Local politics

If you abhor politics in all its forms look away now. This is an edited repost from 2012 – written at a time when the illusion my vote could change things, lots of things, had been bent out of shape. It might help your decision to click (or not) if you know I live in the UK. An interesting footnote (in a post without footnotes) the deceased, well-respected local personality and ex-MP referred to towards the end became a tad less well-respected after this post appeared. It's entirely-unrelated to this rambling post, you'll be pleased to hear.

Sit down, I hurt my back on Thursday so I've time to write whilst I'm recovering. I'm in a foul mood too.

I've voted Liberal Democrat all of my life. Technically speaking I've voted for the Liberal Party too. I am, depending how you slice life, currently in my mid-forties and thus old enough to remember the merger with the SDP. I once voted Green, when everyone else was talking about doing so and then subsequently did. I've missed voting maybe twice, apathy is an extremely powerful force. I am, ultimately, uniquely qualified to talk about my voting past in a way no-one else can.

To prove a point, this:

Why have I voted Liberal Democrat (LibDem) all of my life?

I actually believe in the party's central principle of fairness, equality, of not pandering to vested interest. Before you ask, I've read up on their principles, their national, regional and local manifestos. I reckon I'm a social Liberal Democrat with occasional leanings towards the Orange Book creed (or whatever you call it.) That explanation might be enough for you, most folk, however here goes…

I first voted for the party because my mum and dad did. Upbringing has a major effect on character and aside from my many character flaws (see my wife, children, cats, friends, colleagues, neighbours, acquaintances, etc. for the big list) I think I'm a fair advert for the way my parents lived their lives. When I stopped voting LibDem because mum and dad did I started voting thus because I made a decision to.

Two party politics fails to address the essential problem with a system centred around, er … two party politics. Extremes. We bounce from once set of divisive policies to another, always ultimately at the expense of the very people adding their 'X' to the ballot paper. People believe change is good, so vote for the opposite party to the one they believe is causing their woes. There's never been a middle, sane, ground.

My LibDem votes, while not exactly wasted, didn't seem to me to make much of a difference to my day-to-day life, but I lived in hope.

And then, before the seemingly-interminable preamble to the last General Elections hit the mainstream media, there was sanity. An alternative that was germinating in the minds of the public. The Liberal Democrats. My chance to make a difference had arrived! Voting was no longer enough, I wanted to join the party and, in a small way, help out locally. So I did. Join. Helping out? We weren't given the opportunity…

Now, the local party when I was a member was and, in my opinion still is, extraordinarily badly run. They've missed pretty much every opportunity to  engage with voters when opportunity's there staring them in the face,  knocking on their door and (insert other metaphors for the bleedin' obvious  here.)

Social media and the web, these days, can play a massive part in helping the general public shape their views on politics. A few clicks and, if interested parties have done their jobs, opinions can be formed.

Knowledge, as they say, is power. The links to Heywood & Middleton's LibDem party site, for instance, lead to its host's holding page. Pisspoor.

So … The recent local election candidate had no leaflets published, and had, along with every other candidate/councillor/human being zero presence on even the local party's web site. I asked her for her 'manifesto' for local politics and, receiving none (though she welcomed questions,) suggested she complete a pitch on an independent local news site.

At the time of asking only 5 of the 19 LibDem candidates had 'pitches' (brief bios, manifestos) published. Not even the party leader's husband, I believe an ex-councillor and once-aspiring MP had one! Pitiful. Last time I looked there were 7, including our local candidate. Yay, she listened! Here's her 'pitch.' It's actually worth a read and converted me from being 'not bothered' about voting to, well, I voted for her. What else could I do but place my mark in the 'right' place?

This ward had 175 LibDem votes, down from last year's 511.  Not a single LibDem candidate got elected. There's 5 left in the town. Obviously related to the backlash against the national party, but testament to the  obscurity of the candidate and the running of the campaigns. It's a shame, but obvious even to me that things would go this way. Last year's candidate, by the way, is now in London, apparently pursuing a career that, I suspect, would have taken him away even if elected as a local councillor here.

Here's the thing … Why should I, as a concerned amateur, have to point out the obvious … that publicity has a direct influence on the electability of every candidate. Knowing nothing about someone doesn't exactly endear one to them.

