Saturday, January 19, 2013
Under the budget proposals cooked up by the Council’s cabinet committee, children with special needs, disabled people, victims of domestic violence, older people, young people at risk, young parents and the homeless will all have services reduced or cut. If you look at the make-up of the cabinet – white, middle-class and middle-aged down to a man (and I mean that literally; no women, let alone a young person or someone from a different background) – it does go some way to explaining how a decision that requires such a lack of empathy could be made. That, and the fact that over the past two years it has been made clear from the very top: it is the same old nasty Tory party attacking the weakest targets they can find.
However, Lewes Stop the Cuts, a coalition of individuals, trade unions, charities, students and community groups, is committed to fighting these cuts to public services. A lobby of the next Council meeting is being held on Tuesday 12th February. Any individuals or organisations who can support this lobby should meet at the main entrance to County Hall, Lewes from 9am onwards to let the councillors know that those they think are the weakest are - together - the strongest.
Saturday, January 12, 2013
I used to have a similarly childish obsession with the weather – when I was a child. As a kid in London, I was familiar with the place name Herstmonceux for two reasons. First, I was slightly annoyed with it for nicking the Royal Observatory from up the road at Greenwich. Even though it happened in 1947, I felt I had somehow been deprived and that all the tourists milling about outside the building at the top of Greenwich Park were being conned. The second reason that Herstmonceux was familiar to me was because it frequently cropped up on the weather forecast; well, not so much the forecast, as the review of the day’s weather that Jack Scott or Bill Giles sometimes gave at the start of a forecast. If there had been extremes of weather – temperature, sunshine, rain, snow – very often Herstmonceux would be mentioned as having the highest or lowest of whatever was being measured. I am sure that other places were mentioned just as regularly, but an observatory thief with an unpronounceable name with the letter ‘x’ in it, stood out. In my naivety, I assumed that the Meteorological Office knew what the weather had been like across every inch of the land, and I was fascinated with the idea that Herstmonceux was the epicentre of extreme weather in southern England. I never made the connection between the observatory and weather; and so it never occurred to me that the reason it experienced more sunshine or the lowest temperature was because there was a weather station there to measure these things.
In 1990, the Royal Observatory moved again to Cambridge but gradually throughout that decade its various functions – astronomy, particle physics, hydrography – were scattered to different locations. I am not sure when the Herstmonceux weather station would have moved but it is now in West End, a minor road leading out of Herstmonceux village to Gingers Green and Stunts Green. Since ending up living in Herstmonceux, I pass it every day I go to my allotment. It is a very unassuming single-storey wooden building, protected by tasteful racing green metal security fencing as it is unmanned and automatic. Equipment there measures air temperature, atmospheric pressure, rainfall, wind speed and direction, humidity, cloud height and visibility. The station produces constant observations and transmits them to the Met Office in Exeter; the minute-by-minute readings can be accessed on the Met Office website. It is said that weather balloons are launched twice daily from the station but I have never seen one. A friend has, and sighting one myself has now become a minor obsession. The Met Office has over two hundred weather stations around the country but only a handful are still manual. It’s a shame: I think I would be quite good at looking out of the window of a wooden hut and then phoning in the news that Siberian Snow Chaos Hits Britain.
Tuesday, January 1, 2013
Replacing his jacket and shirt, Ridler draped a scarf over the top of his head and held it in place with a battered, broad-brimmed felt hat he had taken, with the scarf, from his jacket pocket. Tying the scarf under his chin, in such a way that only eyes, nose and mouth were visible, he began the climb down to Firle picking his way carefully down the gradient. He could see the car lights on the Lewes Road, fuller now but still a dull, lazy amber, and a cloud of steam as a train was leaving Glynde station. These – the road and the rail - demarked the two lines he would need to re-cross before he could feel less threatened. When he would be walking in the cool and quiet of the tree-lined lanes that led him home, he would be happy. As he descended, the stiff breeze of the Downs subsided and the flat land rose to meet him.