Wednesday, January 31, 2007

Day Bongo the Dog went Bonkers...

A dangerous Staffordshire bull terrier called Bongo is to be destroyed after it bit a woman in Lincoln.

The Lincolnshire Echo reports that during an argument, Bongo's owner kicked his neighbour's dog.

Bongo didn't need any further encouragement to attack the woman, clamping his teeth painfully on her leg and refusing to let go.

The man was also in court to be sentenced for charges arising from two other incidents.

Afyer buying beer at a local shop, he demanded butter but when told didn't have enough money he became aggressive, pushed the shopkeeper and shouted racial abuse.

On a later date, he threatened to smash up the shop unless he was given cigarettes.

He was sentenced to a total of 20 weeks in prison suspended for 18 months and ordered to pay £700 compensation.

The judge also ordered that Bongo be destroyed and banned the man from owning a dog for 18 months.

Photo is from the Liverpool Post's BiteBack campaign.

Anything to declare Jeffrey...?

Spotted jailbird Jeffrey Archer poncing on TV last night as part of a panel giving away money to good causes.

Archer - still officially 'Lord' Archer despite his criminal record - was once a Lincolnshire Tory MP who returned to the county a couple of years ago to serve his prison sentence for perjury.

Now he seems desperate to relaunch his career on this Million Pound giveaway show, by convincing us what a nice chap he really is.

I understand the first question that applicants for the money were asked was:

Have you ever been convicted of a criminal offence?
I'm all for rehabilitation, but I wonder if panel members were asked the same question...

Tuesday, January 30, 2007

Welcome for Lincs casino news...

The Skegness Standard is now running a story on today's news that a casino is to be built on the Lincolnshire coast.

East Lindsey District Council are welcoming the news as a major boost for our coastal resorts. Of the six possible sites identified, four are in Skegness, one in Mablethorpe and one in Ingoldmells.

Potential operators in the frame include Butlins and Southview Leisure both in Skegness, and Fantasy Island at Ingoldmells.

The casino complex could include a hotel, resaturants and other facilities and could create hundreds of jobs.

Power of local press leads to fair cop...

A police appeal published by the Grantham Journal has led to three wanted men all giving themselves up at local police stations.

Lincolnshire Police believe an increase in burglaries in the Grantham area and the trio's release from prison was no coincidence. They issued their public appeal after all three flouted their strict bail conditions.

Police offered a reward to anyone who could help them trace the three villains.

Within hours of the appeal appearing in the Grantham Journal, one of the men handed himself in at Grantham Police Station.

A few days later, the second man turned up at Grantham Police Station to hand himself in.

And to complete the good news, later the same evening the third man handed himself in at Peterborough Police Station.

The three men are now back in prison and will now finish the remainder of their sentence.

Police Sergeant Martyn Parker said:

We believe that these individuals were committing crime while on conditional release from prison. Our investigations will continue into the crimes that have been committed in the local area and hopefully we will may get some more positive results.

Skeggy & Mablethorpe beats Blackpool in casino stakes...

Congratulations to East Lindsey in coming up trumps for a casino licence for the Lincolnshire coast.

Manchester has just been named as location of the UK's first "super-casino", beating bookie's favourite Blackpool to the prize. The chosen site in the east of the city is where Manchester did such a brilliant job of hosting the Commonwealth Games (and next to the stadium now home to Manchester City FC).

While Blackpool missed out, the Casino Advisory Panel set up by the Government has granted East Lindsey one of eight licences for the smallest type of casino to be allowed.

It's a welcome regeneration boost for the Lincolnshire coast. The casino will be built on one of six identified sites between the resorts of Skegness and Mablethorpe. Details of East Lindsey's excellent bid here. Photo from their site is artists impression of how the Lincolnshire casino will look.

Sunday, January 28, 2007

Second tragedy strikes Deeping family...

Sad to hear of the death of Melvin Jepson, exactly four months to the day after his son was killed in a road accident near his Broadgate Lane home in Deeping St James.

Melvin, 53, was just out of hospital following triple heart bypass surgery when his teenage son Brendon died yards from their home in September.

Brendon had just popped down to Sam's newsagents in Rycroft Avenue on his moped to buy some cereal for his dad when he was in a fatal collision with a car.

Last week, Melvin collapsed at his garden gate - by coincidence he was on his way home after buying milk at Sam's. He died soon afterwards in hospital.

Funeral is on Tuesday - details in the Stamford Mercury.

Thursday, January 25, 2007

Eight years jail for burglar who targetted Lincs hotels...

A prolific burglar who bagged equipment worth a quarter of a million pounds from hotels around the country - including several in Lincolnshire - has been sentenced to an eight year prison sentence.

The 55-year-old man had a particular modus operandi. He approached a hotel posing as a conference organiser and asked whether they provided equipment such as laptops and projectors.

He would then make a bogus fax booking, telling the hotel that his engineer would need to check the specifications of their equipment to ensure that it is suitable and to set up for the conference.

The ‘engineer’ arrived at the hotel and was left alone to get on with his work.

Some time later, hotel staff would find that both the engineer and the equipment had disappeared.

After appearing on the national police computer, he was finally arrested in Hampshire. Officers from Lincolnshire went to Hampshire to interview him for offences in Grantham, Sleaford and Boston.

At Southampton Court, he was dealt with for 14 charges and asked for 123 offences to be taken into consideration. The total value of property from these offences was £231,000 of which some £43,600 was recovered.

The police enquiry took over nine months and involved 32 of the 43 UK police forces.

Wednesday, January 24, 2007

Cameron surrenders on candidate selection...

Another day. Another Cameron flip-flop.