So, I did my best, I got involved. Where did it get me?

My integrity and party loyalty was, on Twitter, called into question by the local Liberal Democrat party leader. She called me a liar for alluding to the local party's previous inadequacies, accused me of using an email she sent me (detailing the candidate's political CV) against the party. I'd already thanked her for it and used nothing from it. Nothing.

She accused me of not being a true Liberal Democrat, of using abusive language … and mentioned to Tim Farron MP, Liberal Democrat Party President, that I'm a disenchanted ex-member of the party. That last bit is indeed true. Very true.

Tim Farron, by the way, is very, very effective in his use of the media, is approachable as @timfarron on Twitter and comes across as being deeply committed to his party's success. He appears to understand the modern world. To my chagrin I voted for his opponent, Susan Kramer: a candidate unencumbered by the demands of also being an MP, and endorsed by more LibDem people that I respected than Tim. If I then believed she'd do a better job than Tim is doing now she'd have been utterly awesome! (Yes, I'm struggling to seamlessly inject an unjustified Kung Fu Panda reference here.) But, and apologies for the convoluted nature of this paragraph, that's that digression over…

My disenchantment is pretty much all the local party's fault but, of course, the national party's failure to pull the plug on this unholy alliance with the Conservatives has played a big part. I placed a bet that they'd see sense and provoke a General Election due before the end of 2011. But no, I lost my stake. Despite that I still vote Liberal Democrat.

Now an attack on my political record is a bit rich coming from someone who initially stood as a candidate for the Conservatives and changed parties after her election. It wouldn't have stopped me voting for her though, even as an aspiring MP… People change their views though, it's what reasonable people do, adapting to changing circumstances. Most people though, essentially the great unwashed multitudes of sheep, stick with something all their lives because of some misguided notion that, eventually, 'their' party will generate a utopian ideal specifically tailored to them.

So, back to where I started. I'm proud to have voted Liberal/Liberal Democrat all my life. I voted for (Sir) Cyril Smith and, when Liz Lynne was parachuted into Rochdale from 'the south' despite my obvious 'safe seat' reservations I voted for her too. 'Big' Cyril gave his recommendation.

I've voted for LibDem party candidates at every single opportunity, in my past and here too … wherever eligible to, I have. So, should I vote Liberal Democrat at the next Council elections? I believe it's the local party leader's turn for re-election.

My gut feeling is no, I won't vote for her, not in a month of Thursdays! Why the hell should I?! Maybe, if she did me a favour and changed parties, it'd make things so much easier.

Whatever, we've got a year for her to change my mind.

Ok, enough of this politics crap, I really don't like its nasty taste. I do though reserve the right to blog/post about local/national/international politics at any point in the future.


A potentially contentious post follows.

If you’ve been buying (or have been bought) Heinz Tomato Ketchup all your life, then let me tell you, you’re doing life wrong.

Try Tesco Tomato Ketchup instead. It tastes more tomato-ey, less vinegary, it’s got a better texture than its frankly artificial-tasting competitor and, the best bit, it’s approaching half the price!

Which? Magazine’s blind taste tests (login required to read the full article) and my discerning palate can’t be wrong.

Go on, give it a try, what’s the worst that could happen?


This post was inspired by a comment from @neilco on the App.net social network:

"I’m pondering a world where cake is the currency. My dad had this to say about both money and cake: once it’s gone it’s gone.

Just imagine a delicious, frosted, edible currency."

My daughters have an uneasy relationship with cake. The lure, allure, whatever you wish to call the experience, of cake is strong and yet its execution in my household is weak. Before you think this is going nowhere, let me explain.

Cakes are bought, put on plates, cut into manageable portions, put on smaller plates and distributed according to the size of the family member to receive them. Number 2 daughter gets the smallest portion, number 1 the next larger, my wife gets the next-up in size and I, being head of the household and biggest, get the biggest. However, the distribution of sizes isn’t at all as straightforward as this outline implies.

Daughter 2 is still relatively clumsy so the floor gets some, she eats some, she sees something interesting on the TV, all is lost. Daughter 1 is also relatively clumsy, the TV plays a big part in her life too. So, the unconsumed cake, where still edible, usually goes to the head of the household. Me. (My wife is health- and weight-conscious.)

