Brooks' Country Supper
richardacre


EDIT: Full size (4MB) version is here: http://twitpic.com/9wfmrv/full just right-click save-as the image

From left to right

Labour

Gordon Brown

Generally looking pissed off that no one listens to him. He's had this exact facial expression for the past 25 years.

Tony Blair

Trying to introduce Ed to his best mate Rupert. Or at least get his attention. Rupert?

Ed Milliband

Wants no part in any of this, and wants nothing to do with News International, But like anything Ed says or does it comes across as a wimper. Ed needs to learn to roar.

New International

Note that they all have their backs turned to Labour

Andy Coulson

For everyone else on the table this has only been going on for a year. Coulson has been in the middle of a shitsorm about 4 years longer. Which is why he's sighing, wishing it would all be over. And having a drink

Rupert Murdoch

Weilding the knife. Who's he going to sacrifice next to save his empire? Or is it time for revenge?

James Murdoch

This is the man who when in charged of a business held no responsibility, had no one report to him, knew not what anybody was doing, signed cheques without asking why. But it's OK, because daddy loves him.

Rebekah Brooks

The only woman in the frame and the centre of attention. She's totally oblivious to the men around her falling over themselves to get in her good graces. Which says more about their behaviour than hers.

Tories

David Cameron

Trying desperately to put some distance between himself and Brooks/News International, yet at the same time being quite obviously the closet. 

Gideon Osborne

Mr shadow, in the background. No one knows what it is this man actually does day in day out. Maybe he stands behind Cameron, operating him.

Jeremy Hunt

This guy doesn't know what all the fuss is about or what wrongdoings exactly he's being accused of and thinks everything is absolutely fine. 

Lib Dems

The other half (sorry, 1/8th) of the coalition, no one is paying them any attention, not even their supposed partners.

Norman Lamb

Accusing News International of threatening to "do over" the Lib Dems

Nick Clegg

Looking like a lost little puppy, sat at the end of the table with the rest of the children

Vince Cable

Complaining about the current state of affairs. No one is listening to him. Not even Nick. Just like no one listened to his warnings in the decade leading up to the economic crash of 2008.





Not pictured:

Michael Gove
He's out riding the horse.


Riverside assault
richardacre

I'd already waited until dark, not a long task in March but it was raining. I'd prepared a bucket of fine dirt earlier in the day, sieving and sorting. Mixing in a fine blend of different wildflower seeds on the hope that if some would not take then others would. In either case the bees would benefit. But rain may turn my bucket of soil to a chunk of mud. Jitters.



I'd convinced myself it was easing. That if I balanced a folded tarp on my bucket that it'd remain powdery long enough to do the job. All was set. I just needed my nerves. And timing. Then there was the small matter of perfectionism, I could not allow myself to simply scrawl my message in a wobbly hand because when your letters are twelve feet tall then perpendicularity becomes an issue. Especially in the dark, in the rain, in a hurry.

I'd devised a template, four bamboo canes, each six foot long, gaffer taped to form a square while being collapsible to carry as a single length. I'm an engineer by trade, this part was easy. I sketched the letters in Microsoft Visio, composed entirely of quarter circles and straight lines. Lower case, because the message is one of relaxation. I practiced the shapes in dirt on my living room floor. Only when satisfied did I mix in the seed.


I'd parked the car in two places, mindful of the CCTV cameras that Ipswich is watched by. Tried two ways in, only to be thwarted by a fence, then a guy on his phone and then two people at a bus stop. The river was full tonight, fuller than I'd ever seen it, was it going to rise and take me? The rain still falling. The wall too high to get over. The only other way in was directly past the skatepark. A guy with a bucket, a tarp and a bunch of bamboo? But the rain became a blessing, no skaters tonight. If I'd brought my camera I'd have captured the park alight but alone.

Another man, another mobile phone conversation. Could it be the same conversation, having drifted eastward? I waited. After endless minutes I gave in to time and decided to wing it, but the man and the mobile were finally gone and the small length of low wall was free for the taking.


