Banner
today rss twitter

News and Comment January 2021

Index: 20202021

31 January - Much ado about something or nothing

You can spend half a day listening to the recording of a Council meeting and summarising it here and it disappears with barely a ripple but write a slightly mischievous piece about who does what and for whom inside the Council Offices and the Inbox rapidly fills with messages from the disgruntled and appalled naming names.

I knew the name when I wrote yesterday as the contrived use of the word nick in the final paragraph may have indicted to some but I was not aware that all the evidence required to verify the story was already in the public domain. Thanks to various informants.

Twitter profile LinkedIn profile
There is not a shred of evidence that anything untoward has gone on here and there is nothing wrong at all with the Head of Human Resources being proud of his daughter although personally I would think twice about making her job my pinned Tweet or indeed placing such a precious commodity in harm’s way. But Bexley’s senior management have always been a funny lot.

Some years ago Bexley Council put out a Press Release which was published in the News Shopper and said I had been running amok in the Council Chamber shouting and waving papers. Four Councillors from both parties confirmed in writing that I had not moved from my seat or uttered a single word.

I put in a formal complaint and was careful to use the word lie only once. Our proud father replied objecting to my use of the word lie and issuing threats because it is apparently verboten to accuse any of Bexley Council’s staff of lying. My complaint was never answered.

They have been, certainly in the past at least, the most appalling people.

Returning to another aspect of this Covid business, about 18 hours after being given my AstraZeneca vaccine I began to shiver uncontrollably, head swimming, legs weak. This morning all is OK. A cousin had a similar reaction a week earlier but for 36 hours.

News of my impending demise got around and I am always amazed and not a little humbled by the offers of help that come in from political friends. Particularly welcome after another politician recently put around a very different sort of message in the hope of getting me into trouble with the law again.

Message Message

 

30 January (Part 2) - All Covid; from trivia to a little less so. Jabs and jobs

Two bits of Covid related information, let’s do the really trivial one first.

I had an appointment time for my vaccination yesterday and chose a suitable train. As the time approached Network Rail enquiries said it was cancelled. First train for six months and Thameslink let me down. The choice was arrival a few minutes late or about 20 minutes early. I took the latter course obviously.

Despite the early arrival there was no one else at the clinic and I was called in almost immediately.

I showed my booking number and “Name?”, and it was then that we discovered that the internet was down. Back to waiting room.

Someone came around with a tablet and in went the details. By then four more people had shown up. More details taken. Eventually we were all handed sheets of paper printed from the tablet to be taken into needle man - in reverse appointment order - not that that mattered.

From then on, all was well including Thameslink on time. Maybe with no computer I will never appear on the stats.

Being a little more serious Bexley Council staff continue to be a little puzzled, maybe annoyed, by what they see in the Civic Offices.

First it was regular staff displaced by Covid testers to alternative rooms that they regarded as slightly risky and then it was an allegation that library staff had been press-ganged into being testers. Yesterday’s report was rather more interesting.

It alleged that at a time when Council staff are losing their jobs due to the budget balancing cuts, a new recruit has appeared in the Civic Offices testing centre. Alleged to be the offspring of a very senior man indeed.

I don’t know how that can happen. Wouldn’t the Head of Human Resources have something to say about it and, doubling up as Bexley’s Monitoring Officer as he does, is responsible for keeping Bexley Council on the straight and narrow, surely he would never allow such a thing?

Unless he has a very blind eye. On the other hand maybe no one else suitably qualified could be persuaded to do the job.

Even if it is true it hardly compares with the good old days when a Bexley Director employed his wife as Deputy. No one was nicked or reprimanded for that funny business so it would be silly to expect anything different for something on a much smaller scale.

 

30 January (Part 1) - Race inequalities in Bexley

I don’t like the acronym BAME, it sounds a bit condescending to me but I expect everyone knows what it means so I will make use of it here. Bexley Council has had a Task Group for the past six months looking into inequalities that affect BAME people and their report makes uncomfortable reading.

Due to Covid the evidence collected has in part been anecdotal from residents but there has been input from schools, public heath sources and churches as well as from within the Council.

Chairman Alan Downing was not very keen on debating the report at the Communities Scrutiny meeting. He wanted the police, probation service and everyone referenced in it brought together. “I am putting this over to a further meeting” he said. His only concern was that the BAME community appeared not to be taking up the offer of Covid vaccinations. (From what I have read it is a national issue.)

Councillor Howard Jackson (Conservative, Barnehurst and one of four report authors) objected and tried to pull the debate on to the subject in hand but was rather rudely slapped down by the Chairman who continued with his Covid theme.

Councillor Caroline Newton (who co-authored the report) said there needed to be at least a preliminary discussion now. The Chairman reiterated that there needs to be “an in depth discussion. Without the other agencies being here the conversation will be one-sided.”

Councillor Howard Jackson thought that Councillor Newton had been a bit too easy going, he personally was “flabbergasted” at the Chairman’s response. We should not be watering down the findings with Covid. Covid is a separate issue to racism in the borough. “The conversation should be right now. I don’t understand why it is being pulled. Covid is not connected.”

Despite that the Chairman continued with Covid while admitting he had not had enough time to thoroughly read the equalities report. Despite that he added, “it is not a complete report”. (Not read it but it’s not complete.)

Another of the report authors, Labour Councillor Mabel Ogundayo (Thamesmead East) said that Councillor Jackson had hit the nail on the head. “Racism is a huge issue” and the report lists a number of disturbing examples. Incidents in the Broadway, racist comments in borough consultations and a perception that authorities will not take the problem seriously. Housing and Health are also affected to some extent and it was reported earlier in the same meeting how young black men are particularly affected by Mental Health issues.

Perhaps most worrying of all the points brought up in the report is that the three borough Police Commander refused requests (too busy?) to meet on the issue although a meeting with lower ranks brought up the usual question marks around Stop and Search figures.

Vice-Chairman Richard Diment (Conservative, Sidcup) bravely disagreed with his Chairman. He referred to the section of the report that mentioned racism among Council staff. Promotions and discipline etc. The matter is “so urgent” he said but “Covid reluctance must be a separate piece of work”.

Finally Councillor Sue Gower MBE (Conservative, Bexleyheath) chipped in with the same message.

Faced with the best brains on Bexley Council the Chairman’s backtracking was worthy of a job at the EU Commission.

Councillor Jackson was allowed to say he had interviewed many people. He accepted that the information was anecdotal and not scientific but the racism is “daily and quite appalling. It was harrowing, horrible and insidious. People do not trust Councillors or Police Officers. It was hard to listen to and upsetting”.

The Chairman reverted to his Covid vaccination theme.

Councillor Ogundayo who was instrumental in getting the report underway made similar comments and added schools to the conversation. She didn’t want to see the report shelved and it should be elevated to Sub-Group status. The Chairman “felt it was right to have one big meeting as a Sub-Group gets bigger and bigger and bigger and we do not achieve anything.”

Councillor Newton said that one big meeting would require an awful lot of work and she would want guidance from the Chairman. He said “we must aim for the end here and not miss something”. The Chairman favoured taking the subject away for discussion with the Cabinet Member. Councillor Newton said she was disappointed not to hear more Councillors comment and so the meeting showed every sign of fizzling towards an unsatisfactory end.

Fortunately Cabinet Member Alex Sawyer was listening and said he would welcome a Sub-Group to take the issue forward but he “found some things in this report regrettable. The criticism of the police is not particularly acceptable, putting it into a public document is not helpful for relations with the police between both the Council and local residents. The criticism was deeply regrettable, I very much regret that particular aspect.”

And there you have it in a nutshell. Councillor Jackson says that the BAME community does not trust Councillors or the Police - I would go further - and the Home Secretary’s husband objects to the local population not being shielded from unpalatable facts.

Councillor Ogundayo reminded Cabinet Member Sawyer that he has listened to complaints about racism in the borough made at Scrutiny meetings where both she and him were present over the past seven years with no progress being made. Councillor Ogundayo was accused of being disingenuous

In case it is not obvious there is to be a Sub-Committee.

 

29 January (Part 2) - Domestic abuse is on the rise again

The subject of Domestic Violence (DV) crops up at Bexley Council meetings far too often. I canְ’t really get my head around how people can be violent to anyone, let alone partners. The last time my fist made contact with a nose was in 1956 or thereabouts when I caught Michael Day, the school bully, putting a multitude of pins around the circumference of my bike tyre, he retaliated with an air pistol.

Over the years I have noted three local addresses where one frequently heard aggressive shouting and not too long ago twice saw a woman shouting for help from a third floor window, a situation which conflicts with my wish never to speak to a police officer ever again. Last night Detective Superintendent McDonagh (Head of Public Protection South East BCU) addressed Bexley Council on that very subject.

FacesBefore he did so Deputy Director Toni Ainge said that DV is getting worse in Bexley and not helped by Covid-19 which the DS immediately confirmed. The cases are 9% higher than a year ago.

Chairman Alan Downing asked the Superintendent how the police differentiate between DV crime and non-crime. One is a crime and the other is not but noted and may ultimately result in a reference to suitable agencies such as social services.

How common is the non-crime incidence the Chairman asked but the figures were not available. (The DS has only just been appointed.)

Councillor Howard Jackson (Conservative, Barnehurst) asked if economic abuse was investigated as part of DV. Would keeping a partner short of money or taking away what money they have away constitute DV? The police officer said “it absolutely would”.

Councillor Richard Diment (Conservative, Sidcup) said that across London about three quarters of DV incidents become a recorded offence but in Bexley it is about 30%. Is that good or bad?

Despite the answer being stretched over four minutes I was none the wiser at the end of it.

The Chairman asked a more direct question, how many incidents are there in Bexley and he was rewarded with a straight answer. About 4,000 but probably the tip of an iceberg because of a reluctance to report to the police. There are 27 beds in the refuge and there is never a spare bed.

Last year 526 children from DV households were identified and given appropriate help. (Councillors’ tendency to use jargon and unexplained acronyms make a more detailed description impossible.)

Councillor Mabel Ogundayo (Labour, Thamesmead East) asked about violence directed at men which approaches 30% of the total. She was told that the Council took a gender neutral approach.

There has been more than one “domestic homicides in Bexley” and a 23 year old attacked his mother and was jailed for it.

Bexley Council has published its draft domestic abuse strategy.

 

29 January (Part 1) - Bulb, spouse bashing, racism and jabs

It’s over. Bulb Energy traced the accounting error back to the beginning of September. It is corrected, they have apologised for it and the poor responses to subsequent enquiries and I have been compensated with a £50 credit, so a line can be drawn under the the affair.

It is 8:15 a.m. and I have just finished listening to a three hour Council meeting. Domestic abuse, allegations of racism in Bexley and Covid vaccinations. Plenty to do on another locked down weekend. Life could hardly be more exciting.

