Bodies Beautiful

DSCN0106It was a strange experience watching both men and women strut their stuff in various states of undress at the O2 the other weekend. Quite frankly after you’ve seen one body you’ve seen them all, but the event lasted for 5 hours. I was there to support my son, Dominic – pictured – who was competing in the Professional category of the European Fitness Model Championships. Having won in Iceland in 2012 he was hopeful of a win on home soil but the competition was ‘stiff’ with the runner-up from the World Champs in Las Vegas eventually taking the European crown. Dominic was a creditable third, though he was disappointed with this.

On the Sunday he took us to a so-called must place to go for breakfast – The Breakfast Club near Liverpool Street Station (though there are others). Now I’m not the best at queueing and having to wait outside the restaurant for an hour for my breakfast wasn’t something I would normally stand for but “it will be worth it”! Based on an American diner, the place was packed. The food was great too but having been up for 5 hours I would have eaten anything – still it delayed Christmas shopping on Oxford Street!

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Local Politics For the 21st Century

Time for a change? I believe so. Would someone please tell me what the benefits are of keeping politics in local government? Oh yes I know it helps to group people behind a decision but do we really want sheep leading us? If a decision or strategy is best for the people then won’t independent minds come to that conclusion without being ‘whipped’? Isn’t it more important to represent your constituents rather than comply with a group view? But how would people know who to vote for, I hear you ask? Do they now, or is that all  important cross placed in a box largely based on the political  party next to it? Does anyone know the difference in policies of the local parties? Many questions but what are the answers? Lets start with a clean sheet of paper.

Those standing would each produce a CV outlining their experience and qualities – this would need to be underwritten by a couple of guarantors. The other side of the A5 sheet would outline their aims and objectives (policies) for the district / county. Each candidates paper would be sent to every elector by the electoral body along with the voting card. On the ballot sheet everyone would just be listed by name, but a political allegiance could be stated in the CV if the candidate felt it important.

The leader of the council would be selected by the members who would then be selected to posts within the council, by the leader, presumably reflecting the members’ background, aims and objectives. More important than the political persuasion is the geographical split and groups could be formed around this – so for county their would be groups based on district. It would then make more sense if these county councillors were also the members on the district. This would work towards a more ‘joined up’ approach and save a heap of money. It must be better than the confusion that exists in the public’s mind now. To me it makes a sensible step towards a single tier local government. But what do you think?picture of suffolk

Regionalunitaridevolutionism

Predictable – when you promise one of your siblings a box of presents all of the others want to know what they are going to get. Its even trickled down to the nieces and nephews i.e the regions and counties. Of course what everyone conveniently overlooks is that, as the box of financial toys is fixed, for every winner there has to be a loser. Can power be passed down without money to go with it?

Despite recent cutbacks we are still spending far too much on the public sector. It is too stodgy and unresponsive – transformation programmes taking years and only delivering efficiency savings at best or a reduced service at worst. Is the unitary option the only logical way to go? Certainly from Joe Public’s point of view, the ‘Council’ is singular, but how do you divi up the area so that you can achieve maximum efficiency savings without losing touch with the parishes?

Can we learn from business where they periodically go through the centralise / decentralise cycle? Each change brings early benefits but are they sustainable – presumably not or the cycle would be broken at some point. Businesses have target customers and can design a delivery model to suit their demographic but councils have to reach everyone and each service we provide should be considered independently – education, health, adult care, housing, highways, businesses, etc.

Personally I think we should be seen as ‘the sail beneath the wings’, enabling communities to thrive and be largely self-sufficient but we are being driven by a ‘growth’ agenda from Central Government which is at odds with what many communities want or can cope with. Highway infrastructure has been inherited from a bygone age, narrow single carriageways, no cycle paths and a public transport system that allows massive over competition on certain lucrative routes and ignores others. I love Suffolk for what it is but are we in danger of morphing into an extension of Essex or losing our identity altogether?

So how would you vote – single unitary based on Suffolk as a whole; 2 or 3 unitaries (west, north, south-east) or to stay as we are and pull up the drawbridge?

picture - spaghetti junction

Scotland – Yes or No?

picture - union flag

Is this the look of the future? For 300 years the Union Jack flag has flown proudly all over the World.  It could be that some lucky flag makers are about to hit the jackpot. It appears as though the polls are no longer poles apart. The success of the Commonwealth Games has buoyed the Scots and the more the mistrusted politicians from Westminster shout ‘NO’ the braver their hearts become. Is it me, or are the ‘NO’ supporters beginning to sound a bit desperate? Surely a better strategy would be to stay calm, don’t rush up there and just say ‘I don’t think you have really thought this through but if you really want to commit economic suicide then go ahead – just don’t say we didn’t warn you’.

In a perverse way, the chaos that will follow a ‘YES’ vote will give those pushing for Britain to exit Europe a taste of what life might be like if we do. Though to be honest is there anyone out there with a guaranteed crystal ball. Who knows what will happen, but in either case you get the feeling that, like most divorces, it’s going to be messy and one partner is going to feel let down – I just don’t think it will be the rest of Britain that suffers, so Scots ………………………. say ‘NO’.

Photo Quiz

Where are these buildings?  A clue – they are all to be found within a 50 meter radius and I pass them all on my local walking circuit.

picture - wenham 1

 

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picture - Wenham 3

Picture - Wenham 2

 

Pinewood – A Pivotal Month

September looks like being a pivotal month in the ‘life’ of Pinewood. Two controversial planning applications are likely to hit the decks. One is common knowledge – the wind turbine – the other may come as a surprise and shock – Belstead House & Meadows.

