Friday, 21 December 2007

Needle Exchange

That excellent blogger Clairwill and I seem to be singing from the same hymn sheet when it comes to drug abuse and discarded needles: http://clairwil.blogspot.com/2007/12/having-pop-at-herion-addicts.html

The press release I put out on the subject has received a fair amount of coverage, and surprisingly, it seems to have been given the seal of approval locally. There seems to be an expectation of change now, with many people simply fed up with having to put up with anti social behaviour from people who think it is their right to behave in any matter that suits them on the basis that they know their rights and someone will pick up, not only after them, but also pick up the tab for their behaviour and their kids behaviour.

Many people refuse even to pay their rent, seeing it only as an interest free loan (on top of their anti social behaviour). When eventually all the legal hoops (and I'm talking a three ring circus here) , have been jumped through (as well as intervention/support mechanisms etc), and it goes to court for eviction there is no guarantee that a Sherriff or Procurator Fiscal will make much (if any) effort to back up the council and may not even grant the eviction order. What this says to the person is that their tenancy agreement is not worth the paper its written on and they can do what they look because the Sherriff/Fiscal won't exercise their powers.

Now I don't know any Sherriffs and I have only met one Procurator Fiscal, but I'm guessing that not many of these guys live next door to the kind of people that refuse to pay their rent and choose to treat their neighbours with complete contempt. In fact if they did, I suspect they could well afford to move. But many of those who live, say in a fairly small block of council flats where everyones life is a misery because of perhaps one individual or family cannot do so. So when the council goes to the extraordinary lengths of trying to evict someone like this, the legal profession should perhaps bear this in mind rather than wringing their hands and treating people with kid gloves.

Its not going to change overnight, but things do need to change, and that means that the legal profession, as well as local/national govt need to be prepared to take a firmer line. I'm all for personal rights, but equally, I'm all for those rights to be tempered by personal responsibilites too.

Wednesday, 19 December 2007

Procurator Fiscal Strike Threat

I see the Procurator Fiscal Service is threatening to "cause chaos" in the judicial system. How will we know?

Chewing the fat

Taysiders In Space....I love it!

Needle Exchange

I know I don't normally put anything too political on here, but along with 'Chaotic Lifestyles', something that irks me greatly is the subject of drug users discarding their dirty needles. Below is a press release I did on the subject, and if anyone has any views I'd be happy to hear them:


Discarded Needles "Tip of the Iceberg"

Arbroath Councillor Jim Millar has backed Cllr Spink in expressing concern at the amount of discarded needles in the area, but adds that this is just the tip of the iceberg.

Commenting, Cllr Millar said "The emerging picture of the amount of needles given out to users of illegal drugs and not returned is horrifying. Government statistics published in 1996 show that in Angus, some fifty thousand needles were distributed, giving an average of 156 needles per user per year. That's 3 needles per user per week."

The 'Needle Exchange Provision in Scotland' report showed that in Scotland as a whole, over three and a half million needles were dispensed to users, with only one and a half million needles returned, leaving almost two million needles unaccounted for in Scotland in one year, although it states that the true number is thought to be far higher.

Mr Millar said "I have every sympathy for anyone who is caught in the vice-like grip of drug addiction. The drug trade is fuelled by misery and crime; it destroys lives, families and careers, but sympathy should be tempered by the fact that discarded needles are a danger, especially to kids. It is often because of the high number of discarded needles that our facilities,-parks, shelters, toilets etc. are forced to close, and Council staff, although trained to deal with this, are put at risk when disposing of them."

"The thoughtless and unnecessary actions of a few are putting whole communities in danger and it is especially galling to consider that the majority of this material is actually being supplied by public agencies paid for by the very people being put at risk by this habit. I call on all those concerned to ensure work is concentrated on educating and dealing with those individuals who are causing these problems to ensure responsible disposal becomes the norm not the exception."
"I appreciate that needle exchange programmes were introduced to help combat blood borne infection such as HIV and Hep C, but with this amount of needles in circulation, I believe that more needs to be done to encourage users to return the needles that are issued to them, rather than disposing of them in people's gardens or public toilets."

North East Tory MSP Alex Johnstone backed the stance saying "Discarded needles are only the very tip of the iceberg, figures released only this week show that in the financial year 2006/07 there were 42,422 drug-related offences recorded by Scottish police forces, with 25% for possession with intent to supply, but behind these figures are the many crimes such as burglary and shoplifting that are committed to fund a drug habit. These crimes are being fuelled by the actions of a minority involved in the use, supply and distribution of drugs into every city, town and village in the country.No community is exempt from the activities of these parasites."

Mr Johnstone continued "I applaud the efforts of the Police Service and the Drugs Enforcement Agency but the Scottish government needs to ensure that the resources are available to ensure this crime wave is stopped before it becomes a tidal wave of lawlessness and misery that engulfs us all. I call on the government to ensure the public are protected by ensuring cash and manpower to tackle crime and disorder are given the highest priority within their future budget settlements."

Mr Johnstone has lodged a question with the Scottish Government, noting the growing concern of constituents regarding drug crime and discarded needles and asking what extra efforts and resources the Scottish Government is willing to make available to combat the problem.

Saturday, 15 December 2007

Father Ted - My Lovely Horse

One of the best comedy moments ever.........

Friday, 14 December 2007

Friday

Friday at last. Girlfriend bought me lunch at the German Market. It was the work Christmas 'do' last night, but I didn't go as I'd previously thought I'd be up north so didn't book a ticket.

Walking back to work I saw the best buskers ever on Princes St. Usually, I don't give buskers in Edinburgh a second thought. Invariably they are pipers who often spend most of the time tuning their pipes before launching into 'Highland Cathedral', but today a piper was joined by two guys with African drums who played along. The effect was brilliant and the the trio justifiably had a big crowd round them.

Bought a couple of books today, the first is on the fall of Berlin in 1945. I was briefly based in Berlin in the 80's when I was in the Army and I'd love to go back and see how it is now that the wall is down. I also got 'The God Delusion' by Richard Dawkins. For some reason I seem to have missed the furore surrounding this book and I have only read one chapter, but it seems an interesting read.

I'm meeting Boss, Boss' wife and a colleague from the constituency office for lunch on Monday which should be good. I'm also having a joint surgery with the boss beforehand.

My Christmas shopping seems to have stalled somewhat and I just know its going end up as a last minute rush (again) with some pretty ill thought out presents.

Wednesday, 12 December 2007

Underage Drinking

Fellow Cooncillor David Fairweather (who covers the neighbouring ward) and I had been getting a lot of complaints about underage drinkers gathering in large groups and getting out of hand once they had too much to drink. The 'youths' some as young as 14 had been causing mayhem.

There had been several incidents, one or two quite alarming ones, so we went out to have a look. Sure enough, there was one group of around 16, and a smaller group that had dumped their empty 'Buckie' bottles all over a small park. We have a meeting with the police next week to discuss it further.

Went to a friends house to watch the fight on Sunday morning. I was a bit disgusted that the Brit fans chose to whistle and jeer through the American national anthem. Good fight though, and I got home eventually at 6:30am.

Went to a meeting today to discuss the budget. It started at 9:00am and by 3.00pm I had had enough and headed back to Arbroath. After about two hours in a meeting, I think it becomes counter-productive. After six hours, it really is ridiculous.