This time, the Tory leader has given in to pressure from the right and scrapped his much-hailed 'A' list which was supposed to ensure that Conservative MPs are not almost all white, middle-aged men.

As reported in The Times, the controversial 'A' list was supposed to end the situation highlighted last year when the Tory party chairman told an Asian candidate:
"Good luck, Ali, but I would be shocked if they didn't pick a white, middle-class male,"
But the 'A' list system produced just three candidates from ethnic minorities.

Cameron’s team tried to convince voters that the 'A' list showed that the Conservatives were no longer the 'nasty party'.

It was supposed to be Cameron's 'Clause 4' moment.

But under more new rules announced today, local Conservative branches will no longer have to choose from the A-list of priority candidates selected by head office.

It is a humiliating defeat inflicted on Cameron by local Conservative parties.

Who says so?

Er, Tim Montgomerie, a former chief of staff to Iain Duncan Smith, the former party leader, who runs the Conservative Home website for party activists. He says:

It is an acknowledgement of defeat by the party. They have surrendered to the inevitable on this.
According to The Times, even the new rules face opposition within the party, however, particularly because of the promotion of the quota for men and women. One contributor to Conservative Home wrote:
This is now the final nail in the coffin for anyone thinking this version of the Conservative Party is about meritocracy, equality of opportunity and not about political correctness and feminist gender politics.
The 'A' list has also been criticised heavily for being made up largely of people from London and the South East, from a narrow range of backgrounds, which does not represent the country at large.

May I suggest a name for Cameron's replacement selection system...the 'B' list.

Tuesday, January 23, 2007

Toddler in hospital after dog attack...

A two-year-old boy is in hospital tonight with serious injuries to his face after being attacked by a dog here in Lincolnshire.

Police were called to a caravan site in Skegness this morning and the toddler was rushed to the Pilgrim Hospital in Boston. But he was later transferred to Leicester Royal Infirmary for specialist treatment.

The dog, possibly a Staffordshire bull terrier type, is thought to be owned by a relative of the lad who was visiting his grandparents at the caravan park.

A vet has since identified the dog as a terrier type and is being held in kennels until a dog expert can determine whether it may be of a breed outlawed under the Dangerous Dogs Act.

After the tragedy of the little girl savaged to death by a dog on Merseyside over Christmas, the latest dog attack on a child inevitably made the national teatime news - the photo here is the logo for the Liverpool Post's "Bite Back" campaign for a crackdown on dangerous dogs launched last summer.

BBC Radio Lincolnshire report a Lincolnshire Police spokesperson saying:

"We need to investigate the circumstances of the attack before taking a decision on whether to have the dog destroyed."
She added (bizarely in my humble opinion) that there might have been an element of provocation which would be taken into account.

When will people realise that letting toddlers anywhere near dogs of a certain type - even if legal - is asking for trouble?

Monday, January 22, 2007

Cameron turns the clock back on NHS...

Tory leader David Cameron today announced plans which would take the NHS back to endless waiting times for operations and return to a two-tier service.

He has revealed a half-baked plan to scrap the tough NHS targets for waiting times that have made real improvements over the past ten years.

The Tories have always hated the NHS - they fought tooth and nail to prevent Labour's Nye Bevan introducing it in the post-war Government led by Clem Atlee. And the NHS was almost destroyed under the Thatcher-Major era.

For eighteen years, they starved the NHS of cash, leaving too few doctors and nurses and a shortage of hospital beds, buildings, and equipment.

By the time they left office in 1997, 400,000 people were waiting for a much-needed operation, and three years waits for surgery were common.

Since then, there has been record investment in the NHS, with thousands more doctors and nurses who today perform half a million more operations a year.

Now, no-one waits more than nine months for their operation - and the waits and the biggest ever hospital building programme since 1997 means no-one The targets the Tories now want to scrap have driven down waiting times for heart and cancer patients and already saved 200,000 lives.

As well as scrapping the targets, Cameron proposes a return to GP-fundholding. This would turn the clock back to an unfair two-tier NHS.

And who has come up with this recycled Tory policy?

Step forward Stephen Dorrell, Secretary of State for Health in the years to 1997 when the Tories were finally thrown out of office.

Saturday, January 20, 2007

Tory activist in row over 'cripple and reptile' slur...

David Cameron's attempt yesterday to persuade northerners that Tories are no longer the nasty party disintegrated when a horribly offensive e-mail written by one of his own party activists came to light.

As the Tory leader visited Keighley with his parliamentary hopeful for the area, Councillor Kris Hopkins, it emerged that a Tory activist in Bradford had described a disabled Labour rival as 'the cripple' and 'a reptile' in an email to Mr Hopkins.

The offensive e-mail about the chairman of the city's Labour Party Mark Taylor was sent by Tory activist John Hawkesworth to Cllr Hopkins, in his capacity as Leader of Bradford Council.

John Hawkesworth is husband of Bradford Tory councillor Anne Hawkesworth, executive member for environment and culture.

The full story is in the Bradford Telegraph and Argus and at the BBC website.

Clearly David Cameron has a long way to go to change the Tory diehards.

Friday, January 19, 2007

Goodnight Mercury Man

Managed to get home from London just in time for the moving funeral service of Stamford Mercury photographer Andy Dennis who died suddenly at home on the Twelfth Night of Christmas which I reported on earlier HERE and HERE.

Good to see Priory Church, Deeping St James packed with family and friends to say goodbye to a larger than life character who will be sadly missed in the Deepings and beyond.

Scouting was well represented - Andy had been a scout and cub leader for 20 years. He met the love of his life Lindy through scouts, as she was also a leader. In scouting, Andy had been given the name Baloo - the big kind bear who looks after the little ones.

