Stoke City 2 Crystal Palace 1 (HT 0-1) 24th August 2013

My dislike of Tony Pulis’ style and methods were well known, and an aversion to being bored rigid and wasting £30 on a ticket in the process kept me away from the Britannia stadium all of last season. I did not miss much by all accounts. So it is perhaps understandable that I was delighted on 21st May when Pulis was relieved of his duties as manager and left the club by “mutual consent”. I could at last get excited about my team again, dream of more creative players joining the club, and actually had the enthusiasm to attend games once more. An enthusiasm that had been throttled to death by “Pulisball”, a combined unwillingness and inability to evolve, and years of inane patronising post-match interviews.

For the nine days that followed I could barely concentrate on anything other than who would be appointed Stoke City’s new manager. Rafa Benitez was linked, as too were Robert Martinez and Roberto Di Matteo. I was hoping that any one of these three would be appointed to give us a dramatically different new approach, making good use of the club’s new state of the art training facilities at Clayton Wood, and bringing through Academy players. So my initial reaction to the appointment of Mark Hughes on 30th May was one of slight disappointment and a feeling of being rather underwhelmed by it all.

However that feeling did not last long. Hughes’ first press conference impressed me, and I saw why the Stoke Board saw him as a good fit. As Daniel Harris wrote in today’s Guardian, “That Mark Hughes knows something about football is often forgotten. But as manager of Blackburn he bought good players for bargain prices and extracted the maximum from all those available to him. Then, at Manchester City, he signed Pablo Zabaleta and Vincent Kompany, again for relatively little money, and his eventual sacking seemed a trifle premature.” Stoke had been crying out for left-back for ages, so I was very pleased that Hughes’ spotted that immediately and brought in not one but two left-backs, one a Dutch international, and the other a Spanish U-21 international from Barcelona. Both players in their early to mid-twenties. What the hell was happening?! Hughes also wanted to change Stoke’s style on the pitch, developing a more creative, attacking and passing team. I began to warm to the idea of Hughes as our manager. In every aspect he looked a step up from Pulis. I was actually looking forward to attending a game, so I swooped for a ticket for the opening home match of the season against newly promoted Crystal Palace.

Stoke City v Crystal Palace Watching BBC’s Match of the Day, and listening to Crystal Palace fans on BBC Radio Five Live after the game made me rather annoyed. The way MOTD was edited, the pundits’ “insights” on the match, and the opinions of the Palace fans all pointed to Palace bossing the first half and being the much better team. Rubbish. Despite being “turned around” and forced to attack the Boothen End in the first half (which is usually a bad omen), Stoke started positively and dominated midfield and possession for at least the first 25 minutes. Palace looked cagey and stood off allowing Stoke to pass the ball around comfortably but without the necessary pace and incisive delivery to put Palace to the sword. Crouch should have done much better with a header that looped over following a good cross from Etherington on the left, and what MOTD failed to show was Stoke had three consecutive corners as they applied pressure and Palace could only scramble the ball clear.

The turning point in the half came as Palace launched an almighty hoofed clearance that Pulis would have admired, which should have been harmless and easily dealt with. However the bounce was awkward, and the usually solid pairing of Shawcross and Hugh made a complete mess of defending it allowing Marouane Chamakh to slot home a goal out of the blue that was frankly against the run of play. Stoke immediately had an excellent chance to level, when Adam delivered a superb ball in only for Crouch’s header to come back off the woodwork and hit the Palace keeper, dropping to safety. If that had gone in the first half may have continued in Stoke’s favour. But to Palace’s credit the goal gave them confidence, while Stoke’s visibly drained away. The visitors started to press higher up the pitch, closing Stoke down, and the home side began to make errors and look very uncomfortable. Shawcross was not having a good game defensively, and the visitors almost added to their lead when Moxey took advantage of some hesitant defending to drill an angled shot just wide of the far post. A Shawcross clumsy foul earned him a yellow card and gave Campana the chance to send in a free-kick fractionally high from a dangerous position. Half-time was a welcome break and a chance to reorganise.

Whatever was said by Mark Hughes at half-time worked. Stoke played at a greater tempo and began to dominate again in midfield. Stoke displayed a lot more intent during the opening ten minutes of the second period, with Crouch again spurning a decent opportunity from 5-yards, and both Nzonzi and Walters failing to hit the target when well positioned. Some members of the press have subsequently written that Stoke’s comeback was built around more typically Pulis tactics using the throw-in to good effect.

