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November 2nd 2012
It is a blogging cliche, one particularly suffered by substandard blogs, to apologise for lengthy absences. So I shan't; not because I'm claiming a lack of substandardness, but because I've been off on holiday for the best part of a week, so this time it's not entirely my fault. Anyhow, lengthy absences are now more or less my calling card (especially now that even Ant has knocked together two entries in the same month) so if I apologise now I'm unlikely ever to stop.
So, my unsorriness explained, let's get down to business. Simon and I have gone on holiday together every summer for a few years now, but due to a lack of aforethought we took an October trip to Windermere rather than journeying in a warmer month: no matter, we thought, at least there won't be so many kids running around our Youth Hostel. Well, that's what we thought until someone pointed out that it was half-term week, and so it turned out that we'll have to wait till next year at least before we get to go on holiday without being surrounded by small children who burst noisily into tears because they "can't draw the shape". I am, I have discovered for the umpteenth time, in awe of people who have children. Particularly those people who have children and don't clip them round the ear thirty or forty times a day. Thank goodness I was a paragon of quiet virtue throughout my childhood.
Anyways, Northern England in October is not the least rainy place you'll ever stumble across, but with the benefit of an umbrella in my case and a hat in Simon's, we were generally not too badly off, and even caught a little bit of sunshine at one point. Thankfully youth hostels these days seem all to be open throughout the day, whereas in the past most of them wouldn't let you in until 5pm or so, so we could get dry and drink tea whenever we wanted - and if that is not the very definition of happiness, I don't know what is.
While on a walk to Ambleside (second-hand bookshops: nil) I challenged Simon to see who could take the better photograph of a stream - perhaps a rill - that we passed, and my own effort is shown below. Simon deleted his, so I am claiming victory by default. Pow!

Stream? Rill? Brook? Beck?

Further photos from the trip can be found here.
Having exhausted the Lake District, we went our separate ways and I pitched up at Anthony and Becca's, giving me ample opportunity on their forthcoming parenthood (my campaign to get them to name their child Colin is going just as well as all my other campaigns to get people to name their children Colin) and to see Rich. I also saw Jen & James for the first time since Uni, met Amanda, played darts for the first time in many years, played frisbee golf for the first time ever (awesome game) and failed to help Anthony blow up a mattress in a car, despite my sterling work in sitting there and watching him try to do it. The reason we were in the car, since you ask, was that the only attachment the air compressor came with was an in-car one, and we didn't want to make too much noise because it was fairly late. I'm not sure what our next move was going to be when the mattress became too large for the space inside the car, but fortunately it never came to that.
My week off is now officially over, and on Monday morning I will be trudging back to office to however many emails I've managed to accumulate in a week... wish me luck.

On this day in 2010... If a film is called π, you at least expect them to get the maths right.

November 4th 2012
If, like me, you're a resident of the fine city of Bristol, you should recently have received from the City Council a booklet about all the candidates in the Bristol Mayoral Election, due to take place on Thursday week. In case you're wondering what it looks like, it helpfully has the phrases "Bristol Mayoral Election", "Thursday 15th November 2012" and "The Candidates" in big white letters atop a picture of everyone's favourite suspension bridge (if you haven't got one, you can find it here).
As a public service to you all, I will look at each candidate in turn and give you my thoughts on them. This may not impact your decision (FYI I voted Conservative in the last general election, and plan to again in the next one. If that sends you running, I'm sorry. But next time, you can just hit Alt+F4) but there might be one or two laughs along the way, and at least it saves you having to read the booklet yourself. Anyways, if you are a Bristolian - city; not county - then I urge you to get to you local polling station between 7am and 10pm on 15th November and mark your first and (should you wish) second choice for mayordom. If no one wins a clear majority, the top two candidates are kept in and the second preference votes from everyone else are then counted; a semi-AV system that is actually much fairer than AV, even if we didn't vote for it. Anways, I hope this is helpful to someone... I'm reading the booklet so you don't have to.

Tom Baldwin Trade Unionists and Socialists Against Cuts
www.tusc.org.uk & www.socialistparty.org.uk
I'll be honest, Tom's not the kind of chap that I'll even consider voting for, since his entire platform is based on not making any cuts (the clue is in the party name) and, in these days when even Ed Balls admits that that can't work, it's a pretty unstable platform. I could delve deeply into his policies, but it might be easier for you simply to conjure up the most infantile statements you can imagine a lunatic fringe lefty spouting, and you won't be far off. Oh, OK then, here's one from the booklet: "The bankers gorge themselves with obscene bonuses."
Of the two website he lists, the TUSC does little other than mention that he's standing (and is young), and the Socialist Party don't even bother with going that far. Tom is indeed the youngest candidate, at only 29, and will no doubt go on to enjoy a long career of haranguing the government and blaming rich people for everything. Fortunately, he is unlikely to do so as Bristol's mayor.

