A view on events in the UK from abroad

We’re here in Hagenau in Eastern France, near the border with Germany. I said to myself it would be a break from all things digital. Well, that hasn’t lasted.  Here’s my take on a few things that have happened in the UK while we’re away.

  1. Amazingly a spokesman for Hampshire Police is on iTele channel in France seeking information on missing young boy Ashya King. Impressive
  2. Douglas Carswell – MP for Clacton has resigned from the Conservative Party to join UKIP. A principled man whose blog I follow. Maybe he thinks he’ll be the first UKIP MP, and from which position he’ll have a stronger voice in parliament and in the media. It’s a significant issue for David Cameron, which can’t be brushed aside. It means that Europe will be a bigger issue at the next election that was imagined only recently.
  3. The Carol Mills affair is demeaning to the political administration of the country. John Bercow’s high handedness in seeking to appoint a new Clerk to parliament should require his resignation. Unlikely, though wouldn’t it be splendid for MP’s to exercise such power over a troublesome speaker. Oh, for Betty Boothroyd to come back. Sadly not possible.
  4. The abuse of 1,400 vulnerable children in care in Rotherham shames us all. From here on in let no one avoid pointing the finger at the abusers – Pakistani men, and the abject failure of Muslim leaders to speak out against such abhorrent practices. Also, those in charge of Rotherham children’s services should resign. It can’t be right that those who have failed in their duty of care to children in the council’s care should those that say ‘we should be in charge of putting it right’. No, they should go, including Shaun Wright.

That’s enough. Now for Moules frites.

Birmingham’s magnificent renovated neoclassical Town Hall

I wrote earlier this week about visiting the new Library of Birmingham building. On our way to it from Birmingham’s New Street station we passed through Victoria Square to stop by magnificent neoclassical Town Hall, to see how it’s been renovated.

Subject to a £35 million restoration, it now befits the city centre. For many years it was blackened by soot, and not well maintained. I remember, in the 1960’s, being with my brother listening, among a packed audience, to a speech on the economy by Enoch Powell. It’s a venue that seems to add status and grandeur to what occurs inside. It’s surely the classical architecture, with its Corinthian columns, that gives it the aura of a Forum, and also its history.

We peeked inside, prior to a children’s event, but were still able to see the benefits of the restoration.

Surrey Heath villages fare well in ‘the best places to live survey’

Lightwater - best places to liveDaily Telegraph have a map of the best places to live in England and Wales. They say they’ve ranked all 7,137 areas using economic, health, and crime statistics.

I’ve checked how Surrey Heath performed in the survey. The areas on the Daily Telegraph map don’t relate exactly to the ward boundaries within Surrey Heath. Some, like Lightwater, are a good fit, yet West End and Bisley seem to be regarded as one. Perhaps it’s to do with the Daily Telegraph’s definition, which they say is, “Each variable was given an equal weight to produce a ranking of all 7,137 areas, each with a minimum of 2,000 households and a maximum of 6,000, in England and Wales. “

Anyway, here’s the table of results of areas in Surrey Heath that I’ve identified on the Daily Telegraph’s map. Three Surrey Heath wards are in the top 1% of all 7,137 areas. They are Heatherside, Lightwater, West End & Bisley.

  • Surrey Heath overall ranked position – 463
  • Heatherside – 19
  • West End & Bisley – 41
  • Lightwater – 52
  • Frimley Green – 123
  • Parkside – 134
  • Mytchett & Deepcut – 365
  • Chobham & Windlesham – 463
  • Bagshot – 979
  • Frimley – 1207
  • St Pauls – 1258
  • St Michaels & Watchetts – 1718
  • Town & Old Dean – 2182

Taking in the views from Birmingham’s new Central Library

I like mini-adventures. Recently we visited Birmingham city centre, primarily to visit the new central library, but also taking developments at New Street Station and Birmingham Town Hall.

No, pooh, poohing please. I’m a Midlander, and have worked in Birmingham in the past, so I’m always keen to see how it re-invents itself. Another reason is that my wife’s first job was working in the Birmingham Central Library.

The new more grandly named, Library of Birmingham, is the fourth central library building. The third building was designed in the brutalist concrete style, and hopefully will be demolished now its no longer used, except for tatty retail shops on the ground floor.

The new Library of Birmingham is of modernist design, which seems to suit Birmingham’s view of itself – confident, fond of the new, and sometimes a little brash. It’s surprising to me that Birmingham’s new buildings pay no homage to the Birmingham Town Hall, opened in 1834, which is an elegant building of classical design and proportions, which the city forefathers must have been justly proud. More about the Town Hall later.

The Library of Birmingham has two outdoor viewing area, which afford magnificent views over the city. Taking in these views was a main destination, as was the café, which sadly disappointed. Anyway, here are my photo’s of arriving at the Library, and ascending through it’s centre to the upper viewing platform.

6 ways to protect your home from burglars when you’re away

logoAn email from Surrey Police provides information on how to protect your home from burglary, especially when you’re away from home, even if it’s just for a short break.  A burglar, who admits to over 70 burglaries in Surrey, tells Surrey Police how he did it.

This time last year the area experienced a large spate or burglaries. At the time a number of arrests were made with one suspect admitting to over 70 burglaries in Surrey. Interviews with this and other burglars have given us an insight into what they look for and how they do it:

1-What did the burglar say?

“The first thing I’d look for were houses where bins were left outside the house in a road where no one else had. This let me know there was a chance that the occupants weren’t home.”

How you should respond:

If you are planning on going away, even for a short period of time, ask a neighbour or relative to bring bins back in. If you do keep bins outside your property make sure they are away from walls or fences preventing easy access to areas out of public view.

2-What did the burglar say?

“If the bins were still out I’d go in for a closer look. Another good sign its empty is being able to see the post building up. A look through the letterbox or glass doors makes this easy.”

How you should respond:

If you are going away ask a neighbour or relative to collect post, putting it out of sight from front doors. If you are away for an extended period of time try contacting the postal service and requesting delivery to an alternative address.

3-What did the burglar say?

“Sometimes people put timers on lights when they go away. If the curtains then stay open the whole night or I notice that the curtains haven’t moved over a few days, it normally suggests that no one is home.”

How you should respond:

Timers are a great crime prevention device however it can be even more effective if used in multiple rooms. Arrange for someone to check your property whilst away. Each time get them to open or close the curtains to suggest people being home.

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The Mons is no more, but the sign will remain for all to see

Readers will know of my interest in the shop sign over The Mons shop in Frimley Green, firstly writing HERE about preserving it, and recently HERE too, when I learned it was to be saved.

I was delighted to get the opportunity to speak with Ken Sibley, owner of The Mons, about his plans for the historic shop sign. Here’s my conversation with him, which begins by Ken describing how discussions with local and military historians determined that the sign was painted in situ.

All we’ve got to do now is get Surrey Heath Museum to accept this sign and protect it for future display. Hope you enjoy this little slice of local history.

SONY DSC The Mons sign & Ken Sibley