Showing posts from December, 2006

Book Review: The Maritime Paintings of Montague Dawson

For my last post of 2006: I was given as a Christmas present the book The Maritime Paintings of Montague Dawson by Ron Ranson and appreciated it so much that I would write a quick review of this wonderful collection of the works of a master. As it says on the back cover, "Montague Dawson is considered by many to be the supreme maritime artist of the twentieth century." Well, I don't claim to be a great expert on art but I share that opinion. This paperback version, published in 2004, updates a hardcover edition first released in 1993. It contains an introduction which describes Dawson's life, work and painting style, and then a collection of his paintings and sketches, including 57 colour reproductions, 21 monochrone ones and photographs, and 14 sketches. Most of these have some explanatory text attached describing the ships in the pictures, the historical scenes portrayed, or how Dawson came to paint them. Several of the photographs show the artist

The real millennium?

Today Christians all over the world, and millions who are not christian but welcome the excuse for a celebration, remember the birth of Jesus. Seven years ago we also celebrated the 2,000th anniversary of that birth: however, there is some doubt over which year Jesus was actually born. Anyone with no interest in either religion or historial detective stories should probably skip this post, and let me just wish you a Happy Christmas. But I find it an interesting intellectual exercise to look through the evidence and try to work out when Jesus was actually born. It's extremely probable that the actual date was between 8 B.C. and 6 A.D. - in other words this year is the last of the likely dates for the real second millennium. It could be this Christmas which is the actual 2000th anniversary. Prior to the reforms introduced by Pope Gregory in 1582, when he corrected the errors in the calendar brought in by Julius Caesar, the idea of a universal system of dating barely existed. Most peo

Only Tony's Cronies need apply for English Heritage job

Tessa Jowell was at the centre of a bitter new row over Labour "cronyism" last night after she vetoed both the recommended candidates, selected by an independent panel, for the post of chairman of English Heritage. The apparent reason was their political leanings. One, Lord Marland, is the Conservative party Treasurer, the other, Lady Cobham, the partner of the former Conservative Cabinet minister David Mellor. The post will now be readvertised at further cost to us, the taxpayers. The move follows controversy over the appointment of Labour supporters to the Big Lottery Fund, which distributes £2.3 billion of lottery money. Last night Lord Marland, who had been told he was the favourite, accused Miss Jowell of rejecting him because he was not a member of the Labour Party. "To have been independently deemed the preferred candidate and then rejected by the Culture Secretary, shows the Labour Party is only interested in appointing one of its own," he said. According to

Christmas 2006 Duty Chemist rota for Whitehaven

A few items of holiday information for Whitehaven and Copeland which I hope readers of this blog from that area may find useful. First, here is the Duty Chemist rota for the Whitehaven and North Copeland area: Christmas Eve: Normal Sunday hours. Pharmacies at Morrisons, Tescos and Boots, and most of those other chemists which would normally open on a Sunday, will all be open. Christmas Day: Emergency rota, 6pm to 7pm: Alliance Pharmacy, 67-68 Main Street, Egremont. Boxing Day: Emergency Rota, 6pm to 7pm Morrisons Pharmacy, Whitehaven Wednesday 27th to Saturday 30th December – Normal hours New Year’s Eve: Normal Sunday hours. Pharmacies at Morrisons, Tescos and Boots, and most of those other chemists which would normally open on a Sunday, will all be open. 1st January 2007: Emergency Rota, 6pm to 7pm W Fare Ltd, 11 Market Place, Whitehaven. In an emergency phone your GP out of hours service or the A&E department at WCH. Urgent prescriptions should be endorsed “Urgent”

Save our post offices

Hospitals under threat: schools facing rationalisation: now the latest vital service under threat is post offices. The Labour Trade and Industry secretary, Alistair Darling, has announced that 2,500 post offices are likely to close because the network loses £4 million a week. People running post offices in Cumbria say they are preparing for the worst. If there are large scale closures of post offices, especially in rural areas, it will be bad news for the elderly and those without cars. It will also be deeply damaging for many villages - as one Cumbrian postmaster said that if the services which local post offices like his are withdrawn it would be a "crushing blow" to the village. One reason for the persistent threat to post offices is that many of us can and do access so many more services through the internet and telephone. But this is not available to everyone. Hence there is a real social need for the post office service.

Public Meeting re Pica Wind Farm proposals

A public meeting is to be held on 8th January to discuss revised proposals to build five windmills at Pica. It will take place at Distington Community Centre on January 8 at 7pm. There have been a number of previous applications to build wind turbines at the Fairfield Farm site over the past 10 years and they have always been extremely controversial. The present set of plans was submitted on 29th September by the company Wind Prospect, which is based in Bristol. Their previous application, for six turbines, was withdrawn last year.

