Thursday, 25 December 2008

Christmas 2008

So it's Christmas Day in the afternoon and all's well. But it has been an odd Christmas. Could be the credit crunch to blame. I mean take last night, Christmas Eve. In 1964 a week before Christmas I started work as a Taxi Driver in Manchester, on nights. On Christmas Eve I started work at 6pm and didn't stop until hunger forced me to switch off the "For Hire" sign and heads for Nic's snack bar in Oxford Street for some breakfast otherwise my stomach would begin to think my throat had been cut. But of course by now it was Christmas morn and Nic, like all sensible people was at home in bed so I went home. I could have carried on carrying people between drinking dens, which in those days did a roaring trade and stayed open, illegally I might add, as long as there was someone one the premises capable of buying a drink. All evening and right through the night it had been the same. Stop to let on lot of passengers out and more would pile in. It’s true, the spirit of Christmas came out of a big copper vat somewhere in the Scottish Highlands.
And so Christmas Eves have continued ever since, drinking at home then out on the town for more drinking then down to a club for more drinking then home to find the loudest record in the collection to be played at max volume with all the windows open just so the neighbours two miles away knew you were having a good time even if they weren’t. I tend not to go in for all this drinking etc, I used to in the dim and distant past, so time in the last century but now it’s an early night for me which is usually the case, I rarely go to bed later than 1 O’clock these days. Now the front of the house, which isn’t too far from town centre also faces the town centre so last night I expected to be disturbed by loud music blaring out followed by specially recruited, highly trained teams of singers giving their very own version of that old favourite, “We Wish you a Merry Christmas.” In case you are unfamiliar with the words it goes sometime like this. “We wish you a merry Christmas, We wish you a merry Christmas, We wish you a merry Christmas, We wish you a merry Christmas, We wish you a merry Christmas and a happy new year. there is then a slight pause while the singers, and I use the term singers with my fingers crossed, consult their song sheet, take a deep breath and sing the second verse. Which goes like this. “We wish you a merry Christmas, We wish you a merry Christmas, We wish you a merry Christmas, We wish you a merry Christmas, We wish you a merry Christmas and a happy new year“. That is followed by a slight pause before the third verse starts. I’ll let you guess the words to that and the 4th, 5th and nth verses. Then there are the sirens of the police cars on their way to the local shop window smashing party. They weren’t invited so they wont be welcome but the ambulance that turns up later will. Then there are the fireworks. It used to be that firework were only for Bonfire Night, now shops, if you can find a shop, sell them all the year round but now there is a firework display at the drop of a hat. That isn’t too bad if they all go off at once, but there is always some one who waits a few hours until those who have made to effort to get to sleep have just reached that point where consciousness is at last just slipping away, sometime about 03.47 in the morning then BANG. Only once but that is enough, you may as well get up and eat the turkey now.
So can anyone tell me what happened last night because I got to bed at the usual hour, opened the window as usually I do thinking I’ll have to get up later and shut it and next thing it’s 5 past eight and I just had a restful, undisturbed night’s sleep. Don’t tell me everyone in Torquay got religion and went to Midnight Mass. No, surely not?

Merry Christmas buy the way.

Wednesday, 17 December 2008

More From Rock Walk and a Bit From the Town Hall.

I decided to go and have a walk along the sea front and see if I could get an action photo. On the way I walked down Fleet St and stopped at the Oggy Oggy Pasty Shop for a coffee. Probably the best pasties in Torquay. When I got to spot where I took this photo the foot bridge had just been torn down. If I hadn't stopped for the coffee I'd have got a shot of it being torn down.

Talking of being torn down the local paper had a bit two bits of news regarding something going on at the Town Hall. A Conservative group assistant, Becca Adams, has just quit her job at the Town Hall, due, as she says in her I quit letter, she was 'targeted' by councillors and was 'living in fear of the next conspiracy theory' against her. She added she dreaded coming to work. She had recently given evidence against Councillor Jeanette Richards, who has just been suspended for a month for breaching the council's code of conduct for a second time. Becca Adams told a hearing that Councillor Richards had subjected a council officer to a 'tirade' of abuse which ended with her saying: "I'm a councillor, I can speak to you any way I like."
This follows a Standards hearing on November 26: Cllr Richards was cleared of bullying an other council official but disrespect was proved and Mrs Richards was suspended from duty for a month for breaching the authority's code of conduct with immediate effect.

Really good people become Councillors but not all Councillors are really good people.

Monday, 15 December 2008

Torbay, Mentioned on Prime Time TV

Gerry Springer mentions Torbay on prime time BBC tv. One up for our publicity department here in the Town Hall. No, actually it was all down to the local police station. Thanks boys.