Andy and Lindy also gave to our local community as active members of Deepings First Responders for the past five years, and their colleagues provided a guard of honour at the funeral.

It was clearly a difficult service for Rev. Mark Warrick to conduct. Like most people in the Deepings, Mark had been good friends with Andy and saw him bring joy to any occasion.

There was also a warm tribute from Andy's boss at the Stamford Mercury who rightly said that Andy was made for the job as Mercury photographer, the public face of the newspaper.

He said Andy had told him years ago that it was his ambition to follow in the footsteps of the late Ken Willis who he had seen welcomed at events as "the Mercury Man".

Andy was Mercury Man.

What a sad loss to our community.

Jim couldn't fix trees on the line...

With no London to Peterborough trains last night due to high winds, I managed to get a hotel room and stayed overnight. Still chaos on GNER this morning, but managed to get home late morning on a First Capital Connect stopper.

A fellow traveller from Tallington was also on the train. He'd started his journey yesterday lunchtime on a GNER from Kings Cross which stopped a couple of miles out of London.

He eventually discovered that the train in front of his had a tree fall on it, totally blocking the line.

It was four hours before GNER were finally able to get him back to Kings Cross. He told me that 'Jim'll fix it' himself, Jimmy Savile was also trapped on the same train - in first class of course and dressed in trademark glittering track suit (but no cigar).

Most would-be travellers I met trying to get home last night and today had the same moan - how come the first sign bad weather paralyses our entire country, with traffic chaos and only a few trains managing to run.

Then I saw on the TV news that in Germany today, not a single train is running.
Made me feel much better!

Thursday, January 18, 2007

Wrong kind of wind...

Stuck in London due to no trains home to Peterborough. Seems high winds have caused part the Kings Cross station roof to collapse...hope noone was hurt...there's also reports of fallen trees across the line at various points between London and Peterborough...

I suppose it's a better excuse than the infamous wrong kind of leaves!

Eating with our hands...

One of the comments on Celeb Big Brother that has caused outrage around the world was a suggestion that Indian people eat food with their hands...

It reminds me of an incident many years ago when I worked in Bermuda. A black Bermudian lady told my wife that she knew English people were filthy because she'd heard they used their fingers to eat fish and chips out of newspaper...

Racist? Of course not.

Ignorant and uneducated? Probably!

Tuesday, January 16, 2007

Lincs Police Officer dies on Deepings bypass...

Tony Lake, Chief Constable of Lincolnshire Police has released the following statement:

"It is with deep regret that I have to announce the death of Constable Stacey Victoria Pyke, based at Spalding Police Station. At about 7.15 on Monday morning Stacey was on her way home after night duty and was killed in a car crash on the A15 Deepings by-pass.

Stacey, aged 20, joined Lincolnshire Police in August 2006. She was driving her black Renault Megane when it was in collision with a blue Citroen Xsara Picasso. The two occupants of the Citroen were taken to Peterborough and District hospital, their injuries are not thought to be life threatening.

At this stage I am unable to provide much more information but clearly our thoughts must be with Stacey and her family and we will ensure that all the help that we can provide is available, not just in the next few days, but in the longer term."

Sergeant Peter Leng, of Bourne, was a member of Staceys training team, he said, "She was a very bubbly and popular officer. Very enthusiastic and conscientious. It was her dream to join the police service and she couldn't believe that her dream had come true."

Monday, January 15, 2007

Why the hangman decapitated Saddam's henchman...?

Another botched brutal hanging in Baghdad. This time the executioners managed to cock up so badly that one of the men being hanged was horrifically decapitated.

Seeing the photos of Saddam on the gallows over the New Year, I noticed that the rope round his neck was coiled, American cowboy fashion.

I recall once reading the biography of Pierrepont, the last British hangman, in which he described a different arrangement to ensure that the neck was broken the instant the hanged person fell through the trap-door.

I remember the grim descriptions by Pierrepont (a Yorkshire publican who inherited the job from his father) of the calculations he used to ensure the length of "drop" - and I believe the counter-weight - were correct. It was all based on the bodyweight of the person to be hanged.

I'd certainly recommend that the Iraqi hangmen borrow Pierrepont's biography from their local library if they are planning any further hangings.

One of those present at today's executions, public prosecutor Jaafar al-Moussawi, told the BBC that when the trap door opened, he could only see the rope dangling.

"I thought the convict Barzan Ibrahim al-Tikriti (Saddam's half brother) had escaped the noose. I shouted that he's escaped the noose, go down and look for him. I went down a few steps ahead of the others to see: I found out that his head had separated from his body."

According to the BBC, Iraqi Government officials insisted the decapitation of Barzan was not abnormal, although it was rare for the head to be severed during hanging. One described it as "an act of God".

How can decapitation be abnormal, but rare for the head to be severed..?

Totally bizarre. Totally barbaric.

Deepings man in court case over fag end...

A fag end has landed a Deeping St James man with a criminal record.

He was one of the first two motorists to be prosecuted by Peterborough City Council for throwing litter out of car windows onto the street, according to the Peterborough Evening Telegraph

The case was brought as part of a crack-down on "environmental crime". Peterborough City Council has adopted a range of measures including authorising Police Community Support Officers to issue £75 fixed penalty notices for graffiti-taggers, litter-droppers and fly-posters, in a three-month pilot scheme in the Ortons area.

Environmental wardens are also being recruited and CCTV images of suspected litter louts are regularly made public.

Peterborough Magistrates heard that the 47-year-old Thackers Way man was seen to throw a cigarette butt from his car on the A15 Lincoln Road, near Northborough, at about 8.15am on June 15.

He pleaded to guilty to littering, was given a one-year conditional discharge and ordered to pay £50 costs.

