Quote of the week

Life isn't about finding yourself, it is about creating yourself'

George Bernard Shaw
If you cannot mould yourself entirely as you would wish, how can you expect other people to be entirely to your liking?
Read more at: http://www.brainyquote.com/quotes/keywords/wish.html

Sunday, February 28, 2016

The first Vertas Employee Awards Evening.

 To Milsoms Hangar in Kesgrave on Friday evening to participate in the first Vertas Employee Awards Evening.

It was great to see the County Council owned but wholly independently run company staging its own Oscar-type ceremony. The aim was to reward those employees who had shown outstanding performance over the past year. The awards were all sponsored by supplier companies, to whom many thanks are due.  A raffle was held which raised funds for Vertas's charity of the year, the East Anglian Air Ambulance.

Most of the councillors from the Shareholder Group and at least one of the non executive directors were able to be present,  and everyone scrubbed up very well.  The evening was tremendously well organised by Katie and Lloyd, and if you closed your eyes you could almost imagine yourself in Beverley Hills!

Short videos were shown of all the award nominees who could be seen hard at work delivering an excellent product for Vertas's customers.  The company is going from strength to strength, and with such dedicated employees it is not hard to see why.

Vertas specialised in multi-service facilities management.  To learn more about the company's activities go to the website here.

Here I am presenting the award for 'going the extra mile'  to Mahani Abdool.

Satellite dishes on historic buildings....more broadband blues

Satellite dish spotted on the Tower of London in 2013.  But should they have sought listed building consent?  

At the time of writing there is no further news about the roll out of high speed broadband in Suffolk after September 2016.

Regular readers of the blog will know that the hold up is because of complex procurement issues raised by the EU.  These stem from the fact that our main provider British Telecom is not a state owned entity (if it were it would be exempt from the rules.)  This is a national issue and not confined to Suffolk.

I understand that there are some signs of movement but councillors have as yet have heard nothing concrete.

In the meantime an issue been raised with me by Brettenham Parish Council with regard to the offer of a satellite link for those in remote areas who cannot achieve a speed of more than 2 mps.   It seems that owing to planning constraints, if you live in a historic listed building, you cannot mount a dish on your home.   Often the equipment can be sited in the garden instead, but listed building consent (which in my experience is by no means guaranteed) is necessary if you have to attach it to the building itself.

Officers tell me that they have been in discussion with the Districts on this matter, but I do not get the impression than much progress has been made in reaching any accommodation.

The Remote Broadband Group, of which I am a member, hopes to address this issue at their next meeting.  We have asked that an officer from the Districts comes to give some firm guidance.  I have asked for this meeting to be brought forward promptly, and will update readers when I can.

Tuesday, February 23, 2016

Eating for Europe

Dinner at the EU, not a simple affair.

Some years ago when I was still working in the City I accompanied one of our US analysts on a visit to a French manufacturing company in Grenoble.  He was a lovely person and very highly regarded in his field.  Not unusually for an American he had to obtain a passport to come to Europe for the trip, having only previously travelled out of the U.S. many years before.

On arrival at the plant we immediately embarked on a long lunch.  After several hours he passed a note to me. The note read:-
‘When does the meeting begin?’
I sent a note back;
‘This is the meeting!’

I was reminded of this experience last Friday when reading the live tweets and blogs coming out of Brussels as David Cameron clawed his way towards his ‘agreement’ with other EU leaders. It really does seem that nothing can happen in Continental Europe unless accompanied by a lot of eating! In fact it is rare for EU leaders to meet in circumstances that do not include lavish gastronomy.

In the course of Friday we were treated to comments about a postponed ‘English Breakfast’, which turned into an ‘English Lunch’ and then an ‘English Tea’.   As the tension rose and agreement proved elusive the 'Dinner hour' was postponed several times.  There was a suspicion that Leaders were being deliberately kept from their fodder. David Grossman commented;   ‘Tusk is keeping EU Leaders bored and hungry until they agree’.

But at last it seemed that there was light at the end of the tunnel for the famished group. Isabel Hardman from the Spectator tweeted ‘Excited huddle taking place.  We may actually get news shortly, and not just about food!’

The next day, as an exhausted and, presumably, well fed Cameron called his Cabinet Meeting,  foodie metaphors were everywhere in the press.  Some of these reflected some scepticism about the true nourishment inherent in the deal.  The Leader in the Telegraph was headed ‘Thin Gruel’, and the elsewhere we read that ‘From the land of chocolate David Cameron was always destined to bring back fudge’.

Friday, February 19, 2016

Red Lodge By Election

 Congratulations to Robin Millar, pictured here with Councillor Sarah Stamp from Bury St Edmunds, on winning the  County Council by-election in Red Lodge near Newmarket.  Robin was 150 votes ahead of the next candidate.  The seat came vacant as a result of the resignation of Lisa Chambers who has moved on to pastures new.  Robin is a Forest Heath District Councillor, and I have worked with him on the West Suffolk Community Safety Partnership of which he is Chairman.  I am now looking forward to working with him once again.

I went over to the Division last week to deliver a few leaflets and enjoyed the time I spent in and around Newmarket.  It was lovely to see the horses setting out for the gallops, walking in single file along the roads of the town and disappearing up the hill in the morning mist.

I was dispatched to do some delivering in the very pretty village of Dalham, pictured below.

