Thursday, 24 December 2009

Councillors as baubles mean xmas cheer





I didn't even notice the rubbish Christmas tree that has been shoved on the corner of Archway Road and Muswell Hill Road, until I read about it in yesterday's Evening Standard. The dishevelled-looking specimen is leaning against the oh-so-attractive safety railings and has been hastily 'decorated' with cheapo lights.

Oh, and it's cost £1,500. Somehow. Perhaps the council had to do a consultation, asking what colour lights people wanted. 'Multicoloured' they replied. So of course the council put white ones on. Thems the breaks...

Anyway, the thing that really bothered one local resident was not the odd angle of the tree or the fact that it cost a small fortune, but the simple fact that it didn't have any baubles on it. For shame.

Said resident then went about making some decorations - hey, there's a recession and a war on, times are tough, right?

Because the tree screams 'Haringey Council!' the resident decided it should holler this joyful refrain even louder. So what did they decorate it with? Stars with of 12 of our wonderful councillors pictures on them.

The decorator has taken a cross-party approach - this tree is certainly democratic.

12 stars though. I don't think Haringey will ever get 12 stars, somehow, do you?

The decorator explains "The 12 stars represent the 12 days of Christmas. I am rather chuffed with the finished results. I would urge Haringey's councillors to come and see if they are one of the chosen ones."

Wednesday, 16 December 2009

Midwifery Under Fire



I have fought for decent maternity services since giving birth to my daughter at London’s Royal Free back in January 2007. I was always heartened to hear about the gold standard of care given by the Albany Group in Peckham, south London. It supports women to give birth wherever they choose – almost half give birth at home – and medical intervention rates are low. All women have their babies delivered by the midwife they first see and the group's caesarean and medical intervention rates are low. This is in great contrast to birth elsewhere on the NHS – as my own experience echoes.

However, the future of the Albany has been put in doubt after south London’s King's College Hospital terminated its contract, alleging that a disproportionate number of the babies it delivered suffered damage during the birth. Such brain damage can be caused during birth – for example, if the cord gets wrapped around the baby's neck – but it can also occur in the womb.

King's decided to terminate the contract after commissioning a report from the Centre for Maternal and Child Enquiries (CMACE). It is claimed that the investigation was triggered by the death of Natan Kmiecik, one week after he was delivered at Kings by one of the Albany midwives. The parents' lawyers claimed proper procedures were not followed, because the baby's heartbeat was monitored only by a small hand-held device so she could have a water birth.

Supporters of the Albany group are outraged by what they consider an attack on the philosophy of independent midwifery and non-medicalised delivery. A vocal demonstration took place at the weekend outside the hospital, where women and children chanted: "Save the Albany".

"I'm very angry and very keen to see the Albany continue," said one. "This is just the beginning - the tip of the iceberg."

The fact is, birth on the NHS is in trouble. The existence if the Albany is in some ways an embarrasment to the medical establishment, highlighting as it does how wrong our general approach to birth is these days. We need a non-medicalised delivery setting to exist in order to remind us what birth can – and should – be like.
More demonstrations are planned and I hope to take part – along with my daughter, whose traumatic birth got me passionate about this issue in the first place.

Please get involved with the campaign and sign the petition:

www.savethealbany.org.uk

Tuesday, 8 December 2009

Climate Marching



I was at the annual Climate March in central London on Saturday, this year dressed as a Suffragette as part of the group Climate Rush. That's why I am dressed thus in the picture.

There was a great turnout, brilliant atmosphere - plus a sense of both optimism and urgency, I thought.

My Green Party colleague Pamela is going to Copenhagen this week, the lucky thing. I hope to hear all the news from the front line when she returns. A minibus of activists is going from Haringey to the summit, helping, with thousands of other protesters, to put pressure on world leaders at this incredibly important moment.

Thursday, 3 December 2009

Carlisle Rd - sign up at last! And a poo update.

video

I've been badgering the council to put this sign up since the Summer - see my earlier blog. After (another) reminder, they've put it up. Hopefully this will mean less lost motorists driving up there and then noisily reversing out.

A small victory for Stroud Green residents...but one that got me a bit excited, despite the rain, as you can see.

On a separate note - back to dog poo again. The Hornsey and Crouch End Journal today report that there's to be a 'crackdown' on dog fouling in Stroud Green, Crouch End, Hornsey and Harringay wards. This is because, reportedly, there has been an increase in the number of people reporting the problem in these areas. I find this surprising as the enforcement team told me that only a handful of people in Stroud Green had reported the problem in the last 18 months. (This despite the fact it is a problem - as my shoes can report. Nice).

Whatever is the case, I am glad they're going to be attempting, at least, to enforce the rules. One small step - ooh, mind the dog poo!

Saturday, 28 November 2009

Edible landscapes - and a Walthamstow update!




I joined my fellow Tree Trust members in planting a number of fruit and nut trees in Priory Park this morning. It's all part of encouraging the council to plant more fruit and nut trees in the borough. The council's tree strategy mentions it's a good idea so the Tree Trust are planning to make this vision a reality. Rowans and sweet chestnuts were amongst the trees planted.

"I'll be back in 18 years for my nuts!" said one resident wit.

Next year some of us in the Sustainable Haringey Network are planning to organise an urban harvest. Fruit and nuts which would either simply be left to rot would be harvested and shared. It just takes a bit of coordination and, hey presto, free food - healthy fare at that!

Organic Lea in Walthamstow have been doing similar in recent years. Harvesting local apples, they've juiced them and shared the juice out in the community. Brilliant!

Speaking of Walthamstow, a little update on my general election candidacy. I was selected as the prospective parliamentary candidate for Walthamstow a year ago, but this week I decided to let someone else take on the role. My focus, along with my fellow Haringey Greens, is obviously on Haringey, and our push to get the first Greens onto the council here.

I hope a suitable replacement candidate can be found and that Waltham Forest and Redbridge Greens can also continue to work at getting some councillors elected next year, too! Exciting times...

Thursday, 26 November 2009

Meeting the Seniors




This photo shows my fellow Stroud Green Green Party candidate Anna Bragga deep in conversation with an attendee of the drop-in centre at Abyssinia Court, Weston Park.

We went along today to meet both residents of the 'housing with care' accomodation and to those who attend the daily drop-in sessions. They provide a great community service in that local older people can meet regularly, have dinner and socialise in comfort.

I have to say that one of the groups of people I have most enjoyed meeting on my door-knocking excursions over the last year has been the older residents of the ward. This is partly because, as a history nerd, I love to hear about how the area has changed over the decades. Some people have told me their wartime memories of Stroud Green and beyond, which has fascinated me.

