Wednesday, September 30, 2009

Becoming Infertile

Louise with baby Isaac

(Are some things too personal to share with the general public, or is the responsibility of a blogger to sometimes say it like it is? Readers will need to decide but I confess that I am very nervous as I press the “publish” button. If this article is well received, then I may be encouraged to publish further intimate and socially important articles.)

I have seen in tonight’s paper that the nation’s Fertility Units are to be graded, based on their success rates of helping infertile people to have babies.

I imagine the clinics will be dead against this proposal, but I think it is a brilliant idea. I would however want to add some extra criteria – their willingness to engage with LGBT couples for instance, or single women, or couples living apart, their bedside manner, their understanding of the emotional health of their patients and the level of moral support they offer.

My experience of Fertility Clinics has been both distressing and traumatic and during my time as a patient, I would have really appreciated the opportunity to have contributed to their ratings. For me, GPs have been fantastic in their personal support whereas fertility clinics have left very much to be desired.

Colin and I were trying for a baby for quite a long time and because I was already in my late 30s we decided to seek medical help. I went to see my local GP who was absolutely great and extremely supportive. He took a few basic tests from us and immediately agreed to refer us to the Halifax Fertility Clinic attached to Calderdale Royal Hospital. We had an appointment for a week day and Colin was able to get special medical time from work to come over to West Yorkshire. We turned up at the clinic and met the receptionist who took us into a room to take some basic details before we went in to see the consultant. As soon as she learnt that we were not yet living together, she said they would not be able to treat us and we must leave.

We were obviously shocked and distraught, and challenged her hard. We were, we said, a genuine couple, and why should it matter to her whether we were already living together or not? She said “We do not make babies, we make families” and showed us the door. In deep shock we tried every argument we could, but she would not be moved. She would not even let us see the consultant to see if we could change his mind. I recall sitting in the car in the car park above Peace Hall in Halifax with Colin for at least an hour while I sobbed and wailed and he stoically held my hand while I ranted and cried and hit the steering wheel. It was a long time before I had myself sufficiently together to drive us back home.

I went back to the GP who was of course appalled. He simply could not believe what he was hearing. He said he would never have referred us there if he had known, or would have written a much stronger letter of recommendation to support us. He said there was nothing in their listings as local fertility providers that suggested this apartheid was the case. He offered all the help he could. He sent me off, retrospectively, to Huddersfield Royal who carried out various further tests and seemed to offer us a way forward (of an encouraging “it all seems broadly okay so keep on trying” nature) but no specific treatment.

It was probably about six months later that I moved in with Colin in Liverpool and after heart-searching discussions, we nervously registered, via Colin’s GP with the Women’s Hospital in Liverpool. Again the GP was keen to support us and hoped that our horror story would not be repeated. We were delighted to be accepted for treatment. The fact that we were not married did not seem to concern the hospital and we had some quite positive appointments. A few more tests resulted in a recommendation that Colin was really extremely fertile whereas I was clearly showing my age (by then 40) and they decided to recommend us for a course of treatment that would encourage my ovulation. This was really our last recourse. I took the tablets for at least a year, which was longer than they normally allow for (6 months), and we did all the temperature taking and other stuff, which I will respectfully gloss over, that they recommend. But alas, no pregnancy was forthcoming.

At our final appointment the consultant shook his head, said there was nothing more he could do, I had taken the tablets for as long as medical recommendations would suggest, the potential side effects for carrying on being too great. And then he said the immortal words, that it was in any case my fault for being overweight. “Fat women don’t get pregnant easily” he said, “You need to lose several stone, but frankly your blood tests show that it is too late for you now anyway, you are too old.” Reeling with shock, I asked why he had not told us before that my weight was a problem. He tried to suggest that he had but we knew differently, we would have done anything to have a baby, and had he suggested this was an issue before, I would have been on a diet long since. I pushed him on this, if my weight was an issue, why were we only hearing about this as we were dismissed? But he would not elucidate.

We asked him what our chances were, if I were to go on a crash diet and lose lots of weight and he said that even then and even if we were prepared to pay (which by now, at the age of 41, I would have been obliged to do, NHS help ending at 39), we would fail. He said that we might pay upwards of £10k for IVF and it would still fail as I was not producing the right amount of hormones to carry a child due to my age and my hormonal levels. He gave us about a 1 in 10 chance, even if I was much slimmer and we paid over the odds.

He was cavalier with our feelings, he shrugged his shoulders, he put our failures back on to ourselves, he offered no counselling or support, he had moved from keen and enthusiastic to completely dismissive.

So, to coin a phrase, it was as clear a case of “collapse of stout party” that you are ever likely to see.

I don’t really know how we got through those next few months, it was horrific. My younger friends and family seemed to be falling pregnant with ease, all around us. I had to grit my teeth in order to congratulate them, I cried buckets of tears every time I saw a pregnant woman, and buying gifts for the new born of our friends and relatives rubbed salt deeply into the wound.

