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.