I'm looking forward to Christmas. I'm taking two weeks off and relaxing. I like taking the time to choose gifts for people, but I'm struggling to think of things to get for some.

Wednesday, 5 December 2007

Boxing Club

Monday night I was at a meeting of the Arbroath Abbey World Heritage Campaign meeting which my boss had launched some time ago and then handed over to a non political committee. Things are moving slowly but surely with it and its a worthwhile project.

Last night I went along to the boxing club last night to see how things were going. Its a club that's been going for decades and it was great to see a range of ages taking part. I know some people are disparaging about the sport, but I'm a big fan. The bout this weekend promises to be a cracker, and although coverage starts at 3am, I'm tempted to get up early to watch.

Spent the day in Parliament today (I was late thanks to a signal failure) but got here anyway. Had a couple of beers with the boss and some colleagues and I'm just about to meet girlfriend at the Christmas market. Had a fair amount of constituency casework to do recently, mostly on housing and anti social behaviour.

Friday, 30 November 2007

St Andrew's Day

Happy St Andrew's Day! For once the Council and the Parliament are both off at the same time. This means I get the same day off from both jobs, hence I'm blogging from my living room and listening to crap music.

I had Boss, Boss's wife and a few colleagues round for a drink on Wednesday night. I took advantage of an offer at Sainsbury's and bought 60 bottles of Stella for £20. Unfortunately, pretty much everyone drank wine and I now have a fridge packed with bottles of Stella, with only enough room for a pint of milk. Girlfriend made Chile for the event and it went down very well. I enjoyed the banter.

I was amused to see the SNP are voting on whether or not to work with us Tories on a local govt level. I think I have inferred before that I have struggled to comprehend the difference between attitudes at Holyrood and the Cooncil. At Holyrood its not unusual to join staff or MSP's from other parties in the canteen at lunchtime, go out for a drink after work and generally enjoy the company. At the cooncil, at times I get the impression the opposition would happily burn me at the stake whilst fuelling the flames with pictures of Thatcher. Although to be fair, things have improved lately.

I was interviewed on BBC Radio Scotland last night as Angus Council has bought an original scale model of the Bell Rock Lighthouse at Sotheby's. The lighthouse, built by the famous Stevenson family is a triumph of engineering and has been standing for almost 200 years and personally, I'd like to see more made of our link with a family who have influenced engineering all over the world. Have to say I was horrifically nervous beforehand. It was my first time in a radio studio and I was in Edinburgh whilst the guy doing the interview was in Glasgow. It was a weird experience I have to say.

Saturday, 24 November 2007

Sprinklers

Its been another hectic week. We had three seperate mornings of suspension/complaint hearings for the licensing board. One licensee ended up with her license suspended for 12 months for what was apparently the worst case of allowing underage drinking to come before the board in the better part of 20 years.

Perhaps the most important part of the week though was when I attended a demonstration of domestic sprinkler systems. In a disused block of flats, the fire service installed a sprinkler system in one room, but didnt install one in the other. They then set fire to both rooms at the same time. The difference was really startling. The room with the sprinkler in it was almost untouched, the other room was utterly destroyed. In view of this, the council, from 2009, will insist on all new social housing being fitted with domestic sprinkler systems. I'm delighted this is the case. Its not too expensive, and anyway, what is the cost of a human life? The proposal has received cross party support and it's great that everyone agrees on this.

The council also decided to give our wardens the power to fine litter droppers, fly tippers and those who don't pick up after their dogs the power to fine them. I'm glad that this also received cross party support.

Housing remains the biggest priority for many, and the council has to respond to the Scottish Govts consultation document 'Firm Foundations'. This is an important issue, and not one for the kind of pathetic politics I have seen so often before. To that end, I invited all council members to attend a briefing and discussion on the document and to formulate the councils response to it.

Overall, the Neighbourhood Services committee went ok. The opposition landed a few good blows, and you have to respect well argued points of view.

Tuesday, 20 November 2007

Monday, 19 November 2007

Weekend

What a sickener the Scotland game was! The guys played brilliantly and it was a real shame they lost.

We went out walking in the Rosslyn area on Sunday to get some fresh air. We stopped off at Ikea on the way back as I had intended to get a new blind for the living room. I quickly realised I didnt' have the window dimensions with me and so instead of a blind I ended up with a lamp, some bulbs, two 'ergonomic pillows', soap (?) and some new wine and beer glasses. All in all it cost me just over £50 and I went in with the intention of spending £15 on a blind...........

Dropped in to a nice restaurant for something to eat and the food was great. Only fly in the ointment was some tube on the next level down recounting the story of some event of the previous week and every second word was "like". We only got one side of the conversation, but a short excerpt went along the lines of "and it was like, mental man, like we were out and like f**k man, like...................". God it was irritating.

Group meeting tonight in Forfar and then I'm going straight down to Edinburgh to work in Parliament tomorrow. I have invited a few colleagues round for a drink on the 28th. Girlfriend is offering to make chile for the event and I'm looking forward to it.

Neighbourhood Services committee is on this week and we will see if it turns into another punch and judy match.

Thursday, 15 November 2007

Edinburgh

Drove down to Edinburgh last night after a meeting of the adjourned Licensing Board, which was conducted with rare good humour (to an extent). I'm staying here overnight and heading to Forfar again first thing as I have to attend suspension hearings, again for the licensing board. I also have a meeting in Forfar in the afternoon. I knew being on the council would take up a lot of time, but nothing prepares you for the reality of it.


I'll be heading to the pub on Saturday to watch Scotland V's Italy. Its a long shot, but hey, stranger things have happened. I'm not a great football fan, but games like this can't be missed, and its always good to watch them in company (whilst having a beer!).

My flat is being inspected on Wednesday, just in case I've been having all night raves or whatever in it. The fact is though, I never get the chance to be in it very often, though it provides a useful bolt-hole when I want to put my feet up. Better go and tidy it up just the same.

Mildly amusing joke I was sent:

A guy goes to the doctor and says, 'Doctor, I think I'm going deaf.' The doctor says, 'What are the symptoms?' The guy says, 'They're a disfunctional cartoon family with yellow heads.'

Tuesday, 13 November 2007

Poppy Day/Dogs/Stuff

I attended the Arbroath War Memorial for the wreath laying ceremony on Sunday. It was a moving ceremony, with the minister giving an excellent sermon. It was cold though, but at least it didn't rain which was something. Arbroath has a strong contingent of ex servicemen and women, including those who were based here and chose to stay as well as those, like myself, who are from Arbroath and came back again when they finished their service.

It was great to see so many cadets from all the different cadet forces. I had no idea that so many young people still joined the cadet forces as there are so many other organisations around these days. Some people are critical of cadet forces, but they promote good citizenship and teach useful life skills too.

Full council went well and the Alliance members were winning the arguments as well as the votes. It was good to be part of it.

I had a lengthy meeting about a proposed arts centre which was interesting and certainly worth pursuing.

A friend of mine phoned me the other day and sounded a bit shaken. He is, lets say, slightly built and has two large and enthusiastic boxer dogs. He started with one, but as it was so exuberant he was advised to get another to calm the first one down. The result is he has two very exuberant, very large, boxers.

