Thursday, 6 December 2007

If you want something done give it to a busy man

Last Monday, councillor Brian Prior surprised us all resigning, elegantly, form the post of vice-chairman of the parish council, exactly a month since his election (the previous meeting). To my opinion it is a shame as he was doing the right noises and seems like the right person for the job.

It takes a very strong personality to fight the current and keep one’s gowned. We all have experienced it. When joining a new organization (work, family, or politics), we assimilate to a certain degree the way things are done, even if we do not like it. Thus, to an extent, a person will become more efficient when dropped into a company where efficiency is truly valued and practiced. Alas it also works the other way.

I have a lot of respect for the people who volunteered to the Wendover Parish Council. However, I feel they could improve their internal and external information sharing. This is an issue that used to drive me mad at certain places I worked at. An important aspect of team work is realizing that not every body knows what you have gleaned or done. I am sure that at his work place, councillor Prior would not have allowed himself to do the mistake he did in the parish meeting of going with the flow, not thinking things thoroughly though, and believing it will all be alright.

Take last month’s meeting. The councillors did not really come prepared for dealing with Dr. King’s resignation. I am sure they knew about it. But they did not communicate with each other sufficiently to realise there were decisions to be made and probably some homework. Thus, councillor Prior was “ambushed”, proposed and elected as a vice-chairman. He accepted the honour without knowing what it entails and what work load it demands. That means that there were also some councillors that voted him in not knowing what they were voting for (4 of the councillors were co-opted in not that long ago). With hind sight, a memo should have gone out reminding every body what this position involves. I had the same cold feeling watching counsellor Ballantine present the planning applications she, and the rest of the council, lost focus. By the way, to the best of my memory, she was the one who surprised councillor Prior with the nomination.

I find it very sad that the way things are done by the Parish Council is stacked up against people who are still in employment or have a young family. Out of the 11 councillors only 5 hold day jobs of which, I believe, only 3 are full time engagements. I wonder if the job of the vice-chair could be shared. How did Dr. King, who has a very demanding day job, do it?

I hope councillor Prior’s will not totally give up, and keep towing his way. At one of the first meetings he attended, he quietly suggested that they should think not only of what to do (the letter of the law) but also how to do it (the interpretation and ethos). I hope his voice gets stronger in time.

Wednesday, 5 December 2007

Get Cycling, Wendover!

You probably have noticed the beginning of the roadworks on Aylesbury Road. We are told that this is the long awaited cycle path. This is the culmination of an eight years long effort many have contributed to. If you are please to hear this read on the email I just received from Laura Ferguson, a young, enthusiastic, inspiring Wendovrian who wants to contribute to our community:



Dear all,
Many thanks for your time last Thursday, and to Mary and Chris for your hospitality.
Before the next meeting, I will investigate the routes to becoming properly constituted as a group. I will also flesh out the public campaign and funding plans I raised at the meeting, which I think will form my main contributions to the group.
It was really very encouraging to hear about the work that is being done already by you all, especially in relation to lobbying local government and statutory bodies on cycling issues.
I hope that a public campaign supported by funding possibilities plus continued lobbying will prove to be fruitful aims for the new group.
In addition to your current lobbying, I have recently been in touch with the Forestry Commission about cycling plans in the main Wendover Woods (following one of my bi-weekly mountain bike rides into Wendover Woods). I will follow this up with contact with Go Ape and further discussions with the Forestry Commission over the coming weeks.
Finally, just to keep you all in the picture: I have had confirmation from Jane Larkham that the following piece will appear in January's Wendover News:
"Do you want to make a difference to the environment or to parking problems and traffic congestion in Wendover?
Have you got a bike?

30 November , 2007 saw the first meeting of “Wendover and Halton Cycling” (provisional title - we're open to suggestions!). This new group aims to help people to get on their bikes in Wendover and Halton.

If you would like to join this new group, or for further information, contact Laura Ferguson at
lpferguson@fsmail.net or 07760 383641."
I look forward to seeing you all in January. In the mean time, my email and mobile are free to be passed to third parties (as seen above). Please do keep my home number to yourselves.. it is ex-directory!
Best wishes,
Laura

Tuesday, 4 December 2007

A bug or a feature

It the Wendover Parish Council trying to tell us something? Is it just a mischieful wink or a clever reminder not to drink and drive?



