Friday, November 27, 2009

Poole axes real Christmas tree 'for safer fake one because of health and safety'

The Telegraph reports that the Dorset town of Poole has spent £14,000 on a health and safety-approved fake Christmas tree because real ones are a danger to the public.

Archie the Springer Spaniel breaks the beer mat catching world record on film!

Meet Archie, the incredible beer mat catching springer spaniel who belongs to Rick Yeo (of Rick Yeo Plumbing and Heating - tel: 07789 640966) who lives in Braunton in North Devon. He's been well-known for a long time for his special skill but after he broke his own world record the other day by catching nine beer mats at once he has become a youtube phenomenon. You can see the video of the world record breaking catch immediately below and then below that is an earlier attempt which gives you an idea as to quite how difficult this really is.






Wednesday, November 25, 2009

The Muppets do Bohemian Rhapsody



Hat-tip to Jon Rawlinson Productions

Porkies and living the dream

Just received this from Chris Preston at the excellent Adventures In Trim surf blog:

Dear Secretary of State [for the Environment],
My friend, who is in farming at the moment, recently received a cheque for £3,000 from the Rural Payments Agency for not rearing pigs.. I would now like to join the "not rearing pigs" business.
In your opinion, what is the best kind of farm not to rear pigs on, and which is the best breed of pigs not to rear? I want to be sure I approach this endeavour in keeping with all government policies, as dictated by the EU under the Common Agricultural Policy.
I would prefer not to rear bacon pigs, but if this is not the type you want not rearing, I will just as gladly not rear porkers. Are there any advantages in not rearing rare breeds such as Saddlebacks or Gloucester Old Spots, or are there too many people already not rearing these?
As I see it, the hardest part of this programme will be keeping an accurate record of how many pigs I haven't reared. Are there any Government or Local Authority courses on this?
My friend is very satisfied with this business. He has been rearing pigs for forty years or so, and the best he ever made on them was £1,422 in 1968. That is - until this year, when he received a cheque for not rearing any.
If I get £3,000 for not rearing 50 pigs, will I get £6,000 for not rearing 100? I plan to operate on a small scale at first, holding myself down to about 4,000 pigs not raised, which will mean about £240,000 for the first year. As I become more expert in not rearing pigs, I plan to be more ambitious, perhaps increasing to, say, 40,000 pigs not reared in my second year, for which I should expect about £2.4 million from your department. Incidentally, I wonder if I would be eligible to receive tradable carbon credits for all these pigs not producing harmful and polluting methane gases?
Another point: These pigs that I plan not to rear will not eat 2,000 tonnes of cereals. I understand that you also pay farmers for not growing crops. Will I qualify for payments for not growing cereals to not feed the pigs I don't rear?
I am al so considering the "not milking cows" business, so please send any information you have on that too. Please could you also include the current Defra advice on set aside fields? Can this be done on an e-commerce basis with virtual fields (of which I seem to have several thousand hectares)?
In view of the above you will realise that I will be totally unemployed, and will therefore qualify for unemployment benefits. I shall of course be voting for your party at the next general election.
Yours faithfully,
Nigel Johnson-Hill

