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Archive for the ‘‘Elf ‘n’ Safety’ Category

South Tyneside celebrates Guy Fawkes Night – first pictures

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Guy Fawkes Night, South Shields

Thousands enjoy fireworks spectacular

Thousands of South Tyneside residents and visitors made their way down to Sandhaven Beach in South Shields this evening for two spectacular firework displays to mark Guy Fawkes Night. The days when you could organise your own display in the back garden or have a bonfire and a “Guy” have long since been frowned upon and virtually stamped out in a town which used to witness hundreds of fires and thousands of privateer pyrotechnics in the past. South Tyneside Council in partnership with the Ocean Beach Pleasure Park and others contributed to an enormous display behind the funfair, which stayed open until late offering cut price deals on fairground rides for the family. The council also offered concessions on sea front car parking to help families enjoy the occasion knowing that hundreds of children would want to hear and see the show and be home in bed at a reasonable time to be ready for school tomorrow.

Last year I suffered a few minor disasters in my attempts to photograph the event, having rushed around in a last minute mad dash to get to my preferred location, I’d set up my tripod on sandy ground having arrived as the first rockets climbed into the sky, I didn’t have time to set up correctly, fired the shutter manually, set the wrong iso speed, and generally messed up big time. Tonight my plans were carefully laid, I knew where I was going to park, knew exactly where I was going to set the tripod, all batteries were fully charged, wireless remote tested and ready to go, I arrived twenty minutes before the show was due to start, Curly and kids were ready to rumble! The night was cold, 4 degrees Celsius, high pressure, not a cloud in the sky, all the stars were out and a big moon shone down on The Leas, but we were well attired and snugly wrapped in big coats. scarves, and hats, we couldn’t possibly go wrong this year. Everything was timed to perfection, torch in hand we climbed the steps up Trow Rocks and the kids marvelled at the sight which panned out below them, lights glinting off the gentle waves and wet sand and from quite a few irresponsible car drivers parked directly on The Leas, oddly the car park was almost empty. We could hear the voice of  “Tommy the Trumpeter” aka Ray Spencer rousing the crowds further along the beach getting them ready for the big countdown, launch time was almost upon us. “Missy’s” favourite tunes were drifting in the still air as a modern beat raced ahead of the almost still waters, and then the first glowing lights appeared somewhere behind the fairground, we couldn’t see the crowds but we could certainly hear them.

Once the Roman Candles and rockets started to fly into the velvet black night sky, the light, colour, and sounds burst forth across the Tyne, a crescendo and cacophony of explosions ripped through the still air as we watched a splendid show from one of the best positions on offer, without the hassle of being jostled or cramped. I was delighted, the shots were “in the bag”, also glad that my pre-planning had worked a treat, for you photographers who wonder why your shots are never quite as exciting as they might be, or blown out, try my plan – iso 100 or 200, no higher, tripod mounted, 4 seconds at f8, shutter fired by wireless remote to minimise the risk of camera shake. I think I’ve bagged the sharpest set of fireworks pictures since 2010 when South Shields Town Hall celebrated its centenary.

In the midst of the gloom and uncertainty of recession, debt reduction, Eurozone currency crisis, and job losses, it is good to come together as a community and remember the “Gunpowder Plot” (although I don’t recall Ray Spencer telling everyone that was the entire reason for this evening’s colourful spectacular). So thanks must go to the team at South Tyneside Council and their various partners for collaborating to provide this opportunity, especially welcomed by children, who at least went home to bed cold but cheered.

I repeat what I have suggested in previous years, this event could be hugely enhanced with a giant bonfire (Gateshead uses one in Saltwell Park) and an open invitation to schools to bring “Guys” to burn on it, a tradition lost in the battle with the health and safety police, but I’m sure if carefully organised could make a welcome if restricted return.

So please enjoy a few of my pictures taken this evening, they will all open larger when clicked, and if you were a visitor to South Shields this evening, I hope you enjoyed yourselves and plan to return shortly.

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Written by curly

November 6, 2011 at 11:30 pm


with 40 comments

police baton Standard issue Met Police baton

This is the standard Met issue Arnold baton, I don’t think it has seen a lot of use over the past couple of days, and while plenty of commentators are advocating the use of water canon and armoured vehicles, and even suggesting an imposed curfew (which hurts the innocent law abiding citizen) perhaps we ought to allow the police in London to use what they already have.