For the two and a half readers (and my wife) who do not get what I am talking about – the triangle on the top of the clock tower was installed on the off-side.

The parish council discussed today the very important subject of safety measures for the crossing to the area they are developing on the London Road. I support their decision to install an interactive sign that will flash to drivers the speed they are going (called SID or VAS). However, I think that is not enough. I hope the counsellors will follow up on their intention to insist Bucks County Council does its bit. For instance it could install a Toucan Crossing (a crossing with lights that are button activated at a height suitable for cyclers).

A resident from Vinetrees complained about parking issues. It seems this cul-de-sac is used by the people working in the High-Street. The council was quick to sympathize. A little too quick on the mark to my liking. I have an Idea – I heard the church just opposite the health centre is going to be demolished. Good, it is an ugly building. How about the site is turned to parking with special reductions for people who work in the area.

Happy Sir Isaac Newton Birthday










Friday, 30 November 2007

Vote for Sustrans Win £50 million Lottery Fund

We want more cars on the road. Yes put wheel on streets now! That seems to be the prevailing mode in our vale. The new Princes Mary site development in Wendover will not have a bus link to the Wendover train station nor to the Tring station. There is not much effort going into ensuring that the new 9,000 or so units planed for Aylesbury will be accompanied with a growth in the local job market. And yes, you guessed it, no buses to train stations. Last week we heard the cost of travelling by train is going to rise again by much more than the past and predicted inflation (Who was the idiot who nationalized the trains in the first place?). A recent unbelievable letter to the editor of the Bucks Herald moaned about the bus lanes that are used by empty buses. This person never heard of the chicken and the egg – “Ignorant and lacking of Vision” he said in desperation. So people working to promote cycling sound to me like science fiction. Here is something that landed in my in box:

I’m writing to ask you to help sustainable transport charity Sustrans win £50 million from the Big Lottery Fund to invest in 79 communities UK-wide.

In this winner-takes-all contest Sustrans’ Connect2 project is up against 3 other organisations - the Eden Project : The Edge, Black Country Urban Park, and Sherwood: The Living Legend, with the winner to be decided by public vote over the coming weeks.

I'm supporting Sustrans’ Connect2 because it will transform local travel in towns, cities and villages throughout the UK. By building new bridges and crossings over busy roads, railways and rivers, and linking these into networks of paths, Connect2 will make it much easier for people to get where they want to go under their own steam. So whether children are going to school, people to work and the shops, or friends and family to visit each other, they’ll be able to walk or cycle for many more journeys.

As many as 6 million people live within a mile of a proposed Connect2 scheme, and 1 million children go to school within a mile of a scheme. It is calculated that over 60 million active, low carbon journeys will be made each year on the Connect2 routes, potentially saving 79,000 tonnes of carbon - the equivalent of emissions from 79,000 people's annual car use.

Vote now online for Sustrans' Connect2 at
www.thepeoples50million.org.uk. We need your vote to win 50 million pounds for walking and cycling. Phone voting from landlines and mobiles begins on 7 December - please text 'Connect2' to 80010 or complete the form at www.sustransconnect2.org.uk if you would like to be sent the number to vote. All voting concludes at 12 noon on Monday 10th December.

Remember Sustans’ contribution is pivotal to projects such as the cycle path along Aylesbury road in Wendover and hopefully its next stage – the bridge over the Wendover Arm to the schools.

Tuesday, 13 November 2007

Why don’t we have yet a real ‘Enterprise’ exploring space?

Sometimes officials make incredibly idiotic decisions, rendering satires such as Yes Minister boring. Would you believe the Beatles were not allowed into Israel for a performance. Another amusing anecdote is that for the sake of equality the TV signal was de-colured for years in Israel. It was thought that if the signal was black & white, although the broadcasting equipment was colour capable, there would be no incentive for the affluent to flaunt their riches with a colour TV set. Yeh-right.