New manager, new supporter. Fellow Leeds Stokie Paddy’s son attends his first ever Stoke game. Lucky mascot!

Yet the equaliser on 58 minutes came from a short throw-in on the left, a delicate clip into the box which picked out Crouch who controlled it, headed it behind him to Walters who played a short pass to Adam in space to slot a perfectly weighted shot from around 12 yards into the far corner past the despairing dive of the keeper. It was a lovely finish and sent the crowd wild, and four minutes later the Britannia was rocking again as Stoke scored what proved to be the winner. Good pressure forced a throw-in deep in Palace’s half on the right hand side. A long throw was flicked goalwards by a Stoke head, the Palace headed clearance in the six yards box was not good enough, and in the ensuing confusion Huth’s committed tackle broke to Shawcross who swivelled well and found the far corner from about 7 yards out.

The goals had undeniably changed the entire complexion of the game, with Stoke looking by far the more likely to add to their tally, rather than Palace managing to find themselves an equaliser. Nzonzi was incredibly unlucky when he went agonisingly close to scoring, smiting a superb effort towards the far corner which rocketed off the post to safety. New Palace loan signing Puncheon had a strike gathered at the second attempt by Begovic after a break resulting from some sloppy midfield play by Stoke who were looking to break themselves. Despite four minutes of injury time Stoke were comfortable as Palace ran out of steam and belief, and Mark Hughes had his first three points as manager.

Positives
1. It was good to see Stoke passing more with a much greater completion rating, building patiently and keeping possession for long periods.
2. It was good to see Charlie Adam given a role in the side as most of the invention came from him and he scored a quality goal.
3. I wasn’t bored at any time during the match and I enjoyed the experience despite fearing at half-time we might be having to settle for a disappointing 1-1 draw.
4. Hughes realises where the weaknesses are and is trying to address them.
5. There were positive substitutions made at the correct times. Etherington was replaced by Pennant, and Crouch was replaced by Jerome, looking to maintain an attacking force where another manager may have brought on defensive players to hold on to the 2-1 scoreline.
6. There were 14 efforts at goal, 5 on target.
7. Pieters and Cameron had good games at full-back and got forward too.
8. There was the spirit to come from behind and win.
9. The struggling forwards were helped out by goals from other areas of the team.
10. There wasn’t a bloke on the sideline dressed in a tracksuit and baseball cap flinging water bottles about! ;-)

Negatives
1. There don’t look many goals in our current forward line. Crouch’s finishing is disappointing, Walters lacks the pace and for me is a good Championship level player but punching above his weight at this level. There’s little on the bench that suggests goals either. At least Hughes is trying to rectify this looking for new signings.
2. Apart from his superb shot and a few decent touches Nzonzi looked somewhat half-hearted and disinterested for much of the game.
3. We lack pace and width in the current side. Without signings we will struggle to carve open some of the better teams while the passing remains pedestrian. Despite one good cross I don’t think Etherington is the player we once was and now looks incapable of taking on and beating a fullback.
4. The midfield needs more creativity, vision and people who can drive forward. On a few occasions a ball was won in midfield by a committed charge forward, the player laid it off sideways and continued his run into space for a return pass, but the receiver turned and passed it backwards to slowly build from the back again allowing the opponents to regroup and relieve the pressure. One such build up went wrong and allowed Puncheon to break and have an effort on goal.
5. Wilson was largely invisible in midfield. I don’t recall seeing him much at all.
6. Usually solid defenders Shawcross and Huth didn’t have convincing games at the back.

Conclusions
Apart from Pieters, Hughes put out players that were from the previous manager’s squad. He did include players that were not Pulis “favourites” and found it difficult to get a game. I’m pleased Adam looks to be part of the plans. It will take time for the players to adjust to the new system and methods Hughes wants to employ. But I think elements of his style (e.g. the physicality) will not be too far away from what the players were used to under Pulis. We need to improve the squad, but Hughes recognises this and is trying to bring new players in that will help develop the new direction we have embarked on. All in all I was more than satisfied with the performance, and there were positives to take away from it. Goooaaaarrn Sparky!

The Labour Party seems to be in disarray at the moment. Despite an unpopular government delivering painful austerity measures, Labour has seen its opinion poll lead being slashed. Its leader, Ed Miliband, is being criticised by his own veteran MPs on one hand, and is not seen by the public as prime minister material on the other. Labour is struggling to get over its message and with its recent acceptance that it must match the government’s spending plans if it is elected, you begin to wonder what is the point of the party at all. It is at best centrist, some might say centre-right, so anyone who wishes to vote for a party that is on the left of British politics can forget about Labour.