The cameras were scouring the wrong way, but I knew they were on motors so I had to get to work, hoping my black clothes and a handy tree would block the all seeing eye. English was never my strong point but I'd rehearsed the spelling, the shapes of the glyphs. "a" was half way. My eyes had adjusted to the darkness, aided by the streetlight reflecting from the low cloud and my message was laid out to me as clear as in daylight. I cleared some weeds, but hadn't brought gloves, the aftertouch of nettles still gracing my left palm as I type this.

But it is done. The words are written. Will they appear? Will tall weeds and nettles bury the message? I don't yet know. But in two or three months commuters emerging from the rail station just might take a moment, a moment to breathe.

The new Them
richardacre
This is a rant I originally posted as a comment at the guardian, thought I'd place it here for the world to see:

So many comments saying that people should choose not to have children, that benefits should be capped at two offspring or advocating forced contraception! The UK ranks about 150 out of 200 in terms of birth rate, the average births-per-woman has been less than 2 for nearly 40 years. We do not have an epidemic level of children being born and cluttering the streets!

Why are British children so undervalued? Public spaces are designed with only adults in mind. Anyone wanting to go out for a meal, to a theatre or other performance with children in tow is treated as spoiling it for everyone else. Families rich and poor live in an underculture, shunned by wider society that treats them as lepers, expected to stay out of sight and out of mind. Is it because grown-ups want to busy themselves drinking and socialising amongst themselves? Is it because they don't contribute to the economy like a good working citizen?

Without love and support from parents, carers and the wider community is it no surprise that our children grow up into selfish, broken and addicted adults? Travel to other countries and cultures and you'll see children everywhere, in every corner of social life and public space. They are valued and a parent dedicating themselves to raising children is seen correctly as a genuine contribution to society and the long term economy, rather than a waste of a potential GDP robot.

As a society we treat children with disdain and disrespect: If you're under 21 you don't get the proper minimum wage, you are banned from public places because of how you dress (hoodies), devices are even installed in shops to force you away (the mosquito), if you meet up with your friends in public people call the police to have you moved on. All of this with no evidence or cause against your personal character. If this treatment were because of their race or religion we'd see it for what it is: Apartheid.

The Conservative Dream
richardacre

Tory ideology and the privatisation of Suffolk's libraries

We’ve all heard of The American Dream, the idea that an honest man can make a living off the land and rise to the office of President, regardless of his origins. Though I don’t know if those origins also originally included “being a woman”, but you get the idea. I’d like to talk here about The Conservative Dream and what it is. It’s the idea that you and your rich, well-connected friends, get to own a load of land and businesses, have the peasants pay you rent (unless keeping sheep is more profitable) and also buy all their goods and services from you. It’s an ideology that stretches back for centuries and still persists today.

The Conservative Dream despises any thought that these self-same peasants can have equal opportunities to own land (and thus pay no rent) or run businesses (and thus provide competition) regardless of their origins. It’s rooted in nepotism and classism and it is still being actively pursued today. One thing The Dream also hates is Public Services, the mere hint of any kind of socialism or redistribution of wealth away from rich and well-connected people towards the peasants. This is partly because it increases opportunities; free access to schools and libraries allows people to learn how to read and write, to study economics and history and then potentially start a business or even run for public office.

The other reason Conservatives can’t stand so-called “Big Government” is that it is anti-capitalistic; if the Government is running these services, often free for all comers, regardless of tax or class status, then that’s wasted Profit Opportunity in their eyes. This is hard to understand if you’re a liberal or a socialist but to Conservatives (and let’s not forget their U.S. cousins; Republicans) the very idea that goods or services can be changing hands without profit being involved is terrifying. Like an alcoholic watching someone pour away a half-finished glass, like a chef watching someone burn food or like an oil baron hearing that an entire country is Going Solar. It’s completely abhorrent to their twisted religious worship of Capitalism and in order to repair what they see as a fundamentally flawed system they came up with a plan.

This plan is called Mass Privatisation and to them it’s fool-proof and fits The Conservative Dream perfectly. It’s simple really: Get yourself in Government, then contract out the running of all public services to your rich and well-connected friends (or even yourself). The brilliance of this plan comes with doing it in such a way that the peasants have no choice to hand over their cash, such as: Want something to drink? Give us your money or you get no water! Want to see at night? Want to warm up your house? Want to travel from A to B? Etc. All these were done under the guise of opening up to competition and under the lie that consumers would benefit from lower prices due to competition and that there would be no bungs, price-fixing or anti-compete contract clauses involved anywhere at all. If you want citations for any of this behaviour, just get yourself a subscription to Private Eye magazine. Just make sure you’re sitting down when you read it.