Moreover, no restrictions were placed on other seemingly luxury items such as cars, fridges, and houses. It is amazing that my teacher was allowed to tell us that the world was round and that it was slightly older than the 6000 years (the Jewish count).

How lucky we don’t have such situations here in the UK. Oh – really?! So why does it take 4 working days to transfer, electronically mind you, money from one bank to another and why is it so expensive? Why does it take 11 days to change the phone provider? Why can’t one get health insurance after the age of 70? Or how can one explain the absurd requirement to prove where I live through a hard copy utility bill.

There are many such silly anachronisms that we take for granted now and probably will be thought funny in ten years. But like in mechanical physics the force required to start moving is greater then the force needed to continue moving. There is a stationary friction to overcome. It will take an international force to bring the cost of roaming calls closer to the real cost to the providers, change the ethics of locking mobile phones, to unify the DVD zones, to ensure the internet is really free and to stop mammoth software providers from dictating a slow pace of innovation.

Today the European Commission adopted proposals for a "Telecoms Reform Package". It is expected to become law by the end of 2009 and includes new consumer rights such as the right to switch telecoms operators within 1 day.

We need the European Union more than ever to keep our freedom from those who want to make us live in a gray, un ambitious world – trapped in other’s conservatism.

Monday, 5 November 2007

Hell is paved with good intentions

(http://www.samueljohnson.com/road.html)

The Israeli military slang is very rich and colourful. However, like cockney it is almost impossible to translate to another language. In Hebrew the words for putting in effort translates literally as ‘sinking it in’ thus the word play “He who sinks in, sinks!”. Meaning there is no point in putting in your hart, blood, and sweat as it would not be appreciated or worse it would be used against you. It is not hard to find such situations in military and public life. This saying is obviously not politically correct and is in contrast to the fable of the frog that beats the milk into butter by flapping frantically and aimlessly. It asserts that in most cases the frog will drown before the milk churns and in the few cases that the frog is dedicated enough to see the task through, a solicitor will be waiting for it to climb out just to hit it with a claim for damages. All this came to my mind when I heard that the Chair-person of the Wendover Parish Council has resigned. Today a new chairman was elected but the council seemed to tiptoe around the issue. Looking back at the meeting this evening, an official thank you was missing let alone a resolve to clear the waters and learn form the eperiance.

The sad thing about local government is that people don’t seem to care at best. I wonder how many fellow Wendovrian’s will notice that Dr. Shilla King resigned and how many of them could hazard an educated guess as to her reasons. Here is a person who volunteered to do something for her community, has spent many hours, and did her best to fight for our rights. From my corner in the public gallery she seemed to have done a good job at running the council meetings intelligently, made sure actions were followed though, was a positive driving force, was very liberal in her approach, and generally allowed the public to be heard. Naturally, some toes must be stepped on if you do your public job right. The question is not how to keep everybody happy all the time, but how to handle loaded situations. And here leys the gremlin: I believe that the current state of affairs in the Parish Council is down to fear of the litigation culture and the over reliance on legal advisors. This always leads to government paralysis and stifles any spark of originality. It defiantly results in a bad atmosphere and a general feeling of persecution and injustice – no matter who made the first call to the Dementors (a call that should not have been made).

I am sorry to see Dr. King go and I hope her bad experience will not put others off volunteering to help shape Wendover. It would be to the benefit of Wendover, if one day in the future she will decide to give it another go.

Thursday, 18 October 2007

It's OK - I did my best to write a short entry

As I approached the Wendover CE Secondary School, I was greeted by three boys in the red toped school uniform. Five steps later three girls smiled at me and said welcome. It was clear the head master was intent on impressing us, “prospecting parents”. The short rout to the main hall was lined with more pupils. Later I learned that they were all prefects or something to that effect. After the Head made his introduction, teams of the children took small groups of the prospecting parents around the school. I was led around by three very enthusiastic girls. I could not wait to ask them about the 11+ exams. It seems they just had them. I was not surprised to hear that two of them had extra tuition towards the 11+ arranged by their parents. You will probably consider me na├»ve when I tell you I was surprised when the Head told me that (a) he was not allowed to supply me with statistics about the 11+ and that (b) state schools are not allowed to coach and prepare the kids for the exams. OK, I can see why that is so. But he did tell me that not all the children sit the tests, and a parent I spoke to implied she would not push her daughter. Then the penny dropped and now I think I understand why Brits do not know how to appreciate food and why it is practically impossible to see here women dress chicly.

