Saturday, January 18, 2020

Cancer Tests save lives

The earlier cancer is caught, the better the outcomes. Both the chances of survival for five years, and quality of life while one is still alive, are far better if cancer is discovered and treated earlier.

That's why cancer screening for both women and men is really important: it needs to be improved and should be taken up.

I was extremely disappointed to learn this weekend that the latest figures for take-up of cervical smear tests in North and West Cumbria is only 80%. 15,964 women who were eligible for a smear test did not have one.

Next week is Cervical cancer prevention week and a number of campaigns are planned to spread awareness and encourage higher takeup.

Every woman who is invited to have a smear cervical smear test would be very well advised to take it up - and already this year one caring business in West Cumbria, the playgroup Tot Spot repeated the offer of free childcare while mums have the test.

The owner of Tot Spot, Angela Greasley, first offered free childcare for the cause in November 2018, after the story of Workington woman Susan Rumney losing her battle with cervical cancer opened her eyes to the danger of ignoring a smear test.

While Tot Spot usually charges £4 for half an hour of care, or £12 for two hours, the offer of free childcare in exchange for attending a smear test is always on the table.

Bernard Wooley RIP

Actor Derek Fowlds, who played the civil servant Bernard Wooley in "Yes, Minister" and "Yes, Prime Minister" died yesterday at the age of 82.

He was a wonderful actor and according to those who worked with him, a kind and lovely man.

He had many of the best lines in the show, as in this clip in which he talks about defence capabilities:



He was also a perfect foil for other actors such as Nigel Hawthorne, as in this scene where "Sir Humphry" explains how to get the result you want from an opinion poll:



Derek Fowlds also appeared in "Heartbeat" and the Basil Brush show.

Rest in Peace.

Saturday music spot: The Monkees sing "Last Train to Clarksville"

As a small child I loved the comedy show "The Monkees," which featured a band originally put together for the show, and shown here clowning around in two clips from the show.

I remember watching and listening to this song and scenes like these. However, at the time I had no idea of the hidden bite behind the comedy in the form of the huge significant of the words at the time to contemporary young American men: Clarksville was where many of them had to report on being drafted before being sent to serve in Vietnam.

Hence the line "and I don't know if I'm ever coming home" was a reference to the possibility of being killed in action.



Quote of the day 18th January 2020


Friday, January 17, 2020

Statement from Cumbria NHS confirming Accident & Emergency at WCH stays open

The North Cumbria Integrated Care NHS Foundation Trust has put out a briefing and media statement explaining that, although they are reviewing how to maintain Accident and Emergency service (A&E) at West Cumberland Hospital (WCH) in Whitehaven, there is no question of closing the service at night or at any other time.


Lyn Simpson Chief Executive of North Cumbria Integrated Care NHS Foundation Trust (NCIC) said, 

“The Trust is committed to the outcome of the public consultation made in March 2017 for a 24/7 Accident & Emergency provision at West Cumberland Hospital.”

The trust has reaffirmed its commitment to the outcome of the public consultation to retain a 24/7 Accident & Emergency provision at West Cumberland Hospital. 

The full statement reads as follows

Media Statement

Prof John Howarth, Deputy Chief Executive said, “We do have some forthcoming staffing challenges and so clinical leaders in the team are reviewing our current arrangements.  We will be working with local community groups to find a long term sustainable solution to these challenges that will enable us to keep A&E open 24/7.

“Next month we will be launching engagement activities that we are currently designing with community groups to understand priorities of the community for the £33m capital investment that has been secured for the next phase of the West Cumberland Hospital redevelopment.  This is a significant investment that will enable us to deliver high quality modern health care services for the residents of West Cumbria.”

Lyn Simpson Chief Executive of North Cumbria Integrated Care NHS Foundation Trust (NCIC) said, “The Trust is committed to the outcome of the public consultation made in March 2017 for a 24/7 Accident & Emergency provision at West Cumberland Hospital.”


Quote of the day 17th January 2020


Tuesday, January 14, 2020

Quote of the day 14th January 2020

“It was very hard for me to believe that our people have been killed. Forgive me that I got to know this late. And forgive me for the 13 years I told you lies.” 