 

28 January (Part 2) - The wait is over

There are some odd things going on everywhere with the Covid vaccination programme. A 66 year old reports his own jab invitation but says his 93 year old Aunt in Blackfen has still heard nothing. Maybe the Royal Mail is to blame.

This morning I received an eight day old letter from the NHS inviting me to go to their website and book. It could not have been easier and I am now fixed up with a local pharmacy. Second appointment too. I really didn’t want to hike all the way to Guy’s, good though reports of their service have been.

 

28 January (Part 1) - Bexley Council hears how the NHS’s Covid priority impacts mental health

Listening live but not very intently to the Children’s and Adults’ Services Committee meeting more than a week ago I formed the impression that there would be little worthy of a detailed report here but having listened to it again it is clear that that the mental health issues brought about by the succession of lockdowns should not be ignored.

Unsurprisingly the Oxleas NHS Trust reported that Covid had taken its toll on mental health with anxiety, depression and grief being exacerbating factors. Some people have stayed away from sources of help while others have turned up at emergency in various states of distress. “London Ambulance call outs to people who had caused themselves harm or attempted to take their own lives; there was a real surge over the summer.” Carers have been saying they cannot cope any more and there is now a fast response vehicle on call that carries a mental health nurse.

More than 4,000 people have been helped directly by MIND with about 15,000 appointments offered. Unemployment, financial worries, housing, relationships and domestic violence have been of particular concern. A variety of workshops have been set up, everything from creative writing to anger management. Isolation has led to psychosis and suicide. Funding is beginning to be a problem.

A workshop has been devoted to the additional problems suffered by the BAME community in the North of the borough which has “significant issues” relating to “domestic violence, tensions and anxieties” as well as health. Young black men have been suffering disproportionately from the impact of Covid restrictions. Oxleas reported that BAME mental health staff were at particular risk because not all of their work can be carried out remotely. The mental health bed situation is “tight but we are managing it” without sending patients out of the area. “The right number of beds are available” and more beds could be made available. “The stress is on community teams” who have not taken their leave and see no end in sight.

 

27 January (Part 3) - Please drop the fags

About five years ago I went to the Imperial War Museum in Lambeth to look at their Holocaust exhibition; whether it is permanent or not I do not know but I do remember that I was unable to stay there as long as I could have done because it was far too upsetting.

On this Holocaust Memorial Day I wondered if there was anything I had on record to mark the occasion, but sadly not but I do remember a lady I used to see regularly when living in Hampshire who had a number tattoed on her upper arm.

No real connection except for the period of history in question but I will answer the sceptic who didn’t think that the RAF dropped cigarettes as well as bombs during the 1939-1945 war. Made in London when it was an industrialised city.

These images are no longer regarded as SECRET, they may be inspected at the National Archives; not during lockdown of course. War didn’t stop us going about our business but unfortunately a virus does.

Fag drop Fag drop

For the record, the drop was made by 161 squadron and not my father’s 138 but they shared responsibilities at the same airfield.

 

27 January (Part 2) - Empty car parks means no revenue

Gayton Road car park Gayton Road car park Gayton Road car parkThis is the Gayton Road car park (Abbey Wood) at lunchtime today. Empty. Well very nearly; every single parked car is shown in Photo 3. Six. The fence has been down all month, vandalism possibly, maybe hit by a vehicle. (At the same time on the following day only two cars were parked.)

The car park isn’t empty just because Bexley Council thinks it is reasonable to charge the best part of £2,000 a year to park there but also because of the Covid effect on commuters.

Will things ever improve? Possibly not and Councils will be feeling the pinch. Gayton Road’s income fell from £108,000 a year to only £11,000 during the pandemic period up to last November. Not the worst. Grassington Road (Sidcup) hovers around the 5% mark. (Due to Covid testing?)

This is what has been published this month in a residents’ magazine published in Petts Wood (Bromley); last night Bexley Council debated what could possibly be done about it - short of dropping the prices of course.
Gayton Road car park
An otherwise sensible move by Bexley and this is what they had to say.

The Labour transport spokesman, though not usually a car expert, was first to his microphone button. Stefano Borella noted that some car parks had been losing revenue since 2016 and suggested the reason might be the diminishing returns of ever increasing prices. No comment by the Council Officer.

The Council has so far considered giving over car parking space to car washes, Amazon (and similar) Lockers, 5G masts, electricity generation and Dark Kitchens. (Me neither. Google it.)

Professional chef Stefano said that Dark Kitchens were not transparent. Order a meal from a posh restaurant and it is “made in a shipping container in Battersea” - with no toilets as the Chairman later speculated.

“Was there scope for more electric charging points?” Stefano asked.

Shopping area car parks may come back he thought, but what about commuter parking? The Council Officer (Mrs. Wembourne? A name new to me) said that they were keeping station car parking fees a pound cheaper than the railway company’s fee, which is not a lot of use in Abbey Wood where the station car park is now “staff only”.

“A project team is looking at electric vehicle charging points in car parks”. Experience in other boroughs, it was said, show that there is little money to be made from it.

My membership of several EV motoring forums shows a distinct tendency to boycott chargers where there is a charge for parking as well as the electricity as it can make electric motoring as expensive as diesel. Councils usually know nothing about the subject and will make the same old mistakes. Some have put chargers in short stay car parks which do not allow enough time for some cars to charge. Hybrids typically charge very slowly.

Councillor Val Clark was worried that “criminal gangs” run car washes and taxi drivers who sit in car parks awaiting a call and pay nothing while depriving others of a space. She thought taxi companies should be issued with an appropriate permit - at a fee of course. The take-away drivers in Welling are a particular problem.

Councillor June Slaughter was asked if the renewable energy proposal was just Photo Voltaic panels or included wind turbines (no answer) and thought the EV chargers should be put in car parks and not in streets where they are little used. If I am a typical EV driver, putting them in car parks will ensure they are used even less frequently. Councillor Slaughter enthused about Ringo and its potential to reduce coin collection costs. If she could do it at her age was the suggestion, so could anyone. Her passion for the subject was passed on to me and I came close to downloading the App; then I remembered I haven’t paid for parking in Bexley yet and was unlikely to start now!

The Chairman asked that the car parking utilisation plans be brought back to the Scrutiny Committee in six months time.

 

27 January (Part 1) - Far too nosy

Antibody testMy family has not been especially lucky in the Covid vaccination lottery but all the right packages were drawn in the antibody test lucky dip. Four prizes spread across two households. All proved negative and went in the bin afterwards.

For three people the accompanying questionnaire proved to be far too intrusive. Mask wearing habits, recent contacts, income, life style choices as far back as the mid-1970s all proved to be too much.

That and the fact that the NHS had handed over personal details to Ipsos MORI and was asking for more to be handed over. Hence three test results in the bin and a fourth deterred from using it.

Another NHS job well done.

 

26 January (Part 4) - She asked for it

Tory tricksThis may just be my favourite Tweet of the day. @bexleynews hanging the hapless @Sidcup4Remain out to dry for yet another ill-considered Tweet.

The same Sidcup4Remain who reported me to four different Bexley police wards because I am unimpressed by police violence. The same Sidcup4Remain who misquoted one of Councillor Philip Read’s Retweets and then complained to the Code of Conduct Committee about it and the same Sidcup4Remain who appears to have more recently repeated the trick on yet another innocent party.

One might also add the same Sidcup4Remain who called me a coward for openly stating my opinion while she hides behind a pseudonym and thinks that blocking my access to her Twitter account will stop me looking at her outpourings. The sort of extreme leftie who thinks Retweeting a desire to see a political opponent dead is a good idea.

Yes, that Sidcup4Remain.

 

26 January (Part 3) - Cons and scams

Tory tricksThe phone rang yesterday morning. I am going to be prosecuted by HMRC for tax evasion. It was a recorded message so I immediately cleared the line and put 020 8384 5098 on the blocked list. Not sure if that will do any good, a scammer will probably be spoofing the Caller Line ID.

Neither my income nor savings are high enough to attract the attention of HMRC. No complex tax affairs here, I don’t even have to fill in a self assessment form, never have thank goodness.

Not exactly a scam perhaps (see image) but not what I expected to see from a reputable local website. Please forgive the sarcasm.

I use half a dozen different web browsers as part of Bonkers testing, currently Firefox is the default and when I did a search for ‘Bexley Conservative Wordpress’ in the hope of finding a blog mentioned more than once during last night's Cabinet meeting, Firefox warned me of the dubious contents therein. (Click to enlarge image.)

Now what are they up to?

Bonkers is generally a cookie and tracking-free zone although for January only it is counting the number of unique visitors to get an idea of how many people are sufficiently bored by lockdown to look in here occasionally. (There have never been any trackers.)

Maybe time for a reminder; only blogs from 2009 through to July 2013 and 2020/21 are currently fully restored and on-line following the technical disasters of last year.

There are exceptions within the middle years but only to support 20/21 blogs and the probability is that they include bad links - so best not to click on them. It is only practical to restore blogs old through to new. Even if SAGE succeeds in imprisoning me into the middle of next year, like Boris with his lockdown, I cannot give an assurance that the revisions will be complete by then.

 

26 January (Part 2) - Listening to you, working for you

ProposalsAll you really need to know about the future of Bexley’s Libraries is listed in the panel alongside. They are Cabinet Member Craske’s proposals but like all proposals they are adopted unanimously because Public Cabinet is a bit of a sham, everything is rehearsed and agreed beforehand.

Just as well perhaps or they would continue into the early hours.

Councillor Craske covered the main points in ten minutes with only minor repetitions and deviations from the theme. Just imagine what a meal Councillor Leaf would have made of it. To his credit Councillor Craske made his points without a prolonged slagging off Labour Councillors, something Leaf failed to do later.

So what did the old rogue have to say following the 2,461 representations from members of the public? He began by thanking all and sundry including the unions.

He claimed to have read all the public comments and 56% of people didn’t like the proposed loss of evening opening so it is retained. 47% of people were happy to see Central Library shut on Sundays but 14% didn’t care either way; so it shuts. No one much liked self-service libraries so that will become a feature of Saturday only but some staff will continue to be on site. To pay for these ‘improvements’ over the original proposals, libraries other than Central will be closed on two days a week Monday to Friday instead of just one.

He said that 98·5 % of residents live within a mile and a half of a library and reminded everyone that books and newspapers can be downloaded via Apps (Libby and Press Reader respectively) at any time. Libraries per capita is the third highest in London.

For reasons unknown Councillor Craske compared present day libraries favourably with Erith’s library in the 1920s where book browsing was not permitted. Interesting but barely relevant to his proposals.

Another sting in the tail is a grant reduction of 20% to community managed libraries instead of the proposed 100%. Was that a preposterous ‘Aunt Sally’ set up by Councillor Craske to be ceremoniously knocked down? He has form for that sort of thing. (There are more!)

The overall savings will be £575,000. Since that calculation was made four library posts have been hit under the Medium Term Financial Strategy.

