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…living up to its name

A little run

I’ll try and keep this short. Since leaving University 13 years a go I’ve been getting fatter. And generally not very healthy. It would be fair to say I started running to reduce the beer belly.

Getting the runkeeper app was a key development; my endeavours went from occasionally trotting aimlessly for a little while (then feeling very smug for the next month or so before doing it again) – to actually trying to improve times, distance and improve on routes taken. Stats and Maps. Pure crack.

I did a couple of runs (10k) in 2011, and a half marathon in early 2012. This felt good, and it followed my simple logic that the further I run the more beer belly is burnt off. The day after the 2012 Brighton Marathon I signed up for 2013. Stupid Boy.

It turns out a Marathon is more than just two half marathons. Once you’ve got used the to distance of a half marathon, you can pretty much do it as required.

Marathons are different. Unless you are a freak (or ‘athlete’ as some people call them) your body can not store enough energy (carbs, glycogen) for a whole marathon, even with carb loading before hand. This is what they call hitting the wall. Walking or resting will make no difference, like a battery, if you are out of energy your stuffed.

As I’ve trained for the marathon, I’ve noticed this a lot, things get tougher soon after 14 or 15 miles. Every step is painful, a slight change is step (a curb, twisting your head to see if it is clear to cross a road) is painful. Stopping is painful. Starting again is almost impossible.

With the bad weather this year I’ve done a number of long runs in the dark, cold, rain and – above all – wind. It’s oddly lonely, you can start running in rush hour and finish when people are going to bed. A number of times I’ve not reached my planned distance.

Most training plans suggest doing a few runs of about 20 miles up until two/three weeks before the marathon. This I have done, the last and furthest in particular was hard, I hit 20 miles some way from home but had to instantly stop, and then take tiny slow steps back to my flat (it was very cold, very wet, very windy, woe is me). How could I do 26 more?

Tomorrow I find out. I haven’t been perfect, I haven’t been out 6 times a week like many training plans suggest, and haven’t worked out the exact amount of carbs I should be eating each day or anything like that. And I’m afraid right up until the last week I was eating and (plenty) drinking.

I want to finish this. I have no idea how i will do. If I can do 4hour 40 mins I will be happy (for reference I can do a half marathon in under 2 hours). These last two weeks have been odd, I feel like I’ve lost all I could do two weeks a go, I’m pretty sure tomorrow I will run a few miles and then want to stop with a stitch.

If you fancy it, and only if you do, no pressure  please do sponsor me a small amount, everything if very much appreciated and I’ve found it very touching to see all the people who have done so so far.
http://uk.virginmoneygiving.com/ChrisKeene

Elected Police Commissioners

In 25 days time England and Wales will elect Police and Crime Commissioners for the first time.

Many are cynical that this will politicize high level decisions by the Police, which it will almost certainly will to some extent, but mostly people seem indifferent or simply unaware.

Me. I hoped that the candidates would not be politically aligned with parties, that we could judge them based on their policies and priorities, not because they are connected to the party we usually vote for. But this was always nothing but naive.

I think the way we split central and locally run services/government in England could be improved, so I approach all change with an open mind to see if it will improve this.  Too much centralised; local councils no more than under funded basic service providers with almost no power and at the whim of central Government control. Secondly, But there are key services which seem to slip through a democratic gap between the two, the Police and Health being examples.

Who do you hold to account for local Policing? What do you do if it is not up to scratch? Your local councillors? MP?

Sussex Police, my local police force, covers two geographical Counties (East Sussex and West Sussex), and three local authorities (East Sussex, West Sussex, Brighton and Hove City). It is overseen, until next month, by the Sussex Police Authority.

There is a weak link between my local councillor (who I obviously can vote for) and the Sussex Police Authority: There seems to be just one Brighton & Hove City Councillor on the SPA. He isn’t from my ward, so I do not directly elect anyone who oversees Sussex Police. I can ask my local councillors to raise an issue with our representative, or I could try contacting him directly, but I have no come back if he ignores me. I could write to my MP, but she has no real power, just soft power due to her status. There’s no direct line between people who I elect and those who oversee the Police Authority.

This may seem academic, but the general idea of democracy is that you have some power to elect those who are making decisions on your behalf. For what it is worth, I think the situation is worse with Health (the people who oversee your local Hospital are probably not even local elected officials, your council and MP have no say at all if your local hospital closes).

So, elected Police Commissioners do make the line of accountability very clear: the good folk of Sussex, including myself, elect a Sussex Police and Crime Commissioner. If they don’t do the things I want (or do the things I think they shouldn’t) then I have the right to not vote for them.

