Friday, March 24, 2017

Flags at half mast

flags at half mast Gateshead Mar 17

Following the terror attacks in London, the flags were at half mast outside Gateshead Civic Centre yesterday. I'm still trying to comprehend what drives people to murder randomly selected innocent people as part of a political war. Or perhaps there is nothing to comprehend. ISIS is simply a cult of death, modern day Nazis.

Thursday, March 23, 2017

Pro-EU flag waving event in Gateshead

This event was held on Gateshead Quays on 14th March but I only got round to editing it today (conference got in the way). A display of EU flags to demonstrate people's support for Europe.

Wednesday, March 22, 2017

Extending the Kingsway Community Orchard

Kingsway Community Orchard planting session Mar 17 (82)

Yesterday, our project to extend Kingsway Community Orchard in Sunniside took a big step forward. 20 volunteers from the Princes Trust, a couple of officers from Gateshead Council, Cllr Marilynn Ord and I planted 100 fruit trees, more than trebling the orchard from the 46 that were planted 5 years ago. The total cost of the project was £200 - I was able to negotiate a bargain price with Groundwork, the environmental charity that was selling the trees. Given that trees tend to cost about £25 each, we got 100 for the price of 8. There has been a great deal of rain today so the trees have had a good soaking.

Kingsway Community Orchard planting session Mar 17 (50)

Kingsway Community Orchard planting session Mar 17 (52)

Me in my best fur coat - my donkey jacket!

Kingsway Community Orchard planting session Mar 17 (43)

Kingsway Community Orchard planting session Mar 17 (41)

Kingsway Community Orchard planting session Mar 17 (35)

Marking Labour's homework

Labour motion correction Mar 17

A Labour motion about cuts to school budgets was debated last Thursday. We supported it, despite the large number of grammatical and punctuation errors and unnecessary padding it contained. The mover of the motion was Cllr Chris McHugh who was, until recently, a teacher. As I believe he had a major role in writing the motion, I decided to mark and correct his homework and hand it back to him during the debate. He came back with quite a good riposte - he will consult me on punctuation in future but not on politics! I think that made it a score draw!

Sunday Conference Photos

Conference hall Sunday 19 Mar 17 (2)

These are a bit late as I've been rather busy this week but here are a few photos from Lib Dem conference on Sunday morning. The auditorium was the most crowded I have ever seen it for a leader's speech. And Tim Farron was at his best. I'm pleased he was prepared to talk about patriotism. I'm fed up with the way the Right has hijacked patriotism and it's time to reclaim it.

Conference hall Sunday 19 Mar 17 (15)

Conference hall Sunday 19 Mar 17 (30)

Conference hall Sunday 19 Mar 17 (24)

Conference hall Sunday 19 Mar 17 (28)

Party President Sal Brinton introduces everyone's favourite bit of conference: the appeal, led by Mike Germain, Jackie Pearcey and Liz Leffman.

And so to Tim's speech:

Tim Farron speech Mar 17 (8)

Tim Farron speech Mar 17 (24)

Tim Farron speech Mar 17 (28)

Tim Farron speech Mar 17 (50)

Tim Farron speech Mar 17 (52)

Tim Farron speech Mar 17 (53)

Monday, March 20, 2017

Marking up the orchard

Kingsway Orchard Mar 17 (4)

Tomorrow (Tuesday) we shall be planting 100 trees in the Kingsway Community orchard in Sunniside. My job today was to plan the location for each tree and mark it in line paint. Work starts tomorrow with the delivery of the trees from Groundwork at 7.30am. Planting takes place through the morning.

Sunday, March 19, 2017

Saturday Pics from Conference

conference auditorium Mar 17 (5)

The Trident debate. I sat at the back of the hall and had a good view when the vote was taken. It was clear to me without a count that the unilateralist amendment was defeated.

