Saturday, December 29, 2012

2012: A year in review

Reconsecration of Deane Road Jewish Cemetery, Kensington, Liverpool

Another year draws to a close and with it comes my annual reflection.

I have looked back across the blog and found the entries from 2011, 2010, 2008 (I appear to have forgotten to review 2009), 2007 and 2006.

Keen eyed readers will have long realised that I don't write on here half as much, or even a quarter as much as I did before the days of Facebook and Twitter, but as long as I think it serves a purpose - mainly to promote news concerning Kensington and Fairfield, I shall soldier on and trust you to keep reading - I am still averaging at least 100 readers each day.
Anyway, having established my own annual tradition, I think it merits my perseverance, although this year is the one that I never wanted to write. So with your indulgence, it will be relatively short of items.

Let's start with the positives shall we?

The first significant event of the year for me was resigning a lucrative and 4 year long post in the Marketing team with Wilson Henry LLP Accountants (great new website by the way guys) in order to go it alone as a sole trader with my own marketing business. I made a short promotional film with Alun Parry which sits on my home page and has been evidentially responsible for bringing several new clients my way. Who wouldn't want to work for themselves, manage their own diaries, choose their own clients and  work on projects that bring them pleasure?

The election results for Labour in Liverpool in 2012 have been simply magnificent. As I sit here at the close of the year, the people of Liverpool are represented by a Labour Mayor, Joe Anderson, a Labour Police Commissioner, Jane Kennedy and 74 Labour Councillors (34 of them women) - there is even a Labour Councillor in Woolton would you believe! I am fairly sure I was the 27th Labour Councillor when elected in 2006, oh how times have changed.

I had a lovely holiday in August with my wonderful sister Maxine and her equally wonderful sons, Alex and Joel, visiting our Dad and his wife in Cornwall, happy happy times, loving and supporting each other. She and her husband also invited me to spend Christmas with them this year, and there was nowhere else on earth I would rather have been.

In September the six year long quest to restore the marvellous Deane Road Jewish Cemetery  finally came to fruition at a grand reconsecration ceremony, to celebrate the successful spending of nearly half a million pounds of Heritage Lottery Fund monies on essential conservation work and the building of a new visitors' centre. There has been much talk this year of "legacy", with the success of the fabulous London 2012 Olympics (no need for me to review that, you were all here, you know it was awesome), and I hope that if nothing else is left to posterity of my time serving my constituents, people will at least be able to say, Louise Baldock put Kensington on the National Heritage Map.

In November I joined an international band of people striving to write a 50,000 novel during the 30 days of the month. National Novel Writing Month sets out to give aspiring writers the impetus to actually get on with it and write the novel we all believe we have inside us. As it happens I didn't get to the end of the 50k, with a couple of residential work assignments I am afraid the days got away from me, but I did manage 30k before the hammer came down on the 30th of November. But undaunted I have carried on. As things stand today I have written around 45k words but have learned from literary agents that a publishable novel would tend to be around 85k words long, so I am persevering. I am enjoying it very much and I do hope to finish it during the first quarter of 2013 and take it to a copy-editor friend of mine so that it can be ready for the market before the summer. Watch this space, maybe it will be in your Christmas stocking next year, you never know.

Also in November I finally sold my house. It is a dear house, don't get me wrong, a lovely house with beautiful features and the room where I sit now and write this blog is not only my favourite room in this house but possibly my most favourite room in any house that I have ever lived in. But a combination of itchy feet (I have lived here for  nearly the longest time I have ever lived anywhere since I was born and I have lived in 15 places so far) and a desire for more room so that I can invite larger numbers of  family friends to stay and bigger groups of friends to dine with me, has driven me to look further afield. I wont jinx the offer I have had accepted on a new home by telling you too much about it, I have already lost one I had my heart set on, but I am confident that the review of 2013 will be written from somewhere quite different.