I was once a member of the Labour Party, and I joined the Green Party primarily for two reasons. Firstly I feel that unless we address the climate crisis any other issues will be irrelevant because within the next century (maybe sooner) we will have an uninhabitable planet for humankind. The Green Party is the only party that properly addresses that. Secondly I believe that social justice has to be part of the change we need to address the environmental crisis that we face. I once felt that Labour stood for social justice but with its steady move to the right it no longer realistically represents the most vulnerable people in society, nor the class it was created for.

Green Party Leader Natalie Bennett and Andy

Green Party Leader Natalie Bennett with Andy at an event in Leeds

The current incarnation of the Labour Party is a shambolic disgrace, and the Green Party is the only real alternative for those people who wish to vote for social justice. Although it irritates and worries some of the Green Party veterans, that is the reason many Green Party members who joined in recent years are ex-Labour.

Now despite the turmoil Labour currently faces, due to our country’s electoral system, media, political funding etcetera, it will always be a massive task to enlighten people to the fact there is a tangible alternative to Labour if you want something different from the same old same old. The difficulty Labour faces at this moment in time maybe seen as an opportunity for the Green Party, but to be doing things right we should be hammering away at them all the time. That is why I wrote and moved the Leeds Green Party Strategy document which attempted to strengthen all the areas we need to in order to mount a stronger and more sustained challenge – increase party funds, increase membership, increase activists, raise the party profile, improve our media communications etc. all things that will help us get our message across to more people, and help us target more wards. We need more people to spread the word in order to attract more people to the party. We don’t yet have enough activists. That is a problem, and one we must address. People have busy lives and we have to be grateful for whatever contribution they make. The key is better organisation of what resources we have, and utilising them in the best way possible. The trouble is that organisation is not seen as very exciting.

One of my dreams would be that at all the wards in Leeds (but at the very least all the solid Labour wards) received one of our leaflets which highlights our key national policies with a Leeds slant, and the hard work of our councillors in Farnley & Wortley. This would mean that many more people would (a) know we exist (b) know something of what we stand for, and (c) might see us as worth a try given they have been badly let down by Labour. But it is but a dream. Just targeting predominately Labour wards with such a leaflet would run to over £4,000, not to mention trying to find the people to deliver it. One leaflet will not make a huge impact, it takes constant leafleting work and regular canvassing to turn a ward into a viable target, but it would make people more aware of us and maybe bring in some new members.

There must be a mixed approach. Campaigning on national issues is important to ensure people learn what we stand for. We also need to do some “bread and butter” local issues that affect people on a daily basis, and show that electing Green councillors makes a difference and unlike Labour we never take our constituents’ votes for granted.

Patch

Patch

This is Patch, the latest addition to the family. Patch is a sweet natured, 12 years old, Jack Russell Terrier who lost her previous owner and needed a new home to make the rest of her days as happy as possible. Step forward the Pointons!

Patch was staying at the boarding facility where Tina works as her elderly owner had gone into a hospice as he had dementia. Patch had been there several months, and both Tina and Patch had taken a shine to each other. Lethargic and asleep most of the time, Patch would come alive when Tina was in work. Sadly her owner passed away and Patch’s future looked uncertain. There was about a week in which she had to find a new home before the boarding facility care ended. Thankfully Patch’s care was being covered by the excellent Cinnamon Trust, a charity for people in their last years and their much loved, much needed companion animals.

Given her age and the fact she is completely deaf it was likely that she would have been overlooked and found it hard to get a new home. Members of the old man’s family didn’t want her. One person did take Patch home for a trial but brought her back the next day because Patch caused the woman’s cat to hiss and the cat was not to be upset. Tina and I had discussed getting a second dog as a companion for Bevan. But we had envisaged another sighthound, probably an older female to keep him in check. We were not convinced the timing was right for another sighthound as Bevan was still in training to sort out some of his issues on lead. A rescue greyhound or whippet with issues of their own were probably not the best choices now.

Yet Tina had fallen for Patch and asked if we could at least foster her until she could find a permanent new home. Having met Patch it was hard to say no. So on 6th June we took Patch home for a 24 hour trial, following a walk with Bevan under the watchful eye of our trainer Wendy, ensuring that both dogs would get along. Thankfully Bevan has always been respectful of older female dogs in the park so we expected him to treat her as the alpha dog (as the eldest female is). The way that Bevan accepted Patch into our home and let her share his “territory”, sofa, bed, and us couldn’t have been better. He clearly is very fond of her and protective of her.