However it does obviously lead to the risk of politicalising the Police force and going for populist policies (which may sound great but may not actually lead to a safer environment).

It does seem quite rare, with only the USA being the obvious example of a country with something similar. For info, France, Sweden and Italy mostly have a national Police force (or several of them) rather than local Police forces, they do have small local forces but they have limited powers. Germany and Canada have State and Regional forces. Oh, and to add to the mix, we are getting a National Crime Agency soon as well – which will probably help with more complex crime, and potentially help the odd situation that the Metropolitan Police act both as the Police for London, and as a national force for serious incidents such as terrorism (even though Scotland proudly has a separate legal system and government, it was the Met who dealt with the car bomb at Glasgow Airport).

So, here are some links

  • Sussex Police and Crime Commissioner website
  • List of Candidates for Sussex
  • The Home Office have set up choosemyPCC website – which is light on information, and has some dubious pictures of ‘scary people’ doing bad things – including smashing the glass of a phone booth, which I feel I should inform younger readers this was something of an issue in the eighties, but perhaps shows (a) how in touch the Home Office are (b) the sort of things they want us to be worried about
  • police.uk has a nice site, which seems to have a similar feel to the new (and excellent) gov.uk. It provides stats and data for your area which is quite interesting, by selecting the map you can see pinpoints of specific crimes in your area.

Candidate Manifestos’ should be on the choosemyPCC site from the 26th October. I’m going to have a think about what’s important to me before then and then see how they compare.

UPDATE 6th November

The candidates statements can be read on the choosemypcc website

The Brighton Argus has a section on the election with more information

UPDATE 12th November 

First I want to mention a Radio 4 documentary which covers the Police. As I mention above some countries, such as France have one national Police force, where as other (and most) have local forces. The documentary covers that Scotland is moving to just one Police force, mostly to save back office costs and to save duplication in specialist services. It looks out reducing the number of Police forces in England too. Worth a listen if you are interested.

I also want to highlight this interview with four of the Sussex PCC candidates and this blog post, much better than mine about the Cambridge PCC.

Who am i going to vote for?

I said above that I was cynical of the political nature of these elections and therefore I am pleased to say, based on look through manifestos and aims:

I am going to vote for Ian Chisnall, an independent candidate for the Sussex PCC.

I like his independence, he has avoided simplistic media-friendly claims about bobbies on the beat and tackling young people in hoodies causing a nuisance. One of his priorities is “Abuse including Domestic Violence, Hate Crime & Trafficking” which I agree with, and another is “Anxiety, the fear of crime and support for Victims of Crime – Sussex is an area with low levels of crime but not all of us feel safe” I feel there is a disparity of between people’s perception of certain crimes and their actual levels and this is a useful acknowledgement of that. There’s no point in directing limited Police resources to issues which are more about perception than real crime. He seemed to approach this with a positive approach to Sussex Police, unlike some of the other ‘must drive efficiency and savings through’ that others are taking.

Of the others, the Godfrey Daniels – the Labour candidate – stood up well. He had experience and a pragmatic approach. The Lib Dem candidate had the most limited website and it didn’t really aspire. The Tory candidate, had business experience, presumably useful when dealing with budgets, but seemed to focus on rural and business crime, do the residents of Sussex really want the Police to priorities a theft from Primark over other things. I also found her pledge for a Special Police Constable in each village dubious, would we attract the right number, and calibre of person to act as a Special, and isn’t it just a form of unpaid intern.

Finally, I’d like to complain about the Home Office advertising campaign, which you can find here.  Look at the names: vandal, burglar, mugger. These all seem to focus on one area of crime, and I can’t help feeling that by advertising it in such a way, people will approach these elections thinking about them regarding this one area (without sounding flippant: street, common crime). No mention of domestic abuse, or dangerous driving, or serious fraud, or questions of liberty. To me these adverts set the frame of what these elections are about and therefore were advantageous to those who are standing for election and empathised such crimes. The Home Office should have been more broad in the advertising.

In any case, I urge you to vote this week, even if you disagree with the principle of these elections. And if you are in Sussex, and you don’t know who to vite for, I urge you to vote for independent candidate Ian Chisnall.

 

 

Brighton New England Quarter Photos

I don’t think we’re that good at recording the world we live in (photographs, sound) for future reference.

The first question that can arise from that is: is it important? I like to think yes without being able to provide particularly good reasons why.

