Thursday, 30 April 2009

Three weeks ago I had heard of Swine Flu but only in a general sense, in the same way I have heard of Alpha Centauri. It’s out there somewhere but doesn’t effect me. Then with the aid of instant world wide communication pictures arrived on the TV screen from Mexico followed almost immediately by the US Centre for Disease Control stating that there was now little chance of containing the flu epidemic that was about to go global. And that all happened less than two weeks ago. Unlike Bird flu which seemed to be around for years and never made the world tour so many ’experts’ pessimistically predicted. Now we have a case here in Torbay, it’s suddenly very close to home.

So now with the WHO moving us up to Scale 5, Pandemic imminent we have all gone from probably never having heard of Swine Flu to having it in our faces every time we listen to the radio, watch TV or read a newspaper. At least it has taken our minds of Global Finances. I have now made it through two flu pandemics one in 1957 when I was 13, a school boy at St Gregorys Technical High School in Manchester and the second in 1968 when I was taxi driver also in Manchester. The thing I remember most about these two pandemics is that we didn’t really know they were happening until people got sick in fairly large numbers in our own area. No instant world wide news coverage then. Back in 1957 all we noticed was more and more of our class mates were failing to attend school until one day when out of a class of 35 there were only 12 of us sitting in the class room waiting for the teacher to arrive, who didn’t actually arrive. The school didn’t close, we just carried on waiting for things to get back to normal. Then just as things were getting back to normal I went down with the flu. The day before I got sick I had taken a note to school saying I would be absent as we were moving house. When the removal van turned up to take all the furniture a mile or so to the new house I was not a well bunny. Fever, shakes, tiredness, a mad desire to curl up into a ball and switch the world off, permanently as far as I cared. We didn’t have a car back in those days so we would all have to walk to the house we were moving to but the van crew took pity on me and gave me a lift. Two and a half weeks of lying in bed staring at the ceiling before I got back to school. I even wanted to get back which shows how bad it had been.
The second in 1968 I only remember because my income suddenly went down as there were less people about. And I didn’t get sick.

One of the thing we can do to reduce the spread of swine flu is personal hygiene. The simplest is wash you hands as often as you can. When I trained to be a bus driver I spent the first week in a class room learning the theory and passing a couple of tests. The last thing the instructor said to us as he wished us luck in our new career was, “If you are running late don’t kill your self to get back on time. Don’t steal the company's money, they always find out and Wash your hands at every opportunity, you are handling money that has been through lots of grubby hands.“ Three good pieces of advice which I always followed. The bit about the washing hands has always been the most important of the three but has suddenly become even more important . I wonder how many places of work, not just bus depots, have large prominent notices stuck where everyone can see urging, no not urging, instructing staff to wash their hands. Is there such a notice where you work? If there is then good, if there isn’t then wash your hands anyway.

Wednesday, 29 April 2009

Last Game of the Season

Torquay Athletic Rugby Under 11s team played their final game of the season and ended with a win. Though the score was 17 pts to 7 pts they did have most of the play and only dogged defence by North Dorset Under 11s prevented a far higher score line. The season has been a mixed one with several games lost at the start of the season but many players improved greatly as the season when on and the results improved. The photo is of a player who only came into the side half way through the season just about to power his way over for his first ever try for the team.

Training starts again in September, no rugby for 4 months, I suppose it is only fair to give cricket a chance.

The team are always looking to increase their playing strength so if you know any one who will be under 12 next Sept (starting year 7) and would like to play rugby then Torquay Rugby club, or if you don't live at that near to Torquay then a rugby club near you, would like to here from you.

Torquay Athletic Rugby Football Club website

Swine Flu in Torbay

From the Herald Express

A 12-year-old girl from Paignton is the latest confirmed case of swine flu, it was reported on Wednesday.

Prime Minister Gordon Brown revealed the news during question time in the House of Commons.

The girl's school, Paignton College, is being closed and pupils are being offered anti-virus medication.

The girl is said to have 'mild symptoms'.

She is one of three more confirmed cases of swine flu on top of two previously identified in Scotland. Gordon Brown said that all three new cases, including the girl, had recently been in Mexico.

The Prime Minister told MPs: “There are three further confirmed cases, one a twelve year old girl from Torbay; two other adults -- one from Birmingham and one from London.

"All of them have travelled recently from Mexico. All of them have mild symptoms.

"All of them are receiving and are responding well to the treatment that has been effective so far, the use of Tamiflu. In the case of Torbay, the school in which the twelve year old is educated will close down for the time being and all the pupils will be offered the Tamiflu antiviral.