(Resignation statement and apology to the people of Iran from Gelare Jabbari, in an Instagram post, after she left her position as an Iranian State TV anchor on becoming convinced that she was being used to disseminate falsehood and propaganda.)

Monday, January 13, 2020

Copeland Local Committee

As I posted last week, the January meeting of Cumbria County Council's local committee for Copeland will be held at 10.15 am at Cleator Moor Civic Hall on 21st January 2020.

The meeting will be open to the public. The agenda and most of the supporting papers have now gone up on the council website here. (There are two more to follow.)

I have been to a few council meetings in the last few months where the agenda was a bit light, in some cases so much so that one did wonder whether it would have been better to save public money by cancelling them, but this one is not light in any way shape or form.

The agenda includes the following:

6. Universal Credit

To receive presentations from representatives from the Department of Work and Pensions and the Citizen’s Advice Bureau on the functioning of the Universal Credit system and it's impact on local people.

7. Third Sector Waste

To receive a presentation from the Executive Director – Economy and Infrastructure

8. Road Safety Update 

To consider a report by the Executive Director – Economy and Infrastructure. The purpose of this report is to raise awareness of the road safety management arrangements and activities that the Cumbria Road Safety Partnership currently has in place.

10. Countryside and Access Team Annual Report

11. 2019/20 Local Committee Devolved Highways Budget

To consider a report by the Executive Director – Economy and Infrastructure. This report presents the Highways Devolved Budget Finance figures including an update on the Highways Revenue and Capital Programme.

12. Draft Highways Capital and Revenue Budgets 2020/2021

To consider a report by the Executive Director – Economy and Infrastructure (to follow).

13. Copeland Highways Working Group

To consider a report by the Executive Director – Economy and Infrastructure (copy enclosed). This report provides details of the meeting of the Highways Working Group held on 17 December 2019 and presents recommendations for the Local Committee to consider.

14. Millom TRO (Traffic Regulation Order)

To consider a report by the Executive Director – Economy and Infrastructure (to follow).

15. Area Planning Report

To consider a report by the Executive Director – Corporate, Customer and Community Services. This report provides Copeland Local Committee with an update on work and activity undertaken to promote and progress local area planning since its last meeting. It is also to advise Members of the council on the current budget position.

Quote of the day 13th January 2020

"If you don’t believe in free speech for people who you disagree with, and even hate for what they stand for, then you don’t believe in free speech."

(Ricky Gervais on twitter yesterday)

Sunday, January 12, 2020

Roger Scruton RIP

The family of Sir Roger Scruton have issued the following statement today:


"Announcement 12th January 2020

It is with great sadness that we announce the death of Sir Roger Scruton, FBA, FRSL. Beloved husband of Sophie, adored father to Sam and Lucy and treasured brother of Elizabeth and Andrea, he died peacefully on Sunday 12th January. He was born on 27th February 1944 and had been fighting cancer for the last 6 months. His family are hugely proud of him and of all his achievements."

Sir Roger was one of Britain's most distinguished academics. He managed to clear his name last year after being sacked as an unpaid government advisor after the New Statesman selectively quoted an interview he gave the magazine in a way which they subsequently accepted "did not accurately represent his views."

Both the magazine and the government apologised to him.

Rest in Peace.


Sunday music spot: "I Was Glad" by Sir Charles Parry

Quote of the day 12th January 2020


Saturday, January 11, 2020

Saturday music spot: Händel's "Dixit Dominus" first movement

Quote of the day 11th January 2020

"What is ominous is the ease with which some people go from saying that they don't like something to saying that the government should ban it.

When you go down that road, don't expect freedom to survive very long."

(Thomas Sowell)



Friday, January 10, 2020

January meeting of the CCC Copeland local committee

The January meeting of Cumbria County Council's local committee for Copeland will be held at 10.15 am at Cleator Moor Civic Hall on 21st January 2020.

The meeting will be open to the public.

The agenda will become available here early in the week before the meeting (e.g. next week at the time of putting up this post.)

