this kind of new technology can be deployed for potential national security purposes in an anti-terrorism role. While The Guardian newspaper proclaims its outrage, Britain's streets, are, in my opinion, safer from the threat from Islamic militants, as a consequence of 'proportionate' use of the new tools the intelligence services now have at their disposal.

Here in Thanet and as predicted a long time ago, you may have read the exciting news that Cllr Will Scobie has put his name forward as a candidate to challenge South Thanet's Conservative MP, Laura Sandys at the General Election in 2015.
From my last blog entry this week, you will have seen that I guessed something was in the air, when Labour's Harriet Harman appeared in Margate, tweeting that she was "Looking forward' to meeting young Will.

I might only remark, that our new full-time, Labour County Councillor has yet to have completed a full-term as a District Councillor and yet within a period of three years, he has also been catapulted by his father, the vice chair of the Council, the other Cllr Scobie, from university, into the role of Mayor of Margate as a cynical and thinly-disguised political youth opportunities scheme. All without ever having to lift a finger and experience in the harsh world of work, like everyone else he now wishes to represent.

At the tender age of 23 and fresh out of university, I don't believe that I would have had the hubris to even contemplate becoming a Member of Parliament but my own priorities and aspirations were very different and I found a job and a career, half a world away from my home in Thanet.

Rather more is expected from a Member of Parliament, than a pot-hole-counting local councillor, as a potential candidate for an office of the state. Rather naively, I would like to imagine that our MPs, as represented by an excellent, hard-working and widely-experienced Laura Sandys, knew something about the wider world in which they lived and had perhaps travelled beyond the limits of the A299 and St Nicholas roundabout. Clearly, I'm an unreconstructed political dinosaur and simply being able to read, write, mumble about the facist threat from Homer Simpson and wear a red rosette is enough for some. I'm sure we will all be watching the result with great interested as we wait to see if Nigel Farage will throw his UKIP hat into the ring in South Thanet, as he did once before.

Tuesday, June 25, 2013

Harriet Watch

I had hoped to  give an unorthodox 'Welcome' to Labour's Harriet Harman to Margate this morning but there's a certain reluctance on the part of Harriet or indeed, local Labour, to share her time of arrival with me.

Apparently the austerity-bashing Harriet is "looking forward" to meeting young KCC Cllr, Will Scobie, in order to offer him some kind of blessing I assume. All rather reminds me of last night's Borgias series on Sky. Meanwhile, young Cllr Scobie is reportedly 'calling on the organisers of the airshow to donate some of the profits to local charities following disruption', while in turn, I'm calling on on the 23-year-old to give some of the the profits of being a full time career politician to charity' and perhaps even find a proper first job, rather than choose to pursue the gravy-train and live-off Kent's hard-pressed taxpayers instead? Perhaps that's a backward and old-fashioned view! I wonder what Harriet thinks but her welcome may well be lead by Thanet's own Diversity Champion, John Worrow in tandem of course with the inimitable Cllr Iris Johnston.

While Harriet causes political havoc in Margate and Cliftonville, promising, well anything, from any future Labour government other than a modicum of financial common sense, North Thanet MP, Sir Roger Gale, has sent me his current view on the constantly developing Arlington/Tesco story and I've published this below.

Sir Roger writes:

"I have received a couple of dozen identical letters from people objecting to the Secretary of State`s decision to grant conditional consent for the plan to develop a supermarket and other facilities on the Arlington House/Arlington Square site adjacent to the railway station in Margate.

Almost without exception those “objectors” have clearly been sourced from one common database and are not on the electoral register in my constituency which means, I have to assume, that most of them do not live locally.  What is more significant, and has become clear since the Secretary of State announced his determination, is that few if any of those who are now campaigning against the proposals have read anything other than, at best, a summary of the Inspector`s report.  I suspect that the majority have based their observations on doctrine rather than fact .

There will always be those who prefer the grievance to the solution but I believe that if people are going to oppose a particular scheme then they have a duty to come up with a better, and funded, alternative.  What I have heard to date is a lot of “motherhood and apple pie” with little or no thought as to how one of the most significant eyesores in Margate, located at the very transport gateway to the Town, might be addressed.

I have said publicly that I hold no particular brief for Tesco.  I have opposed three of that company`s developments in my constituency in areas where I believe that a supermarket presence would have a deleterious effect upon local businesses. Not only do I not believe, though, that a supermarket will damage the embryonic regeneration of Margate High Street – a process that I believe owes rather more to the Turner Contemporary effect than to the  fleeting  efforts of a transient  television presenter – but there is a real prospect that the regeneration of the western end of the Town will enhance the footfall throughout the central area and benefit the whole seafront and High Street in complement to the Turner  gallery and the Old Town.

