Thursday, 4 February 2016

Time to Talk day,a mental health initiative making a difference

To the mental health campaign Time to change has its Time to talk day

Time to Talk Day

Time to Talk Day - Thursday 4th February 2016

Join us and let’s get the nation talking about mental health to help end the misconceptions around it. 
Mental health problems affect 1 in 4 people every year, yet too often people are afraid to talk about 
their experiences because they fear it will affect their jobs or relationships. That’s not right and it’s 
why we need your help to break the silence and end the stigma.

A release from a local mental health charity sets the scene
We’ve got lots of things going on to celebrate the day and raise awareness of 
mental health; from here in Liverpool – where our Head Office is based –   
to London and throughout the UK.
Our staff in London are at ASDA with Sutton Uplift, giving people the opportunity 
to stop by and talk to them about mental health issues;
 our Health and Wellbeing Practitioner, Laura Henry, is representing Imagine 
at a Time to Talk event in Central Station here in Liverpool and the
 Redbridge office are hosting their own event… to name but a few!


To join the conversation on Twitter, keep an eye on our own coverage of the 
day’s events and help to raise awareness of mental health, check out
@ImagineIndep01 and use the hashtag #timetotalk.

Monday, 1 February 2016

The British Lawnmower Museum and the town that dare not speak its name

The famous Lawnmower Museum which gets post addressed to Stockport

A rare thing happened last week, the town spoke with one voice. The packed town hall meeting agreed that in developing the town there were a number of key challenges:
  • Rail links to the North and East
  • Maintaining the line to Manchester Piccadilly and Airport
  • Improving roads to the North and East
  • Promoting the town's name and a commensurate dropping of the failed and hated  'Seftonisation' approach
  • make the most of the legacy : Lord St., The Pier, Botanic Gardens etc
  • the town is a place people want to live and commute from 
  • as with past generations we need to 'chase the sea' as it disappears on the western horizon and to that end there was universal enthusiasm for the idea of a energy producing tidal lagoon which would reach out to where the beach now is
  • the promised tram to link Central 12, Chapel Street station, Lord St., Neville Street, Ocean Plaza and the Prom

Over a hundred folk packed into the council chamber at the town hall to discuss the strategy for the town produced by a firm of consultants. (I have always liked David Penhaligon's definition of an expert-someone who comes from 50 miles away.) The standard of the discussion was extremely high. Many people had thought deeply about the future of the town and the steps that need to be taken. We had hoteliers, architects, retailers, transport campaigners, the guerrilla gardeners who have done so much to beautify Lord Street/Botanic Gardens/Rotten Row etc, cyclist, motor cyclists, bird watchers, retired Sandgrouder who had come back home and Ollie from the Champion newspaper and many others besides.

Very quickly a consensus emerged that the key impediment to our economic development was the poor transport links to the town especially coming from the north and the east-bearing in mind that we have the Irish Sea on west side of the town- that represents 95% of the land boundary with which we have problems.

First let us look at rail link. We have been repeated failed by the sub region's transport planning. It is centred on the city. Large towns like us that seek to attract visitors from Manchester, Preston, Wigan and all point other than through the narrow corridor to the south have been ignored. Dr Jim Ford  gave voice to the concern that we have been sold out again by Merseytravel. A review of the routes that form part of the northern franchise has seen proposed improvement in all of them, except one. The line into our town from Manchester Airport, Bolton and Piccadilly looks destined to be cut. Once again the demand of the city have led them to ignore our plight. Let us be clear the existing rolling stock and track are a disgrace, You could not seriously suggest that anyone approached the town by train from that direction, it would most certainly put them off.

Through the narrow corridor to the south there is a regular train service. It is excellent for commuters but for day trippers, conference goers, weekenders, and those struggling with luggage it is not so good.  This is not least of all because the 40 minute journey is punctuated by stops every couple of minutes and the trains are not built for taking passenger luggage.

In what ever direction you travel by rail the connection to a mainline, north, south or east is, shall we say, awkward.

The same is true by road. If we were to target visitors within an hour's drive of the town that would not represent many people to the north and east. This is despite the presence of large urban conurbations near to us. The roads are not fit for purpose. If you come from the M58 the chances are that you will be held up in the bottle neck that is Ormskirk.  Travelling from the north is not a lot better.