Today we also had the chance to discuss the issue of pensions. The current full state pension for a single pensioner is only £95.25 (figure from April 2009). There's been a massive decline since the link with earnings was broken by the Tory government in 1979. Many pensioners, especially women, don't even get a full state pension.

Private pensions are in crisis too, of course. Some occupational schemes have failed, leaving pensioners who've contributed all their lives with nothing.

The Green solution would be to introduce a Citizen's Pension which would pay single pensioners £165 per week - with no means testing, which is demeaning and requires pensioner to jump through hoops. Independent studies by the National Association of Pension Funds have shown that this could be afforded today within current net expenditure and state pensions. Furthermore, by abolishing the tax relief on private pension contributions, which mainly benefit the more wealthy, we would save money which would then be plowed in to providing a fair Citizen's Pension for all.

It was great meeting the people we met today - and they seemed to enjoy the chat, the cake (thank you, Dunn's the Baker!) and meeting my daughter Clementine, who helped one of the residents make Christmas cards.

Monday, 23 November 2009

Whittington A&E closure outrage



Back in the summer I was blogging about the new polyclinic on Park Road, saying that local GPs were closing and that means longer journeys for sick people.

I've also blogged about the closure of so many of Haringey's hospitals and the fact that we have no A&E.

I'd heard a rumour a few months ago that the Whittington might close, or 'merge' with another hospital. It seemed unbelievable at the time.

Well, I've just got back from a heated 'Defend Haringey's Health Services' meeting, where the proposed closure of the Whittington's Accident and Emergency was the hot topic of the evening after the plans were announced last week.

Already Haringey residents have to travel out of the borough to get to A&E. If they had to go beyond the Whittington, to the Royal Free, that's another bus ride for a lot of people.

Anne Gray, Green Party Parliamentary candidate for Tottenham, put it like this: "Green Lanes is an accident black spot. What's going to happen if you have a traffic accident there and need to be taken to the Royal Free? You're going to die."

It really is as stark as that.

The Government have been planning to close and outsource much of the NHS for years. The fact that they can now cite spending cuts and budget deficits is a handy excuse but not really a legitimate reason.

Tonight we planned a series of actions to protest against this plan. No doubt it will be wrapped up as a positive for patients in some devious way. It is for activists to point out, repeatedly, that this is a cut too far - that lives will be lost. By the time this goes out to 'consultation' it will probably be too late - the decision will be made. Now is the time for action.

Saturday, 14 November 2009

Extreme Action Saturday!




Leaflets, strong winds and driving rain don't mix. Any political activist will tell you that. So it was rather an inconvenience that our Action Saturday coincided with extreme weather! A great opportunity for talking with local people also turned into a papier mache experiment. We managed two hours of chat and leafleting and then dragged our wet haul home. Pic above shows me trying to keep it together!

The other picture is how my living room looks right now. I am drying out the leaflets - waste not, want not!

Next month, sunshine please. Or at least not gales and downpours...

Sunday, 1 November 2009

Clementine the Apple Tree



As previously mentioned, my husband Chris won an apple tree at Hornsey Vale Community Centre's 'Apple Day' a couple of weeks ago. He peeled a piece of apple peel measuring 1 metre 73cm. Competitive? No, surely not.

Anyway, he won the tree and the honour of naming it - he named it after our daughter, Clementine. I know, Clementine the apple tree - it's pretty confusing.

It was to planted somewhere in Stroud Green and today we found it a home. An allotment holder in Stroud Green decided she could provide a home for it. So today Anna Bragga, my fellow Stroud Green candidate and I, along with Clementine (the small human) and Chris, the champion apple peeler, found ourselves planting it, and we wish it well. We look forward to tasting the fruits of our labours...

Thursday, 29 October 2009

Poo Patrol



This morning I went on a poo patrol in Stroud Green with Haringey council's Tony Chapman and Martin Lester. Lots of residents and shopkeepers had complained about dog fouling in the ward and so I called on the enforcement team to take a look.

We visited various hot spots (ew...) looking for dog poo. I learned a lot about poo today. As the mother of a two year old I thought I was an expert on the matter, but no. Lots of the poop we see on the pavements is in fact not dog poo, but fox poo apparently. Sometimes cats will poo on the pavement - we saw a delightful example today on Lancaster Road.

Not many people bother to report dog dirt - there were only 9 complaints on the matter in Stroud Green in the last 18 months. It does obviously matter to people through - as well as being disgusting it poses a public health risk, of course.

Anyway, the council are aware of the worst spots in Stroud Green and leaflets are going out from next week on the subject. Wardens will patrol the areas I have highlighted - although more staff are needed as there are only 18 wardens for the whole borough at present.

As we walked through the ward we also made a note of dumping problems. It as great to have the staff there to see it for themselves - it's an approach I very much want to take if elected next year.

Monday, 26 October 2009

Good news for sheltered housing residents

49 elderly tenants at Campbell Court, are celebrating this week, after Haringey Council dropped plans to move out all existing residents to reallocate the block to general needs housing. The block has also been restored to the borough’s programme of decent homes works.

"We are delighted", said Gwen Owens of the Campbell Court Tenants Association. "Thanks are due to everybody who has supported us. Now we are ready to support the other Haringey sheltered housing tenants still under threat of losing their homes".

Haringey has also had three other sheltered housing schemes under review. Decisions on Larkspur Close, Tottenham, with 36 homes, and Stokley Court, Hornsey, with 47 homes, have been deferred for one year, although neither scheme has been restored to the decent homes programme.

The council wants to demolish Protheroe House, Tottenham, moving out its 47 tenants to make way for an extra care facility, probably to be provided through the sale of the site to a housing association.

The 179 affected tenants have suffered stress and anxiety during this period of uncertainty. Their campaign to stay in their homes has been helped and supported by Haringey Defend Council Housing, Haringey Trades Union Council and the Haringey Federation of Residents Associations.

Thursday, 22 October 2009

Gearing up for winter

At the weekend I met a Homes for Haringey resident in Stroud Green who was suffering due to broken radiators. Workmen had been sent but she complained that the radiators hadn't been fixed properly, despite assurances.

I was knocking on doors with Katie, my Green Party colleague, and the resident invited us in and handed us instructions on how to assemble an oil-filled radiator. Well, I am no DIY expert, but Argos's clear as mud instructions meant we had the thing assembled in...well, it took a while, but we got there in the end.