Deputy Leader Louie French spoke briefly on the same subject and seemed to be a little upset by “people who play political games” with libraries. He mentioned them twice but we were left to guess who they might be.

Cabinet Member Alex Sawyer reminisced about the last Library changes when he was in charge and said that Bexley Council always listens to its residents. True maybe in this case.

Other Councillors who spoke in favour of the changes, two weekday closures excepted perhaps, were Seymour (Conservative, Crayford) and Hackett (Independent, Thamesmead East) and Diment (Conservative, Sidcup).

Councillor Stefano Borella broadly backed the changes on behalf of the Labour Group although didn’t miss the opportunity to say that the revisions are cuts which add to the the cuts made last year and earlier. It’s true; and so is Covid and Bexley’s past financial mistakes.

Note: The percentage figures above are taken from Deputy Director Ainge’s report to better illustrate Councillor Craske’s report. Toni Ainge who has featured on these pages for more than ten years is leaving the Council for pastures new in Southwark and various Councillors paid credit to her work.

 

26 January (Part 1) - Credit where it is due

At last night’s Cabinet meeting, Councillor Peter Craske revealed an impressively skillful path through the future of Bexley’s libraries. It carefully observed the majority opinion of the consultation response with the relatively minor downside of an extra day of closure, staggered across the borough so that except for Sunday a library will remain available.

More later.

 

25 January - Death by a thousand bad Hancock decisions

I am afraid I do not agree with those who tell me that the NHS must be beyond criticism especially as it is only the management has been reported here to be a let down. GPs have not always covered themselves in glory either. Over recent days this is how two friends have been treated - or not.

The 83 year old who has had a cough and been breathless since December 2019 is still no nearer to a diagnosis. He had some lung tests - which drew a blank - before the pandemic set in but a heart check was caught up in it. It was September before he was sent to a private facility because the NHS had become a Covid only service and October when he was told that the private outfit had done the test wrong and the results were useless. After initially being sent back there the test was conducted at a local hospital on 9th December.

A couple of weeks ago the elderly gent tried phoning his GP for the results and thus wasted two days of his life. He decided to write a letter and take it to the surgery. This entailed knocking on a window which was eventually opened and the letter passed through. Doors are only for people with an appointment. I wonder how you get one from someone not answering the phone.

A day or two later the surgery receptionist phoned. They didn’t have the test result and it was not their responsibility to make enquiries. My friend was told to phone the hospital which he did. After a succession of no replies and recorded messages asking him to go away he was able to tell his tale. He was told they were far too busy to attend to heart tests.

Meanwhile down in Ramsgate, Mick Barnbrook late of this parish has been unwell since last June. Eventually there was a blood test and his GP suspected a life threatening condition. After the hospital initially refused to see him the GP kicked up a fuss and Mick was told that if he waited four months a cardiologist would deign to speak to him on 31st January 2021.

And now for the good news, the cardiologist phoned him today. Mick is no further forward but an NHS box can be ticked off somewhere.

Michael revealed the foregoing via Twitter yesterday and by phone to me.

Meanwhile my cancer consultation is running 11 months late and still someone is going to email me to tell me that Hancock and his merry men are doing a good job and their priorities are saving lives. Delusional.

 

24 January - Bouncing and bombs

I planned a day off because I was due to go East Ham; the weather forecast persuaded me not to, and the only Bonkers thing left to do is wade through the recording of the Children and Adult’s Services Scrutiny Committee (likely to be tedious) and maybe mention what Bexley’s favourite property developer is up to. Instead, by chance, two email contacts from ancient history have had me wallowing in nostalgia.

The younger brother of one of my school contemporaries somehow managed to find me and ask if I remembered the nearest thing we had to Billy Bunter in my class falling over the stair rail at the top of the third floor stairwell and hitting the steel uprights of the rails at ground level.

I sure do. Fortunately the uprights were topped by a polished aluminium rail which absorbed the impact and were severely dented but its twisting deflected the steel uprights to one side and Bouncing Billy walked away without an impaling and unscathed. I wonder what happened to Barry James.

Then someone who last contacted me in 2016 and on the same RAF subject picked up on my throw away line about 138 Squadron and the reference to low flying. No it wasn’t the Dam Busters, it was Special Operations Executive dropping radios, guns, explosives and spies into Norway, Poland, Italy and France to keep the resistance movement going. Once a million cigarettes dropped into Holland at the request of their Royal Family to boost the morale of the population! It was a different age.

Halifaxes, Stirlings, Lysanders and Hudsons dropped packages at zero height into small fields guided by hand held torches flashing signals. To minimise the chance of the aircraft leading the Germans to the resistance with fatal results they kept under 200 feet as soon as they crossed the channel or North Sea. Many aircraft returned with lumps of tree or electrical cables wrapped around them and for that reason too many didn’t get back at all.

I have little first hand information about it because everyone on the squadron was sworn to secrecy which wasn’t lifted during my father’s lifetime. All he said is that a daredevil Polish pilot once hedgehopped his Halifax returning from Cairo via Malta all the way from Land’s End to Bedfordshire with a small detour for a low level run over my mother’s house while she was hanging out the washing. I have a soft spot for the Poles.

So what has Mr. Singh been up to? Nothing too exciting. Under reference 18/03247/FULM he has been granted permission to build 13 flats and a commercial unit over five floors to the rear of 44 Erith High Street. Behind the Playhouse theatre.
Site plan
Permission
True to form a neighbour reports his people shinning up ladders and working on scaffolding without a hard hat in sight. Maybe Sikhs.

Going back to the nostalgia I have a DVD somewhere which depicts the building of the Crystal Palace TV transmitter in the early 1950s. It became operational in March 1956. Not a single hard hat anywhere. Once again, a different age.

 

23 January (Part 3) - The best of Guys

In late November last year someone leaked me a copy of a letter from a Councillor that said everyone on Bexley Council hates me which believe it or not is far from being true. I am sure I get up a few noses but some Bexley Councillors are more than friendly and more than big enough to take criticism now and again on the chin.

No sooner did I post my rambling piece about me still awaiting a Covid vaccination at the age of 77 than a Conservative Councillor whose name everyone would know sent me a message to say it was about time I chased my GP or rang Guy’s. There was also a reference to the Mayor’s video, one of a series that I knew nothing about, which explains why people should get themselves tested and perhaps more importantly get themselves vaccinated if they are currently eligible.

I thought it was a wonderful little video combining serious information and humour. Good entertainment from a youthful looking James Hunt.

Click the image below to link to the video.
Mayor

James Hunt, best Mayor of Bexley this millennium.

James made me feel quite emotional knowing that he has treated me as a friend ever since we first shook hands back in 2011.

A Bonkers reader; sorry, a reader of the Bonkers blog, used the Guy’s phone number shown here yesterday. He had an identical personalised text and got through in only 20 minutes but It didn’t go entirely to plan. The text said he would only need to provide his postcode. Not true. They wnted his name, his wife’s name, both dates of birth and NHS numbers. All of them when read back were wrong.

However the medical staff were once again excellent, “well organised, lovely people”. From station platform and back again in exactly an hour including the 15 minute rest and cup of tea afterwards. I am almost tempted to get on a train for the first time in many months.

My correspondent estimates that Guy’s is doing about 1,000 injections a day using Pfizer. The only Oxford Astra Zeneca I have heard of is my old mate Mick Barnbrook in Ramsgate. Mick being Mick he told everyone about it on Twitter.

A correspondent with a dubious sense of humour suggested that the reason I am being ignored by the NHS is because I don’t fit their preferred profile.
Covid Covid

 

23 January (Part 2) - You are not compelled to read this. It may be best if you don’t

In this house the radio is on for much of the time, the TV never, and I have been bombarded all week with the most appalling lying advertisements from a Conservative Government which appears to be addicted to dishonesty. With slight variations on the theme the advert tells me that if I go out I am “very likely” to meet someone who is infected with Covid-19 and if I don’t follow all the rules “people will die”. No ifs or buts, they are going to die.

Next time I am in the supermarket I may pull my mask down below my nose and watch the queue at the checkout expire before me. Such blatant scare tactics do the Government’s cause no good at all. The party goers and ravers will take no notice and those who can think for themselves will be even more inclined to believe Boris Johnson and his ilk lie to us to scare as many as possible. It is surprising that the Advertising Standards Authority have not taken an interest but instead I hear that the scare tactics are to be stepped up a notch.

Haven’t enough people acquired mental problems without ratcheting up the scare factor? No Covid deaths so far in my circle and only the one suicide so presumably Boris is happy with his achievement.

I’ve twice seen Boris Johnson perform at meetings in Bexley and each time came away with the impression that he lies and question dodges constantly. I’m sure he was doing it again at the scaremongering session broadcast from Downing Street yesterday and he has form for it.

Readers of a certain age will remember the Darius Guppy affair when Johnson should have been sacked from The Daily Telegraph but wasn’t. (Violence was involved though not by Johnson personally.)

The newspaper owner described Johnson as “duplicitous”. If you are even older you may remember how Johnson was sacked by The Times in 1988 for making things up.

The last true Conservative Leader Michael Howard sacked Johnson from his a shadow ministerial position for lying about an affair with a journalist. A year later Andrew Neil dismissed Johnson from The Spectator. The editor of the Daily Telegraph who knew him well said that Johnson was “not fit for public office”.

That may be so but a year and a bit ago he was apparently the best this country could muster for the biggest job at all. Sadly we were to discovered that his leadership skills are largely absent supplanted by advice from discredited spreadsheet designers.

Right; that should be enough to stir the vitriol! Yesterday I was reprimanded for being unfair to the Government and unfair to the NHS. I don’t get many complaints which may be because readers are few. Perhaps It is worth repeating that I continue with this blog only to pass the locked-down time. I make little effort to attract readers; the underlying code instructs search engines to ignore pages and my Twitter reports are sporadic. There will be no Twitter reference to this mid-morning waffle.

I have no need to attract advertisers or be careful not to frighten away Patreon donors and the like as some bloggers have to. There is no compulsion to read Bonkers although if anyone is at a loose end they are welcome to do so. For this month only I am attempting to count the number of visits but even if it is zero Bonkers won’t go away just yet.

No telly so what else would I do? In the evening this week I’ve been reading a history of my father’s wartime RAF squadron, 138, but I don’t like the total silence of reading in an empty house. (Goodness! 138 squadron (†) lost so many aircraft because of their low flying activities that I am surprised I was ever born.)

So how come my comment “the vaccination programme is probably not being efficiently run; as one might expect with NHS management in charge” was criticised? There was no criticism of medical staff and it has been my experience that the management is not of the best. Similarly the list of people who had experienced administrative problems with the vaccination was entirely truthful.

I once complained about the administration of Queen Elizabeth Hospital which decided they could override medical considerations. My consultant phoned to thank me.

It remains the case today that I am the only 75+ year old I know (wider family, friends, neighbours and a few Social Media contacts) who has no vaccine invitation. If I drop the age threshold to 70 I only add two more to the list of ‘missedְ’ and one of those is only a couple of weeks over the age bar so barely eligible.