Yes, we got over it, eventually, and the hormonal drive to get pregnant, to have a baby, did diminish for me, as my hormone levels changed in the way the consultant had suggested they would. I don’t know whether Colin has ever got over it though, you would have to ask him, although I suggest strongly that you don’t.

But what made it so hard for us was not just that we failed in our endeavours to have a baby and become a family, but that we were treated so poorly and with such disregard for our mental health or well-being by these baby doctors who see themselves only in terms of how many new babies they can bring into the world. In both clinics there were photo walls full of babies born to happy parents, all created thanks to the marvels of Mr X and Mr Y. There is no room on a Fertility Clinic’s photo montage for an infertile woman or couple, there is no place at the table for those who do not conceive.

Colin and I won’t feature in the grading of fertility clinics for the new tables, our experience is a few years out of date now, but I wish that such things were around when we were trying so hard, and that our experiences of the most humiliating treatment at the hands of these baby doctors were factored into their ratings. Maybe they would have been kinder, more generous, more informative, more thoughtful, and a bit less obsessed on the numbers game, if they had thought that big brother was watching.

I have not discussed this entry with Colin and he may ask me to edit it, in which case, this version may not stay up for long.

I love my nephews, my niece, my special (not God) children, and the wonderful children of my best friends. My own desires have passed with the changes in my hormones. These days I can genuinely welcome the birth of a new baby with joy and not a speck of envy, and I love going shopping in Mothercare for baby clothes for these wonderful new additions to our lives. But we were seriously short-changed and I hope that the new plans to rate clinics will make it much easier for the next couple (or single person) that comes along. Never again!

Shocking waste of food

Chips with everything!
I just picked up this story from Alun Parry's blog

He describes a visit to a cafe on Berry Street, which he describes as the stupidest cafe in Liverpool

Not just stupid, but a criminal and shocking waste of food at a time when people are starving elsewhere in the world.

This is precisely the sort of behaviour we should be challenging and I shall be asking the Council whether we can contact the cafe and suggest they get their menu in order!

Tuesday, September 29, 2009

People in glasshouses should not throw stones

So what has LibDem Parliamentary hopeful, and Liverpool councillor, Colin Eldridge got to say for himself about this story? which is repeated here and crucially, here?

And you might find some interesting items here too - take a look at August 6th or July 13th

There are very strict laws against applicants for jobs lobbying councillors, and likewise for aforementioned councillors lobbying recruiters.

Edit: Very interesting take on this story on the Though Cowards Flinch blog referring to a famous dodgy recruitment within LCC 25 years ago today.

And Gordon's message from conference...


I hope you will have caught something of my speech to Labour Conference today. You can watch it in full here but I wanted to drop you a line just to let you know what mattered most to me today.

My message is clear: our country faces the biggest choice for a generation – a choice between a change that benefits people like you - or a change that benefits the privileged few.

I am determined to stand up for the mainstream majority of families in Britain – to stand up for those British values of fairness and responsibility for all.

Today I believe we have shown that we are the party of ambitious change for the many:

- Change for a new society with new measures to tackle anti-social behaviour and ensure our public services meet new challenges - expanding free childcare for two year olds, a new offer on social care for older people, and additional funding to local authorities to help keep people in their homes.

- Change for a new economy with tough new rules for bankers and investing for growth, with a new legal obligation for fiscal responsibility.

- And change for a new politics so we ensure that MPs guilty of gross financial misconduct are recalled and we modernise our democracy with a new voting system.

In the coming weeks, don’t just listen to what our opponents say - demand to know what they would do. Because if you’re a family that’s feeling the pinch – don’t take it from me – just ask them the question. If you care about me, why is your first priority to give a £200,000 pound tax cut to each of the 3,000 wealthiest estates?

I am confident we are on the side of the British people on the fundamental choices our country faces in the years ahead.


P.S. Now let's go out and campaign for this change.

Gordon Brown's Speech

Here is the speech, in full, lasts about an hour.

Do take the time to watch it and give me your feedback

I thought it was really good, I particularly enjoyed hearing the commitments he piled up. Real commitments that speak to Labour's people, some on the left, some on the centre-left, and plenty of them.

Final end to the hereditary peers in the House of Lords, replaced with an elected second chamber.
PR for general elections (or at least an alternative voting system)
Commitment to nuclear disarmament
Introduction of a National Care Service
Legal commitment to the expenditure of 0.7% GDP on overseas aid
Increased powers to tackle ASB
Councils to have the right to turn down 24 hour licences for alcohol
Listens to voices against compulsory ID cards and drops the proposal
Commitment to increase minimum wage every single year without fail
Commitment to send police round within 48 hours for non emergencies
Commitment for cancer patients to have been seen, tested and have results within 1 week
Commitment for education/training for all until 18
Commitment to allow constituents to "call in" MPs who have let them down
Commitment to free childcare for the under 2s for poorer families

and lots more

Thursday, September 24, 2009

Colin Eldridge under fire at LibDem conference

The Guardian is reporting that LibDems at their party conference in Bournemouth this year were unhappy with proposals from Liverpool Wavertree wannabe MP, Colin Eldridge to reclassify all films as 18 certificates which feature smoking.