Patch and Bevan

Patch and Bevan

So the idea of fostering swiftly changed into one of adopting Patch. We passed the home visit which went perfectly, Patch, Bevan, and Amelia the cat all sitting together on the sofa while the Cinnamon Trust volunteer was there. Patch has had an eventful first few weeks with us. We noticed her teeth were in a shocking state, and her mouth had open sores and gum disease. It was causing her distress and affecting her ability to eat. She had to undergo an operation to remove five teeth, and have the rest cleaned and de-scaled. Once the pain of the operation subsided you could tell she was a lot happier, her appetite returned, and Patch was able to eat crunchy kibble and was no longer limited to wet food. Having got that ailment sorted out we went on a short break to Brixham in Devon where she picked up some sort of bladder infection leading to me visiting the site laundry far more times than anticipated to wash dog beds after night time accidents! So that was another course of antibiotics.

Apart from the discomfort of the infection, Patch seemed to enjoy her holiday, exploring the nearby wood, and playing on several beaches. On one day we ventured into Cornwall and walked along the cliffs at St Agnes, some of the most stunning coastline in Britain. As well as the scenic beauty of the place there are remnants of the old tin mining industry, ghostly engine houses and chimneys built close to the cliffs. We knew that this walk would be too long and involve too much climbing for Patch, so we bought a carry bag for her, and she was in her element sat on a cushion and receiving lots of fuss and compliments from passing walkers.

I don’t know whether it is because Patch lived with a man for most of her life, but she has formed a strong bond and attachment to me. If I leave the house she will stand on the sofa so she can look out of the window to await my return. She loves to curl up next to me wherever I sit, and at bedtime. Patch is such an easy going affectionate dog that so far has got on with all dogs, cats, and humans she has met, it is hard not to fall for her. She is a welcome addition to the family and I hope she enjoys a long happy life with us.


Once upon a time in America I managed to have a letter about the NHS published in the Florida Times-Union newspaper of Jacksonville. Today I managed it a little closer to home, getting published in the Yorkshire Evening Post. This latest piece was about the proposed HS2 railway from Leeds to London, and was a response to a letter from Cllr Andrew Carter (Cons) supporting the coalition government’s announcement. It follows below in full…

I am the son of a retired railwayman, and given our family didn’t own a car until I was 12, I grew up using rail and public transport as the main means of getting around. That resulted in a lifelong love of railways, and that mode of travel. So you might think I would share Cllr Andrew Carter’s excitement about the HS2 line to Leeds (YEP 09/02/13).

But I don’t. I would love to see the £33 billion spent more wisely on the rail infrastructure to improve the travel experiences of the majority of passengers, reduce ticket costs, and reopen former lines to increase the network. Renationalisation would be my ultimate aim because the public paid far less subsidy to British Rail than it does now to entice private firms to run trains for profit.

The £33 billion for HS2 will build a line for business people to shuttle to and from the capital for fares that ordinary people will struggle to afford. It will do nothing to alleviate the overcrowding and capacity problems of the current network, and it will wreak environmental damage in some outstanding countryside. Research shows that rather than benefiting places like Leeds, the benefits will flood to London.

I share the Green Party’s view that HS2 is not good value for money. Spending the same amount of money – more than £1,000 for each household in the UK, on improving local and regional links, producing a truly integrated transport system to get people around home-work-school-leisure in an affordable way would be a far better use of the money, and would create jobs.

Remember it was a Conservative government that gave us Dr Richard Beeching. Can we really believe this wretched government, with its history of poor judgments, can make the right decision about our railways?

In September 1982 the NFL exploded on to Britain’s TV screens as Channel 4 began American Football’s first regular weekly slot. The effect of that hour-long TV slot took Channel 4, the American producers, and the viewing public by complete surprise. The result was the creation of more than one hundred British American Football teams, thousands of players, and millions of fans watching at home. I was one of those fans. It was tuning in during the early 1980s at 6pm on Sunday nights to watch the excellent Nicky Horne present the gridiron action that sparked my interest in the American sport.

In those days I there was no one team that I supported outright. I was a huge fan of the rushing game so this influenced the teams I had some affection for. But so too did simpler matters like the colours of the uniforms or logos. The three teams that I held in greatest affection were the Washington Redskins, LA Raiders (as they were then), and the New England Patriots.