He had been walking the two of them in the park using those extendable leads that are so popular and although the dogs were excited, they were well behaved until they saw an elderly gent with his dog. With the leads at their full extent, the first dog made directly for the gent, but the second had circled my friend before following suit. As the lead ran out of length, it tightened round my friends legs and although he tried his best to stay upright, the weight and momentum of the two boxers pulled him over and dragged him several feet across the grass. The elderly gent came over to assist and in a bizarre twist of fate, the two boxers repeated their trick and the poor chap also ended up on his backside. It is ironic that the gent turned out to be a retired vet who was going to show my friend how to control his dogs whilst using the new leads.

There was no harm done in the end (except to my friends pride) and I couldn't help but laugh at his discomfort.

Last night I also chaired a meeting of the Arbroath Abbey World Heritage Campaign which went on until nearly 9pm. Its a worthwhile cause though and worth the time we are putting into it.

Wednesday, 7 November 2007

Edinburgh

I came down to Edinburgh last night and I'm in Parliament all day today. I'll stay over in Edinburgh tonight again and drive up to Arbroath first thing in the morning. Its full council tomorrow, so we will see what that brings.

With Rememberance Sunday this weekend, I'll be attending the wreath laying ceremony at the local war memorial. I thought the launch of the poppy appeal this year was particularly effective. It featured a young corporal who had been blinded by a rocket attack, a soldiers widow and young daughter, as well as a WWII veteran. Whatever people's thoughts or opinions are of the various conflicts that the UK is involved in throughout the world, the poppy appeal is just as relevant today, as it was at its foundation and our troops deserve our support. I still keep up with events in my old regiment (5th Royal Inniskilling Dragoon Guards), though to be honest I don't particularly miss being in the army (ok, that's something of an understatement).

Sunday afternoon I'm going to visit a site that has potential for a new art gallery. I'm open minded about the project, but have concerns about the location.

I have had my first outbreak of psoriasis for what must be a couple of years now. It has only appeared on one hand so far, but in the past I have had it on my feet also. Its a particularly irritating condition and the skin on one side of an index finger has rubbed raw already. I'm lucky to get it so infrequently though.

Wednesday, 31 October 2007

Usual

I have been shooting back and forward to Edinburgh two or even three times a week just now. Its nice to come down for the weekend if I'm not doing anything in Arbroath. I got up early yesterday and went to the martial arts studio and got in some training, something I haven't done for ages, but I felt better afterwards. If I can get long enough in the same place, I'll put together a decent schedule. I miss taking part in organised martial arts classes on several levels, least of all the effect my absence is having on my fitness!

The council meetings I have attended have been pretty good after the fightfest of the neighbourhood services meeting. I don't mind real debate, I enjoy it in fact, but I really cannot be bothered with empty posturing in a local govt debating chamber. When it goes pear shaped, we all look bad and nothing is achieved.

Locally, things are going ok. Its coming to the time when the former adminstration's policies are tapering off and the Alliance is in more of a position to push forward it's own agenda. The Alliance, given it is a coalition of Independents, Labour, Lib-Dem and Tories is actually holding together well. The secret seems to be that we all seem to get on and no-one is pushing any kind of national agenda. We are focussing on delivery using common sense. What is absolutely obvious is that whether you believe in a Scotland within or without the UK, when it comes to the 'cooncil' it really doesnt matter. What does matter to people are things like housing, anti social behaviour and a decent local infrastructure.

Monday, 22 October 2007

Post/stuff

I haven't had much time to post anything lately. The committee cycle kicked off again with the committee I convene being one of the first. It lasted for almost three and a half hours and saw some of the most appalling grandstanding and childish behaviour I think that chamber has ever witnessed. My only regret is that there were no members of the public there to see it. Strangely, the next committee I went to sailed along.

The Licensing Board meeting went OK this time, though it got a bit frenetic around half-way through.

I can genuinely now see why a) some people are attracted to getting themselves onto their local council (and staying there) and b) why some people try it and get sickened by the peurile 'Punch and Judy' behaviour that can be put on display there.

Sadly, my German Shepherd had to be put down. It had been coming for a while, but her condition had taken a sudden turn for the worst and there was no putting off the decision. I'm heartbroken to be honest. She was my second German Shepherd and they were both fantastic pets. I'll miss her terribly.

I have had quite a lot of constituents contacting me over the past few weeks. The vast majority are housing or housing related issues including anti-social behaviour or overcrowding. The cost of property in the area has shot up over the past couple of years. I think this has been made worse by the fact that my own home town, Arbroath, has a history of fairly modest house prices and the rising costs, which seem to be bringing it into line with other areas have made the escalation all the worse. The bottom line is we need more affordable housing for people, and that's not taking into account the amount of European migrants that the area is attracting, which is the subject of another study.

We did a bit of gardening yesterday, which I find to be more interesting than the other option of going walking (plus it means being closer to a kettle and other items of civilisation). I'm by no means a gardener and I suspect that I mistook a fair few plants for weeds. Still looked better by the time we had finished though.

Wednesday, 10 October 2007

Pitlochry

We were supposed to be having the weekend in Aviemore, but only got as far as Pitlochry, and stayed in a nice hotel (albeit with a noisy pub across the road). Its amazing where you meet people you know. We bumped into three people from the Parliament and a chap and his wife from Arbroath. It was nice to potter round the area and we spent time in Dunkeld and got some walking done. I'm not convinced about the hill walking bit. I have come to the conclusion that I prefer going on longer walks through woods etc rather than walking up a hill. I know some people get a great sense of satisfaction from bagging Munro's etc, but it just doesn't do it for me at all.

The cycle of committee meetings starts again this week, and the Licensing Board also meets this month. I got a copy of the new Licensing Scotland Act and have been ploughing through it. If you suffer from insomnia, you could do worse than to get a copy for some bed-time reading.

I have taken some time off Parliament work, but due to the committee cycle, I'm not able to get a holiday from Council work unfortunately.

I have a meeting to discuss organising an event to celebrate the 830th Anniversary of the founding of Arbroath Abbey today. Given the importance of the abbey to Arbroath, I'd like to see a celebration of Arbroath's history with historical re-enactments, jousting and possibly lectures etc too.

All in all it will be another frantic few weeks.

Wednesday, 3 October 2007

Break

I have been charging back and forward as usual, and my cold is a bit better but still not shifting. I have two meetings in Forfar today as well as my real job. Its cold here and my parents phoned me from Italy last night to say it was so hot that they had to go inside (thanks for that).

I can't believe it's Wednesday already, where on earth do the days go? I'm going to Aviemore for the weekend and I'm looking forward to it. I'm going to leave my mobile at home I think, just to get some peace and quiet. I have only been there once before and strangely bumped into the ski team from my old regiment, which was quite a strange event by the end of the night.

As it's recess next week, I may ask my boss for a few days off to try and catch up with everything else I need to do. I was speaking to my former trainer this week and may book a few sessions with her if I can figure out far enough in advance where I'm going to be. My training for next year's charity boxing bout still hasn't started and I really need to get going with it, for health reasons if nothing else.

Friday, 28 September 2007

Film/cold

Went to watch the new Keira Knightley film last night and loved it. It was emotive and powerful and I'd be happy to watch it again.

I'm struggling with a cold that doesn't seem to be getting better. Apparently there is a "lot of it going round". It's the sore throat I hate the most I think.