In December I accepted the annual request to speak at the North West's United Against Fascism Conference in Liverpool. It was my third time and I was delighted to share a platform with Howard Gayle who those readers who have been with me for a very long time will remember I first met in 2007. I talked about racism, anti-semitism, homophobia and sexism within football, particularly focusing on the work of Kick it Out, and Howard talked about his personal experiences as Liverpool FCs first professional black player and the rest of his footballing career at other clubs. He was extremely moving and eloquent, I was more of a warm-up act, but it was great to be addressing the conference alongside him.

And so on to the negative...

We all know that we measure our life and its events by reference to key dates in our timelines. "That was before we moved from that town", or "That must have been just after I was married", or "We didn't have the kids yet when that happened". I know that 2012 will always be a landmark in my life as it defines the year when my very much beloved Mother died.

As I see it, there is a kind of natural hierarchy to one's relationships with others. I do absolutely appreciate that what I am going to say is not going to be everyone's experience, but I hope that it is sufficiently common that many readers will be able to associate themselves with it. The first and most intense relationship we have is ordinarily with our mothers. And then as adults we may take a partner who will vie in our hearts for the top-dog position, and if children follow I understand they tend to usurp all others and become the most dear. And of course we have other family members and much-loved friends who take up all their own relative positions in the hierarchy.

As an often single woman with no children, my mother's ascendancy has rarely, if ever, been in doubt. And her loss was the most crippling and difficult thing I have ever had to face. I think it would have been much easier had she not been the most healthy, energetic woman, who followed her own very precise guidelines about how to live as long as possible. She aimed to live to 100 years old, to beat her own father by the four years that were all that were necessary. She was never out of the gym - for 30 years most days - and ate only the food that the best of the Guardian supplements might advise. Good nutrition was her by-word, she hadn't smoked in 47 years, she gave up alcohol entirely several years ago and was the epitomy of a text-book approach to long life.

She was youthful, stylish and attractive, and a dead cert as a recipient of the Queen's telegram.

So what a hideous, unforgiveable and vile thing it was that cancer unaccountably struck and took her away from us all at the tender age of 74. There are somethings in life that it is simply impossible either to predict or to understand. It would have been much kinder for those of us that remain if she had been lost in a traffic accident, but sadly, life takes it own quirky turns and we have no way to understand or affect them.

I have tried to be upfront and bold with this entry, not to shy away from saying what needed to be said and not to avoid talking about something so intensely private. One cannot create a blog of nearly 8 years duration and then shy away from difficult subjects, so I felt I needed to write this for you but I trust you will understand that it is not easy and I am a long way away from finding it easy to discuss. If you are struggling with bereavements of your own then you might find the Cruse website helpful.

For myself I continue to keep putting one foot in front of the other and to hope that the different ways I find to distract myself will continue to be useful to my fellow men and women.

Here's to 2013, God bless.

Friday, December 28, 2012

Fairness in Austerity

The Mayor of Liverpool, Joe Anderson, is hosting a conference on January 18th with the Bishop of Liverpool and other city and faith leaders across the country to make the case to Government that its austerity policy is unfair and is hitting the poorest the hardest. You can find out more about it here:

A petition has been launched which says

The Government’s austerity policy is profoundly unfair. Big cities with the highest levels of poverty and deprivation are facing the biggest cuts. At the same time wealthy areas with the lowest levels of poverty pay less.

Liverpool is losing £252 per head in cuts. Manchester is losing £209, Newcastle is losing £162, Birmingham is losing £166, and Sheffield is losing £140 per head.

Milton Keynes is losing just £38 per head. Central Bedfordshire is losing £18 a head. And people in North Dorset are losing just £2 a head.

The outdated and antiquated public funding ‘Barnett Formula’ is over 30 years old. It is unfair and needs overhauling.

We, the undersigned, believe there is a moral case for fairness in the cuts. We are calling on the Government to urgently rethink its policy and to apply the cuts more fairly across the country, protecting those most in need, and making sure those in wealthy parts of the country pay their fair share.

Please can you sign the petition, and pass it on to whomever you think would do the same.
Those of you who are on Facebook/twitter, please feel free to share with your networks.

Monday, December 17, 2012

Christmas Crime Safety in Kensington and Fairfield

Latest note from our local Crime Prevention Police Officer for residents, including latest burglary statistics for Kensington and Tuebrook beats. A disappointing number of thefts and burglaries involved residents having lax personal security, so do be careful.

