Friday, 29 February 2008

Usual

Its been a frenetic time again. I had hoped that the roses and champagne for Valentines Day would see me excused from cooking attempts, but the next day at girlfriends house I was handed a vegetable peeler and a load of veg to peel. Which I did, until I sliced my finger open on what should have been a safety peeler. Its amazing how much you bleed when its a clean cut and your hands are wet.

Had a few interesting constituency cases which I have been able to help with. Sometimes there is just nothing you can do, other times you can and the past few have fallen into the latter category which is really rewarding.

I had civic licensing on Tuesday this week which was quite short. This is where taxi drivers, window cleaners etc are licensed. There was one case that was a bit dodgy given the applicants criminal background.

We were the second last local authority to announce our budget and I expected a massive heated debate on it. In the end, it was fine and we announced various funding packages etc, including a new one to revitalise local play areas etc. It was a budget I was happy to support.

Last night was Neighbourhood Services and I said when I went in I had a bad feeling about it, and the first part of it was just a nightmare. Strangely though, after the first item (about a skatepark) it was a really good meeting. Lots of debate and good humoured banter. There were some council tenants there who had come to hear part of the debate and they apparently liked the sparring that was going on, which to be fair, was pretty good quality from all concerned. One of the more bizzare rumours that was doing the rounds among council staff was that for some reason, the opposition had got into their heads that I catch a train from Arbroath at 6.10 pm so they try and delay the end of the meeting until after that point. I was speaking to an opposition councilor this morning who had also heard the same rumour, but denied it was true. I actually believe him, but it goes to show how the rumour mill works!

On Monday I have an appointment with a back specialist after the accident last year. I had been waiting to turn right when a young girl travelling way above the speed limit hit the back of the car and shunted me across the road. My car was a write off. Now here's the thing. Her Mum arrived a while after and meandered up to me and said "its a shame about this because she was selling the car tomorrow to get spending money for Camp America." Now, her gormless daughter with her designer jeans could well have killed me and girlfriend with her thoughtless driving and the only thing her bloody mother is concerned about is that her daughter won't have enough spending money in the States!

The result of this accident is that the insurance paid out £3000 less than was paid for the car not that long before and I have a persistently uncomfortable back which is not good. The girl herself was going to be charged, but the police decided not to on the basis she would be in America for too long and the Procurator Fiscal wouldn't pursue the case. So, if you want a get out of jail free card after causing someone considerable pain and loss of cash, simply sod off to the colonies for a while and the police wont bother with you. Charming.

Friday, 22 February 2008

Back

I'm back. I came into work today to start getting caught up with the backlog. Still feeling a bit ropey but glad to be out and about again. It was raining hard when I came in, but the fresh air was lovely.

Boss and I have been invited to lunch or dinner with the new Consul General of Japan. I'm looking forward to meeting him. Previously Boss had arranged for an event in the Scottish Parliament to celebrate the life of Thomas Blake Glover who had such an impact on Japan, although little is known about him here. This went down really well and included a karate demonstration, traditional Japanese food and sake as well as a host of other things. It would be great to do it again.

Tuesday, 19 February 2008

Ill

I'm currently holed up in my flat with the worst case of man flu I can remember, and I'm typing this from my blackberry.

Hope to be back soon.

Jim

Friday, 15 February 2008

Funny Ninja

I keep meaning to get right back into martial arts. I have been getting increasingly unfit since I stopped, as well becoming a bit more irritable too!

Martial arts have become increasingly popular and I really enjoy it. In the 20 years I have had an interest in them since I came out of the army, I have seen some weird and wonderful styles emerge, often 'invented' by people with more interest in money or prestige than anything else, and this youtube video is perhaps closer to some of those with self appointed titles such as Master, Sensei or Sifu etc than you might believe. Most don't last very long, although some do survive within a very restricted sphere.

I am starting training afresh with my old friend and Instructor Mark Davies. He has been involved in Martial Arts for almost thirty years now and has travelled the world learning more about them.

I can't recommend him highly enough if you ever want to take up something like this. You can find his website at http://www.blackbeltacademies.com/

More Stuff

The council meeting had a relatively short agenda, and having come to the conclusion earlier that the length of a meeting is in inverse proportion to the length of the agenda, I settled in for a long session. I wasn't dissappointed.

We had a pre-meeting that started at three, followed by the council meeting at four. This started off badly, but actually got better and more concensual towards the end. That said, the end came some three hours and forty minutes later by which time I had lost the will to live..............

Tired and emotional by this point, I jumped in the car and drove down to Edinburgh where girlfriend had made my favourite steak and pepper sauce for dinner. That excellent Blogger Bendygirl had suggested I pour the champagne I had bought into the bath. Instead, I found it equally satisfying to pour it down my neck :-)

The two dozen red roses I had sent her were nice, but the cost was extortionate for what they were to be honest. No doubt I'll do something entirely similar next year.