Was going to go back to Arbroath at the weekend, but I'm just going to stay in Edinburgh I think. The plan was to go hiking again on Sunday, but if I'm not any better I won't bother. I think I'll be heading to the chemists on the way home for some lem-sips and then off to bed.

I have the usual round of meetings on Monday, Licensing transfers to sign and all the rest of the the mayhem that Monday brings. The cycle of committee meetings starts again soon and we'll no doubt see more fun and games.

Monday, 24 September 2007

Hikes (sore feet)

Went down to Edinburgh on Friday night and stayed in the flat, then met up with girlfriend to go hiking. I think this is the first time I have done something like this since I was in the army. I get sore feet really easily (hence ther reason I chose to drive a tank in the army) and so the boots I had bought (which set me back £80!!) came in very useful. Girlfriend was kind enough to buy me hiking socks which really helped too. In the end, we hiked for 3 hours in the Pentland hills in nice weather and I quite enjoyed it for my first outing. I don't know what I was expecting (if you have ever seen the film 'The Hills Have Eyes' then I guess that was what I thought it may be like when I was at my most negative about it) but it was fine. By the time we got back to the car though, my feet were pretty sore and next day my legs were fairly stiff too.

Another first for me was doing some gardening on Sunday. Its not something I have ever bothered about, but I enjoyed the hour or so that I did.

Back into the fray today, I have a meeting regarding the Security Industry Authority and group meeting tonight, before heading back to Edinburgh afterwards to get TV/Broadband fitted to the flat. I have a licensees meeting in Forfar tomorrow night then back down to Edinburgh again. My parents are off to Italy to visit relatives on Saturday and I need to pick some whisky for them to take with them. Wish I was going too to be honest. In a strange coincidence, at the same time as I was campaigning for the local council elections, my cousin in Italy was doing exactly the same on his patch and we both got elected, although I think he is in some weird left of centre outfit that I have never heard of. He's a fine chap, but I don't think he shares my enthusiasm for right-of-centre politics..............

Friday, 21 September 2007

Hikes!

I was supposed to go down to Edinburgh on Wednesday night, but forgot I had been asked to attend a Neighbourhood Watch meeting, so I couldn't go and was therefore somewhat unpopular. I'm glad I went to the meeting though, there were some people there who clearly care about the community and environment we all live in. I was able to put forward some of the policy ideas we have for cutting down on the kind of anti-social behaviour that plagues towns and cities up and down the country.

On Tuesday I met with more licensees. This was the second meeting and it was very positive. We discussed under-age drinking and the state of the trade in general. I mentioned after the first meeting of the Licensing Board that the behaviour of one or two councillors was a nightmare and this was actually brought up by two different people. I said before there was no place for political nonsense when dealing with peoples livelihoods so it is really disappointing when people choose to behave like spoilt bairns when dealing with the public.

The full council meeting I was at last night was pretty acrimonious. I'm surprised that there wasn't blood on the walls by the end of it, but we live to fight another day. Some of the opposition councillors can be very good debaters, but in general it can be something of a slugfest.

The hiking boots which are still in pristine condition through lack of any use at all are to have their first outing this weekend. I can't put it off any longer and we are off to the Pentlands for some hiking. Hopefully there will be a pub somewhere.

Tuesday, 18 September 2007

No hikes

I was somewhat relieved to get up on Sunday and see torrential rain as this excused me from hiking duties. The boots i'd bought had been initially left in the shop, then moved to the office and finally to Edinburgh for their first hike. So far, they have only made it onto my feet once and that was to try them on in the shop. As a consolation for not getting for a hike I took new girlfriend for a pub lunch which was expensive, and not particularly good (still better than being soaked on some hillside though). To be fair, I think once I get out there I'll enjoy it, but it's the getting out there that is the stumbling block.

I have, for reasons I'm not quite sure about, agreed to a charity boxing bout against a fellow councillor next year. I had agreed to this in the pub (I was quite 'relaxed' at this point) when he suggested it. I had of course not realised that his nose is the shape it is because he himself was an accomplished boxer a few years ago and his son is (I believe) on the national squad. Needless to say, my training so far has been somewhat erratic and if truth be known it has so far consisted of watching 'Rocky'. Having watched this, I'm not sure if the tactic of letting someone pummel me senseless whilst attempting to lure them into a false sense of security before fighting back with some previously untapped reserve of strength is a particularly good one. I suspect it's not.

Full council meeting on Thursday will no doubt be a 'blood on the walls' drama. Everything from flags to slipways are up for discussion and it will no doubt be a lengthy experience.

Tonight I have another meeting with licensees. This is the second of three I have organised for licensees throughout Angus. I have mentioned this before, and the last one went quite well, but having laid out the council's position on licensing (don't serve under-agers, don't serve drunks etc etc) after which everyone nodded sagely and agreed responsible licensing was the way forward, I walked into a pub to meet a friend and five minutes later two guys that were almost legless came in and were served drink by a guy who been at the meeting half an hour before! Worse, one of them wanted to kick off a fight. Nice one.

I hear that the office gossiper continues to take an interest in what I'm up to. Every office has one I guess and politics can be a nasty and spiteful game and so our office gossiper fits in with that quite nicely. I suppose if you having little else going on in your life then spiteful and nasty gossip tied in with cheap mail order wine will fill a gap.

Friday, 14 September 2007

Still here

Still in Edinburgh, and I have organised cable tv, phone and broadband for my flat. The new (and only pair I have ever owned) hiking boots I bought a couple of weeks ago are being pressed into action on Sunday and we are going walking in the Pentland Hills. Not sure if I'll enjoy this or not, but it will get me out of the flat and into the fresh air. I have avoided hiking/camping type stuff since I left the army, but I'm assured it's not really like that and is more enjoyable (?!). The weather seems to be holding up so that's something at least.

Met Theresa Villiers MP today, she is the Shadow Transport Secretary who was up to meet my boss. She seemed very confident, capable and likeable. Its good to see Westminster and Holyrood politicians that share the same portfolio working together like that.

Local press is full of council and councillor goings on this week and it will no doubt be worse next week after we have had a full council meeting which has some fairly contentious stuff on the agenda. You wouldn't think some of it was contentious, there are those that are giving it the "over my dead body" routine. Which always makes me laugh. Sometimes it seems as though things are settling down and both administration and opposition are getting on with the job in hand, then it all blows up again and rattles get thrown out of the pram.

Sometimes, you just couldn't make it up..........

Thursday, 13 September 2007

Back

I'm back in Edinburgh, much to the surprise of many of my colleagues who seemed to think I had gone from the face of the earth. Arrived late last night and this morning had a parking ticket which had been put on my car after midnight. To whichever parking attendant ticketed me, I hope your mothers proud.


I receieved a copy of a photo that was featured in the Sun of my boss and I a while back after we were involved in an incident in a pub in Edinburgh where a guy was carrying a large kitchen knife.

Monday, 10 September 2007

Bizzare

Had to laugh on friday on Friday when an SNP councillor wrote a lengthy letter about me to the local press stating I invited a Junior Shadow Cabinet Minister (whom he describes as a "London based colleague") up to Arbroath and that I had the nerve to show her round the Arbroath Harbour Visitor Centre, built by SNP former administration and also (heaven forfend) had lunch with her. The letter ended on a note of mild hysteria and a "call" to me to ask if I had invited any politicians from other parties to Arbroath.