Conference exhibition Mar 17 (11)

Tim Farron meets President Obama

Conference exhibition Mar 17 (13)

Conference exhibition Mar 17 (10)

Conference exhibition Mar 17 (7)

For some reason Lib Dems like cuddly animals.

Conference exhibition Mar 17 (2)

I love the gravestone. Very appropriate for Labour.

Tim Farron Q&A Mar 17 (11)

Tim Farron Q&A Mar 17 (7)

Tim Farron Q&A. A much better performance than Jeremy Corbyn at PMQs.

Jackie Pearcey Mar 17 (3)

Jackie Pearcey - taking on Labour's 24,000 majority in Manchester Gorton. Apparently Labour have a few local difficulties in the by-election, all to do with Labour fighting themselves. Thanks Labour comrades for  making life a little bit easier for us!

Conference exhibition Mar 17 (14)

Free on the Parliamentary Candidates Association stand, written by yours truly.

Union jacks, EU flags and lots of shouting at conference

Tim Farron Euro flag union jack Mar 17 (10)

I thought I had retired from doing formal photo ops at Lib Dem conferences but, it was not to be. I was asked to do the photos at a session late yesterday afternoon, with Tim Farron, lots of members, some EU flags and some union jacks. This meant lots of shouting by me at people to get them all into the shot. Herding cats and herding Lib Dems comes to mind.

Friday, March 17, 2017

Arguably the best conference rally yet

York Conference rally Mar 17 (1)

It's Lib Dem spring conference and for the second year running, we are in York. I arrived this afternoon, complete with cameras, tripod, laptop and 2 day's worth of underwear. As is always the case, conference rally is held on the Friday evening. Tonight's was by far the best attended I have experienced. That may be down to the fact that about a quarter of the people in the conference hall were new members. There were some great speeches but Nick Clegg stole the show with an absolute barnstorming performance. Europe was the theme but speaker after speaker made at least some reference to inept, useless Labour who have abdicated their role of official opposition.

So conference is starting well and will hopefully continue in the same vein.

Commonwealth Day flag-raising ceremony

I represented the Gateshead Lib Dem Council Group on Monday at the Commonwealth Day flag-raising ceremony at the Civic Centre. This is the video I filmed on the day.

9-year-olds hunt in packs

Washingwell School History Talk Mar 17 (1)

With my historian's hat on, I was invited as part of Sunniside History Society's Fugar history project to do a talk to a class of 28 nine year olds at Washingwell School about life as a peasant 800 years ago. The focus of the talk was food and I took in with me some of the foods eaten in 1217 (nettles, wild garlic, a fresh trout, 2 quail, pig's trotters and pig's head). I also took in a selection of foods used today and the children had to work out whether or not those same foods would have been available 800 years ago.

I was grilled for an hour and a half by the children. I was exhausted by the end of the lesson. I was sent a note afterwards by a friend via Facebook that in her experience as a mother, 9-year-olds hunt in packs and she congratulated me on getting out alive!

Sunniside History Society 25th Anniversary

Sunniside History Society 25th anniversary Mar 17 (8)

On Tuesday last week, Sunniside History Society celebrated its 25th anniversary. Founded in March 1992, it has been going strongly ever since. A celebration was held to mark the occasion with a birthday cake (cut by Eleanor Baty, one of the founders) and a quiz about events of 1992. My job was to write and present the quiz. It was a great evening and hopefully the Society will continue to be active in the next 25 years.