What future for old childhood favourites 101 Dalmatians, Pinocchio and Alice In Wonderland you may ask?

Still, at least it kept people's attention away from the savage cuts local people can look forward to if Colin Eldridge ever becomes an MP

Liberal Democrats cannot win here

I have copied this from Tom Harris's website.

LibDem "savage cuts" in Kensington and Fairfield

So Nick Clegg wants to see savage cuts in spending in Kensington and Fairfield (and elsewhere in the country).

I wonder where he sees the axe falling?

He has dropped the pledge to scrap tuition fees, so the students wont love him any more.

Will he close our sure start centre on Gilead Street?

Will he scrap our PCSOs in L6 and L7?

Will he close our youth club on Walker Street?

Will he abandon our Winter Fuel Allowance for local pensioners?

Perhaps he would scrap our commitment to the NHS surgery planned for Edge Lane?

Or close a few dentists?

Will he close one of our primary schools perhaps?

One thing is for sure, he cannot close our One Stop Shop because the LibDems decided to shift the money out and build a tourist information office in town instead.

And he cannot close the Rehabilitation centre for stroke victims on Boaler Street - because his LibDems did that already.

And he cannot close the library on Lister Drive that served Fairfield, because guess what, the LibDems already closed that last year.

Just how savage are these cuts going to be, and where will they fall?

Colin Eldridge should come clean. But we wont hold our breath, because as he astonishingly told Channel 4 about gun and knife crime in Liverpool, "It's not up to boring men in suits like me to come up with solutions."

Looking for a SAP architect?

Are you looking for a SAP architect?

My friend is currently employed in Madrid as a SAP architect for a major company. She commutes from Liverpool each week. She wishes to find employment in the NorthWest because she lives in Liverpool with her husband. If you have either a full-time or part-time opportunity for a SAP architect in the north-west, please contact me and I will put you in touch with her. Thanks

Update on Parliamentary selections

Note from Ann Black might be of interest to any would-be MPs/candidates

NEC accepted the organisation committee’s recommendation
that Bury North, Stretford & Urmston, Wirral South, North-West
Durham, Newcastle North and Sittingbourne & Sheppey will select
candidates from all-women shortlists, while Carlisle, Darlington,
Hyndburn, Luton South, Pudsey and Norwich North will have open
selections. Burnley was referred back to the organisation committee,
where it will be considered together with Warrington South, Makerfield
and Wigan. The last two have higher majorities, and the NEC is keen
to increase the proportion of women MPs, rather than just women
candidates. Improving black and minority ethnic representation must
also be taken into account.

Tuesday, September 22, 2009

Cross Country cycle racing in Liverpool

Saturday, 17th October 2009. 10.00am
The Jack Webster Stadium
Wavertree/Botanic Park (L7 5PX)
Events for under 12 year old and 16 year old
(10.00am start for under 12s) (10.30am start for others)
What are needed - a bike, a helmet, a Parent Consent Form
and accompanied by a parent or guardian
Contact by phone:- 0151 263 5812 or email;-
Forms can be acquired by contacting any of the above.

Monday, September 21, 2009

LibDem's mansion tax

Vince Cable's new great idea is a mansion tax - half a percent on the value of all property above £1million.

In principle it sounds like something a socialist should support. But how is it to be achieved?

How are we to estimate the value of houses? Be they worth a million or more, or not? Who shall carry out the valuations? Who will carry out the appeals?

Where a house is worth say £1.1million, and the tax quibbled over is something like £500, what will the legal costs be in fighting this?

Are the LibDems planning on using already out of date rating valuations? Or would they set up a whole new load of land valuation people to work this out? And what would that cost?

Is this just manna for estate agents?

Is this the north-south divide writ large? How many houses are there in Liverpool in the plus £1million bracket? Probably none I think, yet we have people on big incomes who should be paying something, if the LibDem philosophy is to be understood.

Will this penalise the Londoners at the expense of the northerners? And is that a good thing, or a bad thing?

I just don't see the workings on this one, it is simply a massive gimmick surely?


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Entry level 1 Thursday 9.30 - 12.00
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Entry level 3 Thursday 12.30 - 3.00
Level 1 Thursday 12.30 - 3.00

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Assessments are being held for approx 3 weeks, starting
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Appointments can be made for 9.30 or 1.30

Please contact KCLC on 260 1006 if you would like further information.

*Eligibility criteria applies

Tuesday, September 15, 2009

Hotels are vital to Liverpool's success as a conference venue.

Competition is healthy, says Roberts
The chairman of the Liverpool Hoteliers Association is encouraging the industry to embrace the arrival of the Hilton to Liverpool One. Stephen Roberts, general manager of the Crowne Plaza Liverpool City Centre, said rather than treat the move as a threat, fellow Liverpool hotels should see the positives. "Of course, we have to be mindful of the recession and everyone is trying hard to fill their beds, but competition is always healthy in the hotel industry," he said. "It keeps everyone at the top of their game."
Insider Business News, Liverpool edition

I just picked up this story on the wires about possible rumblings between hoteliers in Liverpool, and that the chairman of the Liverpool Hoteliers Association is encouraging some mutual appreciation.