Surf dog raises $10,000 for quadriplegic Patrick Ivison and 3 years of therapy

Tuesday, November 24, 2009

Life on Mars

Received this email recently: CONGRATULATIONS TO ALL MY FRIENDS AND FAMILY WHO WERE BORN IN THE 1950's, 60's, 70's and 80's ! First, we survived being born to mothers who smoked and/or drank while they carried us and lived in houses made of asbestos.. They took aspirin, ate blue cheese, raw egg products, loads of bacon and processed meat, tuna from a can, and didn't get tested for diabetes or cervical cancer. Then after that trauma, our baby cots were covered with bright coloured lead-based paints. We had no childproof lids on medicine bottles, doors or cabinets and when we rode our bikes, we had no helmets or shoes, not to mention, the risks we took hitchhiking. As children, we would ride in cars with no seat belts or air bags. We drank water from the garden hose and NOT from a bottle. Take away food was limited to fish and chips, no pizza shops, McDonalds, KFC, Subway or Nandos. Even though all the shops closed at 6.00pm and didn't open on the weekends, somehow we didn't starve to death! We shared one soft drink with four friends, from one bottle and NO ONE actually died from this. We could collect old drink bottles and cash them in at the corner store and buy Toffees, Gobstoppers, Bubble Gum and some bangers to blow up frogs with. We ate cupcakes, white bread and real butter and drank soft drinks with sugar in it, but we weren't overweight because...... WE WERE ALWAYS OUTSIDE PLAYING!! We would leave home in the morning and play all day, as long as we were back when the streetlights came on. No one was able to reach us all day. And we were O.K. We would spend hours building our go-carts out of old prams and then ride down the hill, only to find out we forgot the brakes. We built tree houses and dens and played in river beds with matchbox cars. We did not have Playstations, Nintendo Wii, X-boxes, no video games at all, no 999 channels on SKY, no video/dvd films, no mobile phones, no personal computers, no Internet or Internet chat rooms..........WE HAD FRIENDS and we went outside and found them. We fell out of trees, got cut, broke bones and teeth and there were no Lawsuits from these accidents. Only girls had pierced ears! We ate worms and mud pies made from dirt, and the worms did not live in us forever. You could only buy Easter Eggs and Hot Cross Buns at Easter time... We were given air guns and catapults for our 10th birthdays, We rode bikes or walked to a friend's house and knocked on the door or rang the bell, or just yelled for them! Mum didn't have to go to work to help dad make ends meet! RUGBY and CRICKET had tryouts and not everyone made the team. Those who didn't had to learn to deal with disappointment. Imagine that!! Getting into the team was based on MERIT Our teachers used to hit us with canes and gym shoes and bully's always ruled the playground at school. The idea of a parent bailing us out if we broke the law was unheard of. They actually sided with the law! Our parents didn't invent stupid names for their kids like 'Kiora' and 'Blade' and 'Ridge' and 'Vanilla' We had freedom, failure, success and responsibility, and we learned HOW TO DEAL WITH IT ALL! And YOU are one of them! CONGRATULATIONS! You might want to share this with others who have had the luck to grow up as kids, before the lawyers and the government regulated our lives for our own good. And while you are at it, forward it to your kids so they will know how brave their parents were.

Do Google ads target the user's web history?

Just chatting with a friend today about a particular website's Google ads and we discovered that the same webpage was displaying different adverts for the two of us simultaneously. Now I know that Google looks at the actual content of the website in deciding what particular advert to display but it does raise the question as to whether they are also analysing users specific web histories?

Online backup: Sugarsync v Carbonite

Update to my original post below
I have had an extremely helpful email from Jeff Robison who is VP for Customer Care and Operations at Carbonite. He has not only apologised for the problems they created and offered a refund but also made it clear that they intend to learn from this and use it to benefit future customers. In addition, he offered to help with my particular account if it was still needed. Can't ask for more than that and a big thank you to Jeff.

Original post
I have recently changed online backup provider from Carbonite to SugarSync for the simple reason that when I did need to access the files which had been saved on Carbonite they weren't available. First complaint went in well over a month ago and having been pushed from one customer support email to another I've finally been sent an email today which looks like it might actually specifically deal with my problem. Not exactly a great service in a business where reliability must surely be top priority. Thankfully old school hard drive backup rescued most content and therefore led to minor irritation rather than disaster. It's replacement SugarSync has been excellent so far and makes it extremely easy to access your files from any computer - even the iPhone. For the sake of completeness, another tool which has been drawn to my attention but which I cannot comment on one way or the other since I haven't tried it is the Cloudberry S3 Backup which works with Amazon S3 storage.


Monday, November 23, 2009

'Single Fin Yellow' by Jason Baffa

Will the Conservatives ban referral fees?

The Law Gazette report a very interesting comment from Conservative MP Henry Bellingham from the Motor Accident Solicitors Society’s annual conference. Apparrently he said a Tory government would "almost certainly" review referral fees and furthermore "[Shadow Justice Secretary] Dominic Grieve is very anti-referral fees. I’m probably slightly less violently anti-referral fees but I think there is a very strong case for getting rid of them."

Naomi Cudmore Communications

Nice to see the new website for Naomi Cudmore Communications whose services include brochure design, copywriting, nhs project management and design of annual reports, interim communications cover and all-in-one writing, design and print. One of her clients is the wonderful Exmoor Magazine which is edited by Hilary Binding.