For too long now we have treat the feral youths of our capital and other large cities with kid gloves, mollycoddled them at the breast of the mother state, nurtured them with welfare handouts, protected them with Elf ‘n ‘safety concerns, awarded them ASBO badges, Nike shoes, Adidas track suits and hoodies, gold bling, PS3s, Black berries and McDonald’s burgers. Whenever they come into contact with the law they get another caution until after a score of them they face a magistrate and get told to do some community service which is then never carried out, instead they return to do service for the gang scoring a few more deals, and earning a crust by caching knives and “nines” for those hiding further up the drug supply chain. They pay no attention to mother and often do not even know who father is, teachers are only there to be abused or stabbed, and life is no good to them unless they have a 42 inch plasma screen to play Battlefield 3 on. Thuggery is just part and parcel of their street “culture”, it’s a tough life out there man!

Meanwhile the rest of us go to work, strive to make an honest living, pay our taxes to provide more and more “services” for those who refuse to contribute a penny towards them, and over the last three days we have seen the results of our work. Didn’t they thank us for our largesse in the most generous fashion, looting and burning, killing off businesses, scaring people with their insane violence, making some folks homeless, and challenging authority in the most horrible manner imaginable. Perhaps they don’t feel included in our society because they have contributed nothing towards it, but they want, they want, and want more, and even more if it comes freely!

Where the hell did we go wrong? (oops, I think I answered that above.)

David Cameron’s return from holiday makes the riots look even more like a crisis, but at least the recall of Parliament might tie all of our political leaders into a unified deal on how to police the streets, we might hear less of the silly arguments about social conditions, deprivation, joblessness, economic cuts etc. They may be a very small factor, but the overwhelming factor is lawlessness, thuggery, robbery, and violence that has little at all to do with the shooting of Mark Duggan now. It is all about grabbing as much as you can, knowing that the police may be stretched to the limits, it is all about acquiring new status symbols which they feel “entitled” to have.

My hope is that whatever violence ensues around the country tonight or tomorrow will be met by a much stiffer and robust response from the police who are charged with protecting life and property, being overwhelmed by numbers may not be the fullest answer, but it will help them, their foes are not in the business of respecting authority, they might only respect those who stand up to them. Therefore I hope that the Met take advantage of the polycarbonate Arnold baton that they carry, and make bloody good use of it, and perhaps avail themselves of a few plastic baton rounds to cause a little pain and suffering. These riots must be quelled quickly and effectively, the youths must not be allowed to develop guerilla tactics, they do not have a cause to rally to any longer other than sheer greed. Let them be dragged kicking and screaming off the streets of our cities, they must not be allowed to think they own those streets.

And finally, let’s not make the mistake of locking them away for a few weeks at Her Majesty’s pleasure where they will only learn new tricks, they should be physically forced to go out strictly supervised into their communities to put right the damage that they have caused. They should be made to understand the effects of their hideous actions, feel some pain and suffering of their own, they should be kept away from their Blackberries, PS3s, XBoxes, laptops, iPods and iPads, kept away from their fellow gang members and made to stay with mother for twelve hours each night. Mother should be made to forfeit a heavy long term fine too, clearly she doesn’t understand the responsibilities of parenthood!

The events of the last few nights have angered and embarrassed me as an Englishman, so much that it has constrained my libertarian tendency for now, come on what rights without responsibilities do these teenage thugs think they have!

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Written by curly

August 9, 2011 at 2:10 pm

No snow today

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“Tropical ” conditions return to South Shields

“Sunny Shields” is back in smiling mood today, the Arctic conditions melted away in one of the fastest thaws in living memory over the last 24 hours – the snow has gone.

Whilst the rest of us somehow managed to get around town, out of town, into town, thanks to the help of gritters who have used half of the winter stocks in two weeks, South Tyneside Council’s refuse collection teams found it far too difficult to negotiate the roads and side streets.

So, perhaps they’ll stand a better chance now that sub-tropical conditions have returned, my bins have not been emptied since 22nd. November!

It’s a good job we didn’t have any deep snow such as that seen in North Yorkshire or Central Scotland.

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Written by curly

December 11, 2010 at 11:58 am

Let’s give credit where it is due

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West Park, South Shields
South Tyneside copes with snow better than its neighbours

I’m not sure that our councillors really need to hold a special meeting to discuss the weather situation they might as well chat about the sunshine on the Veldt for what good it might do, yes we have a lot of snow on top of hard packed ice on our roads, but as temperatures plummeted to below -8 Celsius overnight our main roads were not too bad at all.

I’ve been out of the borough a few times this week, and when travelling through Hebburn to Bill Quay and Pelaw there is a marked difference in the road conditions as soon as one gets into Gateshead Council’s area of responsibility.  The Felling by-pass was treacherous on Monday and not much better on Wednesday, Sunderland’s efforts to keep the roads clear have not been a lot better and certainly not as good as ours. So let’s give some credit where it is due, those four gritters have been doing a tremendous job whilst we sleep snug and warm in our beds!