A couple of weeks ago the local paper ran a story about the police here in Torquay handing out Flip-flops to homeward bound female revellers. A fellow blogger, Lord Hutton of Seaside Notes mentioned after the story broke that the police could really do with a press officer. The story stated that the cost of the flip-flops was being met from a £30 000 grant the police had received, giving the impression that the flip-flops were gold plated, or even solid gold. There were several items in nationwide papers wondering what was going on in Torbay if £30 000 could be spent this way. After a few days the police got round to pointing out that the actual cost of the flip-flops was less than £200 and the remaining £29 800 of the grant was going elsewhere. Maybe on a Press Officer? Anyway, this evening I was watching the BBC program, "Have I got News For You." which is a humorous look at the week’s news. This evening’s program was hosted by Gerry Springer who should need no introduction. One of the items was ‘an odd one out’ quiz. Four photos showing West Ham fans, a slightly drunk young man, the Tardis and a beluga whale. The odd one out was the Tardis. The beluga whale blows bubbles,(click here to watch), the West Ham fans sing the song, "I'm forever blowing bubbles" when their team wins, not often these days and the clubbers in Bolton are given bubble blowers as they leave the club as it appears to make them less aggressive. Well would you feel aggressive if you were busy blowing bubbles? Seems a better idea than flip-flops which can do a lot of damage if thrown at a handy US President. Once the contestants had worked out the answer Gerry then went on to mention how the flip-flops had been given away in beautiful Torbay.

If you are an avid Doctor Who fan you might know that the original idea for the Tardis wasn’t a Blue Box but a bubble. Just thought I’d mention that.

If you are the senior police officer in Torbay and are looking for a Press Officer I would like to point out that I am available for the post, if you aren't looking, why not?

Saturday, 13 December 2008

Don't Park There, Please

Behind the blue wall is a two lane carriageway and behind that is Rock Walk. And it's going to stay behind the barrier until June next year. Which is a bit of a pain if you are going to the Princess Theatre. Because there is, technically, no where to drop the theatre patrons off because there are signs saying, "No Stopping". But as you can see people still stop which just adds to the excitement of driving along the stretch of road. What you can't see are the few dozen cars stuck behind the bus, probably all the way back to the Clock Tower. While I was getting the camera out of the case a police car drove past but decided not to stop and move the stationary traffic on which was probably the sensible thing to do as it would have caused even more of a tailback. Some problems have no solution.

If you want to know what is going on behind the blue wall click here .

Fleet Street Store Closing Down

An other shop bites the dust. Torquay is becoming littered with empty shops unfortunately. This shop is a bit like Woolies, not as big but with a wide range of goods at inexpensive prices. That doesn’t mean to say cheap, we bought a clock there years ago for £5 and though it loses a minute every six weeks it is still running well and on the same battery. And there are lots of other items available. Cigarette lighters to chip pans, Christmas decorations to CD covers, torches to tools, towels to electric plugs. A bit like what Woolies used to sell back in the days when they were successful. Now all Woolies sell seems to be CDs, mobile phones and toys. Things everyone else does better. But a few months ago the WHSmiths just down the road closed and was replaced by a Poundland Store. Everything for a pound. I went in needing a pen one day and got 5 for a pound. The first one I used didn’t even last long enough to write one word before it quit. The second had plastic fatigue and the barrel cracked in two while I was writing the 2nd word.
Sorry to see you go DG Discount Store.

Tuesday, 9 December 2008

Who's a silly boy then?

Yesterday I had a walk down to Rock Walk where work is going on to make the cliff face safe. No nasty 20 tonne boulders falling down onto the passing traffic, bad for business. There is a team down there cutting back the vegetation before installing nets to hold everything in place, not as dramatic as earlier in the year when 50 foot trees were coming down but who knows. Then at the far end I noticed two workers hanging half way down the cliff drilling a hole in a precarious looking boulder. If that came down it would make a big dint in the side of a passing bus. The drill bit was 8 feet long and they had finished drilling and were trying to remove the drill and were having a little difficulty. The had to hold the drill and push away from the cliff with their feet. There they were swinging around all over the place 50 feet up in the air. Dramatic enough. So out came the camera, lens cap off, switch on, raise to eye, look through viewfinder. Instead of a clear picture of two struggling workers swinging high above the road all I got was a note in the viewfinder saying, "Who's a silly boy then?"

Actually what it said was slightly more blunt and to the point and no less annoying for that, "No Card." I had downloaded some earlier photos and left the memory card in the card reader. "What a mistake to make?"

Saturday, 6 December 2008

Dancing Gull.