Book recommendation: Schott's Almanac 2010

Looking forward to getting Schott's Almanac 2010 when it comes out. The blurb summarises it well: "Schott's Almanac is designed to be a practical and entertaining annual volume that tells the real stories of the year, from the anxious South African elections to the hope generated by the election of Barack Obama, from worldwide recession to the green shoots of recovery, from Russia's growing ambition to the Copenhagen Conference on climate change, and from the Ashes rivalry to the possibility of another all-English Champion's League final, all in the UN's Year of Astronomy...In an age when information is plentiful but selection is rare, Schott's Almanac offers both the essential facts and the lucid analysis, combining the authority and accuracy of the Economist with the wit and vitality of Have I Got News for You."

Saturday, November 21, 2009

Kite-surfers Jake Scrace and Lewis Crathern jump over Worthing pier in East Sussex

'The Final Curtain Call' by Hector Christie

Just ordered a book called The Final Curtain Call by Hector Christe. A review describes it in the following way: "With globalisation spreading its tentacles across the planet and Corporate America throttling the Third World with debt ... while GM crops taint the fields and pollute the gene pool ... while diseased cattle roast on funeral pyres and protesters are rounded up and sent to prison – what can a Devonshire farmer based at Tapeley Park do to halt the madness? Maybe it’s his daughter, Annie, who can carry the cause forward. Here she tells his story, partly seen through her own young eyes, and partly through accounts of protest and punishment detailed in his own diaries. Either way, it’s a harrowing – but sometimes hilarious – saga of war against a sick system. Maybe when Harold Smith, political altruism personified, calls the Revolution from his village refuge in Italy, humanity can finally haul itself out of the mire, live a life with less fear and greed, and face the post-collapse 2020s with a greater sense of fairness, tolerance and spirituality."

Friday, November 20, 2009

Non-fire night at Ilfracombe

The Daily Mail reported the other day that bonfire night in Ilfracombe was going to involve people crowding "around a screen showing film footage of fire after organisers gave up wrestling with health and safety rules to hold the real thing." It went on: "The event - dubbed 'non-fire night' - will leave families holding sparklers and staring up at a 16ft by 12ft screen showing images of a roaring blaze. Organisers at Ilfracombe Rugby Club say they were put off having the real thing by the 'mountain' of paperwork and regulations set by council bosses.
Officials at the authority said that to have a bonfire they would require five qualified fire marshals and metal barricades to keep onlookers at a safe distance."

Thierry Henry Handball Against Ireland in the World Cup Qualifier

Thursday, November 19, 2009

BabyBarista reviewed in Devon Life (click to enlarge)

BabyBarista in Magdalene College, Cambridge Magazine 'Magdalene Matters'

Click to enlarge the original article on the left or click here to read it in pdf format (on page 12).

BabyBarista in Middle Templar Magazine (click to enlarge)

'Scribblings from the Surf' - Devon Life 12/09: North Devon's Extreme Adventurers

The sixth in a series entitled 'Scribblings from the Surf' for Devon Life. To read the article either click here, see the text below or click to enlarge the pictures of the original article below that. To see the whole series, click here.

NORTH DEVON’S EXTREME ADVENTURERS

Barrister and writer Tim Kevan meets an Everest mountaineer and the leader of the Lundy swim challenge

With the its surfing beaches and the rugged cliffs and Exmoor hills behind, it is perhaps no surprise that North Devon attracts more than its fair share of adventurers. Two such are Dr Rob Casserley who is about to row the Atlantic and then climb Everest for a sixth time and Paul Irwin who led the first swim from Lundy Island to Woolacombe. What they both have in common beyond stretching the limits of their own endurance is a desire to help the wider community through raising money and awareness of particular charities.

The Everest Summiteer
If you'd told Rob Casserley ten years ago when he was a medical student in Newcastle that by now he would have summited Everest five times he would have responded with disbelief. He undoubtedly had an aptitude for sport, having played rugby to county level at school. He had also climbed the trekking peak of Mount Kenya during a gap year which he took with the army. But it wasn’t until his elective as a medical student in Bolivia and Peru that he climbed his first serious mountain, Huana Potosi at over 6,000 metres. Kilimanjaro followed, after which he decided to take a climbing sabbatical in 2002-3 during which he climbed Europe’s highest, Mount Elbrus and the world’s sixth highest mountain Cho Oyu. Then, at the end of the sabbatical he reached the summit of Mount Everest becoming the 64th British summiteer.