What to Watch For and What to Do

What to look for
is anyone who has pain in or across their chest, pain in their shoulder, is short of breath, has swelling around the lips, mouth or tongue or has lips, fingernails or toenails which are changing colour.

What to do

Anyone with such symptoms is urged to call 999 immediately and asked not to leave their homes.

The anti-virals Tamiflu or Relenza will be prescribed over the phone either via NHS Direct or from a GP.

If someone who is not infected is able to collect your prescription for you, they will be asked to go and collect it from the nearest pharmacy and post it through your letter box.

If there is no one suitable to carry out such a task, the prescription will be couriered round to your address and, again, posted through the letter box.

NHS Website re Swine Flu

Monday, 27 April 2009

Two things about this notice, first is slightly mundane but it would appear that Stagecoach in Devon (formerly Stagecoach Devon) is now known as Stagecoach South West. Still Stagecoach though.

The second thing is something that puzzled me when I drove a bus for Stagecoach and still puzzles me now. Torbay is a area full of holidaymakers, Bank Holidays are, as their name suggests, holidays. So the holiday and holidaymakers come together and what do the bus company do? The make it harder for everyone to get around. The two main routes tourists use are the 12 Torquay to Paignton and Brixham, and the 32 Torquay to Babbacombe, St Marychurch and Teignmouth. The twelve runs every 10 minutes on weekdays but only every 20 on Sundays and Bank Holidays. The 32 goes from 15 minutes to 30 minutes and the service to Teignmouth doesn’t bother running.

So what happened at Easter, a regular passenger on the 12 service spotted me waiting for a 32 in Fleet St. This was on Easter Saturday, not being a Bank Holiday buses were running their usual times, I.e. say a prayer and hope. The passenger who spotted me then spent the next 15 minutes explaining the problems she had had getting round the previous day, Good Friday. To cut a long story short it included a wait in Paignton Bus Station of one hour for a number 12 to go to Brixham. It wasn’t that no buses turned up, three turned up but they were all full and there was a queue in the bus station going round the corner. Standing waiting for a bus is not the perfect end to a pleasant day out. It’s the sort of end to a day out that makes you wish you had gone somewhere else and next year when deciding where to go could very well be a big factor in the decision to go somewhere other than Torquay and spend loads of money.

Saturday, 25 April 2009

Spot The Difference

This is what Victoria Parade by the Harbour in Torquay looks like since yesterday after the council had moved on with the chain saws and diggers and removed a considerable amount of vegetation including lots of palm trees. Torquay is famous for it's Palm Trees so the action came as a little bit of a shock and was yet an other example of our wonderful council's lack of understanding of public relations. The reasons the council gave for cutting back on all this formally living matter include unsociable behaviour but were unable to itemise exactly what the unsociable behaviour was and rats. It was also part of a spring clean in the Harbour area.
This is what it used to look like. Many people have commented that while they might be in favour of the change it was a little unsporting of the council not to have told anyone about the chop before it happened. The council responded by explaining that there had been a press release on the councils own web site and it wasn't their fault if no one bothered to read it.
However there was an item in the Herald Express today about 30 other trees, 50 to 80-year-old Monterey Cypress trees in Quay West, Goodrington, are also facing the chop due to the fact they are diseased and likely to start dropping branches on passers by.It is understood the trees are infected with a fungus which causes seridium cardinale. ( Click on the link if you want to know what that is).Work is to start in May so I have a chance to get down there and take a few shots before, during and after. New trees will be planted in both sites just as soon as possible.

One slightly worrying though is that as well as palm trees, Monterey Cypress trees are popular in the Bay area. It is to be hoped there isn't an epidemic of this fungus or we could be short of trees fairly soon.

I Don't Have Any Idea How to Deal With Global Warming.