I like sea gulls which is unusual for someone living in a sea side town. When I first moved to Torquay I was driving down New Rd into Brixham and a seagull flew into the front nearside windscreen. I was doing 30 mph at the time so you don't need to spend too much time guessing exactly what happened to the poor little thing. I looked in the interior mirror to see what the reaction of my passengers was. In fact there was only one passenger, a dear sweet little old lady who looked as if she was on her way home from a vicarage tea party and for a moment I was concerned that she might be upset, blood and feathers being spread over the window as it were. She quickly dispelled that silly notion, "Oh good. An other of the buggers dead." I was more shocked by her reaction than the death of the bird.

OK. they are noisy and where I live we used to put our rubbish out in black bin bags which the gulls made short work of in their never ending search for something, anything to stick in their bellies. By the time the bin men arrived the next morning the road looked like a land fill site with everything from used nappies to empty beer cans spread from one end of the road to the other. One councillor even suggested pouring bleach over the bags to deter the gulls when we put them out at night for collection the next morning. He isn't a councillor now I might add. In the end we all got seagull proof bin bags and the problem went somewhere else.

Anyway I do take the odd photo of the odd gull I see from time to time but this 30 second video is not something I have seen a gull do before and for all I know does come in the 'odd' category.

Famous Torquay Landmark Vanishes

A famous Torquay Landmark vanished during the week. Well, to tell the truth it wasn't all that famous. Most people would have driven past without even noticing it. And for 35 years of it's existence it was hidden by the trees and scrub on Rock Walk. So hidden in fact that some of our less desirable tourists used it as a drinking den and also to mainline certain illegal substances. When it did come out into the light of day in February, Devon Tree Services, who were employed to remove the trees found they also had to remove thousands of hypodermic syringes and a similar number of empty beer cans and dozens of similarly empty wine and cider bottles.

Anyway it was unsafe and had been fenced off. On Tuesday I went by and took a photo and it was still there with a couple of people from Vertical Technology working on it, cutting back vegitation, I thought. Friday I wandered by and it took a couple of looks before I realized it had gone.

I was very sorry to not be there to photograth it's fall.
More, though not much more, on the progress of making the cliff face safe Here.

Fleet Street

This is the Post Office Roundabout. Actually it's no longer a roundabout, it's a taxi rank, and the Post Office has been moved somewhere else but it is still called, in the time honoured fashion of not renaming places without good reason, the Post Office Roundabout. It is at the top end of Fleet Street which is commonly called Fleet Walk. Fleet Walk is actually a first floor level walkway full of shops and is further down Fleet Street and is completely free of motorised traffic. Fleet Street is a pedestrianised street but isn't, as you can see, completely free of motorised traffic.
As it is pedestrianised, pedestrians have priority. That means you can't run them over if they get in the way. Even though it is pedestrianised it is still open to some motor vehicles, not just buses, and the local speed limit of 30 mph still applies. Stagecoach buses have a sensible, company imposed speed limit of ten mph, I am not sure what speeds other bus companies limit their drivers to but I used to think it would be the same.

Then yesterday I came out of the Tesco Metro you can see on the left just on the roundabout and looked to see if anything was coming. There was, a bus (not Stagecoach) some way back on the roundabout and I decided to cross as there was plenty of time. Well if the driver had been doing ten mph on the roundabout he wasn't by the time he got into Fleet Street. Probably double. I didn't have to jump for my life, just walk a lot faster, which at my age can be a bit of a strain. So much for pedestrian priority.

Wednesday, 3 December 2008

Torbay's Grand Rock Walk Exhibition

Torbay Council recently tried to whip up a little interest and excitement in Rock Walk by holding an Exhibition. For a couple of days it was on show in the Princess Theatre which is in the firing line if any 20 tonne rocks roll down the cliff. Then it was moved to the Library in Lymington Rd which is in a much safer place. Well this is it. The Exhibition, not the library.

Not very exciting is it? The top bit has a few photos of Rock Walk as it was and the bottom bit shows an impression of what it will look like when it is finished. The work is expected to cost over a million quid so economies have to be taken where ever possible. The board on the right with the coloured bits of paper are for viewers, if the can contain their excitement, to express their comments, make suggestions and ask questions. I even went so far as to stick a little coloured sticker myself.
There is no sign of an existing foot path (see above) in the new plans and I asked why not. In the new plans there only seems to be one path up then the same path down. Surely we need two paths otherwise there could just possibly a bit of a bottleneck in busy times. And it's more interesting having more than one pathway.
Mind who the planers may just see my question, realise they have missed out a vital part of the redevelopment and write me a nice letter thanking me. It could also add thousands of pounds to the cost.