This is a sad story. Here is a woman paying her council tax and rent, but who cannot rely on the council to do a proper repair job. As winter draws in, these issues become more and more serious. She shouldn't have had to shell out for a heater, nor lug it back from the shops.

I have reported the problem to the housing manager...and received an out of office reply. As a Homes for Haringey resident myself, I know only too well the difficulties residents face in trying to get even the simplest repair job done. It shouldn't be that way, clearly.

Onwards.

Saturday, 17 October 2009

Apple-icious

Apple Day at Hornsey Vale Community Centre was brilliant! Kind of like a secular Harvest Festival, as my husband Chris pointed out. I have never eaten so many different varieties of apples, nor imbibed such delicious apple juice.

Then of course there was the apple peeling competition which Chris took VERY seriously...peeling a strip of apple measuring 1 metre 73 cm. He won, of course, and his prize was - a tree! An apple tree, naturally. He's calling it after our daughter, Clementine (I see a fruit theme emerging), and we are on the outlook for somewhere in Stroud Green to plant it. With all those empty tree pits, it shouldn't be a problem...

It's quite ironic we should be planting a tree when I spend such a lot of time defending street trees in the area! The petition we launched regarding the street trees in Denton Road is going from strength to strength and Monday sees me taking on the councillors at the full council meeting...

Tuesday, 29 September 2009

Voting with our feet!

Tonight I attended the Hornsey Neighbourhood Health Centre's user group meeting. We were told that the meetings would include us all working towards an NVQ in volunteering, and would include homework. We 'Defend Haringey's Health Service' people suggested that the NHS Haringey staff, who were dominating the meeting, let the people decide what they wanted to do instead.

We were talked over and patronised for our efforts.

Why had the user group not been advertised more widely, we asked? Why had they not made an effort to be more inclusive?

I explained how the Royal Free Maternity Services Committee works (I am a member). It certainly isn't a perfect arrangement but it doesn't involve homework, which the time-pressured amongst us (wait a minute, that's everyone!) might be put off by.

The predominant feeling was that whilst the NHS Haringey staff were claiming to want to listen to us patients, the very opposite was the case.

So we walked out. But they haven't heard the last of us, of course! Veteran campaigners such as Janet Shapiro, who have a wealth of knowledge, will never be silenced when it comes to something as important as our health service.

Monday, 28 September 2009

Haringey gets a little greener!




In partnership with Haringey Council's library service, The Energy Saving Trust Advice Centre for London is making 100 energy monitors available to library users to help them cut electricity costs. I suggested the idea to the Homes Group at the Sustainable Haringey Network Spring Gathering earlier this year.

I knew that Lewisham Green Party had done this in their borough and I thought it would be an easy and effective thing that Haringey could do too. It’s a simple idea which will help people both lessen their carbon footprint and save themselves some money.


Library users can borrow these special devices - wireless energy monitors - which show how much electricity is being used in the home and how much it is costing.
Borrowers will instantly be able to find out which electrical appliances are costing them the most money to run.


The monitors are easy to install, a simple fact sheet on how to fit them is provided, and they come with a portable display showing how much electricity is being used in costs per hour, kilowatts or and associated greenhouse gases emitted.

Every library user who borrows an energy monitor will also receive two free energy saving light bulbs to help them decrease their energy consumption and electricity bills by up to £16 a year.

In Lewisham, where the meters have been available to borrow from libraries since last year, householders have reduced energy consumption by between 5 and 15%, representing £25 to £75 from a £500 bill.

Residents can also attend a free Home Energy Doctor drop-in session to get advice on energy efficiency in the home and how that could save up to £300 per annum on home energy bills.

Sunday, 27 September 2009

Result for Carlisle Road!

A few weeks ago I visited the residents of Carlisle Road, with my fellow Stroud Green candidate Anna Bragga. It's a tiny road in the south of the ward but despite being a dead-end has no sign up to indicate this.

One resident told us that this meant cars constantly drive up and then cause a racket noisily reversing out.

We got onto Haringey Council and they tell us a sign is to be erected very soon. Hurrah! We hope the Carlisle Road residents notice a lot less revving of engines very soon.

It's just one example of the little things we're already achieving for the people of Stroud Green. I get a real sense of satisfaction from stuff like this - which probably means that being a councillor, whilst being challenging, should be an enjoyable business.

Friday, 25 September 2009

Healthy Way Forward?

Having travelled past the variously-named Hornsey Poly-Clinic/Hornsey Central Hospital/Hornsey Neighbourhood Health Centre on the bus umpteen times, it was good today to final get the chance to visit.

It was the AGM of NHS Haringey (formerly Haringey PCT – do keep up!), and I attended with my ‘Defend Haringey Health Services’ hat on.

The building is an odd combination of steel and glass with the war memorial at the front, at an angle. Patients whose doctors have moved into the building have complained that they cannot hear their name being called because of the acoustics.

There’s a café downstairs run by Muswell Hill’s ‘Feast’ – good to see a local business getting the franchise, I thought, though a quick glance showed that their environmental credentials needed improving. Bottled water – so 5 years ago! If the land at the back of the building is turned into a community garden, a plan which is on the table, perhaps fruit and veg could be grown there and used in the café?

Richard Sumray, chair of NHS Haringey, kicked off the AGM by said that resources are getting tighter – a point underlined by Harry Turner, Corporate Director of Finance. Who said there had already been a small cut in spending on primary care services.

They hadn’t scheduled questions, but we activists didn’t let that stop us. I asked where the cuts in primary care services had been, and on top of that, whether the Executives planned to take a pay cut? After all, Tracey Baldwin, Chief Executive of NHS Haringey, reportedly earned £190,000 last year.

Ms. Baldwin laughed at my suggestion and patiently explained that their wages are determined by the Government’s pay scales and there isn’t anything they can do about it. (I’ll let you insert your own comment here!)

We also asked what the plans were for the building – much of it is empty still. We were told that they don’t really know what’s going into it (the Millennium Dome situation springs to mind!) but it’ll be what we the patients want.

So here’s my wish-list: I’d like a good, sympathetic Dr I see often, getting continuity of care, and can build up a relationship with. I’d like a baby clinic, more podiatrists and mental health provision. I’d like to see a user board that properly represents the community and has a real say about how things are run.

But here’s the big ask: I’d like to then pick this up and put it in a small practice, within walking distance, so people don’t have to get two buses to get there, especially when they’re feeling unwell.