At least we haven’t faced main routes reduced to single lanes with a three foot deluge in the outside lane! On top  of that I’ve witnessed teams gritting footpaths (well they can hardly sweep up litter) and they’ve also deposited small stocks of rock salt in the estates to allow local people to do their own bit to keep paths and driveways clear. Our main shopping centres are largely cleared of snow within a couple of days too, so perhaps the only point worth discussing is stocks, availability, and whether or not we have enough to last for the rest of the winter. Admittedly, this spell of freezing weather has arrived much earlier than we would normally expect, but who is to say that January and February might not produce the normal quota of snow and ice?

I have nothing but praise for the way that South Tyneside Council has handled the current situation, but there will always be a few who might complain, they need to see the bigger picture and realise the importance of the priority routes which have been kept in really good condition under the circumstances.

Another interesting thing to note is, at the times of the heaviest snow falls, (yesterday evening and last Friday evening) before the gritters had hit the roads one could not tell where the road ended and the pavement started. Yet traffic was moving along quite nicely, slowly of course, and with large gaps between vehicles. I don’t think there were any huge accidents to note. It just proved to me that without gritted roads, the vast majority of drivers suddenly find some common sense and drive at the speed appropriate for the conditions, they appear to be much more wary of the possible dangers and many just stayed off the roads completely! Start gritting and they all start to speed up again – doh! (As with all rules, there were one or two exceptions.)

Now we just need to get some consistency between head teachers and the way in which they decide to open or close schools. Let me give you an example (without giving away names) ; yesterday the weather was a lot better than today, public transport was running fine, snow was soft and melting, yet one South Shields primary school decided to close because of transport difficulties. It’s neighbour, a community college stayed open under exactly the same conditions. Today, the situation is reversed, the college closed citing transport difficulties, but the primary school re-opened under far worse weather conditions than yesterday. Neither of them managed to get this information to the Town Hall in a timely fashion or to each other or to local news outlets where parents keep a close eye for information. Both of them made their decisions after children had set off for the school journey, which adds to parents’ difficulties in finding child minders or other supervision at short notice.

So perhaps head teachers need some coordination and clarification on their role as educators and informers, now that would be something more worthwhile for our councillors to discuss.

Oh, and the picture above was taken in the West Park, South Shields.

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Written by curly

December 3, 2010 at 1:53 pm

Street smoking man!

with 3 comments

Metro fence, Chichester, South Shields This puzzles me

Click thumbnail to enlarge

Unless I am dreadfully wrong Ravensworth Terrace in South Shields still runs from the Stagecoach bus depot at Chichester uphill following the Metro line to the West Park, it has always been thus, even though the lowest part is little more than a footpath. Google Maps does show that Ravensworth Terrace seems to stop at its junction with Hampden Street, but they have been known to make one or two small errors in the past. So, I’m puzzled, is the footpath part of Ravensworth Terrace or not? Has the last small section of highway been legally stopped up and removed from the maps ? (Durham County Council’s Historic maps show that the change from road to footpath happened after 1979)

Foregoing the above digression, I’d like you to take note of the fence on the right hand side of the picture, on the left is a building site growing in the car park of the former central surgery, which has now by and large relocated to the new “clinic” near The Nook (so I haven’t shown it), you might just see a small notice affixed to the railings, which I believe are still the responsibility of Nexus, the Metro light rail operator. Puzzling thing is the content of the notice, seems we now have some sort of semi official designated smoking zone on a public footpath, it is difficult to know which of South Shields’ smokers this is targeted at – all of them, or just the pitifully small number who use this footpath regularly? Perhaps it is targeted at the workforce involved at the former surgery, who knows?

However, after the public complaints surrounding the smokers at the General Hospital gate on Macannany Avenue I’m half expecting the NHS Primary Trust to erect a suitable notice on the adjacent bus stop, I’m sure Nexus won’t mind. Events now are far removed from the original health service that I first enjoyed as a young lad visiting his GP in Laygate Lane, back then you needed a fully operational gas mask, an 18 inch electric fan, and a million candle power torch to find your pipe smoking doctor in the the midst of the thick fog and smoke of his surgery!

I wonder if my two Progressive and one Labour councillor are aware of the emergence of this new public designated smoking area, or if Nexus are aware of the innovative use of their newish fence?

Perhaps it explains the lack of hedgehogs and foxes around there recently.

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Written by curly

October 4, 2010 at 8:23 pm

Unborn children at risk from Miliband

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david milibandDeficit denier continues with give away mentality.