As a former member of Labour's NEC, I can recall many meetings where we discussed potential venues for annual party conference and it always came down to one key consideration - were there enough hotels to cater for the many thousands of people who would want to come?

There were bids from members for the National Exhibition Centre in Birmingham but unfortunately, in point of fact, it is not in Birmingham and there was nowhere for people to stay. What about Scarborough? someone would suggest, a lovely conference centre at the Spa, self-contained, lots of room, easy enough to secure, but alas, not enough hotels.

Liverpool's new conference centre is obviously very important to the city, in terms of securing big gigs like ours, but it is the growth of the hotel accomodation that has made the difference. We could have set Party conference up in Picton Sports centre, at a pinch, but without the hotels it was never going to happen.

So I am with Stephen Roberts on this, we should be welcoming the new Hilton, which looks pretty nearly finished to me, having driven by there over the weekend.

Total Politics Blog Poll 2009

Eagle-eyed readers will have noted the three new banners that have appeared on the blog this week.

I am very proud to say that this blog has been voted 45th in the top 100 Labour Blogs, last year I was 77th out of 100, I don't think I even made the poll in 2007 and in 2006 I was about 56th from memory, but I know Iain Dale could not even scrape together 100 Labour blogs that year so that was out of about 70 I think.

I have also broken into two new polls this year, featuring at number 100 in the top 100 Left of Centre blogs (a poll which includes non party aligned bloggers plus also bloggers from other parties, such as the Greens for instance). I have also broken into the top 300 political blogs across the spectrum, for the first time.

Thanks everyone who voted for me, 1400 entries in three and a half years, it makes it all worthwhile.

Wednesday, September 09, 2009

Royal Pardon for Michael Shields

Wonderful, fantastic, marvellous news that an innocent lad has finally been freed from jail.

A huge debt of thanks is owed to Cllr Joe Anderson, Louise Ellman MP and Arlene McCarthy MEP for all the work they have done to secure this.

I wish Michael all the best for his future and hope that he and his family can start now to rebuild their lives. This is simply the best news.

Jack Straw's full statement can be read here on David Bartlett's blog

Video footage of Deane Road Jewish Cemetery Open Day

It is amazing what you find when you are searching for something else. I just found this video footage on YouTube, filmed by a guest at the open day this week. Lots of shots of me and Liam wandering round the graveyard, chatting to people and some fab shots of the famous Star Trek blessing, adopted from the Jewish religion by Leonard Nimmoy when pressed to think of a blessing that a Vulcan might give.

I don't know Karlo58, although I clearly met him and spoke to him and stood next to him while he was filming, but on behalf of the committee, I would like to thank him for his wonderful efforts here, we shall link to this from our website, thanks very much!

Tuesday, September 08, 2009

Dropping like flies

Several LibDem councillors have today announced their resignation/retirement in next May's local elections in Liverpool. In some wards in the city I am quite sure that flags will be flying and champagne corks will be popping!

But we start with the retirement of Sir Trevor Jones who is retiring from a long period of honourable public service, including leading the council. First elected in 1968, Jones the Vote has done more than his bit for the city and I am sure tributes will be many, and genuinely meant.

Then we have the news that Croxteth Councillor Nadia Stewart, elected in 2006, as a Labour councillor, granddaughter of Ken Stewart MEP, is standing down this time. She resigned the Labour whip after relations with the Labour Group broke down, and then signed up with the Liberal Democrats on the night of the count in 2008, allowing the LibDems to cling to power by 1 seat, drawing the wrath of Labour supporters across the city. I believe she would have definitely lost her seat this time had she stood as a Liberal Democrat so standing down makes sense.

Convicted criminal, Councillor Steve Hirst, about whom I have blogged several times, he being one of my own representatives, has announced that he will not be seeking reelection in May. It says in tonight's Echo that he "became fed up with the press coverage and the fact the issue would not go away". I am not sure why he thought otherwise. I have expressed my thoughts before about his suitability to represent the good people of Wavertree ward, and I don't need to repeat them here.

Colin Eldridge is reported as having sold his laundry business and announced he won't be standing as a councillor in Church ward again in May, in the (vain) hope that he might be elected as the next Member of Parliament for Wavertree. If I was him I would be praying that the PM calls the election before May so that he has the chance to change his mind and put his nomination papers in to stay on the council, rather than face the dole queue.

The Echo reports that "more prominent Councillors" are expected to announce that they too are handing in their cards very soon. I can hardly wait! One could happily open a book on this one.

Deane Road Jewish Cemetery open day

I spent Sunday immersed in Jewish history. In the morning I went to Broadgreen Jewish Cemetery to Mr Arnold Winik's tombstone consecration. This gentleman was the father of Howard Winik, the Chair of the Standards Committee in Liverpool, who I worked very closely with as the Ethical Governance shadow last municipal year. Cllr Eddie Clein was there too, along with Beatrice's husband, but most people I did not recognise.

