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.