When I brought up some of these points I was told that people don’t mind travelling on two buses if they are going to a nice building. I was told that mothers want to go to the polyclinic (again, because it’s a sexy building – supposedly). My reply: I’m a mother. I don’t. I want to go to the one around the corner (which was closed down with one week’s notice). I was also told that people don’t care about seeing the same GP and that is why they often go to A&E.

I love the NHS, and to see it taken apart before my eyes was thoroughly depressing. Let’s defend our local doctor’s surgeries whilst we still have them!

Tuesday, 15 September 2009

Haringey's Health, Historically

Fact fans - some fascinating historical background regarding the fate of the borough's hospitals - written by Sue Hessel, Vulnerable Groups Officer (Haringey Federation of Residents’ Associations)

In the 1980s Haringey had six hospitals:

From 1948 St. Ann’s was a General Hospital, and by 1973 it had 586 beds. There is no general hospital in the whole of Haringey now and in April of this year what was left of St. Ann’s was threatened with closure due to its filthy state.

The Prince of Wales Hospital in Tottenham, with its 204 beds, was closed down in 1983 with the promise that it would become an "integrated health facility". By the 1990s it had become luxury flats and serves to show us that we should never believe what we are told!

Wood Green and Southgate Hospital was closed in 1991 to become 30 sheltered flats (Passmore Edwards House).

Coppets Wood, Muswell Hill served as one of only 2 isolation hospitals in Britain for hazardous infections from the 1933 until 2000. It is now luxury housing.

Southwood Hospital, Highgate also became luxury housing in 2003.

The doors of Hornsey Central Hospital were closed to patients in 2000. I bet lots of local readers can remember the days when it had three wards, an operating theatre, busy clinics staffed by Whittington Consultants in Ear Nose and Throat, haematology (blood tests), radiotherapy, maternity, gynaecology, as well as physiotherapy. Later it served the elderly population and there are many happy memories of the warmth and care and community spirit that our local elderly received here, and a contrast to the reports we read now about hospital care of the elderly.

After nine years of no services on the Hornsey Hospital site it has now been rebuilt as a huge GP centre causing the closure of local more accessible GP surgeries in the process - at cost particularly to the elderly and disabled who will find the travelling harder.

When you look at Haringey PCT’s finances it is difficult to imagine that the public purse will be able to afford many extra health services in here.

From April 2009 Haringey PCT have committed present and future taxpayers to pay rent for this building of £873,000 each year for the next 30 years. This year they had to find an additional £254,000 to pay for its furniture and fittings.

(source Haringey PCT annual accounts 2008/2009 –p28and 29 appendix of May 2009 Board papers - not on line for some reason but I have a hard copy!)

(Haringey PCT’s Lordship Lane Health Centre site has a rent of £712,000pa for 25 years, since May 2007.)

Lots more health cuts are on the way. In April Haringey PCT reported a financial gap of £16m in achieving balanced budget for 09/10. This year there is a new savings target of £3.5m.

They had to find an extra £130,000 to pay for the administrative costs of the Baby P inquiry (which concluded with Tracy Baldwin’s resounding apology for their part in the scandal).

Last year Chief Executive Officer of Haringey PCT, Tracy Baldwin, received £190,000pa - about the same as the Prime Minister! (who is paid £197,000)
Finance Director, Harry Turner, received £164,000pa.


The managers of the PCT are the NHS equivalent of the bankers. They take huge salaries and it is they who are responsible for the reduction in our health services.

There has been a massive increase in health bureaucracy since the government brought in Primary Care Trusts. Guess how many administrators it took to run the whole of Hornsey Central Hospital? ONE. This was Mrs. Brice with her two assistants. The medical staff including Matron did the rest!

Now the government has finally owned up that the finances are in a mess and we need to start looking at "efficiency savings," perhaps it’s time Haringey health managers started getting a taste of their own medicine?

Saturday, 12 September 2009

Lordship Rec Festival




Lordship Rec Festival took place today, and the sun shone like it was July! This helped draw in the crowds and it was quite the place to be. Stalls, sheep, live music, the Food Co-op...cake competitions (see above), pony rides - and people from all backgrounds enjoying themselves hugely.

I was on the Sustainable Haringey Network stall with my colleagues Pamela and others, letting people know about our upcoming plans.

It was fun playing 'spot the councillor' - there were several around, munching candyfloss and talking with the residents. (The candyfloss aspect might be a slight fabrication).

There was a fantastic 'weird shaped fruit and veg' competition, including a 2lb potato which closely resembled Johnny Vegas.

All the fun of the fair.

Friday, 28 August 2009

Climate Camp Cavorting








I visited Climate Camp today with my daughter Clementine and friend Rachel. I've not been to the previous climate camps, but since it was in London this year it seemed like the ideal opportunity.

Blackheath is a great spot for the event, and it is a brilliantly organised affair.

I heard a talk from some of the women who were at Greenham Common. It was interesting to hear their first-hand account of that infamous camp - the hardships they endured during the winter is certainly inspiring. (Hmm...I wonder how many people would go to Climate Camp if it was staged in December? Maybe I'm being too cynical...).

One of the women said (twice, in fact) that it was always particularly galling at Greenham that they would camp there year-round, and then at their monthly actions, some women (and I quote) "would turn up, fluffing their hair, and then talk on our behalf to the press even though they were just there for the day."


Ah yes, sisterhood! It's a fine thing. I can understand that it would be rather galling, but surely the point with Greenham - and indeed with Climate Camp - is to get the message out to the press. Indeed, I saw a female press photographer today selecting two attractive young women and taking their picture, knowing as she did that the press would be more likely to use such a photo.

Of course it's not great that people judge on appearances and place such a high value on aesthetics, but surely we should be pleased that the message is getting into the press, and out to the public?

I was surprised to see a lack of police presence - in great contrast to April's G20 protest, I'm pleased to say! I did see some firemen. And a man with two ferrets on leads, much to my delight.

Another highlight was being threatened by a 3 year old in the children's tent. When I asked him to share the paint he said "I am going to stab you in the eye. I am going to kill you."

"That's not very nice," I remonstrated. "It really isn't in the spirit of Climate Camp, you know..."

This held very little sway with the tiny tearaway.

Thus ended my experience of Climate Camp '09.

Saturday, 22 August 2009

The Plot at Hornsey Police Station




Today, along with my fellow Stroud Green candidates Anna Bragga and Pete McAskie, I attended a ‘guerilla gardening’ event on Tottenham Lane. A neglected piece of land, supposedly one that the council should’ve been tending, is in the process of being transformed into a mini oasis of colour and scents.

