Archive | September, 2013

Bedford Borough Car Share Scheme!

26 Sep

Soon to be privatised! (sort of)

Soon to be privatised! (sort of)

Apparently the email system at Borough Hall has been down for the last few days causing chaos as people have been having to wait till they get home to their internet shopping!
This might explain why the Chief Exec didn’t get back to me on what some might see as the thorny subject of the offspring of current staff wangling their way into part time or temporary employment when other folk are getting their bye bye’s!
I’ve mentioned a manager at the council street cleansing before, her daughter (a serving Fire Officer) was short of dosh so she got temporary work with her Ma! Then a few weeks back I find out that her son (who doesn’t live in Bedford) had been taken on for summer work! Again with Ma as the boss!
Well blow me down if the manager at one of the Leisure Centres doesn’t end up in the embarrassing situation of having his son and daughter working there at the same time as two staff have been waved tarara!
Now I’ve whinged on before about such oddities, people announcing that they are the new whatever the post is before the jobs been advertised, people leaving then coming back into the same position they held before they pissed off!
But Phil Simpkins has told me that this is all OK, and I believe him. So the above is just pure fluke. It’s the only possible explanation, these people have applied good and proper and been lucky through their own character and not the fact that their mum or dads one of the managers. It’s a good incentive to car share if you and the kids work close by! Thing is it’s not good for staff morale as they tend to bitch about it. And they end up telling me all sorts of things.


The Wicker Man: Final Cut. Final Final Cut! No it really is!

26 Sep
I think I could turn and live with animals, they are so placid and self contained! (after Walt Whitman, Leaves of Grass)

I think I could turn and live with animals, they are so placid and self contained! (after Walt Whitman, Leaves of Grass)

Yes! Coming to cinema’s next week The Wicker Man: The Final Cut! Now when I read about this last week I thought the holy grail had been found, a much rumoured 40minutes of lost footage that was even more loster than the stuff that turned up 14 years after the film was released back in 1973.

But no! This final version clocks in at 94 minutes which sharp eyed fans may realise is actually 8 minutes shorter than the most recent version. From what I can gather this is version C which was cobbled together for the BBC back in the late 80s so there’s nothing new in there. In fact if I’m correct they’ve dropped the opening scenes of Sgt Howie on the mainland and just gone for him arriving on Summerisle in search of a missing girl.

What you do get is Christopher Lee in fine form as Lord Summerisle. This shot above comes from the original batch of lost footage which was thought buried near Pinewood studios with all the rest but a single copy had been sent to film US maestro Roger Cormon (Masque of the Red Death)  and was then used to produce the hybrid version. Are you still awake?

So if I do go and see it I won’t be surprised by any new material but at least it might be a clean print!

In which Debs goes to Birmingham

24 Sep
The back to backs before renovation!

The back to backs before renovation!

(Editors note: Problems with WordPress so I can only load one image. Stuff by Debs needs more than one but rather than wait for the problem to be sorted here’s her rather nice report!