The supermarket, whether we like it or not, is the financially-backed anchor tenant that is needed to underpin the entire private-sector funded scheme. I have heard of no other person or company willing to put his or her money on the table and to back a different proposal to put  an end to what has been far too long a period of dereliction.

Had those who have raised objections, however, taken the trouble to read the whole report as I have then the reaction might have been rather more thoughtful.  While the Secretary of State has given the go ahead in principle all of the fine detail  (as in the case of the “China Gateway” project in which some former local Councillors invested so much as yet unrewarded time and effort) stands to be approved by the Local Authority.  Under the Annex relating to conditions “Approval of the details of the layout, scale and appearance of any land identified as the `outline application area` shall be obtained from the Local Planning Authority in writing before any development of that part of the commenced” and  “  no development, apart from demolition, shall take place until details of the eastern elevation of the superstore and associated boundary details have been approved in detail by the Local Planning Authority”.

Further conditions relate to site characterisation and remediation, an assessment of potential risks to human health, property, adjoining land, ground waters  and surface waters, and the ecological system and a specific requirement for an archaeological survey of the site prior to construction.  There are pre-conditions relating to the period of construction and further conditions, subject to Local Authority Approval, for landscaping and lighting.   All of these, and other requirements, were recommended by the Inspector, Alan Novitsky, in what has been a painstaking and thorough investigation and report and his recommendations have been accepted, effectively in full, by the Secretary of State in his determination.

It would be good to think that those whose knee-jerk reaction has been hasty, negative and in some cases motivated by a desire for further controversial self-publicity, will now take the trouble to study the potential contained within the report and work to secure, within the three-year time schedule, the realisation of a project that is really beneficial to a Town for which most of us have a very deep affection.

This is not an “anything goes “ solution to Arlington  but rather one that is going to involve all of those concerned, and particularly Thanet`s District Councillors and Officers,  in some painstaking negotiations. In that process they will have, whatever their political affiliation, my wholehearted support in the interests of the whole of Margate."

Sunday, June 23, 2013

All Stop

It's early morning and I called off my flights at Edgbaston's final of the cricket at 06:00, given the prevailing for forecast for this afternoon, which looks uncannily similar to Manston yesterday.

I was delighted that the airshow proved to be such a phenomenal success - very well done Angie Sutton and Chris Yates the organisers - but somewhat less excited by the traffic chaos that ensued yesterday morning.

When I left Thanet at 10:00 to collect my aircraft, the line of cars on the Thanet Way were already stopped beyond the St Nicholas roundabout and by the time I was airborne at 12:20 and inbound to Manston, the traffic jam stretched all the way to Whitstable on the A299 and back to Sturry on the A28. In fact, once I had finished my turn and landed away, there was absolutely no chance of driving back to the airshow and I arrived home in time to hear the Vulcan taking off, close to 4pm.

The weather yesterday morning, for what I had to do, was worse than awful and at best, I gave myself a 50:50 chance if the wind dropped even slightly. As it was and with a job to do for the Thanet Skills Studio with a banner, I took off at 12:20 and with the aid of pilot's luck, rather than judgement, managed to collect the banner in the gusty wind on the first attempt. It just happened that at the vital moment, the aircraft was just stable enough for the hook to catch the banner line, much like an aircraft carrier landing (the video shows what it should look like to collect a banner without a howling gale).

After departure, I positioned over the lakes towards Sturry and waited for Manston ATC to call me in. The visibility was so poor in drizzle and the cloud, so low at 500 feet that I need my instruments to point me at the Manston runway.

At the airport, I could see it was busy, with the Vulcan, Mitchell and Hunter parked-up but noticed very little else as I battled to hold the aircraft on several passes at 200 feet on the south side of the runway. Another display pilot commented that he thought I was going backwards against the wind and that was almost the case as in the cockpit it felt like a phone box wrestling match with a gorilla, as the crosswind, in excess of 30 knots, tried to pull the aircraft towards the crowd line.

I had hoped to shoot video from the wing-mounted GoPro cameras and take some photos, as I normally do but on this occasion, I was quite unable to take my left hand of the yoke and my right off the throttle as I fought the wind. So no photos, sorry!

