The good intentions of a Sunday evening after a day of doing pretty much nothing, made the carefully prepared itinerary for Monday morning look something like this :-
5.45am – Alarm goes – spring out of bed, fling open bedroom curtains & windows, trip lightly into bathroom, clean teeth, shower etc.
6.15am- Prepare healthy breakfast and eat whilst making intelligent witty remarks to Sarah Montague on the Today programme even though she never replies,( which may be a blessing!)
6.45am – Make a healthy nutritious packed lunch and leave to chill in the fridge.
7am – spend an hour checking emails, reading news and current affairs on line and at 8am leave the house to go to work. Get to end of road realise lunch is still in the fridge and run back to collect it. As obviously I left in plenty of time I still catch the 62 bus, which arrives on schedule. (whoopee)
What really happened was............
5.45am – Alarm goes. I discover I have been mysteriously superglued to my bed in the night and am unable to move apart from to extend my left hand to switch the radio on. After an hour of listening to radio 4, whilst mumbling obscenities at the Today programme presenters and their seemingly uneducated uninformed guests ,the adhesive quality of my sheets suddenly releases when the “what am I doing today?” penny drops and I realise I have a meeting at 9am sharp. Showering etc is done at great speed, including the executive decision of wearing my hair curly therefore there is no need to mess around wasting valuable minutes drying it properly. After making a quadruple shot coffee I run out of house, coffee in hand and wait for the bus to arrive.
There are I should explain, several rules of engagement with the No 62 bus service. If my coffee is hot the bus will arrive early, and as i see it turn the corner at the bottom of the road I have to slurp it down sharpish usually depositing some of the liquor on my clean shirt. If the coffee is cool the chances are that the bus will inevitably trundle past at 8.30am on its leisurely way to Cross Green leaving me to wait 15 minutes before it comes back up the road for to get on it. This is usually combined with two other factors – cold AND wet. There are other bus related scenarios but as the intention is to write this blog for two years I have plenty of time to tell you all about them (unless I am run over by said bus of course, and lets hope I am wearing clean underwear at the time of impact), But “to walk or not to walk that IS the question” at least twice a week.
As I skid into work at 8.55am and switch on my computer my electronically updated calendar gives me the message – meeting cancelled. As I only think about the illegitimate parentage of the person who cancelled it, (instead of broadcasting it all over the office) I carry on until lunchtime doing the work the NHS pays me to do without the inconvenience of being suspended for gross misconduct due to foul language.
Lunch is again spent at the trendy White Cloth Gallery this time having a catch up with the Lark in the Park Co-ordinator. Not a great deal I can say about this but we agree its a problem and we need to sort it out. He offers to help and I am eternally grateful. OOOH there is one thing I can tell you .......... we have decided to have a community pub quiz. Friday June 15th 7.30pm at the Spring Close Tavern. The event will be made special by the teams being made up of local community groups and agencies. COVEN will make a team, Community Unity, the Neighbourhood Policing Team, ENE Homes. ReNew and as many others as we can muster. East Leeds facebook maybe?--- hmm as they guard their anonymity closely we may have to allow them to skype in, as long as they promise not to cheat by using google!!!!!!
I decide at 5.30pm it is not worth bothering to go home first prior to the Partners and Communities Together (PACT) Meeting at 7pm. PACT meetings are the interface between our local neighbourhood policing team and the community. The turnout for this one is dire (although that is not a reflection on the issues raised) It is usual for at least one of the councillors to attend these meetings and prior to May it was usually the liberal councillor Ralph Pryke. But sadly he lost his seat and now we have three labour ones, non of which have bothered to turn up. Like I have said before in other blogs and articles – I make an effort to attend stuff like this, I thinks its important to show some solidarity with your community and neighbours. And let’s face it, we all expect the emergency services to be there when we need them and it’s a courtesy to reciprocate when they need our support and help. PAC T meetings are important. And I think it is a fair comment that some of our community members have worked with the local NPT to achieve some major successes in crime reduction and detection. At the end of the meeting I break it to the sergeant concerned his mission, should he choose to accept, is to recruit a team of 4 of his staff for the pub quiz. You can see in his face that he just for a second abandons the concept of the police and community working together and yearns for the old days where you would never have dreamed of calling a copper by his first name let alone invite them to your local pub quiz – hopefully to be thrashed into a least 3rd place behind COVEN and No2 Incinerator!