This week the British insurance industry revealed that they paid out £35 Million on 23,000 claims for burglary and theft over Christmas last year !

Traditionally, Christmas a time of peace and good will to all men/women.
Sadly, there are a few unfortunate individuals in society who do not share this point of view, and utilise the festive season to commit opportunistic crime. Help to thwart these ‘Scrooges’ and make sure you have a happy and safe Christmas by heeding the following advice: –

In the Home

Avoid leaving piles of wrapped up presents under the Christmas tree, as this will make life very easy for a burglar. Make sure they are stored in an upstairs bedroom, and preferably out of sight in a wardrobe or better still the loft. The kids will no doubt ‘root them out’ but it will certainly hinder and delay any intruders. Similar precautions should be taken with cash, credit cards and house or car keys.

A lot of people tend to socialise more during the festive Season, so make sure all windows and doors are locked before leaving the house for the evening, and if you have an alarm, remember to set it. Try to give your house the ‘occupied look’ by leaving a downstairs light on, and a TV or radio. Once all the gifts have been opened, steer clear of leaving the empty boxes and packaging in plain sight. This acts as a glaring advertisement to thieves and shows them all the valuable items you now have in your home. Post Christmas can be just as bad for burglaries, so make sure you dispose of packaging by ripping it up and taking it to the tip for recycling.

 In the Car

 When shopping in the car, do not leave presents, coats or any other belongings on view in the car. These will be an obvious temptation to thieves who often cause considerable damage when breaking into vehicles.

(And please do not think to yourself "There is nothing in that bag" or "That coat isn't worth nicking so I will leave it there" because the thief will only discover that after they have smashed your window in! LB)
Satellite navigation systems, and mobile phones should always be removed from the vehicle where possible, as these items currently top the list of goods most wanted and stolen by thieves. Try to avoid returning to your car to off-load items you have just purchased, and go back and carry on shopping.

Always park in a well-lit area, and try to use car parks that have been granted the Police approved, Secured Car Park award.

On foot

Christmas is the busiest shopping period of the year, and of course, town centres and other shopping areas become very crowded with shoppers. This also presents ‘pick pockets’ and other thieves with the ideal environment to commit crime in. When you are shopping, it is very important to ensure your wallet, purse and credit cards are kept in an inside, preferably zipped, jacket pocket. Only keep items such as handkerchiefs, hairbrushes etc in handbags, if you need to carry them.

Always stick to the well-lit, main shopping areas of town, which also have the benefit of CCTV and additional Police Officers. Avoid taking short cuts through dark side streets/passageways where offenders are more likely to operate.

Try to use ATM’s during the daytime and check to see who is in your immediate vicinity, before withdrawing cash. If you think there is someone hanging around who appears a bit suspicious, call back later or use another machine. The chances are, your ‘gut reaction’ was probably right, and only carry the amount of cash that you are likely to need for the shopping trip.

On a final note, alcohol can give people a sense of well being, and also a false sense of security. If you are out, enjoying a few drinks, avoid walking on your own, and stick with a group of friends. Although taxis are sometimes hard to come by, it is worth waiting for a while, and certainly a lot safer than walking home in the early hours of the morning.

E5 - The Local Picture 1st November to 1st December

Burglary:  28 offences.  8 offences took place in the West Derby Rd/Lower Breck Rd area, and a cluster of 4 around Onslow/Balmoral Rd or nearby.  The rest were sporadic through the area at all times of the day.

7 offences were via an open door or window!

Robbery:  4 offences in the Tuebrook, Kensington and Fairfield areas which included a cash delivery, 2 children for their mobile phones, and a taxi.

Theft from Motor vehicle: 19 offences during the afternoons through the evening. 8 offences took place in the Fairfield area in roads adjacent to Shiel Rd/Prescot Rd.

4 Incidents took place on unlocked cars!

Tools or items left on display including handbags, keys, phones, laptops, cash, and Jewellery were taken.  3 vehicles had number plates stolen.