As I left the circuit. following the A299 west at low level under the ceiling of cloud and drizzle, the traffic still stretched for miles and the air show had officially started.

If this airshow at Manston happens again next year and I hope it does, given its popular success, then KCC needs a traffic plan in place. I suggest traffic cones on a lane of the A299 from at least the Roman Galley, with cars to Margate only in one  lane and airshow traffic in the other, if we are to prevent a repeat of the chaos seen yesterday.

Now that Thanet, in its political wisdom, has voted for ageing UKIP County Councillors, with a single youthful exception, then perhaps they might make an appearance and remark publicly on this very subject, which is their remit, unless they plan to spend the next four years claiming a very handsome allowance and doing little or nothing but remain invisible on local issues?

Thursday, June 20, 2013

Collector's Corner

You can see from last night's photo, that Thanet remains at the leading edge of public transport innovation.

Seeing a pair of Sinclair C5's trundling along the promenade at St Mildred's Bay, was almost bizarre and I wished I had kept my original ZX80 computer, which might be worth a handsome amount on eBay these days.

I also noticed the St Mildreds cafe has closed down and is already suffering from vandalism, with an attempt to break-in through the back door. We now only have Pav's cafe remaining in the bay and this awful summer is unlikely to inspire anyone to invest in the derelict cafe opposite. It's not good for tourism or the local economy and I worry that it's only a matter of time before some teenager with 'issues' breaks in with a box of matches.

It's the Manston airshow on Saturday and the forecast is once again unsettled. Looking at the predicted wind speeds, it may count me out as they might well exceed my own safety limit, which would be disappointing. Sunday looks a little better and we could have an England vs India final up at Edgbaston, where reportedly, the ICC, have been making rather a lot of noise at the prospect of  me flying around, somehow believing they have control of the airspace and any messages or advertising in the vicinity of the cricket ground, which they don't.

On the news this morning, a report that seaside towns are among those where childrens' education is suffering as a consequence of disadvantage and poverty.

Think about this for a moment. Successive governments have had almost 100 years to solve this problem and a good sixty years since the arrival of the welfare state but haven't, which begs a number of questions. Visit a country like Egypt, where the poverty is far deeper than hours and you will find families living without electricity and sometimes a roof but children aspiring to be doctors. Education is valued but in this country we suffer from a number of problems, not least of all, 'poverty of expectation' and instead, celebrities and footballers are the icons of popular achievement, with our children distracted by a raft of new technologies that deliver the potential for attention deficit disorder, in neat white plastic cases. What on earth are we going to do when Google glasses become as disruptive and pervasive as iPhones within five years?

One of our best-known educational minds is Sir Ken Robinson. He now lives in the United States, which is good for them but arguably not for us. I've embedded a TED video of a recent Ken Robinson talk. Have a look if you can and then wonder what our childrens education might look like if he had a hand in it rather than successive generations of politicians who consistently fail to create the climate of success that we need to compete with powerful emerging nations like Singapore.

Remaining loosely with the subject of education or indeed its absence, I'm told that the youth who was stabbed and 'bricked' at Westgate station last Sunday evening, has had to go to East Grinstead for reconstructive surgery to his face. Reports I'm getting is that it has something to do with Lymington Road gangs and we have to be vigilant that this does not spill over into a second revenge attack.

No politics today, as it appears that at least a week has passed without a single new disaster for Clive Hart's battered Labour administration. Well, there is the Arlington Tesco appeal but that's another story in the Independent newspaper.

Finally. I would like to thank the editor of the Thanet Gazette, for her generous donation of £50.00 to the RSPCA in return for one of my aerial photos of Margate Football Club. I have matched the amount and made the donation. Now I'm on their accounts system, I'm very happy to share my photos in return for a small charity donation and a credit, should she ask in future.

Sunday, June 16, 2013

A Necessary Decision

North Thanet MP. Sir Roger Gale, has today, commented on the decision to allow the building of a Tesco Store, at the Arlington on Margate's seafront.

The MP describes the consent as:

A necessary and, I believe, a correct decision” in the Secretary of State`s determination to grant consent, with conditions, for the Arlington (Margate)/ Tesco project.

 “This end of the town has been subject to dereliction for far too long” says Margate`s MP. “We have the Turner Contemporary and the regeneration of the Old Town and lower High Street at one end of the seafront while on the doorstep of the railway station, to greet arriving visitors, we have an eyesore.