The NFL as I first knew it

The NFL as I first knew it

The Redskins had a Running Back called John Riggins on the roster, who seemingly ploughed his way through defences, tackles bouncing off him. His nickname of “The Diesel” was fitting, and his appetite to repeatedly carry the ball for yard after yard fired my admiration of him. Riggins was the key reason I liked the Redskins, but I also thought their burgundy and gold uniforms were great too.

Similarly it was a Running Back that made me look out for the Raiders’ games and results. His name was Marcus Allen. I particularly enjoyed the way he would leap over the line of scrimmage at goal-line plays or when short yardage gains were needed. Again the Raiders silver and black uniform, and the logo of a pirate with an eye-patch in a old style helmet was appealing to me.

It was the Patriots name and colours that made me look out for their results. I liked the red, white and blue colours, particularly the red shirts, and the “Pat Patriot” logo which was used until 1992 when the team colours were changed to the terrible blue and silver.

I think it was Christmas of 1983 when one of my presents was an American football. In hindsight it should have gone back to the shop as it was clearly faulty, always requiring pumping up. But as kids you ignore these difficulties and just get on with it. There would be four of us who would regularly do our best to play Amfoot, as we called it, on Wolstanton Marsh.

Channel 4's American Football annuals

Channel 4′s American Football annuals

Other prized presents were the two Channel 4 American Football annuals I received, and I’d use pocket money to buy Gridiron UK and the First Down weekly newspaper. It was finding the November 1985 edition of Gridiron UK on eBay which sparked all this American Football nostalgia, and a feeling of horror that it was 27 years ago when I owned the same edition as a teenager!

During the 1990s other things like university and work got in the way, and other than watching the occasional Super Bowl or the highlights I didn’t follow American Football very closely at all. It took a direct connection to the USA to reignite my interest. I was surprised to find new teams, or teams I had known in the 1980s had moved to other cities.

In 2007 I met my wife Tina, and in 2008 I visited her several times in the USA. I finally had a tangible link to one particular team in the NFL. Seeing as Tina lived in Jacksonville, and I went on to live there too for six months, I became a Jaguars fan. Support your local club!

Jaguars' new running back? Jax Beach 2008

Jaguars’ new running back? Jax Beach 2008

In December 2008 I actually went to see them play, and while finances did not allow a return to the stadium during the six months I was there in 2009, I watched their games and any others I could find that were being broadcast for free. Back in the UK I usually follow their games by using online radio stations.

I still have a bit of a soft spot for the Redskins and the Raiders, but the Patriots became too successful for me plus there’s that awful kit! I also have an affinity with the Green Bay Packers that I never had as a youth because they are owned by the fans and not one individual, and of course they play in green! It is a Packers green woolly hat with a big G on the front that keeps me warm when I’m leafleting with the Green Party. (Forgive me Jags). But while they remain in Jacksonville, it is the Jaguars who will remain my number one, their 2 wins and 14 losses this season in keeping with my long standing tradition of supporting the underdog!

The large income disparities which characterise our society are a sign of significant social and economic injustice. The Green Party believes that working people should be paid a decent, living wage and, like every other citizen, be entitled to a sufficient level of economic security to meet their needs. Every worker, like every citizen, should have the right to fair income security, whether working, unemployed, in retirement or in sickness. Everyone should be paid the same for work of equal value, regardless of age. To these ends the Green Party proposes a Citizens’ Income payable to every citizen as a basic right, funded by an ecological and genuinely progressive taxation system, which will also mean that the need to test “availability for work” is no longer required.

The Citizens’ Income policy sets the Greens apart from other political parties. Successive governments’ oppressive use of coercion and privatisation of public services, which diminish the bargaining power of ordinary citizens, makes implementing the Citizens’ Income policy more urgent, yet it is also a potentially great electoral opportunity. The introduction of the Citizens’ Income will provide all citizens with a level of economic security. Once the public has grasped that means testing is a form of taxation, there is no reason why the coaltion governments Workfare plans shouldn’t be another “Poll Tax moment”.

The Citizens’ Income will be sufficient to cover an individual’s basic needs, which will replace tax-free allowances and most social security benefits. It is an unconditional, non-withdrawable income payable to each individual as a right of citizenship. It will not be subject to means testing and there will be no requirement to be either working or actively seeking work. The Citizens’ Income will eliminate the unemployment and poverty traps, as well as acting as a safety net to enable people to choose their own types and patterns of work. The Citizens’ Income scheme will thus enable the welfare state to develop towards a welfare community, engaging people in personally satisfying and socially useful work.