Since then he has been on numerous expeditions but is best known for having summited Everest a further four times, most notably in Spring 2007 when he became one of only three westerners ever to achieve two summits in one climbing season. He did it in the space of a week which was memorably filmed for the TV programme ‘Everest ER’.

In 2008, he worked as the official cameraman and personal physician to Sir Ranulph Fiennes on his Everest attempt and in the process helped to raise £2.5 million for Marie Curie Cancer Care. This led the way for another great charity adventure Ocean 2 Summit which will start on 6 December. Rob and fellow North Devon medic Stuart Burbridge will set off from La Gomera in Gran Canaria in an attempt to row the 2,700 miles across the Atlantic to Antigua. This will involve some two months of a grueling rotation system in which they will alternate two hour rowing shifts and live off re-hydrated Army style ration packs. This will be followed in the Spring of 2010 with a joint attempt on the summit of Mount Everest. Once again they will be harnessing the goodwill and publicity which such an extreme adventure will garner in order to raise money for Marie Curie Cancer Care. As their fundraising website puts it with characteristic modesty, they are simply “two doctors from North Devon who have a passion about putting into the community as much as is possible, whilst putting our bodies and minds through some of the toughest challenges around.”

The Lundy Swimmer
Much closer to home but no less inspiring are the efforts of Paul Irwin and his fellow participants in the inaugural Lundy Swim Challenge which was completed in August and in the process raised thousands of pounds for the Children's Hospice South West. In fact after fellow team member and GP to the Hospice Dr Bruce Hughes came up with the idea, many people may have thought they were mad. I mean, four people swimming around twenty miles in a stretch of sea which has some of the biggest tides and worst currents in the world. But for Braunton-resident Paul it was the challenge he was looking for. He’d already completed triathlons at sprint, Olympic and half-Ironman levels and raised money for charities along the way. But above all he is someone who dreams of adventure, of pushing forward the frontiers and boldly going and suddenly here was an opportunity to complete a first on his own doorstep. No-one had ever swum from Lundy to Woolacombe and he therefore jumped at the opportunity to lead the team. Along with Bruce he then recruited Simon Mathers, a P.E. teacher at Kingsley School in Bideford, Jon Parker and a reserve swimmer and swim tactician John Jameson.

Despite the difficulties involved, they somehow managed to convince key sponsors such as Saltrock, Sailfish Wetsuits and Gatorade that it was possible and the show was on the road. Then, besides the arduous training, they needed to recruit not only a support crew but a small flotilla of boats as well. This was where the final piece of the jigsaw fell into place when Bristol Channel Charters, Rudi Lancaster and the indomitable Ilfracombe Yacht Club stepped up to the mark.

After that it was all down to the weather. When they set off for Lundy the conditions were sufficiently rough to bring down a number of the support crew with sea sickness. Oh, and there was just the small issue of a bunch of Portuguese Men o'War being washed up at Combe Martin on the same day. But hey, nothing was going to stop these North Devon pioneers by this point and despite the fact that the seas remained rough for the swim the next day, the team made it through to Woolacombe in just over seven hours.

As for what’s next, they not only intend to repeat the event and open it up to more teams next year but they also have another North Devon first planned which will be open to even more members of the public. Another crazy idea set to inspire the region and one which they intend to make public when the time is right. Now I admit that I’ve already been told but if I were to divulge it now they claim it would just spoil all the fun.

But there is one thing of which we can all be sure and it is that in Rob, Stuart, Paul and the rest of the Lundy swim team the spirit of George Mallory and the romance of adventure is not only alive and well but thriving in North Devon.

To support Rob and Stuart’s fundraising visit www.ocean2summit.com and to support the Lundy Swim Team’s efforts and for more information about next year’s events, visit www.justgiving.com/lundyswim.

Tim Kevan is the author of the comic novel ‘BabyBarista and the Art of War’ (Bloomsbury) and the co-author of ‘Why Lawyers Should Surf’ (with Dr Michelle Tempest). http://www.timkevan.com/.




