Thursday, May 31, 2012
Wednesday, May 30, 2012
Sunday, May 20, 2012
Saturday, May 19, 2012
So, I've left it alone. Only time will tell, I suppose...Young garden birds usually leave the nest about two weeks after hatching - just before they can fly. If you find a young bird out of its nest, it is probably a fledgling. Fledglings are almost fully feathered, able to walk, run and hop on to low branches, and will try to hide in undergrowth where they are fed by their parents. Parent birds are not usually far away and are probably collecting food but will not return until you have gone. Within a day of leaving the nest, fledglings can usually fly enough to keep up with their parents and escape predators.Only move them, or encourage them to move, a short distance to safety if they are in immediate danger. If you have picked up a fledgling, put it back as near as possible to the place you found it. Don't try to return a fledgling to its nest as you may disturb other young birds. If you are concerned about its safety try to put it nearby on a ledge, or somewhere it will be out of the reach of cats. Monitor the situation from afar (otherwise your presence may continue to discourage the return of the parents) for at least two hours. You will almost certainly find that the parents have taken care of their youngster.
Sunday, May 13, 2012
Our fellow delegates, many of whom had visited Tbilisi, the capital of Georgia, before coming on to Yerevan, have been a mite dismissive about Armenia, but Ros and I are rather smitten by Yerevan. One doesn't want to patronise, but this is a plucky country, with friendly people, and a sense of ambition and pride. Yes, there's not a lot of money around, and the neighbourhood is a tough one, but given a chance, Armenians could make a genuine go of it.
Republic Square is the heart of the city, surrounded by vast, imposing arcs of buildings, one of which is the Ministry of Foreign Affairs, and another the Marriott Hotel, with a nice cafe restaurant outside (not cheap, mind you). But in the evening, the square comes into its own, with the musical fountain and light show. Yerevan is big on water and fountains.
I will confess that I probably would never have come here unless ELDR had decided to hold a meeting here, but I'm also delighted that I came. Indeed, Ros and I are talking about coming back to the region at some point.
Friday, May 11, 2012
When asked why they had taken the name 'Labour Party', their representative noted that they were a party for all who worked. This is in itself, an interesting twist, as it begs a question, i.e. since when was the Labour Party back home representative of the working class, given how few such people now represent it in Parliament?
So, one out in Lithuania, and one in...
Meanwhile, in their absence, I've been holding the fort at the Resolution Working Group meeting, speaking against a common consolidated corporate tax base for a EU (rejected by the group) and in support of the rights of the Turkish Cypriot community in Cyprus with reference to trade access (accepted).
But Council is about to open...
There is a catch though... where is the rest of my delegation? They were supposed to be travelling overnight from Tbilisi by coach, but haven't arrived yet. I am led to understand that, whilst the Caucusus was well known for banditry once upon a time, this shouldn't present any problem...
Wednesday, May 09, 2012
Last year, the Conservatives handed over £680,000, without consultation by SCC's Cabinet to this 'pay for friendship' group, in the midst of some pretty painful cuts to local services.
And, after a year of operation, and expenditure of £350,000, it has managed to attract 362 members - all of whom pay to be members and pay for most of their activities - including getting 'help' from 'good neighbours' at twice the price of minimum wage. That represents nearly £1,000 per head, despite the fact that there are existing 'good neighbour' schemes across the county offering help already.
Interestingly, Suffolk Circle is modelled on a scheme operating already in Southwark, my old stomping ground in South London, a place where community ties are often much weaker, and it is hard to imagine how a scheme that might well work there (I don't know what impact it has had) might be successful in a place different in almost every sense.
It can't help though that the original business model, which required charging users between £30 and £75 per quarter, was quickly scrapped, and users are now charged £30 per annum, thus wiping out at least 75% of the estimated income. It is hard to envisage how such a business plan could be sustainable, but the Conservatives are already committed to pouring another £330,000 of our money down the drain.
Luckily, Liberal Democrat county councillors can count, even if Conservative Cabinet members don't (or possibly can't). As John Field put it;
"The organisation appears to be duplicating, at a high cost, much of the work already being done far more economically by local charities and organisations to promote social networks in the elderly."
"The Suffolk Circle has already failed to meet its membership targets in the first year, and with the reduction in membership fees, it's difficult to see exactly how this organisation will be sustainable by the fourth year of operation."
