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England

Sunday, 25 June 2006
Another farewell

London Thames

On Saturday was bluemeanie’s schools Founders’ Day cum prize-giving so we spent several hours there watching demonstrations, and listening to speeches and singing hymns (the prize-giving takes the form of an inter-faith service). Thereafter, bluemeanie and I dashed into London to see Lynette and Alan left for Australia today. We spent several hours with friends and family at The Ship and Whale in Rotherhithe. The Argentina/Mexico match, dubbed the best so far in this World Cup, was on (several) screens around the pub so we managed to catch some of the highlights.

Today I did some gardening and then watched the fooball.  My knowlege of football is not so great, which is why I have been finding the Guardian Unlimited World Cup Podcast very useful, especially for behind the scenes information. They generally have a good panel discussion and are in touch (“via the miracle that is the telephone”) with reporters not only in Germany but as far afield as Sydney and Brazil.

I also played around with a tool called The iTunes Signature Maker. Listen to my 20 second iTunes signature here (Warning: large file!) I notice my mobile phone tune pops up as one of my “most played” tracks. How sad.

Posted by bigblue on 25/06/2006 at 10:19 PM
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Friday, 23 June 2006
Inappropriate

michael owen poster

I didn’t take this photograph of a poster that the Football Association sent to a Westminster office on 22 June. What he highlights as fantastically inappropriate, I ripped off from Recess Monkey, political blogger of Westminster. As we Meanies use measured language, I am dropping the “fantastical”.

Posted by bigblue on 23/06/2006 at 08:02 PM
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Hari-Christians

Hari Christians in Regents Park

At the picnic in Regents Park on Sunday (mentioned here) this large group of people came and set up (on a tarpaulin) nearby. They all wore dayglo orange crosses around their neck and some had black tee-shirts with dayglow crosses on front. For that reason, and the fact that they looked like hippies, I dubbed them the Hari-Christians. Unfortunately you can’t make out the distinctive garb in this photograph.  Anyway, who knows what that was about.

Posted by bigblue on 23/06/2006 at 07:34 PM
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Thursday, 22 June 2006
World Cup 2006

flag in drain

I’m doing quite a bit of driving this week (about 2 hours a day) so am getting used to spotting these England flags lying on the motorway, on the hard shoulder, and (like the World Cup hopes of many countries) down the drain. They have always struck me as a bit tacky and flimsy. Tom Wilson posted an old joke about England flags recently, and we learned how these things could cost a motorist an extra one pound an hour in driving costs, and how they scare horses in Hampshire.

Posted by bigblue on 22/06/2006 at 10:12 PM
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Wednesday, 21 June 2006
Under 21

Under 21

Welcome back to Scarlett who returns from a hiatus.

Today, 21 June, is the Summer Solstice. Aurelie left today, and will fly out from Paris tonight and arrive in La Reunion tomorrow morning. She will leave on the shortest night and arrive (in the Southern Hemisphere) on the shortest day. When I told her this she replied that “there is not much difference between Summer and Winter on La Reunion”. The circumstances still reminded me that six months ago The Meanies made such a journey.

The above photograph shows an interesting sign, at the supermarket in Oxted. It is adjascent to another sign which reads:

By Law we are not allowed to:
- Sell tobacco and alcohol products to persons under the age of 16.
- Sell beers, wines and spirits, to persons under the age of 18.
- Sell butane products, or products which contain butane, to persons under the age of 18.
- Sell lighter fluid (petrol based) to persons under the age of 18, should the operator have cause to believe the substance may be abused.
- Sell National Lottery and Instant tickets to persons under the age of 16.
- Sell video tapes (Cert 18) to persons under the age of 18.
- Sell video tapes (Cert 15) to persons under the age of 15.
- Sell video tapes (Cert 12) to persons under the age of 12.

I think the above wording could be more clearly and concisely written. Some of the information is confusing: tobacco and alcohol products can be bought at the age of 16, but not beers, wines and spirits, which can only be bought from the age of 18. One assumes it is supposed to complement the “under 21” sign, but there is confusion over ages: it does not spell out why they ask for ID from 20 year olds, who are buying products they can legally buy at 16 or 18. Another strange thing about the sign is the reference to “the law”: presumably this is to add weight to the injunctions, but it also gives the impression that the supermarket is only doing this under duress, not because it is the right thing to do.  The sign has certain omissions: for example it does not mention the situation with regards to knives (where there are also legal constraints). 