Wednesday, November 18, 2009

Surfers Against Sewage Beach Clean 29 November 2009

Surfers Against Sewage Beach Clean - Saunton beach to Crow point
29th November 2009. Start 11am.
Surfers Against Sewage (SAS), with the support of various local businesses, is calling for volunteers to help with a community beach clean from the rocks on the north end of Saunton beach all the way to Crow Point on Sunday the 29th November. This beach sits at the heart of a UNESCO biosphere reserve, and unfortunately due to the strong winds and swell recently, it has seen a greater than usual influx of marine litter to its shore. SAS is requesting the assistance of volunteers from the local community, especially those that rely on this beautiful natural resource for business, or use the beach regularly for enjoyment, to come down on the day and help give the beach a good tidy up. Wild Thyme café from Braunton have generously offered to keep the troops well nourished with soup and rolls, with veggies supplied by Edds the grocer. Other businesses lending assistance and support are Loose-Fit surf shop, Surfed Out surf shop, Tiki surf shop, Second Skin surf shop, Gulf Stream surfboards and Saunton Sands Lifesaving club amongst others. SAS are also looking for a horse and cart on the day to help with rubbish removal from the far side of the beach, so if anyone can help with this please contact Mikey Corker on 01271813300, or by email to mikey@loose-fit.co.uk. All hands will be greatly appreciated. If you would like to be involved please contact Mikey, or otherwise just come down on the day. Note: Wear warm, appropriate clothing for the day including sturdy footwear. SAS will provide biodegradable bin bags, gloves and full instructions, including health & safety advice, for the beach clean on the day.
The picture above is of my Dad Robin Kevan cleaning up Mount Snowdon in his guise as Rob the Rubbish. It is copyright Howard Barlow.

Tuesday, November 17, 2009

Warning: audible.co.uk

I have just signed up for a 'free' trial at audible.co.uk at the following link. The website says "Try an Audible membership completely free for 14 days, and download any of our 30,000 titles for free. Even if you decide to cancel, you can still keep your free download." Despite this, having signed in I immediately discovered that I had in fact been charged for the first month and furthermore they now had my payment details. So, BEWARE!

Update: I eventually managed to speak to a customer service representative who told me that it was probably because it took me too long to sign in and therefore it 'timed out' and instead decided to charge me. Very odd indeed but I am told that it will now be sorted and a refund made.

Monday, November 16, 2009

Diplomatic row between Ireland and France over VIP box

Definitely worth a read - here.

'One California Day' by Jason Baffa

Career advice for languishers

Here's a transcript of Owen Wilson's career talk in You, Me and Dupree which you can also watch here:

Hey, how are you? First of all, thank you for giving me the opportunity to come talk to you all on career day. Now, I’m not Mr. Carl Peterson and I don’t have a career per se. I guess you could say my career is living and loving and I do that to the utmost. I see all you fresh faced “kidlets” sitting there in your neat little rows and you’re all just pods. Pods waiting for your instructions. Now some of you are gonna get zapped right away and be 15 year old prodigies, little midget Olympic gymnasts with their pictures on cereal boxes. Some of you will go on to college and you will find your rhythm there and then go chase down the titans of industry or maybe straighten out our problems at the UN. But some of you…and this is the group that no-one ever comes into career day and addresses, and it’s criminal...not to…some of you, are just going to float along. Eating spicy foods, humming black people’s music into your thirties—well into your thirties…languishing. This group of pods is going to do a lot of languishing and you’re going to take some heat for it…sadly, you will. Europe is a little easier, it seemed to understand a little better, so did South America. I went to Argentina one time and everyone just seemed to be sitting around and it was beautiful. But that’s ok! Stay loose, stay liquid, laugh a lot–but be ready! That’s what Dupree is doing in his life’s little pod–staying nimble, until I get the call from the mothership. Then I bite. Then you’ll see Dupree coming in here throwing seven different kinds of smoke. Boom, bam!...[Pause]...That’s fine, pods that were supposed to hear this, did, and it will kick in when it needs too. I’m done here.

If you like this, you might also like the song by Baz Luhrmann entitled
Everybody's free (to wear sunscreen) which is based on an article written by Mary Schmich for the Chicago Tribune.