It is therefore our number one priority to sort out the transport links. It doesn't matter how good our 'offer' is if it is nightmare to get here. Mind you once you arrive the communication within the town is equally poor. We were promised that the Pier tram would be extended up through Ocean Plaza, Chapel Street and Central 12

There was sustained applause for all those who wanted to have the town's name better promoted. There were numerous examples of people not having heard of us, even our prestigious attraction the National Lawn Mower Museum gets post addressed to Stockport.

 My colleague, Tony Dawson, recently emailed me a link to a Demos Report 'Talk of the Town'. The report looks at the fate of towns on the periphery of Cities. Surprise, surprise they do appreciably less well in socio economic development that the Cities. Although the impact was observed in the North and the South it was appreciably more pronounced in the north -particularly on Merseyside. Whilst reading report I noticed a reference to work undertaken by ONS which identified that the people had a preference to live in towns with a clear sense of identity -which makes the repeated attempts by bureaucrats to absorb our identity into a city 20 odd  miles away. This confirms the point made by Mr Woodward from the public gallery that ours is a town people choose to live in and commute from-and not just to Liverpool but (despite the atrocious road and rail links) Manchester, Preston and Wigan. In this context there was much discussion about neglect of the town, the impact of out of town shopping, and the excellent work volunteers carry out to maintain the things that enhance 'liveability'  and wellbeing in the town-the Lord Street guerrilla gardeners, the Rotton Row Project, Botanic gardens etc .

There was universal agreement over the creation of an energy producing tidal lagoon. This would give us back our beach provide an even bigger venue for the 24 yacht race as well as the environmental aspect of clean, sustainable energy production . Indeed the promotion of 'green tourism' was a theme. There is general disappointment that 30 years on from saving the marshes the Marshside RSPB reserve has very few facilities- two hides and a porta-loo

I will return to this issue. In the meantime let us be proud to promote the town's name. We are Southport not North Sefton and we lie on the estuary of the River Ribble.

Monday, 7 December 2015

Birkdale Post Office changes details

The Post office have sent me information about changes to the Birkdale Village Post Office.

I should point out that other Post Offices are available in Birkdale at Spar in Liverpool Rd and also in Cemetery Rd, and these are not impacted by the changes in the village

Friday, 20 November 2015

The new Labour recruits are so hostile to Free Trade that surley they should join the antis in the referendum

The Atkinson Southport
Last night we stood in silence to remember those who had died in Paris and in memory of two former Councillors David Pearson and Charlie Hopkins at the full Council meeting.

For a long time now the majority group have been unusually silent at such meeting when it comes to proposing motions but the restraint has clearly now been lifted and we had a glimpse of what the new Labour intake think.  Firstly they think Tories and anyone who works with them are beyond the pale and secondly they believe that it the Labour Party can do no wrong. A simple motion proposed by Lib Dems at a previous meeting was re presented with any hint of criticism of Labour purged and a litany of everyone else's evil doing added. So far just what you would expect from Bootle Labour.

The really interesting debate was on TTIP. I listened with an uneasy feeling that I had been transported back forty years to the time of EU referendum. We had a full blown attack on the principle of Free Trade. The arguments offered were the same as those deployed by Benn, Corbyn et al. at that time. They so hate our economic system that they can see no good in it. Every rumour, every half truth is believed. It does strike me that if they are so hostile to the principle of Free Trade the only logical position they can take is to join the anti side in the upcoming referendum.

Thursday, 8 October 2015

Tallis, Moore, Sprackland, National Poerty Day Spem in Alium

The Birkdale blog has written about Jean Sprackland before, this week she turns up on the radio in Essential Classics which is entirely appropriate as it is National Poetry Day.  You can hear her on iplayer and there will be a podcast later on if you come upon this after the full broadcast ceases to be available.

One of the pieces of music she chose was Spem in Alium  from Thomas Tallis -arguably the greatest English composer. In the broadcast she recalls hearing this 40 part motet at the Tate in Liverpool where and there was an art installation based on the piece by Janet Cardiff

The only time I have heard a live performance of the motet was in Liverpool Cathedral where the eight choir were arranged around the foot of the tower. It is undoubtedly a masterpiece even if it was written in response to an outburst of hurt national pride. The Italian composer Alessandro Striggio (c. 1536/1537 – February 29, 1592) wrote a 40 part motet Ecce beatam lucem for 40 independent voices. This was performed to great acclaim in London and the cry went up-is there not an English composer who can achieve such wonders. Tallis obliged. In Southport I notice that next Sunday at Holy Trinity there is a service dedicated to the piece.

