Sunday, 29 May 2011

Veolia: dirty dealings in Haringey

On Wednesday night I attended a packed ‘Friends of Stationers Park’ emergency meeting, which had been called because of the swiftly deteriorating state of the park. Reg, the park warden who had been stationed in a hut at the bottom end of the Green flag park, retired in April, and in that short space of time the litter has mushroomed, much altering the attractiveness of this essential ‘green lung’ of Stroud Green.

Two representatives from Haringey Council were present, one of whom candidly stated that “the standard of the parks we’ve had in the borough over the last few years can’t be maintained.” This is of course because of the budget cuts, which mean that parks will now be under-resourced and much will depend on local people (“Don’t even SAY ‘Big Society’!” warned one attendee) when it comes to ongoing maintenance. There was no lack of enthusiasm for taking control of the park, and local children are to be drafted in to help pick up litter.

There was a curious moment when it was suggested that people doing Community Payback could be made use of to help with the tasks. The consensus was that it ‘wasn’t right’ for Stationers Park, as the park was ‘too small’ (“It would work for Finsbury Park”), and that the school children would see the criminals and this would lead to ‘awkward questions’. Having been pleased to see people doing Community Payback painting the playground on the estate where I live, I was surprised by this attitude.

The most heated discussion of the evening, however, concerned Veolia, the waste company who have recently taken over the Haringey waste contract. This controversial company, who have been targeted by activists due to their dubious involvement in Palestine and the Occupied Territories, have taken up residence in nine parks across the borough.

They have taken over Reg’s old hut in Stationers Park, although, incredibly, they aren’t contracted to pick up the litter in the park! Indeed, they have been ‘dumping’ bags of litter behind the hut, causing an eyesore. (A waste company dumping rubbish – oh the terrible irony!).

But it gets worse. They have erected an ugly-as-sin corrugated metal fence (without, we suspect, planning permission). In so doing, they have damaged the roots of a beautiful silver birch tree.

There have been similar complaints about Veolia’s behaviour in nearby Priory Park.

My own experience of their service so far is that they have failed to collect the rubbish from the estate in a timely manner, leading to rubbish overflowing from the bins (see above picture) and blowing all over the estate. As one of my neighbours commented to me last week (as we stood conversing next to a pile of dog poo and a used surgical dressing), “This place gets worse and worse.” Indeed, we have rats running around behind the bin chamber and in the back gardens now, which is no surprise.

Daily calls to Veolia, Haringey Council and Homes for Haringey (how nice it would be just to have to make ONE phone call!) have resulted in our Estate Manager admitting that Veolia are causing huge problems all over the borough.

It is worth bearing in mind that Veolia are one of the three waste companies bidding to run the misguided MBT plant in Pinkham Way. Surely Haringey Council will look at their record so far and turn down their bid? We can only hope for once that common sense prevails.

Monday, 23 May 2011

"This is pure environmental vandalism" says Stroud Green resident.

Stan Knapik of Stroud Green contacted me a couple of weeks ago. He'd seen that Haringey Green Party had previously campaigned against the felling and pollarding practices of Haringey Council after the borough felled 1229 street trees between 2004 and 2007. Inderwick Road resident Mr Knapik had photographed the blossom tree just days before it was felled (see above), and was appalled to see it missing when he returned home on Tuesday.

“There was nothing wrong with this tree,” commented Mr Knapik. “On the contrary, it was beautiful and really contributed to the attractiveness of this street. Nobody was consulted, and now we’re told that the trees on nearby Granville Road are set to be heavily pollarded.”

Despite the fact that I have challenged the council about these issues repeatedly, we are still seeing the borough’s street trees decimated. Trees are felled for the most spurious of reasons, and replacement trees are often planted in different locations and end up vandalised or ailing due to inadequate aftercare. Spring is exactly the wrong time to be pollarding the trees – one reason alone is the issue of nesting birds.

Mr Knapik concluded, “I’m seeing street trees all over the borough being felled, despite the fact that they have been happy growing where they are for, in some cases, over one hundred years. The local Green Party have been active about this issue and take it seriously, but when will Haringey Council change their ways? This is pure environmental vandalism.”


Stroud Green Neighbourhood Day - a success again!

On Saturday I went along to Stroud Green Neighbourhood Day, which is always a yearly highlight. Residents take to the streets, set up stalls, perform music and generally have a great day.

This year was another great success, with the action taking place around the library. When I arrived with my cake (of course), I was told to get cutting. I have honestly never seen a cake disappear so quickly; two minutes (possibly less) and it was gone. Wow. Those Stroud Greenites love a bit of home made carrot and banana cake, that much is certain.

It's a lovely event and I'm glad the residents make the effort to hold it each year. It reinforces community spirit, bringing people out of their homes and onto the street to meet their neighbours. I wish more areas did the same; it takes a bit of teamwork and effort, but the benefits are manifold.

Next year I'm hoping to help organise, along with the Friends of Stationers Park, a 'Big Lunch' for the residents in the streets surrounding the park. A street party minus the royal wedding - that can't be a bad thing!

Tuesday, 17 May 2011

A spot of guerrilla gardening!

It's a great feeling when you manage to get something done that you've been meaning to get around to for a while, isn't it? For a long time I've been meaning to go and sort out a rather neglected flower bed (pictured above) which is located on the corner of Archway Road and Bakers Lane in Highgate. It's a particularly unlovely spot with traffic roaring past, and litter strewn about the place.

On the way to pick my daughter up from nursery today I planted some giant sunflower seeds in the flower bed, and we'll see whether they're a success or not. I was surprised at how weed-free the soil was, and the reason for that became clear very quickly. No sooner had I started planting the seeds than a man came along and told me that he had weeded the bed that very morning (he lives just next to the spot on Archway Road). He was delighted that I was planting the seeds - I just hope they grow!