In any case, I used to – and still – love to look at old photographs of the places I’ve lived and grew up in, found in local shops. museums and pubs.
Building which use to stand on New England Street
In was perhaps this that was the inspiration back in 2004 to take some photos of an area of Brighton that was about to the redeveloped. The area in question was next to the main station and contained various crumbling buildings from the last 150 years sticking out of the undergrowth.

It’s not just a bunch of buildings, both being knocked down and built, but a whole area where the characteristics are changing completely. For example, on the edge of the area is a Primary school, it used to be next to a busy main road and now – not be coincidence – next to a pedestrian area. They didn’t just pave the road, the whole area is different. Plus they would have had views of the Seven Dials area high up on a hill the other side of the station, now behind several different buildings. How can we show how this has changed for those who arrive in the future.

I’ve updated the ‘Brighton New England Quarter‘ pages, and added a new batch of photos.

It also has a new address (well two):

http://brightonnewengland.nostuff.org/

Nice and short: http://d.nostuff.org/

There’s now a Google map with some of the key buildings on it (something I can’t believe it lacked until now), and the latest files have been uploaded to flickr (now pro!) and a local ‘Gallery 2‘ installation. Gallery 2 ensures I have a duplicate copy on the web which I have full control of, though the Gallery software and Dreamhost webservers are not the quickest in the world (I note that Gallery 3, in beta, is a complete rewrite). I added descriptive metadata to both but need to try and find a way to reduce double keying (perhaps by adding some in to Iphoto 09, just purchased).

The pages are now in Drupal. I’ve been looking for something to run in Drupal for a while, and these are some of the last static text file html pages which were an ideal candidate. My reservation about moving anything in to a CMS is that it may restrict what I can do on a page, e.g. adding embedded media, javascript or php. So far this hasn’t been a problem.

Dreamhost offer two kinds of ‘One Click Install’. Advanced, the most common, where the software/db is installed in to your area, so your free to amend/add themes/break/etc as you please. Drupal is only offered as a ‘Easy’ One Click Install. It’s hosted for you, you have admin access but can’t access the physical install. This means no worry for upgrades, but means I can’t add modules or themes. Which may be frustrating in the future. I could of course install it myself on my own site (I have full shell access) though that sounds like effort.

So now I’ve got some photos from before they started (well, annoyingly some buildings had already been knocked down before), to being built, to current day. Some plots are still waiting to be built on, including the plot next to the station for a 5 star hotel (original plans were for a massive – ugly – skyscraper). I was never organised enough to ensure I was taking photos from the exact same locations over time, but have taken so many that there should be a good number where there will be good before/during/after shots.

So, if interested, do take a look at the site and photos. Hopefully nostuff.org will be around long enough to of use to show our the area used to be.

Brighton New England Quarter

A few years a go I created some new pages on the ‘New England Quater’, on the site of some old railway works next to Brighton station and near me. Originally the pages just had some photos of how the site looked before work started, and at various stages since (stupidly I normally took this late in the day as the sun was setting which produced poor photos), however at the time I couldn’t find any website providing general information on the project so provided some background and useful links. Since then there has been much more information put on to the web (and lot of information removed as well).

Anyway, I write this as I’ve noticed that the council have put out a report this year reviewing the current state of play, see the link ‘briefing note 2008’.

Newsagent wars

First of all, click on this (it may be Microsoft but it is more powerful than google maps, it pains me to write).

Very near to me there is a newsagent . I like this, in fact it is one of the reasons why I chose to live here. 20 seconds away is also a deli, off-licence, and video rental. Now there is also two hardware stores (serious DIY stores), a greasy spoon cafe and two bathroom stores within the same walking distance, but I don’t use those :)

I also have a couple of Indians, two chinese, a fish n chips, pizza/burger/kebab and various other misc stores (including Relate, a costume shop, two motorbike shops, a postcard shop(?), a alternative health shop… you get the picture!). The only things I lack is a decent restaurant and all day cafe.

Now, back to the point Chris, I mentioned a Newsagent, a medium sized one, fairly well stocked and open to 7 or 8pm (1 on the map). Further down the road is another one, run by a quiet Indian family, it’s small and in need to a good refurbishment (but you sense they have never done the level of business to do such things) (2 on the map). Open until 8 or 9pm. Opposite them is a post office selling similar sort of things, open during the day only.

And that was the way of the world. The key here is that though it is a busy road (it’s the A23), the traffic doesn’t really stop and the catchment area isn’t great. You basically want houses all around, 360 degress. There are basically no houses one side of the road (a couple of small streets) and while on the other side there is a large area of housing, the layout of roads means they will always pass a Newsagents before reaching the Preston road.