It is not a surprise that there has always been an inwarding looking section of English opinion. Thankfully the open, outward looking majority in Britain always asserts itself. During national poetry day I heard read one of the best ever declaration of that more generous, liberal approach in a speech from a Shakespeare play, The Book of Sir Thomas Moore,  that I have never seen or heard performed.

Grant them removed, and grant that this your noise
Hath chid down all the majesty of England;
Imagine that you see the wretched strangers,
Their babies at their backs and their poor luggage,
Plodding to the ports and coasts for transportation,
And that you sit as kings in your desires
,Authority quite silent by your brawl,
And you in ruff of your opinions clothed;
What had you got? I’ll tell you: you had taught
How insolence and strong hand should prevail,
How order should be quelled; and by this pattern
Not one of you should live an aged man,
For other ruffians, as their fancies wrought,
With self same hand, self reasons, and self right,
Would shark on you, and men like ravenous fishes
Would feed on one another….Say now the king
Should so much come too short of your great trespass
As but to banish you, whether would you go?
What country, by the nature of your error,
Should give you harbour? go you to France or Flanders,
To any German province, to Spain or Portugal,
Nay, any where that not adheres to England,
Why, you must needs be strangers: would you be pleased
To find a nation of such barbarous temper,
That, breaking out in hideous violence,
Would not afford you an abode on earth,
Whet their detested knives against your throats,
Spurn you like dogs, and like as if that God
Owed not nor made not you, nor that the claimants
Were not all appropriate to your comforts,
But chartered unto them, what would you think
To be thus used? this is the strangers case;
And this your mountainish inhumanity. 


Here is Sir Ian McKellen performing the speech after first putting the piece in to context.

Thursday, 27 August 2015

A wet day in Northampton

Travelling up from London I got 'detrained' at Northampton due to a shortage of crew. It was the day that Northants were playing Australia but due to the downpour the game was off for the day.

I asked around about the where abouts of the statue of the town's Radical MP Charles Bradlaugh. I was mostly met with blank looks and offered to the directions to the pub named after him

Finally, at the tourist information office-and after some research, I was directed to a small traffic island close to the cricket ground where the yellow statue stands.

Bradlaugh's battles rumbled on through Gladstone's second government and apart from boots and shoes he remains the most remarkable thing about Northampton. There is a portrait of him in the town museum

Saturday, 8 August 2015

The Allotment and stress reduction

 The bright morning sun woke me unreasonably early this morning, so rather than lie-in complaining about the pain in my shoulder I decided to pay an early visit to the allotment.

Nobody else was about when I arrived but during the next couple of hours -before most people's breakfast- two more plot holders cycled by.

Having lifted the potatoes already ( salad variety Nicola and a poor crop of Shetland Black) the second two beds are empty except for some leeks that the sharp eyed observers will have noted. The front bed with the fine meshed insect barrier around it contains a fine crop of carrots and parsnips. The great danger to carrots comes from the carrot fly. It is not a very athletic bug and cannot get more than 18 inches off the ground-hence the open top barrier arrangement. Mind you it is reputed to have a magnificent sense of smell and will home in on a carrot patch from great distance.

The first bed with the blue hoops which supporting netting is strawberries -variety Maris de Bois. They have been excellent this year and really do live up to their billing.

The next bed -again with blue hoops is for winter brassicas-cabbage (Durham early) kale, cauliflowers and sprouting broccoli. Beyond that the onions and garlic have been lifted. On the right hand side are the runner beans and borlotti beans  followed by a gooseberry bush and then dwarf purple beans . And beyond that are my three Ben Sarek Blackcurrant buses. Alongside them are the pumpkins-Crown Prince(the best culinary squash/pumpkin) and Sumo. Mollie and I won first prize in the Ainsdale Show with s Sumo pumpkin one year. At the back are the Raspberry canes Joan J and at the very front right is my red currant bush bought from Wilkos in an end of season sale-the variety is unknown.