Clive Lord - an expert on the Citizens' Income

Clive Lord – an expert on the Citizens’ Income

When the Citizens’ Income is introduced it is intended that nobody will be in a position that they will receive less through the scheme than they were entitled to under the previous benefits system. Children will be entitled to a reduced amount which will be payable to a parent or legal guardian. Disabled people or people with special needs, and single parents will receive a supplement. Initially, the housing benefit system will remain in place alongside the Citizens’ Income and will be extended to cover contributions towards mortgage repayments. This will subsequently be reviewed to establish how housing benefit could be incorporated into the Citizen’s Income, taking into account the differences in housing costs between different parts of the country and different types of housing.

One of the experts behind the Citizens’ Income is Clive Lord, a founding member of “People” party 40 years ago which went on to eventually become the Green Party of England & Wales. Clive is still a member and now living in Leeds. His blog discusses the subject extensively. More information about Green Party economic policy can be found here

One of my favourite photos of Molly. Typically exploring, typically posing for the camera. RIP precious angel with fur.

One of my favourite photos of Molly. Typically exploring, typically posing for the camera. RIP precious angel with fur.

The 24th June was a painfully sad day for our family. Our beloved Molly cat was so ill Tina and I had to make the heartbreaking decision to have her put to sleep. She was only three years old and the illness came as a huge unexpected shock.

Only noticeably unwell a few days before, we took her to the vets on the Saturday morning, and were advised to admit her to animal hospital that afternoon so she could be put on a drip. Overnight she worsened significantly rather than improved, and the tests suggested her kidneys had failed or her bladder had ruptured. The tests required to ascertain a full diagnosis were unavailable until the following day, and the results would have been the day after. If it was kidney failure the prognosis was very bleak. Molly was in great pain and failing fast. She was swelling up with the fluid retention as she could not pass urine. It was unlikely she would make it until the Tuesday’s results. We felt it better to end her suffering and let her pass away in the arms of her loved ones rather than most likely alone and scared in the hospital.

It was one of the most horrible and saddest moments of my life. Molly was like no other cat I’d ever encountered. We used to say there’ll never be another Moll-Moll and it was so true. Incredibly affectionate, so full of life, demanding of near constant attention, Molly seemed more dog-like than a cat. She was a right character, with her own personality. Not a day went past without her making us laugh at some crazy antics. Sometimes I’d wonder whether she was daft and not quite right, but then other times it seemed more like she knew exactly what she was doing and successfully gaining our attention. When Bevan arrived she was certainly jealous of any fuss he received. Molly liked to get into bed with us, and curl up in her “cave” purring like a motor. Naturally inquisitive she loved sitting in the window watching the world go by, and when she could she loved to hang out in a sunny backyard. When I laid some turf in the front yard Molly decided it would be fun to join in, rolling around in the earth, and coming in absolutely filthy. There are so many happy memories of her and we can draw consolation from the fact she was rescued at 3 months of age from the “kill list” in a Jacksonville animal shelter, and she had three years of a happy life in a very loving home. At the same time we felt robbed. We knew one day we’d have to say goodbye but we never expected it to be so soon.

We brought Molly home curled up in a blanket, looking like she was just asleep. Bevan, who always desperately wanted to be Molly’s friend, was incredibly upset when he saw her. I’m sure he mourned for several days afterwards. Hadley cat, who despite some evidence of affection only ever really tolerated Molly, and gave the same reaction as when they had first met when Molly was a kitten – she hissed. Molly was laid to rest in a favourite sunny spot in the backyard, buried in a whicker basket that had been the cats’ toy box in America. We bought a white dwarf rose bush and a cat garden ornament in her memory.

Tina and I felt raw for several weeks. The house seemed quiet without Molly, the balance didn’t seem right. While outwardly affectionate and demanding of fuss from both of us, Molly had always been a “daddy’s girl” where Hadley always preferred Tina. So I was particularly affected by Molly’s passing. But we had no intention of getting another cat at that point, it seemed disrespectful to Molly’s memory and we were still hurting too much. We missed our Moll-Moll immensely. There was always something to remind us of her and set us off crying again. Plus Hadley actually seemed a lot happier. Maybe a one cat, one dog home was the right mix. Life however throws up surprises, and after the tragic one losing Molly, a more pleasant one occurred.

