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.