Tony Britt Independent
No website
Anthony Britt - Tony to his friends - has really not made an effort with his entry in the booklet, as it looks like something you might cobble together in Word if you had fifteen minutes to prepare a candidate statement and didn't know how to change the default font. He even heads it with the warm and friendly opener: "Bristol Mayoral Election Independent Candidate Statement". Sadly, the time that Tony saved by making a rubbish document was not used to ask anyone what they thought of his policies, because there can't be many people around who wouldn't have told him that they were a little odd. Personally I quite like the idea of reduced council tax for people who register to vote, except that registering to vote is already a legal obligation, as far as I'm aware, and personally I wouldn't have introduced Cromwell into the argument, as Tony does. But it gets worse. Sticking with the council tax theme, Tony's next idea is to ask "ask people who can afford it to pay four years council tax in advance (index linked)", and even though it might mean more actuarial work in Bristol - who else is going to predict the next four years worth of inflation? - I'm unlikely to vote for a chap who then asks me to stump up several thousand pounds, which may or may not be returned to me if I move out of the city. By the time he got to his plan to "encourage elderly and disabled people to become new Traffic Wardens", I was somewhat bemused.
So, Tony won't be getting my vote. It may not surprise him: a comment by someone purporting to be him on bristol-democracy.org says: "Money will always shake the hand of money.I would like to say to people vote for me because i am 200/1 to win and thats a good bet."

Tim Collins Independent
Tim Collins shares his name with a baddie on Neighbours from some years ago (who, if I remember rightly, became a goodie and then a baddie again), but we shouldn't hold that against a man who, I have learned, has 60 Facebook friends.
In all seriousness, Tim is clearly a man who is very proud of Bristol and its history, proclaiming that "we have always shown ourselves to be entrepeneurs, industrious engineers, scientists and artists", and chest-thumping rhetoric like that can be very persuasive. I like the idea of voting for an independent in this race, and Tim emphasises why it's a point in his favour by pledging to lobby for a Greater Bristol Transport Authority that is 'independent of political whims'. Good plan. He's definitely on my 'maybe' list, but I'm worried that the bulk of his manifesto is given over to the preservation of Filton Airfield, a niche issue that makes me wonder if he, like so many independents, is a single-issue campaigner who will not be much cop if he actually gets into power.

Dave Dobbs The Birthday Party
Dave Dobbs is the gift that keeps on giving, and he alone makes it worth reading the booklet. Most candidates lead off with their key policy statement; Dave, instead, gives pride of place to cartoon of Noah's Ark as a paddle steamer, and his headline is: "Is Dave Dobbs insane to believe the Water from the Great Flood came from Mars?". The answer, in case you were wondering, is that he isn't: "Insanity is actually doing the same thing over and over again and expecting a different result. But this is Dobbs's first time he's believed the water came from Mars." It's difficult to argue with logic like that, and indeed I won't try.
Other highlights include Dave's pledge to run the whole of Bristol through social networks, the fact that he is homeless and his suggestion that the moon is a planet. Turning to his website, we see that he is the author of a 'romantic and deeply obscure psychedelic thriller', he appears to believe that the world will end on December 21st at 11:11am (one wonders why he is aiming for mayordom for such a short period of time) and he, in fact, regards the entire mayoral election as 'a complete reversal of our democracy and a reversal of our evolution.' He writes in a manner you tend to see only in the blogs left behind by mass-murderers. Or Trenton Oldfield.

George Ferguson Bristol 1st
As I said above, I'm quite keen to vote for an independent candidate, and (although technically not independent, because he represents the Bristol 1st party) George Ferguson may well be the man who gets my first choice vote. George is a former architect - and erstwhile Bristol Evening Post columnist - and was the first person to declare his interest in becoming a candidate, before the referendum was held, apparently in an effort to encourage others to do likewise. He has benefited from plenty of publicity in the Post, who seem to have taken a shine to him, although he came a bit unstuck in September when he described a bad policy as being 'a bit Irish'. Not a gaffe by Boris standards, perhaps, but still not very clever, and there may also be some around here who regard his description of Bradley Stoke as 'soulless and devoid of any inspiration' as not his finest hour. In fairness to the chap, he made the comments nearly ten years ago, has since apologised, and was, let's be honest, spot on.
The most disappointing thing about George is how little effort he's put into his booklet entry. It looks very polished, and stands out almost as much as his trademark red trousers, but it is entirely devoid of policy (unless you count 'putting Bristol first' and the reassurance that George has a 'great vision for Bristol'). If you head to his website, however, you will discover his seven point plan, with a host of pledges that are specific enough to be meaningful but don't make the mistake of being too esoteric. Have a read for yourself and see what you think.