I first decided that there was something wrong with the NHS when I was on a rota to take my mother to Brighton hospital for daily radiotherapy 25 years ago, The waiting room was the corridor and I soon noticed a succession of staff wandering along clipboard in hand who would retrace their steps a few minutes later clutching the same clipboard. What for?

When mother deteriorated and spent time in Worthing Hospital I visited in the evening while three nurses sat around a desk discussing boyfriends or EastEnders. They would all take their break at the same time. One evening I was the only person not in a bed when an emergency arose. I forget exactly what it was but there was no response to the alarm button. I had to run to another ward to seek help.

In 20 plus years with my appointed GP I have only seen him once. Do I have to remind readers how Newham Hospital treated my aunt after she fell? Chucked her out with no care package, no medication, no reference to District Nurses or Social Services and I had to be with her for two weeks until the necessary arrangements were made by me and my sister.

Ten years ago I was taken off morphine and thrown out of A&E in Woolwich in the early hours with no money for a phone call five minutes before the then current four hour target time expired.

None of this changes the fact that the NHS is under enormous pressure right now and Covidiots will be Covidiots just like drink drivers. The Government can tighten the rules as much as they like but drink drivers will drink and drive while sensible people suffer. Same with lockdown rules. Boris is going to pay at the next election, assuming freedom and democracy has not gone for ever.

Despite assertions to the contrary I am not a vaccine denier although I fear that the decision to administer it in a way not in accordance with the manufacturer’s recommendations might backfire spectacularly even though the logic seems to be not unreasonable.

We are now where we are and while statistics are falsified I cannot see any way out though some honesty would not go amiss. The mutant so called Kent variant is not yet fully understood and only the worst estimates are made public. Of a thousand people my age 13 may die instead of ten. At younger ages the discrepancy almost vanishes, Meanwhile the population dutifully takes to the bridge parapets and (Welsh) politicians find the illicit bars.

† Dropping supplies and spies into occupied Europe as far away as Norway, Poland and Italy. The occasional trip to Africa too.

 

23 January (Part 1) - Audit loses audio

Last week’s Audit and General Purposes Committee meeting in Bexley didn’t start with a bang, on the contrary, the webcast was muted for the first ten minutes or so. It is unlikely that anything important was lost, there was nothing particularly interesting in any part of the 90 minutes that was broadcast.

Consideration had been given to providing eight additional polling stations should it be necessary to provide Covid secure facilities later in the year. Unfortunately sites were hard to find and only two changes are likely to be made. In Slade Green a room has been found within the Slade Green Railway Club and in Northumberland Heath it is likely that the King Henry Community Sports Centre will be used for the first time. Moving from Portacabins should save about £9,000 per election.

As part of the Erith Regeneration Programme which will renovate a section of Erith High Street a very small part of it will be closed off and redesignated as part of the Riverside Centre. I am not familiar with the area (and going to look would probably not be considered an essential journey) but a diagram provided to Committee members showed the closure to be insignificant. The total cost will be £286,000 with only £67,000 funded by Bexley Council.

The Committee recommended a staff pay award of 2·75% backdated to 1st July 2020 with an extra day’s leave for some.

The Committee also went through its legal requirement to approve the Council Tax Base without a single word of comment. It was set at the equivalent of 81,741 Band D properties.

BexleyCo has been loaned £13 million and Council owned land at Hainault and West Street is being transferred to BexleyCo and due for completion before the end of the financial year. The agreed loan limit is £120 million.

Temporary housing costs continue to drag Bexley down and an effort is to be made to reduce the costs of storing the possessions of homeless people put in temporary accommodation. Currently the costs exceed £200,000 a year and some has been held for years, in some case more than ten. If the owners cannot be contacted the goods will be disposed of.

The temporary accommodation budget is forecast to be overspent by £2·7 million this year.

 

22 January (Part 3) - Bulb Energy. Heads still in the sand

I emailed Bulb again this morning with my complaint that a misapplied refund had taken my aunt's account from near balance into a significant debit.

The usage there has been below every Direct Debit since June 2020 but a large debit remains, They are now trying to claim back the debit from an account which has consistently overpaid them each month. Since they will not look into how this happened and let me know preferring instead to tell me nothing is wrong I feel entitled to be less than polite to them. They don’t like it, they say I am rude but conversing with the numpties who run Bulb is akin to banging one’s head against a brick wall. They dismiss each and every complaint without explanation.


Either pay this debt off and we can reduce your payments back to what they were, or we continue your payments as they are.

Thanks, Oliver


Oliver refuses to make any effort to discover the cause of their claimed significant debit. Oliver is not very bright is he? Just an uncaring script reader.

 

22 January (Part 2) - A bit of a shambles

The vaccination programme has been ramping up towards Bozo’s target number, whatever that might be today, is probably not being efficiently run; as one might expect with NHS management in charge.

The man who had his second Pfizer vaccination on 29th December was invited to repeat it all by his GP on 14th January.

Covid vaccinationThe 70+ year old who was invited to have a vaccination by telephone at the end of last week and had the Pfizer jab on Tuesday had a text message asking to go for another yesterday and again this morning. Three invitations!

On Wednesday a 70 year old cousin (71 in just a few days) living in Wanstead was invited to call a number only to be told that no appointments were available. This morning he managed to secure an appointment for this afternoon.

Moving to Bexley another 70 year old was texted by his doctor and is fixed up for next week.

All are known to me and I am older than any of them.

I suspect that I am ignored because I see a doctor maybe once every two or three years, they don’t know me. Just a few years ago my GP said people my age have, on average, contact with the NHS about 40 times a year. I didn’t believe him but Google said he was right. I can only think it must include repeat prescriptions and I have none.

All of the people noted above plus two more known to me are frequent or very recent NHS clients and if you have been counting all but one have encountered an NHS Covid cock up. The NHS knows neither my email address nor my mobile number so I doubt I will hear anything and not being one of the perpetually paranoid it doesn’t bother me at all.

 

22 January (Part 1) - Incompetent, uncaring and tyrannical at every level

Our government that is.

It is hard to comprehend just how useless the governance of this country and our borough is.

Yesterday I took a chance by reporting what a Council employee had told me without any corroborative evidence that the Covid Test Centre within the Civic Offices was a risk to staff. I need not have worried, it didn’t take long before another put his head above the parapet. Whatever happened to the Council’s ban on staff looking at this website?

This time the complaint was from a different angle, you may as well read it as it arrived.


I’ve just read your post about Civic staff being concerned about the recycled air they have to share with the general public being tested.
Never mind those prima donnas, what about the poor staff working in the test centre?
No army help for Bexley, they are using mostly Library staff, many of whom are petrified to be working there and were given no choice.
Are they being forced? Yes they certainly are. They are being put at extra unnecessary risk to carry out pointless tests (†).
Sadly the people at the top think its ok to put these people in this position.


So the top brass in Bexley. Teresa O’Neill, Jacky Belton and Co. are happy to dump Library staff into the front line against their will while they work from home? These people are simply disgusting aren’t they?

Probably no less so than those in Government. As a life-long Conservative voter I cannot see how I could possibly vote for them again. Hancock and Patel being by far and away the worst. Unintelligent and tyrannical, a poisonous combination. Do not tempt me into saying what I think should happen to them.

Meanwhile, north of the river I have three cousins plus one cousin’s spouse. All younger than me. All have their vaccination dates set. Here in Bexley; nothing!

Not that I really care. I am cooped up at home alone which must be safer than joining a queue of masked people for an hour happily sharing their bugs together. The vaccination confers no tangible benefits at present, I would still be imprisoned by a government in thrall to bad science.

It was my granddaughter’s 11th birthday yesterday. I saw her on her tenth and I saw her on mine which happily fell on a day when Boris had released us from house arrest. And he offers no respite, no hope, no end. Except ultimately, I hope, of his own incompetent premiership.

† The WHO has confirmed that they are pointless.

 

21 January (Part 4) - Twice as big means twice the money

Knee Hill Knee Hill Knee HillYou can’t say you weren’t warned, Bexley Council announced last October that they aimed to raise more money by installing nine more camera monitored driver traps.

One of them has just appeared at the top of Knee Hill, no enforcement cameras yet as far as I can see.

To be fair it occupies a place where no motorist with any sense stops anyway because if someone approaching from the north and wanting to turn right into the small housing estate finds his way blocked, the tail back can stretch beyond the traffic lights.

However this is Bexley, a dishonest Council looking for money so the yellow box is about eight feet longer than it needs to be to do its job. Look at Photo 3 and the kerb to the left. No one turning into the flats needs that space. Much the same could be said of the far end of the box too although to be fair again, making it a more reasonable length would be unlikely to accommodate an extra vehicle.

Mr & Mrs Sawyer On second thoughts the box is doing its job, I had almost forgotten that the priority is to milk drivers for as much money as possible.

Perhaps it is worth reminding readers that the responsible Cabinet Member has frequently been heard to say he thinks motorists are unfairly penalised. Forked tongues must run in the family.

Maybe it would be better for those living along Abbey Road to use New Road in future. Now that the 469 bus isn't going to use it yet it shouldn’t be too busy and it avoids the dangerous pinch point that Bexley Council has designed into Knee Hill.

 

21 January (Part 3) - 469 bus relief

The Belvedere Labour Councillors led by Daniel Francis with their transport guru Stefano Borella in charge of pursuing the issue have discovered that the 469 bus route revision was all a bad dream. An error somewhere within TfL and/or their bus contractors apparently. Abbey Road will retain its direct link to Woolwich until Crossrail opens.
469

From TfL website - Changes due on 23rd January 2021.

 

21 January (Part 2) - True or false?

Covid test station Covid test stationThere has been a Covid test centre in the Civic Offices for the past month. I think it is supposed to be for testing people who feel perfectly well but need to know if they are carrying the bug - or maybe are simply paranoid.

I have never quite seen the point. If you had wandered into a GP’s surgery a year ago and said you were as fit as a fiddle but can you test me for ebola the best you could hope for is to be sent away with a flea in your ear. Yesterday the World Health Organisation said much the same thing.

It suggests the positive case numbers are grossly inflated by a poor testing regime.

But that is not the point right now. The general public is encouraged by Bexley Council to come in off the streets and congregate in their offices and some may be asymptomatic Covid carriers. Another dubious concept according to some reports.

The possibly few staff who are still working in the Council offices are complaining - and feeling strongly enough about it to email me - that the building is equipped with a recirculating air conditioning system and the only precautions they have been asked to take while testing occupies the ground floor is to use the lower ground floor kitchen.

It is the one used by Council contractors and other official visitors. So staff are being made to unnecessarily mix with strangers.

 

21 January (Part 1) - Bulb energy. What a shambles!

Bulb TweetMaybe I am being awkward but I haven’t responded to Bulb’s request for information following yesterday’s blog. I made a complaint by email exactly two weeks ago and have had no response beyond a denial that they have my address on someone else’s bill.