It is amazing how a couple of hours on the plot can revive my spirits and take my mind of the pain in my shoulder-mind you I have no doubt that my aches and pains will return to trouble my sleep tonight

Friday, 24 July 2015

Birkdale cat poisoner at large

I returned home to be told by my student daughter that i must not put the cat out because cats in Birkdale are being poisoned. It turns out she is right. The Visiter has the full story
A worrying number of incidents have taken place in an area of Birkdale

510 Shares Share Tweet +1 LinkedIn Felix, 17, was found covered in a mystery liquid and said to be acting 'like he was on drugs' Southport pet owners have been warned to keep an eye on their cats after reports of 'intentional poisonings and cat abductions'.

Joanna Worsley, of Jaspers Alley Cats shelter said: "There have been a shocking number of incidents in a small area of Birkdale."

Owner Jacqui Elizabeth says her two cats were fed salmon doused in weed killer a few weeks ago. She said: "I'd just gone to bed and I heard one of my cats making a strange noise.

"I rushed outside and there was a man at the end of the drive, but he fled as soon as he saw me. My daughter chased after him but he got away.

"There were chunks of salmon on the floor and my cat, Georgie, had eaten some. The other cat, Felix, was covered in some kind of liquid and was acting like he was drunk or on drugs

Thursday, 9 July 2015

distributism and related issues

Commenting on the budget last night Jonathan Calder wrote: Tax credits are a way of subsiding bad employers from the public purse and are a move towards the intermeshing of the power of the state and the power of capital that Belloc warned about in The Servile State.

There is new interest in the ideas promoted by Chesterton and Belloc in The Servile State that became known as Distibutism.  The list of Liberals who have been influenced by them includes Elliot Dodds  (and the Ownership for All movement) Jo Grimond who launched many of the ideas that fuelled the Liberal revival  in the collection of essays edited by George Watson entitled The Unservile State. Later E F Schumacher drew on his ideas in Small is Beautiful. David Boyle over on the Real Blog often champions distributism and most recently he made the case for a radical housing policy:

I've come to believe, as a modern Distributist, that the way forward has to be building new homes and then giving them away - on three important conditions:
  • They do not go back onto the open market and fuel house price inflation (ownership need not imply the right to sell).
  • They stay at the same nominal price they were originally sold for, ratcheting down the rest of the market, perhaps for a generation or so.
  • They are built in sufficient numbers to satisfy demand.
It is of course easy to poke fun at Chesterton. Robert Oakeshott - a collaborator with Jo Grimond in establishing what is today known as The Employee Ownership Association- in his book The Case for Workers' Co-ops (1978) wrote:

There are many reasons why the reformist suggestions put forward by Belloc and Chesterton under the name of distributism were largely ignored when first published and have since been almost forgotten. The Pre Raphaelite outer garments of peasant smocks, the idealized mediaeval impedimenta of maypole and village tavern with which their proposed reforms seemed inextricably tangled, can only have discouraged 'political economists' from taking them seriously.... 

Nevertheless their ideas and those of Catholic Social policy were very influential in the Liberal Party in the inter war years. Dodds, a Congregationalist lay preacher, read widely the works of continental thinkers such as Jacques Maritain. This school of thought was the motivation behind Father José María Arizmendiarrieta who established the Co-ops in Mondragon that so impressed Jo Grimond and Robert Oakeshott.

But back to the budget. In 1983 at a meeting of the Policy Committee chaired by Richard Wainwright a paper was tabled that was written by James Meade- this was in the day when we took advice from Nobel Prize winning economists rather than self interested City folk. If my memory serves we well it was about a New Keynesian Approach to Full Employment.. Amongst other things it advocated Profit sharing (much beloved of the then Liberal Party) and now regrettably out of fashion, and taxing inflation (equally beloved of John Pardoe). The main focus was how you maintained full employment and fix wages and how that interacted with social security. I cannot remember all the details but it did look at how you took account of folks who required higher incomes to live decently because of responsibilities like caring, child care etc, which brings us back to tax credits. The trouble is that I can't remember Meades conclusion save that it did include the state picking up some of the cost

Wednesday, 8 July 2015

Death Duties, time to dust off a Liberal policy

Essentially abolish and start again with 'a rate graduated according to the size of the bequest and the existing wealth of the legatee, this would encourage the splitting up of large fortunes without state intervention.'

This policy grew out of the Liberal Party Report 'Ownership for All' chaired by Eliot Dodds published in 1938.

This policy was part of a wider approach which sought to radically redistribute wealth/ownership including taxation on land values, profit sharing, as well as graduated death duties levied depending on the wealth of the recipient not the giver. This is the alternative approach to equality not based on state doles