I was pleased to attend because as well as offering Howard my support at a difficult time, I wanted to witness the type of ceremony I could have expected to see in Deane Road had I been around 150 years ago. We were encouraged to lay stones, rather than flowers, on any graves of significance to us, so I left a stone for Ilona Marks, who was Saul's mum who died 7 years ago, and one for Ronnie Bracey who was a prime mover and shaker in our early efforts to restore the cemetery at Deane Road and who died in 2005. I "told" them both where I was going to next and who I would be spending the afternoon with.

I left Broadgreen (right next to the hospital) to go over to Deane Road Jewish Cemetery for our open day. We opened from 10am - 6pm as part of the National Heritage Week and were part of a tour package that included the Princes Road synagogue.

The publicity was not all it could have been, my fault, I was in charge of it, and I failed to get either the Echo or the Post to get excited about or promote the opening. However, I had much more success with Roger Lyon, who enthusiastically promoted it that afternoon and from 1pm people were arriving because they had heard about it on his show on BBC Radio Merseyside. Thanks very much to them! Also, someone stole our banner from the railings outside, or perhaps it blew away in the wind, but whichever it was, we were struggling to let people know we were open. However, with the radio, and with Muriel and I standing out on the road and accosting passers by, and with the help of the synagogue sending their guests down to us, we saw 100 people come in through the doors, so actually I was quite pleased with that.

We had some really interesting visitors - a man who is descended from Charles Mosley, first Jewish Lord Mayor of Liverpool and one of our most illustrious graves, a woman who, as a teenager, used to sit in the (then) big hole in the wall adjoining Needham Road with her friends and dare them to come into the spooky overgrown cemetery on the other side. We had lots of people who lived nearby, now or in the past, desperate to get their opportunity to see what lies behind the grade II listed facade, and we raised a decent sum of money in contributions at the gate.

It did rain about 4.30pm for an hour, but it didn't stop the hardy souls who were determined to go all the way round. A day well spent I think, gaining more valuable information in our efforts to win the Heritage Lottery Fund bid.

Photo courtesy of Howie on the Yo Liverpool website, one of our guests yesterday. Thanks very much for coming!

Kissing babies (quickly) in Blackpool

On Saturday, Wendy and I spent the day in Blackpool. We drove up in the morning and had a coffee and a bacon sandwich in a cafe before going in to Blackpool Town Hall for a meeting of the North West Regional Labour Party board. We are moving the meetings around the region, the last three before this were in Manchester, Liverpool and Preston.

The Town Hall has a lovely entrance with flowers and house plants in a bed in the reception and a beautiful stained glass window. In the absence of the chair, I took over the chairing of the meeting and was pleased to welcome Phil Woolas MP, the new Minister for the North West Region to his first meeting. We had some very interesting discussions ranging from defence jobs in Cumbria, Hydropower in New Mills, public appointments to commissions and quangos. We also planned regional conference in November in Southport and talked about our progress in the key marginal constituencies ready for the General Election. None of which I can mention on a public website.

After a really good meeting, Wendy and I met and went out with Joan Humble MP and her agent to knock on some doors in her constituency, while colleagues joined Gordon Marsden in his. After a rather wind-swept couple of hours we were pleased to meet up with other members for a BBQ and the obligatory fund raising raffle (Wendy won some flowers and a vase to put them in). Thanks must go to David Mennon for hosting the board and making us all feel so welcome.

BME social group

I enjoyed an evening in the Hindu Temple on Edge Lane last week, socialising with different BME/BRM groups in the Kensington and Fairfield area, talking about issues of concern over a bowl of curry, very nice!

We mainly discussed problems of racism and hate crime and particularly those pertaining to the Holt Road neighbourhood, getting a handle on what kind of things are happening, how often and to whom, and by whom. And we learnt quite a bit and exploded some preconceptions. We then moved on to talking about how we could work together to come up with some solutions. This was very timely as I will be able to feed our thoughts and findings into the meeting to look at tensions in the area that I have arranged for next week.

We had representatives from the African, Polish, British, LGBT, young and old communities sitting round the table talking about their personal experiences. I found it extremely valuable and would like to thank Mark Jackson for organising this for us. Next month we are all going to spend a little bit of time talking about what our respective organisations do, so that we can take advantage of each other's services, and be more joined up - in the same way that the Youth Forum is already working for youth issues and service provision in the ward.

Newsham Park Steering Group

A much more organised meeting of the Newsham Park Steering Group this month, all officers either present or having sent written reports. We were looking at progress and plans for Prescot Road and Prescot Drive houses. Readers will recall various blogs on this subject explaining how the council dithered for so long that demolition was the only answer left for these splendid properties.

I can confirm, with great sadness, that the affected houses on Prescot Drive, facing the park, that Jonathan Brown and the Friends of Newsham Park, along with the Fairfield Residents Association fought so hard to keep, have now been demolished and the site cleared.

And I can confirm that demolition will begin on Prescot Road very soon. There are only 5 householders left in situ and we are working with them to find suitable financial recompense and where they wish our help, alternative accomodation.