After the PACT meeting it is home to throw together a quick meal and then after an hour of doing nothing but “pottering about” its off to bed. Before I fall asleep the most important question of the day has as yet not been answered “WHERE THE HELL HAVE I PUT MY SAMSUNG PHONE CHARGER?” as my “strike phone” is now emitting an annoying “feed me bleep” every thirty minutes.
Tuesday started on a positive note, I got up by 6.30am. This means that showering etc could take place at a leisurely pace, so in a fit of vanity I decide to vary my usual deranged poodle hairstyle and go for something a bit more ------wait for it .......TRENDY! So after the regulation wash and condition I spritzed* my hair with heat protector product (*re – spritzed , well I might as well use trendy words as I was aiming for trendy hair, I sprayed it really!) After drying my hair I used my hair straighteners and ironed it till it was poker straight. The result was, for a 50 yr old grannie distinctly youthful and after a bacon sarnie , coffee and then a quick smear of make up I left the house confident in the fact that I looked more like an afghan hound than my usual poodle.
Of course because I was on time and coffeeless – the bus was 10 minutes late. At least the sun was shining and you could see the haze of pollution hanging over the railway line.
Work was the usual – and as I am new to this blogging lark I am at the moment not going to tell you a great deal about it. For a start it is a tad boring – “Diary of a NHS Pen Pusher “is not going to be a riveting read, unless you are really, really sad. Or if you are Andrew Landsley of course, who would instantly invoke plans to reduce 25% of your blogs content and privatise your pencil supplier, the bastard.
Now I shall brag, there was one person at work who said as I was leaving the building to go to the bank and he was escaping for a crafty cigarette “Hey Sarah your hair looks nice!” I trotted up Park Row , accompanied by my temporarily inflated ego, with my head held high and my hair flapping triumphantly in the breeze. It was amazing how quickly that breeze turned into a 2 minute downpour of hail stones so by the time I got to the NatWest the afghan had gone to be replaced by a drowned rat. Only ten mins later I returned to work and after a period of drying out I was back to my usually crazed curly dragged through a hedge backwards sort of a look.
Alternate Tuesdays mean I host the Technology Forum at 5pm. This is a work event held for our techies & geeks to listen to speakers on items of interest. Usually I just sit in and drink coffee and leer at the cakes and muffins that are provided (have I said I can’t eat wheat, well most cakes are just little confections of wheaty torture put there to specifically taunt me?). But tonight’s was actually very interesting, all about how technology, telehealth to be precise can ensure patients take their medicine properly. I was particularly enthralled by the concept of tablets having a “microchip” inside them that was triggered by the acid in your tummy to send a very weak signal to a patch on your body which in turn relays a signal to your smart phone. Then a special app converted the signal to a graph or calendar so you could quickly check if you had taken your medicine. It is currently undergoing tests but it sounds a wonderful idea and in a dull part of the proceedings my mind wandered to an article recent read in the Yorkshire Evening Post about Richmond Hill being the top of the league for teenage pregnancies. One could of course go into all the social and economic reasons for this happening but basically in my opinion it is all about the C word, CONTRACEPTION. Perhaps if taking the pill could be linked to a mobile phone application it would become fashionable to take it. Or even an app that maps how many shags you have had and when you are down to your last weeks worth of condoms sends you a new supply via the post, then you scan the bar code on the outer packet with your phones camera and then bingo you are topped up again. I could go on about this for hours but as I know from a peep in my diary that next week is a fairly quiet one I shall save my thoughts on this for then. Actually I bet somewhere on the net there is a shag calculator....................
......... I shall do some research and
get back to you on that one.
Tech Forum finished at 6.30pm which meant I was already late for my next appointment. I had promised to attend an event hosted by several unions about Climate Change and Green Jobs. It was held at the Old Broadcasting Place on Woodhouse Lane. I arrived via taxi at 6,45pm to find the place locked up. After ringing the door bell once, I progressed to pushing the bell several times and then in desperation thumped out a little tune on it in a last ditched attempt to get in. After waiting five mins I gave up and I sloped back outside the entrance hall, I noticed at the building next door a large van with “Green Roadshow – Climate Change” splurged all over it. A quick trip up the steps revealed yet another locked door but as I was confident this was the place, I hammered on the glass until a young woman came and let me in. Unfashionably and embarrassingly late I slunk in and sat at the back.