Thursday, 14 February 2008

Valentines Day II (& other stuff)

Well, the two dozen roses I had delivered to girlfriend have been something of a triumph (hurrah) and clearly well worth the cost, which was the equivalent of the GDP of a small (albeit impoverished) country. I have the meeting of the full council tonight which should be the usual bun-fight and I'll drive down to see her tonight duly armed with a couple of bottles of Moet and Chandon.

You just can't predict the length of meetings at all. We had the rent setting meeting on Tuesday which, I was assured, would last "12 minutes if that". We duly trooped in, I gave the pre-prepared speech thanking the tenants for their participation in the process etc and moved the report. It was at this point that it went slightly off plan. We got out an hour later.

Last night was the adjourned meeting of the Licensing Board (this was the last one under the 1976 act and from now on we will be using the new 2005 licensing act) It was a very short agenda and all of us thought it would be over very quickly. Two hours and forty five minutes later we left somewhat shell shocked after one licensee was represented not by a solicitor as is usually the case, but by a local Baron (?) who spoke somewhat at length.

I'm working in Parliament tomorrow, but as I have worked the last two weekends, I'm taking this one off to potter about and catch up on my own stuff.

The Bonsai tree that former fiance gave me for Christmas has finally died. I had been looking after it, prunning it and feeding it etc, but sadly nothing could be done. Its sad really.

Monday, 11 February 2008

Valentines Day

I was wondering what to do for Valentines Day, and although girlfriend has passed comment several times about how she hates the commercialisation of Valentines and how it is such a rip off etc etc I am not so naive as to NOT go out and spend money for it, simply because I'm assured it would be a waste of money. You might believe that when you are told it once, but the result of not buying flowers, card etc is the romantic equivalent of letting loose the four horsemen of the apocalypse at the same time as getting a bit nosey about the contents of the box that Pandora left in your care.

A quick visit to the Interflora website will give you an indication of just how much money people are prepared to spend on impressing their other half (or someone they would like to be their other half).

A dozen red roses starts at £40, you then have the option of adding chocolates and champagne to it too. For the serious romantic though, you can send 100 red roses, a snip at only £500! Excellent value for money given that they come with a full 5 day guarantee. You can also top that with a helium filled 'love balloon' for that extra special touch.

I'll have to think carefully about this one.

Friday, 8 February 2008

Scammers

Those delightful ladies over at Scottish Diary were complaining about scammers in this post, and an earlier one. I have seen a few scam e-mails over the years, some really quite ludicrous, some downright outrageous (nothwithstanding the fact that they are effectively trying to rob people). But the one below that came in this morning is a new slant on an old trick. I wonder if they watched the George Clooney film Three Kings? Of course, if anyone wants Sgt Taylor's e-mail address, I'll pass it on...................

DEAR FRIEND,

WITH A VERY DESPERATE NEED FOR ASSISTANCE, I HAVE SUMMED UP COURAGE TO CONTACT YOU. I AM PRESENTLY WORKING IN IRAQ WITH AN INTERNATIONAL ORGANIZATION THAT I WILL DISCLOSE LATER TO YOU; I FOUND YOUR CONTACTPARTICULARS IN AN ADDRESS JOURNAL. I AM SEEKING YOUR ASSISTANCE TO EVACUATE THE SUM OF $25m TO YOUR COUNTRY OR ANY OTHER SAFE COUNTRY OF YOUR CHOICE,AS FAR AS I CAN BE ASSURED THAT MY SHARE WILL BE SAFE IN YOUR CARE UNTIL I COMPLETE MY SERVICE HERE. THIS IS NO STOLEN MONEY, AND THERE ARE NO DANGERS INVOLVED.