Friday music spot: Gluck - Dance of the Furies

Quote of the day 10th January 2020



Thursday, January 09, 2020

Notes from today's meeting of Cumbria County Council

1) Near the start of the meeting there was a very good presentation by the Chief Constable of Cumbria constabulary.

Her talk was well received and prompted half an hour of questions

2) This was followed by a presentation from the council of children in care.

3) Under questions I asked about the status of proposals under consideration by Durham County Council to introduce fluoridisation, which if it goes ahead will affect not just their own area but parts of several neighbouring authorities, including about 2,345 residents of Cumbria in the Alston area.

The Portfolio Holder replied that Durham County Council has asked the government in mid December for permission to hold a consultation on this issue. At the moment they are awaiting a decision from the Secretary of State for Health, which they hope to receive by the end of January.

There is a legal requirement for a thorough consultation with all the areas affected, which must take place over a period of at least 12 months and is likely to be carried out this Summer.

More details will be published in due course if the Secretary of State gives permission for this issue to be considered.  Watch this space.

4) In accordance with the recommendation from the independent panel, the Labour leader put forward a proposal to increase councillors' allowances by 2% from April. 

(This is in line with the pay offer made to staff. The current rate of inflation is 2.2% on the RPI measure or 1.5% on the CPI measure.)

The proposal was carried on the votes of Labour and Lib/Dem councillors. The Conservative group, including myself, abstained.  

5) At the conclusion of the meeting there were four speeches from members of the council, including one from myself on the importance of working for further improvements to the A595.

Music to relax after a council meeting: Mozart's Piano Concerto No.21 ("Elvira Madigan") 2nd Movement

Quote of the day 9th January 2020


Tuesday, January 07, 2020

Tuesday music spot: Bach's Variations on "Wachet Auf", No. 1

Cognitive diversity

There was an interesting weekend essay by Matthew Syed in The Times a couple of days ago about  cognitive diversity with the title

"The truth is that great minds don't think alike."

The point he was making is that if you are assembling a team of people to do a job then in the vast majority of  cases - with a few exceptions such as a relay racing team - the way to get the most effective team is to include a mix of different abilities and skills.

The essay gives as an example of when this approach was used particularly successfully of the Bletchley Park codebreaking team which broke the Enigma codes. As well as great mathematical minds like Alan Turing the team at Bletchley was deliberately set up to include other type of thinkers, both men and women, and people with non-mathematical skills including people with skills such as doing crosswords. This intellectually diverse team was better able to crack the codes and get inside the heads of the German Enigma operators by coming at the problem from different angles.

I presume this is what the PM's senior advisor, Dominic Cummings meant when he suggested that Number Ten wants to recruit - "super-talented weirdos" - a strategy which will of course work better if it means moving away from a stereotype of what kind of person they do and do not want to recruit than it will if it means replacing one stereotype with a different one.

The comment from Thomas Sowell about asking academics how many Conservatives there are in their sociology department which was my quote of the day yesterday morning will usually have been interpreted as a joke or as a dig at the left. But actually it makes a serious point. Diversity of ideas is a great strength in most teams.

Quote of the day 7th January 2020

"Hand on heart, did we deserve to win the general election? 

"Probably not, so the British public got it right."

(Sadiq Khan, Labour Mayor of London. I don't often agree with Mayor Khan, but I'm certainly not going to argue with him on this one.)

Sunday, January 05, 2020

Twelfth Night music spot: "Three Kings" from King's

Today is Twelfth Night, the last of the twelve days of Christmas, as the church starts to look to Epiphany, the arrival of the Magi (also known as the Wise Men, or in mythology the Three Kings.)

So what more appropriate piece for the last music spot of this Christmas season than "Three Kings from Persian Lands Afar" sung by the choir of King's college Cambridge?

Swimathon 2020

I have signed up for Swimathon 2020, to swim 5000 metres at Copeland pool in Hensingham.

Swimathon is the world's largest swimming charity fundraising event. Between 27th and 29th March, I will be one of more than 21,000 swimmers who head down to their local pool, or one of more than 600 swimming pools around the UK which are taking part, to raise money for two incredibly important charities.