Many, many years ago when nuclear power first raised it’s ugly head it was proclaimed as the answer to our energy problems. We are going back a long way here, pre Beatles days, the fifties. Pollution wasn’t a word that was used much, environment, if I’d heard the word spoken I wouldn’t have known what it meant, the word global appeared now and then but not linked to warming and even global economy hadn’t made it into mainstream vocab. But back to nuclear power, then of cause it was going to be so cheap to produce electricity that there wouldn’t be any need for houses to have meters, use as much as you wanted, no problem. Well that never happened and over the 45 years I have been paying my electricity bills I have gone from, “God have you seen the electricity bill, we must try and switch lights out when we aren‘t using them.” to “GOD HAVE YOU SEEN THE F****** ELECTRICITY BILL. THERE’S NO F****** WAY WE CAN PAY THAT.” And it aint getting any better. Oh yes, cheap electricity, I read somewhere not too long ago that the bill for decommissioning just one 30 year old nuclear power plant is £30 billion. And another point that wasn’t mentioned 45 years ago, nuclear waste. Well OK it did get mentioned but not by the people building the power plants. Now a days the nuclear waste is a lot safer than it used to be but there is still stuff from the fifties and sixties that will be Not Safe in a big way in 135 000 years. If one human generation equals 25 years then we have left a ticking time bomb for the next 5400 generations to worry about. That is really cheap electric. Now, as the serious effects of global warming loom up to give the next three or four generations reasons to hate us science has come up with an idea to reduce the amount of greenhouse gas getting into the atmosphere. They say we should scrub the idea of building more nuclear power stations and build coal fire power stations. Yes I know coal produces mega tonnes of CO2 but these new coal power stations will have a nifty device built in their chimneys that will collect the CO2 and store it somewhere safe. Like at the bottom of a coal mine or better still pump it into all those empty natural gas fields that presently litter the North Sea and the Gulf of Mexico. The people proposing this have absolutely no way of testing if the CO2 stored in these convenient places will actually stay where it is put, theory might suggest it will but at the dawn of the railway era there was a theory that a speed of 30 mph was sufficient to extinguish all life in the human body. This wonderful idea, will it work or is it something new for future generations to worry about and hate us for. But by the time they turn up and maybe have to deal with millions of tonnes of CO2 released from it’s undersea dungeon by tectonic movement we’ll be a long time dead and past caring. And, fortunately incapable of having a guilty conscience.

Sunday, 19 April 2009

A Fountain, A Memorial and A Balloon. All in one picture.

The fountain has just been repainted and the seagull has just crapped on it. I realise you probably didn't need to know the second piece of information there but isn't life a bitch?

Saturday, 18 April 2009

Taking Part

The One Show, which is a BBC TV program, a chat show, bits of watchdog plus guest and general interest ran a competition during the week. The wild life photographer took some photos and then asked us, the viewer to send in their own pictures.Two Ways to Fly
This and the one below were my attempts at national glory, failed attempts I have to add but there were over 50 000 photos submitted, it's not the winning that's important but the taking part as us losers always say.
Proud Mum
Still I am reminded that last Saturday the Under 11s rugby team (supported by The Belgrave Hotel, Stagecoach Devon and Taxi Fast) took part in a rugby tornement here in Torquay. They played games against Kingsbridge who are from Devon and Tamworth and Barkers' Butts who hail from the Midlands. A draw against Kingsbridge and a win against Barkers' Butts left them needing a win against Tamworth to get the only place on the winners rosterum. But Tamworth must have decided that after travelling a couple of hundred miles to get here they weren't going home losers and ended up winning fairly easily. But as they say, winning isn't everything.

All the junior teams from under 7 up to under 12 were in action and a great day out was had by all. And the sun shone all day as well.

Monday, 13 April 2009

Babbacome Cliff Railway

On Good Friday I decided to have a little walk down to the Harbour. When I got there the Baptists were having a little sing song. Now there was a 32 coming along so I jumped on that and headed for, hopefully, the peace and quiet of Babbacome. I thought I may as well get a few shots of the ten large oil tankers that have been parked in Lyme Bay for the past week or so. There had been an item in the Herald Express about these ships and the hazard to all the life and limbs in the area. Should emergency services request a floating firefighting station to be stationed in the Bay. Should anti oil leak barges be drafted in for when the inevitable collision takes place. It got so bad the Harbour master appeared on the local BBC news program (note for ed of the program it's TORBAY not TOR BAY) saying that the ships were good for the local economy, food suplies, crew changes and the provision of medical supplies provided much need cash in these hard times. Medical Supplies? Medical SUPPLIES???? What kind of exotic illnesses are these ships harbouring out there on our Bay?

I digress slightly, my quest for peace and quiet. The local parish church, St Marychurch had decided that as it was Good Friday they would not be out done by the Torquay Baptists, they too were bothering God out there on the Downs. So I walked towards the Babbacome Cliff Railway which is up and running after being out of action for some time. The railway goes down to Oddicombe Beach, it's a long way down to walk and more to the point just as long a way up but a lot more effort is required to get up at the end of an ejoyable day on the beach. £1.50 single or £1.75 return. Worth every penny.

Oddicome Beach from Babbacombe Downs.

Loads more Pictures can be seen below or here at Picasa

Still at Babbacombe

The St Marychurch singers on Babbacombe Downs.

Loads of steps to sit on down on the beach and two beach cafes that also sell beer. Now isn't that a good idea?

