Three things I don’t understand about the LibDem leadership election

Before I talk about the three things I don’t understand about the election, let me be clear that having a choice between Tim Farron and Norman Lamb is great, as they’re both excellent candidates. But Tim Farron wins my vote, due to the way that he has always chosen to engage constructively with party members and is continuing to do so through his campaign. It’s my belief that his ability and willingness to engage with everyone, while maintaining a consistently Liberal stance, is the best way to ensure that our message doesn’t get lost in the Labservative noise that will dominate the media agenda over the next few years.

Anyway, the three things I don’t understand:

  • It’s an election between two candidates. Much as I love preferential voting, the instructions on the ballot paper asking the candidates to be ranked numerically makes no sense. And even in the highly unlikely event of Tim and Norman tieing on first preferences, ¬†my reading of the AV guide issued by the electoral reform society suggests that the tie would be broken by drawing lots, rather than looking at the number of second preferences. Otherwise, your second preference could count against your first preference! But maybe someone with a deeper knowledge of the mechanics might be able to clarify this for me. (I also find it inconceivable that if someone marked their paper with a cross against a single candidate that it wouldn’t be counted).
  • The photographs on twitter of completed ballot papers. If you tell me you’ve voted for Tim or Norman, I’ll believe you. I really don’t need photographic proof that you can fill the ballot in correctly!
  • However, even more disturbing are the photographs of people posting the envelope. That really does seem odd, especially¬†as there must be a chance you’d drop your phone into the postbox with your ballot paper. I’m willing to bet that at least one of you may have got close to doing it …

British Celanese and the Queen’s visit to Spondon Station, 1957

The first four photographs of British Celanese come from the same roll of film as the ones showing the construction of the A52 at Willowcroft Road. This means that they will date from either 1956 or 1957, as the roll (and this post) finishes with three taken on the day of the Queen’s visit to Derby. It’s been suggested that the reason her train stopped at Spondon, rather than at Derby Midland, was to allow more people to witness her visit to the town.

British Celanese 1957A view from Celanese Road looking towards Holme Lane.
British Celanese 1957The view from Spondon station.
British Celanese 1957The main site entrance.
British Celanese 1957A view of the administration block. Spondon signal box can also be seen in the distance on the left hand side.

The Queen's visit to Derby, 1957The Queen’s visit to Spondon station, 1957.

The Queen's visit to Spondon, 1957It looks like security was relatively low-key!

The Queen's visit to Spondon, 1957The view from Station Road, with a small crowd gathered on the footbridge in front of the station.

This is not hello

In August last year I wrote a blog post for the University of Leicester with the title “This is not goodbye“. In it I talked about my initial lymphoma diagnosis (the post was written before I’d had the precise variant identified) and that I’d therefore decided to suspend my studies for a year to fight it off. It was also written about a week before my mother died, so given that my brother and I are still sorting out the estate, postponing the final year of my MSc was, in hindsight, an even better call.

My post also promised my Leicester readers that “I’d be back”, to paraphrase The Terminator.

Today, after some thought, I’ve written to the university asking to take up where I’d left off from – starting on 3rd July. As I haven’t fought the lymphoma off just yet, these aren’t quite the circumstances I’d imagined I’d be restarting in. But as my “watch and wait” checkup today has brought encouraging news, I’m now hopeful that I will have enough time to get the course completed before I do finally need “proper” treatment. At worst, I might be in the early stages of treatment towards the end of it.

So I’m about to become a distance learning student again – with all of the late nights and long weekends that brings. On the plus side, I only have 4 of the 13 assignments left to complete. However, as they account for over 2/3rds of the weighted marks, there’s definitely no time for slacking. At least I have a reasonably well thought out research question to submit with my dissertation proposal (I’ve been thinking of little else, academically speaking, for the last six months) – even though it’s going to require lots of effort. This is because the topic and the research question I’ve written lend themselves to a qualitative approach (and a discursive one at that). See what you did to me, DD307.