I am pleased however to say that local concerns that Bellway, as the preferred developers for the area, will be developing the site, are misplaced. We intend to develop a brief to go out to tender next year, which sympathetic local builders will be free to pitch for. We have already talked as a group about a design scheme that looks not unlike the one that Venture Housing Association built behind their new office on Boaler Street - three storey town houses, brick built, with pitched roofs and sympathetic design features in keeping with neighbouring properties.

Fairfield Residents Association has played a full part in all consultation and meetings. Obviously the new houses wont be as wonderful as the villas they replace but we will not support anything that looks like a little box, not after all this suffering. I will keep you posted.

Holborn Street alleygate

Residents have asked for help with problems on Holborn Street which they would like to see resolved with an alleygate blocking entrance to the whole street (It only goes to back gates, there are no houses on it).

So I had a site visit with Mr Alleygate himself, Jim, in the rain the other day, but it was not good news. Jim phoned the Rights of Way officer while we huddled under his umbrella and was told that it is illegal to gate highways so that was no good. Then we discussed the possibility of a stopping-up order, but there were complications there too.

If you get a stopping order then the land behind the "stop" becomes private property. And the utilities would then want to move their stuff out. Although this road is only about 100 feet long, it contains an electricity sub-station, a telegraph pole and a street light, all of which would need moving and the residents would not want to lose their light!. And they would also become liable for future cleaning/tarmaccing etc, so I cannot see this as a suitable resolution. I shall have to go back to plan A2v3.i which was to get double yellow lines, another street light and CCTV, but knowing how expensive all this is, and how long the waiting lists are on our council, I am not holding my breath.

I shall be letting all the residents have the news this week.

WWII: Commemoration of the firing of the first shots in Gdansk (Danzig), Poland, 1st September 1939.

I was invited to attend an event at Liverpool Town Hall on September 1st 2009 to commemorate the 70th anniversary of the beginning of the second world war.

I have never studied 20th century history (although have studied from 950AD to 1851AD at various times through my educational career) so I did not really know anything about the outbreak of WWII. I learnt on Monday that it began with the Germans firing on the Post Office in Gdansk, where a handful of hardworking postal workers held off the might of the German army for 12 hours before being forced into the basement which was then set on fire. We saw footage of the event, courtesy of the Gdansk museum, also a wonderful photographic exhibition of the damage caused to the city over the course of the war.

This was complemented by a similar display of Liverpool's war damage, courtesy of the reference library in Central. The event had been organised by Gosia McKane of Merseyside Polonia, in conjunction with Yellow House and was attended by the Lord Mayor of Liverpool, the leader of Liverpool City Council, the Deputy Leader of the Opposition, various leaders of faith groups, the High Consul of Poland and his deputy, (I might have that a bit wrong) and some Polish and English war veterans.

We heard from the young people of Yellow House who were visting Gdansk a month earlier and shared their experiences with us, including a visit to a labour camp nearby.

We were also entertained by a singing group from Manchester who sang old war songs from Poland and England - cue Vera Lynn! It was a really special evening. I sat next to Councillor John Prince who was telling me about his Mum's war experience in a munitions factory and about the children of Bootle being evacuated all the way to Southport, (some Liverpool children ended up in Ruabon where my friend's grandmother lived and from where they could see Liverpool burning at night), and various other interesting stories.

Gosia did a wonderful job and everyone was very sure to give her praise and thanks. I think it is lovely when you have an idea and then with the help of others, see it brought to fruition, for her part Gosia thanked Jean Evans of the Town Hall for all her help and assistance. Well done to you all. A very fitting tribute.

Annual dahlia visit to Reynolds Park

I had a little visit to Reynolds Park on the Saturday before my birthday for my now annual opportunity to photograph some of the wonderful blooms.

I was very disappointed to see a sign saying that the walled garden within the park would be closed on the following Bank Holiday. I must write to the head of Parks and ask why this was, the council's website says it should be open on bank holidays but I have always found it closed when I have visited on them. I would think a bank holiday was an ideal day to visit such a lovely park. If you have not been, this hidden gem lies off Church Road, Liverpool 25, with other entrances from Woolton Hill Road and Woolton Road.

Well worth a trip, although you have to be careful not to turn green with envy when you think of the contrast with Newsham Park - particularly in terms of herbaceous borders, or the lack thereof.

Another year older!

This year my birthday fell on a bank holiday, which meant it also coincided therefore with the Mathew Street Festival. After a birthday brunch in my favourite greasy spoon, the cafe at the Penny Lane Neighbourhood Centre (off Church Road but capitalising on the Penny Lane name as so many businesses do in my area), Colin and I went into town to catch some of the festival.

We saw David Bowie (Bowie Experience) and Supertramp (Logical Tramp) tribute bands in Williamson Square, and then Suzanne, Mike and Mandy joined us from Manchester in time to see the real live actual China Crisis who did a great set. You may recall that I met them in the Richmond beer garden just after the smoking ban was introduced. They are from the Wirral, Wallasey I think. They were very popular, the biggest crowd of the day on the Phil Easton stage.