Ever since we came to live in England, my wife and I have been trying to figure out why do most people here eat bland, tasteless, unattractive food. I know this is a dangerous statement. Each time I said it, I was told how wrong I am. But when I requested proof it most always was either very expensive or in London. London is NOT England. It is a country of its own. When we came to Wendover we could not find locally any good bread and don’t get me started on the sausages. There is an abundance of good produce to use. But for some inexplicable reason it is processed in a very bizarre way.

I always thought it is a legacy from the rationing after WWII. Today the penny dropped. Yes the Brits embrace entrepreneurs and eccentrics, but a drive for excellence does not seem to be a national trait. Yes, there are always the exceptions. I had a wonderful fish and chips in Wales (and in Aylesbury, the one in the centre of town), the new manager of our local Budges has introduced much improved lines of bread and cheese and the chocolateir (Rumsey’s) is a heavenly singularity point. But these are exceptions. If you want to experience really good and cheep food you must go to any patisserie in France (I found some good Cartoons), any sandwich shop in Austria or any food stall & store in India, Turky or Greece.

I grew up in an environment where academic merit was a value. No matter how challenged one was at school, one aimed to go to university. There are always the non scientific subjects that do not require being at top school. I was never told by my parents they expected me to obtain a degree but even our cleaner was studying towards a “General BA”. When I thought in the open university I came across all echelons of society. I had in the same class soldiers who wanted to improve their chances to be accepted to very sought out universities sitting with working class 40 year old mums who wanted to find fulfilment though their studies and to expand their horizons.

So, I hear you ask, how are the two linked? The answer is that they are both derivatives of that oh-so-annoying phrase “It’s OK love, it doesn’t matter you came last in class. What counts is that you did your best”. It does not matter that the Millennium celebrations encountered many hitches – we did our best. It does not matter we have a relatively low rate of young people aspiring for an academic degree – we are doing our best as a nation. It does not matter the NHS is not providing the service it should, that it is practically impossible to find an NHS dentist and that you go to hospital to catch a deadly disease – everybody is doing their utmost best. It does not matter that the new developments in Wendover and Aylesbury have no visionary design – someone is doing his best to comply with the requirements ….

Imagine you are watching a 400 meter sprint race. After the interview with the glowing winner the attention is turned to the runner who came second. Now close your eyes and judge these alternative response:
“That was a good race, I really enjoyed it, I know I gave it my best”
“I gave it all I hade. I will work hard to improve my best. Next time I will win”
On whom will you put your money for the next race?
The excuse of “I did my best” is a euphemism for “I don’t really need to work hard – I will be forgiven if I just puff my cheeks and make enough noise as if I am trying”, “It is ok to be mediocre as long as you enjoy it”. And from that one learns it is ok to eat mediocre food, wear mediocre clothes and live in a cupboard size room.

I think this attitude started to prevail when the Brits stopped exploring and absorbing other’s cultures. So what we really need is to go out there to Europe and the world and learn from the migrants who come to live here.

Once I checked a heraldry book for my mother’s family name, Schomberg. Though it is highly unlikely that any blue blood runs in my veins, I found a crest that really spoke to me. It had the motto: Persevere!