Theft of Motor vehicle:  7 offences, of which 6 were motorcycles where the security measures were overcome by force.

Friday, December 14, 2012

Back in fashion: Pawnbrokers shame

Hands up all those who thought that Pawnbrokers with their distinctive three hanging golden balls were a thing of the past?

Yes me too, but how wrong we were! The new Tory/LibDem Coalition Government has seen their return with a vengeance. And my ward is a prime example of the terrible state that the country has got into, in two and a half short years. 

Once upon a time, when we still had a Labour Government, Kensington, Liverpool was the happy recipient of huge sums of Regeneration funds. 

Principle amongst the money that came into this downtrodden area were two funds; The Housing Marketing Renewal Initiative (HMRI) and the New Deal for Communities (NDC) in the shape of Kensington Regeneration. 

Kensington was mainly built between about 1890 and 1910, urban terraced streets stretching out from the city centre towards what would then have been the fields between the city, Old Swan and all points East. Some of the very early housing, which was back-to-backs and two-up, two-downs were demolished in the 1970s to build the Phythian estate, but most of the area still survives relatively intact. 

It had its heyday in the mid 20th century when people would travel to Kensington for shopping, leisure and social activity. There are still residents who remember it being a great place to live, who enjoyed welcoming keen young people from across the city to the Silver Blades Ice Rink or couples celebrating their wedding in the Tudor Rooms. Indeed there are Facebook groups which celebrate Kensington and neighbouring Fairfield in all their glory. 

Unfortunately, like many places in the urban northern hinterlands, it saw a sharp decline in the 1970s and 1980s and by the beginning of the 21st century was an area blighted by boarded up properties, high unemployment and a High Street failure. 

The two sources of Government funds, between them, aimed to revitalise the area's housing offer and general facilities. We have seen a new fire station, high school, several junior schools, a children's centre, sports centre, health centre (nearly finished), demolition of old buildings and houses (some very controversially, but that has been covered here many times before) and the building of new homes and shops.

One of the buildings to be demolished, as part of a row of rotten decrepit commercial properties on Kensington's main street (named imaginatively Kensington) was a pub called the Pawn Shop. It was an old pub, with a name meant to hark back to the old days when times were hard and people had to relinquish precious objects towards the end of the week, and take home a few shillings to help with household bills, before reclaiming them after pay day for the same sum plus a penny or two perhaps in interest.

You may have been to social history museums like the Castle Museum in York, or Preston Park Museum that feature pawnshops amongst the offering on their historic high streets from bygone years. 

I don't have my own photo of the Pawn Shop to hand but I am sure that James Noakes took one for me in 2006, I would love to see it again, and all the others he took, if he knows where they are now. I have found this one on Flickr taken by SteHLiverpool, and if he would like to get in touch I will give him full credit for his photo. If he wants it removing, I will do so. 

About two years ago, with the very last throw of the dice from the outgoing Labour Government, this row of shops - and the pub - along with the Holt Pub at the other end of the block, were demolished to allow the building of apartments in phase two of the Kensington Square HMRI development, a joint project between Riverside Housing Association and Lovells. 

That should have signalled the end of the shame of Pawnbrokers/Pawn Shops on Kensington's main High Street. 

As HMRI was eagerly demolishing and rebuilding homes across the area, so too was Kensington Regeneration playing its part in the refurbishment of the area. There was again a lot of controversy, covered before, however, what KR did to support the housing programme was to concentrate on the commercial and retail offer in the area. 

With their own last cast of the dice, they agreed to set aside a few million pounds to support the building of some quality shop buildings on the site of the former ice rink. 

The shops were built and much rejoicing was forthcoming by local residents when they learned that the anchor store was to be Iceland. 

I think I am right in saying that there are 8 shop units in all. Iceland took one, Tesco Express took one, along with Greggs. They were joined by a chemist, and by Barnados. The latter ought to have been a sign of things to come. 

The reason I am writing tonight and have taken you all around the houses, is to point out that two of the new shops to be have been signed up in the much trumpeted Kensington District Centre are in fact Pawn Brokers, 21st century Pawn Shops. 