We then moved over to the big stage at the entrance to the Birkenhead tunnel in time to see the tribute band Kins of Leon (you can work out for yourself to whom they are a tribute). I estimated there was something in the order of 30,000 at the big stage, it will probably be the biggest gig that band will ever play. Everyone really enjoys themselves, it is quite easy to imagine that you are seeing the real thing with many of these bands and the songs are familiar, which is always important.

I was a bit worried about St Johns Gardens, which was completely covered with people, they were even standing in the flower beds, I do hope none of the memorials were damaged. The rain held off until the end of the last song of the day, and then the crowds melted away (mainly into pubs I think, judging by the queue for the ladies in Dr Duncans).

I really enjoyed myself, the only dampener on the day was that two of our friends who were meant to join us, gave up waiting for a bus on Allerton Road after an hour and turned back home. This was in the early afternoon. We really do need twice as many buses, not half as few.

Proud at Pride

I joined friends and colleagues at Manchester Pride last weekend. We marched together in the parade on Saturday morning wearing our bright red "Never kissed a Tory, never will" T-shirts (not technically true in my case, to be honest it is not the first thing I ask a potential snogee and a few have snuck through over the years.

There must have been around 40 in the Labour LGBT group, joined by various politicians including the North West Regional Minister Phil Woolas MP, Arlene McCarthy MEP, Peter Wheeler from the LP NEC, Lucy Powell, PPC for Manchester Withington, Tony Lloyd MP, various Manchester Councillors - Paul Fairweather, Mike Amesbury, Val Stevens, the Regional and Deputy Regional Directors, Anna and Noel Hutchinson. We were an impressively sized group, especially compared to the Tories who managed only to field about 10 attendees, all young men, no women; bisexual and lesbian women must have more sense than to join the Conservatives. I did not see any other political parties on the parade.

I was privileged to be allowed to carry the banner all the way round the parade. We were all thrilled with the response we received; there were literally hundreds of thousands of people lining the route and we were clapped and sometimes cheered as we passed, not a single "booh". I think it helped that we were carrying placards which said things like "Labour introduced civil partnerships" and "Introduced fertility treatment for lesbians" and "Scrapped Section 28" and "Removed ban on gays in the Military" etc. It was a real reminder to everyone just what great advances this party has made in the field of Equality and Diversity.

Phil Woolas MP, Regional Minister, took the opportunity at the NW Regional Board later in the week to congratulate and thank everyone concerned with Labour's attendance at Pride, saying it was the most impressive display and turnout in years. I spent the rest of the day and evening on Canal Street with friends, people watching and enjoying the atmosphere. A great time was had by all.

Friday, September 04, 2009

An early Christmas gift

I understand from tonight's Liverpool Echo that Ronan Keating is honouring us with his presence on Sunday 28th February 2010 at the Liverpool Empire.

As an adoring fan, I do hope some or other friend of mine will purchase a couple of tickets to allow me to worship from the stalls, or the circle, or even from the pavement outside, it could be my Christmas present, wouldn't you say?

Liverpool beats York, Chester, Bath and MANCHESTER!

Story from Insider Business News focussing on Liverpool

Liverpool ranked in top three UK cities
Ongoing investment in Liverpool's tourist offering following Capital of Culture 2008 has enabled to city to be named in the top three UK city break destinations for the second successive year by readers of travel magazine Condé Nast Traveller. This is the second year Liverpool has found itself ranked behind only London and Edinburgh in the list of favourite UK cities, placing it ahead of popular destinations like Bath (4th), Oxford (5th), Manchester (6th) and York (7th).

There is nothing like a zealous convert to promote a cause. And I am such a creature.

I was born in the West Midlands, lived there for 12 years, spent the next 20 years in Teesside (in the North East of England), then 6 years in West Yorkshire before coming to Liverpool. I realise that for some of you that makes me considerably older than you thought I was, what can I say, gorgeous to the last.

However, all that aside, I have lived in Liverpool for 5 years now, almost precisely and I love my new adopted city.

How wonderful to hear that we are the third most popular city in the country. I have done my bit to encourage friends and family to visit, but if there is more I can do, if there are more people I can share the wonder of Liverpool with, I shall do my best.

And I truly believe that the coming of Labour Party conference in 2011 will be a wonderful fillip in developing the British view of Liverpool as somewhere that should be a vital part of any traveller's plans.

Kids play with fire in plane crash dare games

I am appalled by continuing stories in the Liverpool Echo of young people armed with laser light pens, which they are shining into the cockpits of planes flying into John Lennon Airport in the hope of dazzling the pilots.

There is a massive gap between reality and imagination here, a void so huge so that it is inconceivable.

As a child, before rear seat belt laws came into effect, my little sister and I used to amuse ourselves on long drives by poking our tongues out at the drivers in the cars behind us, or perhaps waving to them, or trying to engage with them in our child-like sign language. And yes, in retrospect that was dangerous.