P.S.
I just received an email from a friend that just fits in her so well:
What has happened to those imaginative plans, which came from listening to all the various groups from the Canal society to Aylesbury Society to say nothing of the Town council
Who produced the plan which had a wide pedestrian bridge sweeping across Exchange Street? The plan that emerged from all this creative thought was timid and meaningless. it bore no relationship to the interesting linked squares.It has swept away the Old electricity show rooms and the Ship for a boring canyon of shop fronts and the Canal is fronted by mediocre dwellings,and cloned cafes, while the AVDC Office workers are banished from the town Centre, as if, in shame!
This is the second time I have seen old Aylesbury destroyed. There might have been a little excuse in the sixties, this wholesale destruction had not happened before. I well remember my horror when I read the headline in the Bucks Herald which quoted an Aylesbury Borough Councillor saying , in effect, "Aren't we lucky these nice developers are building us a lovely new Shopping Centre "Ugh! The Tory District Councillors should have learnt from this earlier mistake, but they were far too busy condemning the County Tower, and all its inhabitants, to build on the creative ideas which came from the initial consultations
Banning the council offices from the Centre of the town will have a negative effect on the vibrancy of the town. One of the good things about working in the centre of Aylesbury is that the workers can go and shop and find a green patch on which to sit and eat a sandwich, relaxing away from the office.
We have lost what little green space there was. The Rec is but a fraction of the green space before the Reg Maxwell pool and the car park encroached upon it. The council should of concentrated on designing in and demanding pleasant open spaces. Infact they should have looked at the O'Rourke Study.

Saturday, 13 October 2007

Drowning My Mistakes in Base Tone Slap

The subject of music in schools as an educational tool was mentioned today in Question Time (BBC4). As usual, a hidden presumption was that creativeness is being artistic & musical. All seemed to think that this is in contradiction to learning to read, write, do math and concentrate on the educational targets. I view creativeness as applying the power of association to come up with something surprising. Thus, not every piano player is creative. Some are no more than good technicians. Artisans and artists are to be found not only in what is commonly conceived as creative occupations. I have encountered very creative mathematicians, engineers and programmers.

Anyhow, I never considered myself creative in spite of my mother’s efforts in my childhood. However, I do regret not sticking to my guitar studies. I was not really encouraged to persevere. only much later I discovered my trait to doggedly peruse anything I start. My wife, on the other hand, is a good example of a person who has mastered the use of both sides of her brain. She obtained an engineering degree in electronics, an MBA and taught herself programming. I do not know how she goes about her day job but I can see the results of the many hobbies she peruses. The latest is gardening. She combined her analytical and research capability’s to study the subject, and then went about creating a garden that is not your bog-standard English house garden. We do not have a big patch but it is stunning. I hope she will place many pictures of the garden in her blog.

As part of my mid-life crisis I decided to try and improve my left mind ability. This blog is part of this attempt. Today I attended an African Drumming workshop. I only recently discovered I like Drums. I remember (when I was about 10 years old) a chapter of the Muppets where a drummer was Kermit’s guest. He held a drumming competition with Animal. It didn’t grab me. I got hooked about 5 years ago when I saw the Kodo group in a parade in Copenhagen. Since I came to Wendover I encountered a few times groups paying African drums. The Wendover Parish Council even organizes an event for kid on the Manor Waste where they experience African Drumming. So today I had a hands-on experience.

I enjoyed the workshop but not only because of the drumming. There is a certain pleasure in being part of a group all pulling in the same direction. Moreover, no one noticed my many mistakes as the group sound covered up my ineptitude. It is an interesting mirco-model for me to apply to other situations.

For instance, The group drumming model could be applied to another issue discussed today on Question Time: the court order on the showing of Al Gore film about climate change. The analogy works as a ‘creative activity’ such as drumming (or science) could drown both the lousy drummers and the eccentric ones who want to explore new thoughts.

Such... is the respect paid to science that the most absurd opinions may become current, provided they are expressed in language, the sound of which recalls some well-know scientific phraseJames Clerk Maxwell (1831-79)

Drumming links: http://www.hartbeats.co.uk/
http://www.winterdrum.co.uk/

Monday, 1 October 2007

A Blue Robin Hood?

I can’t believe my ears. I just heard on the news that those socialists have just said they would scrap the Inheritance Tax. Hang on, let me check it out in detail. Hmm... , Mr Osborne is just talking about raising the cut-off point. So there is no real principle behind this. They are just trying to pamper to the masses’ wishes. Clutching at straws and mumbling a prayer to the all mighty brown “Please hold on the elections – we are not ready”.
All the arguments I have heard until now in favour of the Death Duties are lame. It is an unjust and un-defendable tax. Keeping the tax but applying it only to the very rich, as those desperate fools are proposing, is an offence against a very basic rule – KEEP IT SIMPLE. Or in Public School speak “Apply Occam's Razor.” Keeping the Tax means that someone has to maintain a body of rules and regulations, dedicated civil servants will be kept busy and, of course, an army of accountants and lawyers will be able to pay for their children’s high education through the exorbitant fees they will be able to keep billing. Not to mention the fact that it would be oh-so-easy to lower the threshold again.