They asked for my account details via Twitter Direct Message a week ago and I sent them. Why should I think sending the details a third time will do any good?

On 6th July last year my East Ham account was £16·82 in credit and the following month the DD was £45 more than the bill.

In the months after that the excess of DD over bill was £65, £10, £55, £12 and £18.

I will spell that out for Bulb. Although the consumption north of the river has varied as has the Direct Debit amount, consumption never once exceeded the payment yet according to Bulb I must increase the Direct Debit by £38 because the overpayments have somehow changed the £16·82 credit into a £66 debit. Utter madness.

I have a suspicion that the problem arises because I administer the supply for two addresses under one account and the two are easily muddled.

That was done at Bulb’s suggestion many years ago, two addresses combined under a single email address.

A message yesterday from someone who went to Bulb on my suggestion two years ago tells me he has had no trouble at all which I do not doubt for a moment. I was reasonably happy with my account until it went wrong and I discovered that Bulb is totally incapable or correcting their errors. That correspondent says that after reading of my experience he will be off like a shot at the first sign of trouble.

Another of my referees who left Bulb in the middle of last year tells me he had an email from them at the weekend to ask how well they had handled his recent complaint.

There was no complaint for the obvious reason. He is not a Bulb customer. A shambles from top to bottom.

When my son who is with Octopus lost his electricity supply on Christmas Day a year ago they came out and fixed the failed Smart Meter the same day.

 

20 January (Part 2) - Covid vaccinations. Making progress

Covid
First the good news. Despite the London vaccination numbers being a long way from country leading, the under 80 year old vaccination programme seems to have begun.

The not so good news is that the invitation was to Bromley’s old Town Hall which currently has no car parking facilities and a queue of mostly well over 80 year old people accompanied by sons and daughters waited in the freezing cold wind for around half an hour before being allowed inside. Inside it was quite crowded and as reported to me the priority was getting potentially vulnerable people in out of the cold and to hell with the social distancing.

There were three screened vaccination desks in the one room and upon reaching the head of the queue each person was given a leaflet to tell them what to do if they suffered a bad reaction. Within its four A4 pages it said this…
Covid information
In practice you only get to read what you have let yourself in for and know what sort of vaccine is to be given after the event. A warning for the curious and the allergic to read the leaflet first perhaps.

Vaccination certificate Vaccination certificate
The news from Israel is not good, they are finding that death figures after the first Pfizer vaccination are only about 30% better than for the unvaccinated. Worrying in the light of the UK decision to go against the vaccine manufacturer’s recommendations. If the Israeli’s initial tentative findings are confirmed here it ought to be a resigning matter for the Health Minister. It won’t be of course because the Conservative Government will conceal the statistics, move the goal posts or simply lie. They have for the past ten months, they are unlikely to stop now.

 

20 January (Part 1) - Bulb Energy. An apology to readers

BulbTwo years ago almost to the day a free £100 was offered here to any reader who chose to switch their energy supply to Bulb. A number of them did so and I wish to apologise to them all. Bulb is absolutely useless when something goes wrong, it has also become very expensive.

Due to a software glitch one of those referees received the referral bonus that should have come to me. Bulb told me it was my fault for circulating the wrong referral code. When I sent them a copy of the automated email which confirmed the correct code they backed down and said they had fixed a software problem. Soon afterwards it happened again.

In November 2019 Bulb unilaterally disallowed one of my referees his Economy 7 tariff. They said they were going to replace both his meters because they had come to the end of their life. Fair enough but when he went to read them at the end of the month he found there was only one meter to read. Bulb ignored his complaint and continued to demand two readings.

After three months of being ignored Bulb was shamed into action via Twitter. Bulb responded by actually moving him from the Economy 7 tariff thus legitimising in their view the mistaken removal of the second meter. By then they had admitted it was a mistake but did not offer to replace it.

When a further complaint was made Bulb offered monetary compensation which was accepted, however it was never forthcoming and their customer found himself another energy supplier.

A second referee began to use less energy than hitherto at the beginning of the first Covid lockdown but found Bulb’s website would not allow him to enter a suitable Direct Debit reduction, it allowed only tiny alterations. He used Bulb’s contact form more than once and emailed them several times. None was ever answered. The web chat took 20 minutes for each response which made contact effectively impossible. I suggested a Twitter shaming and it worked, along with the offer of compensation which never came.

In October 2020 I was notified of a very large price increase, 16% or thereabouts if I remember correctly, and I moved to a supplier which was the same price near enough as Bulb used to be and guaranteed it for 12 months. The change went smoothly enough and Bulb refunded some money to me and naturally enough their website saw some alterations. I could access old bills but very logically could no longer enter meter readings.

My aunt’s house in East Ham remains with Bulb and two weeks ago Bulb sent a message to say that they were going to increase the monthly Direct Debit by £38·03 a month because she was a large sum in arrears. When I looked at her Bulb account more closely I noticed it had my address on the bill, not hers and allegedly no gas had been used and only one unit of electricity. For this the yearly projection was said to be £692 for electricity and £77 for gas. On, according to them, no gas and perhaps 12 units of electricity. Something was very obviously seriously wrong.

I emailed Bulb and they merely said I must pay off the debit and offered no explanation as to why there was such a large debit on an account where the Direct Debit always exceeds consumption. I asked them to look again at the bill which very obviously has a wrong address on it (mine instead of my aunt’s) and consumption and payments which overpay Bulb each month.

When I drew this to Bulb’s attention again they once more offered no explanation but suggested I may have entered my meter readings into my account, hence the wrong address. An account which is closed and no longer accepts meter readings!

If only I could persuade Bulb to check back over past bills and find the cause of this confusion. Surely even they can see the bill has the wrong address on it?

So I too resorted to the Twitter shaming technique. (†) It worked. An immediate response. “Something must have gone wrong” they said and if I provided my email address and Date of Birth they would be in touch. DOB? WTF is that all about? (I complied with both requests.)

Since then another week has gone by with nothing until yesterday when Bulb emailed to ask how well I thought they had answered my complaint. They are jokers aren’t they?

Not a single word towards resolution but they want to know what I think of them.

The answer may be deduced from the above.

I am will consider cancelling my aunt’s Direct Debit to see if that will prompt Bulb into doing discovering where their error lies, then I will have to change the energy supplier. I think everyone on Bulb should do the same. They are totally incapable of resolving issues if anything should go wrong. And they have become far too expensive.

† Not the @BonkersBexley account.

 

19 January - Bexley Labour has a loose cannon

TweetThe Labour Tweeter goes by a variety of pseudonyms but does their cause no good at all. The attempts at anonymity are far from successful and sometimes the tables are easily turned - to the detriment of the entire local party probably. Why do they put up with it?

Maybe not all do, what was it that one of them said to me. Oh yes, “Awful. A bully who likes to play the victim and drives decent members away.”

Not very different to what people say about the dubious duo that runs the Conservativeְ’s anonymous Twitter account.

The Conservatives nationally have been in charge for ten years now. If they were going to sell the NHS surely they would have done it by now?

 

17 January - Less traffic, fewer accidents, slower buses, no money but new trains

Last weekְ’s Transport Users’ Sub-Committee meeting in Bexley was probably the shortest on record at about 55 minutes but if you listened hoping to hear comment on how TfL is to turn the once tranquil New Road into a Bus Superhighway with very nearly one every two minutes you would be sorely disappointed. Bexley Council argued against it three years ago and TfL ignored them then as it would surely ignore them now. Such was Bexley Council’s interest in the subject that the Councillor who reintroduced it couldn’t remember the route number.

The B11 has been using New Road since 1st March 2003, before that date it was bus-free.

The first item discussed was the allegedly dangerous Hook Lane in Welling (Welling Corner to A2) and whether a pedestrian crossing would be beneficial. The Chief Highways Engineer Andrew Bashford said that parking spaces, residents’ dropped kerbs and the most recently available accident statistics did not justify any traffic calming. Speeding is not a Council responsibility but the police officer at the meeting volunteered to look at the situation..

As one might expect the cyclist’s representative argued that motorists should be penalised by having their parking spaces removed but was told that all the evidence points to parked cars being a deterrent to speeding.

TfL has withdrawn funding for road safety education and the well regarded head of Bexley’s school crossings team has voluntarily left Council employment as a result. Councillor Stefano Borella (Labour) said that the funding has been restored and the TfL representative at the meeting confirmed that was recently the case but only until March 2021.

2020’s reduced traffic levels accompanied by allegedly higher speeds have resulted in noticeably fewer road traffic accidents.

Chairman Val Clark said she was concerned by the behaviour of school children while waiting for and riding on buses. They ignore the Covid rules. The police said they are maintaining patrols at normal levels but under-18s cannot be fined although in extreme cases school children could have their free travel concession withdrawn. Councillor John Davey (Conservative) had seen similar non-compliance.

Crime on Bexley’s buses is at almost vanishingly low levels, six incidents in December 2020 and much lower than in earlier years.

No information was forthcoming from Network Rail about the proposed turn back facility at Bexleyheath. Station Covid swabbing tests have all come back negative.

A flexible ticketing scheme is coming and new air-conditioned trains will replace “the 40 year old units”. Two so far, more soon. Pedantically they are three year old units formerly used by South Western Trains. Councillor Borella in full-on train spotting mode said they were nothing like 40 years old, more like 25 and as usual he is right. Trains were all slam door units when I moved into the borough 34 years ago, a time when trains reached London in only two thirds of the time taken now.

There were seven new train timetables introduced during 2020 and currently there is no station skipping.

It was Councillor Davey who introduced the subject of more buses along New Road in Abbey Wood and asked a number of questions which would have been unnecessary if he had read last Thursday’s blog. The TfL representative was of no help because he didn’t realise that the consultation and approval of the change is more than three years old. Look at TfL’s consultation webpage to see what is there now was his suggestion. Given the circumstances I think his lack of knowledge on the 469 route change can be forgiven, the delayed revision is old news - but totally unnecessary until Crossrail services commence and inconvenient for many even then.

There was no discussion on the ongoing or proposed road ‘improvements’. Abbey Wood station and Harrow Manorway improvements are on hold but the new Bexley Road bus lane is coming soon.

 

15 January - Double dose

An 83 year old friend was given the Pfizer vaccinnation on Tuesday 8th December and the follow up three weeks later. This evening his phone rang and he was offered another injection next Tuesday. The caller had no idea that he had already had it.

Worrying.

 

14 January (Part 2) - Population explosion in Thamesmead?

Radio 5I am going to get my excuse in early on this one; on 5th January I went completely deaf in my left ear and as it is probably not blocked by Corona bugs I suppose I will have to put up with it for a while.

The radio which I have on constantly while trying to find a station that does not broadcast a high proportion of drivel doesn’t sound as clear as it should be.

