Sunday, 30 December 2007

Fun at the Panto

I am not ashamed to say it - tonight I had a GREAT time at the Panto! I went with the girls from the under 10 football team I help coach to the Central Chatham Theatre to watch Snow White and the Seven Dwarfs as a Christmas treat from the Club. I haven't been to the Panto since I was 10 myself and think I have sorely missed out as a result. The cast included Boyzone's Shane Lynch (not my cup of tea but others around me seemed to emit a high pitched scream every time he walked on stage) and Three Degrees star Shelia Ferguson. But the indisputable star of the show was Muddles, played by Paul Birling, who by all accounts appears to be a regular on the Chatham pantomime scene, and he had everyone doubled up in stitches, regardless of their age, with impressions galore and ridiculously funny panto jokes. The girls enjoyed it, the mums and dads enjoyed it, and I enjoyed it - my hands hurt from clapping so much! The Panto is on until next Sunday so if you want a couple of hours of entertainment go see it. PS - you don't need kids to go: the front two rows of the theatre were taken up by adults!!

Monday, 24 December 2007

Merry Christmas

As I get ready to sign off for a few days rest with my family and loved ones, I would like to take this opportunity to wish everyone a happy and peaceful Christmas.

Thursday, 20 December 2007

Disappointing news on future of Maidstone A&E

BBC News is reporting tonight that the Health Secretary Alan Johnson has agreed in principle plans to downgrade Maidstone A&E despite massive local opposition and the rejection of the proposal by Kent County Council's NHS Scrutiny Committee.

It is quite clear that the Labour Health Secretary has not listened to people's concerns; obviously doesn't understand the local geography enough to appreciate that moving blue light trauma to Tunbridge Wells may well endanger lives rather than save them; and is clearly more intent on saving money and meeting targets rather than patient welfare.

Locals will feel desperately let down by the Health Secretary's decision, and their local MP who has supported this ridiculous re-organisation.

Tuesday, 18 December 2007

BBC sees sense on Pogues song

BBC Radio 1 has backed down after a furore erupted over its decision to censor the Pogues' Fairytale of New York, undoubtedly one of the best Christmas songs ever, because "some members of the audience might find it offensive". I find most things played on Radio 1 not to my taste (more of a Radio 2, 3, 4 and 5 girl myself) but this really was political correctness gone mad. This decision was even more ludicrous given that Radio 2 were playing the unedited version! Thankfully someone at the top of the Christmas tree saw good sense and those who do listen to Radio 1 can now hear the song in all its 20-year-old glory. Of course after all this publicity, I bet the odds on the Pogues being number 1 have shortened!!

Christmas is taxing!

This time of year always brings out the best of the "festive" press releases and today the Tax Payers' Alliance (TPA) have published research which shows that British families will pay an average £225 in tax this Christmas as a result of their festive spending, which overall is expected to exceed £5.65bn.

The TPA have produced an excellent table which shows that if you were lucky enough to get hold of the much wanted Nintendo Wii, your efforts will result in a £27 contribution to the Treasury's black hole. The Apple iphone will result in a whopping £161 gift to the taxman, whereas the family tin of Quality Street (even minus the purple ones cunningly extracted by me) will see a charge of £1.40.

The full release can be read HERE.

Sunday, 16 December 2007

A waste of taxpayers' money

I have spent the morning catching up on some reading and have just read a fascinating article by Leo McKinstry in a recent Spectator which sums up everything that is wrong with Regional Development Agencies. They are a complete waste of money, unelected, largely unaccountable and Conservatives have always pledged to scrap them. Read THIS about our own South East of England Development Agency and decide for yourself if you think the money could be better spent elsewhere!

ps - the £51,000 Mr Braithwaite spent on taxis would probably cover the deficit for backdated police pay in the whole of Kent!