Amelia on her first day in her new home

Amelia on her first day in her new home

Tina at this stage was still working for MyPetStop and caring for RSPCA animals. She was particularly fond of Mario a beautiful grey rescue cat, although any chance of adoption was out as he could not be rehomed with other cats. One day when I collected her from work Tina took me to the RSPCA apartments to meet Mario. Wandering around I spotted a cute bundle of fluff climbing up the mesh on its apartment door. It was almost at chest level. Like Molly this cat was white but had black and calico splodges and tail. It was like a cross between Molly and Hadley. The kitten was named Imogen by the RSPCA and had been brought in after it had followed another cat home in Bramley. She looked small for her age. She was in with another kitten of a similar age called Miles who was a tearaway, running around having fun while Imogen looked on. I held her in my arms, and on my lap, and against my shoulder and she was so calm and relaxed, purring away. It felt right. I wanted her to be ours. I did wonder a little whether the timing was good, or whether she was just a “rebound cat”, but that feeling subsided when I held her close. We went back several times, and each time that bond felt stronger. At first it seemed like we wouldn’t be able to adopt her as the RSPCA wanted both kittens to go to the same home even thought they weren’t siblings. However the adoption was approved and on 5th August Amelia, as she was now renamed, came home with us.

Bevan meets his new sister cat Mimi

Bevan meets his new sister cat Mimi

Bevan was delighted with his new sister cat. From the start Mimi (as Amelia gets shortened to) was confident around him and happy to play. Bevan is gentle and very protective of her. Mimi likes to provoke him into a chase, hide, then sneak up on him to provoke him again when he gets bored looking. They happily curl up together in Bevan’s bed. Hadley so far is less impressed with the new arrival. Mimi doesn’t seem to be intimidated by Hadley like Molly was, and despite being much smaller puts up a fight. Normally scared stiff of Hadley, Bevan will actually stand up to her if she’s threatening Mimi.

Mimi will never be a replacement for our special Molly that we still miss so much. Yet Mimi is special in her own way and has already captured our hearts. Like Molly, Mimi is very affectionate without demanding attention. She is sweet natured and full of mischief, giving us plenty of smiles and laughter. Mimi loves human company and shares Molly’s tendency to get into bed under the covers with us. Quite early on Mimi decided to perch on my shoulder, and this is now her preferred method of travelling around the house.

Amelia settles in on her first day home

Amelia settles in on her first day home

She is definitely another “daddy’s girl”. Furthermore she is lovely with Bevan and he now has the friend he wanted so much in Molly. Although she does try to steal his dog treats! I never expected to get another cat so soon after Molly passed away, but I feel Mimi was meant to be with us. She has brought balance back to the home, and helped us heal the pain of losing sweet Moll-Moll.

Very close to where I live is a piece of waste ground that is proving rather attractive to two supermarket giants. Nextdoor to the wasteground is the old Netto store which was recently changed into a Asda outlet. Not satisfied with this Asda have put in a planning application to build a larger store on the aforementioned waste ground. So too have Tesco. If the Beeston Community Forum regulars are anything to go by the idea of either of these companies building a store is very appealing to the majority of residents. The thought of new jobs in the area, and cheap food have wooed them towards supporting the development. I don’t share that view and here’s why…

In the UK, the grocery market is increasingly controlled by a few very large food processors and retailers, making large profits. Their success is partly based on trading practices that are having serious consequences for suppliers, farmers and workers worldwide, local shops and the environment. The introduction of a supermarket can ruin the local character of an area.

The dominance of large food processors and supermarkets:
(a) results in closure of small, local retailers and a net loss of jobs;
(b) encourages unnecessary transportation of food;
(c) makes farmers increasingly reliant on one or two large customers for their livelihood;
(d) forces down ‘farm gate’ prices through an unacceptable level of control over the prices paid to producers;
(e) often results in unfair contractual terms with farmers and rejection of food that fails to meet size, shape or cosmetic criteria;
(f) prioritises ‘shelf life’ and favours mass-produced food of low nutritional value;
(g) favours larger farms and industrialised farming practices;
(h) can reduce resilience to ‘shocks’ in the supply chain, since food processors and supermarkets are less flexible than consumers to changes in supply.

Multinational agribusiness companies increasingly control global supply chains, commodity markets and the supply of seeds and other agricultural resources, including land. This tends to disadvantage poorer countries and threatens the independence and livelihoods of farmers globally.