Rich Fisher Independent
www.mephistos-island.co.uk & www.facebook.com/richfisher4mayor
For reasons best known to himself, Rich didn't include his web address in the booklet, instead telling readers: "to see my Manifesto in more detail please Google 'Rifix Design'". Luckily for you, I've done the leg-work here, and his website is given above. If you're a fan of rocket ships and floating saxophones, you should take a once-in-a-lifetime opportunity here and check it out. If you're not, it probably won't hold much interest for you.
Rich studied Graphic Design at Bristol, and if the booklet and his website are anything to go by, I don't recommend the course. It's a shame, because he seems like a decent chap, despite looking a bit like what you'd expect Dave Dobbs to look like - I won't be voting for him, but I wouldn't put him in the top three maddest candidates. He is one of several candidates who's complained about not being invited to hustings, as the BBC reported here, although apparently he did make it to the one on Friday evening.

Stoney Garnett Independent
No website
Stoney, a part time comedian, former postman and ertswhile unofficial Bristol City FC employee (before being banned from the ground), has the best name of anyone in this election. Although apparently his real name is actually Garnett Farmer. He wears a red hat and makes terrible jokes, and according to his interview in the Post is 100% for Bristolians. He may or may not have appeared in an episode of Robin of Sherwood. But since he doesn't appear in the official booklet (no reason is provided), he is unlikely to pick up masses of votes.

Owain George Independent
Owain sounds suspiciously Welsh, but has 'run businesses in Bristol employing local people for over 7 years' (does that mean 8 years?) and told the BBC that he's eager for people to come to Bristol rather than go straight to Cardiff. What he doesn't mention in his booklet entry is that he is the landlord of The Albion pub in Clifton, which might distract him from his mayorly duties. As far as I'm aware, I've never visited the Albion, so I can't comment on how his pub-running skills might translate into the business of 'building a Great Bristol'.
Owain's five point plan includes three points relating to reducing Bristol City Council: eliminating their unnecessary intereference, getting rid of their buildings and analysing their structure to see if it still reflects what we need. It's safe to say that he probably doesn't have a huge amount of support inside the Council offices. The remaining two points are supporting ideas that put Bristol on the map (accurate cartography is a key pledge for several candidates) and - this last being his key idea, in fact - recognising that cars are the preferred means of travel. Although he insists that this does not mean that he is "against bicycles, or buses or public transport in general", I must admit that I was put off by his promise to stop the extension of bus & cycle lanes - we are supposed to be Britain's first cycling city, after all - and was not persuaded by his justification that 'this is not Center Parcs'. I mean, it's not. I agree with him there. But what's his point?

Geoff Gollop Conservative Party
The first of the candidates from the main parties, Geoff devotes a sizeable chunk of his pages to the fact that Boris Johnson backs him, which you would have thought was more or less a given (although, Boris being Boris, I suppose there's no such thing as a given). Boris, indeed, was in Bristol this week to support the cause, and took the time to tell some local protestors to 'bog off'. Anyways, Boris's influence must be rubbing off: Geoff is a keen proponent of a Oyster Card style system in the city, as well as "more safe cycle routes criss-crossing Bristol". So far, so good. His pledges for better education are more nebulous, and his plan to introduce a Bristol School Olympics by 2013 sounds suspiciously like jumping on an Olympic bandwagon that has already rolled out of town.
That said, I am much taken by his 365 days of change manifesto, in which he confidently states what he will have achieved by November 15 2013 if he is elected mayor - including a freeze 'or even reduction' in council tax. Talk is cheap, but it's a bold move and he'll probably get my second preference vote on polling day.

Neil Maggs The Respect Party
It's always a little surprising to discover that there are people other than George Galloway in the Respect Party, whose sole consistent policy seems to be a pledge to get George Galloway into power, but it turns out that we have Neil here in Bristol. Reading his booklet entry, I rather think that he would be better off voting for Tom Baldwin and his Trade Unionists and Socialists Against Cuts Party, since Neil is a Trade Unionist who describes himself as the Anti Cuts candidate. Readers who remember my thoughts on Tom will be unsurprised to learn that I am equally unkeen to vote for Neil, even if he is - controversially - "against all forms of racism". He also wants to bring our troops home, introduce a Robin Hood tax, alleviate the suffering of the Palestinian people and get Bristol City FC promoted, all of which seem rather to transcend the powers that will be awarded to the Mayor of Bristol.