However, and bearing that in mind, I thought I heard the MP for Earless & Thamesmead say that 70,000 people in her constituency are furloughed. Seemed a bit far fetched to me.

Fewer than three weeks ago, when the MP was interviewed for the 853 blog, the May 2020 figure was said to be 12,700.

Erith and Thamesmead takes in a chunk of Plumstead so it cannot be directly compared with Bexley but the population of the whole of Bexley is only 280,000 give or take, children and pensioners included.

“70,000.” Slip of the tongue or biased politics speaking? Who knows?

What does the Office of National Statistics have to say about it?

It says the highest rate of furlough among London’s boroughs has been in Haringey and Newham. 16%. So if E&T just happens to be at 15% its employed population would be in the region of half a million. This is getting silly.

Switching the measurement criterion from borough to constituency puts Tottenham at the top on 17%. West Ham was at a similar level with 15,300 residents furloughed; but E&T has 70,000! Really?

Eventually the spreadsheet was tracked down. The highest furlough month I could find said E&T was at 5,900.

So that is BBC Radio 4, too much drivel, LBC mainly drivel, TalkRadio quite a lot of drivel and now Radio 5 100% drivel.

Perhaps my MP will correct the figure or alternatively help me drop olive oil down my lug ’ole.

 

14 January (Part 1) - Diversions, cutting routes short and longer wait times are popular according to TfL

What is it about the 469 bus route and the 23rd January? (†) For the third time in 20 years TfL are messing around with it on that date.

From a week next Saturday people who live between Gilbert Road and Lesnes Abbey in Belvedere will lose the only bus that can take them to Queen Elizabeth Hospital in Woolwich. That includes me and residents of the nearby old folks home. Bexley Council officially objected to it.

And why would TfL want to do it?

The only benefit, and the reason for the change first announced in 2017, is to give residents of Upper Belvedere a route to Abbey Wood’s Crossrail station. (Click here for TfL proposals.) The fact that everyone from as far away as Erith (Zone 6) will have their (cheaper!) access to the nearest Zone 4 station halved is ignored. It won’t be worth getting on a 469 which will take a big detour.

Crossrail in case anyone has forgotten is still a year or more away and the 229 which I see pass by every 12 minutes used to be packed solid at commuter times before the pandemic struck. Many is the time it has been standing room only when I’ve used it to go to Council meetings.

The rerouting won’t be any fun for those who live on or use Picardy Road or New Road which are already blighted by buses. (401/601 school service and B11/301 respectively.)

TfL will tell you that most people are in favour of longer and slower 469 journeys but I am not sure you can trust TfL consultations. According to them (below right) most people were in favour of curtailing the B11 route and reducing its frequency. Surely that has to be a lie.

469 bus route TfL consulation

† On 23rd January 1999 the 469 which used to take me direct to Woolwich was rerouted round the back streets of Plumstead and no longer served McLeod Road and smaller buses used.

In January 2009 the 469 stopped serving Bexleyheath and on 23rd January 2016 it began running out of the Dartford garage which improved the service not one bit. It will now operate out of the Morden Wharf Garage which is near the O2.

 

13 January - Lockdowns kill too

Excess deathsBrexit was divisive and still is. Covid has gone the same way. To combine the two as I did yesterday was asking for trouble, and I was not disappointed.

Apparently the UK’s comparative success in rolling out the vaccination programme could have been emulated by any European Union country in which case the obvious unanswered question is why didn’t they do the same as us.

The Conservative Government can hardly be accused of competence since last March but on vaccination they have done a lot better than those still governed by Brussels.

There is however a need to offer a correction of yesterdayְ’s blog. It related how the Guildford vaccination centre turned away an old lady who admitted a penicillin allergy. I should have checked the web where numerous websites say that only those who have suffered very severe reactions to penicillin should avoid the Pfizer vaccine which does not contain penicillin. Please check for yourself. Probably some places are being more cautious than others.

Numerous reports have said that the Bursted Woods centre is now reneging on the implied contract to provide two shots three weeks apart. A Professor of Microbiology writing in yesterday’s Daily Telegraph said that is “a massive experiment and potentially putting lives at risk.”

One of my correspondents who complained about it was told that depending on the availability of vaccines they might follow up his Pfizer injection with an Oxford AstraZeneca one. Surely that has to be madness but with Matt Hancock in charge nothing can be ruled out.

Finally the most recent Office of National Statistics report that I can find which include excess deaths show that 155 died from Covid at home but the excess at home was 679. Which makes 524 from other things which cannot be good.

In hospital 2,364 died from Covid but the excess is only 1,272 which again suggests that people are being condemned to die from other things at home. It looks like lockdowns kill and dare I tempt fate by saying that my last six monthly cancer check was in September 2019. I wish James Brokenshire all the best, his situation is far more serious than mine. Maybe if I was an MP too…

 

12 January - Brexit benefits

Vaccination mapThe vaccination programme seems to be off to a good start and with luck it will ramp up further. I hope my invitation doesn’t come by post, I received a bundle of Christmas cards today; shame really. I was going to cross them off my list for this year.

A friend who lives about 15 miles from Guildford reports that her 83 year old neighbour was invited for vaccination and her daughter drove her there. The recommended parking place was nearly a mile from the medical centre and after joining a long queue of people any one of whom might have been infectious was asked if she was allergic to anything.

“Penicillin” she said. “Sorry you can’t have the vaccination then.”

You would think that would be mentioned on the invitation. It was the Pfizer jab. Maybe the Oxford AstraZeneca one will be more useful.

Those I know of who attended the Bursted Woods facility have had nothing but praise for it.

 

11 January - Crying wolf

PatelThe number of people in hospital at present is undeniably at a critical level although recently the excess death statistics suggest that the cause may be non-Covid related. I do wish that government would be a little more honest with us instead of emphasising all the scariest statistics. For anyone that looks at them closely they may detract from the message.

If you ignore the alleged 93% false positive PCR test results there may be as many as one in 20 people in Bexley who have Covid-19 and the implication is that if you dare to step beyond your front door there is a dangerously high risk of getting too close to an infected person and you will die in agony.

They are trying to tell us that if I nip into a busy supermarket with 200 people buying their essentials, 10 of them will have the bug.

No they won’t. Government statistics say that only seven will have symptoms and they are very likely to be curled up in bed at home feeling under the weather to some degree or other.

The other three (30%) will be symptomless and if you believe they are a danger to society then the risk is much less than Whitty and Co. would have you believe. There can be no excuse for going out unnecessarily but it’s not as scary as Whitless would have you believe. I suspect he exaggerates and lies because he sees it as the only way to get the Covidiots to behave themselves.

Unfortunately those with more brains are likely to label Whitty a lying lockdown tyrant and gradually disbelieve everything he and his cohorts say.

I was aware that the PCR test is being used in a manner that its inventor said is not a lot of use, hence the massive number of false positives but I was not aware until this morning that the Lateral Flow Test which is quick but too often misses positive cases is also being misused. Bexley Council was quick off the mark to set up a walk in test centre and encourage the healthy to call in out of sheer curiosity. Now the Government is pushing the idea nationally.

This morning a university professor, at Bristol I think it was, said that if you go to the Lateral Flow test manufacturer’s website it says that their test should not be used to test apparently healthy people. It should only be used to test people who are showing all or most of the typical Covid symptoms thus acting as confirmation of what a doctor was pretty sure of anyway. It misses too many positives to be much and false reassurances are dangerous. Hence I suppose the recommendation for everyone to live as as if they are contagious.

No one should underestimate the seriousness of the situation in our hospitals but I have always objected to having liars in positions of power and right now we have one of the best at the top of the UK tree.

Despite the scary numbers being reported my Covid count going out as far as friends of friends is…


Caught in a care home - three (two inmates and one staff).
Caught in hospital after admission for something else - two.
Caught at work - one (hairdresser).
Caught in a pub - one.
Caught in a supermarket - one.


The last two are as suspected by the victims who had been isolating except for one outing. The pub victim was the one served by the landlady who went down with the bug next day. Two friends sitting further away were unscathed.

Overall there was one hospitalisation due to Covid and no deaths - if I ignore the suicide.

It looks like the lockdown will be tightened later today. The Covidiots have played into a tyrannical Government’s hands.

 

10 January - Give her enough rope and…

I had to go to East Ham this morning on Covid exempt business. I travelled equipped with a copy of the latest Government Covid Regulations and a file of papers to prove that my journey was compliant. That is pretty much what one might expect in a Police State and I heard Lord Jonathan Sumption the former Supreme Court judge on the radio two days ago define what a Police State is. I expected him to explain in the next sentence that the UK did not fit the definition but to my surprise he said that what we now see daily on whatever news channel you use does fit his definition.


Question TimeWith Priti Patel as Home Secretary I cannot claim to be surprised. Even back in 2011 I wasn’t watching much TV and Question Time was definitely not something I had ever seen, but the President of the Erith & Thamesmead Conservative Association with a residence in the borough was due to be on.

She now denies it but I heard her say she wanted to bring back the death penalty. It wasn’t for the first time. (Mail on Sunday 2006.)

However attractive that might occasionally seem to be it simply cannot be done and one reason stands head and shoulders above all others. The police cannot be trusted not to stitch people up.

In my final years at BT the company went through a mad phase of recruiting senior management from professions that barely knew one end of a telephone from the other. I acquired a boss who had been a Crown Prosecution Service prosecutor.

In an introductory speech to her new team she bragged how she would work with the police on fabricating evidence to secure convictions of whoever they believed might be career criminals. Her reputation, if she ever had one, never recovered.

Recent days have seen many instances of the police extending their reach from those they believe may be career criminals to innocent individuals using benches and coffee cups for their intended purpose.

Naturally someone whose first reaction is to back the police whatever they do is encouraging more of that sort of thing. From family circles I was told that on appointment Patel wanted to end the eight year old Daniel Morgan enquiry. There can be only one reason for that, she doesn’t want anyone to know that the police are sufficiently corrupt to be associated with murderers.

Independent Newspaper Independent Newspaper

Source : Left hand extract and Right hand extract
Mail on line

“I was sitting on a bench.” Arrested and handcuffed. Fortunately no rope.

 

8 January - Calling 01137

BBCThe one positive thing that may have come out of the Corona crisis is the growing appreciation that far too many police officers have no knowledge of the law, no common sense whatsoever and as I have discovered the hard way myself, are violent thugs.

At one extreme yesterday we saw the parents of a sick child in Aberdeen wrestled to the ground and arrested after they foolishly let the police into their house to see for themselves that nothing unlawful was going on.

The ensuing melee simply wouldn’t have happened if the police had not barged into the house before asking a civil question.

When I briefly worked in Glasgow my office colleagues very quickly told a naive Englishman that he should never engage with the police. I will always remember what they said. “Thugs join the police so that they can have legal fights.” I found it hard to believe at the time but very soon found out they were right. Goading innocent citizens to see if they would react.