Bet he uses the ash tray next time!

Sunday, January 14, 2007

World champ Wolfie brings silverware home to Deeping...

Woolfie finally did it. Congratulations to Martin "Wolfie" Adams of Deeping became world darts champion tonight.

As he surged ahead by six sets to nil, only needing a seventh to clinch the title, the BBC2 commentary team were talking of a whitewash and the biggest ever winning margin in a final.

But it was a match of two halves - with Phil Nixon coming from within a dart of defeat to win six sets in a row, and almost snatch victory.

Woolfie - so named because he keeps wolves (no, really!), hung doggedly on and eventually won the final set to become world champion.

Woolfie's wife couldn't stand the tension - and locked herself in the ladies loo when it looked as if Nixon could go all the way...

Here's the full report on the nail-biter from The Times.

Wolfie: it's all square...


Six nil up at half time and it's now six-all, with first to seven.

They're playing the deciding set for the silverware and £70,000 cash...

Wolfie puts Deeping on the Darts map...

Not a big darts fan, but watching Deepings man Martin "Wolfie" Adams in the final of the world championship of BBC2 and have to say it's breathtaking.

Wolfie is runaway favourite and went six nil up in the best of 13 set final.

But suddenly his opponent Phil Nixon from County Durham has found the target and taken the match to 6-5.

Come-on Wolfie...

Friday, January 12, 2007

More holidays with Labour...

Government plans revealed today to increase workers' holiday entitlement from 20 days per year to 28 will be widely welcomed here in Lincolnshire, one of the lowest-paid areas in the country.

Low-paid workers across Lincolnshire - and the rest of the country - have already seen huge benefits from the first ever minimum wage brought in by the Blair Government which have increased pay for many workers from £1 an hour under the Tories to £5.35 today.

Far from Tory scare-mongering that a minimum wage would destroy a million jobs, the reality is more people are in work in our country than ever before: today the economy is strong and stable after years of Tory boom and bust.

It's hard to believe that under Thatcher who believed that mass unemployment was a price worth paying, four million British citizens were consigned to the scrap-heap - including a generation of our youth who had no hope of ever getting meaningful work.

Today, youth unemployment is virtually eradicated. And since 1997, holiday entitlements, wages, tax credits, and rights to maternity and paternity leave for all, have also been vastly improved.

In the next step towards building a decent society, Employment Minister Jim Fitzpatrick revealed today that six million workers will receive an extra eight days holiday every year.

Currently, some employers include the eight annual bank holidays as part of their workers' 20-day leave entitlement.

The move would protect vulnerable workers and allow reputable companies to compete on a more level playing field with those companies that give employees only the minimum of holiday entitlement.

The DTI today launches a second public consultation implementing the changes. The plans is to increased statutory annual leave entitlement from the current 20 to 24 days on 1st October 2007, and to 28 days on 1st October 2008.
Jim Fitzpatrick said:
Most companies already recognise that good holiday provision makes good business sense. Holiday entitlement can be a key factor in recruiting and retaining staff. Holidays are also important for productivity as they help minimise sick leave and keep people motivated and refreshed.

We've worked closely with business and have wanted to make sure that they have time to prepare for the changes. People work hard and they deserve a decent break. We want to make sure everyone gets the holiday they are entitled to.
The move means the Government is honouring its' manifesto commitment to ensure that unscrupulous employers will no longer be able to count public holidays as part of an employees four weeks paid holiday leave.

By the end of 2008 nearly seven million British employees will have an extra eight days holiday a year.

Labour's General Election manifesto 2005 said:

We have introduced, for the first time, an entitlement for every employee to four weeks' paid holiday, and we propose to extend this by making it additional to bank holiday entitlement.
See further information and consultation HERE.

I don't suppose you'll read the good news in the Daily Mail!

Mystery of Andy's death...

More on the tragic death of popular local photographer Andy Dennis in today's Stamford Mercury.

As I posted at the weekend, Andy was a great guy, known throughout our community for his trade-mark smile.

He was a larger-than-life character who was much more than the photographer who took pictures at local events for the Mercury and the Bourne Local. He made a huge contribution as a scouter and also as a member of the Deeping First Responders - the local volunteer team who often arrive before the ambulance in emergencies to save lives.

And of course he was a loving husband and step-dad to four young people. The family lived at Sheepskin Hall and were planning to buy their own home when Andy died suddenly.

Here's the full moving story from today's Mercury:

Popular Mercury photographer Andy Dennis has died suddenly at the age of 43. Andy was found dead by his wife Lindy early Friday morning at their home in Outgang Road, Deeping St James.

Tests are being carried out to establish the exact cause of his death.
Mercury editor Eileen Green said everyone at the newspaper was shocked and deeply saddened by the news.

"Andy had been with the Mercury for five years and was a popular member of our editorial team, who always had a smile on his face," she said. "His duties took him all over the area on our behalf and he was a wonderful ambassador for us.

"He was a fine photographer, a true professional with a passionate love of local newspapers. The place will certainly not be the same without him. He will be sorely missed."

The night before his death, Andy had spent the evening talking over plans with Lindy to buy the couple's first house before falling asleep. He never woke up.

Lindy, 51, said: "He had nodded off on the settee and so I left him asleep and went upstairs to bed. Four hours later at about 4am I noticed he had not joined me so I went downstairs where I discovered that he had passed away. It was the most appalling shock.

"Andy was a lovely, warm man who took on my four children and made us all a family.

"None of us can believe he has gone. It was so sudden and cruel. I found out on the day of his death that we had been accepted for the house we wanted to buy. Unfortunately, he never got the news."