Sunday, November 8, 2009

Awaiting Alison Bond's new book 'A Reluctant Cinderella' (Penguin)

I look forward to Alison Bond's new book A Reluctant Cinderella which is due to be published by Penguin in May 2010. Quotes about her other books have included:

'Sexy and scandal-studded, it's a sneak peek beyond the red carpet' Cosmopolitan

'A twinkly comedy of tinseltown manners' You

'How dare Alison Bond write a debut novel this good? We defy you not to be glued to its pages from beginning to end' Heat

'Sassy and fun. A great read' Closer

RIP Staff Sergeant Olaf Schmid

As we remember those who have given their lives for our own freedoms today, there's a moving tribute by Miles Amore in The Sunday Times today to the heroism of Cornishman bomb disposal expert Staff Sergeant Olaf Schmid who died in Afghanistan recently. As The Independent reported, his commanding officer Major Tim Gould said, "In all my time in the Army, I have never met, nor am I ever likely to meet, a man like S/Sgt Schmid again. He truly was a once-in-a-generation phenomenon". Lieutenant-Colonel Robert Thomson, commanding officer of the 2 Battalion The Rifles, who recently returned from Afghanistan, said many of his troops owed S/Sgt Schmid their lives. "Every single company adored working with him. I adored working with him," he added. "No matter how difficult or lethal the task which lay in front of us, he was the man who only saw solutions. Superlatives do not do the man justice. Better than the best. Better than the best of the best."

Friday, November 6, 2009

Book recommendation: Operation Top SecretOperation Top Secret

Looking forward to the new book by Agent Zigzag author Ben McIntyre. It's called 'Operation Top Secret' and is another true tale from the Second World War and according to the author's video promises even greater tales of adventure and derring-do. It's out on 15 January 2010 and can be pre-ordered at amazon.

Surf Museum heads to Saunton Sands

The Museum of British Surfing is in talks with the owners of one of North Devon’s best beaches about creating a permanent home for the collection close to the surf. If all goes to plan a new sustainable ‘eco building’ will take shape at Saunton Sands, one of the country’s most popular surf spots. “It has always been my dream to have the surf museum down on the beach – it’s the natural home for it,” said founder Pete Robinson, who lives in Braunton. “Saunton is a fantastic surfing break and is probably the most accessible in the North Devon area so it is a perfect fit for us.” The museum has just had two development grants approved totalling more than £33,000 from the Leader 4 programme and the North Devon Area of Outstanding Natural Beauty’s sustainable development fund, and is currently seeking tenders for its interior design, feasibility, branding and online contracts. Planning permission had been granted earlier this year for the charity to open the UK’s first surf museum in a big industrial unit at nearby Braunton, but the offer of a potential home at the beach was too good to turn down. “We believe we can create a low impact building using materials like natural timbers and renewable energy sources that will compliment the area while still bringing a vibrant 21st century visitor attraction to the West Country,” said Mr Robinson, 48, an award-winning former ITV News reporter. Landowners the Christie Estate, the trustees of the Museum of British Surfing and designers, are looking at various plots around the Saunton car park before starting work on a formal planning application. The museum is also examining the possibility of extending the Tarka Trail in partnership with the leading sustainable transport charity Sustrans, so that people could cycle or walk between Braunton and Saunton – all part of its plan to become a carbon neutral operation. It’s estimated that as many as 700,000 people a year visit Saunton beach. The surf museum project is being supported by the economic development team at North Devon+, and several local businesses have stepped forward to offer their help including footPRINT Energy from Croyde and accountants Perrins Limited in Barnstaple.

Book recommendation: QFinance: The Ultimate Resource

QFinance: TheUltimate Resource has just been published by Bloomsbury and it's tagline is certainly no under-statement. The enormous tome comes in at over 2,000 pages and looks set to become an essential source of reference for those people working in finance as well as being a fascinating source of information for others who have an interest in economics more generally. It has contributions from some 300 of the world's leading financial practitioners, visionaries, writers and educators on contemporary financial issues which couldn't be more relevant in the current climate. It also contains a comprehensive financial dictionary, over 2,000 business-relevant quotes, biographies of many leading economists and digests of some of the best financial reads. Oh, and that's not forgetting profiles of over a hundred countries and numerous different sectors as well as over 300 'how to' guides covering the everyday challenges facing the finance professional. The Bloomsbury website has more information on the book and also how to buy it for a discounted price of £125 (RRP £150).

Peter Finch's Oscar-winning performance in 'Network'

Water Dog



















The picture is copyright www.susannastanford.com.