We met the woman behind this excellent venture, Bethany Wells, and spent several hours with a group of volunteers. We swept up debris, dug over the soil and started planting donated plants such as geraniums. We enjoyed cakes, art, and homemade lemonade, not to mention the great community spirit!

The idea is that anyone who wants to can come along to the plot, which is next to the police station on Tottenham Lane, and do a bit of gardening whenever the fancy takes them. Bethany explained that rather than wait for the council to do something, she decided to take action and sort out the land herself. It’s a good attitude to have.

Earlier this year, together with a group of residents on my estate in Highgate, I cleared a disused garden and planted vegetables, fruit and flowers. We are now enjoying the fruit of our labour, with carrots, onions, tomatoes, beans and potatoes in abundance!

The guerrilla gardening movement is an interesting one. Since reading Richard Reynold’s excellent book ‘On Guerilla Gardening’ earlier this year, I can’t go past a disused plot, flower bed or tree pit without imagining it either blooming or providing food for local people. There are health, environmental and community benefits to this kind of action – it needs to be encouraged!

http://guerrillagardening.org/

Wednesday, 19 August 2009

Choose and Book - whose choice?

I've had an encounter with the NHS's 'Choose and Book' system - and I have to say I am not thus far impressed. The idea is that it gives GPs the ability to book you an appointment directly, without doing a referral.

The reality is it's a major pain with a lot of margin for error.

I saw my GP in April, when he made me an appointment for my 2 year old daughter to see a dermatologist for an ongoing skin problem. The GP used the Choose and Book System.

I was initially made an appointment at the Finchley Memorial Hospital on 18th June 2009.

This was then cancelled by the hospital and I was given the date of 6th July 2009, this time at Barnet Hospital in Hertfordshire. This was going to be very difficult to get to. When I ‘phoned the 'Choose and Book' line I was told that I couldn’t choose which hospital to attend.

I couldn’t attend this appointment because I was having an operation that day. I was then sent another letter telling me this had been cancelled and that an appointment had been made on 20th July 2009.

I did not attend this appointment, but instead ‘phoned and cancelled it because my daughter’s skin had by this time cleared up.

My experience of 'Choose and Book' does not seem to be atypical according to anecdotes I have heard from other patients. I would like to know:



1. Why did I have to wait such a long time for the initial appointment?
2. Why did I get letters both confirming and cancelling the appointments, sent on the same day? This confused me as I didn’t know which letter was accurate.
3. Why was I sent out of London to see a dermatologist? I thought the point of Choose and Book was that you could CHOOSE. Is this not the case?

I've written a letter to the Chief Exec of Haringey PCT (now called NHS Haringey!)to get some answers. If anyone else has had a problem with 'Choose and Book' please let me know.

Wednesday, 15 July 2009

Kitchen Cupboard Drama




This picture of devastation was taken yesterday at 1-8 Hutton Court, Victoria Road, Stroud Green. What you can see in front of me is the remains of an old council-fitted kitchen. I say this with some authority because it looks just like my old council-fitted kitchen which we replaced ourselves last year!

This is the second time I’ve come across masses of dumped builders’ waste outside a Homes for Haringey block in Stroud Green this year – I reported on this back in February. Whether the Decent Homes programme is to blame on this occasion or not is as yet unclear, but whatever is the case, it is completely unacceptable.

I’ve reported this to the council and will check up at the weekend to see whether it has been removed or, as so often is the case, yet more crud has accumulated…

Wednesday, 8 July 2009

Kingsnorth - Surrounded!


It’s not every day you find yourself, along with a thousand or so other people, surrounding a coal-fired power station, chanting:

“E-On!
Kingsnorth!
Is this what our planet’s worth?”

But on Saturday, after a walk through undulating wheat fields in the baking sun, this is just what I did. I was accompanied by my husband, Chris, and two year old Clementine, possibly the youngest of the Green Party’s ‘Young Greens’.

We were there to highlight the fact that new coal-fired power stations cannot be the allowed if we are to meet the Government’s aim of a reduction in Carbon emissions of 80% by 2050. Talk of ‘carbon capture’ is just that – talk – and whilst we continue to bury our heads in the sand and think coal, we neglect to invest in and to develop renewables – which could provide jobs for millions.

Kingsnorth is in many ways a litmus test – if it is allowed to go ahead, we will be giving the green light for more of the same. If cancelled, perhaps we will have the courage to leave coal behind and build really sustainable solutions.

My own belief is that there is not just one solution, but an amalgamation of many would be the answer. There are lots of questions still to answer but surely we should be investing more and more in finding those answers now, before it is too late?

It was an inspiring day, visiting the site which has already made history, after the so-called ‘Kingsnorth 6’ climbed the cooling tower there are wrote ‘Gordon’ down the side. I highly recommend Nick Broomfield’s short film on the subject, by the way – I should think it will inspire many people to become activists:
http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=Sidpgz8iGQ8

We’ll certainly be needing an army of those over the next few years!

Sunday, 14 June 2009

Greens know how to party




After all the hard work that the European elections entailed, what with canvassing, leafleting, and the odd bio-battle-bus, it was time to celebrate in style. Jean Lambert, our re-elected Green MEP for London joined about 50 party members and supporters for cocktails, fine food and great music.

Yes it rained, but we sheltered under our borrowed gazebos. A great time was had by all!

Monday, 8 June 2009

Low CVP Conference Report



Today I attended the Low Carbon Vehicle Partnership 6th Annual Conference at City Hall. The day kicked off with a talk by Dr. Kevin Anderson, Research Director of the Tyndall Centre for Climate Change Research.

He told us that we often hear that an increase of 2 degrees in the earth's temperature would be just about tolerable, but that we wouldn't survive with any more than that - 4 degrees for example. In fact that isn't true. Whilst the Northern hemisphere would survive with an increase in 2 degrees, for the Southern hemisphere it would be disastrous.

Dr. Anderson said that we have known the consequences of accelerating climate change since the early 1990s. We have done almost nothing. Our lifestyles haven't changed (in fact, they've become even more wasteful in many ways).

He set out the speed at which we would now have to change our ways, including the speed at which car emissions would have to be brought down. Never mind targets for 2050 - Dr. Anderson was talking 130g CO2/km by 2010, 70g by 2020 and 35g by 2030. Plus - and this is the real sting - he said these wouldn't have to be the average for a fleet of cars, but the maximum. I thought of some of the large 4x4s currently emitting almost 400g CO2/km and felt my soul sink a little. These are tough targets.