Kelly Kane and her partner Dave Hall are in an unfortunate position, unlucky, but not catastrophic, with a bit of guile, common sense, and intelligent planning they could manage to do what thousands of Sanddancers have managed to do over the last century, and that is to nurture and bring up children – even when faced with the upheaval of having to negotiate stairs!

South Shields has had a good 50% of its land covered by terraced properties for at least the last hundred years, thousands of families have given birth to children, and brought them up as model citizens in upper flats, and even in more modern times hundreds continue to raise families in communal blocks and maisonettes, just what is it that makes this couple think that the job is that difficult? What is it that gives them some sort of feeling of entitlement to better conditions that they have not worked for?

For those others amongst us, we managed to squeeze past prams stored behind front doors at the bottom of stairs, others resorted to a trip to Halfords, B&Q, or even one of the multitude of Pound shops in King Street to procure a bicycle lock and pressed it into service to immobilise a pram in a communal block! Yet this couple feel they ought to be rehoused on the grounds that they may not be able to manage a flight of stairs with a baby – get real folks, this is not a hardship! The unborn child is at no greater risk than any other of the last four generations in this town.

However, we are all at risk from stupid politicians who don’t have the “bottle” when courting popularity, to tell their constituents the plain hard faced truth that their plight is neither unusual or exceptional, and that they have no automatic right to expect the council tax payer to help out by finding a new home for them. I refer to the “geeky” David Miliband:

“I would be grateful if you would look at it again, as I know Ms Kane has concerns about her safety and that of the baby if she has to manage the stairs on her own.

“I know the council is limited in what homes they can offer due to the criteria, but I would be grateful if you could look at this case again – to ensure that Ms Kane and her child have a decent quality of life.

“Is it possible for Kelly and David to be referred to other housing associations in South Tyneside by South Tyneside Homes?”

My guess is that Miliband has never done a Matthew Parris and lived in an upper flat, nor has he appreciated the fact that thousands of South Shields’ children have been brought up safely in such conditions, the former Foreign Secretary is still stuck in the Socialist dreamland where tax payer’s cash never dries up and we can continue to keep giving and giving even when the pot of cash runs dry. Despite having been a major player in a government that has saddled our grandchildren with £1.5 trillion of debt he seems incapable of realising the consequences of his thought processes, he seems to be in “deficit denial” and still believes it is possible for people to benefit where there is little entitlement to publicly funded support. Miliband needs to show more responsibility, particularly as he wishes to become the Leader of the Opposition, after thirteen years of waste a little more of the same is not what the doctor has ordered to help the rest of us!

Any South Tyneside politician or council officer who acquiesces to Miliband’s ill considered gesture ought to have their bare backsides publicly flogged under the Old Town Hall in South Shields Market Place, they should be used to make an example, and if this gesture itself was to bear a public expense then I’d gladly contribute a fiver towards the cost, and I bet a few hundred others would join me to witness the event. To continue to throw public resources at non existant “problems” should be viewed as a crime, and one which adds to the risks of the unborn children of the next two generations as they struggle to cope with the economic mess left behind by the architects of Labour’s follies.

As for Kelly and David, they need to be firmly told that there is no inherent risk in bringing up children in a block of flats, they should take a walk around Slake Terrace, Cleveland Court, Anderson Street, etc. and talk to a few other families to find out how it is done!

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Written by curly

September 18, 2010 at 9:06 am

The state wants to inspect your home

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Parents of under fives face having their homes vetted by inspectors.

By God we have some jumped up numpties and Stasi types working in the Department of Health:

Parents of children under five are to get home checks to ensure they are keeping their youngsters safe.

Inspectors will check whether families have installed smoke alarms, stair gates, locks on medicine cupboards, windows and ovens, and fitted temperature controls to stop bath water getting too hot.

Guidelines for inspections have been drawn up on the instructions of the Department of Health in a bid to prevent injuries among under-15s in the home.

For heavens’ sake allow me to have my own bloody accidents, allow me to calculate risk, and allow my children the freedom to grow and learn without state interference!

I would have to ask if this is seriously for real? Come on, it isn’t made up at all is it?

Well you never know, I refuse to link to these articles for a long while yet, seeing as they belong to a newspaper which appears to have seriously undermined England’s efforts to host the 2018 World Cup! (Three cheers and three lions for Gary “big ears” Lineker please).

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Written by curly

May 18, 2010 at 7:16 pm

Eruptions don’t happen every day in Europe!

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Lord adonis“This was an unprecedented situation” – Lord Adonis, Transport Secretary.