Well, the answer to that would be "no", but then I didn't actually meet a Junior Shadow Cabinet Minister, I didn't show her round the visitor centre and strangely I didn't have lunch with her either.

Sometimes I have to wonder what planet some people are on. A Tory MP was certainly around for an hour last week, but at the time, I was in council HQ (16 miles away), publicly signing an anti-social behaviour protocol between the council and local housing authorities. Frankly, I would have expected better from this councillor.

The Scottish Countryside Alliance event at Gosford House was good fun in the end. I was doing the commentary on the PA system. The worst bit was the 'novelty dog show' where I had to announce that the first class of dog was the "prettiest bitch category". As I was reading this out (somewhat to my embarrasment it must be said) some posh bloke caught my eye and was pointing to his wife in such a way that she couldn't see him do it. I didn't laugh.

After that I dropped into former fiances house for tea. She had made spag bol which is one of my favourites. It was good to catch and even better that we remain on good terms. What should have been the wedding day is less than a month away and I find myself dwelling on it sometimes.

New girlfriend is back from what appears to have been a fairly mediocre holiday yesterday and I think she is more exhausted than when she left. I have several council meetings this week, but I'll get to Edinburgh at some point to keep up with what's going on at Parliament and have dinner with her.

Tuesday, 4 September 2007

Busy again

Spent the weekend in Edinburgh and treated new girlfriend to lunch. She has fled the country for a week and is now in Turkey with her parents and won't be back until Sunday. This weekend I should have been attending the "kirkin o' the cooncil" where all the councillors go to church and pray for divine inspiration or something. Unfortunately I had agreed a while ago to help out at the Scottish Countryside Alliance event at Gosford House so I'll be doing that instead. I did a course last week on Licensing Law, which all members of the licensing board had to undertake and passed the exam. I think most of us did, but I didn't see everyone's name on the list. It will be interesting to find out though.

I have organised meetings in various parts of Angus between the licensees, the police and board members. I'm keen to engage with them to encourage sensible drinking and perhaps even a more continental attitude to alcohol. Since I became Chairman, I have been in one pub where a punter passed out completely at the bar, another one where the publicans wife was falling about and playing student drinking games (she's fifty if she's a day) where glasses were getting broken and I was parked outside an off licence when some kids came out of with the biggest bottles of cider I have ever seen. This is not what people want to see when they are our for a drink.

The atmosphere at the council continues to be fairly accrimonious at times and the churlish behaviour of some is in stark contrast to their colleagues at Holyrood.

I got interviewed on TV today for an anti-social behaviour protocol between the council and landlords in a bid to cut down on the kind of behaviour that makes ordinary folks lives a total misery. Outstandingly, half way through the interview, a young woman pushing a pram came and said that the shop owner from the shop she had just come out of had told her the TV crew was looking for her to do an interview. As it dawned on her that she had been the subject of a practical joke by the shop owner, she then launched into a tirade about how 'shite' the council is. The language was choice as you can imagine, but the whole thing was excellent.

Wednesday, 29 August 2007

Weekend

Had a good weekend and went to a local festival which was ok. It had great weather which drew huge crowds. Went up to Stonehaven and had a nice meal with boss and bosses wife, followed by a few drinks. New girlfriend was with me and we both had a great time.

I had struggled to find a B&B up there, so plumped for a hotel which cost us £80 for a double room with breakfast. Nothing to do with the alcohol, but when we tried to get back in at 1:00am, neither of us could get past the security lock thing which had a numbered key pad. Helpfully, there was no light at all, so we were using the illuminated screen of my mobile to try and see by. Eventually we got in and next morning we were literally two minutes late for breakfast and therefore didnt get one...................The room was a bit shabby too.

No wonder tourists complain....................

Friday, 24 August 2007

Week

Had another hectic week with group meeting on Monday, Civic Licensing on Tuesday, Special Meeting on Wednesday to adopt the local plan and Thursday I was doing Licensing Board Training followed by Neighbourhood Services.

We are desperate for a second supermarket in Arbroath, but are not allowed to change the local plan. It has been in front of three Scottish Exec reporters, but we still aren't allowed to change the local plan.

Whoever would have thought that a local authority would essentially be prohibited from allowing someone to open a shop? Its a total joke.

Meantime New Girlfriend is coming up to Arbroath and we are going to a local festival on Saturday and then up to Stonehaven for dinner with my boss and his wife. Hopefully I'll get some time in Edinburgh next week too.

Tuesday, 21 August 2007

Bouncer

Well the course was really interesting (not rocket science, but really interesting). I was working 9-5 on my day job, then driving to the course which ran from 6pm till midnight. After four days it was a bit tiring. I'm impressed at how comprehensive the course is though, and I really did learn a lot. It included licensing law, health and safety, drug awareness and conflict management among other things.

Its a pity that we hadn't done the conflict management first as when one of the bouncers started to give me a hard time for being a cooncillor, I gave him the finger and told him to f**k off. I'll be a bit more diplomatic in future now though.

I'm going to do a couple of nights on the doors, just for the experience, to see how it works from the sharp end. I'm sure that will be fun (not).

I spent the weekend in Edinburgh and took it easy. I have council meetings every night this week except Friday, when I may go to the pub and be diplomatic..............

Monday, 13 August 2007

Weekend

I had a great weekend in Edinburgh. The city is buzzing with the festival just now and the place is even more cosmopolitan than usual. Saw some great street theatre on Saturday and one guy who was a magician was superb. His tricks were crap, but his patter was top notch.

Also went to the Book Festival and picked up a good read. New Girlfriend bought me lunch yesterday which was nice and invited me to see the Ladyboys of Bangkok with her parents (who I haven't met yet..................) but I couldn't go.

I'm up in Arbroath all week as I'm doing my 'door supervisor' course which helpfully runs from 6pm till midnight until Thursday night. Apparently, I will be the first Chairman of a Licensing Board in Scotland to do the course and it will be interesting to see what kind of training 'bouncers' have to get these days......................

Friday, 10 August 2007

Ikea etc

Ikea was great to wander round in. I now see that most of the stuff in my rented flat has come from there! I didn't actually intend to buy anything but came away with a really nice duvet set, a lamp, tattie peeler and a piggy bank (?). I spent considerably more than new girlfriend who also gave me sound advice on the choice of new bedding.

I'm in Arbroath for meetings today, but I'm heading back to Edinburgh tonight for the weekend and back here again on Monday.

Three months after getting elected, we finally got our business cards. How come if I walked into a printers and ordered them I could get them in 24 hours, but when a local authority tries it, it takes quarter of a year?

There is still no sign of the IT equipment we were promised either, and although any e-mails that come in for me are now forwarded to another address, I was in the ridiculous situation the other week where someone had tried to phone me at the council. I wasn't there, so a message was taken and e-mailed to my council address, which I have no access to. After that, it was printed off and delivered to my house by hand two days later!

When I got elected I expected local government to be a cross between a small scale Holyrood and a businness. It appears that it is not remotely like either............