I hope that the children and young people who are engaging in this dangerous actitivity, like us before them, have no idea of the potential consequences. A few weeks ago a young lad was killed on a railway sidings in Springwood, Liverpool, when electricity arced across the air and electrocuted him as he stood on top of a shunted carriage. He would have had no idea of the potential danger he was facing either.

But there is something truly frightening about children and young people taking on a plane, for fun. If the worst came to the worst and a plane were to come down, it would be tragic beyond anyone's comprehension.

But how do we get this message across? Children have been killed on railway lines since they were first laid, as they have been on roads, and as have young people been in stolen cars. My horror lies with the potential scale of such a disaster, but that does not of course make it any more or any less serious a problem than those with lesser potential for loss of life.

At a time when we are convulsed over the future of Abdelbaset Ali al-Megrahi who was found guilty of bringing down Pan Am Flight 103 over the Scottish town of Lockerbie, I am astonished that a similar disaster might lie so close to home, caused by kids with absolutely no idea of what they are doing.

Surely we must act? What can we do to bring home the potential disaster of these childish things to those who carry them out, and how can we reach them, if as I suspect, they are not the same young people who engage with youth clubs, scouts/guides, church groups, community centres, or indeed go to school regularly.

This is a theme I shall be returning to later, how do we reach those young people who are not part of our regular networks?

Is this the face we wish to show to the world?

Story from Insider Business News for Liverpool shown below

Private sector urged to get behind Expo
The man heading Liverpool's presence at next year's World Expo in China says the city risks failing to exploit the full potential of the event unless more private sector sponsors come forward. Unveiling the designs of Liverpool's pavilion at the Expo in Shanghai, director of operations Phil Southward said although Liverpool's presence at the six-month event, which starts in May 2010, was assured through £1.5m of public sector funding, he urged more companies, especially SMEs, to come on board. He predicted Liverpool's final budget would be between £2.25m and £3m. "If we get to £3m that would be the icing on the cake, but if it's nearer £2.25m we will have to curtail what we do," he said. Peel Holdings has signed up as a lead sponsor while other unnamed sponsors from the sporting, food, drink and technology sectors have come forward in recent weeks. Meanwhile, a consortium headed by Liverpool design and creative agency Uniform has won the contract to design and build the pavilion. It features a central auditorium playing a ten-minute 3D film, as well as an exhibition area featuring pods dedicated to The Beatles and football. The team will begin building the pavilion in November.

I don't want to get into the whole debate about whether I think a council potentially 100,000,000 in the red should be engaging with the Shanghai Expo in the hope of encouraing Chinese businesses to come to Liverpool, that is for another day. What I want to ask is this, do we really want the exhibition area that promotes our wonderful city to be focussed on the Beatles and football?

Forgive me, but isn't this 2009? And didn't we just put in the most superhuman effort to encourage the world to think we are a place of culture and joie de vivre with much to offer in terms of art, music, drama, sculpture, poetry...

Not surely just the Beatles and football

I am frankly horrified, where is the focus on our National Museums of Liverpool, the International Slavery Museum, the Tate, the Walker, the Lady Lever, Sudley Hall, our three Universities, Stanley Street, Lark Lane, the three Graces, the Mersey tunnels, the Superlambanana, Reynolds Park, Croxteth Hall, Albert Dock, Turning the Place Over, FACT, the Mersey Ferry, Hope Street, The Unity, The Everyman, The Playhouse, Cedar Court, St George's Hall usw?

Which backward facing pen-pusher came up with this idea?

Nigel Farage, UKIP, is to challenge John Bercow at the General Election

Now this is ground-breaking stuff.

What to think, what to do?

John Bercow is the new speaker of the House of Commons and the Tory MP for somewhere posh in Buckinghamshire where I understand his majority is around 18000. Imagine that, we have MPs who did not even get that many votes, never mind a majority that big.

Nigel Farage has stood down from his leadership of the UKIP party in order to challenge Mr Bercow at the next General Election.

There is a protocol of long-standing that says that the sitting speaker should not be challenged in an election but, as they are meant to be an independent figure in Westminster, should be allowed re-election without competition - on a bye if you like, using footballing terms.

But it would seem that he is to be challenged. So what should we make of this? I cannot think there is a lot of point in the Labour Party joining in and making this a free-for-all, we haven't won there before and we wont win there again, it is not our territory. And if you have to have Conservative MPs, I do think John Bercow has some aspects to recommend him. As an insider on the debate, I know that he almost alone on the Tory benches was a fierce supporter of the bill to allow gay men and women to adopt children. He has been much more aware of and supportive of the Equality and Diversity debates that rage in Parliament, than his Tory colleagues, hence the reason that they didn't support him in the Speaker's debate, and in the end the Labour MPs did.

Is this the real reason Nigel Farage is opposing him? Not because of the furore around MPs expenses, but because he is to the left of the Tory party?

I think on balance that I prefer to hope that if there is an election in this Buckinghamshire constituency, it remains between UKIP and the Tories. And that Mr Bercow wins, not because he is a Tory, but because he is a progressive.

What do you think? Should there now be a free-for-all, or should the other parties keep out of it?