The speaker was talking about how unions in particular could become involved in the issues around creating green jobs, for example introducing the likes of “Boris’s bikes” to Leeds. Discussion of how the council could reduce carbon emissions and other topics inevitably brought the conversation round to the municipal incinerator that LCC wish to build via a Private Finance Initiative contract worth £500million. The chap at the front (who looked dreadfully familiar) said it was a shame that nobody from the anti incinerator campaign had turned up. As I said “oh yes she has” the audience turned in unison and thought “that’s who the woman is who slunk in late”.
After apologising for my croaky voice I gave a brief outline of No2 Incinerators campaign to date adding that we were based in the most deprived area of Leeds, had a very poor turnout at the elections and how we had been shafted and lied to by our local politicians. Two of which without a doubt were elected on an anti incineration ticket, but after coming to power changed their tunes to the “We are where we are stance” and “we inherited this from our nasty predecessors”. I cant say what the 3rd most recently elected one thinks on the matter (what she is told to by Cllr Dobson probably, same as the other two) as I have never heard her speak, not even when she was campaigning. But I tell you one thing however quiet she is – she sure as hell isn’t the silent majority, having been elected on the abysmal turnout of 25% - less than either of her colleagues.
The nice young chap from The Green Party also spoke up about the anti incineration lobby adding that Veolia was an appalling company with a human rights record that was a nightmare. Several other unions spoke too including University College Lecturers Union (UCU) adding that they had passed a resolution to support No2 Incinerator – they very kindly offered their support and banner whenever we needed it. The Alliance for Green Socialism also support us, they are based in Chapel Allerton so we are definitely going up in the world when Ls9 and Chapel Allerton are on the same side. Then a young man from Naples in Italy spoke, saying that maybe it was time to stop playing nicely and start some interventions and direct action. I said I agreed and did consider that maybe it was time to start chaining myself to railings. Now as I am human, the thought of being chained to a railing by or with him flashed some rather inappropriate thoughts through my head. One can only hope if the circumstances arrive that so that the fire brigade from Gipton are summoned to cut me free from the railings at Cross Green , they drive very slowly down York Road and accidentally leave their bolt cutters behind in a rebellious act of solidarity.
I also mentioned about Cllr Mick Lyons (Temple Newsam) threatening me with court proceedings for defamation, when I spoke out at a scrutiny panel. When I said I was happy to be dragged through the mire by him as the publicity it would bring for the anti incineration campaign would be second to none I got a bloody good round of applause. Several people also gave me their phone numbers and offered to help, but best of all was the journalist who came up at the end, took my details and said he would be in touch. (sensibly I gave him my landline which doesn’t require batteries)
After a quick gin in The Fenton and a catch up with some mates from the Socialist Workers Party it was time to head for home, a very late dinner and eventually bed. As I nodded off I remembered why the chap who spoke at the meeting looked so familiar – he bared an uncanny resemblance to Rick Stein the celebrity chef who cooks fish. I roused briefly again as I had forgotten to look for my phone charger, by now my strike phone was resting peacefully, but I really need it up and running as it’s the only number a BBC journalist has got for me and I am expecting a call.
