Sunday, 31 January 2010

Parking at Supermarkets & Motorway Service Areas. Are The Government Breaking the Law?

There was an item on the news this evening concerning parking in supermarket car parks. It seems that there is two hour free parking. To enforce this rule private parking companies are used. This can mean clamping with outrageous charges, if your the motorist, to get unclamped. The clamping companies of course thing their charges are fair. Now various charities are saying this blanket two hour rule is discriminating against disabled people who might need more than two hours to do their shopping and is therefore against the law. A spokesperson for the charity Disability Alliance said “Supermarkets need to acknowledge there is a problem, and secondly, very quickly they need to ensure their car parking procedures conform with the law.

This got me thinking about motorway service areas. I use them a lot more than supermarket cat parks. They too have notices stating that after two free hours parking there will be charges. So I emailed Johnny at motorway services online and asked was this going to be an issue for service areas as well as supermarkets. He emailed me back saying the rules for service station parking came under the jurisdiction of the HighwaysAgency, a government body. They say all MSAs must provide free parking for a minimum of 2 hours. There have been complains to the Agency that this is not long enough for some disabled people but the Agency say the two hour rule is there for a good reason and the weren’t planning to change it.

If the supermarkets are breaking the law with their two hour rule then the government are also breaking the law by not making MSAs allow disabled people to park for longer than two hours. Not good when governments break the law. People have gone to war when that happens.

Saturday, 30 January 2010

Ups and downs

The day started quiet well. I managed to unblock the drain which had been partly blocked for months. The liquid had been draining away slowly but a large quantity, about 0.35 tonnes, of other material had been building up in the drain pipe that runs from the back of the house to the main sewer in the street. I only noticed this problem yesterday when we came home from our weekly visit to the pub.

There was water, smelly water at that, oozing up from around the manhole cover and running down the street. I opened the cover and found...... No. I'm not going to tell you what I found. You can have a pretty good guess; that's if you want to. But the pit was full. It measures 45cm by 60cm by 90cm deep which works out at a quarter of a cubic metre. Holding my nose I poked around with a stick, a long stick. After a minute or so prodding hopefully down the pipe to the sewer there was a glup followed by and other glup and the water began to flow. Wonderful, a result. And I hadn't thrown up. Sorry, spoke too soon, this huge lump that had been festering in the drain pipe suddenly decided it didn't want to make that one way trip to the sewerage treatment plant and blocked to pipe, it just sat there in the u-bend immobile and vile.

However such places that link the house drains, which are usually rat free, to the main sewer, never rat free, do have an escape route for emergencies such as this. There is a pipe bigger and without the u-bend of the usual way to the sewer. Normally it is covered to stop rats heading for the household drains. Enough water (and other material) had gone so I could see the cover which I removed, first placing several plastic bags over my hand. Thank god for plastic bags. By then I had had enough and resolved to sort out the rest of the problem in the morning.

In the morning I got the mop and taped a bit of old carpet round the head and encased the lot in a couple of plastic bags, thank god for plastic bags. They do have more uses than filling up landfill sites. Couple of quick plunges and the water was flowing once again.
The Drain, with cover. I did take one of the drain without the cover but I'm not going to show it here, this is a family show.

In the afternoon I went down to the Harbour where the police inflatable was being pulled up the ramp out of the water. Last Saturday I had taken a photo of this boat to illustrate a post about the protest going on in London about people being harassed by the Met Police and council official when all they were doing was taking photos of interesting places like St Paul's Cathedral and a fish and chip shop. I had assumed they were on a training exercise but they were there again to day. Turns out they are searching for property removed from the apartment of an elderly couple murdered her in Torquay a week or two ago. We seem to have had a few murders here recently, there is a murder trial going on in Exeter now. A man went missing last year and no trace of him has been found. The police are convinced he has been murdered, hence the trial.

Later in the evening the TV began to act up. The sound kept cutting out and the picture freezing. We get our TV from Virgin so when I finally gave up watching the TV and tried the internet which comes through the same cable as the TV it turned out to be impossible to get on the www. Bugger.

It’s now Saturday afternoon and the TV and the internet are working again so I am posting this now, a day late.

Thursday, 28 January 2010

Plop Art, or drops of water.

I am in a photo club here in Torquay that meets every 3 weeks, in a pub. Now 3 weeks ago I was in Manchester stuck in the snow so I missed the last meeting and didn't discover what the project for the meeting on Tuesday was until I got an email from the club organiser on Sunday reminding me of the meeting and to bring my example of plop art along. At first I assumed plop was a typing error and was about to email the boss to see if he meant pop art. But I thought, "I wonder what will come up if I Google 'plop art'." Which I did. And this is what came up; Plop art is a pejorative slang term for public art (usually large, abstract, modernist or contemporary sculpture) made for government or corporate plazas, spaces in front of office buildings, skyscraper atriums, parks, and other public venues. The term connotes that the work is unattractive or inappropriate to its surroundings - that is, it has been thoughtlessly "plopped" where it lies. (Thanks Wikipedia)

As I didn't really have time to find plop art as described above I went into my extensive library of photos and came up with what I thought was fairly unusual plop art and printed the photo of the hands taken in Sant Julia de Loria, Andorra. The hands are in the main square in front of the library and seem a perfect representation of plop art. I expected to win hands down. (Pun intended).

