Monday, 31 March 2008

Working 9 to 5

Today I worked for the Alliance Against 4x4s at our office at Angel. It amazes me how ordered and straight-forward the working day seems in comparison to looking after the increasingly mobile, ever-mischievous Miss Cope. Indeed, 'phone calls, emails, writing and organising sans baby is a veritable pleasure.

Just watching the full council meeting now, live on the web - who needs soap operas with such a cast of fools and rogues (aka Labour)? Especially when the leader of the council screams, foaming at the mouth, that the leader of the opposition (Highgate's own Cllr Neil Williams) "couldn't lead a piss-up in a brewery!" What an absolute disgrace. Is it any wonder that the whole council is a complete mess when the leader of the council cannot even string a coherant sentence together without swearing and insulting a colleague in a most unprofessional manner.

I can only assume Cllr Meehan had visited the aforesaid brewery prior to the council meeting judging by the way he was talking...

Thursday, 27 March 2008

Flash-mobbing at Heathrow

Attended the flash-mob at Heathrow's brand new terminal 5 this morning with Clementine. There were 250 of us according to the Evening Standard (that'll be 500, then!). A lot of the residents of the villages that will be partially or completely destroyed should the third runway get the go-ahead were present. At one point people lay down on the shiny new floor (only made dirty by the Queen's Wood mud flying off Clementine's buggy wheels!) and spelled out 'STOP RW3' and other messages. It was all very good-natured and peaceful, and we got the usual "Get a job!" comments from travellers. Got one, thanks.

Incidentally, when I arrived I took off my jumper to reveal my red 'STOP AIRPORT EXPANSION' t-shirt, I was immediately surrounded by 3 policemen. I really am ridiculously law-abiding - my legs started to shake as they asked me "Have you got a ticket to travel? We can ask you to leave immediately, you know." They then proceeded to shepherd us into a small area in the arrivals hall. At one point a policeman told me to walk further across the hall than I was doing. It was all rather heavy-handed.

All this, and we've got very little press coverage in the free-sheets and the Evening Standard. But there's a very good reason for this: Terminal 5 has had an incredibly shambolic first day. Flights delayed or cancelled, luggage lost, 17 out of the 18 lifts broken, loads more technical glitches, passengers waiting for hours...Welcome to 21st century air travel. And this is a holiday?! Good luck with that...I'll take the Eurostar.

Tuesday, 25 March 2008

Mutiny at the baby clinic

I went to get Clementine weighed today at the baby clinic on Church Road. It's a fantastic place - only open once a week but the staff are lovely and reassuring. When I showed up they told me that they were sorry to say that they will be closing today - for good. Mothers in Highgate will have to travel to the far side of Crouch End or Muswell Hill.

In my election leaflet earlier this year, I pledged that, if elected, I would defend the well-used baby clinic. Even though I didn't become a councillor this time, I am going to kick up a fuss about this issue. Why? Well, as one of the fantastic staff members told me, they often pick up problems with babies very early on, and because people will be less likely to travel on two buses to go to a clinic (especially in those early days of parenthood when everything often just feels like too much), problems will go undetected and parents will go unsupported.

What is most galling is that although the clinic has been there for decades, they have given mothers - and staff, I might add - just one week's notice, probably so we don't have time to protest. This is completely against the Government's 'Our Health, Our Care, Our Say' pledge.

If we had a childrens' centre in the ward the clinic could be based there, but currently there isn't such a facility. This appears to be the thinking of Haringey Council: Highgate is a wealthy area - they can afford to send their kids to private nurseries. Well, let me tell you, not everyone around here has a grand and a half to spare a month for a nursery place! For those of us who aren't wealthy, Highgate is actually quite a difficult place to live in this respect.

Anyway, I've contacted a couple of local newspapers, I've written to all the letter pages, and we'll see whether anyone else wants to join me in a little local hellraising...

Sunday, 23 March 2008

Sindy, the climate criminal

I have been doing some admin for the Alliance Against Urban 4x4s today -(, typing up some minutes from a meeting last week. We have some very exciting times ahead at the Alliance, and will be going in some different directions soon. Yes, that's right, we're going to do a complete u-turn and each buy Range Rover Vogues. Actually, we're not.

In a sister campaign we will be looking at the bigger picture - CO2 emissions, advertising, and a project called '4x4s anonymous' which will give 4x4 drivers a forum where they can talk to each other about their 'issues'. It will be done with our signature humour - firmly tongue-in-cheek!

And I am very excitied about making a film of Sindy (circa 1988) and her pink Range Rover. I loved playing with it as a child - perhaps I am a secret fan of 4x4s after all?! Sindy used to go off-road regularly - down the stairs, as I recall. There were many near-fatal roll-overs. What can I say...I'm an only child. I was bored.

Saturday, 22 March 2008

On letterboxes

Spent this morning delivering the lastest edition of the London Green News in Stroud Green. It's Haringey Greens' target ward and we're trying to maximise our vote there in the upcoming Mayoral and Greater London Assembly elections on May 1st.