And if you are asking, No! I do not think Mr. Brown should waist my money on gambling with early elections. Once in five years is the going tariff for democracy here. I would let the Blue/Green Hoody cross dressing as Robin trying to cover up his origins (Do not forget Maggie).

Abolish it. And for Valen’s sake, keep the red tape to minimum.

Thursday, 27 September 2007

BCC Forgot There Are People Without a RELIGION!

Oh, you are conducting a survey on behalf of Bucks County Council. Good, Come in. I have a bellyful of criticism. Where should I begin? Question one? My daughter is six. Yes, I send here to a child minder. Yes, we are both working. What do I think of the service of the BCC? Don’t you think that is too general a question? The rubbish gets collected but much more can be done on the recycling side. No question about that. So I can’t mention recycling collection from business? No! OK, is there a question about transport. No, just about how I get to the health centre? Look, I really think BCC is not doing enough on the public transport front. OK there is no question about that. Is preparing and conducting a consultation considered a service? Does protecting the lifestyle and beauty of our rural villages and towns count as a service? No, I do not mean the one about the 9200 households – that is AVDC. I mean the development on the Princess Mary site. How about attracting employers in order to reverse the decline in available jobs, is that a service you are asking about? Lets move on to the next questions. My ethnicity. Oh that is an easy one: ‘White Other’. You don’t have that on your list? Let me have a look. Hay, this list is not the standard ONS Census list. How do you intend to link this information to other official statistics? What’s the last question? My religion? I do not have one. I am an Atheist-Secular-Humanist. Put me done as religion NONE. What do you mean you do not have that option on the list? OK, my mum is Jewish write that down. Sorry, did you say that was not on the list too? And you are asking me what I think about the service? First some more thought should go into all the activities. Such as ensuring the questioner is effective and accurate –which this one is clearly not. The ‘data’ questions are ill designed and irrelevant to me. The ‘opinion’ question is too general, unfocused, and I am not sure what it is asking about. Don’t forget to tell them that many of us do not hold a religion! Yes?

Wednesday, 5 September 2007

an open letter to Wendover Parish Counsil

I listened with interest to the discussion yesterday about the lighting provisions for Christmas (or in my case, Sir Isaac Newton’s birthday). I was delighted you decided to opt for elegant simplicity. You, rightly, examined the budgetary and safety aspects. I would like to point out a consideration that was not raised: trying to do it as green as possible. Decorative street lighting is very power hungry. Obviously a side effect of a simple design is also a reduced power usage but there is more scope to be green (and save money) by choosing the type of the light bulbs, maximizing their spacing (i.e. less points), and the time at night the lights are switched off. I know that carbon offsetting is controversial but it would be in line with many Wendoviran’s expectations.

Furthermore, I would like to point out that you have encountered a known selling technique: pricing a high setup fee for the first year followed by lower ‘maintenance fees’. This is a psychological trick to try and sweeten the blow and to divert attention form other pricing models. I suggest you consider an option of doing this year a small part of the installation, indicating that if all goes well we will add to it in the following years. This has the advantage of both splitting up the ‘set-up’ cost over several years and of keeping the suppliers on their tows. It will also provide an opportunity to gage the response to the scheme and allow for changes (that would otherwise be very costly).

I believe that a project such as this should be coasted based on a 10 year span, and should include the cost of the electricity and the carbon offsetting.

My old Blog

I had a Blog in Blogstoday. I created it when the Bucks Herald promoted it during their trial period of their website. However, their ‘Your Say’ page that is supposed to list the updated blogs and most popular ones has not changed since January. I tried alerting the editor and searched for some direct contact to the tech team of Blogstoday. Furthermore, I did not have sufficient control on the design of the page. Let's see how this platform fairs.