Pfr have chosen to leave the original wind turbine application on the table despite some 700 people complaining but more surprisingly without dealing with the MOD issues. In my opinion this is a good sign for those opposed to the project. Had Pfr re-applied with a slightly modified application – say a 10% reduction in the height – then the objectors’ slate would have been wiped clean and more costs would have to be incurred.

I wonder if Pfr think that their application is going to fail and have decided to go down the cheapest route out. We will see soon enough – it looks as though there will be a site visit on the 10th September and the Planning Committee will meet soon after that.

 

Picture - Belstead MeadowsBelstead House, previously owned by Suffolk County Council and used as a conference centre, has been in the hands of a developer for the last 12 months or so. It would appear that his design process is over and a plan has been formulated for the house, cottages and meadow. This plan is likely to unite the nearby residents in their opposition. Whilst there are many interesting aspects to the plan – the design and community priced housing – replacing meadows with 100+ houses and care home is not likely to be popular.

I believe the application will be presented to the Planning Dept. in the next few days – once I have the details I will give you a link to the papers.

Burstall Show

Picture - Burstall Show

Having spent the morning at the Sudbury Rowing Regatta where better to go for lunch or afternoon tea than the 61st Burstall Show (Flower Show). They seem to have more stalls and activities than there are people in the village. Somethings are easier to resist than others – I had to have a go at the coconuts. First one to hurl a ball down and a hit with it – but the coconut just settled more into its base. That was the closest I got – onto the golf, surely I would succeed here, I play every week. Fortunately the greens at Purdis are nothing like the field in Burstall and I didn’t trouble the score board.

Time to tackle something I knew I could perform at ……. the cake stall!

Picture - Burstall Cakes  www.burstall.onesuffolk.net

 

 

134 Years Old

The first Saturday in August is traditionally the day of the Sudbury Rowing Club Regatta and yes this year it was the 134th anniversary. Having competed in rowing regattas and head of river races during the late 80’s and early 90’s it was good to see others toiling for perfection on a difficult course. I wonder whether if, back in 1880, the river was straight.

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The club is going from strength to strength even having a crew at Henley this year. My involvement with Sudbury Rowing Club really began at the end of the 80’s – when we decided to move Alton Blades Rowing Club from Alton Water in Stutton. The reservoir was a lovely tract of water but the management at the time totally favoured wind powered craft. We were not allowed on the water without their safety boat which meant that when the conditions were best – at the beginning and of the day – we could only look at the still water. I understand that the new Alton Rowing Club has much more freedom and I wish it luck.

 

Rowing is perhaps the purest team sport – you use most of the muscles in your body and you have to be totally in time and coordinated with the rest of your crew. Unlike football, rugby, cricket, etc there is no time for ‘taking a breather’. Imagine a 400 metre track race where all of the runners had to keep level – even round the bends.

The photos are of an eights sprint, using just the straighter bits of the river! You haven’t lived until you feel the power of 8 people in sync.

picture - sudbury 8'sThe contact details are:    www.sudburyrowingclub.org.uk    and    www.altonrowingclub.com

 

Carry on Camping

Picture - NewbourneJust had a few days off – camping in Suffolk – and apart from a few mosquito bites it was ideal. The site seems to be situated in the middle of nowhere but is convenient for Felixstowe, Woodbridge and Ipswich. I have stayed at many a campsite and this was undoubtedly the best. Only 20 pitches set in and around a small wood. The informality of the layout reflected the owner’s approach, however the attention to detail was fantastic – the loos and showers were superb, as were the dishwashing facilities. There were fire pits and barbecues to borrow, logs and charcoal to burn, books to read, maps to follow…. The site does not allow children but you can take a well-behaved dog!

www.newbourne-campsite.co.uk

Picture - Waldringfield

Picture Camping

Picture - Felixstowe

Hungary For More

picture - f1 jbAre decisions made under extreme time constraints easier or harder? If you had to give an instant answer to whether your favourite colour was red or blue it would be easy – subconsciously you would have worked this out over your life and anyway there would be no consequences if you get it wrong. So what makes a team decide to put wet tyres onto Jenson Button’s car instead of the slicks that is on everyone elses? A safety car in the Hungarian Grand Prix gave Jenson the opportunity to grab a huge advantage. The first decision – come in and change tyres or not – was made in an instant … come in – CORRECT.

From entering the pit lane to reaching his pit box would take about 15 seconds – so dry or wet tyres …. wets – INCORRECT. Of course it’s easy to be wise after the event but unfortunately for the person making the decision there is more time to analyse its correctness than there was to make it. Why does this justify a post? Well before you make any decision you gather background information – even in an instant decision like this there is a huge amount of ‘inherent’ knowledge.

Jenson had won twice at this track before – in very similar conditions – by being quickest on a drying track – on slicks. Everyone said that ‘twinkle toes’ Jenson’s best chance of a good result was if it rained and then dried. The track had dried sufficiently to be on slicks. The radar of 10 of the 11 teams said no more rain. The answer to question, slicks or wets, was obviously slicks so why did McLaren convince themselves to go for wets and effectively write-off any chance of a good result?

No idea …. unless they want to get rid of JB at the end of the season and don’t want him to outperform / score his team-mate. F1 loves a good conspiracy!

The race was full of incident with crucial decisions being made up and down the pit lane. Cars were crashing into barriers and each other, drivers ignored team orders, there were different tyre strategies, huge variances in lap times and as a result the finishing order was in doubt until the last corner. Fantastic …… unless you had made the decision to put wet tyres on Jenson’s car!