Wednesday, 8 August 2007

Busy

The past week has once again been phenomenally busy. I'm in Arbroath just now, but heading off to Edinburgh to see new girlfriend. We are going to Ikea tonight, where I will no doubt spend a fortune on stuff that I don't need and am too stupid to build. But there you go.

I have to do a licensing course later on too which I'm looking forward to. It will be good to get a better understanding of licensing laws. Another course I have been invited to do is the new Security Industry Authority (SIA) Door Steward's (bouncer to you and me) course.

The SIA was recently introduced into Scotland and new laws demand that all door supervisors and other people in the security industry are suitably checked, trained and licensed. Its a big step forward as a good steward can keep order in a venue without stopping people enjoying themselves.

When the SIA first came to Scotland, I applied for a post with them and was offered a job but decided to decline as there was too much travelling involved (oh the irony given subsequent events), but I'm glad I did decline it with hindsight.

Friday, 3 August 2007

Dinner II (a)

Well that didn't go quite as I planned, but it wasn't an unmitigated disaster. I settled on Tuscan bean soup and bought everything I needed in one go which saved me the numerous trips of last time. I even remembered to buy a set of kitchen scales which will no doubt be useful.

It okay I guess, but it wasn't anything startling to be honest and I had hoped for soemthing with a bit more taste, but it went down ok with crusty bread and a side portion of olives and feta cheese.

We went to see the new Simpsons Movie, and I thought it was hilarious in places. I needed something fairly light to watch, just because I have been so busy lately and I needed to unwind a bit.

All in all it was a nice evening though, and wasn't too expensive.

Thursday, 2 August 2007

Dinner II

Last week new girlfriend pointed out that the Delia cookbook she gave me was not just for decorative purposes. The comment didnt really register until last night when she phoned and said she was coming round for dinner (cue massive clean up operation in the flat).

I have been looking through the book, but everything seems to have so many bloody ingredients that I have never heard of.

I'm still looking through it now. Former Fiance has advised I make a list of everything I need to preclude the shopping frenzy I endured last time I tried to cook, so I'll give that a go.

Heading to Arbroath first thing tomorrow morning to attend various meetings and stuff. I seem to be getting more and more casework from constituents, which is something that I welcome. People often get a hard time or suffer misfortune through no fault of their own and I'm glad to get the opportunity to help if I can.

Just so long as no-one asks me to bloody cook anything.

Tuesday, 31 July 2007

Good Weekend

I enjoyed the weekend. I went round the first Arbroath fish and farmers' market in Arbroath with my boss and his wife. I bought the most expensive piece of steak ever at it and I'll have to consult on the best way to cook fillet steak. I'm guessing I won't taste the difference between ordinary steak and 'organic' steak.

I'm not really convinced about the arguments for organic, but still, it gives people choice. I also bought a punnet of strawbs and didn't even get to try one before various people scoffed the lot. Thanks guys.

Back in Edinburgh now and I'm going to new girlfriends house for dinner tonight. Apparently it will be something 'healthy'. Best have something to eat before I go then :-)

Although Parliament is very quiet, I'm still extremely busy with council work. Most of which surrounds housing and anti-social behaviour (which I have touched on before)

The campaign to secure World Heritage Site Status for Arbroath Abbey has been awared a lottery grant to allow us to push forward. This is a long term campaign that ran into political difficulties as soon as it was launched when the SNP MSP had a hissy fit when Alex Johnstone kicked it off. It was hilarious.

That aside our first meeting after the award will be next week and it will be great to really getting it off the ground.

Friday, 27 July 2007

Weekend

Well that's me off for the weekend. I'm going to a couple fo community events on Saturday and Sunday.

Hope you all have a good one.

Cheers,
Jim

Thursday, 26 July 2007

Veterans Badge


I did a press release for my boss the other day encouraging those who served in the Armed Forces to apply for an HM Armed Forces Veterans Badge. Helpfully, I put at the bottom that we would be happy to send out an application form and put the constituency secretary's phone number on it. She has now been deluged by requests for the form and I'm a bit unpopular in the office as she has had to listen to all manner of war stories every few minutes for the past three days. I just reminded her that I sent the press release to our local weekly paper which gets published tomorrow and the we could expect a lot more enquiries. She told me I could "F**k right off". Charming.


I'm going to apply for one myself. I joined the army when I was sixteen (see photo) as a 'Junior Leader' then served for three years in the regulars, the highlight of which was being based in Berlin when 'the wall' was still up. Its frankly a world away from what our troops are experiencing now, and whatever the rights and wrongs are of our foreign 'interventions' the troops are doing what politicians order them to and we should support them wholeheartedly for the hard job they do in difficult circumstances.


Apart from that it was a fairly uneventful few years, where the only harm I inflicted on anyone was when I drove a land rover over a Sergeants foot on excercise in Germany. In my defence it was dark and I couldn't see the chap. I found myself on guard duty quite often for a while afterwards though.


Wednesday, 25 July 2007

Giant Squirrel

I have absolutely no reason for posting this pic, other than the fact that it amuses me immensely.

Hungover/Cook Book

God I feel awful. I went for 'a pint' with a fellow cooncillor after being in meetings all day. I'd eaten nothing since breakfast and I'm now paying the price for it.

'New Girlfriend' bought me the 'Delia Smith Complete Cookery Course' book. Obviously, I exhausted my extremely limited culinary repertoire some time ago. Having skimmed through the book, I found most of it was frankly beyond me and I have now bought a simpler one with more pictures. In time I hope to be able to work my way up to some of Delia's creations.

I spoke to 'Ex girlfriend' the other day (not to be mistaken with Former Fiance). Helpfully, and for reasons I'm not sure about, she decided to tell me the best way to make pasta. I'll give this a shot at some point too. But not invite her round to try it. Or her husband.

Monday, 23 July 2007

Golf

I'm not really a fan of golf, but I spent the weekend at the Open Championships in Carnoustie as a host at the Angus Council pavilion.

I don't think you actually have to like golf to enjoy the spectacle of the Open and the atmosphere was fantastic.

The cost of attending was fairly steep though at around £50 per day, plus £10 to park the car per day (my battered old volvo ended up sandwiched between a Bentley and a Merc). I took 'new girlfriend' for the final on Sunday and she had a fantastic time. I bought her what is essentially a T shirt that she liked and it cost me £30! There must have been plenty of money around though as the merchandise was flying off the shelves at a rate of knots. Come Sunday night there wasn't much to buy (thankfully at those prices).

At the end of the day though, there were a lot of very positive comments about Angus and many people had a very good experience of visiting the area. I hope many of them choose to return to Angus and play course themselves.

The infrastructure of the event was extraordinarily well organised from the roads/parking to the site itself. There were loads of stewards, staff and facilities on site and the experience, even for a non golfer like me was a fantastic one.

Friday, 20 July 2007

I'm Back

It has been even more hectic than normal. I tried to get a holiday, but largely failed miserably and only got a couple of days down in Dumfries and Galloway. Don't get me wrong, it was a great break and I went with 'new girlfriend' but even on holiday it seems there is no escape from council work. I have largely given up on the holiday idea and am just going to get my head down and get on with it. I had a few constituents contact me whilst I was away, and I'm working at the Open Golf championship tomorrow and Sunday (no, I'm not a caddy).

If I could just get a week staying in the same place it would be a bonus, but its unlikely for the next wee while.