Andy is also survived by his four step-children Chris, 22, Nick, 21, Will, 18, Abigail, 13 and his father John, who now lives in Spalding where Andy had a studio before joining the Stamford Mercury as a photographer in 2002.

He said: "I am devastated at the loss of my son, but am trying to remember all the wonderful things about him that made him such a one-off. He was certainly accident prone.

"I remember when he was a little lad at school in Stamford and kept having accidents on his beloved pushbike.

"His mum, Josephine, and I got quite used to our son being delivered to us in the back of an ambulance covered in cuts and bruises after taking another tumble. There was also the time when he was nearly arrested at RAF Luffenham for impersonating the commanding officer, Station Commander A Dennis.

"But he managed to explain himself to avoid a trip to the glasshouse and, like everything, he did it with a smile on his face and with his wonderful sense of humour.

"That is why he made friends so easily.

"He grew up into a kind and caring man who had the common touch and an ability to talk to anyone, which is why he will be so badly missed by so many people."

Born in Verberg RAF base in Germany on February 28 1963, Andy moved to Edith Weston when his father, a corporal in the RAF, was re-deployed at nearby North Luffenham.

The family then moved to Oakham where Andy attended Southfields Primary School before a move to Stamford saw him join the ranks of the Bluecoats Primary School in 1971.

It was here that a growing determination to attend Stamford Boys' School began to harden and after studying like a demon, Andy passed the 11+ exam to win the place he so prized three years later.

He discovered a life-long love for photography through teacher John Slater which he later pursued at Harrogate Art and Design College before returning in 1984 to live with his parents at Rippingale and lecturing on photography at Peterborough Regional College.

Andy's mother died in 1993 and five years later he moved to a studio in Spalding 18 months after meeting the love of his life and future wife, Lindy at camp.

She said: "Andy had always been involved in scouting as a leader, as had I, and he proposed to me in a rain soaked tent at Lincolnshire Showground Scout Jamboree. It was so romantic.

"We got married on July 14, 2001, in Bourne Register Office and I just remember how happy and in love we were and that is how we stayed.

"He was so loving, his death has left a hole that everyone who knew him will struggle to fill."

Andy joined the Mercury in 2002 at about the same time as he and Lindy signed up as unpaid paramedics through the Lives first responder team.

Deepings Lives co-ordinator, Helen Bembridge said: "Just talking to Andy it was clear he had a huge desire to help other people and that is why he became such a huge part of the Lives service in this area.

"He and Lindy worked as a team and the pair of them would always cover for others and go the extra mile to help out.

"He was a wonderful man and a wonderful asset to Lives who will be hugely missed by us all."

A service at the Priory church in Deeping St James will take place on Friday, january 19 at 1pm, followed by interment in the churchyard.

In the afternoon there will be a celebration of Andy's life at the Rose pub in Frognall.

Everyone who knew Andy is invited to attend both the service and the celebration but Lindy has asked for donations to Deepings First Responders in lieu of flowers.

Cheques should be made out to Deepings First Responders, and sent to Helen Bembridge at 132 Eastgate, Deeping St James, PE6 8RD.

Tuesday, January 09, 2007

Lincoln has to be top Cathedral City...

The secret is out: Lincoln has been named as one of the country's most attractive cathedral cities by top travel guide Holiday Which.

The reputable magazine's team of writers praise the city as 'a great place to visit' in their latest issue, published today.

Their verdict provides the Lincolnshire Echo with a splash covering half their front page tonight - ironically below a promo tempting readers the chance to spend a penny to get away from Lincoln).

Lincoln is profiled alongside Chester, Derry, St Andrews, St Davids and Salisbury in a Holiday Which six-page special.

The Which? team highlighted Lincoln's historic links to the church, the Magna Carta and the English Civil War.

They lavished praise on the 'charming' uphill Bailgate area near and said Lincoln boasted one of the finest cathedrals in Europe.

All of which will hopefully boost tourism to Lincoln, which is all too often by-passed by visitors to Britain.

First death of New Year on Lincs roads...

Lincolnshire Police have confirmed that a woman died when a car left Moor Lane, Thurlby and hit a tree at mid-day last Wednesday.

She was passenger in a Fiat Punto driven by her 40-year-old brother. She was taken to Lincoln County by road ambulance where she later died.

The driver was airlifted to Lincoln County Hospital with serious facial injuries.

Both are believed to be from the Newark area.

Police are appealing for witnesses to the collision or anyone who was on Moor Lane just before noon on Wednesday and may have seen a silver/grey Punto prior to it leaving the road.

Anyone with information can call the witness hotline on 01522 558855.

This is the first fatality on Lincolnshire's roads in 2007. Last year, 66 people died on Lincolnshire roads, compared with 69 in 2005 and 1-4 in 2003.

Sunday, January 07, 2007

Tragic death of Andy Dennis, popular Mercury snapper ...

Just arrived home after a long weekend visiting friends in Norwich and West Wales to the terrible news that Stamford Mercury photographer Andy Dennis died suddenly on Thursday night.

Andy was a popular and active member of the Deepings community as a volunteer in local scouting and with the life-saving First Responders organisation. I’ve known Andy for years: it was always a joy when he turned up to record local events and campaigns on his camera for the Mercury.

A couple of years ago he contacted me to ask if he could take a photo for a story the Mercury were preparing about Lincolnshire County Council spending £2 million a year to send a few Stamford children to public school.

I was trying to highlight the unfairness of the scheme which reduces the budget of every other school in Lincolnshire. I was campaigning to scrap the scheme and put the money saved towards a brand new comprehensive school for Stamford.

I agreed to meet Andy at a local school: He had a classroom ready as a background to his photo and had chalked up in large figures on the blackboard the costs of the scheme against the price of a new school.