Although home to only around 150 adults, the village contains some 50 listed buildings. It is spread along a picturesque waterway which wends its way between the houses.  Of particular interest in the village is a Victorian malting kiln.  These used to be ubiquitous in Suffolk but now only two survive.  The village also has an attractive church that dates from the 14th Century and a fine 18th Century Hall which is one story smaller than it was due to a fire in the 1950's.  It was once owned by the Rhodes family, which, of course, has been in the news recently.   The village has an interesting website, here and I certainly hope to return to take another look at Dalham when not being required to deliver envelopes!

Victorian malting kiln

Tuesday, February 16, 2016

Chilton Woods, the impact on Acton and points north, discussed.

Yesterday evening Acton Parish Council considered its response to the Chilton Woods planning application that was recently lodged at Babergh District Council. In addition to the councillors some 13 residents of Acton went along to the meeting.

None of the proposed development actually falls into the parish of Acton, although the village lies immediately to the north of the site.  Not altogether surprisingly therefore the principle discussion at the meeting was around the impact of traffic on the area.

Even though the site is planned so that traffic is encouraged to travel east/west rather than north/south, it is certain that some vehicles will seek to drive to and from the north.   Travelling north from the site will bring them to the T junction in front of the Crown pub in Acton, which is a difficult spot even now, and where there is very little scope for road widening.  Alternatively drivers may well decide to cut down to the by-pass through Newmans Green, where the road is only single track and is already damaged by cars seeking to pass one another. 

Currently the plans are very unclear as to what is going to happen at the point that Acton Lane leaves the site to the north.  Road closure is a possibility, but the expectation is that this will not happen.  At present the problems this might cause do not seem to have been properly thought through.

Another issue is that of the impact of the development on Acton School (and indeed on other schools in the area).   It seems that until 500 of the houses have been completed there is no intention to build a new school at Chilton Woods.  It is understood that children will be accommodated by the erection of temporary classrooms at nearby schools.  This is all very well, but I do wonder if this is as easy as it sounds, particularly given the fact that Chilton Woods is not the only new housing proposed in the area.

There has been a good deal of criticism about the sheer size of the application….there are apparently some 154 separate documents available to view on the Babergh website.   The paperwork is however reasonably well indexed, and we did not have too much trouble finding what we needed.
However, the Sudbury Society has produced a short guide to the application and I have an electronic copy.   If anyone would like one please let me know.

Wednesday, February 10, 2016

The Blue Page

 A week or so ago I was asked by the East Anglian Daily Times to comment on the recent sale by Sotheby’s of a Gainsborough portrait , known as The Blue Page, which was being sold at Sotheby's by the estate of the late  American collector A. Alfred Taubman. The painting was sold for £2.26m, within its estimate, but far short of the record for a Gainsborough of £6.5m which was set in 2011 for his portrait of Miss Read.

I was unable to say anything very profound about the work, other than the fact that it is always of interest to Gainsborough’s House to see the Sudbury painter’s genius internationally recognised once again.   What more can one say from the perspective of Sudbury about a painting which is sold from one private collection only to disappear into another after a brief moment in the public eye?  It is to be hoped that the Blue Page does see the light of day again at some stage,  although the last time the picture was seen on public view was in Detroit in 1990 and it was last exhibited in the UK in the 1970’s.

The painting was once thought to be a sketch for The Blue Boy, but it is now believed to have been painted a year or so later.  It dates from Gainsborough's Bath period, and is a portrait of his nephew, Edward Richard Gardiner.    Edward’s mother, Susanna Gardiner, was Gainsborough’s youngest sister, who married a Mr. Gardiner and moved to Bath.  She was a milliner.  Gainsborough also painted a picture of Edward’s sister, another Susanna, which is owned by the Mellon Centre for British Art in Yale (see below).

The picture is an attractive one and it is not surprising it fetched a good price.  Like the Blue Boy, young Edward is dressed up in Van Dyke style aristocratic clothes, despite the fact that the sitters for both works were actually from the merchant/artisan class.  Once again the clothing is a nice shade of blue, a little lighter on this occasion, reminding us of Gainsborough’s propensity to ignore his old rival Sir Joshua Reynolds's strictures against ‘cold colours’ .   

The Blue Boy was of course painted specifically for an early Royal Academy exhibition.  There is no record of the Blue Page making a similar appearance in Gainsborough’s life time, and the work was probably executed simply as a family portrait. The first recorded owner was the Fourth Earl of Egremont,  who was 3 years old at the time of Gainsborough’s death, so presumably the portrait remained in the family for some years after its creation sometime in the 1760’s.

Edward's sister, Susanna

Saturday, February 6, 2016

Revised opening hours proposed for Suffolk Recycling Centres.

Last year Suffolk Waste carried out a customer survey which suggested that residents would like to see sites open for longer at the busiest times.  They are therefore reviewing opening hours at all Suffolk Recycling Centres. 

It is proposed that opening hours should be extended on Sundays and Bank Holidays,  and also that sites stay open for longer one day a week during the summer (from March to October).   In order to do this without adding to service costs, they are considering closing the Recycling Centres for one day during the week. This is likely to be on the quietest day which is a Wednesday.

Views are sought on these proposals from all who use the Recycling Centres.

Please click here to complete the survey.