You can and should walk across to Babbacombe beach while you are down at sea level. It is mostly a flat, level walk but there are one or two bits where our wonderful council have provided walk ways over the rough, dirty rocks.

While there you might even get to see a helicopter flying in and out of the bushes. No sure what they were looking for.

Back at Babbacombe Beach this Chanel 5 film crew had finished building sand castles for a children's program due out in a couple of months.

Thursday, 9 April 2009

Drunk on Power.

Flower seller Gary Woodwas slapped with a £75 littering fine by a Torbay Council dog warden after the dog warden claimed a shop sign taped to Union House was litter.
But council bosses later revoked the fine saying it had been issued in error.
Mr Wood, owner of West Country Flowers in Union Street, Torquay, claims he had a verbal exchange with a dog warden earlier the same day over a dropped cigarette butt.
Later the warden, accompanied by two council officers, came to Mr Wood's flower stall and gave the trader a fine for littering Union House.

This story appeared in the Herald Express and supports those people who have expressed concern at the number of non police officers who can issue Fixed Penalty Notices. Apparently absolutely just about everyone who works for the council can issue FPNs for things ranging from littering, letting your dog crap and not cleaning it up to smoking in the street. OK the bit about smoking isn't quite true and I will admit that the bit about everyone who works for the council is also a slight exaggeration. What isn't an exageration, and this story kind of proves it, is the fact that some people just should not have the power to fine people on the spot. The system may have it's merits but there will always be some twerp who will get carried away, drunk on power, and screw up. Bit like that police officer in London who for no apparent reason gave a member of the public a bit of a shove. An hour later that member of the public had a heart attack and died. if you missed that little incident click here

Friday, 3 April 2009

A Bunch of Comedians? This is Torbay Council We Are Taking About.

A couple of days ago I was listening to Radio Devon, yes I know I try not to make a habit of it but it isn’t all bad. Anyway there is a phone in slot in the afternoon, if your not familiar with the idea a phone in is a bit like a blog but you don’t have to do any typing, just speak into the phone. It was a bit slow getting started and the presenter mentioned his great comedy moment, the time when Del Boy went to nonchalantly lean on the bar but the bar man had lifted the flap. If you missed it, sorry, it was very funny. To get people to phone in the presenter, Richard Green then asked listeners to phone in with their great comedy moments or people they though were great comedians. Within ten minutes two people had rung in and described Torbay Council as the biggest bunch of comedians around. Calling a group of people a bunch of comedians is not being nice, it does in fact suggest they are, well bordering on the incompetent or even worse.

Today the Independent Watch Dog, the Audit Commission came out with a report which seriously backed up the view of our two listeners and I quote, as I often do, from the Herald Express, “ BADLY-BEHAVED councillors are dragging down the reputation of Torbay Council, according to a top inspector. Martin Green, senior manager for the independent watchdog the Audit Commission, delivered his unusual verdict at a council meeting claiming the behaviour of some councillors was 'below the expected standards'. “Speaking to the Herald Express Mr Green said: "It is unusual for us to note the impact of councillors' behaviour in this way. Councillors need to ensure that their behaviour, either individually or in the pursuit of political objectives, does not unreasonably serve to undermine the reputation of the council in the eyes of local people." The report stated that some of the poor behavior appeared to be politically motivated.

The report also mentioned that this bad behavior was shame as the council had improved in it’s performance and in the provision of services.

Seems we need some one to bang a few heads together and explain carefully the meaning of the term Public Relations.

Liberal Democrat leader Steve Darling hit out at badly behaved Conservatives saying: "This is more an issue the Conservatives need to sort out.” Hi Steve, I have a feeling that comment was politically motivated. Where are your manners? And an other thing Steve, the callers to Radio Devon didn't differentiate between your lot and the other side. They lumped you all under the same banner. Tarred you with the same brush as it were. If you want to come up smelling of roses you are going to have to be whiter than white.

I’ve lived in a fair number of towns around the country over the years and it is only here in Torbay that I have noticed so much bickering going on in the Town Hall. Maybe it’s just because I’m getting older or, more likely, there is so much more bickering here than in other places I have lived.

Wednesday, 1 April 2009

Two Posts in One Day. Can't Be Bad, Or Can It?

Gordon Oliver, chairman of Torbay Hospitality Association, disputed suggestions that Street View could be good for tourism.
He said: "We've got a website that enables people to look at our beaches any time of the day, so I don't think there's a need for this other facility, in terms of tourism.
"Filming people without their permission is in breach of their human rights. It has echoes of George Orwell's 1984."