Now, Daughter 2 loves to share. It’s at the very core of her being. A slight issue is the concept of sharing is somewhat unconventionally applied in her world. I get my slice of cake, it’s lovely and moist and identical in all-but size to Daughter 2′s. She looks over want WANTS mine. There’s nothing in-your-face confrontational about the process of her taking over, it’s seamless. One minute it’s all mine, the next I’m feeding her bite-sized portions…

You’d think that would be the end of it. Nope, not by a long way. Because I try to be the best dad I can (let’s not go there) I feel the need to reciprocate the largesse dispensed by my 2 daughters. Ice cream or a trip to ‘The Cupboard’ is allowed. It’s only fair. And when it’s all over, am I owed a debt of gratitude? Maybe, but I’m unlikely to ever collect.

‘The Cupboard’, by the way, is where we keep the snacks, not some instrument of discipline similar to a mediaeval iron maiden. No, ‘The Cupboard’ is a simple cupboard with shelves, situated at ground level with deliciously-edible contents available to all-comers, incidentally a strategy being re-examined as this very post is written.

Eventually I finish my cake, dreaming of simpler times – a single example being once when our 5 cats sat in a perfect semi-circle whilst I fed them the meat from an otherwise excellent triple pack of supermarket sandwiches.

In summary, quantitative easing seems a clumsy instrument compared to the arrival of even a single cake at Turner Towers.

Computer assistance required

Why do people ask for assistance with computer problems they haven’t solutions for? That’s an easy one to answer: so they can show off their superior ability.

An example using you as the twit: there’s something wrong on your screen, a dialogue box appears and you can progress no further. What do you do? You ask your shining white knight to assist! Easy.

Said knight (me) arrives, asks you to do nothing more, not even move the mouse, then asks a series of questions. My first word though is “STOP!”


Dismiss any and all dialogue boxes remaining on the screen,
Pan and scroll the screen so that the area causing problems is no longer visible, let alone in focus,

Answer “What were you doing prior to the event?” with “Nothing!”

Answer “What were the contents of the dialogue box, even approximately?” with “I don’t know, something technical, how am I supposed to know?”

Answer “What do you need to do to progress?” with “I don’t understand.”

Eventually a dialogue is established, an approximate timeline leading up to the error is ascertained, and other big words…

A plan coalesces!

“Right,” I say “I think I know what’s causing the problem and I’ve a solution* I think will work. Should we try it?”

“Yes.” you say.

I start to patiently explain the background, the reason for the error, and steps necessary to avoid the ‘thing’ happening in the future. And this is where it falls apart.

You click, pan, scroll, press buttons, dismiss dialogue boxes, and then, as if it wasn’t enough, offer an alternative solution. You do it before I finish. Every time.
“I know mine will work,” I say. You ignore this with “Yeah, but…” so I walk away.

Until the next time…

A few minutes later I observe a thought bubble above your head: “Er… that didn’t work, crap idea, I’ll go and ask X…”

A quarter of an hour later I observe X walking away a little flustered, and Google search appears on their screen. Eventually a solution appears and it’s implemented. X of course gets due credit. It is indeed only fair.

And there’s a smile on your face, you did well fixing that.

Until the next time…

Sense of humour

My oldest daughter is often challenged by her homework – there’s way too much for a 6-year-old, but the school gets good results and we don’t want to rock the boat, at least not just yet. The latest batch has what I presume is an exercise related to imagination.

The brief being to create a monster, describe its likes and attributes, and draw a picture. The most important bit, the one daughter 1 was most challenged by, giving said monster a name.

It should be easy, it’s only a name. Right? But we’d only recently finished with the weights and measures homework, moving together throughout the house finding objects for me to illustrate what things weigh. Brain full.

  • 5kg was easy for her – 5 bags of sugar.
  • 100g less easy given perfectionist daddy’s insistence in diving into the miscellaneous food items drawer. But we got there.
  • 63kg is what a mummy weighs. Not this mummy here you understand, as I noted at the bottom of the page to the teacher, in a pitiful attempt at humour and face-saving.
  • 30g is a packet of crips (chips if you’re the wrong side of the Atlantic Ocean.)