The full text of the sign in the photograph is:

Under 21
If you look under 21 please do not be offended if we ask you for proof of age when you buy alcohol.
Acceptable forms of ID:
- Cards bearing the PASS hologram.
- Photographic driving licence.
- Passport.

Again there is a strange subtext to this message: If you look like you might be over 21 then is it acceptable if you are offended if you are asked to produce ID when buying a Certificate 18 video, or a bottle of schnapps? My overall impression of these signs is that they are there as decorations, and to show compliance with the law (rather than corporate social responsibility).

Posted by bigblue on 21/06/2006 at 10:42 PM
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Tuesday, 20 June 2006
A pound of flesh

image

This is a photo of Shylock in a recent production of The Merchant of Venice at bluemeanie’s school.  Shylock was portrayed by these two actresses, clutching a single handbag. The play was set in Germany at the start of the Second World War.

Kipperfrog breaks the good news!

Posted by bigblue on 20/06/2006 at 11:04 PM
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Monday, 19 June 2006
Demonstration

Oxted Chichele Road

There will be a demonstration tomorrow, 20 June 2006 at 3:30 PM, at the site of the proposed development in Chichele Road, Oxted (pictured above). Unfortunately I will be at work, but hopefully someone will be able to take photographs and send them to me. More importantly the press will be there to ensure good publicity. (Hat tip: revoxted in a comment in this post).

I have just submitted my comments against the proposed development. I think that it is important to object to all three of:

The access road will have an environmental impact, and impact the neighbours (most notably the St Mary’s School which has renowned congestion issues. Regarding the wider impact on the environment: The borehole headworks, kiosk and building are part of the borehole development. It seems that the Water Company did not need to apply to the Council for a borehole as such but just the shelter over the borehole. Nevertheless the Council should block all aspects of the proposed development on the basis that the borehole should not proceed until a full environmental impact study is done. Such a study should consider the long-term sustainability of that water-source, as well as the impact on the environment and the danger of subsidence affecting nearby houses. If the Council can object to or block the development of the borehole itself (it is not listed in the application) then this should also be done.

If the Tandridge District Council is not prepared to reject a development in this area, then how exactly does it propose to discharge its responsibility to “secure nature conservation interest”, to “retain attractive landscapes and enhance landscapes, near to where people live” and to “retain land in agricultural, forestry and related uses” (as per national Planning Policy Guidance Note #2).

Due to overexploitation of our natural resources, human beings have affected our climate and are entering a drier period with water shortages in this part of the world. It would be irresponsible of the Council to approve any aspect of this development without considering the long-term sustainability of the proposed exploitation of the water below our town by the Sutton and East Surrey Water Company, and what impact this exploitation will have on us. Already there is anecdotal evidence of a lowered water table, and subsidence on properties near to the proposed development.

In addition the Council has not advertised this development widely enough in the community. Due to the “secrecy” surrounding the proposed development, the Council need to restore a proper democratic process and redress the imbalance whereby many residents only found out about the proposed development at a late stage. If the Council does not feel it can reject the application completely at this stage, then it should postpone the decision to allow for a full open and public discussion on the issue. Afterall, this is not a conservatory extension that has been proposed ...

Posted by bigblue on 19/06/2006 at 11:45 PM
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Sunday, 18 June 2006
Danger - Deep Excavations

danger sign

Today Scarlett, Aurelie and I went to a picnic in Regents Park in London with my cousins to say farewell to cousin Ruth who left the UK this evening to take up a position at the Constitutional Court in South Africa.  My (video) camera was “stolen” and I nearly had a heart-attack - then realised it was a practical joke. Unfortunately Scarlett had a singing lesson scheduled, so we left early (at something to four in the afternoon).

I noticed earlier that the Tandridge District Council Interactive (sic) website came back up today, and the details of the contraversial planning application can now be viewed here.  I have started writing my objection, which I will email to the Council by the deadline. 

Go and see too what kipperfrog has to say on this.

One thing other thing: The Tandridge District Council website is a veritable maze of text, which is not particularly easy to navigate. While it is well laid out, and reasonably comprehensive, you seem to have to “click” just too many times to get to the information you are looking for. This is both when “drilling down” to pages with greater detail, and when moving across “horizantally” (to related information). Judging by their published webstats they are pretty well used, so they shouldn’t be complacent. When I first went to the site today they asked me to participate in a user survey to evaluate their site. I closed the pop-up window. Afterwards I wished they had asked me for feedback once I had made some use of the site ... (Actually there is a link on their homepage to the survey, so I may just fill it in when I have some time!).

Posted by bigblue on 18/06/2006 at 11:02 PM
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