Proper Followers

Tuesday, July 24, 2007

Been there, done that...

The debate goes on and the silly are becoming stupid - the blind are leading the blind and congestion madness is just that - MAD! I could say 'I told you so!' but what's the point? Anyhow, I guess I've just said it anyway! And the point is that it was inevitable that not just Manchester would want to charge the motorist for daring to enter it's boundaries but that every other local authority and national institution (motorways/main roads) would follow suit! And lo and behold, it has been revealed today that I was right. Check the road charging story in the Manchester Evening News tonight.
I've had a look at the so called congestion on the roads of Manchester and my verdict is that the only congestion is a self made congestion. Some of it by ignorance, some of it on purpose. The bus lane fiasco, the blocked off streets, the no left turns, the no right turns, the dodgy one way streets, the over zealous parking restrictions, the roads to nowhere, the Mersey river crossings, the dismantled railway lines, the disused railway tracks, the overgrown railway routes, the railway lines with no stations, the closed railway stations, the metrolink in the wrong place, the metrolink proposals not including a route down Princess road/parkway. The list goes on...
Park and ride has not been tested properly in Manchester, the only schemes I know about run at christmas and close early - just like the buses! Not only that but they run from stupid places like Heaton Park and The Siemens Factory. If you want to get real about tackling the congestion you need to stick the park + ride right out where the polluters come from. You need to take a little look at the map and find the little black lines that run from/to Piccadilly or Victoria or Oxford Road stations and follow them until you reach the M6/M62/M60 motorways etc., then you need to build massive car parks and a railway station at each junction and put up a BIG sign on the motorways that says Manchester Park+Ride. End of problem!

Tuesday, July 17, 2007

No matter what...

All this talk about congestion charges/charging who pays what to whom and where and when? The political football that this issue has become needs kicking into touch. I've said it before and I'll repeat it here - Manchester is nowhere near ready for congestion charging. Let's get it right! Congestion charging isn't just another tax on the poor little hard pressed driver. 1) It is a detterent - You might as well put up a sign that says: CLOSED FOR BUSINESS! 2) If Peter drives into the city to work and Paul takes the bus, isn't congestion charging just another way of robbing Peter to pay Paul? 3) The Metrolink needs a re-think, Fifty million pounds per mile to construct is way too much. In the early 1970's Manchester rejected the Picc-Vic Underground Railway (Piccadilly station to Victoria station) because the five million pound quote was deemed too much. 4) What happens to all the money anyway? It certainly doesn't physically cost fifty million pounds to construct a mile of tram track. In fact if you give me a million pounds I'll get a couple of the lads out of the pub and we'll do the first mile for you!
No matter what you say or do as an unknown individual, you'll most likely find that anything you do say or do, will be disregarded or at best treated as a hill of beans. Roy Keane, on the other hand, as a well known international footballer (and captain of Manchester Uni-ted, at the time) came up with his famous prawn sandwich quote. I mention it here and credit the new Sunderland manager with the thought behind it because it pretty much sums up what is happening in Manchester today. Take the International Festival we've been having in the city the past couple of weeks - great if you can afford tickets to the events - but don't worry if you can't - 'cos the prawn sandwich brigade can! Sounds a bit like all this nonsense about congestion charging, doesn't it? Don't worry if you can't find an extra fiver or so a day to pay the tolltax from your minimum wage job - 'Cos the prawn sandwich mob will pay that much and more gladly, to drive on a clear street!
We took Jack and his friend and Jessica (Nic's helper) to Alton Towers at the weekend. It was saturday and everybody was prepared for rain but the tickets were booked and at that price (moaning about money again!) there was no going back. As it turned out the weather was wonderful and everybody actually got a little sunburned. Anyway, if you're driving from Manchester, it's a pain of a place to get to, it's not very far - less than an hours drive - but once you get past Leek the roads get a bit thin and guess what? Congested with coaches, cars and mini-busses! Sounds like a certain local council's view of the Manchester rush hour, only this is rural Staffordshire, although quaint, it ain't! So, you drive forty-five minutes out of the uncongested city, clear a couple of towns - Macclesfield and Leek - no traffic on the A roads - everythings fine - then, just as the sun starts to shine and you're just six miles from your BIG day out - You hit traffic, slow moving coaches, cars and mini-busses packed with excited children stuck behind a blooming red-deisel guzzeling TRACTOR! Not the farmers fault, he's just going about his business of making hay while the sun shines - you can't blame him, can you?
So, six miles up the road and another forty-five minutes later you arrive at the main gates to Alton Towers, only to be confronted by another traffic jam, and you guessed it, A congestion charge. The first thing you see is the notice that reads: car park £4.00 and the massive queue of vehicles waiting to get in it. But they're canny these experienced congestion conners, they know that parents are tearing their hair out, in the fronts of exited kid packed cars, they know that nobody likes queues, and that desperate people (and prawn sandwich types) will do (pay) almost anything to beat the system. So, what do the clever theme park operators do? (Manchester, take note!) They make a queue busting filter lane to a priority car park and charge you £10.00 how's that for a canny con?
Here's a little two-in-one idea for you. I've mentioned Pomona, part of the former Manchester docks on the ship canal before. The area is mostly in Trafford borough, some of it is in the city of Manchester, and the north bank of the canal is in the city of Salford, so politically it is a hot potato. The problem is, it is a post industrial dump and nobody seems to be interested in developing the site. I have heard rumours about some kind of waterfront style city park and also a year or so ago now, I read that three or four residential towers, in the manner of a ships sails, were to be built on Pomona Strand, but we're still waiting! Well, here's my idea - build your city park + and an amusement park with all the latest rides - it's in an ideal place, transport wise, as so many railway routes already run through the area and there are the overhead metrolink stations at Cornbrook and Pomona. Why should the good people of Greater Manchester have to travel to congested Staffordshire or up to Blackpool to ride a roller coaster? Do the green thing and move it to Manchester!!!