North Devon MP Nick Harvey's prize-winning dog

Very many congratulations to North Devon MP Nick Harvey and his golden retriever Crumpet who has just won third place in the Westminster Dog of the Year 2009 competition. Mr Harvey told the North Devon Gazette that "Crumpet and I are very pleased to be on the podium but used to coming third in Westminster! He'll always get my vote though." With all the vilification of MPs recently, it's wonderful to hear about other more positive sides to their lives.

The photo is taken from Nick Harvey's own website and was taken in 2008.

Nick Harvey MP answers my blog post

I am genuinely grateful to Nick Harvey MP for answering my blog post about the Marine and Coastal Access Bill in the following way:

Tim

I have not at any stage said that I don't support the Bill, and as you know it went through last week unopposed. Had there been a vote I would have supported it.

As originally drafted, the Bill put limitless liabilities onto coastal landowners. It would have left - for example - campsite owners obliged to allow absolutely anyone to come onto their sites, invalidating their insurance policies and opening them up to responsibility for thefts from tents and caravans, or worse still allowing unknown people to walk through swimming pool areas where kids might be playing on their own.

These were the issues I and many others - mainly in the Lords - took up. Happily, sanity prevailed and the Government took these problems on board through amendments and crucially the ability of landowners to have their individual cases assessed.

It is a distortion of my view to say that I was not supporting the admirable environmental and social objectives of the Bill. I was simply flagging up to you and others who wrote in that I had some reservations on specific points which I wanted to see resolved. I am pleased that they now have been and the Bill is through.

Nick Harvey
MP for North Devon

Thursday, November 5, 2009

Quiet Riots

People power has just taken another big step forward with the formation of a new website called Quiet Riots. It appeals to the silent majority who might be sick and tired of particular issues such as say rude staff, dirty hospitals and junk mail but feel that they have no control or say over resolving them. You can register your own complaints as well as raising new issues. It undoubtedly has the potential not just for empowering consumers but ultimately to be used as a political tool on behalf of the little man in the street. You heard it here first!

Drift Europe covers Nick Harvey MP's surprising response to the Marine and Coastal Access Bill

Great to see that Drift Europe has covered North Devon MP Nick Harvey's surprising response to the Marine and Coastal Access Bill in which he said: "I have been lobbying the Government on behalf of North Devon Holiday park owners and holidaymakers who are rightly concerned about the impact of the access proposals under the...Bill. This has all sorts of implications for security, safety and public liability and has rightly caused alarm with members of the British Holiday and Home Parks Association...Nor do I welcome the prospect of the Secretary of State riding rough shod over landowners' objections."

UPDATE
I have since had an answer from Nick Harvey MP in which he clarifies his position. It can be read here
.

Monday, November 2, 2009

My Introduction to '101 Ways to Leave the Law' by Alex Steuart Williams

I've already mentioned Alex Steuart Williams' excellent book 101 Ways to Leave the Law. The following is the introduction I wrote for the book.

The author John Grisham was once asked, “In your years as a lawyer, what was the most satisfying thing about the law?” to which he replied simply: “Getting out of it.” It’s a typical lawyer’s answer and it captures the dark humour with which many of us regard our own profession. Highly motivated intelligent people poring over sub-clauses and skeleton arguments wishing they were any place but there. A beach perhaps, or the top of a mountain, or tending their garden, or kicking back watching the cricket on a lazy Sunday afternoon. Anywhere but the hothouse which is the law. Where time is a commodity and justice seems like the preserve of fiction.

Or that’s how they’d have you believe it if you heard them in the bar after a few drinks. Yet they rarely leave - or even come close to leaving - blaming the mortgage or the school fees and the like. Perhaps the reality is that, despite it all, most lawyers like being lawyers. It might be the money, or the sense of belonging to a recognised profession or institution. It might be the thrill of the chase. Getting the bit between your teeth and fighting your corner on behalf of the client. Or it might even be trying to do some good in the world. I mean, hey, let’s not push the boat out and all, but just maybe.

All of which has been wonderfully captured in this book. The daydreams of telling the boss exactly what you think and throwing all the years of hard work down the drain in a moment of liberating honesty. The fantasy of truly chucking it all in and going out and doing something less boring instead. In this book, anything goes. There are no restrictions and the liberated lawyer is given free rein. The imagination can run wild and the result is an hilarious collection of cartoons which encapsulate the ultimate fantasy not only of many lawyers but of anyone who has ever worked in an office. This is the brilliant Alex Steuart Williams at his very best and it is a privilege to introduce this book.