Andy lined me up in front of the blackboard. Then, with a cheeky twinkle in his eye, he suddenly produces a teacher’s mortar board, suggesting it would be a perfect fit for me and would make a great picture for the front page.

After a few seconds thought, I asked him to imagine the ribbing I'd get if he snapped me wearing the mortar-board.

I politely but firmly declined, insisting the mortar-board would devalue, rather than enhance the serious point I was trying to make about the scholarship scheme.

Despite me steadfastly refusing to wear the novel headgear, and his tongue-in-cheek grumblings of me being a spoil-sport, Andy still managed to produce an excellent picture that both maintained what was left of my dignity but was still good enough to be splashed across the front page of that week's Mercury.

I later asked Andy if he really thought I might have been daft enough to pose wearing the mortar-board. He said not really, but thought it was always worth a try to get a better picture. A true professional!

We both shared a real belly laugh at his idea which I agreed would have given him a great photo, but not one I wanted to see on the front of the Mercury, thanks!

The news of Andy's sudden death was posted by Vicar of Deeping St James, the Rev Mark Warrick who says at The Deepings Exchange:
...Andy has been a great friend to me since I first met him when he brought his step-daughter-to-be to Sunday School at the Priory Church some years ago.

He has made huge contributions to the life of this community, notably as a LIVES First Responder, and will be greatly missed by many. No matter how joyful a community event might be, there was always scope for the heart to be lifted by the arrival of Andy to photograph it for the press. He was wonderful with children and young people and helped me with our Pathfinders group for a while.

Please pray for Lindy, his wife, and all the household at this time of devastating loss and sudden change in their complex lives, and for the Responders who have lost a dedicated colleague in circumstances which must be tragic even by their standards.
The photo here of Andy is from the Stamford Mercury website where editor Eileen Green also pays warm tribute to him.

Andy was one of life's genuine good guys. It’s a huge shock to learn that he’s no longer with us. He will be sadly missed by many people here in the Deepings and right across “Mercury” country.

Bottoms up to Bateman's: Lincolnshire's finest

Cheers to Batemans, brewers of my favourite Lincolnshire tipple...

Batemans has become the first East Midlands brewery to win a VisitBritain accreditation.

According to the Lincolnshire Echo, the family-run brewery at Wainfleet, near Skegness, has been awarded a Visitor Attraction Quality Assurance Service accreditation for its visitor centre.

The award aims to promote quality in the tourism industry and has been presented to just six British breweries.

I've never actually visited Bateman's Brewery, though have spent many hours in many of their houses across the East Midlands, sampling their good honest ales!

Captions: The logo is from the official Batemans site, and the other photo is one I took of a window during a pleasant evening spent touring Bateman houses in Boston in the autumn.

Thursday, January 04, 2007

Botched executions in the US lead to rethink...

Asked about the debacle of Saddam Hussain's execution, a senior US officer proudly stated that the Americans sure would have done it differently.

Of course they would.

The Americans are world experts, with experience of more than 1,000 executions by different methods since restoring the death penalty in 1976 (888 by lethal injection, 153 by electocution, 11 by gassing, three by hanging and two by firing squad).

Of those executed, 22 were juveniles when they committed their crimes.

An exclusive club of the USA, China, Iran and Saudi Arabia between them account for 94 per cent of the world's state executions.

Despite their expertise, the American state still manages to spectacularly botch executions. Lethal injections were sold as the most humane method some years ago after horrific stories of flesh frying when the electric chair was the favoured method. (Several states still have hanging or even firing squad on the statute).

Just before Christmas in Florida, where the Governor is no less than Jeb Bush, brother of President Dubya, a man took more than half an hour to die in apparent agony after his lethal injection was terribly botched.

Florida is now one of eight states across the US, where executions are now on hold as lawyers debate whether lethal injections can be "humane" or even constititional.

There's an update on capital punishment around the world in today's Independent after what it calls the "Utube execution" of Saddam :

If you want more, Campaigning British Attorney Clive Stafford Smith writes on the subject here

Those with an iron stomach may be interested in this history of botched executions in the USA

Wednesday, January 03, 2007

Osama, Obama, Obuggar: bloggers praised after CNN's gigantic gaffe...

A huge gaffe by American TV channel CNN was quickly jumped on by bloggers.

CNN managed to mix up a contender to be the next President of the USA with terrorist mastermind Osama bin Laden.

In a story on the whereabouts of Osama, CNN mistakenly ran the caption: "Where's Obama?" over a picture of the terrorist leader.

Barak Obama happens to be an Illinois Senator, a rising Democrat star who is tipped the most likely challenger to Hillary Clinton for the Party's nomination for the 2008 US-Presidential race.

If he runs and wins against Hillary, Obama could become elected as the first black US President.

CNN promptly apologized personally to Obama for what they called a "bad typographical error" .
The New York Daily Post points out that in his latest book, Obama describes being told by a a media consultant in 2001 that his last name would cause a problem because it would remind people of the al Qaeda leader.

A spokesman for Senator Obama said,
Though I'd note that the 's' and the 'b' keys aren't all that close to each other, I assume it was just an unfortunate mistake, and don't think there was any truly malicious intent.

We greatly appreciate the bloggers and activists who brought this error to our attention and helped make sure it was corrected so quickly.
CNN's gaffe came as Obama (that's definitely the Senator not the terrorist leader) was apparently frolicking on a Hawaii beach, where he spent the holidays visiting family - and making his mind up about whether to make a 2008 run for president.

Trouble over Senator Obama's name may not be over: his middle name is...Hussein.

Back to the day-job for Kilroy...?

Despite the endless tabloid hype and speculation, (OK, I admit it, some of it was right here), not one of the bookie's favourites - including Robert Kilroy-Silk made it into the Celebrity Big Brother house when it opened for business tonight.