Wednesday, July 11, 2007

Use it or lose it...

First of all a BIG thank you to Freda! Not only did she send me the Vileda Super Mocio to try but she also sent me an even better/deeper wringing/and cheaper version, 'The Asda Kitchen Mop Bucket + Wringer' in cream and blue, for the super bargain price at Asda Walmart (at Manchester Eastlands) of just £1.82
So, it's mop bucket city at our house these days. I've got the Asda Kitchen Mop Bucket in the bathroom - The Vileda Super Mocio in the utility room - The Addis divider bucket, minus wringer, but complete with Magic Mop in the kitchen - The proffesional/industrial contract/hospital style bucket with long-handle wringer and castor wheels complete with wide style/industrial mop is now in the back yard waiting to be freecycled.
Guess what? It's Jack's birthday tomorrow and he's going to be FOURTEEN! Can you believe it? So, what's he getting for pressies? Loads of money and book tokens so far and a trip to Alton Towers and a Chinese Meal at a place in China Town. Oh yes, and he's got/getting lots of war gaming stuff (his latest obsession) just recently he's been busy glueing fantasy warriors together and painting them. It all started with his Grandad (Nic's Dad) taking him to the War Gaming Club. Okay, what else? Oh yeah, he wants to buy a weight lifting bench and weights with his b'day money. He wants the latest Harry Potter book and he's going to the movies on Sunday with Aunty Suzanne (Nic's sister). So, he's got a busy birthday week - and on the school front he's going to an art gallery in Sheffield! Phew!
Well, they keep on coming don't they! Sven-Goran Eriksson being the latest big name to arrive in the city. He's going to take Man City (the football club) up to the top of the Premiership where they belong and he's going to bring in some big name players with plenty of fire-power, oh yeah, and they're going to win the FA cup! Next year they'll be playing in Europe and they'll win the European Cup! The following season they'll sign a couple of new players and they'll win the treble! Nice one Sven, trouble is - we've heard it all before!
I was reading in the local paper a letter from a guy proposing a Monorail system for Manchester. Great idea! We can apply for it, there's nothing to stop us from dreaming that one day the powers that be will wake up and actually fund a reliable public transport alternative for this city region. City what? City region, I said, notice how you start to pick up the political speak when you start dabbling in transportation issues! (transportation? how American sounding is that?) Anyway, a monorail right down the middle of Princess Parkway/road from the Airport to Manchester Central (formerly G-Mex, originally Central Station) would be a good start. Of course it doesn't have to be a monorail, it could be a Metrolink tram, or a dedicated busway, or just a couple of bendy-buses, of course if we/they were really adventurous we/they could dig up the old street tram lines which are still buried under the central reservation and save us all a few bob!
Seriously though, this congestion charge nonsense is way out of control - It's a political thing and nothing you or I can say about the matter will make an ounce of difference. Nobody I know wants it, that's about all I can say, if you want to pay an extra grand a year or more to drive into this city at the peak period then write in and let me know, please! Because what the political odd bods don't/won't tell you is that sticking an extra/unfair road charge/tax on the people of Greater Manchester is only the beginning. Yes, this is to be the testing ground for the provinces and if people are daft enough to pay the charge here then they (central government/every local authority) will soon introduce the same thing to your neck of the woods. So, if for instance you work in Manchester and live in Liverpool you will quite likely need to pay not one congestion charge but two or three. You see, Liverpool will charge you because you live there, Manchester will charge you because you work there and of course Warrington will have to charge you for driving through their borough twice a day during the rush hour. By the time all this happens (in a couple of weeks?) there'll be a toll on the Motorway as well, so driving out of Manchester you'll have to pay the M602 toll then the M62 toll and if you use the M56 and M60 you'll need to pay their tolls too. Don't toll booths cause congestion?
Of course the real solution to all of our problems transport wise in the Manchester area is to re-instate the railways. Doesn't it make you mad driving round this city and seeing all those dismantled railway lines. The Victorians had the right idea, the roads were clogged up with horse and carts but no-one was bothered because they were all on the train! The trouble is, these days the train tracks have been dismantled and even where we have nice train lines we don't have any blooming stations! Mad? It gets madder! Take Wythenshawe for instance, a third of the population of the whole of the city of Manchester lives in Wythenshawe and there's not even a direct bus service to the city centre (more about that later!) There is however, a nice railway line that runs right through the middle of Wythenshawe, but there are no stations on it. The said railway line or should that be sad railway line links up with the metrolink interchange at Altrincham and runs through Stockport to Manchester Piccadilly in the opposite direction. It also crosses a couple of other strategic routes where interchange stations could be created, not least, the airport line.