Spud Murphy Independent
No website
Ah, Spud. He is not the only candidate whose charms lie heavily in the fact that he wears a hat, but he is the only one who decided to make one of his booklet pages face sideways. Despite the funny name, it would be a mistake to lump him in with the likes of Dave Dobbs, as Spud (real name: Albert) is a multi-millionaire through the construction business, and served as a Tory councillor for nine years before going it alone after falling out with some of his party colleagues. He's no fool, this chap.
Spud doesn't have a website, which seems a curious decision, but as a 75 year old he might not be entirely at home on the internet (with apologies to the silver surfers out there). It does mean that he's going to struggle if Dobbs manages to get Bristol running purely on social networks, of course. Anyways, his policies are sensible but not terribly exciting - the first thing he would do if elected, apparently, is get rid of the council's computerised phone system. He also told the BBC that "if the traffic is running and going through Bristol there won't be the congestion that there is now", which wins marks for stating the flippin' obvious. On the plus side, he's teetotal and cut of his hair after realising that he looked too much like Donald Trump.

Philip Pover Independent
Philip doesn't stand a chance of being elected, because of his moustache. I'm sorry, but that's all there is to it.
If you ignore the moustache - and you can't - you probably won't want to vote for Philip anyway, because he doesn't inspire confidence. Both his booklet entry and his website have the recurring theme that he is just an ordinary person, and while that is no doubt true it is not necessarily a recommendation for mayordom; it's going to take more than "I work, pay my taxes, have hobbies" to persuade me to put our city under Philip's control. All in all, it's not a great manifesto: if he has any idea how we are going to "find fairer means of distribution of wealth" he doesn't share it, and his website contains a story about starfish. He seems like a good bloke, but not a mayor.

Daniella Elsa Radice Green Party
The only woman standing for mayor (mayoress?), Daniella devotes half her space to quotes from people around Bristol who like her policies, in much the same way that toothpaste ads often include hand-held camera footage of people claiming that they didn't truly believe that they would have healthier-feeling teeth in just 14 days, but now have to eat their words. It doesn't persuade me when it's selling toothpaste, and it's going to take more than 'Lucy from Windmill Hill' extolling the virtues of an improved public transport system to get me to vote Green.
I always suspect that the Green party is too single-issue to be awarded power, and while I'm all in favour of environmental friendliness, I wouldn't want a mayor whose first - it might not be fair to say only - thought on every issue would be about looking after the baby seals. But, that being said, she has set out a six point plan on her website and a 24-page manifesto, and some of it isn't about the environment. I'm a bit confused, though, by her pledge to remove all advertising from the streets of Bristol ("This will include (but not be limited to) all billboards, advertising on telephone boxes, buses, taxis and street furniture"), which seems curiously self-defeating. I was also disappointed by the fact that she appears to be campaigning based on her gender, claiming that "a female mayor will send out a strong message to women of all ages". Well, she seems to know she can't win, as her inspiring sign-off message is: "Vote Green first and use your second vote tactically."

Marvin Johnathan Rees Labour Party
It's not Marvin's fault that his parents can't spell 'Jonathan', so I'll try not to hold it against him. It's also not his fault that Ed Miliband is looking the wrong way in their joint photo - Marvin is just one man, and can't be expected to make Ed look presentable in front of a camera. In fact, Marvin seems more sensible of his limited power than some of his competitors, telling the BBC that "the mayor can not do this alone - it will be down to everyone to ensure we are successful." That bodes well, although it is not entirely clear which of his pledges will require outside assistance.
Marvin makes his case well, with clear and concise bullets: if elected, he will build 4,000 affordable homes, build an arena, make Bristol a Living Wage city (this one sounds like it might be tricky to achieve using mayoral powers alone), bring in a 'Brunel Travelcard' etc. He has also pledged, on his website, to freeze council tax for 12 months, which reads as if it might be in response to Geoff Gollop pledging the same thing in his manifesto. In fact, plenty of Marvin's website is devoted to attacks on the Tory candidate, which might indicate a despressing overspill of Westminster politics into what should be a Bristol-specific election.
Although I'm naturally a Tory voter, I'm not averse to supporting a Labour member if I believe he's the right man for the job (e.g. Tony Blair). Marvin could potentially be that man, but he's probably my third choice candidate as it stands.