Earlier, William Hill's had slashed the odds of Kilroy winning the three week show from 16/1 to 10/1.

It seems punters believed the hype and put the 'smart' money on Kilroy (despite being hardly heard of since his election as East Midlands Member of the European Parliament).

Before the house-guests were revealed, Celebrity Big Brother odds were: 11/2 Whitney Houston, 7/1 Adam Ant, 10/1 Sue Pollard, 10/1 Kilroy Silk.

Not one of the favourites was among the chosen ones who entered the BB house tonight.

(I watched the spectacle purely in the interests of research and I can report that there was no sign of 'Lord' Jeffrey Archer, 'Prince' Naseem Hamed, or 'Honest' Jim Speechley among those hoping to rehabilitate themselves on the TV show).

Maybe Kilroy and Co will be among BB's later surprise guests.

Meantime, for now anyway, Kilroy can get back to the mundane day-job...

Tuesday, January 02, 2007

No mention of Archer or Speechley in honours list of shame...

What have these people in common...Francis Bacon, Sir Roger Casement, Kim Philby, Lester Piggott...

They're all in The Guardian's list of people who have had honours removed...

The list was published today as part of The Guardian's coverage of the removal of boxing chump Prince Naseem's Hamed's MBE following his jailing for driving offences.

There's no mention in the Guardian list of former Tory Leader of Lincolnshire County Council Jim Speechley who, as I mentioned yesterday, had his CBE removed after he served a jail sentence for abuse of public office.

And there's no place either in the Guardian "Hall of Shame" of former Tory Party deputy chairman Jeffrey Archer who was also jailed for wrong-doing - and who served most of his sentence here in Lincolnshire, where he'd also once also served as one of the youngest ever MPs.

But Archer still has the honour of a life peerage. He still manages to bring the system into disrepute by officially remaining Lord Archer of Weston-super-Mare: technically there's nothing to stop jailbird Archer sitting in Parliament as a law-maker, rather than a law-breaker.

Following the withdrawal of Prince Naseem's honour yesterday, a spokeswoman for the Cabinet Office told the Guardian that withdrawal of an honour was "extremely rare".

She said:
Forfeiture will be considered if evidence comes to light that someone has done something which shows they shouldn't have received an honour.
Er, such as perjury and perverting the course of justice, perhaps, the crime that Archer was convicted of, resulting in his four-year-jail sentence.

Hamed was convicted after the McLaren Mercedes sports car he was driving at 90mph on the wrong side of the road smashed into another vehicle.

Witnesses said Hamed had been driving "like a maniac".

The other driver's vehicle was stopped and pushed backwards in the collision which left Anthony Burgin with every major bone in his body broken and injuries to his brain. Rescuers said his physical state was "like soup".

His "fantastic life" was destroyed.

For the record, here's the Guardian's list of shame of those whose honours have been removed:

*** In 1621 the philosopher and statesman Francis Bacon was charged with taking bribes, stripped of his title and fined.

*** Sir Roger Casement, the Irish nationalist hero, lost his title before being hanged for treason in 1916.

*** Kim Philby lost his OBE and Sir Anthony Blunt was stripped of his title of Knight Commander of the Royal Victorian Order when it was revealed they had been spies for the Soviet Union.

*** Former champion jockey Lester Piggott was stripped of his OBE in 1988 after being jailed for a £3m tax fraud.

*** Jack Lyons lost his knighthood after his conviction for fraud in the Guinness trial.

*** World darts champion Phil Taylor was relieved of his MBE last year after being convicted of assaulting two female fans.

*** Romanian dictator Nicolae Ceausescu was stripped of his honorary Grand Cross of the Most Honourable Order of the Bath the day before his execution on Christmas day 1989.

A motley crew indeed...

Thought: Wonder if Jeffrey's comeback could be speeded up if he took a leaf out of the boxer's book and called himself "Prince Jeffrey Archer"...

County Councillor Barry Fippard awarded MBE...

Just heard that my colleague on Lincolnshire County Council Barry Fippard has been made an MBE in the New Year's Honours List.

Barry has been Labour member for Birchwood, Lincoln for donkeys years and he is a founder member of the Lincolnshire Police Authority - where I serve with him as the "other" Labour member.

I heard the news of his MBE when I was emailed a copy of a letter of congratulations from the Police Authority.

I'm rather disappointed that the County Council has not yet bothered to inform the rest of the Council about a major honour to one of its longest serving elected members.

Barry was also in the news in November when he suffered a massive heart attack while he was working out on a rowing machine at a Lincoln gym.

Fortunately, staff saw what happened and put their resusitation training on the 'jump leads' to immediate effect.

Staff at Lincoln County Hospital weren't sure he'd make it through the night at one time, but never one to shirk a fight, determined Barry had other ideas. He was soon warmly back to the council chamber - and to police authority meetings.

Barry's award "for services to local government in Lincolnshire" is well deserved and I'm sure it will be properly recognised by the County Council in due course.

Well done Barry.

Crime down again across Lincs

Good news on falling crime rates across Lincolnshire - including a decline in serious violence and house burglaries.

Since April 2006 there have been 581 fewer victims of violence compared to the same period in 2005 - a 12% reduction.

Assistant Chief Constable Peter Davies says it has been a very successful year in terms of crime reduction and detection in 2005/06.

Here's the statement he has released to the press today:

We reported at the end of 2005/06 a reduction in Burglary Dwelling offences of 8.3%, meaning that 228 fewer houses were broken into.