I've done a lot of posting things through letter boxes this year, what with my by-election campaign (5000 leaflets delivered with the help of a small group of Greenies). I've become rather a connoisseur of what sort of letter boxes are good news for postmen/women/people/whatever! and what sort spell certain finger amputation.

Good: modern, big, an easy spring, half way up door.

Bad: faux Victorian style with 'Letters' engraved on it. I'm sure it's a very charming style but it's too small to get any post through - a fatal flaw, surely. Vertical ones are a pain the neck too, as you find yourself trying to levitate sideways in order to wedge your leaflet/paper through. Draft-excluding brushes? Great for the environment, bad for posting. You have to figure out the gap between the brushes, hold the damn thing open and stuff your paper through. By which time it's in tatters. And why oh why do some people insist on having a door with a letter box right at the foot of the door? That's just plain mean.

And don't get me started on rabid dogs...

Friday, 21 March 2008

Today I walked part of the 150 mile 'London Loop' with Chris and Clementine. Last year we walked the whole of the 78 mile 'Capital Ring' so the Loop is the next challenge. We walked from Gordon Hill to Enfield Lock today, and unfortunately saw a lot of dumping, like the above fridge. I just don't get it. It seems like a lot of effort to go to in order to get rid of something. We saw an oven in a river too.

Towards the end of the walk I spotted the infamous incinerator at Enfield - the largest in the UK. This is where much of North London's unrecycled waste ends up. In eastern Enfield, which sits downwind of the incinerator and is exposed to smoke from the chimney, the death rate of babies up to a year old is between 10 and 12 per thousand of population. The national average death rate for babies is 5.2 per thousand. It's thought that because they burn plastics, hazardous and radioactive waste the chimneys emit 'PM 2.5' particulates which lodge in people's lungs and cause asthma and cancer as well as rises in infant mortality.

Something to bear in mind the next time one fails to recycle...

Thursday, 20 March 2008

Illegal adverts and recycling conundrums

A very exciting start to the day in Waterloo, with Clementine, and my two Alliance Against Urban 4x4 colleagues, Sian Berry and Blake Ludwig. Today we've sent a letter to Ruth Kelly, to the VCA and to the ASA regarding the illegality of many car adverts. It is against European law not to have the fuel consumption and CO2 emission info on all ads (billboards, newspaper ads, promotional material etc) in quite large print. However, many have it in just tiny print, or in many cases, not at all.

We highlighted this in front of a big billboard in Waterloo which had no info on at all, a clear breach of the law. Here I am launching the website

This afternoon I trudged around the estate in the rain with a representative of Haringey council's recycling team, trying to convince her that we had space for recycling facilities. So much red tape I'm surprised that people don't end up strangling themselves with it at the civic centre...but I am determined that, eventually, we will get recycling facilities here - even if it is the inferior 'co-mingled' variety.

Wednesday, 19 March 2008

A tale of cobwebs and dubious stains

In an exciting development, I have volunteered to be an 'Estate Services Monitor' for Homes for Haringey. This involves ticking various boxes regarding the condition of the Estate.

My tick-sheet came with a very illuminating 'Performance Guide', which tells me what levels of cleanliness etc I should be expecting. It is fully illustrated with pictures of pristine floors ('Good/Excellent') through to litter-strewn grime-fests ('Neglect'). Guess where Summersby Road is on that scale? Clue: it 'aint pretty.

I never thought I'd get excited by pictures of filthy stairwells or grimy bin shoots, but stranger things have happened.

I guess if we weren't paying such a huge amount of money for cleaning, repairs and management I wouldn't mind so much. But with a 33% rise in service charges this year, the neglect is rather hard to stomach.

Tuesday, 18 March 2008

The blog starts here

Well, everyone else is doing it, I thought I might as well give it a go.

Today was very exciting - first of all there was the protest to attend at Highgate post office. I couldn't believe how many people had turned up to demand that the post office stay open - 150 to 200 people, apparently, including some local celebs such as Victoria Wood. Had a chat with Cllr Adrian Oliver, one of the two Green councillors in the Camden ward of Highgate. None in the Haringey ward of Highgate yet - but it's my job to change that in the future!

After the post office demo I took Clementine home, trained her paternal grandfather how to change a nappy, and then took off to the Royal Free for the maternity services meeting. The usual struggle to get them to admit they have problems with midwifes' attitudes and behaviour...not much gets done apart from a lot of denial, umming and ahhing. Very frustrating but I refuse to give up.

Posted a formal complaint regarding Homes for Haringey at Archway post office (queued for 10 mins - yes, they're so quiet those underused post offices these days - !!) and then home to take over from Grandfather Cope, who had started a small fire in my absence. An afternoon of babying and phoning the council on a myriad of subjects, as per usual.

Just a normal day.