Caroline Page notes that this is another example of the concentration of power and authority in the hands of a small part of the Conservative Group;
"This dubious project is a prime example of how Suffolk County Council's undemocratic Cabinet system is failing the taxpayer. It has allowed a few councillors to make an effectively unilateral decision that is costing council tax-payers of Suffolk the best part of a million pounds. And without providing any provable benefit to the vulnerable elderly of Suffolk it was supposedly set up to help. Yet the frail elderly need all the help they can get. When money is so tight this is a disgraceful example of putting the ideology of private enterprise above the common sense of making limited resources stretch as far as possible."
I expect to quiz my County Councillor on this point next week, if he can be bothered to turn up. I don't expect him to have any answers other than those subsequently given to him by someone like Colin Noble, and if he is merely there to regurgitate the ill-conceived views of the Cabinet, what point is there in voting for him?
Creeting St Peter has not gone unaffected. The road to Creeting St Mary flooded just beyond the small bridge that links the parishes, and the drainage ditch that runs along Creeting Lane as it winds its way towards the A1120 and Stowupland burst its banks, causing a river effect. And even Mill Lane was tricky to drive down due to surface water. But the village itself is on a rise, probably a throwback to the plague - villages tended to relocate uphill from the churchyard where victims were buried, I understand - and is pretty much unaffected.
Ros and I have taken to walking up Creeting Lane of an evening, as much to stretch our legs as to go anywhere in particular. The sounds of birdsong, the flowers on the verges, the occasional sighting of an owl, all serve to remind us that living in the country is a counterpoint to our rather more hectic lives elsewhere. It's gentle, in an undemanding sort of way.
But it's time to head back into the more pressurised world of politics for a while. Ros is on her way back to Parliament - it's Queen's Speech day today - whilst I'll be on my way to London later, en route to Yerevan, Armenia (Ros is coming too).
And I really must pay more attention to what's going on - there's a lot on the agenda in the coming weeks...
Saturday, May 05, 2012
I am better informed than I was when I set off on Thursday, in that I now know what ELDR's Financial Advisory Committee is for, and better still, that this is a committee designed for a faceless bureaucrat. How things work, how the numbers stack up, these are issues that I can cope with, and contribute too.
So, what does this newly reconstituted pillar of European liberal organisational architecture do? Our role is to look at ELDR's finances, ensuring that we adhere to the various rules, regulations and directives, exploring new means of increasing the resources available to the organisation, and examining existing arrangements. And now you understand why a faceless bureaucrat is an entirely reasonable person to represent pan-European verwaltung.
I have already 'made a contribution', initiating some research into a revised model for affiliation fees, and suggesting that the associate membership scheme might benefit from some of the experiences gleaned by Democrats Abroad. And the chocolate was very nice...
Admittedly, ten hours of travelling and an overnight stay, all for a meeting lasting less than ninety minutes, did seem a might ludicrous, maybe even surreal (well done if you now 'get' the title). However, I now know how the Scots feel about attending Federal Executive and the rest of the Party's committees. At least they don't need a passport (yet)...
We next meet in September, when we will be considering the applications for project grant funding from the various member Parties. Given that the available pot of money is €300,000, this could be interesting. Which reminds me, I really need to talk to a few people...
Thursday, May 03, 2012
To be precise, I'm in "Les Postiers', a bar near the Theatre Royal de la Monnaie, nursing a glass of Rochefort, the trappist beer, rather than the cheese, as the culmination of nearly six months of bemusement approaches.
Readers may recall that I had sought the Party's nomination for a place on the reconstituted Financial Advisory Committee of the European Liberal Democrats (ELDR) during its last Council meeting in Palermo. It is perhaps indicative of the way the Party handles its international affairs, or just possibly a sign of the regard I am held in, that my name was notified to the Secretariat, and then... silence.
Eventually, word came that my name was to go forward, with four others, for consideration by the ELDR Bureau and, by the way, could I let them have a brief resume and a few words on why I wanted to serve. That was surprisingly easy, and I was told that the Bureau would meet in early March to decide. How many vacancies there were was left unsaid, and so I waited.
As it turned out, there were five vacancies, the Bureau never discovered my record of cannabalism, bank robbery and origami, and I was in.
And so, here I am, preparing for our first meeting, tomorrow morning. Except, I'm not sure exactly what I'm preparing for. Yes, I've read the papers - and very nice they are too - and I have my number-crunching head on, so all should be well. It's just that I feel a bit... unsure about the whole thing.
Ah well, only fifteen hours until the moment of truth. Wish me luck!...