The rail industry still has a long way to go but things are slowly getting there with the Water, Electric and Gas companies, the regulators are starting to get the hang of actually regulating them after only two decades. But that’s two decades of taking the no-choice-but-to-pay-population to the cleaners and now that we have Tories in power again they’re eyeing up Mass Privatisation 2.0: Divestment.

The Tory Divestment plans involve for example “marketising” the NHS. What this means is that private companies run by rich well-connected people get given money by the Government to run the NHS for them. This also has the added benefit that the people in Government can dissolve themselves of any accountability if a hospital closes, if a superbug eats patients or if a doctor goes berserk and kills a load of people. They get to make the odd statement, wash their hands and fine the private company involved a few thousand pounds. (Ask yourself this: how many people have gone to jail for causing the Potter’s Bar crash? How many ministers resigned? Oh, right, yes, a decade later Network Rail – who’s revenue exceeds £5bn – were fined £3m)

And so we turn to Suffolk - also known as The Conservative Dream Pilot County – and its plan to outsource all services so that the County Council just has to have the odd meeting to pick a tender for a contract. This is known as the New Strategic Direction, though it’s not that new, as Nicholas Ridley, Conservative Secretary of State for about four different things under Thatcher once stated that the ideal Council meets once a year over a hearty lunch to hand out contracts. Same Old Strategic Direction, then.

Now the rub: This spring they held a consultation which is designed to seek out “Expressions Of Interest” in running one or more of the Libraries in the county. The model for these are Community Interest Companies, which sound all charity-like, community-focussed and not for profit but are handily designed so that board members can get paid for running them, perfect!

Are any expressions of interest forthcoming? Fifteen at last count. We don't yet know who they are from but there are two groups that this author believes may have put one in: Firstly the “Friends Of Rosehill Library”. Formed by an individual named Jan Rawlings, who incidentally was a Conservative Party candidate for local Borough Council elections in 2008. And secondly “Kesgrave Library Working Party” led by John Klashka who is a currently serving Conservative County Councillor.

Conservatives and their well-connected friends banding together to rule over the peasants? It’s nice to see that - in Suffolk at least - The Conservative Dream is alive and well.


Fore Street Box Dig
richardacre
Tis done, the rather sad looking planter on Fore Street (Ipswich, UK) has been transformed from an ash tray and beer canister dump into something modestly more attractive.

Before:


If you click to enlarge you can probably also make out the shattered remains of a bottle around the base too, no beer containers were present when I scouted the site on Wednesday, which suggests that somebody does clean this place up to a degree, probably the council. Behind where I took the photo is a Post Office with a handy short stay parking bay, so ploked the car in it and got to work cleaning up. Throughout I decided to exude an air of just-going-about-my-business and pretended in my head I was the tenant in the flat above the PO. Why I have to bring Method Acting into this I can not explain, but it did prevent me from eyeing the traffic for coppers.

Anyway, here's the small selection of Roses, Dahlias, Marigolds and purpley things I emancipated from the garden centre's half-price section (with the help of my two young daughters), total cost: £7.68. They're all a bit more dead than would be ideal but still, better to look at than broken glass and fag butts:


Finally, the end result, according to the timestamps I was in and out again in about ten mins, including going at a relaxed nonchalant pace and taking a moment at the end to water the lot with fresh rainwater, full of mineral goodness:


Everything looks a _little_ lost in there, but I'm fairly certain that Monday morning's commuters might at least smell the difference!

Guerilla Gardening - Scouting Expedition
richardacre
Headed out on my bike to see if I could spot any candidates for a bit of renegade gardening, Ipswich as it turns out has pretty well manicured open spaces (in the town centre at least) but I did find one candidate that I could probably manage on my own:



Next step is to find some cheap/free but pretty flowers that are in need of a good home. On the other hand I have this crazy idea where I could just mainly plant herbs wherever I see a handy spot, not only would it smell nice but it'd provide free cooking ingredients to passers by!

