Tuesday, 21 September 2010

Pebble dash

On Saturday we decided to head to the beach for a little R&R as it was a nice day. We headed for Hastings which as we recently rediscovered has had a bit of mini-Renaissance of late with just the right amount of new shops and businesses to make it appealing without the over-development.
That plus the fact that it has a permanent funfair, crazy golf ( with water jets!), good fish & chips and money-wasters (amusements) means it appeals to all the Cheeses.
There seemed to be a lot of pirates in town. I liked the way nobody turned a blind eye (pardon the pun) as they strolled about the High Street.

We discovered late in the day that there was an Open Studio day taking place so we quickly decided to high tail it to the beach to view a number of studios which had been set up in beach huts.

There were a number of painters, sculptors and fabric designers who had thrown open the doors of their huts. With the good weather, some were making a real occasion of it and had the Pimms out and a barbie going. 

I don't think these are working studios - just stage sets, but they created a good vibe down on the beach.

This all managed to fit in with the shabby-chic feeling of Hastings and was a great way to end the day.


Now we have been in this house for precisely 3 years we were desperate to rid ourselves of yesterpeoples 'orrid green carpet that we have enduredin our sitting room.
Without any spare cash we decided we would remove said carpet and, if everything was ok underneath, we would sand and stain the boards as an interim measure.

What joy as we discovered a set of pretty decent floorboards underneath, most still untouched by bodgers and with original tongue and groove joints. However as I worked my way across the room, our joy became short lived as I discovered the boards came to a sudden end. Unfortunately, one third of the floor is concrete - and not even nice concrete at that as patches of the previous tiled floor show through in places.

So we will have to live with this for a bit and try and paint over this area to blend in as best as possible. Got any spare green carpet anyone?

Friday, 10 September 2010

Lies, damn lies.....

Heard a dreadful radio advert today regarding burglar alarms. Apparently '84% of burglars won't target homes with a burglar alarm fitted'. Oh really.

When was the last time you saw a person with a striped top and mask being interviewed, eh?

The ancestral home

My old stomping ground was featured on the news yesterday when it was revealed in a survey that public sector cuts would threaten employment in Middlesbrough more than any other place in England.

Apparently, some 43% of the workforce is employed within the public sector with a particular emphasis towards education and healthcare.  This leaning towards public sector employment is said to contrast with a lack of private sector opportunities (Unbelievably, quoted figures of less than 200 private sector jobs created in a decade versus 13,000 public sector I find very hard to swallow).

Of course we all hear of an area that was once reliant on heavy industry and has had to turn to government handouts to create jobs but this is a simplistic view and is often spouted by many in more comfortable positions as a reason for a lack of entrepreneurship and job creation in the town. But opportunity is created in a burgeoning economy where ready access to funds and an eager market exists. Apart from a supply of ready-labour what conditions does industrial decline provide for those looking to start a new business? Many businesses exist to supply goods or services to other businesses, thus their futures are dependant upon the fortunes of their clients. Hence the reason for setting up regional 'government' development agencies such as One North East to act as powerful levers to attract new investment into the area and thus employment and opportunity (to be abolished by the new government soon).

But all too often this allocation of funds is seen by some as 'robbing the rich to feed the poor' and in the case of one caller to Radio 2's Jeremy Vine show yesterday such handouts are the reason for not getting off 'lazy Northern backsides' and a culture of reliance on state aid.

I think it fair to dismiss such attitudes as sweeping generalisms. After all we are talking about an area that provided resources for such giants as ICI and British Steel to grow into massive global players and as well as one of the biggest seaports in the country still remains one of the most important oil refinery/ exporting areas in the world. It is still, to the eye, an industrial powerhouse (but without the smog I'm pleased to say) but plainly employs far fewer people these days than in decades gone by. It is estimated that a net 100,000 jobs have been lost in the area since 1970. Most of these job-losses would have been unskilled or semi-skilled and happened in enormous tranches with a obvious devastating impact upon the local economy, so plainly to expect people to simply start up a new business if they can't find work elsewhere is unrealistic.

What is plain to me is that an area that has been exploited for its vast natural resources to the benefit of the nation and expanded rapidly as a result of the need for cheap and willing labour should not be condemned when remote decision-makers take jobs away en masse. Middlesbrough exists because its people supplied the country and the world with the raw materials it needed, creating wealth in turn. The name of Middlesbrough is stamped indelibly on the steel that makes up the Sydney harbour bridge for example.

The area has faced crisis before and has met this challenge head on. The people, if given a chance, willingly turn their hand to new enterprise. The construction of massive oil & gas rigs in the last decade and the rise of renewable energy technologies are a few examples.

We are a hardy & resilient bunch, self-deprecating and sometimes overly-cynical, but then we would be when faced with ill-judged and poorly-perceived attitudes from other parts of the country. It is rising above challenging situations like this that give a place and its people their character.

Friday, 3 September 2010

It's a date..!

Tomorrow is a reasonably significant date in my life, being that I emerged, stretched and bawled for the first, but definitely not the last, time in an antiquated ward in a north-eastern hospital forty-five earth-years ago.

Many people are able to recall a list of notable happenings and dignitaries who share their significant date and I decided that perhaps I needed to look into this more deeply as the only thing I recalled was the unfortunate death of Steve 'Strewth' Irwin from an unfortunate encounter with a stingray a few years back.

So without further ado, I unashamedly list the following notable events and people with whom I share the 4th September for the reasons given below. I must admit that it hardly sets the world alight but, hey!

1870 - Emperor Napoleon III is deposed
1884 - The British Government ends its policy of penal transportation to Australia
1907 - Edvard Grieg, Norwegian composer dies
1913 - Mickey Cohen, 'Jewish Mafia' LA gangster is born
1944 - Antwerp is liberated by British forces
1949 - Golfer Tom Watson is born in Kansas City
1951 - Harry S Truman makes first Pan-American TV Broadcast!
1964 - The Queen opens the Forth Road Bridge
1970 - Ione Skye, actress daughter of Donovan is born (no, I don't remember her either)
1972 - Mark Spitz wins his 7th swimming Gold Medal at the Munich Olympics

1975 - DJ/ Producer Mark Ronson is born!
1977 - San Francisco Golden Dragon Massacre takes place in a restaurant in Chinatown. (I have a feeling that this restaurant, now thankfully closed, also massacred Mrs C's credit card when we visited some years ago!)

1988 - Google Inc is founded by Larry Page and Sergey Brin (ironically in a garage)

So not quite an illustrious list. I have cherry picked some of the better entries! It did seem to be a popular date for births of basketball players and obscure Asian singers (MC Mong anyone?)

My favourite though has to be in the USA, on September 4th each year as National Newspaper Carrier Day is celebrated up and down the land!! Go Paperboy!!