One thing about holidays in the UK is that they are bloody expensive. I was £50 just to fill the car up before I had even gone anywhere and B&B prices were not exactly cheap either. I took new girlfriend for dinner and it cost me £80. I thought I had died and woken up in Hollywood. We have great scenery and unrivalled history in Scotland, but no wonder people are frustrated at the cost of a break here.

Sunday, 15 July 2007

Tory Stereotypes!

Sometimes I have to laugh at the way tories are either perceived by others or perceive themselves.

One classic yesterday:

Tory fellow: "So Jim, you served in a cavalry regiment I understand"

Me: "Yes that's right, I left in 88'"

Tory fellow: "So as an officer, was it a short or long term commission you held?"

Me: "Officer? I was a trooper mate, I drove a tank"

Tory fellow: "Oh"


Another (very non-tory) friend thought my family were typical tory stereotypes when she discovered my parents had a cleaner. I can see her point until you take into account that my Mum is pushing 70 and has terrible arthritis in her hands and simply can't clean the house (and my Dad at the same age still works full time). Not so cut and dried now eh?

Event

I had a fantastic day out yesterday at the Arbroath "Sea Front Spectacular". It is an event organised solely by local business people who give up their time throughout the year to put it together. And what a success. There were around 20 thousand people in the park at any one time to see sky-divers, stunt drivers, stunt riders and ariel displays too. All manner of other entertainments were to be had too. All this for an admission price of £2 for an adult. What a shame though that so many people (not just kids) chose not to pay and preferred to climb a fence or whatever to get into the event.

The fact that the money raised not only pays for the event, but also goes back into the community is clearly lost on these numpties.

Thursday, 12 July 2007

Photo's

Tory Female Friend has requested more photo's on the blog. So just for her.................










Stuff

Licensing went ok last night, though there were hardly any of us there. One truly frightening case that I won't go into.

Still in Arbroath and no idea when I'll be back in Edinburgh again. I have been chatting quite a lot to a female friend of mine in Edinburgh( the one mentioned earlier who likes the blog colour scheme). she made a rather salient point (also touched on by new girlfriend) that with everything that has happened work wise, I may not really have confronted the fact that I'm not getting married in October any more.

I suppose that's true in a way. We split up just before the election campaign started so it was turmoil anyway, now I spend my time rushing between Edinburgh, Arbroath and Forfar and I'm so busy I can barely keep up with myself, but tellingly, I have thought about it a bit more recently.

Wednesday, 11 July 2007

Back

The tame chaotic lifestyle continues. I arrived back in Arbroath on Monday and had the "pre" licensing board meeting yesterday. The meeting itself is tonight and I'm looking forward to it now that I'm getting more used to the way of it.

Parliament and Council are both in recess and it seems a bit strange for the formality of it all to grind to a halt.

That said, there continues to be a considerable amount of contact from constituents both at Parliament and council level, so still a lot of work on.................

Friday, 6 July 2007

Pre Agenda Meeting

Tuesday will see me attend the 'Pre Agenda Meeting' for the Licensing Board. I was made chairman last time round and was pretty much thrown in at the deep end.

What made it worse, was yet again the behaviour of one or two councillors.

Don't get me wrong, I have worked full time in the Scottish Parliament for six years and I love the rough and tumble of politics, but the 'board' is a quasi judicial body, and for people to behave in a surly and childish way does nothing but make us all look bloody stupid.

I was approached by a licencee yesterday who said that local solicitors had been complaining about the behaviour of the aforementioned "Cooncillors".

At the end of the day, the board is not a political body. There are no points to be scored, no arguments to be won. The decisions the board makes affects peoples livelihoods and their ambitions and therefore it is pathetic to bahave in a way that seeks to use individuals as pawns in what was a very amateur game.

We won't be having that again.

Edinburgh

Well, as part of my (rather tame) chaotic lifestyle, I'm back in Edinburgh. The brakes on my wee Volvo have failed and will cost the princely sum of around 200 quid to sort. Ironically, I think thats more than the car is worth, but there you go.

Something that Edinburgh has a profussion of and Arbroath lacks completely is a cinema. Its where I'm taking 'new girlfriend' tonight (i'm a tad uncomfortable with the word girlfriend given I'm 40 and she's 39 but there you go).

For a while there was a big local demand to bring a cinema back to the town (it had three at one time), but the campaign seems to have died off. I guess with a new dual carriageway between Arbroath and Dundee, a distance of some 17 miles, it is easier to get to a good one. for a while the council had a portable one which would go round the theatres etc and show films, but enthusiasm for it was a bit lukewarm I think. The concept always struck me as a bit 1940's anyway.

Wednesday, 4 July 2007

Chaotic Lifestyle

Since I got elected and took over as Convener of the Neighbourhood Services Committee, which includes Housing, I have encountered a phrase so inept that it is truly offensive. It is "Chaotic Lifestyle".

So what's so offensive about this? Well, the kind of behaviour that merits the term can be so outrageous that it beggars belief. Lets look at one or two examples that I have come accross so far:

An 84 year old woman forced to flee in fear from her home of many years because the council put a young woman next door to her who has drug issues and hosts loud, all night parties all the time. The young woman's house has been raided by the police and also by some drug using associates.

An older man who allows his council house to be used by young people for loud, all night parties (see a theme developing here?) as often as 3-4 times per week. The parties get out of control and spills onto the street where they challenge passers by to fight etc. A neighbouring family with a new baby are at their wits end about it.

Now I thought that I had a chaotic lifestyle. After all, I have two jobs that are a fair distance apart and both are fairly demanding. I travel between the two a lot and need to find time to be with my girlfriend too. I'm also helping to organise a big community event for next year. To me, my lifestyle is chaotic. It may be described as "organised chaos", but chaos nonetheless.

What the clowns above get up to should not be called a chaotic lifestyle. I'm not sure what it should be called, but the current term certainly doesn't cut it. It wouldn't be so bad, but these so called Chaotic Lifestyles are invariably funded by the taxpayer and not through doing a decent days' work. When I investigated into why these characters were placed into nice areas where they invariably wreaked havoc, it turns out that the council have no choice but to place them in the next available house, wherever that might be.

I believe that local authorities should have their hands untied and allowed an element of discretion so that we can stop these problems before they start.

Everyone thinks an ASBO will sort it out. Believe it or not, it costs on average 8K to get an ASBO and it takes months. Apart from that there is no guarantee that some bleeding hearted liberal sherriff will grant one either (and I'm guessing he or she has never had anti social neighbours!).

I feel sorry for good, harding working people when these Chaotic types are placed in amongst them and I want to do more to highlight the iniquity of the situation.

Tuesday, 3 July 2007

Excellent Conversation

Excerpt from drunken phone call on Sunday night:

Tory female friend (not new 'friend' mentioned below who is not a tory) "I like your blog"

Me "Thanks, what do you like about it?"

Tory female friend "I like the colours. They are really nice and I'd like to see a pair of boxer shorts that colour"

Me "Oh...........right"

Full Council Meeting

Thursday night saw the second full council meeting since the election. To say that the behaviour of some people was childish and boorish would neither be a lie nor an understatement.

I'm still not up to speed on the standard of debate we should expect from Council meetings (and I'm no great orator myself) but whatever I expected, it wasn't that. One or two members of the opposition harrangued council officers, indulged in petty grandstanding and generally behaved in a way I would not have expected.