About a year a go a shop opened called Africmart. This was an odd shop, run by a guy who looks like a huge but friendly bouncer . The store sells some vegetables and fairly common food and also much which is obviously more common to those who are from Africa. He never seems busy but the shop seems like a good thing.

Then recently a new store opened just a few steps away from this shop and the small newsagent. It sells various international foods and also some bog standard stuff such as milk (and also some basic newsagent essentials).

It’s getting cosy, the small trade the newsagent would do is now being shared by these two new shops especially on the food side.

Now, another shop has just opened ‘top news’ a weird thing, a large sparse shop which seems to sell itself on traditional newsagent creditials (we sell newspapers, snacks, magazines, grociers etc) but looks to have a strong chinese slant. What were they thinking?! “hmm let’s open a newsagent” “where shall we put it in Brighton?” “why don’t we place it next to the three other places selling the same thing!”. They are advertising 24/7 opening (impressive and useful) but they are going to struggle to do business with so many selling basically the same thing next door.

Finally, this week, another new store has opened, this is again a food convience store, but also a strong slant on drink as well (a year a go I was worried by sole local off licence would shut when unwins went bust, now I have endless shops selling liquids to destroy my liver). The street with limited footfall, no parking and meters away from a main shopping street now has many shops all with a slightly different slant but basically overlaping.

As you may guess from my tone I feel a little sorry for the small old newsagent that is stuck in the middle. They never did a huge trade to start with, worked long hours, and this must be hurting. Every time I walk in either a young quiet chap or an oldish man is a cartakers coat with a very slight build stand behind a old tiny desk with a little till on it and I also feel rather bad for only buying some milk. I wish them good luck!

Brighton New council priorities

See this Argus article: New council leader spells out his party’s priorities, from the article:

  • Review Labour’s plans for a rapid transport bus system while re-examining the monorail project
  • Revisit the controversial school lottery scheme which has divided the city
  • Push for underground car parks in new developments to ensure extra homes do not add pressure to the already overstretched road network, and
  • Concentrate on delivering less congestion by removing build-outs while putting plans for a park and ride on the back burner.

OK. Council Tax, sounds good but what will need to be cut (unless we can find savings, or the increase in the number of homes brings about a big enough increase to sustain things).

Monorail, very little on the web, seems to be between Palace pier and Marina, the same route as the Volks railway, sounds fine, but hardly the saviour of city wide transport problems.

School lottery. No real view, I respect the council for making a tough decision and not being shy of a radical and new approach (which they must have known would get a bad press), it stops those with money buying a place at a good school then it is a step towards equality for all, though have no real problem with a new council wanting to review such a controversial decision.

‘Removing build-outs’? I’m presuming this means no more extensions to buildings, I’m not sure. And if so, not sure this is the answer to problems. He does say they are not anti-development nor anti-progress, which is good, but the proof is in the pudding. And it has been shown with the last council that strong planning controls and vision (albeit through specialist urban planning contractors) can lead to great regeneration of areas (such as the New England Quarter, Jubilee library area), I hope this continues, rather than just allowing the higher bidder to do what they want, as if often the case in so many towns.

My thoughts: We have a successful city with a great reputation (cultural, vibrant, alternative, anything-goes, party, arty, rich&poor) which we need to keep and build on, we need to redevelop key sites such as the marina, Brighton centre and King Alfred being ambitious, daring and original, and thinking about how these developments provide space and interconnect with adjacent areas. And we need to attract companies to set up base in the town, with some bias I suggest blue chip, web/tech companies are ideally suited to the city and attract those with a high disposal-able income, same is true for law and financial firms. Finally, if there is one negative aspect of Brighton, it can look dirty at times, and work needs to continue to clean it up.

Brighton and Hove local elections

The Tory’s have a majority, but not overall control. How? Look around you and play spot the tory voter. Sure there are quite a few well off people, but vastly out numbered by those who look ‘brighton-ish’, students and others who just don’t look like tory voters (of course, plenty of the well off, business types also vote labour, especially in Brighton). I just don’t walk around town and think that the majority of people I see are likely to vote tory (yes I know how stupid that sounds, can’t judge by looks).

Brighton local council elections : May 2007

I live in the Preston Park ward in Brighton for the May 2007 elections.

A couple of days a go I had received anything from any party so went for a look on the net.

What do I consider when deciding my vote?