SOURCE OF MONEY:SOME MONEY IN VARIOUS CURRENCIES WAS DISCOVERED CONCEALED IN BARRELS WITH PILES OF WEAPONS AND AMMUNITIONS AT A LOCATION NEAR ONE OF SADDAM'SOLD PALACES DURING A RESCUE OPERATION, AND IT WAS AGREED BY ALL PARTY PRESENT THAT THE MONEY BE SHARED AMONGST US, THIS WAS QUITE AN ILLEGAL THING TO DO, BUT I TELL YOU WHAT? NO COMPENSATION CAN MAKE UP FOR THE RISKS WE HAVE TAKEN WITH OUR LIVES IN THIS HELL HOLE.THE ABOVE FIGURE WAS GIVEN TO ME AS MY SHARE, AND TO CONCEAL THIS KIND OF MONEY BECAME A PROBLEM FOR ME, SO WITH THE HELP OF A GERMAN CONTACT WORKING HERE,AND HIS OFFICE ENJOYS SOME IMMUNITY WITH THE UNITED NATIONS ORGANIZATION, I WAS ABLE TO GET THE PACKAGE OUT TO A SAFE LOCATION ENTIRELY OUT OF TROUBLE SPOT. THOUGH HE DOES NOT KNOW THE REAL CONTENTS OF THE PACKAGE, AND BELIEVES THAT IT BELONGS TO AN ASIAN AMERICAN WHO DIED IN AN AIR RAID, AND BEFORE GIVING UP, TRUSTED ME TO HAND OVER THE PACKAGE TO HIS BUSINESS ASSOCIATE.I HAVE NOW FOUND A SECURED WAY OF GETTING THE PACKAGE OUT TO A SAFER COUNTRY THROUGH DIPLOMATIC COURIER MEANS FOR YOU TO PICK IT UP, AND WILL DISCUSS THIS WITH YOU WHEN I AM SURE THAT YOU ARE WILLING TO ASSIST ME.ONE PASSIONATE APPEAL I WILL MAKE TO YOU IS NOT TO DISCUSS THIS MATTER WITH A THIRD PARTY, SHOULD YOU HAVE REASONS TO REJECT THIS OFFER,PLEASE DESTROY THIS MAIL AS ANY LEAKAGE OF THIS INFORMATION WILL BE TOO BAD FOR US.

I DO NOT KNOW FOR HOW LONG WE WILL REMAIN HERE, AND I HAVE SURVIVED 2 SUICIDE BOMB ATTACKS BY THE SPECIAL GRACE OF GOD, THIS AND OTHER REASONS I WILL MENTION LATER HAS PROMPTED ME TO REACH OUT FOR HELP, I HONESTLY WANT THIS MATTER TO BE RESOLVED IMMEDIATELY.

PLEASE CONTACT ME THROUGH MY EMAIL SO WE CAN DISCUSS MORE.
RESPECTFULLY,SGT.FRANK WILLIAM TAYLORFROM IRAQ.

Thursday, 7 February 2008

Sustainable Energy

I chaired a seminar on sustainable energy today. It was really informative and worthwhile. I spent a few years working in the oil and gas industry, and I appreciate the need to use and further develop sustainable energy sources rather than sticking with an energy of finite resource.

One of the reasons I'm really into this is that with soaring energy costs, people are finding it more and more difficult to heat their homes, and with the need for affordable homes greater than ever, it makes sense that we do everything possible to encourage developers to acknowledge this and incorporate sustainable energy sources into affordable home sites.

I was impressed with the ever increasing range of domestic micro renewables (I think those wee windmills out of B&Q are a bit naff though) and clearly there is a big future for this kind of electricity/heat generation in our communities.

Traffic

Following on from the Long Journey post, I have been back and forward to Edinburgh a couple of times over the past few days and the traffic first thing in the morning is horrendous. Not just getting from Arbroath to Edinburgh, but even from the Edinburgh side of the Forth Road Bridge into town takes ages.

I would be the first person to take the train but for several reasons. First of all, it seems to take half a day to get from Arbroath to Edinburgh. Secondly, the train is often so overcrowded that you often have to stand for most of the journey. Thirdly, the toilets are often in a really, really bad way. Last of all, to travel on this third world style of transport, they charge you a kings bloody ransom! If I'm going to be late, I would be as well being late in the comfort of my car, where at least I get peace and quiet from people who are not tanking themselves up on cheap wine and hurling abuse at one another.

Sunday, 3 February 2008

Long Journey

A big thanks to the complete tube who drove his or her high sided vehicle across the Forth Road Bridge on Thursday in weather conditions that would have made Scott of the Antartic think twice.

Girlfriend lives about 10 mins away from the Forth Rd Bridge and I can normally make it to Arbroath from her place in around 90 minutes (its longer from my place as I'm more central). I had left her house in plenty of time to get to Arbroath for a 9:00am start so I could get a few hours work in before I went to a Licensing Board meeting at 4:00pm.

That said, the above lorry on its side caused the bridge to be closed to northbound traffic, which was diverted via the Kincardine bridge. It was complete chaos and I didnt actually get to Arbroath until almost 2:00pm. The traffic was crawling and there was a 10 mile tailback. I had filled up the tank the night before and most of it was gone by the time I got to Arbroath. On top of that, the work that I should have done on Thursday morning had to be done yesterday. How many thousands of people were inconvenienced and how many hours of productivity were lost due to this one person?

I wouldn't complain but for the fact that the weather conditions were so bad through the night I wondered for the safety of the roof. Given the weather, why did no-one close the bridge to high sided vehicles? Why did the driver risk driving the vehicle across in the first place? Will anyone be held accountable? Probably not...............