Those who, historically, granted the planning consent for the monstrosity that is Arlington House have a great deal to answer for certainly, but the block and the surrounding shopping “square” and car park do not have to be presented as a scene of abandonment and neglect.

I have to hope and believe that the approval of a significant `anchor tenant` for the site will lead to a regeneration of the whole area and that coupled with the adjacent, though unrelated, re-development of the Dreamland project fresh activity will be introduced into an area that ought to be an attraction. Even tower blocks can, as has been demonstrated in London, be made to look attractive and the longer-term prospect of new small shops and another hotel at the Western end of the town are worth pursuing.

Before the Arlinton Was Built
Lest we forget, there was a time before Arlington House dominated the Margate skyline.

I do not share the view of either the Town Team Chairman, Mr. Ash, or of Ms. Portas, that the consent will damage the businesses in Margate High Street and I doubt that much trade will be taken from the excellent small shops and restaurants in Westbrook. In so far as trade has moved away from Margate High Street that has been largely due to the construction of Westwood Cross. Westwood itself is a good development that may have drawn back into Thanet business that would otherwise have gone to Canterbury or even to Blue Water but the sad fact is that the Council that granted consent for the Westwood development gave no thought to, and had no plan for, the inevitable effect upon, particularly, Margate High Street. That pass has been sold, however, and the game has changed.

If the Tesco development holds shoppers in Central Margate, rather than losing them to out-of-town shopping, then that has to be a good thing for seafront trade and also for the boutique shopping areas. As an aside, one Tesco in the Arlington complex has to be preferable to a plethora of smaller supermarket “local” outlets in towns and villages like Westbrook and Birchington.

While I appreciate that both the Secretary of State`s decision and my own support for it are contentious I also know that there is a large silent constituency that probably represents a majority of individuals and businesses that says “get on with it and let`s breathe some life back into the whole seafront area”. There will be transport infrastructure and design issues that will have to be addressed, of course, but we have suffered from delay and inertia for too long and the time has come to move forward” - Sir Roger Gale MP for North Thanet

Wheels on the Train

Summer does exist but you have to go an awful long way from home to find it and the moment you cross the English channel on the way home the difference is all too visible.

I scrambled back into a very wet and windy Heathrow yesterday to find that the weather wasn't going to play cricket with the two flights I had scheduled over India vs Pakistan at Edgbaston. These have now been put back to the final next Sunday and I'm hoping I can borrow the Vulcan bomber, presently sitting at Manston in preparation for Saturday's big airshow, to drag something a little bigger across the sky. I wonder if they would notice if it went missing for a morning?

In fact, I spotted two PA25 Pawnees on the tarmac at Larnaca, which would be ideal. I believe the Cyprus government use them for crop-dusting, but I've used one to pull banners and gliders at air shows and it's a perfect aircraft for the job. Unfortunately its very heavy on fuel and I doubt that clients would bear the cost at £2.25 a litre now.

Cyprus Pawnee
I'm just catching up with paperwork, Council mail and more and should be back to regular blogging again soon. It's peak season for me and so finding the time to write can sometimes be a challenge.

I was over in Cyprus giving a presentation at a telecoms conference and in contrast with many other visits in the past, the island appeared very quiet. Fewer British tourists and lots and lots of Russians. You might have imagined that Larnaca's airport was a Black Sea resort instead. Restaurants and bars appeared empty or very close to empty.

Passing through Heathrow T5 on the way out, I was once again picked for a security shakedown along with some rather innocuous Spanish-speaking pensioners. It strikes me that no common-sense profiling is being used at all by the security staff although we all accept the need for such measures.

But what really caught my attention, following the heated uniform debate, which more recently reached the High Court, was one of the female security staff, searching our bags, who was covered from head to foot in a black abayah, complete with black gloves and with only her face exposed. This was no uniform as you and I might understand it. Instead, this made a powerful politico-religious statement and I really can't understand why it was permitted in such a sensitive area and at such a sensitive time, as the other women were at least wearing something identifiable as uniform. Even the Kuwaiti and Saudi girls I was with last week were not dressed in such an orthodox fashion. Next time I see one of our MPs I plan to ask the question why?

Early Morning
While I was away, I read that the Arlington Tesco has been approved by the Secretary of State and that Cllr Ian Driver is demanding that the EU probe Thanet District Council's controversial decision to manage and defer TransEuropa's debt. A number of unhappy and hard-pressed Labour councillors in Ramsgate would I'm sure prefer that the EU 'Probed' Cllr Driver instead, preferably with a tightly-rolled copy of Socialist Worker.