If they thrive, people coming into the borough from Barnet or coming off the North Circular will be greeted by a flower bed of nodding giant sunflowers. I'll be sure to post a picture here if all goes well!

Friday, 13 May 2011

An Unsure Footing (bring your own glue).

I had often heard that there are huge waiting lists for podiatry and foot health appointments in Haringey. People waiting for their treatment were reportedly hugely inconvenienced – as well as experiencing unnecessary pain – by being made to wait so long.

I wear orthotics in my shoes because of my bad back, Achilles tendon problems and the fact that one leg is a bit longer than the other (to quote one plain-speaking expert, I am ‘far from mechanically perfect’).

I’ve always had the orthotics made up on the NHS, formerly at St Ann’s Hospital and then, when the service moved, at Lordship Lane Polyclinic (which is a mere THREE bus rides from my flat, four year old in tow…). I’ve never waited that long for an appointment in the past, and wondered how true it was that the waiting lists were incredibly long.

However, having broken an orthotic at the end of last year, I asked for a referral in December, and then I waited. And waited (my back pain become worse as a result). I chased up my appointment several times and eventually found out I’d be seen in early April. The morning of the appointment, a call came through that the member of staff whom I was to see was ill, and I’d have to wait for another month.

At my delayed appointment, I was told that the woman was the only person dealing with orthotics for the whole borough as the other member of staff, who I had previously seen, left their role and their post was closed. The woman told me she couldn’t make my orthotics that day as the appointment was just ten minutes long, and that I’d have to come back in a few weeks for a full assessment.

That appointment took place today. Mentioning to the woman that I am pregnant and suffering from additional pain due to Symphis Pubis Dysfunction (SPD), I was hurriedly told “you can’t wear orthotics when pregnant!” (news to me) and that “I should ask if people are pregnant – I always forget!”

It was agreed that I would have some temporary, softer contraptions made up – but get this – THEY HAD RUN OUT OF GLUE! – and so they would have to post them to me. It was either that or they make them up with double sided tape! (No, really, I am not making this up – if only!).

Now, I knew I had to take my broken orthotics and some shorts along to the assessment, but I didn’t know I had to take my own glue. If it had said so on the letter I’d have popped into Rymans on the arduous journey to the clinic!
Seriously though, what a mess. I’m lucky: although ‘far from mechanically perfect’ I can get about okay, albeit with varying levels of discomfort. Others aren’t so lucky and will be seriously incapacitated by this unbelievably shoddy service. Now that the local PCT has been dissolved, I am not even sure who is ‘at the wheel ‘of the local health service. Clearly whoever it is is fast asleep. And it is alarming that after just one year of this government, the NHS has already noticeably worsened.


Wednesday, 4 May 2011

Keep 'em ignorant...

You have to give Nadine Dorries MP points for trying. What a shame she’s a deluded pro-lifer who is putting her efforts into restricting girls’ and women’s freedoms and reproductive choices.

This is the MP, you will recall, who tried to get the abortion limit brought down from 24 weeks, and preached about ‘counselling’ (i.e. pro-life bullying) being the best option. This is the woman who believes it is no big deal to go through an unwanted pregnancy, because there’s the option of putting the baby up for adoption at the end. Writing as a 13 weeks pregnant woman, now on my ninth week of puking and fainting, I can tell you that pregnancy is no picnic. Indeed, over the last two months I have repeatedly thought, with abject horror, of how traumatising it must be to go through this experience against one’s will. It is hard enough when you really want the baby, believe me.

Now the delightful Tory MP is celebrating because she’s just got a 10 minute rule bill through the House of Commons which is all about teaching 13 to 16 year old girls abstinence. Notice it’s about teaching the girls not to have sex, not the boys. This reminds me of a conversation I had with one of my husband’s relatives a few weeks ago. A woman in her seventies, she had told her granddaughter at the age of 13 “to remain a virgin for as long as possible.” I asked if she was going to be giving the same advice to her now 13 year old grandson? “No!” she exclaimed. “He’s a boy!” I’ll let you imagine my retort!.

Dorries is concerned that girls are being taught about sex too young, and this is making them want to do it, instantly. My four year old daughter already knows the very basic facts about how babies are made (“a seed bashes into an egg”, to quote her directly!), and I think an on-going dialogue about sex and relationships is the way forward, with the degree of detail depending on the age and maturity of the child and the questions they ask.

I don’t think that knowing about sex means that you feel the need to go off and try out for real what you’ve learnt. I always felt that I was one of the most informed of my school friends when it came to sex, thanks to the fact that I read ‘Just Seventeen’ every week (I always turned to the problem pages first!). However, when 14 year old girls in my class, with little clue about sex, were already sexually active, I was in no hurry to join their ranks. Doing it for the sake of doing it held zero appeal, partly due, I expect, to the fact that I was clued-up and so not going to be easily led or misinformed. Knowledge is most definitely power.

What also annoys me deeply about Dorries’ latest mission to protect the virtue of the nation’s girls is how heterosexual the whole thing is. She talks of ‘girls making boys wait’. I wonder if sex education is still as heterosexual-centric as it was in the early nineties, when the fifteen year old me was given extremely short shrift by a visiting sex education woman when I asked – rather daringly, I reckon -about safe lesbian sex. (I ended up getting my information from a programme on Channel 4 – thanks, Channel 4!).

Here’s an idea for Dorries’ next mission: she should bring in a ten minute rule bill suggesting that school kids should be taught about gay sex, because you can’t get pregnant from that, and all of this malarkey is about lowering the abortion rate (I think that’s what she’s aiming for, though frankly, who knows?!). Somehow though I am not sure Dorries will go for my suggestion…!