Jon Rogers Liberal Democrat
In my University days, it was standard for people running to be 'Sabbs' to campaign based on puns on their name: hence the ludicrous Kat Stark got to be president by presenting herself as 'The Starkness'. Dr Jon Rogers has not quite gone down that route, but has played hard on the fact that he is a doctor, presenting his four point plan as a 'prescription for Bristol'. He has some good ideas - cutting bus tickets to no more than 1.50 anywhere in the city; creating extra incentives for employers to take on apprentices; er... 'listening' - but, as the deputy leader of Bristol City Council, you have to ask why he hasn't made some of this stuff happen already. In fairness, he seems to know that that will be the question on the voters' lips, and in a video on his website he does more than any other candidate to talk up Bristol as it stands today, rather than simply pointing out what needs to be changed.
You can understand why Jon doesn't make any mention of Nick Clegg in any of his campaign material (unless I've missed it), and he certainly presents himself as his own man far more than either the Conservative or Labour candidates. Sadly, though, I don't believe that the qualities required in a doctor - estimable though they are - are necessarily the ones required in a mayor, so I won't be putting a cross in his box come polling day.

On this day in 2007... Liam Gallagher was recently voted the tenth funniest person ever. This is ludicrous. The man is probably not the tenth funniest person in his own family.

November 25th 2012
I had not previously regarded my blog as one of the more influential in Bristol, but given that George Ferguson is now our mayor I may have to re-evaluate. Cynics might suggest that George would have got the nod regardless of my scribblings (I'm not sure you can still call it 'scribblings' when it's typed, but I did it anyway. What can I say? I'm a maverick), but I have weak evidence to suggest otherwise. I personally know of at least two and a half people who said they were influenced by what I wrote (the half is for my friend Jo, who used this as her primary source of information in making her decision, but then forgot to vote), and if you extrapolate that to the city - as I have every intention of doing - you'll see that I am very much a kingmaker. Well, congratulations to George, and let's hope he does a good job.
In other news, it was my birthday a couple of weeks ago, but diaries being what they are it was last weekend that Simon and I joined our parents to celebrate the joint occasion - it having been Simon's birthday, too, you see - with present-giving, cake and so forth. Mum and Dad (mainly Mum, I think, although Dad was certainly involved in the planning stages) created a birthday meal based on The Very Hungry Caterpillar, the eponymous hero of which, lest we forget, ate his way through a veritable feast of foodstuffs over the course of a week or so. Our timescales were narrower, but the menu was true to the book and so I bravely ate small amounts of several items I don't like, including orange and pear - I drew the line at gherkins, as did most of us - as well as plenty of pleasant food. I have always had a fairly acute gag reflex, and this section of the meal brought back many memories of all the things my parents had forced me to eat over the years, but this was a minor quibble amid an otherwise delightful meal. The piece de resistance (I can't be bothered with finding accents and stuff on this keyboard, but at least I dug out the italics) was a caterpillar-cake that I finished a couple of days ago. Mmmmmm.
Amongst my birthday presents were some very hot sauce from Dave (10+++ on the scale), some DVDs from Mum and Dad, and some slippers from Simon. My Wolves slippers had just about fallen apart, so Simon got me some wolves slippers... see below.

'What big slippers you have.' 'All the better to scare the cat with.'

In Bond news, I wasn't terribly impressed by Skyfall, which, despite being lauded in several quarters as the greatest Bond film yet made, probably ranks no higher than 10th or so in that list. I've recently been buying quite a few on DVD - at 3 a pop, I'd be a fool not to - and I'd say that Goldfinger, Goldeneye, Casino Royale, The Spy Who Loved Me and Dr. No are all definitely better. The Living Daylights, From Russia With Love, The World Is Not Enough and the unfairly-maligned The Man With The Golden Gun are all probably better, too. So far the only Bond films I've seen that I'd say are definitely worse than Skyfall are Quantum of Solace and Die Another Day, with Thunderball, On Her Majesty's Secret Service and For Your Eyes Only being probably worse. It's amazing how hype can fool even the most seasoned critics.
Or, y'know, maybe I could be wrong. There's always that possibility. I guess.

On this day in 2007... Simon gave me a Marx & Lennon book (Groucho, but Simon thought it was Karl) and a great Mr. Funny T-Shirt, on which I promptly spilled custard (did I get custody? Very. To paraphrase a rather better contextual joke from Fry and Laurie).

what was I listening to?
Definitive Collection - Foreigner
what was I reading?
Something Fresh - PG Wodehouse
what was I watching?
Starter for 10
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