However it wasn't exactly what the head photographer was after. This is what he had meant by PLOP art. The sound a drop of water makes as it lands in a dish of water.

The next project is black & white photography, can't go wrong with that. I give it my best shot though.

Sunday, 24 January 2010

Police Harassment; Not Here in Torquay.

There is a group called Photographer not a terrorist. The fact that such a group exist is a result of how the fear of terrorism and the terrorists are effecting out lives. We all know that if we flight there will be security checks that will add to the time it takes to actually get on a plane in the first place. The determined inventive terrorist will get through all but the complete strip down search followed by a complete body X-Ray plus an item by item examination of the contents of all our luggage. Imagine standing in a queue while all that goes on in front of you. I hope you are of a patient disposition or quite happy to give up flying.

Anyway, back to the photographers group. Surely it is nothing to do with terrorism, taking photos of such land marks as St Paul's Cathedral or Piccadilly Circus or a bus spotter capturing a number 12 leaving Paignton Bus Station. Well the police in London seem to think it is and have of late been nasty to people wandering around the capital with cameras taking pictures, something people have been doing ever since cameras were invented. I am glad to say I have not heard of anyone at Paignton Bus Station, or anywhere else in the Bay, having any problems with Devon & Cornwall Police thinking a picture of Brixham Harbour will aid and abet a terrorist in his/her evil trade.

Well to day in Trafalgar Square (London, UK) the group held a protest at the harassment of photographers, good or bad, by police officers, security staff and others. I could not get there so I went out and joined in the mass photo taking, but here in Torquay instead of London. And the picture at the top of the page is what I took and no one seemed to care. Bit disappointing really.

Saturday, 23 January 2010

Monsters and Politions

Over 25 years ago, as I came to the end of my teaching career I got a job teaching in an Institute for Young Offenders. There were 18 boys aged between 11 and 17 there, six of then in a secure lockup. One of those was a boy aged 13 and I learned a little of his history. Aged 6 and in year 2 at school he told his teacher he didn't want to go out to play one morning break time as he didn't feel too well. The teacher allowed him to remain in the class room while she and the rest of the class went out to play. When they returned the class pet, a guinea pig, was skewered to a notice board, a knife stuck through it's body. Increasing bouts of uncontrollable behaviour lead to him being taken into care 18 months later. While in care he went on a school trip to a local farm where he stuck a knife into the eye of a sheep. After that he ended up in the place I was now working at. A year previous to my starting at the home social services decided to send him home for a weekend in preparation for a return to normal home life. His mother resisted strongly but social services were stronger and prevailed. He arrived home on a Friday afternoon and was to return Monday morning. Friday went well, no trouble, Saturday also went well, mostly because mother watched him like a hawk. Sunday afternoon the doorbell rang and mother let her guard down and went to answer the door. By the time she returned he had poured lighter fluid all over is infant sister and was just about to strike a match.

There were other incidents I'm not going to mention here but no one, not even the boy expects he will do anything but spent the rest of his life in some kind of institution.

Perhaps the above story isn't on the scale of the recent incident in Doncaster or the James Bolger murder 16 years ago but it does illustrate something and it is not that society has broken down (Opposition Leader Blair, 1993) or that Britain is Broken (Opposition Leader Cameron 2010). What it does show is the system human being use to reproduce isn't perfect. The DNA strands do, from time to time get a little too twisted and produce monsters. And there is nothing we can do about it except hope some one spots them before they do too much damage.

And also hope that politicians don't show themselves up by trying to make political capital out of this kind of tragedy


Comment Moderation

There have been quite a few odd comments left on this site recently so I have decided for the time being to switch on the comment moderation system for a while. When ever a comment is made I get an email asking if I want to publish the comment. I do check my email every day so if you leave a comment that isn't written in Russian, barely recognisable English, selling something, wanting to know how to download films free on the internet, just doesn't make sense or is being nasty to David Cameron then it will get published within 24 hours, probably less.
I do reserve the right to change the above conditions if I feel like it.

The Bay Protector

Haldon Peir. The Bay Protector, a tug owned by Torbay and Brixham Shipping Agents, is unloading rubbish bins brought from an oil tanker anchored out in Lyme Bay waiting for the price of oil to go up. There are several out there and some have been there for months. It is good to see the crews aren't just throwing their rubbish over the side. I imagine if the had then the Bay would have looked like a land fill site by now.

Tuesday, 19 January 2010

Recently Planted Tree

I was walking past the end of The Kings Drive where it comes onto the sea front and I noticed a new tree. It has been planted to honour somebody from the Town Hall by his colleagues. I am sure it will be a fine tree in a few years time, taking in all that carbon dioxide and helping to save the planet. At the moment though it doesn't look too impressive, it's a bit like all those benches along the front dedicated to Mum and Dad who loved Torquay so much they came back every year for 50 years. And you can sit on the benches.