Just been listening to Radio 5 Live after walking back from school to hear Lord Adonis, the Transport Secretary, being wheeled out by Gordon to “big up” the news story about how Labour has done everything that it possibly can to help those stranded abroad after the eruption of the Eyjafjallajokull volcano. Many of the travellers, of course, had different thoughts.

Having defended the government’s case in front of Paxo last night, they’d even wheeled out Dame Deirdre Hutton, of the Civil Aviation Authority to say that it was a “situation without precedent”.

Oh really? (This was Mt. Etna in 2001)

Adonis repeated this ridiculous statement this morning to Nicky Campbell saying that volcanic eruptions don’t happen every day in Europe, and “that this was an unprecedented situation”.

Of course there is plenty of known precedent of politicians talking a load of old cock!

Meanwhile South Shields MP and Foreign Secretary David Miliband was suggesting yesterday that those thousands of people stranded abroad, running out of cash, living hand to mouth, should reply upon “that Great British spirit” to get them through, and incredibly advised then that they ought to enforce their rights on airlines!(A sure sign of someone cosseted by the comforts of the job).

One might have hoped that our government could at least do that bit for them.

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Written by curly

April 21, 2010 at 9:43 am

Clarkson for PM!

with 4 comments

jeremy clarksonClarkson urges a stop to “Elfin Safety” lawyers

As Lufthansa and KLM confirm that they have made test flights of their own aircraft, within their own airspace with no discernible damage to jet engines reported, Jeremy Clarkson, the veteran tongue in cheek journalist ought to be encouraged to run for Prime Minister after this article which cuts straight through the clouds of ash and points the blame firmly where it belongs.

There is a warning here, because on the volcanic explosivity index (VEI) — which goes from one to eight — the eruption at Eyjafjallajokull will probably be classified as a two. And yet it shut down every airport in northern Europe. There are much bigger volcanoes in Iceland. They could, in theory, shut the whole world down for years.

Let’s not forget that back in 1980 Mount St Helens in Washington state blew with a VEI rating of five. It was a huge blast but only local air traffic was affected.

What’s changed, of course, is our attitude to safety, brought about in the main by our fear of being sued. Could volcanic ash bring down a jetliner? Fifteen-hundred miles from the scene of the volcano itself, it is extremely unlikely, but so long as there are lawyers, licking their lips at the prospect of proving the crash could have been avoided, air traffic controllers are bound to push the big button labelled “Stop”.

It won’t be a volcano that ends man’s existence on this planet. It’ll be the no-win no-fee lawyers. They are the ones who brought Europe to a halt last week. They are the ones who made a simple trip from Berlin to London into a five-country, all-day hammer blow on your licence fee. They are the ones who must be stopped.

I would say he has a fair point.

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Written by curly

April 18, 2010 at 9:20 am

Advertising for business

with one comment

Small enterprises need to do whatever it takes to market themselves

One of the hardest ways to make a living is to become self employed, take all of the risks on your own shoulders, perhaps even risk the security of your home and family by using your property as leverage at the banks to raise capital, the whole process is fraught with dangers as your “baby” slowly learns to crawl and walk, any thoughts of running are a long way off yet.

When a business is born it’s capital and assets are probably at their lowest as the owners (often sole traders) struggle to get the enterprise off the ground, find markets and customers and begin to grow, and one of the smaller parts of their budgets will be allocated for marketing and advertising. It is essential that they rely on channels other than word of mouth to offer their businesses and services to others, and remember that they all hope to grow and employ other people as the business begins to thrive.

So it is with some angst that I’ve seen local councils, including our own in South Tyneside bureaucratically getting in the way of small businesses and using that old chestnut “Elfin safety” as an excuse to bully and harass them into removing whatever small forms of advertising they can afford.  They cry that small “A frame” boards are a severe risk to pedestrians, the disabled, wheelchair users, and the visually impaired, yet have we ever read of anyone suffering injuries in South Shields or Jarrow because they fell over a street board? They are large enough to see, in most cases easy enough to negotiate a path around (even for wheeelchair users), and even the visually impaired can detect them as they go about town.

Yet councils wave the big stick at small businesses by requiring their removal and give the appearance that they don’t care about nurturing success on their patch, meanwhile these very same councils are quite happy to accept decent sums of cash from businesses to advertise in their publications and in their public buildings, or to erect “sponsored” road signs (such as we see in South Tyneside at various roundabouts) or to put “sponsored” waste bins in our path as we traverse our high streets in a case of  “do it our way, or no way at all“. I find it all a bit hypocritical.

So it’s good to see that at least in South Tyneside some sort of rethink is being undertaken.

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Written by curly

March 20, 2010 at 11:00 am