Wednesday started out with the usual work. But the time went quickly and at 12.10pm I left and crossed to City Square to meet up with Maria, fellow COVEN member and community activist. This is the start of one and a half days leave for me. Leave is not usually taken to partake in holidays or leisure activity but to attend meetings or events. In fact last year 20 of my 27 days leave was attributable to one meeting or another. We have been invited by Dr Stuart Hodkinson to attend the Leeds University School of Geography to sit in on a lecture given by Dexter Whitfield, Director of the European Services Strategy Unit on how to research Private Finance Initiatives and Public Private Partnerships. There we catch up with Maureen another COVEN member and we settle down to listen to what Dexter has to say. After 30mins I am near suicidal as Dexter seems to consider if a PFI contract even gets to procurement it is virtually unstoppable. However after a few questions we discover that the exception to the rule is probably waste incinerators because they require so many sets of permissions and permits to operate. Dexter reckons that it is unusual for councils to sign contracts prior to planning being granted (which we understand is the Leeds preferred option) and it is more usual for the council to get permission for the monstrosity first and then sign the contract with the company. Dexter offers to help No2 Incinerator and the usual shady deal of exchanging email addresses hastily written on scraps of paper takes place. I had invited my fireman present to attend this event but unfortunately he is on days today so I also ask Dexter about PFI in the fire and rescue service on his behalf. Dexter is a star and offers to send me some information over. He also writes books and kindly offered them at £10 each at the lecture. My hand was in my wallet faster than you could say “Neoliberalist commodification” and I left the lecture with three books, two bought at the knockdown price of ten quid each (they were 18 really ) and a freebie “The Investigators Handbook” a guide to investigating companies, individuals, organisations and governments . This book is going to be essential bed time reading. I bought “Global Auction of Public Assets” & his latest “In Place of Austerity”, restructuring the economy, state and public services. It’s a bit heavy going but this book should be mandatory reading for every worker in the public service. Because I am as Maureen would say a complete “tart” I got Dexter to sign the books.
After bolting down some food in record time Maureen and I joined Susan at the Inner East Area Committee at 5.30 pm at Civic Hall. Also in the audience was Cllr Pauline Grahame who said she was supporting Cllr Gruen who was intending to speak. I have to say I Peter Gruen certainly didn’t look as though he needed any support to mumble his way through his few carefully selected stage managed lines. But who am I to comment on how the wheels of power turn, I only pay for them after all!
The meeting was only to elect the chair which for a first meeting is a bit strange, also a complete waste of tax payers money as there needed to be the woman from corporate who took the minutes and two members of the area management team in attendance. And even though the meeting took less than twenty minutes the usual tray of refreshments was there. I know these flasks of tea and coffee cost 8 quid each so I have to say if the council are looking to make some more cuts maybe refreshments for a 30 minute meeting should be top of the list. As there was only one nominee for chair Graham Hyde (the existing chair) it did seem a complete waste of a meeting that no doubt cost hundreds both in time to prepare for it and officer time.
However the most exciting part of the evening was me being presented with a hand delivered letter from Peter Marrington. Apparently he was looking for me before I arrived and the letter was relayed to me by the minutes scribe. Yet again another letter from LCC saying Mick Lyons was after me for an apology – I have to say they are wasting an awful lot of taxpayers money on this, a middle aged lady speaks her mind at a meeting and they seem to think the world will shortly come to an end. I think they are trying bullying tactics – will they shut me up – HELL NO. Cllr Lyons has sat on the plans panel for 32 yrs and perhaps it is time he looks at some of the monstrosities that panel has approved including the2 incinerators already in the Aire Valley and hang his head in shame. But after watching him in a series of these meetings I don’t think humility is one of his key features. I am however chuffed to bits as it shows that my consistent attendance at these meetings has been acknowledged by LCC – although I doubt I will ever get a gold star for attendance.
After the Inner East we withdraw to the Hedley Verity for a large coffee, but somehow managed instead to buy a bottle of wine! The three of us spend a pleasant 30 mins outside in the Millennium Square discussing the arrogance and utter rudeness of some councillors present (ok one in particular) and sipped our wine enjoying the early evening sunshine before heading back to EEP.
I don’t however head for home but for Marias to discuss the day’s events, and after 2 very generously poured gin and tonics head home for a very late night.
Thursday morning started with a major crisis. I misplaced my hairbrush. Now I know many people have a selection of these devices but I being of the low maintenance scruffy variety have only one. So losing it is a bit of a disaster, especially as I am at the time looking for the brush to detangle my hair before drying it. After 15 minutes of searching I give up and in desperation use the rabbits groomer to comb my hair through. Whilst this is going on the bun sits on the floor looking at me in lagomorphic disbelief. What the hell, a brush is a brush and needs must in an emergency and if he ever loses his he is most welcome to use mine. I was hoping by now to have found my phone charger but it is still missing and my phone is now presumed most definitely dead. As this is my day off I am meeting my ”fireman past “ at Leeds Central Library to go through the old watch and fire brigade committee minutes of LCC. Fireman past is doing the research for Gipton Fire Stations 75th Birthday and we are looking for information around when the extension was added to the side. Eventually we find what we are looking for and loads of other stuff too. For example Leeds Fire Brigade in the mid sixties bought a thousand pairs of woollen socks in a year. It seems even today fire fighters have to wear woolly socks (due to the natural fire retardant nature of wool fibre) but they have to get and pay them themselves which seems distinctly unreasonable . Surely a woolly sock is classed as PPE and therefore should be supplied by the employer? I consider for a moment getting embroiled in sock wars with West Yorkshire Fire & Rescue but to be quite frank cannot be arsed with the fight. I currently have enough on my hands without worrying about fire fighters tootsies.