Today the BBC reports that two young women were fined £200 each while on a lawful socially distanced walk in a quiet park five miles from their home. The coffee cup each was carrying was deemed to be a picnic by the brainless coppers. The law does not specify what constitutes a local park or what constitutes a picnic but some police, loads of them if you have been watching out for such things, make up new laws as they go along.

My bubble friend and I now both carry a copy of the Government regulations in our cars, not that mine has been further than the nearest shop this year, but may as well play safe. People used to do much the same in East Germany.

01137? A bit obscure, sorry. It harks back to my days with BT.

 

6 January - You are supposed to be scared

Walk in tests
Covid testBexley Council has quickly done what the Government asked it to do. Open a walk-in no questions asked Covid 19 test centre. They invite you to attend if “showing no COVID-19 symptoms but worried you’ve been in contact with someone who is? You can get a quick and easy test at Bexleyheath Broadway. The site is open from 10 am to 3 pm until 11 Jan. No appointment needed. Get your result within 24 hours.”

No thanks, I won’t venture out unless absolutely necessary. Better than getting a bus to Bexleyheath, mingling with people who have been in contact with an infected person, probably getting a negative result and then worrying about who you sat near on the bus back home.

A good idea probably for those who cannot avoid social contacts but I think it is safer for me to be more hermit-like.

Yesterday my telephone stopped working, couldn’t hear a thing and it took about half an hour to realise I had gone completely deaf in my left ear. My wax loosening liquid is nearly three years out of date but instead of going out to buy more I asked my support bubble friend to get some for me. She had to go to Tesco anyway so it halves the risk. There is no excuse not to work out the safest route through this crisis.


It won’t be long
Newspaper headlineI have equipped my bubble with a print out of the current regulations to carry in her car. With the police state looming ever closer it is probably a necessary protection against power crazed officialdom.

This newspaper headline doesn’t help by spreading misinformation, I’m pretty sure there is not yet a law that requires a mask to be worn when outdoors but maybe by the time you read this…


Scare tactics
Here’s another scary headline which purports to come from the Office of National Statistics. It has been repeated ad-nauseum today on the radio. Can it be believed?

Scare tactics
One in thirty Londoners have Covid? Nasty. In my circle it is more than that so we are looking at something like 300,000 London residents with the bug right now.


Covid deaths statisticsSomewhere in the back of my mind I remembered the figure of 3% of Covid victims die but it didn’t seem right. I searched for “percentage of deaths from Covid 19” and it brought up yet another Government webpage.

It said that there had been 2·77 million positive test results and 76,305 deaths as of yesterday.

That’s 2·83%; not far off 3%, so my memory was not that bad after all.

Combine the two sets of figures and 8,478 Londoners are going to die in the next week or two. I’d put money on that not being true.

The flaw in the argument is that a huge proportion of the 2·77 million were false positives and very many of the 76,000 deaths were people who died of something else with falsified death certificates after the Government directed doctors and removed the need for certificates to be signed by two.

There is a health emergency right now, idiotic to deny it, but the Government’s published statistics are contradictory and probably designed to spread fear. The problem with that tactic is that a lot of people will see through the lies and the next step is to disbelieve everything Hancock and Co. says.


Social media
I don’t like any of it; it is an almost necessary evil run by companies grinding out their political agenda. I always found Facebook unfathomable and after being persuaded to download the mobile App it has become far worse. I almost never look at it now.

I keep Twitter fairly low key and delete things I post to it after a month or two. Nothing I say on Twitter is worth preserving. Last weekend I removed everything on the wrong side of December 2020, basically November was deleted, anything earlier was long gone. Then yesterday I found the whole of 2020 and the posts from years 2013 to 2015 restored but nothing in between.

How can you trust a company that keeps copies of everything that you told them to delete long ago? Answer; you can’t. If it happens again I will close the Bonkers Twitter account and start another.
Telegraph FirewallTalkRadio fell foul of Google owned YouTube yesterday. A UK regulated broadcaster following OFCOM rules lost their YouTube channel for questioning Covid stats. Good job I have nothing to do with YouTube or you might not be reading this.

Fortunately it looks as though our Government leaned on YouTube. After Michael Gove came out against censorship earlier the same day it could hardly do anything else.

Futile I know, but YouTube is on my Firewall blacklist. When would I have time to watch any of their stuff?


Talent. What talent?
MoylesI’m amazed by the number of people who suggest that we would have better got through the past year with Captain Hindsight in charge. Hancock and Williamson and friends have proved themselves to be pretty useless but just look at who Starmer appoints to his front bench.

Last month the MP for Brighton Kemptown who boasts of his degree in Peace and Conflict on his website addressed his constituents as shown. Now he has been appointed to be Parliamentary Private Secretary to the Shadow Justice Secretary.

Presumably no one better available among Labour ranks.

 

5 January - Question everything. Very little adds up

Questioning some of the statistics associated with the Covid pandemic has provoked the poisonous and illiterate green ink comprehension failures just as being pro-Brexit did five years ago. “Nazi, fascist, traitor, moron, bigot, loon and evil f**ker.’

Now it is alleged that I am looking for more deaths despite never suggesting divergence from the various lockdown rules and sticking by them more religiously than most. Pointing out that some of the statistics don’t seem to add up is not yet illegal although it can get you banned from the censorious Twitter and YouTube.

I doubt that anyone has ever gone with an open mind to a public meeting with Boris Johnson and not come away with the idea that he is a question dodging liar which his employment and dismissal record suggests is a fair assessment. It is an appalling indictment of UK politics that he was and may still be the best on offer for the job of Prime Minister.

There is no doubt that hospitals have filled up as they always do at this time of the year and some people are getting very sick indeed. My score of people I know with Covid has risen from zero to four and, as of yesterday, six since Christmas. One now recovering described it as a horrendous experience, another is in no position to give an opinion; in a coma and given a 10% chance of survival. (60 and not in good health previously.)

IrelandIt doesn’t stop me querying the figures and noting how Government Ministers dodge every probing question.

The PCR test can be set to deliver whatever positive rate the Government decrees will fit its strategy of the moment. If the vaccine, God forbid, is not as effective as I hope it is they can turn down the PCR test cycles a notch or two and see ‘case’ numbers fall to fool the gullible. It is technically possible.

Question everything this Government does. A Government that has through OFCOM made it illegal for the media to preach a view contrary to its own.

The all Ireland map is something else that gives rise to suspicions. A pretty much open border but very different ‘case’ numbers. Is it a case of different test regimes or is Covid scared of Leprechauns?

Apparently we are in Tier 5 or Tier4+ or whatever it is to be called from tomorrow and it has been introduced in the most ham fisted way. My Granddaughter went back to school for one day yesterday. Whatever one’s point of view that has to be nonsense.

Tier 2 right through to Tier 5 in London is not affecting me much. I have been staying in and not taking as much exercise as I should but having lived alone for nigh on 40 years I am not much bothered by increased isolation.

Spare a thought, I doubt Johnson ever does, for those who are new to it or maybe have just a young child for company. It must be intolerable and I have heard their tears on the radio. Not BBC radio perhaps which Twittere suggests is an unquestioning lockdown enthusiast.


Boris 2035Fortunately I don’t have serious family worries either. My daughter and her partner are both in the shielding category but she has worked from home every day on full pay. My son runs his own business but has not laid anyone off, furloughed no one, not taken any government money and his company is doing better than ever.

Despite that I regard another couple of months of lockdown as an almost intolerable imposition by a Government that has done very little it can honestly boast about and if they meet the vaccination targets it will be amazing in more sense than one.

Right; how to fill the rest of the day? Raid the fridge and restore some more old blogs probably. It’s one endless round of get up, eat, and go to bed and I am one of the lucky ones. Look out for your friends and neighbours.

 

3 January (Part 2) - How many of your neighbours are dead? Check here

I will be in trouble if my daughter reads this but I haven’t listened to any BBC radio programme apart from a few that she produced for, I don’t know, probably more than three years. Until then I only ever listened to Radio 4 but it got to the stage I was simply not trusting any of their news items. A shame because there were some good investigative programmes broadcast which I miss but I have never done much channel hopping so once I abandon a station it tends not to be listened to ever again.

The presets on my radio are tuned to LBC, LBC London News, Times Radio and TalkRadio. In general terms I avoid LBC during the week but have it on at weekends - at least until David Lammy comes on. He is just too full of himself and superior to everyone. “This is my programme, not yours.”

LBC has gone pretty much 100% woke over the last few months and slavishly follows the OFCOM rules which forbid it going against the Government’s Covid mantra. I was not impressed at all when at 08:25 this morning their presenter referred to the PCR (Polymerase Chain Reaction) test as the accurate one while implying that the Lateral Flow Test was rubbish. PCR is the one whose inventor said shouldn’t be used for virus testing but the NHS administers with its sensitivity turned up to near maximum.

Linear Flow is what French President Macron said was suitable for testing lorry drivers entering France from Dover.

I didn’t turn Andrew Castle off as I like to hear what such people are arguing and judge for myself if nonsense is being broadcast. To my horror the same message was repeated at 11:25 by Tom Swarbrick, one time special adviser to Theresa May. They are either ignorant or following the OFCOM script. Either way I am less inclined to believe what comes out of LBC Radio which confirms my decision to give it a miss for most of the week.

Tweet Paediatrics

Probably such misinformation doesn’t compare with the scare tactics of the BBC. They interviewed a Labour activist nurse who said that her hospital was full of Covid sick children and Radio 5 tried to scare as many people as possible by Tweeting the lie. And lie is what it was. Rebutted by qualified medics everywhere but not withdrawn by a dishonest BBC. Ironically the second image above is taken from the BBC’s News website but the damage has been done. Parents are naturally worried about the safety of their offspring and from that no doubt flows the serious schools closure dilemma.

The number of deaths reported daily are scary and the tactic works. Irrationally I kept far more than two metres from a neighbour yesterday who had just returned from his daily shopping trip, and not a local one either. Even sceptics like me are influenced. I know that the death numbers are inflated because the Office of National Statistics tells me they are. it will be interesting to see the December figures when they go on line.

Click that link, type in your postcode and be surprised/horrified (delete as appropriate) by the number of Covid dead near you. My nearest neighbour to the West is a large old people’s care home. Still not that many deaths compared to cancer etc.

Tweet ONS

How many times have we read what Rhonda says here? For reasons unknown, Hancock and Co. are intent on misrepresenting the stats. Hopefully the Office of National Statistics has not yet stooped to his level.

There is just one medically qualified person within my circle of family and friends who is in a senior position at a hospital in a medium sized town best known for tourism. Reports reaching me were that the hospital there was much busier than in the Spring, which was worrying. Then yesterday a more direct report came through. Much busier because they are trying to treat non-Covid patients who were abandoned to their fate eight months ago.

The message must be don’t do anything silly, stay in as much as possible but don’t be scared witless by a Government that has lost the plot. No, never had it.