There is this one, the Albermarle Bond Pawnbrokers, next door to Tesco Express. 

And another one, Cash Generators, a few units further down Prescot Road, very near to the charity shop. 

The dreams of those who spent the Labour Government's funds in this area, never imagined for one minute the idea they were demolishing a symbol of Edwardian social repression by getting rid of the Pawn Shop pub only to see two new actual pawnbrokers take its place a few hundred yards away. 

Pawnbrokers, Pay Day Loan Companies and Food banks, welcome to Tory/Libdem Britain.

Wednesday, December 12, 2012

Christmas and Hanukkah in the North West

I've been out and about with my camera taking seasonal photographs for your delectation and delight.

We start with two photos of the lovely Warrington Town and Golden Gates complete with Christmas tree, during the day, and at night. 

Warrington Town Hall with Golden Gates at Christmas 2012

And not to be  beaten by a Cheshire Town Hall, I then took a photo of this tree in Liverpool Town Hall.

I have to say it is not a great photo, it is tricky to take pictures of lights indoors. If you use your flash it seems to shatter the light and if you don't it looks blurred. I am still working on the best way to do this on the new camera phone. The tree however did look lovely, do go and see it while you are in town. 

Tonight I was at St George's Hall for the fifth night lighting of the Menorah, which is part of the celebration of Hanukkah, a Jewish festival. One candle is lit each night over the course of Hanukkah and tonight was the specific civic celebration evening which is why I was invited. If you would like to see it, it will still be on the plateau for a few more days until the end of the festival.

In the photo you can see that the first five candles are now alight. We were addressed by an American Rabbi, Rabbi Kievman, and then by The Right Worshipful, Lord Mayor of Liverpool, Councillor Sharon Sullivan who spoke briefly  before giving the excited little children Hanukkah treats. She was joined by Councillors Jeremy Wolfson, Barry Kushner, John Prince (and his wife Shirley), Christine Banks and me.

Fried foods are eaten to commemorate the importance of oil during the celebration of Hanukkah so we ate traditional doughnuts and were given small bags of chocolate coins, part of the tradition of Hanukkah Gelt

Christians amongst readers might be reminded of the lighting of advent candles which we do each Sunday for four weeks and then on Christmas Day we light the large central candle.

Lord Mayor, Councillor Sharon Sullivan with Councillor Jeremy Wolfson (Labour, Childwall)

Lord Mayor, Councillor Sharon Sullivan with yours truly in festive red hat, red scarf, red bag and red cheeks (you will just have to imagine how cold it was, but certainly around zero, if not actually a degree or two below).

And finally, not to be outdone by any building in the world, I took a photo of the wonderful St George's Hall with its curtain of festive lights. 

I have also seen two other lovely trees this week.

One was in the Anglican Cathedral where I went with Lisa on our annual Carol Service evening, in aid of the NSPCC where the lovely Catherine Hegarty and the children of the Liverpool Signing Choir were performing (and who sent me a beautiful card for helping them to make it to the Olympic opening ceremony where they did us so proud, signing to Imagine, one of the greatest anthems to come out of the city!).

I am there again later for the St Hilda's School Carol Service so will endeavour to photograph the tree in all its immense splendour.

And then I saw a small neat tree in the reception of Liverpool City Council's Municipal Building bedecked in corporate purple decorations which took my eye. Perhaps a reader might take a pic of this and send it in for inclusion?

If you would like to send in a photo of a tree, or a menorah, or indeed any festive lights which take your fancy, please do so! The best will be uploaded on the blog.

Monday, December 10, 2012

Cars stolen while defrosting

Message from Merseyside Police

Over a couple of days recently there were a significant number of thefts of motor vehicles across the force area, where the owners had left their vehicle unattended with the engine running to defrost the vehicle and when they had returned the vehicle had been stolen.

This has happened before in this area and was a concern last year and from speaking to officers from neighbouring forces is not something limited to Merseyside.

With the forecast showing cold weather in the coming period and possibly beyond could you please make people aware of this, so hopefully they don't become the victim, as there is an indication that it is highly likely insurance companies will not pay out if a vehicle is stolen in this manner.