Without even time for a quick coffee after the library I scurry up to the Civic Hall to observe at Plans Panel East. As the incinerators will be discussed eventually at these I have already pencilled out 12 half days leave in my diary to ensure I will be available. Committee rooms 6 & 7 are fairly full as I arrive but I manage to get a seat with a table so I can spread out and take copious notes.
The first thing with plans panel is to guess who is attending to hear what. As the clerk to the committee only had two glasses of water on his desk it was clear that not many people were to speak. The chair made the usual introductions and announced something very interesting. Firstly Cllr Peter Gruen was to resign from the committee and also Cllr Mick Lyons was too. Now I do not give a hoot about Gruen but Lyons handing in his notice ran little bells in my head. It could be of course to pursue a middle aged grannie through the courts and he was making himself available for daytime TV appearances etc or it could be he had simply had enough. However the conspiracy theorist in me suspects he is retreating tactically prior to the incinerators coming to plans panel. I repeat Mick what I put on face book. Your party voted for this so as a labour councillor you are tarnished with the brush of approval. I mean how he can legitimately oppose an incinerator when he was on the committee that approved the burning of low level radioactive and medical waste in my ward , Pots and kettles spring to mind. Or god forbid he could be manoeuvring to take the chair of the large projects plans panel that labour intend to instigate. If so we are all doomed. Plans panel however is always an interesting afternoon. The first I shall tell you of was an application to erect 86 houses in Unit 12 Temple Point Austhorpe. This is a planning application to build houses on land that had been designated for an office park. At the last plans panel east we had all been asked to leave due to the sensitive nature of the discussions around the 106 money the developer was to make available. In the end the panel told them to get lost as they offered less than half of the 1.6 million the council had asked for. Anyway the developers had come back and offered £1,482,700. Now this is all well and good if you live up Colton way. But again the question has to be asked WHY? Did the same committee say that the Mt St Marys development by Rushbond via MSM Ltd did not require any 106 payment. The development will not by its own admission provide any community infrastructure, will be a gated community and have less that 50% parking spaces for the 180+ flats agreed. Strata Homes Ltds even provided in this revised application the figures of how much profit they will make from the scheme in Colton. Yet when COVEN asked at area committee about Mt St Marys we were told it was commercially sensitive and essentially we were told to bugger off. Mt st Marys in now into its second round of planning and nothing has been done to that church for years and years. Seems to me that there is one set of rules for poor east Leeds and another for affluent , but strangely they are monitored by the same committee! Another interesting one was a through terrace house which wanted planning to be converted to two flats. The officers recommended approval but the councillors said No, would this happen in EEP – I doubt it as we know many back to backs never mind through terraces are converted and some are in multi occupancy?
Last but by nowhere least was a garage in Thorner that had wanted planning permission to increase its size by 133%, apparently in the green belt where Thorner most certainly is rules state that a building can only be increased by 33%. The officers put up a valiant case to refuse this but Cllr Lyons lead the attack as to why it should be allowed. The officers all credit to them stuck to their ground and eventually after much mud slinging and tantrums including the words ”I shall set my legal team on you “ (now where I have I heard that one before) a vote was taken and the application was eventually refused. The last item again is to be held in camera so I give up the ghost and meet Susan for a rant and moan in Cafe Nero.
I get home at 6, eat and after popping to relay some news to Maureen I go home and opt for an early night. It’s been a heck of a week and I am tired beyond belief.