 

3 January (Part 1) - Daft drafts

The restoration and technical updating of old blogs has not been progressing very quickly and is still nearly eight years behind the times - May 2013. Very little is available between that date and the beginning of 2020 and what has been reintroduced for specific reasons probably includes broken links.

The exercise has reminded me of the incredible dishonesty that permeated Bexley Council at the time. At one extreme scheming with the police to prosecute residents on false charges and scheming with them again to find an excuse not to prosecute a Councillor arrested on a charge of Misconduct in a Public Office.

Deceiving the local population in election leaflets was mundane by comparison.

This one was clearly meant to portray Labour Councillors as some sort of red lunatics.
Conservative election leaflet
Who do you think might have said that? Someone in Thamesmead East or Slade Green maybe? No, it was the Leader of Liverpool City Council.

Apart from tracking down original photos to see if they can be improved, external links have proved to be a problem. Newspapers seem to have preserved old pages while Bexley Council has quietly lost them. Even some minutes of meetings have gone AWOL, in effect rewriting history. I have begun to redirect such links so that readers are not misled as much as they might otherwise be.

It can’t be easy to run a Council website, most readers will be happy if they can find the next dustbin day or the address of the walk-in Covid test centre. My requirements are not normal and every year I find London Councils that don’t even put their Council Tax rates on their website. Bexley Council’s site is a long way from being the worst in London, not that it is good.

Search facilities everywhere are unreliable. What happens if you search for the latest Accounts? You might stumble upon https://www.bexley.gov.uk/about-the-council/council-budgets-and-spending/annual-accounts. It’s the draft version which went on to be approved in October. Where’s the real thing?

Here we are in January 2021 and Bexley’s website still presents you with nothing better than the Draft version for 2019-20. https://www.bexley.gov.uk/sites/default/files/2020-07/Statement-of-Accounts-DRAFT-2019-2020.pdf.

ArchiveFancy a look at the previous year’s accounts? Now that’s a difficult one. A good hard look may present you with the archive folder as shown here and guess what, once again it is only the Draft version. Statement of Accounts 2018 to 2019.

And while I am being so helpful to Bexley’s webteam, when do you think they will get rid of the near three year out-of-date strapline on the webcast portal? “Listening to you, working for you”. It became too embarrassing even for Bexley Council.

Web portal

 

2 January (Part 2) - Where has 50 years gone?

I can clearly remember always being the youngest of every group I was in until I was at least 30 years old. Always the youngest in every school class, youngest member of a camera club I joined after leaving school and youngest manager of a City telephone exchange. Now, without noticing any intermediate stage, I am constantly reminded that the reverse is true. Today the radio news keeps rubbing that in by reminding me that it’s fifty years since 66 fans died at the Ibrox football ground.

I remember it well. One of the fans leaving the ground tripped on Stairway 13 and caused a fatal crush as those immediately behind him stopped.

Mullard Valve CompanyI was at home in Fleet, Hampshire with my home made FM radio set and a massive rotatable aerial. No one would believe it now but with the FM airwaves relatively empty and very little frequency sharing, long distance listening was not impossible given reasonable atmospheric conditions. I was a regular listener to the fresh fish prices broadcast by BBC Radio Humberside but Clydebank was a bit of a stretch.

Trying and probably failing to impress a Glaswegian wife I relayed the grim news to her as it happened while the reception faded in and out.

I had got into soldering valves and resistors together some 14 years earlier when in an early sign of approaching nerdiness I spent eight shillings and sixpence on the Mullard Valve Company’s book of amplifier designs and put together a record player for my sister who was in to Elvis Presley with a bit of Alma Cogan mixed in. The player worked first time and I progressed to FM radios or VHF as it was called back then.

The British FM designs were rubbish because there was basically just three radio stations repeated all over the country. I used to be able to recite the frequency of every single one of the main transmitters but there was no incentive to tune in to distant stations, they all broadcast the same programme.

American tuners were a different kettle of fish altogether as enthusiasts there were keen to listen to what was broadcast from the next city half a state away.

Hence me listening live to the unfolding Ibrox disaster. I can remember exactly which chair I was sitting in and in which part of the room even now.

Yes, very definitely getting old.

 

2 January (Part 1) - Who are the biggest Covidiots?

What’s a single bloke who fell out of the habit of watching TV several years ago and cannot visits friends or family either by reason of Government diktat or distance supposed to do to pass the time? Peruse Covid statistics constantly that’s what.

It is a confusing occupation and whether you are a lockdown let’s-do-it-some-more fanatic or more thoughtful than that you can dig up figures to satisfy your prejudices.

On a more parochial note I can no longer claim to not know, as opposed to heard of, someone who has had the bug in recent months. My former wife got it in a care home back in April and was not expected to survive but 24 hours later was demanding to be fed. At about the same time the niece of a good friend committed suicide when she was told her mother had the bug - but it was a wrong diagnosis. So close, but not that close.

However over the last few days the picture has changed. A cousin once removed age 30 showed some symptoms just before Christmas and tested positive. She has felt a bit under the weather but nothing worse.

I watched a streamed church service last Sunday which came from the 60 year old vicar’s home. I spoke to her about it yesterday and she said she had a slight temperature on 22nd December, got herself a test that day but the result did not reach her until the 27th. Positive. She too was not too badly affected and there was no sign of any discomfort on the video stream. The weird and worrying thing about this one is, like me, the lady lives alone and had only been out of the vicarage once in the previous ten days. A trip to Tesco.

My aunt’s carer has been having weekly tests, all negative until yesterday. She’s had a back pain since last Monday which may not be in any way connected but there is now another care worker unable to work for ten days minimum.

A little more remote is the niece of another friend who was alone and isolating but was believed to be well enough until a call for help which resulted in her being found in a diabetic coma. The ambulance took several hours to come and survival is now doubtful. A belated Covid test came back positive so if the worst comes to pass that will be another dubious Covid statistic.

Dubious Covid statistics are everywhere and I have come to the conclusion that it is due either to willful dishonesty by Government or off the scale incompetence. The hospitals may be nearing capacity but all the while the Government lies to the population some will take the view that the whole thing is a hoax. Ridiculous I know but idiots exist outside of political circles too.

Judged from my slightly sceptical viewpoint Hancock and Co. have done pretty well everything wrong but a rather more paranoid friend says the same thing. That’s quite an achievement!

Fifty odd thousand positives a day using a test turned up to very nearly maximum sensitivity which its inventor said should never be used as a virus detecting tool. Constantly pushing the asymptomatic infection line which several countries have reported to be a very low risk, Australia, Italy and Japan included. Who are we to believe? Clearly not Vallance and Whitty who admit that some of their graphs have been deliberate psychological scare tactics.

Right now we have the controversy of primary school closures. Whichever way you look at it the Government have made fools of themselves. The statistics tell us that primary age children are not dropping like flies or at all if one discounts the occasional tragic case with comorbidities but if you are a believer in the symptomless transmission theory as our Government seems to be the logic suggests that schools should be closed. I think that is wrong but my opinion is immaterial.

The Education Minister decreed that some London primary schools should open next Monday and others not with scant regard for local infection rates. With the borough border so close to home I can walk to two in less than 15 minutes, each instructed differently and both served by the same hospital. Now the Minister has caved in to political pressure and in Tier 4 London all schools will be closed next week - but not in Tier 4 Surrey so the border issue will still arise somewhere. How are parents supposed to make arrangements for child care with barely 48 hours weekend notice? Paranoids and sceptics alike unite in calling the Minister a prat.

I have no time for the Leader of Greenwich Council, a teacher by profession, who is reported to be “delighted” that children will forego their education but his degree of so called intellect still manages to put the Government Minister’s in the shade.

Bursted WoodsAnd a final rant. Four people in my circle of friends have had the first Pfizer injection; so far just one has had dose 2 cancelled. If I was a few years older I might have been offered the jab too. I can imagine the conversation going as follows…

“What’s the risk?” “Allergic reactions pretty low, risk of death vanishingly small.” “All to be done according to the Pfizerְ’s test regime and as approved by Medical and Healthcare products Authority?” “Yes, of course, that’s vital.” “OK, count me in.”

Some sort of contract I would have thought so how come part two can be unilaterally cancelled? This Government can be trusted on only one thing; to cock everything Covid related up big time.

It may well be that delaying dose 2 is perfectly OK and I have a feeling it might be especially with the Oxford variant but it shakes oneְ’s faith in the MHRA who are prepared to take guesses. Maybe I shouldn’t be surprised.

I read a long email exchange between the MHRA and an inquisitive doctor. It was all a bit over my head but the outcome was an admission by the MHRA that they didn’t really understand what Pfizer had been doing but taken some things on trust. The virus had not been isolated but Pfizer and provided a computer simulation of it. The doctor took a dim view of it but I am inclined to think that if the vaccine achieved good test results does it really matter? The fact that Pfizer are not supporting the 12 week dose interval may be a bigger factor but it would be a good get out of jail card if things go wrong.

Well that’s a couple of hours passed; are we in Tier 5 yet?

 

1 January (Part 2) - Cookies are back

The ultra observant may note that the page footer below no longer says ‘Bonkers is a totally Cookie free zone’.

For much of the past year the code that counts site visits has been absent but for this month at least it is restored so that the figures may be compared with last January. Pretty much every website drops such a cookie on to your device. It is not much of a concern in the great scheme of Internet data gathering things.

 

1 January (Part 1) - A one sentence challenge

Question 1A silly squabble has been raging on and off for a month over whether a resident’s question to Full Council should include a preamble or whether it should be just one sentence. A storm in a teacup if you ask me and typical of Council jobsworths with too much time on their hands. It was ever thus and it keeps them expensively employed.

Mayor James Hunt was dragged into the argument but I cannot imagine him being much interested in the precise phrasing of a question unlike some of his predecessors.

Having got hold of the somewhat rambling original questions can it be shortened and still make its point?

Here goes…


Is the Cabinet Member concerned about the illegality or otherwise of unleashed ferocious dogs being walked on the borough’s streets without the benefit of a Public Space Protection Order or the protection that might be offered by a Dog Warden?


Question 1Not too difficult was it? Let’s try a more difficult one.


Does the Cabinet Member have any plans to improve road safety on the route to Foots Cray Meadows via Bexley Lane which is a busy road with sightlines obscured by overgrown vegetation and without a pedestrian crossing leading to an unacceptably narrow entrance through a wire fence in a dangerous state of disrepair?


That takes me back to the days when Mick Barnbrook and his gang would formulate questions in advance of every Full Council meeting in the hope that it would wriggle past the question censors and not be filibustered by the Council Leader.

Ah, the nostalgia and no I am not going to get involved in that time wasting malarkey ever again.

 

News and Comment January 2021

Index: 20202021

Return to the top of this page
The contact email address is changed regularly. Currently it is mailbox (at) bexley-is-bonkers.co.uk
Bonkers is a totally Cookie free zone