Saturday, 16 January 2010

Rock Walk

Nothing much happens to Rock Walk for years and years. Then I go away for a few days and the place is practically rebuild in my absence. Here work is going on to construct walk ways up to a viewing platform. The whole place will be tastefully lit up to keep the druggies and drunks out, sorry that should read, make the place attractive to holiday makers and us residents. Which will make a change after the last two years of the place looking like a bomb site.

One day soon Rock Walk itself will be resurfaced and provided with lights and the magnificent views of the Bay will be available to all. (Note; Rock Walk is actually the pathway at the top of the cliff but the whole area is now know by everyone as Rock Walk (except the council who continue to use it's old, long winded name. Which is so old and long winded I can't remember what it is) . The trees cut off the views having become overgrown in the 100 years since that were planted and hardly anyone went up there. It remains to be seen if numbers do increase after it is finally reopened)

Wednesday, 13 January 2010

No Snow in Torquay

This time last week I was still in Manchester up to my ankles in snow. I needed to book my coach ticket back to Torquay and was undecided which day to travel, Monday or Tuesday. I picked Monday for no particular reason and on Monday evening I found myself coming out of Exeter at 5:45. Not much snow on the ground, Telegraph Hill, the high ground between Exeter and Torquay was clear and coming down in to the coast was equally free of the white stuff. Tuesday evening at more or less the same time I found myself in front of the telly watching the news.Telegraph Hill was closed due to heavy falls of snow and traffic was backed up all the way into Exeter.

I had definitely picked the right day to travel. I spoke to a bus driver today and he told me the last X46, the bus service between here and Exeter had finally arrived in Torquay at midnight. Torquay was clear of snow but did have it’s own problems. Strong easterly winds and a high tide had closed the sea front for a few hours but that is a problem easily dealt with. Now the news regarding Torquay is about a couple in their seventies who have been murdered in their own home. Police say a 29 year old man has been arrested and charged with murder

Saturday, 9 January 2010

Snow Ploughs? Of Course There Are Snow Ploughs Out There.

Here is a snow plough just to prove that local councils haven't actually sold them all to some banana republic in Central America. Mind you in 4 days of wandering round the snow covered streets of North West England this was the only one I saw on the road.
I did see another but that was ploughing the snow out of the car park at the Manchester Fort.(A shopping complex, not a remnant from the cold war). The side roads around where my brother lives are still not gritted or snow ploughed.

Friday, 8 January 2010


I went a bit further north today. All the way to Accrington with a side trip to Rawtenstall using my free bus pass. The buses up there have card readers, unlike Stagecoach South West. You stick your pass on the ticket machine, tell the driver where you are going and take the ticket. It even has the pass issuing authority printed on the ticket. Smart. I just hope Torbay don’t get the bill for all the travelling I did. There are a few local bus services in the area. I used The Lancashire Way to get to Accrington with a stop in Haslingden where I lived 25 years ago. Like Manchester it is covered in white stuff but unlike Manchester all the schools seem to be open.

I have been reading the Herald Express while I have been away. It would appear Torbay Council is, like most councils in the UK, about to run out of grit for the roads but unlike most councils has an unending supply on the doorstep, well on the beach actually. At last Torbay Council have got something right.

Thursday, 7 January 2010

All Quiet in Manchester

Manchester wasn’t completely snowed under and on Wednesday I went into town. There were far fewer people about than usual and the roads were extremely quiet. So quiet that I could stand in the middle of Oxford St and take this picture. It was fairly hard work walking round on the frozen snow but there were teams of council workmen here and there clearing the pavements. All the buses were running again though only on main roads. Some estates weren’t covered. The one snow plough I did see was clearing the car park of the Manchester Fort, a shopping complex on Cheetham Hill Rd. Why there and not any of thousands of minor roads is beyond me. And probably beyond all those people who live along minor roads as well. Blacks the shop in the background which should have been doing a roaring trade in outdoor survival gear was closed.

Stagecoach, Firstbus and Arriva cover most of Manchester but there are lots of smaller bus companies operating here as well. This is just one of them.

Tuesday, 5 January 2010

Manchester is covered in snow

I wasn't expecting sun, sun, sun up here in Mancester but I wasn't expecting wall to wall snow either.
Arrived on Monday afternoon and it was cold but not icy. Monday night it snowed. Six to eight inches (15/20 cms) of the stuff. It was so bad neither my brother or sister in law even bothered trying to get to work. I haven't seen snow like this since 1963, which you will remember was the year it started snowing on Boxing Day and continued until a couple of days before Easter. Now I am only here in Manchester for a week, I was going to return to Torquay next Monday but given that the met office are saying this cold snap could last weeks, I could end up on holiday for longer than expected.

Remember when it is like this, if you don't have to drive then don't.