That’s why I think the Green Party has the best approach to protecting local businesses and communities, and has a more rational and farsighted view about the negative effects supermarkets bring to a location that people forget in the rush for “cheap” food and new jobs. The Green Party policies around this subject are:

We will use competition legislation and other legislation to reduce the power of large food processors and retailers, strongly discourage mergers and prevent monopolies from emerging.

A legally binding supermarket Code of Practice will be introduced to ensure that all farmers and suppliers, in the UK and elsewhere, are treated fairly, and that the grocery market also operates in the interests of small retailers and consumers. A fully independent supermarket Ombudsman will be introduced to monitor the compliance with and effectiveness of this code.

Planning policies will be introduced to favour local shops and protect the high street. When dealing with a planning application for a new supermarket, local authorities will be required to take into consideration the full extent to which the supermarket would affect local shops, employment, transport links and the amount of local produce being sold in the area. Caps on retail floor space may be imposed and smaller retailers supported with lower business rates.

New rules will be introduced to protect workers’ rights and the environment in both this country and overseas. It will be the responsibility of supermarkets and food processors to ensure that their suppliers meet these rules.

The Green Party will introduce new corporate accountability legislation making companies, including supermarkets and food producers, accountable for their impacts on communities and the environment.


As a local resident I’d like to see neither Asda nor Tesco be successful in their application in Beeston. Asda in particular are part of the Walmart family who have poor reputation in America(1) and were one of the firms partaking in the appalling practice of “Dead Peasant Insurance”(2), taking out life insurance on their staff without their knowledge and profiting from unexpected early deaths. More issues with Tesco and other large supermarkets can be found at the Tescopoly(3) website.

I’d personally like to see the land used for local businesses, preferably manufacturing ones that can help bring skilled decent jobs to the area, and get us making things again locally rather than having to import goods. There is growing market for green technologies and we should be promoting those. As someone who has worked in a supermarket myself in the past, I know such employment is rarely fulfilling and rewarding, and will lead to a net loss of jobs as other local businesses fold. Given that traffic congestion is a regular complaint at the Beeston Community Forum, I don’t see how opening a supermarket on Old Land is going to help that in any way at all, quite the opposite. Leading to more pollution, more accidents, and greater congestion.

Ultiately it comes down to the old environmental slogan – Think global, act local. If local communities are not prepared to fight back against the corporations whether it be with campaigns or with their wallets, then we will end up with characterless clone towns reliant on the whim of the multinationals for our livelihood. Given that globalisation sees work going wherever it is cheapest, or it drives down wages so companies remain “competitive”, I question the quality of work that these stores will provide long term. Furthermore if the supermarkets’ quest to deliver cheaper food continues unabated then farmers will go out of business, supplies will fall, and prices will go up. The cost of transportation from further afield will increase as will the environmental damage. Better to have realistic prices that are sustainable for the long term rather than “cheap” prices that destroy businesses, jobs, and ultimately will rise anyway. I fear in 20 years time we may all regret Asda or Tesco building a supermarket on Old Lane when the rest of Beeston is like a ghost town. We should support local businesses of people who live in the area before these large firms who typically do not put as much back. Seventy per cent of the money spent at local businesses stays local, whereas 30% of money spent at large national / international companies ends up back in the local economy.

Notes
(1) http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Criticism_of_Walmart
(2) http://deadpeasantinsurance.com/
(3) http://www.tescopoly.org/

Andy and Bevan 30th November 2012

Andy and Bevan the handsome hound, 30th November 2012

It’s never my intention to go long periods without blogging but I seem prone to doing so! Somehow it was July 2011 when I last posted. One reason was the frustration of having to upgrade to a later version of WordPress because the old one would no longer let me upload photos. Having upgraded it turned out my old K2 “theme” didn’t work, so I rolled back to the previous version and never got round to revisiting it. That was partly due to the second reason where health issues had a knock on effect on most things I was doing.

Anyhow I’m back. The latest version of WordPress is installed, I’ve chosen a bright new theme and modified it to my liking, and I hope to keep up with regular blogs in the future. There’s a lot to catch up on. It has been a busy time my last post, particularly with the Green Party activities. While I may reflect a lttle on the past, I suppose it’s best to keep focused on the present and the future. I hope you like the new look site and enjoy the blog. Cheers.

Bevan looking skyward
On one of their walks this week Tina captured this shot of Bevan looking to the heavens. I like it very much and it is now my desktop wallpaper.