Next Digital TV public meeting will be early 2007

I'm grateful to John Askew of Digital UK for responding to me with some more information about the switchover to Digital TV. Amongst other things he advises that the date of the next public meeting about the Whitehaven TV area switchover will be early next year. This can be read as a comment on an earlier post but I thought the message from John Askew important enough to put up as a post in it's own right so here is what John had to say: "Thanks Chris, for a useful report on the switchover to digital tv. Two small points: Firstly, viewers who receive signals directly from the Caldbeck main transmitter (and not via a relay) can switch to digital tv through the aerial (Freeview)now if they wish as Caldbeck already carries digital signals. The Bleach Green (Parton) and St Bees relay transmitters cannot be switched over early as they rely directly on the Caldbeck transmitter which is being replaced as part of the programme. They will be switched over to digital when the new Ca

How Journalists steal confidential information

In these days of over-mighty government, we need a strong free press which can hold parliament, whitehall, big companies, and councils to account. What we do not need is to add intrusive snooping into people's private lives by journalists to what we already have from the state. If an MP or government minister is shutting my local hospital, wasting money which comes from my taxes, giving contracts preferentially to companies which give money to Labour party funds, or otherwise misusing his position, I want to know about it. But his private life is another matter entirely - if he's cheating on his wife that is her business, but not mine. I'm most grateful to Iain Dale's diary for drawing my attention to a story which should have been in the national newspapers but has not. With the honorable exception of the Daily Telegraph website they appear to have ignored it. Perhaps, since one or two national papers come very badly out of the report, this was too close to home. Earli

Jedi Jamie apologises for his speech

Jamie Reed has apologised for his speech at the "Save Our Services" march on Saturday, but only for taking too long (seventeen minutes, apparently.) However, if he imagines that the length of his speech was the main reason it went down badly, he is still not on the right page. Almost all the letters about the Save our Services march in today's Whitehaven News expressed criticism or disagreement with our MP's speech, as did the Leader column, and the opinion piece from former local health manager Brian Early. (My letter was probably the mildest). None of the letter writers made particular reference to the length of the speech. Examples of the comments were "It is sad that the local MP is still at the "puppy walking" stage of his career and that he had to deliver an approved Labour party diatribe ... " "It is great that our local newspaper is in touch with the community on major issues such as this and just a shame that the local MP is not.&quo

Blair questioned by police

Tony Blair has been interviewed for two hours by police investigating the so-called "Cash for Peerages" scandal. He was not cautioned and did not have a lawyer present. However, this is believed to be the first time that a serving Prime Minster has been interviewed by the police as part of an inquiry into suspected criminal activity.

"Support West Cumbria's Hospital Services" blog set up

From now on I will be running two blogs: this one with the simple title of "Chris Whiteside's Blog" and a second with the title "Support West Cumbria's Hospital Services" I am setting up a separate blog on health issues for two reasons. First, with the threat to hospital services in West Cumbria posed by the "Whole Systems Review" which the local NHS trusts in North and West Cumbria are conducting, support for our hospital services is such a critical issue that it deserves special attention. Second, the health issue is far more important than party politics and it is one where the whole community must stand together. The "Support West Cumbria's Hospital Services" blog will concentrate entirely on campaigning to defend our services in a non-partisan manner, and I will seek to keep party-political comments to an absolute minimum on that site. However, for democracy to work there has to be debate, and there are some instances when polit

Are "Friends of the "Earth" starting to wise up ?

Due to a clash of dates yesterday I was unable to attend a conference for Conservative candidates - I thought it was even more important to attend the "Save Our Services" march to defend local hospitals in West Cumbria. However, I am intrigued to learn from the "Conservative Home" website that Friends of the Earth may at long last be softening their opposition to Nuclear Power. According to the Conservative Home report on the conference, "Tony Juniper of Friends of the Earth admitted that nuclear power was an option even if it wasn't FotE's favoured option." This comes a few months after the FoE demonstration at the Drax coal fires power station which is of course Britain's largest emitter of carbon into the atmosphere. It is beginning to look like the debate on this complex subject is going to become more grown-up and less simplistic, which has to be welcome.

5000 people march to defend West Cumbria's hospitals

The "Save Our Services" march was a massive success: it was initially estimated by the police that about 4,000 people attended to support local hospitals. That was the figure was quoted in the rally at the end, and it seems to be the number which has gone into community memory as the attendance. However, the police subsequently revised their estimate upward to about 5,000. The march had support throughout the community from Conservative and Labour politicians to Help the Aged, from Trade Unions in the NHS and at Sellafield to the Rugby Club, the motorcycle club, and everyone you could imagine. People also came from throughout West Cumbria: I recognised people at the march from St Bees to Lamplugh and from Whitehaven through Egremont, Seascale and down to Millom, and I know there were representatives present from local communities in just about every other part of West Cumbria. All of them came to send the Strategic Health Authority and Patricia Hewitt the message that we want

Save our hospital march today - 10.00

Assembly point Castle Park at 9.45 this morning.