The real business of local government is now looking increasingly paralysed by a handful of issues and Labour really do have to get a grip before the wheels come off altogether.

Monday, June 10, 2013

Between the Lines

Manston Display Area
The pilots' notes have come through for this summer's airshow extravaganza at Manston on Saturday week and if the weather improves, it looks set to be a great day out for the entire family.

From the image, you can see where the crowd-line will be on the northern side of the runway and that gives a wonderful opportunity for aircraft of all types to run-up and down the length of the airport along the centre line, giving the best possible view to all.

The pilots' briefing is scheduled for 10:00am although I'm not quite sure how I'm going to be able to battle through the traffic to get there and then leave to go back to Herne Bay and my own waiting aircraft in time for the start. I'm sure it will work out somehow.

The display aircraft will either be holding above Reculver or North Foreland, waiting to run-in and I'm guessing the controller will be stacking them according to their speed. At Farnborough a few years ago I had ten minutes to do my thing with a USAF B1 bomber coming in right behind me, so good reason to make as quick an exit as possible.

Labour's fabulous Three
I'm going to be dropping out of sight for a couple of days as I've a quick job to do abroad but normal service will be resumed shortly. I see from the photo sent to me today, that the pressure on Thanet's Labour  Cabinet, from the people of Ramsgate is now becoming persistent and relentless, with a variation on the notorious Iraq war, most wanted deck of cards. I'm rather starting to feel sorry for a Labour 'fabulous three' so clearly out of touch and out of their depth with the responsibilities of running local government with the larger than life 'green' figure of Ian Driver pointing the accusatory finger of incompetence at them with any and every opportunity.

Enough said, I had better go to the meeting of the local residents association and see if our newly elected UKIP County Councillor, a) shows-up and b) knows the difference between Westgate and Westbrook.

Friday, June 07, 2013

In Touch with Thanet

Credit Duncan Smithson
Reading through today's local paper, it's all becoming a little heated over in Ramsgate, following Councillor Poole's most recent interview on BBC Southeast News.

There's even a new Facebook page, InTouchwithThanet, which is turning out the kind of imaginative satirical comment on local politics, seen above.

I wonder, does anyone recall that iconic moment in recent European history, when the Romanian socialist dictator, Nicolae Ceausescu, stood on the balcony of his palace in Bucharest and unsuccessfully attempted to convince an angry and resentful crowd that shooting him and his wife, Elena, wasn't such a good idea?

Nicolae Ceausescu
While many readers may be in favour of shooting socialist dictators or even socialist councillors, it's considered politically unfashionable. I for one am not convinced that such measure would solve all or indeed any of our problems; although I do recognise that it might sound attractive if you live in Ramsgate.

Having read Clive Hart's platitude-filled column on recharging the local economy, in today's Thanet Gazette, I have to draw the conclusion that he's a victim of wishful thinking, quite detached from the harsher economic realities of our time.

But what else might you expect from a Council Leader and his Deputy, charged with managing many millions of pounds of council taxes and government grants, where I see no evidence of a career record of management or responsibility beyond trades union activism, and loyal, plodding and unimaginative membership of the Labour Party?

Representative democracy may be a wonderful thing but only too frequently this delivers individuals into roles of influence and power, who are quite unsuitable for positions of public trust. Thanet, has sadly suffered to much in the past and continues to suffer into the present with the Faustian bargain with TIG, which keeps Clive Hart's inept, minority Labour administration in control.

What's next I ask? Given the breadth of possibilities, I really can't say but I'm reasonably confident that we won't reach the autumn before the travelling circus, that loosely describes the political leadership of our Council, will drop the ball again. What irks me though is that our openly transparent administration makes it very difficult to discover the facts, as I either find out about problems around the same time as Eastcliff Richard or independent Cllrs John Worrow and Jack Cohen block any attempt in Council to hold the present administration to account.

Never a dull moment to be sure!

Thursday, June 06, 2013

Meet the Ancestors

Cliffsend  Burial Site from the Air
Interesting story in the online Gazette today that scientific investigation (oxygen isotope analysis) of the remains found at the Anglo-Saxon cemetery at Cliffsend, reveal a mix of origins, from Scandinavia to the Southern Mediterranean.

I wrote about this once before, when the position of the 'dig' was still a secret and I photographed it from the air. At first the suggestion appears to be that it was a Bronze Age site but other burials were subsequently discovered, reportedly from the post Roman period.