Just to show that I’m not rooted in Bedford, I visit one of the last surviving courts of back to back houses in Britain, owned by the National Trust. Thinking of the National Trust often conjures up images of cream teas and tea towels. However, it is no longer all about the country house and recognising that the surroundings of ordinary people are just as important.
A back to back shared the back wall with the house behind, so that it was only one room deep and there were neighbours on three sides. From the street, a row of them looked like an ordinary terrace, but the narrow tunnel (or entry) gave it away. This provided access to the courtyard with its wash houses, privvies and rear dwellings. It was seen as housing as many people as possible in a small space as quickly and cheaply as was feasible, at a time of huge population growth and movement from rural to urban areas. The back to back was the home for the majority of the city-dwelling working classes of the midlands and north of England. They were often overcrowded, badly maintained and sanitation was poor. As a result, by the end of the slum clearances of the late 1960s they had become the rarest form of housing.
In 1966, Court 15 on the junction of Hurst Street and Inge Street in Birmingham had been declared unfit for human habitation and the residents were moved out. However, the bulldozer never arrived. What saved it was the businesses occupying the ground floor – as long as the block wasn’t being lived in, this was legal. Overlooked by developers, its rarity ensured Grade 11 listed status in 1988. Deteriorating fast, the Birmingham Conservation Trust stepped in to preserve it and in 2001 the back to backs came to national attention. The National Trust agreed to take over Court 15 when renovation was completed.
This is where Mr S comes in. Watching a programme called “The New Jerusalem” in 1996, Court 15 was shown – listed, but in a sorry state. He contacted the Production Company for further details, sped off in a taxi, and found himself clambering over piles of rubbish, treading in unmentionable substances and snagging his trousers in order to penetrate the courtyard to take photographs. As a result of his interest, he was invited to the opening in July 2004.
It tells the story of the court from 1802 when the first house was built, to 2002 when the last business moved out. Using census information, the three rear houses facing the courtyard are furnished in the way families would have lived in the 1840s, 1870s and 1930s. The last business (a tailor) has also been renovated, and there is a 1930s style corner sweet shop. Unlike other museums, you can’t just turn up – you have to book by telephone. This is because entry is by guided tour only with no more than eight people at a time. The first question you will be asked is if you have any mobility problems – on account of the stairs.
Arriving far too early, I chose some edibles from the sweet shop, entered the Visitor Centre, perused the objects for sale, paid for my ticket, bought the guide book and read it. Walking round, I peered down the entry and see knots of happy tourists milling about in the sun. What was I was expecting? – Maybe the ghost of the slum girl fixing the blocked pipe George Orwell saw from the train window in The Road to Wigan Pier. (Which you’ve all read, yes?)
After the health and safety speech, and a warning that anyone the height of an average man or above (i.e. me) would spend part of the time stooping; we enter the 1840s house. Expecting squalor and deprivation, we are all pleasantly surprised. In the early years, these houses were regarded as superior accommodation – three rooms, one on top of each other; the residents were much better housed than the cellar dwellers of Liverpool or Manchester. Yet water still had to be drawn from a well, the “Lady Well”; and the lavatory was of the earth closet variety. Satisfactory in villages, but a health hazard in densely populated areas where they could contaminate the water supply. There is a fireplace, but no range – any hot food was bought from a “cook shop”, the precursor of the take away. The house is wider than the others as it didn’t start off as a back to back, but as a through-house.
If it wasn’t tuberculosis or cholera that carried off the back to back dwellers I reckon it might have been the stairs. Too narrow for hand rails, we twisted our way up in the gloom, one hand hugging the wall and the other feeling for the grab handles on the other side that had been put in at a much later date.
Some improvements had arrived by the time of the 1870s house – a range for cooking in the fireplace and a standpipe in the courtyard. Yet earth closets were still being used and the overcrowding would have been unbearable to people today – the middle room had several children sharing one bed, with a flimsy curtain shielding the lodger and his girlfriend in another. Paraffin lamps are lit to add to the atmosphere, and the sash windows are flung open to assuage modern worries about fumes. Two wash houses served the eleven houses, and if it was raining when it was your turn to use it, tough – you had to hang the wet washing in the house instead of the courtyard. The house doors didn’t have locks (“nothing worth stealing”) but the four privy doors did – and woe betide you if you were caught using the wrong one.
Mains drainage arrived in the early twentieth century, so the privvies flushed; and the 1930s house had electricity and a sink with a cold water tap. Yet slum clearance had already started, council houses were being built and anyone who could get out did – people no longer needed to live within walking distance of work. The guide took great delight in pointing out red spots on the ceiling above the bed of the resident – blood stains where he had tried to kill bed bugs with the end of the broom handle. Another way of getting rid of bed bugs was to make the house very hot, which would drive them into the house next door. Next door would do the same, and they would be driven back again.
Slums or cosy little dwellings? Although regarded as superior back to backs, the walls were only one brick thick, they were ill-lit, poorly ventilated, verminous and damp, and the death rates were twice that of the suburbs. On the plus side, they were cheap and central. Back to back housing isn’t intrinsically wrong – their bad reputation was due to the haste at which they were thrown up at a time of a great housing shortage, lack of maintenance and cheap materials used. After the war, a lot of the residents were moved into the new, soon to be unpopular tower blocks. Tower blocks aren’t intrinsically wrong – their bad reputation was due to the haste at which they were thrown up at a time of great housing shortage….do you see a pattern emerging here? The three houses facing the street have been turned into holiday lets. Stick a bathroom in, only allow I or 2 people to stay there and the back to back becomes desirable. Similarly, I don’t think the well-heeled residents of the extremely tall tower blocks in the Barbican have suffered with any of the usual problems associated with high rise living.
By the way, the Visitor Centre does some cracking tea towels!

Did I Mention Downton Abbey?

23 Sep

I'll tell you about this pic some time soon!

I’ll tell you about this pic some time soon!