Even though I feel more daunted about the prospect of study than I have ever done since I first started this journey with the Open University’s Exploring Psychology module back on January 27th 2007 (I just checked the exact date on StudentHome – amazingly, I still have an OU login that works!), I’m looking forward to the challenge. I think. Please remind me that I wrote that as soon as I inevitably start whingeing about the workload and feeling tired again. It will be my own fault …

The PAFEC 10th anniversary brochure – August 1986

This is what a leading UK software company looked like 30 years ago. After thinking I’d lost this brochure for good, it eventually turned up at my late parent’s house while I was sorting through the last of bookshelves this afternoon. All six pages are available for download here (pdf).

PAFEC Employees 1986The photograph is from the back page and was taken on the lawn at Strelley Hall. It shows many of the 270 employees. I can remember quite a few of the people pictured (I’m in the background towards the left hand side), and it would be good to hear from you in the comments if you’re also featured in the picture. If anyone still happens to have the key to the people in the photograph (I remember it being displayed next to the copy of the picture hung by the staircase in the hall for many years), it would be even better to hear from you!

The symptoms of lymphoma and what to do if you have them

Around 55% of all lymphomas are found in men. The Lymphoma Association have published this helpful infographic as part of this year’s Mens Health Week, describing the main symptoms.

Lymphoma symptomsThere’s more information about these symptoms available here.

If you’re at all concerned, go and see your GP now – don’t wait! I’m glad that I didn’t put off going when I first noticed a small lump on my neck a year ago. My experience is that your GP will listen to your concerns and if they suspect lymphoma, will ensure that you are quickly checked out by specialists, so that you get the correct diagnosis and treatment.


Thank you to the PR and public affairs team at the Lymphoma Association for their kind permission to reproduce their infographic here. And if you’d like to make a donation towards their work, my wife’s fundraising page is still open!

We should let the Houses of Parliament fall gracefully into the Thames

News that it could take decades and several billion pounds of our money to restore the Houses of Parliament provides our country with a great opportunity – but I doubt that any of our leaders are bold enough to take it. My plan? Our politicians should hand over the site to English Heritage to be run as a tourist attraction. If it falls into the Thames in the process, so much the better. One of their more spectacular properties, Goodrich Castle (below), looks so much better in ruins today than it probably ever did when it was occupied.

Goodrich CastleA modern parliament could then be built on the partly cleared land (or perhaps on the site of the hideous QEII Conference Centre) at a fraction of the cost of restoring what is, by many impartial accounts and my own limited experience, a building totally unfit for its purpose. But of course, that would only make sense if you thought that our lawmakers had to be in London. They don’t, of course.

If our leaders were really smart, they’d move the whole machinery of government to the Midlands. It would have a positive impact on the political establishment and the civil service. The remaining citizens of London would benefit too, as such a move would ease the pressure on housing, office space, a creaking transport infrastructure (just think – we wouldn’t need a new runway at either Gatwick or Heathrow if we made better use of the Birmingham, Coventry and East Midlands Airports) and everything else that is in short supply, stupendously expensive or highly subsidised in the capital. And, of course, it would bring much-needed investment to the part of the country that is forever ignored by the metropolitan elites from the South and North of the UK.

Would anyone like to tell me why I’m wrong? Because you’ll need to have a far more convincing argument than any I’ve seen so far from the vested interests concerned to preserve the status quo.

The Cosford Air Show 2015 in five pictures

Last Sunday (June 14th) was day of the 2015 Cosford Air Show. These are five of my favourite photographs from around 1,200 or so (yes, I know) that I took.

1. Breitling Wing Walkers

The Brietling Wing WalkersI’m still staring at the pictures I took of this incredible display as slack-jawed as I was when I witnessed it. The pilots and walkers are either incredibly brave or have no sense of fear whatsoever …

2. RAF Falcons Parachute Display Team

RAF FalconsNo, it’s not the way the eight remaining Liberal Democrat MPs will decide who the next leader of the party will be, but a low-level (around 2,500 ft) jump and synchronised landing from a Cessna Caravan by the RAF’s finest.