  • Policies of the LOCAL party
  • My perception of their ability to run the council
  • Candidates of my ward (Preston Park)
  • Not as a protest vote or as a message to the national parties

My choice is Labour: They have done a good job in the last few years (though no party has overall control, they have the majority). I like the fact that the council has been progressive, the sucess of the Jubilee library as one of the first PPP projects to produce such an impressive building can not be over rated. In fact the whole area around the library has been handled well and created a pleasant area of town.

Likewise, plans for the marina (several of them), the King Alfred centre redevelopment, the Brighton centre and the New England Quarter near the station have all shown they are capable of allowing developments that are impressive, well thought out and radical. By this I mean they think of public spaces, impressive buildings and affordable housing where as other councils seem to just sell of the land to the first bidder often leading to nasty looking buildings and car-centric spaces. These developments help to ensure that Brighton stays as one of the most popular places in the south of England and attract new business and people to help boost the local economy. I was also slightly proud that Brighton was the first to make radical changes to it’s school admisions policy. Love it or hate it (seems fair to me), I liked the fact we took the lead! Though I was not impressed by the dirty tatics Labour used to get it through.

People are often cynical of election material, as promises that are never met (the same is true with the Divid Cameron’s annoucements!), but i find it important as it sets the general direction that a party would head in.

The Conservatives have not put anything through my door or seem to have an up to date website (odd as Brighton is not a lost cause for them so why are they not bothering?). I can’t comment on their policies though I would worry about them giving in to NIMBYs when it came to ambitious plans, opting for safe (read boring) options for new developments and being impressed more by big cheques when deciding on new developments, rather than the right mix of social spaces and affordable housing.

The Greens are more impressive this time around compared to the last. They have some good ideas, they say that “We support the principle of liberalisation of licensing hours” in regard to later opening hours for pubs, but would inform local resisdents of new applications (presumably more so than the current requirements), this seems sensible.

They talk about animal rights, I’m pleased to see this sounds like sensible plans rather than extremist or uninformed, though they talk about animal experiements and the Universities, again, the talk is moderate, but could be a slippery slope to stronger action. My problem with the greens is that their ideas are often not pratical. One comment I read said they were against park and ride schemes (presumably because it still involves a car) perhaps forgetting that many people outside of Brighton do not live near a train station or bus stop.

Another example is the New England Quarter Development, this scheme is impressive, the Sainsburys is almost totally underground (including small car park) with flats built on top and lots of pedestrian space around it. But the Greens weren’t happy, a big nasty supermarket! Even though it is a trillion times better than the one it replaced (which I swear Sainsburys HQ forgot even existed), the old one being on a busy main road (London Road), small paths and – while at one point years a go was a major shopping road – is now basically full of pound shops, and other not very impressive odds and ends. The Greens had an issue with the supermaket moving a few hundred yards, in real live nothing can be done to save London Road and the old store was useless.

Finally theLib dems are okay but nothing special, and their plans on the website are more long term and natioon (replace the council tax) than others.

I know at the top I also said that I consider my actual candidates, which I wont mention here as I think this is long enough, annoyingly there is little on the websites and printed material to really draw any conclusions.

R.I.P F.I.P

FIP is basically the world’s best radio station. Fact. It plays a random mix of decent new music, jazz, classical, more cool music, with no adverts, or DJs, or anything except a news bulletin at the totally logical time of 50 minutes past the hour.

Oh and the news bulletin is in French (language of inferior foreign types). But that maybe due to it being a French station. But we could pick it up in Brighton. We don’t want to get too technical about it but it had something to do with the sea being very flat between France and Brighton. or something.

It grew a large cult (is that possible?) status and I listened to it quite a bit for the 5 years I’ve been here.

Then one day i pressed the little button on my hifi to listen to its crazy little mix, and all I got was the sound of static. French technology huh, well what would you expect but unreliable broadcasting, they were probably on strike. probably blocking the ports as well.

But the static continued. I had no choice, I turned to my friend to find out what was going on.

I found other lost souls like here and here.

But most of all I found out FIP in Brighton wasn’t totally down to the sea being flat between here and there, and more to do with a nice chap broadcasting it from his flat for the last few years. Someone not nice (you know, Hitler, Pol Pot, Genghis Khan, Diana, etc) told teacher, teacher shutdown the transmitter that made FIP come all the way across the big flat sea.

Now what are we meant to do, I’m just going to resort to CDs or listen to it online, or listen to radio 4. ahhh yes, nice radio 4. Can’t beat it. Oooh time for a nice cup of tea. (oh and some of those links back there describe it all far better than me and use the same oh-so-clever title)