Crap weather, Downton Abbey again, Bedford Beer Festival looms, Christmas lights slowly being put up, the green algae on the river sinking, huge gangs of joggy people running round in yellow tops, sullen faces of people heading into work, grass growing but you can’t cut it due to the crap weather. Pissed up wasps ruining your apples before they die! People wearing hats suitable for Siberia. Seasonally Affective Disorder being discussed on Radio 4. Monday Affective Disorder not being discussed but it should be! Adverts for holidays you can’t afford during Poirot repeats. Did I mention Downton Abbey! Darkness creeping in, wake up and its dark, have your tea in the dark. Halloween stuff in the shops! Adverts for snow shovels and silly shoes! Clocks going back in a few weeks then its seriously grim till the daffodils start poking through. Christmas looming when even atheists end up spending a shedload on stuff. The Great Escape and ET were both on telly yesterday, normally shown on Boxing Day! News headlines, a four year old starved to death!
Pick the leaves up, ten minutes later they are back. Feeling guilty because the bird feeders are empty and there’s a sparrow hanging on looking distraught! Sunflower seeds £25.00 for a sack! Then they crap all over my bench! Early morning walk in the increasing dark with Wiz wearing a head lamp that hurts. Me that is, Wiz has a flashing collar! Rabbits with mixi and having to do what you have to do! Moving snails before they get squashed! People think I’m weird! I agree!
The gene that instructs us to leave work early kicks in. We all flood out at exactly the same time and bring the roads to a grinding halt. Get home and realise you forgot to go to the shops so it’s into the fridge on the off chance. A Narnia full of dangerously out of date packets. The busker in town looks like he’s close to tears, if I played that badly I suppose I’d cry. Trying to dodge the Big Issue lady as you’ve just spent your two quid on a bag of them little donuts! Normally you buy it but everytime she makes a hopeful bee line for you your skint! No I don’t want to join the RAC! What are you collecting for…Distressed Donkeys…go get a tenner from the machine…and get the Big Issue…no excuses now!
Some days I just can’t find anything to write about so I start with a blank sheet and this is what I end up with! Did I mention Downton Abbey?

What’s the Price of Plums?

22 Sep

Bit expensive!

Bit expensive!

Well, it could cost you your job apparently! One of Bedford Borough Council’s bin men ( a driver) has been suspended for two weeks for the dastardly crime of helping himself to two plums from someone elses tree. The new vehicles it seems contain mini CCTV systems and he, the miscreant thieving low life scum was filmed eating said purloined fruit.

You couldn’t make it up could you!

X Records of Bolton, it’s near the Market Hall!

21 Sep
X Record of Bolton, it's near the Market Hall!

X Record of Bolton, it’s near the Market Hall!

Hello all! First of all thanks to new readers X and X2 who met by chance last week and have spent the last few hours bringing us up to speed on what it’s like working for Bedford Borough Council. Grim!

I have a dilemma, ethical purchasing! I’ve got my headphones and I’m listening to The Orb (Little Fluffy Clouds). Earlier this week I emailed X Records up in Bolton, it’s near the market hall, they had two of The Orb’s early CDs in stock according to their website and I thought “I’ll support my favourite physical second hand record shop by buying them from their wonderful shop near Bolton’s shopping centre. I filled their Email form in on Monday which promised a reply within 48 hours! Fair enough..I hope they are busy. Five days reply. So I’ve just bought both CDs from Zoverstocks via Amazon for £14.00 less than I would have paid if X Records of Bolton had replied.

So why do I feel like a total shit! Maybe its just me and this is why traditional moochy record shops are a rarity. Higher priced because they have rents to pay, proper enthusiastic people there with wages to be paid and sadly an online shop that doesn’t work.

I’m £14.27 up on the deal and feeling like I’ve done the drty on them. So why’s my concience pricking me, I’m the fool, quite clearly as I’m becoming aware that doing the dirty on X Record of Bolton, which as I keep saying is near the Market Hall, everyone else is downloading from freebie webistes and Spottify  and I still like getting plastic cases and shiny discs recorded in an alien way. Probably because I’ll probably be in the actual shop somepoint soon as well. I don’t like internet shopping but I use it. Sparingly. But in this case a shop on street…called X Records of Bolton, it’s near the Market Hall seem not to want my custom!

So I’m not just going to bank the money, wait for the CDs to plop on the…I’m going to write to X Records of Bolton and politely ask why their website isn’t actually working for their business. Why they seem to all intents and porpoises (!) to want to push me elsewhere!

I don’t do much actual writing for Bedford Bypass these days but I shall let you all know what response I receive from X Records of Bolton, it’s near the market hall!

Hanging Around the Corn Exchange!

20 Sep

Bedford's Corn Exchange. It's seen better days!