I have taken part in the Swimathon every year since 1994 to help a wide variety of important causes, but there is none more important than helping people living with cancer.

Cancer Research UK, the world’s leading cancer charity is dedicated to saving lives through funding research to help prevent, diagnose and treat cancer. Cancer Research UK are the only charity fighting over 200 cancer types but don't receive any government funding for their work, so their progress is all thanks to the support of people like you.

Marie Curie provides expert care, guidance and support for people living with any terminal illness, and their families. Around 2,100 Marie Curie Nurses work day and night, in people’s homes all over the UK, providing hands-on care to people when they need it most.

Together those who take part in and support events like Swimathon 2020 can make a difference.

Please sponsor me or other participants to help find more effective cures for cancer and to help people who are living with the condition.

My Swimathon 2020 fundraising page is here.

Thank you again to everyone who has sponsored me for past Swimathon events (and the person who has already sponsored me for 2020 in the short time between my putting up my JustGiving page and writing this post!) and thank you in advance to everyone who sponsors me or other participants this year and in the future.

Quote of the day 5th January 2020


Thursday, January 02, 2020

2020 New Year's Honours list

I don't know how I managed to miss it, but in addition to the Cumbrians I have already mentioned, Gina Tiller, who was Chair of the North Cumbria University Hospitals Trust until last year, was also awarded the MBE in the 2020 New Year's Honours list.

The list of Cumbrians honoured includes:
  • Paul Foster, departing head of Sellafield, CBE for "services to business" 
  • John Hudson, BAE Systems, CBE for "services to the Royal Navy and to Naval Shipbuilding and Design." 
  • Sascha Hilary Wells-Munro of Kendal, OBE "for services to the NHS and patient safety." 
  • Ben Stokes of Cockermouth and the England cricket team, OBE "for Services to Sport." 
  • Professor John Howarth, Deputy Chief Executive of the North Cumbria Integrated Care NHS Trust and local GP, MBE for "services to General Practice." 
  • Gina Tiller, former Chair of NCUH, MBE "for services to healthcare in Cumbria." 
  • Elizabeth Cornford of Grange-over-Sands, MBE "for services to Young People." 
  • John Butler of Ulverston, MBE, "for services to Further Education." 
  • Mark McCree of Kendal, British Empire Medal (BEM) "for services to Public Libraries." 
  • John Shakeshaft of Ulverston, BEM "for services to Young People in Ulverston." 
  • Cassandra Rees of Greenheys, BEM "for services to the Community in Cumbria."

Thursday Carol: In The Bleak Midwinter, Gustav Holst version

Yesterday's carol was "In the Bleak mid-winter" set to music by Harold Darke.

But there is an equally lovely version set to music by Gustav Holst …

Quote of the day 2nd January 2020


Wednesday, January 01, 2020

1.6 million and counting

One the first day of the new year and the new decade the number of page views on this blog has passed the 1.6 million mark,

Thank you to everyone who visited during the last fifteen years and I hope you found it interesting.

All the best to all of you for future and I hope you will find this blog interesting in the new decade too.

Predictions for 2020

It seems to be fashionable at this season to make predictions for what is going to happen in the new year, So here is my thoughts on what will happen over the next twelve months.

1) Britain will leave the EU, with a withdrawal agreement, on 31st January 2020

2) The relationship between the UK and Scottish governments will continue to be difficult

3) Reform of local government including greater devolution will be taken more seriously and begin to make more progress

4) There will be more investment in the NHS and in Britain's transport infrastructure, including and especially in the North.

5) Negotiations between Britain and the EU on a new Trade deal will be noisy, controversial and difficult, but a deal will eventually be struck, probably in the early hours of the morning and the very last possible day to do so, by the end of the year.

A Carol for the New Year: In the Bleak Midwinter (Darke)

It is still the Christmas season for another five days, so here is a New Year's day carol:

"In the Bleak Mid-winter" set to music by Harold Darke, sung by King's Cambridge.

First post of the new decade: Quote of the day for 1st January 2020