So far, so bleak. Or perhaps realistic. There then followed lots of speakers, ranging from those from the automative industry, NGOs, SMMT, plus the new Secretary of State for Transport and Boris Johnson. Many speakers refered to Dr. Andrerson, saying he had set out too bleak a picture, that what he had said wasn't necessarily true, that we must think of the economy...I put my head in my hands and decided to build a raft for when the sea inevitably laps at my door.

I know we Greens can't be too bleak in our messaging. I know we have to sugar the pill. But let's face it, we can't bury our heads in the sand and keep quiet in case we scare people. We've got 90 months now to shout as loudly as we can: this is the problem, here are our solutions. We demand action, and reject procrastination. As Dr. Anderson concluded, we need emissions to be brought down by 6% per annum. "You might say that's impossible." he said. "If that's impossible, try living with an increase in temperature of 4 degrees."

Sunday, 26 April 2009

Women By Name Day, Sun 3rd May


I've been busy organising a Green Party 'Women By Name' day in Brighton, which will take place next Sunday from 10am 'till 5pm at Community Base, 113 Queens Road, Brighton. The event is for women only.

We had a similar day in November, which was both inspiring and productive, with several women-centric policies being produced, as well as the day giving us the opportunity to share our experiences as women within the Green Party.

Next Sunday we will again have that opportunity, as well as deciding on the next policies to take forward to conference. I am going to talk about childcare provision, for instance.

We have two great speakers lined up, too: Sue England is going to speak about women and the recession, and Ruth Mason is going to tell us about the work of the Survivors' Network. We're also going to be given some training about how to chair meetings - essential for women who want to take a more active role in their local party.

I hope as many of you as possible will attend next Sunday - I look forward to meeting you in Brighton! And for those who want to make a weekend of it, you are very much welcome to take part in the 'Action Saturday' the day before (Saturday 2nd May). Brighton and Hove Greens will be delivering Euro leaflets - essential work towards getting Caroline Lucas re-elected as MEP.

Brighton Greens can provide accomodation as long as they have advance notice - let me know if you needs this sorting out: (07950 118 998)

Looking forward to seeing you beside the sea next Sunday!

Thursday, 16 April 2009

Gee...that's NICE.

We were delighted to hear that the electric car company, NICE, have resumed trading as the London sales arm of AIXAM-MEGA Ltd. NICE, who had some of their vehicles at last year’s ‘Green Motoring Pavilion’ at the British Motor Show, went into administration in November. Where was their bailout? We asked at the time. So much for the Government rescuing the ailing car industry. Here was a company who were trying to solve the problems we have with cars and the pollution they create, rather than burying their heads in the sand, like some (most) manufacturers we could mention.

So it’s good news that they’re trading again. Electric cars certainly face a tough challenge when it comes to gaining credibility, but there are signs that things are starting to go in the right direction.

Think of the furore over the G-Wiz. With their limited range and limited speed, they seemed only an option for a few people (or perhaps that should be one or two relatively slim people – their size being a perceived problem too). But the average speed of traffic in London is 9 miles per hour. Do we really need a car that goes 120 mph? Surely that’s just like putting a shotgun in the hands of a sugar-drunk toddler?

Then the motoring journos started harping on about safety. ‘You’d be safer crouching in a wheelbarrow!’ one screeched like an over-zealous health and safety inspector. I looked at the figures and found that there have been NO serious accidents with G-Wizes. A bit of spin to scare people off, methinks… New ideas are so scary, after all.

I do have a problem though with the city exec with the two private regged Range Rovers, tootling into the city in his/her G-Wiz but using his/her gas guzzlers at all other times. ‘Look at me, I’m down with the kids,’ he/she seems to be saying. ‘I am so Green it hurts. Ouch.’

No mate, stop deluding yourself. You probably have solar panels (because your neighbours can see them) but no loft insulation (because they can’t). Why not take the tube into the city, or – whisper it – the bus? Or would that mean mixing with the hoi polloi, and possibly catching/smelling something nasty? Best to keep yourself cut off in your hermetically-sealed (and oh-so-fashionable) bubble.

It’s time that so-called ‘Green’ solutions were available to everyone, not just the rich few who can afford these sparkling new technologies. I don’t buy the ‘the rich need to buy these things, the price will come down, it will be available to all’ argument. Why should the less wealthy – that’s most of us – have to wait, and rely on the rich to buy these things on a whim? Interesting to see that there are going to be subsidies available for those who are wanting to buy a cleaner car. There are problems with the scheme but that’s no reason to dismiss it out of hand. Let’s see what the uptake is and the outcome – we may be pleasantly surprised.

Thursday, 9 April 2009

My G20 experience

picture: EoSToday I have a letter in the Ham and High about my experience at the G20 demo:

Along with other members of Haringey Green Party I attended the G20 protest on Wednesday 1st April. Realising that we were about to be penned in by police on Princes Street two of us tried to leave the area.

However a line of police had formed behind us and one of them pushed me, forcing us to continue into the crowd. It felt as though the action of penning people in was designed to create tension and violence. At one point an arrest led to objects being hurled including glass bottles. There were very young children in the crowd and my colleagues and I were becoming increasingly uneasy.

I have been on numerous demos over the years and have never come across such a bad attitude from the police. It is a human right to be able to protest peacefully.

May I urge everyone not to be put off protesting by this unfortunate episode.

Sarah Cope
Haringey Green Party.

Below my letter is one from Mayor Boris Johnson. In it he states 'Our police did a fine job in allowing peaceful protest, whilst cracking down on violence. There are many unseen and unsung heroes.'

I take it you weren't there Boris? No. Ian Tomlinson would probably disagree with your summary of the demos. Only he won't be able to tell you as he's dead.

I am attending the peaceful demo on Saturday to mark the death of this man. The footage of him being struck with a baton from behind and then pushed to the ground tells quite a different story to the one our Tory mayor would have us believe.

Tuesday, 7 April 2009

Naughty Mini

I helped get Mini in trouble for breaking the law in their latest ad. Plus our YouGov poll has been picked up in the press!

http://www.marketingmagazine.co.uk/news/896861/Mini-faces-censure-CO2-emissions-ad-data/

Monday, 6 April 2009

Car Ad Emissions Figures don't add up

We Are Futureproof, the environmental campaign group I helped set up, have been busy recently working with YouGov. We wrote a survey asking people to look at mocked up car ads, getting them to assess how clearly they could understand the emissions info. One of the ads had the information in the current text format in small font at the bottom of the advert. One had a colour coded format with an arrow to the correct emissions band. The survey was completed by 2007 people, and the results are illuminating:

- Just 3 in 10 people can understand vital information about fuel economy and carbon dioxide emissions in the format currently shown on car adverts.