3. Muscle Biplane

Muscle BiplaneYes, it really is flying at this rather strange angle, tail pointing towards the ground. Most of Rich Goodwin’s display was spent upside down and sideways – at least, when he wasn’t looping and stalling. I remain unconvinced that his aircraft can fly in a conventional manner at all.

4. The Red Arrows

The Red ArrowsIf I’d been around 1/100th of a second faster on the shutter there would be seven of them in this photograph. Low cloud hampered their display, but not their style. Their re-appearance later with two Spitfires and two Hurricanes from the Battle of Britain memorial flight was a poignant way to remember the 70th anniversary of VE day.

5. Avro Vulcan Bomber XH558

Avro Vulcan XH5582015 is the final year this aircraft will be able to fly, so there isn’t long left to see it in action, which is a real shame. It’s incredibly graceful to watch in flight and remains a sobering reminder of the Cold War era. Its 500 kiloton nuclear payload was some 25 times more powerful than the bomb that devastated Nagaski on 9th August 1945.

Charles Kennedy

I only met Charles Kennedy once. It was in 1986 at the Erewash SDP Christmas Party held in the (long gone) Co-operative banqueting suite in Long Eaton, where he was our guest speaker. The event is now so long ago that I don’t remember what he said, but I do remember the overwhelmingly positive impression his words made on me and the encouragement that I felt as the youngest member of the Erewash party executive at the time. I also remember Ted Gay, the Erewash party secretary, introducing Charles as a future leader of the SDP. Charles dismissed this idea with good humour, but I for one was absolutely convinced that at some point in the future he would be.

I may have joined the SDP as a student because of seeing David Owen speak at Warwick University, but it was Charles Kennedy’s influence that meant I became a member of the Social and Liberal Democrats after the 1988 merger, rather than throwing my lot in with the Continuing SDP. Jonathan Calder suggested that it was this, rather than his opposition to the Iraq War, that may have been the biggest service Charles performed for the Liberal Democrats. From a purely personal perspective, I’m definitely in agreement with this view.

From what I remember, I think that Charles took some time in formally declaring his support for the new party, but once he had, I knew that I had to follow. Up until that point, I’d been furiously hedging my bets. Somewhere, I still have the welcome pack I received from the Continuing SDP – as well as my founder member certificate for the Social and Liberal Democrats!

So like many, many others, the news that I heard at around 7am yesterday of Charles Kennedy’s untimely death came as a huge shock.

My prayers and thoughts are with his family and friends at this desperately sad time.

The construction of the A52 at Willowcroft Road, Spondon, 1956-57

A set of photographs taken and developed by my father (who lived less than 100 metres away from these works) in the winter of 1956-57.

The first picture shows the construction of the A52, which would eventually split Kirk Leys Avenue into two separate roads – North (on the left hand side of this image) and South.

View of Kirk Leys Avenue towards Borrowash during A52 construction

View of Kirk Leys Avenue towards Borrowash during construction of the A52

The second and third pictures show the bridge supports, ready for the carriageway to be built across Willowcroft Road.

A52 bridge under construction at Willowcroft Road. Taken from the south side.

A52 bridge under construction at Willowcroft Road. Taken from the south side.

View of the A52 bridge construction from thView of the A52 bridge being constructed, taken from the north side of Willowcroft Road

View of the A52 bridge being constructed, taken from the north side of Willowcroft Road.

Next are three pictures of the foundations and drainage of the carriageway being built, facing towards Derby.

View towards Derby from the route of the new A52

View towards Derby from the route of the new A52

View towards Derby from Kirk Leys Avenue (South)

View towards Derby from Kirk Leys Avenue (South)

View of the A52 construction works at the Willowcroft Road bridge

View of the A52 construction works at the Willowcroft Road bridge

Finally, a picture taken from the western side of the bridge, facing towards Derby. Spondon Methodist Church can be clearly seen on the right hand side of the frame.

View of the A52 construction works, towards Derby

View of the A52 construction works, towards Derby. Spondon Methodist Church can be seen on the right hand side.

If you enjoyed looking at these photographs, you might also be interested in these pictures of Spondon Garage, taken in 1952.

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