So, a name for the monster? She didn’t know. So I explained what it must be like being one. “Just imagine what life must be like as a monster,” I said. “Everyone’s out to get you simply because you’re going round the countryside eating small children and sheep. And, do you know, that’s wrong.”
She looked at me for a moment. And then looked again.

I continued “Imagine all you want is a quiet life, to just go down to the shops and buy some nice food, go home at the end of the day and sit down with a cup of steaming hot chocolate. And you can’t because the villagers are out to get you, stab you and set you on fire.”
At this point daughter 1 opened her mouth and said something very appropriate: “?”

Ok, non-verbal communication is indeed very powerful, but let’s move on…

“So,” I said “let’s pick a name now. Please.”

“Flib-blob-floo-boo,” or something very close, was her reply. I’m still not sure if as an answer or because I’d melted her brain. But I pushed for an answer – it was past her bedtime.

“How about Buttercup?” I asked. “Just because it’s a monster doesn’t mean it has to have a horrible name like Raaarg or Snaarlf.”

“No.” came the emphatic response.

“Snowdrop?” was met with a giggle. On our way now, I hoped, but I’ll spare you the despair I felt when each subsequent pick was rebuffed. Close to giving up or getting her mother to help I gave it my best shot: “Jim-Bob?” (her name) “or Ag-Ack-Ack?” (her younger sister’s name.) Incidentally I’m not in the habit of divulging my family’s names publicly. Apart from the cats.

Simply “No.”

My patience wearing thin, inspiration arrived: I asked her to pick a letter of the alphabet to start the name off.

“F” she smiled.

Imagine my thought bubble: “Uh-oh.”

“i” arrived quickly, much to my relief.

“s, h, l, e, g ,s, !”

Done, at last!

And here she is:

I have what’s been called a well-developed sense of humour. Ok, I’m putting a positive spin on it. Being frank, a lot of people think I’m a bit weird. And some think I’m a lot weird. And, do you know, I have no problem with that.

I do have a problem with the dangly bulbous-ended thing between Fishlegs’ legs. I dare not ask, especially as I made the assumption a girl would pick a female monster.

“A tail?” you say.

Naah, she’s seen my willy.

Dad’s Army mug

Here’s one of my favourite Christmas presents from 2013. On the face of it just an enamelled mug, but to me it’s much, much more than that. There’s a massive amount of symbolism going on here. Drinking from it in the comfort of my comfy armchair and surrounded by the comfort of our modern age I can nevertheless imagine myself transported back it time to…

(insert wavy transition sequence here)

I’m a young recruit to the WWII Home Guard, green around the gills, no clue what’s going on, my ability to take orders my only saving grace… and someone gives me a mug of tea.

Ok, ok, I’m ordered to make the tea but that’s a trifling detail – isn’t this my story‽

Tinny pressed mug; flimsy pressed spoon; muddy water on a rolling boil in a patterned, enamelled container of origin best-not elaborated on. The milk’s a bit lumpy but that’s ok, it goes in, the tea’s good; any refuge from this biting cold is welcome…

(a-aaaand back to the future)

It makes a satisfying tinny sound when stirring tea (with bags, 3-1/2 sugars, thanks!) – it’s reassuringly light, it harks back to a bygone era when a man used what he was given – and liked it.

And it’s already taken on a manly patina. Oh, yes.


I don't follow everyone who follows me on App.net (or previously Twitter) for a number of reasons, all selfish. Here are a few:

On the date I'm writing this I follow 73 people on App.net. Sure it's not a massive number, but it's enough for now. Some are more prolific than others.

Important to note: I read my timeline daily. All of it. Sometimes it takes more than one day to get through it all.

I skip over some posts of course, but the key thing to remember is I have directed posts (the one side of conversations of people I follow) turned on. It's a lot of posts.

I used to cite my now-practically-inactive Twitter account as evidence that I'm over-committed on social networks. That's no longer the case but my reading strategy is unfortunately still based on that network.

So, if a user's average post count is low I'll follow.

One day I'll figure this out but I'm such a nosy sod I reckon it'll take a while. I hope this helps you understand why I may or may not follow you.

Thankyou for feigning patience!


All, ok, most old content is gone. I wasn’t really interested in keeping it. A late spring clean?

Alternatively: Oops!