Bedford’s Corn Exchange. It’s seen better days!

Like a mission behind enemy lines, me and Gill are waiting outside the Bedford Corn Exchange for two friends, our task is to get to them before they go in the Councils rather lacklustre and (from what we saw) very empty Café Thirteen.
Loz and Mr Cravat are attending a do in which four blokes pretend to be the Beatles. Welcome to Bedford. Its Loz’s birthday and while we are keen to share an after show drink the chances of me spending any money at Café Thirteen are as much as the original Beatles returning to Bedford!
The show finishes and true to form instead of the thinnish “crowd” coming out the main Corn Exchange front door they are shepherded down a very narrow set of stairs and through the councils piss poor badly painted Café which I assume is a very unsubtle way of trying to mug them out of their dosh!
I spot our two friends and am about to do an Kung Fu SAS style roll dive with a hint of Bruce Willis whilst shouting NOOOOOO! When it becomes apparent that they like most if not all the pretend Beatles audience didn’t want to give the council any more money preferring instead to spend it in one of any number of much better establishments!
So, mission accomplished we make the short distance to The Devonshire Arms (aka The Devvy) where we sit and chat safe in the knowledge that we are making our £12.00 per round count. As we drove past Café Thirteen I looked in, ten past ten and if there were people in there they seemed to be the staff, maybe I felt a twinge of sadness for them?
We missed Psychic Sally a week or two back but we’ve not heard of vast swathes of Bedford Cemetery marching into town! and well done to “Tim” for being the only person to point out that my comment about her being married to Jim Bowen was bollocks! Tim also pointed out that Jim wasn’t on 3-2-1 he was on Bullseye. Tim obviously doesn’t get the joke!


20 Sep

Does it remind you of anything?

Does it remind you of anything?

Lost for words! And if I could find them I wouldn’t be able to print them as I need to be deliberately vague!
The powers that be this week tried to make an employee with recognised learning difficulties redundant. This persons colleagues who are also facing that time honoured tradition of having to apply for their own jobs when the powers that be just trundle along literally barged into the office of Number One and vented their feelings about a very vulnerable employee being royally shafted and it looks like for once the small people were heard! What literally makes me grin in this case is that they didn’t go in guns blazing about the way they are being treated they went in for one person at the right time that this person needed them most! Top colleagues!
Can’t say more than that!
Mon Pierre!

“Skip” Hunter Does it Again!

20 Sep

Glorious warmth!

Glorious warmth!

Sure did! This little beauty is a Pifco infra red heater circa late 1960s. Coming complete with box and a little warrnty card its in perfect condition and after Sparky Marky gave it a once over we plugged it in and soaked in the radiant warmth! Always best to check rescued electrical products in case it’s a Bedford Council cunning plot to fry Bedford Bypass!

So where did it come from? Well my name’s Skip, Skip Hunter and I rescue things from waste skips and find good homes for them without recompense. Like a sort of Robin Hood!

This was thrown into a household waste skip and was due for squashing when one of my agents dubbed “the Skippy Gang” spotted it and using technique number 74(b) managed to get it out under the very nose of a CCTV camera and by seruptitious methods it was smuggled in my car and off down the lane without anyone knowing!

I’ll leave you to decide whether crushing something so ornate is a legitimate thing todo! But in the meantime have fun Skip Hunters…everywhere!

Bedford Boring Council

19 Sep

Trying to make sense of what exactly our council committees are there for is a Herculean trial of mental strength and deduction to equal any TV detective show. There’s something coming soon called the Standards Committee which given the state of one wobbly councillor I spotted near Oxfam should be a good source of laughs. It’s the first time this “council” year that they have met and I’m so excited. Don’t hold your hopes out, the last Standards meeting back in June lasted for 15 minutes. There were six councillors, two independent persons (presumably to keep check on the councillors) and a smattering of parish council folk! So given the usual set up 10 plus people trekked to Borough Hall and went home again quite soon!
Now I’ve looked back on previous meetings and the February one stretched to 45mins and the ones before that that weren’t cancelled managed to go over the hour but they spent the bulk of this time going over seriously mind numbing documents. The Independent Persons get £300 a year for their trouble and I’ve worked out that they can expect (on average) to put at most eight hours attendance in per year in so firing up the massive mega megabyte overdrive RAM Bedford Bypass computer that whirrs and has little blue strobe lights we have calculated that this works out err! (Debs…is it 300 divide 8 or the other way about, and you use a slash on Excel don’t you?)
The answer is £37 and 50pee per hour! £30+ quid more than the bin men get!