Since April 2006 we have managed to reduce the level even further, with a 7.5% reduction in such offences, equating to 140 less houses broken into (when compared with the same period in 2005).
Having achieved a reduction of 8% in Serious Violent Crime in 2005/06 we have further reduced these offences by 12% since April (compared to the same period in 2005), which means 581 fewer victims of violence.

We are particularly pleased to have achieved significant reductions in offences resulting in physical injury - Homicide and Serious Wounding has reduced by 20.8% and Other Wounding by 14.3%.

As well as reducing Overall Crime (by 1.9% or 819 offences) we have also increased the number of Sanction Detections. Since April we have detected 10803 offences, which equates to 26% of all crime.

We are receiving positive feedback from crime and accident victims in terms of satisfaction with our service, with 79% of all respondents between April and September reporting satisfaction with the overall service provided.

In the latest quarter’s survey, respondents were particularly satisfied with how easy it was to contact us (90.5% satisfied) and the treatment they received from our staff (89.8% satisfied).

Since April we have continued to expand our Neighbourhood Policing program, and the county now has 55 teams working with partners to improve their local neighbourhood.

We recently commissioned a public survey in Lincolnshire and found that 88.7% of people think their local police do a good job. Almost three quarters of respondent said they would feel safer with more Police Community Support Officers patrolling their streets and we are responding to this by increasing the number of officers to 149 by early 2007.

Finally, the excellent work of the Lincolnshire Road Safety Partnership was recognised nationally earlier this year when they were awarded beacon status, and this good work has continued since April with a 22.1% reduction on the number of persons killed or seriously injured as a result of road traffic collisions (compared with the same period in 2005), this equates to 66 less victims on Lincolnshire’s roads.

A good day for democracy...?

Full marks to John Prescott for saying what most decent people are thinking about the circumstances of Saddam Hussein's execution.

Mobile phone footage widely available on the internet apparently shows Saddam being told to "go to hell" by people attending the hanging, while the ex-leader mocks their "bravery".

Mr Prescott described the scenes were "deplorable" and says those responsible for the scenes should be "ashamed".

Whatever your views on capital punishment and specifically whether Saddam should have been hanged, Prescott is right to speak out.

Personally, I have no wish to see the footage. I thought the newspaper photos were awful enough.

I appreciate the need for the Iraqi people to be convinced that Saddam was actually dead.

But to me, the execution by the Iraqi Government - complete with men in leather jackets and balaclavas - appeared no different to murders of hostages filmed by terrorists.

Monday, January 01, 2007

'Prince Naseem' joins 'Honest Jim' in honours hall of shame...

Former world boxing champion Naseem Hamed and former Leader of Lincolnshire County Council Jim Speechley were both disgraced when their behaviour landed them in court.

Both also served time in Doncaster Prison.

Today, they have something else in common:

Naseem Hamed was today stripped of his MBE.

The BBC are reporting that an official notice said the Queen had directed that Hamed's name be erased from the Order of the British Empire.

Hamed served 16 weeks of a 15-month term for causing serious injury to Anthony Burgin in a high-speed crash in May 2005.

Jim Speechley, former Conservative County Council Leader was stripped of his CBE after he was jailed for 18 months in April 2004 after being found guilty of misconduct in public office. (see BBC report)

He was found guilty of trying to change the route of a bypass to inflate the value of land he owned near Crowland.

In case there's any confusion, that's 'Prince Naseem' as he liked to be known on the left, and 'Honest Jim' as he liked to be known, on the right.

It's unlikely that they shared a cell.

Kilroy-Silk to follow Georgeous George Galloway...?

If you thought the bizarre spectacle of Georgeous George Galloway on Big Brother was cringing, it seems you ain't seen nothin' yet!

Robert Kilroy Silk is bring heavily tipped to make his TV comeback on Celebrity Big Brother. The makers of the programme are trying to keep the line-up for their new show secret until it airs in a few days.

But the name Kilroy Silk - known as Tangerine Man for his love of sunbeds - is being widely touted to bring some colour to the show.

As the Independent newspaper says today, Kilroy-Silk disappeared from British television screens when he was sacked by the BBC for describing Arabs as "suicide-bombers, limb-amputators [and] women-repressors".

Following his celebrated sacking by the BBC, he managed to get elected as an East Midlands member of the European Parliament (despite not getting my vote).

On election as MEP for the Eurosceptic right wing UKIP, Kilroy-Silk said he would make it his mission to destroy the European Union. He's been barely heard of since -apart from his acrimonious split with UKIP when they wouldn't let him be leader.

A few months later he created his own party - Veritas - and took on Labour's Liz Blackman in the General Election. For me, the sweetest result of election night was seeing Kilroy Silk totally humiliated. Not only did the able, hard-working Liz Blackman increase her majority in her Erewash (Derbyshire) seat, but Kilroy-Silk barely held on to his deposit!

MP Galloway was said to have made a million from his time in the Big Brother house when he pretended to be a pussy cat lapping milk at Rula Lenska's feet.

No doubt Celebrity Big Brother is right up Kilroy-Silk's street.

But isn't he getting paid handsomely by the public purse to represent us in the European Parliament, not stroking his ego on Big Brother...?

Still think Global warming's a myth...?

Last year was by far the warmest across England since records began nearly 350 years ago.

Meteorologist Gareth Harvey of Meteogroup said today that average daily temperatures in 2006 set a new record "by a long way."

The average daily temperature, based on readings from a number of meteorological stations, was 10.9 Centigrade (for luddites like me: that's 51.62 in real money).

So 2006 was significantly warmer than the previous hotspot year on record - 1990, when an average daily temperature of 10.67C (51.2F) was recorded.

Mr Harvey predicts there could be more warm years on the way with most forecasts agreed on a rising temperature trend over the next 10-15 years.