Tuesday, July 03, 2007

Keep on talking...

Not many people know this but on August 28th. The city of Liverpool will be celebrating it's eight hundreth aniversary. To mark the event several groups of poets are doing different things, one group is asking local poets to contribute a line to an eight hundred line poem another group is looking for 800 poems to make an anthology I even sent in a couple of verses myself which they have accepted. I wrote a third Liverpool poem this week on the strength of it, my new piece is called The Amazing Gormley's and is of course about the naked men on Crosby beach. After completing this one I realised that a Merseyside collection was/is on the cards as I also have a poem about Southport A Limited Sea and another one about the Wirral somewhere!
We re-cycle everything these days and you'd think the powers that be would at least try to make it easier for people to do just that. But what a kerfuffle all this re-cycling thing is becoming. "We don't take cardboard mate!" said the re-cycling collector, "There's too many different types you see, and a lot of it's covered in that plastic stuff, it's a sort of wax or summit! ain't it? Anyway, we can't tek it!" He continued. Which got me to thinking that forty odd years ago things were much simpler - we recycled cardboard then without even knowing that that was what we were doing. I remember, I worked at the local Maypole store, stacking shelves and stuff after school and once a week we had a big cardboard collection. A man with a van would come and take all the flattened boxes away - I think they had to be not only flattened but put into a forty-eight dozen size egg box. Anyway, how green's that? Not only did we re-cycle cardboard but all glass bottles had a refund price attached to them - remember the milk bottles? rinse and return! Also, pop bottles had a deposit on them as did things like soda fountains that you could get from the off license in those days. And what about all those bring+buy sales? Yes, we've been re-cycling for a long time!
It was Ruth's birthday yesterday and we made Missisippi Mud Pie, HAPPY BIRTHDAY RUTH! Don't you just love cooking? Well, it can be fun! I like making fridge cakes - you do a bit of cooking but you don't bake 'em in the oven - you just slam 'em in the fridge! And Missisippi Mud Pie is the favorite one that I like to make. It all started about twelve years ago. We used to go to a Pizza take-away on Wilmslow Road, one of those student places the other side of Platt Fields Park from the curry mile. It was an Italien place in those days and they used to flop the pizza dough about New York style and make up the pizzas to-order in the window of the shop and a crowd would always watch as the man worked. Anyway, we used to go down on a friday night and get in the queue (it was always busy) and after we'd ordered the pizza the Italian man would say "What you want for your pudding? Hah! I know what you likes! You wants the Missisippi Mud Pie! No?" So, I used to buy the sticky stuff for £1 a slice - every week. Of course one thing led to another and we got the recipe to make it ourselves which was lucky 'cos not long after that the take-away was taken over by a non Italien family and guess what? they stopped selling fridge cakes!
Last week under this sub-title in this column in this blog on your computer I wrote about Mops! Mop buckets to be precise - Well, thank you for the two e-mails one from anonymous and the other one from Freda. The first one said: I think it's a Vileda you're looking for! And Freda said: It's called a Super Mocio and they're about a fiver! And I wrote back to Freda and said: Can you send me one? I'm still waiting of course, but I did find that my local Asda actually sells them and they cost £4.97 the only trouble is they're so popular that Asda is constantly out-of-stock! Sometimes you just can't win, can you? If you want one, and I reccomend them, they're called Super Mocio (thanks Freda) and yes, anonymous they're made by Vileda!