I'm expecting delivery of a new 'big' camera body tomorrow and so, with luck, my next set of aerial photos will be even sharper than ever. I haven't changed cameras in four years and the technology and in particular, the image sensor capability, has moved-on in leaps and bounds in contrast with the picture shot in relatively low light and seen above.

St Mildreds Bay June 2013
Presently, I'm in a battle with the BBC and their 'Good Ideas Fairy' over some aerobatic filming next month on the South coast. What aircraft can do on a storyboard and what they can achieve in reality appear to be two very different things, with a producer whose heart is set on something quite unusual, so we'll see.

The other day, I had a client who asked if I might "Stop over Brighton Pier" so she "could take some photos." I replied that stopping whilst airborne isn't recommended in the aircraft operating manual and that I might have to disappoint her.

Westgate's Blue Flag
The big airshow at Manston is now only two weeks away and it's looking to be an exciting spectacle. I plan to attach a couple of GoPro cameras to the aircraft and film the action from my own perspective and place the results here for you to see. Now all we need is a spell of fine weather and with two sponsor flights to do over the cricket international at Edgbaston, next Saturday, both India and Pakistan are likely hoping for the same.

The beach at Westgate looks delightful but at this time of years it should have a scattering of small children wielding buckets and spades in swimsuits and not winter coats;I wouldn't recommend sitting outside in the cold north-east wind. I'm having trouble remembering a summer like it.

Tuesday, June 04, 2013

In the Wash

The Wash from 8,000 Feet Looking North-east
While one side of Britain basks in harsh, cloudless sunlight, cross the Thames Estuary at Southend and there's a solid bank of low cloud which tells me that I'm almost home.

I left Humberside airport at 10:00 am this morning and was back here in Thanet by 12:00. From the photo of 'The Wash' and Lincolnshire from 8,000 feet, you can gain an impression of being able to see for ever, which was a nice change, given the weather we have had this year. Passing over the top of Lakenheath USAF base, I could count seven grey F15 fighters on the ground and three more were joining from the north-east, moving rather faster than me and having much more fun I'm certain.

Looking Towards Norfolk
Up in Grimsby, I was doing a 'Tomorrow's World" presentation alongside William Higham and Jonathan Macdonald. An unusual choice for such an event, I'm sure but Grimsby and Margate share a great deal in common, many of them negative and not least of all, Mary Portas. The taxi driver appeared convinced that St Mary was going to achieve great things for Grimsby and who was I to tell him that I was from Margate?

I was lucky not to have gone by train like my two colleagues. Apparently the landslide of several months ago is still playing havoc with the railway timetable and reaching Grimsby via Kings Cross, required two separate bus journeys from Doncaster. In fact, if I had chosen the train, I would still be on one trying to get home to Kent.

Touching heads with others over the last day, can only lead me to conclude that the worst of the recession appears to be behind us as business confidence is growing. I'm seeing this with almost relentless inquiries but others I know are telling me the same. Perhaps growth is returning, even under biting austerity but whether this means that businesses will start employing again is another question. Most likely, many of them and mostly small enterprises will struggle along while the order books grow, that is until such a time as the pressure to employ new staff overcomes a natural reluctance to expose themselves to the employment risks that goes with it. If it were the eighties, it would be different but a raft of employment legislation over the last thirty years now means that flexibility is lost and consequential recovery may be slower than anyone might wish.

However, I'm optimistic and perhaps it will prove catching!

Monday, June 03, 2013

Short Intermission

Rather a lot of running-around this week, starting with a trip up to Humberside this morning.

On the train, I see, the journey is anywhere between six and nine hours but my flight plan shows 1:26 minutes. This gives me time to attend the 10am training session at the Council offices and still reach my destination by 2pm with a taxi from the airport.

It makes a difference to have what looks very much like summer weather. Of late I've been flying frequently in late-winter-like conditions and being able to see where I'm going for once will make a pleasant change.

I notice 'Ferrygate' refuses to blow-over, thanks to the foghorn-diplomacy efforts of the now 'Green' Cllr Ian Driver. Can one be 'Green' and 'Red' at the same time? I don't know as this does rather sound like a political stick of rock but where would we be without him or indeed John Worrow, to keep people interested in local politics?

I've a meeting in Cyprus next week and so if anyone would like to lend me something a little bigger and faster, rather like the Pilatus PC12 in this video clip, I'd much prefer that to the delights of Gatwick in June.