Friday, 14 December 2007

The picture Brown didn't want us to see


Yesterday, Gordon Brown missed the official signing of the EU Treaty officially because of a "diary clash", but more likely because he didn't want to be seen by the British public to be signing away our veto on European matters. Unfortunately instead of being snapped alongside his EU counterparts, he was caught on camera signing over powers to Brussels in a room by himself later on. The Government has tried to downplay the significance of the EU Treaty but as I have highlighted before on this blog, it is quite clearly the Constitution in all but name. The Prime Minister has refused thus far to allow British people to have a referendum on the Treaty - probably because he knows he'll lose it. You can join the cross-party campaign for a referendum by signing the petition HERE.

A feast at the Robin Hood

Last night a small group of us had Christmas dinner at the wonderful Robin Hood Pub in Bluebell Hill and it was amazing! They bought out a picture perfect bronzed turkey for us to carve ourselves along with a never ending supply of the usual trimmings. Adrian drew the short straw and donned on the chef's hat and apron to carve but allegedly the knife wasn't sharp enough (bad workman??) so it was whisked back into the kitchen for the Chef to do the honours. I left happy and very full and if you are looking for somewhere local to have Christmas dinner would definitely recommend a trip to the Robin Hood.



Sunday, 9 December 2007

Taste of Kent

In Sainsbury's today I was perusing the various British beers for sale and came across an "organic Whitstable ale". I am ashamed to say that I'd never heard of it before, despite further investigation finding that it is brewed in neighbouring Maidstone. Anyway, as part of my research I stumbled upon "The Taste of Kent Awards" (also helpfully highlighted in today's Kent on Sunday) and so as a huge fan of supporting local Kent produce (especially the local wines) I have now voted in this year's competition. You can too HERE.

Vexing news

A couple of stories in the papers this weekend have really vexed me. Firstly I think the decision not to back date the police's 2.5% pay rise to September is really disappointing - not least because it effectively means that their pay rise will amount to 1.9%. This was as a direct result of the Home Secretary ignoring recommendations by the Police Arbitration Board and as a consequence has left ordinary officers feeling betrayed and angry. Jan Berry, the Police Federation's chairman, and former Kent police officer, is an absolute first rate advocate of the police but I fear she has been badly let down by the Home Secretary on this issue, and now the Federation are considering how to react with possible unofficial strike action being an option. I very much hope that won't happen but at least two officers have told me how low morale is in the police force and this will just add to their despair. An excellent article in Kent on Sunday highlights the impact on Kent police officers.

Another story that has angered me is that pensioners who pick up their benefit through the Post Office on a Monday, Tuesday or Wednesday may not be able to pick up their pension before Christmas because the Government won't change the date to Friday 21st December. This means that pensioners will have only 3 hours on Christmas Eve to pick up their pension because of Post Office opening times over the Christmas week. Pensioner groups such as Help the Aged are deeply concerned that some will go without over Christmas because of this naive process driven approach. I hope common sense prevails.

Horse and Cart

For the first time ever, I have managed to sort out Christmas presents for my nephews and niece in good time. The Internet helped a lot but I had to pop into Toys R Us in Chatham to pick up a few more bits and pieces and found the most amazing gift for my little niece - a 3ft long lilac horse!!! I am sure she'll absolutely love it - and if she doesn't, I know her mummy will! It was a nightmare getting it from shelf to checkout to car but at least I provided some fellow shoppers with a reason to smile and pass comment. Goodness knows how I am going to wrap it. Thankfully I didn't break down on the way home - that really would have given the rescue serviceman something to smile about!





Saturday, 1 December 2007

COMPETITION: Football and Politics

An ex-colleague of mine, Tara Hamilton-Miller writes in her latest column in the New Statesman "Before the last general election there were only six professional football grounds in Conservative constituencies".

Annoyingly, this is one of my favourite quiz questions. I have even had the pleasure of supply the answer to Statto at a recent event! So I will send a bottle of champagne to the first person who can tell me the name of the six football clubs and their MPs. Send your answers to tracey@traceycrouch.co.uk

UPDATE:
We have a winner and the competition is now closed. Well done Alan for identifying that the grounds were: Barnet, Bournemouth, Macclesfield, Southend, Brentford and the one that everyone always forgets Nottingham Forest, which is in Ken Clarke's Rushcliffe constituency!