- Four times as many people say they find colour-coded format easier to understand.


The results, which we released today, show that more than half of people correctly identified the efficiency of a fictional new car called ‘Marko’ when the information was shown in a colour-coded chart, compared with less than one third when the information was presented in plain writing (56 per cent vs 31 per cent).

The number of people answering ‘don’t know’ reduced by nearly half for the new label – down from 41 per cent for the plain writing format to just 22 per cent for the colour-coded chart.

When asked which format they preferred, two thirds of people (67 per cent) chose the colour-coded format, four times as many as chose the larger, but less clearly presented plain writing (16 per cent).

It's clear people don't understand what the raw CO2 and fuel economy numbers on car adverts mean, or how different cars compare in terms of 'grams per kilometre', so it's not enough just stating these figures in billboards and magazine adverts.

Instead, the public needs to know how a car compares with others in terms of fuel efficiency and pollution, and our survey shows that a colour-coded scale is much easier to understand.

We believes that the car industry - not just consumers and the environment - would benefit from the introduction of clearer information on fuel economy.

It's not simply a case of small cars being good and big cars being bad. If the format of the efficiency information changed, it would make it much easier for consumers to see that within every class of car, such as family estates, vehicles can have very different running costs.

Other evidence shows that car drivers are keen to reduce their driving costs but confused about the information given. People increasingly cite fuel economy and running costs as an important consideration when choosing a new car. But, in the absence of clear information that is easy to understand, many drivers mistakenly assume that vehicle size is the only major factor determining fuel consumption and don’t understand how the metrics ‘mpg’ and ‘grams per kilometre’ relate to running costs.

Wednesday, 25 March 2009

Maternity Services Re-born






I attended the Green Party Spring conference last weekend in Blackpool, and had a very busy time, rushing from one thing to the next! Not long after I arrived I was defending the maternity services policy that I had put forward, and was delighted when it was passed, albeit with one amendment. We didn't really have anything on maternity services before (well, the briefest of mentions) and now we have what I'd like to think is a well researched, well considered policy.


It's certainly an important issue. With 1 in 4 births now a caesarean section, compensation claims for obstetric care going through the roof, and a reported 11 million women in the UK having suffered post-birth trauma, the Government's 'Maternity Matters' report seems to have made little impact thus far. The £336m pledged by Labour for maternity services often hasn't hit the front line, and has reportedly been siphoned off into, for example, cancer and heart disease treatment.

Green Party maternity policy, importantly, pledges to ring-fence funds for maternity care. When I was researching the issue, this came up again and again. In short, I am delighted that conference passed the policy!


On Sunday I chaired 'Maternity Services Re-Born', a panel discussion on maternity Services. I had a high-profile panel lined up, including the well-known and truly inspiring Professor Wendy Savage. She is a distinguished gynaecologist and champion of women’s rights in childbirth and fertility. In 1985 Professor Savage was suspended from her post for alleged incompetence. The resultant debate, public enquiry and her reinstatement became a cause celebre.


She has authored several books, including ‘Caesarean Birth in Britain’ and ‘Birth and Power: A Savage Enquiry Revisited’. She is now co-chair of ‘Keep Our NHS Public’.


Also on the panel were Independent Midwife Annie Francis, NHS midwife and lecturer Sarah Davies and the writer and broadcaster Rowan Pelling. Rowan gave a very moving, passionate account of her two births. The first was on the NHS and extremely traumatic, and had long-term effects on her ability to bond with her son. Her second birth was with an independent midwife, and couldn't have been more different - she described it as a 'spiritual' experience, and had tears in her eyes as she spoke. I must say I had tears in my eyes too!

What a pity that such an experience is often only available to women who can afford to pay for an independent midwife. It should be every woman's right to have the birth she chooses as long as it is medically safe to do so. What a shame that on the NHS midwives have to be clock-watching and artficially speeding things up, rather than letting nature take its course.


As Professor Savage said in her speech to conference, "Tears come to my eyes when I see videos of births at home; we have made such a mess of birth in the NHS."


Quite.


After the panel discussion had finished, I went and had dinner with Wendy, Annie, Sarah and Rowan. The strength of feeling around the dinner table was amazing. We spoke of what we could do to change things. I have so much respect for midwives - it must be the most rewarding and at the same time most precarious job, and with the added pressures of staff shortages and the threat of litigation.


I know for a fact that so many people - mothers, fathers, grandparents, midwives - feel very strongly about this issue, and rightly so. My panelists and I discussed how we could utilise that strength of feeling to make a change in the UK. Because a big change is needed, and fast.

Wednesday, 18 March 2009

Making Homes 'Decent' - an Update

Here at Summersby Road this week we had another meeting with the Homes for Haringey Chief Executive Paul Bridge. He came to give us an update about how things are progressing under his leadership.

It seems that it won't be long before we find out whether the Decent Homes programme can be speeded up - HfH have put in a bid to the newly set up 'Houses and Communities Agency', and will find out if they have been successful at the end of this month. If they get the go-ahead, the decent homes programme will be completed in 4 years instead of 6. This would mean that residents in bad conditions would see an improvement sooner.

According to the Chief Exec, 46% of Homes for Haringey homes are currently below the 'decent homes' benchmark. And 'decent' is not all that high a standard, apparently.

One of my neighbours asked, astutely, whether the Government might run out of money before they get round to tackling our estate (us being amongst the last on the list). Also, would a change of Government mean an abandonment of the Decent Homes programme? Paul Bridge said he would be very surprised if they ran out of money, or that the Tories would cancel the programme, but he couldn't of course give a 100% guarantee of that.

We are all on tenterhooks as to what work will be done, when it will happen - and whether it will happen at all! Also, us leaseholders are not looking forward to paying our contribution to the cost, which could be as much as £20,000 each, judging by what other leaseholders in the borough have already been charged. I am not sure where we'll find the money, to be quite honest. But find it we must.

Saturday, 21 February 2009

The Immunisation Debacle

While parents are now being told that the MMR vaccine is totally safe, there are many of us who still have our doubts. This has resulted in many people refusing to vaccinate their children at all. Indeed, every time I visit the Active Birth Centre to see my osteopath, I see piles of literature about the dangers of all immunisation.