Save Our Services - three days to go

The "Save Our Services" march to defend local hospitals in West Cumbria is in three day's time in Whitehaven. Assemble at Castle Park by 9.45 am to move off at 10 O'clock on Saturday 9th December. I hope this march will get the strongest possible support. Tony Blair made a speech yesterday suggesting that the country needs fewer, bigger hospitals as centres of excellence to save lives. In cities and other densely populated areas this argument may not be as daft as it sounds (though it is certainly going down like a lead balloon in Central Hertfordshire where I am serving out my last few months as a councillor.) However, in rural areas like Cumbria where the towns and villages are a long way apart and have mountains and poor roads and public transport between them, this will cause more people to die because of the long journeys to and between hospitals. We need to send the strongest possible message to the Strategic Health Authority and the department of health that th

Save Our Services march - One week to go !

The "Save Our Services" march to support local hospital services in West Cumbria takes place one week from today (on Saturday 9th December). Anyone wishing to show their support for services at the West Cumberland Hospital in Whitehaven, for Millom Community Hospital, for Keswick Hospital and for other services in West Cumbria should assemble at Castle Park in Whitehaven at 9.45 on Saturday. The march moves off at 10.00 am. The march was called by the Whitehaven News newspaper but also has support from both the local Conservative and Labour parties, from the health service unions, and from people right across the community. We need to send a message to the Strategic Health Authority that the entire community in West Cumbria, is united to demand our fare share of the enormous amounts of money which is going into the National Health Service. An area like this one, where there are substantial distances over bad roads between communities, and which contains important national fac

Digital TV - what's happening to the next public meeting ?

The so called "Whitehaven" TV area - which actually covers most of Copeland - is the first part of the UK to switch to Digital TV. Switchover for this area, which will include turning off the existing Analogue signal, has been brought forward to October 2007. From that date, anyone who gets their TV signal from the Bigrigg arial, or the Gosforth and Eskdale "Self Help" transmitters which repeat the Bigrigg signal, will need a set-top box for each pre-digital TV they wish to use. These cost about £25. Anyone who wants to record one channel while watching another would be well advised to buy a digital recorder. Anyone reading this in the rest of the UK: the same issues which are imminent in Copeland now will still affect you within the next few years when the change reaches your area. Some parts of Copeland around Parton and St Bees are covered by their own transmitters which will not switchover until 2008. Official publicity so far has given the impression that the

Labour Headline competition - the results

A few weeks ago there was a newspaper headline, "Iraq war could be judged a disaster, Beckett admits." I challenged anyone who wanted to take part in a little competition to submit similar headlines consisting of a statement of the blindingly obvious with an appropriate Labour minister or former minister admitting that things could be seen that way. I promised a prize for the funniest suggested headline sent to me by the deadline, which was extended to 30th November. Surpisingly nobody sent me the same headline with "Blair" instead of Beckett - perhaps after appearing to admit that Iraq had been a disaster in his interview with Sir David Frost, Blair then described it as a slip of the tongue. Anyway, here is a combined list of the entries I received and of the suggested examples ... "Taxing pension funds by an extra £5 billion a year could be judged to have left them with less money, Brown admits." "Claiming that your communications officer has resign

The Dawkins Delusion

Professor Richard Dawkins is brilliant at explaining biology in a way which many people can understand. However, his objection to religion sometimes verges on the unhinged. Ironically, both his recent book, "The God Delusion" and his plans, if correctly reported in the press, to send rationalist material to schools, are open to exactly the same charge which he has brought with some justice against the supporters of so-called "Creation Science" and those who want "Intelligent Design" taught in schools. From now on, I shall use the expression "The Dawkins Delusion" to refer to the fallacy that science can either prove or indeed disprove the existence of God. Science is a means of testing how the physical world works. It is a very effective method, and nobody who is interested in the truth has anything to fear from it. The scientific method consists of putting forward a hypothesis which is capable of being tested and disproved by real world evidence

Comments policy restated

Anyone with a presence on the internet which allows comments or response eventually has problems with SPAM, or with silly or offensive posts. The vast majority of posts on this blog have been interesting and welcome. That includes posts expressing views which differ from mine. I am grateful to anyone who posts interesting opinions on this site, whether right-wing or left wing and regardless of whether I agree with them, provided they are reasonably polite. I would prefer that you use your real name but anonymous posts will not be deleted as long as they are polite and constructive. However, I have had a small number of comments posted on this blog from people who have nothing better to do with their time than to put up anonymous insults. I do have better things to do with my time than read rude remarks from people who have nothing constructive to say and don't have the guts to sign their own name. This blog is here to publish and promote debate on views which I consider useful and