Sunniside History Society 25th anniversary Mar 17 (10)

In case you are interested, here are the questions. There were 2 sections. The first was about events of the year. My plan initially was to have one event from each month of 1992. I found that a few months had no outstanding events that would be remembered 25 years later so other months are over-represented. So how many of the following events can you remember? (Answers in brackets.):

1)February Which major sporting event took place this month and which country hosted it? Winter Olympics, France Albertville

2)February Who was caught with their pants down? Paddy Ashdown

3)February Which film won Oscars for Jodie Foster and Anthony Hopkins? Silence of the Lambs

4)March Which North East MP was arrested on Hampstead Heath 2 days before the General Election was called and which constituency did this person represent? Alan Amos, Hexham

5)March Which royal couple announced they were separating? Prince Andrew and Sarah Ferguson

6)April John Major led the Conservatives to victory at the General Election. Which appropriately named horse won the Grand National a few days before? Party Politics

7)June The skeletons of which two people were found in Yekaterinburg in Russia? Tsar Nickolas and Tsarina Alexandra

8)June Which former Prime Minister entered the House of Lords? Baroness Thatcher

9)July The BBC launches which new soap opera? Eldorado

10)August Which city hosted the Olympics and how many gold medals did the UK win? Barcelona 5

11)September Britain suspended her membership of which international organisation? European Exchange Rate Mechanism

12)November Who won the US Presidential election, who was 2nd and who was 3rd? Bill Clinton, George HW Bush, Ross Pero

13)November Which major decision was taken by the Church of England? Ordination of women priests

14)November Which famous building went up in flames? Windsor Castle

15)November Which tv station, a joint venture of BBC and Thames Television, was launched? UK Gold

The send round was about prices in 1992. Members had to guess what certain goods cost that year. I've shown both 1992 and 2017 typical prices. By the way, from 1992 to the end of 2016, prices rose by 90% while wages increased by 117%.

Box of 20 cigarettes £2.08/£8.88

Average house price £52,187/£205,937

Litre of petrol 40.3p/120.9p

Nokia 101 £149.99 plus £25 plus VAT month line rental

Mortgage rate in May 1992 10%/3-4%

First class stamp 24p/64p

Frozen chicken per kg £1.55/£2.43

White sliced loaf bread 800g 73p/£1

Tea bags 250g £1.40/£3.98

Sugar 1kg 65p/69p

Milk 34p/pint/25p

Eggs £1.24/dozen/£1.75

Draft bitter £1.31/pint/£2.99

Wednesday, March 15, 2017

Video: taking Spotless to Whickham to meet the Bishop

On 4th March, I was invited to take a goat to Church Green where Planting Up Whickham were carrying out a maintenance day. The idea was that this would help to get the event noticed. The main guest at the event however was the Bishop of Carlisle. This is the video I shot on the day and includes an interview with Bishop James.

Spotless, the billy goat I took to the event, was remarkably well behaved on the day. Since the event I've had a number of people who have said they spotted me on the day with goat in tow. It's not what you expect to see often in the village!

Expanding Kingsway Community Orchard

Kingsway Community Orchard Mar 17 (2)

4 years ago, Cllr Marilynn Ord, Cllr John McClurey and I arranged for a community orchard to be planted on unused council land next to Kingsway, Sunniside. Gateshead Council's Local Community Fund (LCF) paid for 40 trees which were then planted by children from local schools. A year later, I was offered 6 fruit trees by a nursery if I gave them a free advert on my self-sufficiency blog ( The local police cadets helped to plant them.

Earlier this month I discovered Groundwork had a large number of fruit trees they were selling at bargain prices at the Central Nursery in Lobley Hill. I bought 10 at £3 each, four of which I gave to the Whinnies Community Garden (also in Sunniside), and six of which I planted in one of my allotments. I also negotiated a deal with Groundwork for 100 trees at a total cost of £200. The LCF will cover this.

With John and Marilynn, and officers from Gateshead Council, we are planning a planting event on Tuesday next week with local schools. My job to do in the meantime is to get a spraycan and mark up on the orchard site where each of the 100 trees will be planted. As I'm at Lib Dem conference this weekend, it looks like this will be a job for Friday morning and Sunday evening.

Once the trees are planted, we will still have less than half of the site used. The plan had always been to expand the orchard as and when we could lay our hands on some trees. So in the years ahead, we will continue to grow the project.

Kingsway Community Orchard Mar 17 (1)

Kingsway Community Orchard Mar 17 (3)