Nearby there's this monstrosity:



It backs onto the carpark behind the Coop department store on Carr Street and the front is on Upper Orwell Street:



This street is somewhat between the town centre and the newwly regenerated waterfront and contains some very nice old buildings, but it is neglected and run down. A nice mini park with a couple of benches connecting it to the carpark could help entice drivers to check it out, and help open up this as a route between the old and new areas of town. This would be a major Guerilla project, mind, and there could be plenty of hazardous things to clean up. On the other hand the street-side boards could be transplanted to the two gable ends to cover them up at ground level, so there's definitely potential.

But before I start planning a major takeover, how about I start small and find a few of those end-of-best-before-date plants.

My First Campaign
richardacre
So my foray into political life is grinding to a start, I've decided upon my first campaign: For a zebra crossing here (Google Maps). This is Belstead Road in Ipswich and about half a mile from my house, I often stop here to let people cross, to find traffic coming the other way does not.


(View southish. Click to embiggen, more pics here)

The site already has tactile paving and crosses a speed table so all that is needed is a pair of beacons and some paint. What's important about it is that there are no crossings south of this and the nearest northward is half a mile away. It's also a crossroads (as can be seen on the map) in that the footpath running roughly west-east is between a school and a supermarket, there is also another school north/easterly that is within the catchment of this crossing.

A straw poll of one local resident (i.e. the wife) suggests that this would be an ideal spot for a Zebra and a good thing to dip my toes in the getting-stuff-done part of political life. I plan to perform some kind of survey at the spot this weekend (say about two hours haranging passers by if they think it's a good idea) and find out who the town/county councillors are for this piece of turf, so i can begin gentley probing them with questions.

Watch this space (and wish me luck!)

Darth Mandelson ignores Digital Britain report and vows to strike down file sharers
richardacre
Darth Mandelson (who is unelected yet was standing in for our Prime Minister a few weeks back while he was on holiday) has decided (allegedly after lunching with at least one media mogul) to go against the recomendations in the Digital Britain Report and disconnect people accused of unothorised sharing of copyrighted files.

Essentially the policy is is akin to confiscating someone's car because one of the same make and model was spotted at a nearby car boot sale flogging knockoff DVDs - without even checking what's in the boot never mind any form of due process investigation into wether or not the accused is actually responsible for the crime.

Naturally the response from people who actually have a clue is one of anger, outrage and frustration.

The Independent's leading article on this hits the nail on the head. It's disproportionate, criminalises people who share the same internet connection of the accused and does not take into account the vast number of wireless broadband users and how easy it is to use a neighbors instead of your own,


At the same time YouTube is opening up it's advertising revenue model so that anyone who posts a video on the site - be it a professional studio production or a vhs recording of a dog doing the ironing - will be able to get a share of the ad revenue if their video gets a lot of hits.

This is exactly the sort of thing that the media moguls detest as it removes the artificial seperation between the media giants and anyone else who happens to own a video camera. There is now no reason why a bunch of talented people can't get together to make their own "TV" show, host it on YouTube and reap their own rewards direct. The 20th Century business model is one where the music labels and film studios sat between the creators and the audience, taking a hefty slice of the profits (and the creator's rights!) in the process.

Musicians too will continue to get paid for their work. Be it via merchandise, gig tickets or physical CDs sold at those gigs. The free music floating around the internet will become no different from the last century's free music floating around the radio spectrum, a source of free advertising for those musicians.

People may also prefer to download TV shows and movies, but at the same time that this is eating into plastic disc sales cinema profits are rising. In the same way people like to see real bands playing live they like to see films on the big screen.

What big media fears the most - and is fighting tooth and nail like a cornered animal - is that content creators will be connected directly to their audience this way, and their jobs as middle men will no longer be required. The 21st century will see a return of real bands playing real gigs and local independent cinemas will reappear in town centers showing movies sourced direct from creators around the globe. The 21st century will see the cult put back into culture, and the marketing guys that get on board the quickest will make the biggest bucks, maybe that's the carrot and stick they need.