This little bit of nonsense appeared in an item in the local paper about Google driving round Torbay and taking films for their site showing movie of towns and cities. Interesting site. Shows things like people coming out of sex shops and gardening.

Well let me put you right about something Mr Oliver, there’s no such thing as bad publicity. Oh and another thing, Being locked up in Guantánamo Bay
and tortured for years with no hope of ever getting out, that’s an abuse of Human Rights, living in the Garza Strip and having a tank come down the street and shell the school where your wife and children are sheltering, now that’s and abuse of Human rights, being 11 years old and working in a sweat shop 10 hours a day making consumer goods for the rich west, all for 50 pence a day is also an abuse of Human Rights.

Being filmed coming out of a sex shop, well that’s just bloody embarrassing, having a camera shoved in your face all day long, well that’s just the price of being a celebrity.

What f****** planet are you on Mr Oliver?

Scaffolding, Rock Walk And Waiting for the Gas Man

One day last week I was listening to Radio Devon. I had just been for a cup of coffee and I heard the end of a story in which an eye witness was describing how a 50 metre long stretch of scaffolding had fallen down, “Just like dominoes, without a sound until it hit the cars and the not much sound.” For a moment I thought maybe it was the scaffolding in Fleet Street. I could ruse down and get some photos. Then the news reader explained it had happened in Exeter, 25 miles up the road. Too far to go to get a shot of a pile of Scaffold poles.

Our scaffolding in Fleet Street is still there, it has been built in 2 sections, the base runs the length of the area where the contractors are working but the top portion covers only a half of this and is being moved along as work progresses.

Talking of work progressing, there was an item in the paper on Monday the said the work on Rock Walk should be finished by the end of April, it wasn’t due to end until June. Oh good the Blue Wall down the middle of the road should go soon. No sorry, there is still much work to be done before that happy event. Walkways and steps to be constructed plus planting of exotic vegetation will have to take place before the crowd that will rival the destruction of the Berlin Wall turn up. The latest date for that is April 2010 which isn’t bad considering what the council said when the work stated in Jan 2008, “Three weeks.”

Here is a picture of some of the structural work going on the cliff face. Now I have a theory, several actually. The first is it is a gun emplacement, the council have heard something they aren’t telling the rest of us and are getting ready for the invasion. An other theory springs to mind, it could be that these sand bags are being used to fill a hole in the rocks before concrete is poured in.
A third theory that I have is that in the fullness of time, as the universe expands and all the hydrogen is used up making more and more suns that there will come a time when there is no more hydrogen left, remember stars are made mostly of hydrogen, that the universe will run out of it’s source of light. When that happens Einstein’s little equation will come apart. Remember E=MC squared. C being the speed of light. But if there is no more light then C will = zero. M times zero squared will equal zero so E, energy will have to equal zero. End of everything, nothing left but emptiness. Don’t worry, it wont happen any day soon, unlike Global Warming. But, and this is a big but, Nature abhors a vacuum. So what can nature put in this big, big vacuum? A new universe, that's what. And how will it do this? An other Big Bang. And 8 billion years or so after that a planet will form just the right distance from a sun that is just the right size and it will have a moon just the right size to keep this new planet stable so it can have seasons that don’t get too hot or too cold and 4.5 billion years later human life will turn up once again. Bit like a bus really. Good isn’t it.

Then comes the bad news. After 60 billion years give or take a hundred trillion years the hydrogen will run out. Go back up to the bit about Einstein’s equation to find out what the good news is. If each time you get to the sentence telling you to go back up the page you begin to understand that this process of re making a new universe every time the old one gives up the ghosts, big ghost, continues for ever. Which is a long time. Now if it does continue for ever, aka eternity then it stands to reason that it has happened before and we are living in just one of a long line of universes that has been popping in and out of existence, also for ever. Is this is true, and I don’t intend to devoting the rest of my life to proving this theory, then a thought that is niggling at the back of my mind is; when did all this start if indeed it ever did start. If it is going to continue for so long it will make eternity look like a week on Friday isn’t it possible that this process has always be happening, there was never a time when there wasn’t a universe. Don’t think about it for to long or your brain cells will start to hurt.

OK so I know this theory has nothing to do with Rock Walk except in a very indirect way but I am sat in on this pleasant spring day when I should be out taking photos but I stuck in waiting for the Gas Board to turn up and fix the central heating and I have read all the books I got out of the library last week, the washing up is done and I vacuumed the carpets yesterday and painting the bathroom can wait. And I wanted to get my theory into print before anyone else came along and nicked it.

Have a nice universe.