Friday morning and on the bus I am telling a old lady from Saxton Gardens all about Cllr Lyons and his hounding of me for defamation. As everybody else does she howls with laughter and proceeds to tell me the story of when she broke her ankle on an allegedly dodgy LCC flagstone. The councillor she spoke to asked first if she had been drunk. No she replied it was 8am in the morning. Had her dog pulled her over perhaps ? No it was the size of a small jack Russell. Eventually the woman hung up on the councillor. This got me thinking..............SECRET SHOPPERS FOR COUNCILLORS. It might take a bit of organising but what if COVEN set up a network of secret shoppers to ask various councillors advice? We could rate them according to their answers. I think it is an idea worth further thought. How quick do they respond to emails, is the advice they give factually correct, hmmmmm what fun we could have. And we may even improve the service, I don’t bother emailing mine anymore as labour don’t even bother to respond.
After a day at work – Fridays are always boring. I left at 4pm to attend a meeting of friends of Kirkgate market at 4.30pm at West Yorkshire Play House. For many reasons I have been out of the FOKM loop recently but Kirkgate Market is one of my passions and I do not want to see it massacred by LCC in the name of regeneration and future development. Bottom line is the market even in its dilapidated state makes over a million quid profit for LCC , it should be like an elderly parent loved and nurtured not revamped and restyled in effort to gentrify it. Apparently at a recent Executive board meeting a councillor referred to Friends of Kirkgate Market as Marxists – well as long as for reasons of balance we are Spencerists too, who cares?
Saturday morning was as usual spent doing my hunter gatherer routine at Leeds Kirkgate Market. I love this place, where else can you get such amazing fruit, vegetables and marvellous produce and at such sensible prices. I buy an oxtail, some fresh thyme and a butternut squash so when I get home I can make an oxtail stew. Should I ever have to have a last meal it would be my oxtail, masses of creamy mashed potatoes and steamed broccoli. After eating that nobody can ever manage a pudding as you are incapable of moving from the sofa for at least two hours post scoffing it. It also requires a half bottle of red wine adding – I must emphasis here that it is vitally important that the recipe requires the bottom half of the bottle, so in the aim of culinary perfection I am forced to drink the top half of a ruby cabernet before preparing the meat etc for the slow cooker.
Saturday afternoon after a nap (its necessary at my age) & the evening is spent writing this blog entry from Tuesday to Wednesday – I think I am including too much information but I enjoy writing and it keeps me occupied until bedtime. Just before bed I switch the slow cooker on and smile confident in the knowledge that when I wake in the morning the house will be gently fragranced with thyme and garlic infused oxtail stew, YUM.
The start of Sunday is the usual routine, listen to the radio in bed till 8am when the Sunday service forces me to get up. (nobody should be forced to listen to Christians singing at that time in the morning especially when you are horizontal) But before I bore you with the usual shower, teeth, hair routine there had however been an incident with the rabbit in the night time which I think you may be interested in hearing about. ...........but before you think that this blog is going to get all hot and sweaty under the collar I warn you in advance, you are going to be so disappointed.
Miss Cicely Perfect Paws is the most beautiful little bunny you could ever wish to meet. Her soft brown fur, lop ears and delicate features usually make even the most ardent pet hater go “ahhhhhhhh”. Cicely’s loveable cute exterior hides the fact that she bites when she is pissed off! So when in the night she came to see me, her surrogate mummy, for an urgently required nose and ear massage she was quite rightly niffed, when, as she had failed to make her appointment at a suitable hour, I wasn’t too pleased to see her, (she was glaring me in the face at 4am. ) I did try and do my duty and stroke her nose and ears but as I was, in Cicelys opinion, giving a substandard unacceptable service she grunted something under her breath and sank her razor sharp teeth into the soft flesh of my arm. As she hopped down from my bed she also farted and believe me hell hath no fury like a rabbits fart, the stench was unbelievable. It isn’t fun trying to hold your nose with a sore arm either ..........
Sunday is facepack +Archers omnibus morning so armed with a four shot cappuccino I flopped on the sofa snuggled up in a blankie to listen to the everyday story of country folk whilst experiencing the sensation of my face slowly hardening in a plaster like cast.
And do you know what readers – the rest of Sunday is personal so I will hopefully, if I haven’t bored you all to death by you having to read so much, see you all next week. Sarah XXX
PS. I found my phone charger, lurking behind the risotto rice in the kitchen cupboard Sunday evening. Bloody good job I had risotto for dinner................