I personally didn't feel comfortable not getting my daughter immunised. Instead, I took what I saw as the middle, reasonable road, opting to get her jabs done separately. This meant I had to go privately - something I had never considered doing before. It is quite a scary experience, stepping outside the NHS for your healthcare, and not one I savoured. But having read several books on the subject it seemed the 'least worst' option available.

Having had both her measles and rubella jabs, however, I have now received a letter from the private clinic telling me that there is no more mumps vaccine, nor will there ever be. The clinic that before told parents that the MMR vaccine was a really bad idea is now advising parents to get their child injected with said controversial vaccine...

Obviously, I am annoyed. How long have the clinic known this was going to happen? Earlier this year they said that the mumps vaccine was in short supply. The we were told that it would be available in June '09. Now we're told it isn't going to be available at all. I would like to know 'the story behind the story'. My qualms about going outside the NHS have proved to be well-founded.

I may well get some stick for spurning the MMR vaccine, or indeed for vaccinating at all - this is certainly an area where people have strongly-held views. I recall Blair refusing to say whether he was getting his baby son immunised with the MMR jab. Well, I am going to put my head above the parapet and have the guts to say what route I went down here. It may have been the wrong route in retrospect, but believe me, I thought it was the right decision at the time...

The joys of parenting!

Tuesday, 17 February 2009

What does 'Green' even mean?

The term 'green' is being used a lot right now. It's been this way for more than a year but I feel that we're reaching saturation point. There are green tourism awards, green babies, green car awards and most probably green coal fired power stations. It's like if you call something green, it is therefore sustainable and we don't need to think about it anymore.

I find this all a bit disconcering. A few weeks ago I went along to a conference at the SMMT. The panelists, largely from the ad and car industries, were throwing around the term 'green cars' all morning. But there's nothing such as a 'green car'. Even an electric car has to be powered by the national grid, after all. One day there will be cars that run on hydrogen and expel clean water, but those are not the cars the panelists were refering to. They were terming cars that emit slightly less than the biggest polluters 'green'.

At the end of the conference, Professor Jillian Anable, who has done some great research on drivers and their attitudes, asked whether she could play devil's advocate for a moment, and suggest that NO car ads should make 'green claims' as it mislead the public. She suggested that if drivers believed their car was 'green' this would give them carte blanche to drive all the time!

One of the more bolshy ad people shouted "NO! That's censorship!" (Calm down, dear. This is just a car conference. I'm sure you're actually a very good mind manipulator...). Thus ended the morning.

Seriously though, what does green even mean nowadays? It has become such a cover-all term that I fear it has been rendered basically meaningless. And who is this a problem for? Well, the Green Party of course.

I talk about the Green Party, ooh, 90% of the time - I am a politics bore, after all. And a lot of people say to me "They should change their name." The reason they give for this is that the name is a little meaningless now, the reasons for which are outlined above. Furthermore, since the party has a BIG challenge in convincing the public that we are not just about 'green' issues but also social justice and much, much more, the name goes in opposition to this quest.

Also, there are other Green Parties all over the world, some of which we have little in common with.

I have no suggestions for what the new name should be - indeed, like Professor Anable, I am indeed playing devil's advocate myself here - I am not sure a new name would be a sensible idea. After all, it would take us an age to re-establish ourselves under a new banner. (Having just shifted from my maiden name of Mitchell to my married name of Cope - hence the blog move - I know that even on a small, personal scale, a name change is an upheaval!).

But I think this is an interesting area and would welcome your comments and opinions.

Wednesday, 4 February 2009

(In)decent Homes


My campaign to get Homes for Haringey to maintain their housing stock continues. Having been told that our estate is not scheduled for any improvements until 2012/2013, I approached HfH Chief Exec Paul Bridge and asked whether there were any interim measures that could be taken to improve the living conditions in the meantime.


I have just heard that at my suggestion they have been investigating this approach and have some recommendations. For example, there is a possibility of fitting temporary secondary glazing on the cold, damp flats, as well as fixing external lagging in some cases.


This is welcome news, but the sceptic in me reckons I might have to chase and chase this to get any action. It will be worth doing though if it improves the day to day lives of people here on the estate, and perhaps on other estates too. It particularly saddens me to think of elderly people and babies and young children living with the problems of damp. And with another rise in rents and service charges on the cards, the poor conditions are even harder to stomach...

Friday, 23 January 2009

Cake confession

An irreverant blog entry today - I thought I better qualify my claims, at the top of the page, of being a 'champion cake baker'. Actually, I can't claim to have won any championships - nor have I entered any.

Above are some cakes I baked this morning with my friend and sister-out-law Sylvia. Ah, the joy of food colouring! We very much went for the rustic and homemade look, as you will observe...

Sunday, 18 January 2009

I love buses


People think it odd, but I absolutely love buses. Going on them, that is. I don't mean that I am some sort of bus-spotter, noting down registration numbers with glee (those people do exist, oh yes).
I know a lot of folk think that getting the bus is a pain, but I have never seen it like that. Even with a pushchair, which I admit can be a struggle on the bus (especially when you have a driver with a dislike of buggies), going on the bus is, I think, enjoyable. You can read, listen to music or just observe the huge variety of people who choose the bus as their mode of transport.
I am always amazed at the strange items people choose to transport by bus. A few months ago I saw a woman seemingly using the bus as a removal van, with the help of some friends. She even had a fold up bed along with her. It made me wonder what the story was behind that. Just today a man on the 43 caused much annoyance by trying to transport two massive standard lamps. I myself caused much consternation when I took a huge homemade chocolate cake into work on the C2 in 2005.
I have never really understood the naysayers when it comes to buses. I have heard people refer to buses as 'pov wagons' (hmm...very PC!) and so on, but people from all walks of life use them, especially in London. They're a pretty levelling experience, and a social one as well. People tend to speak much more to each other on the bus than on the tube or other forms of transport. There's something sociable and communal about them, I think.
I wonder whether any snobbery about buses stems from Thatcher's hideous comment about how if a man (what about women - do they exist too?) finds himself on a bus after the age of 27 (was it 27? if so, why?) then he can consider himself a failure. In other words, we should all be driving round in cars, sealed off and alienated from each other, contributing to poor air quality, climate change and sitting in endless traffic jams - then we've really made it.
What utter nonsense. All hail buses!

Thursday, 1 January 2009

Please Mr Postman...


We were posting the 268 cards and letters that everyone signed a couple of weeks ago as part of the Amnesty International session. I think we basically filled up the post box! It was extremely satisfying...but this video really isn't very interesting. I apologise. Happy New Year!