ATOC Proposes New Lines, Stations and Preservation of Old Routes
richardacre
The Association of Train Operating Companies (ATOC) published a report on June 15th titled Connecting Communities, subtitle: Expanding Access to the Rail Network. Their angle is a simple commercial one of identifying potential new routes and stations that present a clear business case. AKA More Profit. But that could be a good thing, at the moment the rail network is closed to outside investment: one can not simply roll up, buy a strip of land and slap a railway on it, and because it's in public hands there are no board members or shareholders to demand an expansion of said network in order to grow the business.

ATOC's member companies therefore find themselves in an awkward position; a sealed ecosystem with no room for growth and where competition is limited to two or three train operators for any given route. The situation is similar to one where there were, say, only two or three shops in every city centre with planning regulations so strict as to prevent any new stores ever being opened anywhere else and only a handful of business franchises fighting for the valuable (and naturally very expensive) retail real estate.

Back to the report at hand, the press release summarises it quite well:

  • Opportunities for future rail connections serving a million people with 14 new lines and up to 40 new stations have been identified in a new report by the Association of Train Operating Companies (ATOC).
  • In the report, Connecting Communities, ATOC calls for the routes involved to be safeguarded, and for further detailed planning with Network Rail and local authorities to prioritise investment.
The report itself is refreshingly to the point at only 24 pages, some highlights:

  • Page 4 (Sardines): Today’s rail network carries 30% more passengers than it did 45 years ago on a network considerably smaller than it was then.
  • Page 6 (Potential Paying Passengers): Many areas no longer served by rail have grown significantly over the last 15 years.
  • Page 11 (Get In!): The Government’s proposed eco-towns are shown in Appendix Four, together with their proximity to the rail network. [...] Locating any significant new settlements in places without good links to the rail network would certainly represent a missed opportunity.
  • Page 14 (Supermarket Sweep): A policy on identifying and safeguarding the most promising routes should be agreed with DfT over the next year and implemented as early as possible to prevent further loss of sites.
  • Page 14 (Expand or Die): Further analysis should be undertaken of the case for new or reinstated link lines to improve the capacity and flexibility of the network as well as to increase further the access points to it.
Most of the above is already known to a lot of pro-rail and transport campaginers and enthusiasts, the significant point here is that they are present in a report from a commercial body which the government likes to keep happy (usually to the tune of millions of pounds of bailout cash...).

In case you're wandering why your favourite local rail campaign isn't featured the report places an emphasis on cost-to-benefit ratio and so mostly limits itself to only considering new lines where existing or recently mothballed freight lines exist in order to keep the cost part down. and the benefit (profit) part up. Not ideal, but at least it's a shot in the right direction.

The report invites feedback (I wont post the details here, go read the report!) but there are alrady petitions on the number-10 website that compliment it including:

This one's not mentioned in the report, consider it a plug as it involves Yorkshire (my home county):

No petition for reopening the York to Beverley line in there, perhaps i should create one...

High Speed Two - A Route Plan
richardacre
Here is a route plan for High Speed Two I started some months ago , it's only rough in that it simply joins the dots without actually attempting to route around obstacles but it gives a rough idea, it's features are.

A dedicated cross-Pennine link from Liverpool to Hull via Manchester, Leeds and York

Takes in Heathrow and the other top four busiest non-London uk airports: Birmingham, Manchester, Edinburgh and Glasgow negating Heathrow runway 3 as a passenger intending to visit London could then fly to any of those four with only an hour or two added to their time if they'd flown to Heathrow direct, spreading the traffic and opening up competition.

Links London with the two other mainland GB capital cities of Cardiff and Edinburgh as well as Thirteen of the top twenty-five most populated non captial towns and cities, namely: Bristol, Swindon, Nottingham, Leicester, Sheffield, Birmingham, Liverpool, Manchester, Leeds, Hull, Newcastle, Reading and Glasgow.

It also throws in Oxford for good measure for a potential future link up with the Reading to Ipswich reconstruction of the Varsity Line

EDIT: It's probably worth emphasising the stops at Reading and Milton Keynes, also there to tie in with a (re)opened rail link from Reading to Ipswich via Oxford and Cambridge. Also known as East-West-Rail and essentially a Rail bypass for those of use who dont think we should have to endure London's underground to get between places that are nowhere near the capital!

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