My Grandfather was a councillor here, and so was his cousin. I can't believe the council in their day was anything like the political nursery that I experienced on Thursday in the Chamber.

I did have to laugh though when the sole Independent Councillor that is not in the administration yet again continued to vote time after time with the SNP.

Great Weekend

I had a great weekend, dinner with my boss, his wife and my 'friend' on Friday night followed by spending the rest of the weekend with aforesaid 'friend'. Being single again earlier in the year was something of a culture shock after being with someone for over 2 1/2 years, but life goes on and I have moved on too. Classic quote the other week from former fiance "your election result was crap" aye, that would be the election where I got elected and you didn't m'dear.

Thursday, 28 June 2007

Community Cooncil

I attended a meeting of the Arbroath Community Council last night. Its the first time in years that I have been. Although it was a shame that there were not more members of the public there, I was impressed by the contributions made.

Its clearly a good way of keeping up to date with the things that are giving them cause for concern.

It meets once a month and whilst I know that there are some councillors (not necessarily in Angus) who wouldn't go near a Community Council meeting for love nor money, it's something I'll make the effort to attend as often as possible.

Wednesday, 27 June 2007

Cooncil Work

Since getting elected I have had some weird and wonderful requests for assistance, though none of them can compete with a colleague who was asked if he could help get a refund of NI contributions because the chap had hurt his leg and wasn't happy with the NHS!

I appparently now have an office in Forfar, though I haven't found it yet. I'm not going looking for it either on the basis that no-one has put any furniture in it. Anyone who thinks that Cooncillors get palatial office suites and are served canapes by nubile handmaidens (yes there are people who think along these lines) would get a shock if they saw how shabby council offices can be.

I'm being taken for dinner by my boss and his wife on Friday. I'm looking forward to it. He has been extremely understanding about the amount of time I have had to devote to council work and I'm very grateful to him. Despite the fact that I'm totally knackered tearing round the country attending meetings and being asked to intervene in any number of issues.

Tuesday, 26 June 2007

Coalition

The coalition between the Lib Dems, Tories, Labour and Independents is holding together very well. Together we ended 23 years of SNP administration in Angus and I'm quite proud to be part of that.

Locally, the electorate were calling for an end to party politics at council level and in an obscure way that is exactly what they have got. There is no mention of party politics in group meetings and we therefore simply pursue an agenda that is best for Angus.

The SNP are sniping from the sidelines and crying 'foul' but it seems to me that what is happening in Angus is happening up and down the country and I believe (no doubt because of the high proportion of independents) that this will work. It's the new style of politics really and this may well be reflected by events in Westminster with Gordon Brown putting together a cabinet of the talents.

Council meetings and other related meetings every night this week........................

Monday, 25 June 2007

Back

I'm back in Arbroath after a fun week in Edinburgh. The driving to and fro is a bit wearing and my wee volvo is not much longer for this world I'm afraid.

I'm here for a week before heading back to Edinburgh again (with my tv and stereo this time). Holding down two jobs is frankly quite hard work and I haven't had a decent night out for ages.

Thursday, 21 June 2007

Dinner

With moving into the new flat, I thought I'd invite a friend round for dinner. No big deal there you might think, but to be honest I am a truly dreadful cook on the basis that I have never really tried.

Fortunately I'm near Sainsburys and off i went to procure some decent food that can be cooked easily. Hence I returned triumphantly with sirloin steak to be cooked on my new George Foreman grill, and some veg. With the clock ticking, I returned home only to realise I had nothing for a sweet and not enough pots to do the veg.

Off I went again and bought more pots, a collander, more veg, some nice wine, mixed olives with feta cheese and a Belgian Chocolate Truffle.

When I got back to the flat I opened a large drawer only to discover more pots and a bloody collander. I could have taken her to the Ritz for the amount of money I'd spent on the meal!

It was worth the effort though and even though I say so myself it was quite tasty and she realised the effort that I had gone to (apart from the several trips to the supermarket).

I'm going to buy a cookery book now.

Wednesday, 20 June 2007

Flat

Like the total clown that I am, I had driven to the new flat with most of my stuff, but forgot to take my TV and stereo. Ironically, I DID remember to take the remote controls for the bloody things.

Needless to say, it was a very quiet night at Chez Millar, but it was nice to enjoy my own space, although I couldn't get a coffee despite having gone to Sainsbury's and bought milk, I forgot to buy tea, coffee and sugar. Although I did manage to buy wine, bread and stuffed olives, so that's ok.

Tuesday, 19 June 2007

Flat

After a painfully long council meeting last night, I'm off to spend my first night in my Edinburgh flat. Its already furnished, but I needed new bedding and a George Forman Grill (I'm a shocking cook but will have to learn now that I'm single again).

I'm looking forward to spending most of the summer in Edinburgh as it's a fabulous city full of great places to visit. My social life has been almost non existent since the election campaign started and I'm keen to get out and enjoy myself again.

Monday, 18 June 2007

Monday

Monday so soon, I can't believe it. I'll be spending my first night in my newly rented flat this week, and I'll have to go out and get a duvet and other bedding too. Some of the pictures on the walls are a bit dire, so I'll replace them with some of my own.

It will be a bit strange really, but I'm actually looking forward to having my own space and it will be great to have a base in Edinburgh too, especially over the summer. I have rented the flat for a year so may give it a lick of paint to smarten the place up and as my former fiance banned me from getting an x-box 360, that is going to be top of my shopping list too!

Sunday, 17 June 2007

Hangover

God I'm hungover. I went out last night in Arbroath and did something of a pub crawl with a fellow "Cooncillor", purely for research purposes you understand. This morning I was meant be helping at the "One Step Beyond" campaign event which has been collecting shoes to send abroad. I made it but only just. Good effort by the campaign organisers, who laid each pair of shoes in a line and broke a world record.

Four charities are set to benefit from the money raised and of course the shoes will be put to good use abroad. That said, I'm not sure how some of the recipients will react when they get a pair of posh high heels to wander about in...................

Saturday, 16 June 2007

Aberdeen


I have been asked to take part in Aberdeen City's Tartan Day again this year. I enjoyed it last year despite having a fear of horses........... I went to uni at Aberdeen and always like taking a trip up there. My karate instructor lives there too so I'm often in the toon.

Later on in the year I'm taking part in the Aberdeen Wallace Commemoration. Odd for a Tory that I spend so much time taking part in things that are often heaving with nationalists, but celebrating our Scottish history is for everyone and shouldn't be the sole preserve of one group of people.
Picture shows me and my boss (who is not the horse)

Limbo

Well, I'm still in limbo. I was engaged and living in Edinburgh with my fiance until just before the election campaign. Sadly, though, she decided it was best that we didnt marry (the date was set for October this year) and I moved out and back to Arbroath where I'm from originally.

This wasn't so bad as my boss was standing for the Scottish Parliament seat there and had also got me to stand for the council on the basis that a campaign would be good experience for me.

A month of delivering leaflets and knocking on doors later and I'm elected onto Angus Council and my boss is re-elected to The Scottish Parliament. Although I have rented a fully furnished flat in Edinburgh, I haven't spent a single night there as so far, due to the constant rounds of Council meetings.