Tuesday, July 31, 2007

Can't wait until tomorrow ...

You can see here, just how severely stressed I've been over the past few weeks ...

... I'll try to think of this wonderful Welsh fishing spot (to calm me down!) when I log on to my work e-mails tomorrow - I have a strong feeling there may be several hundreds awaiting me :-(

Gutted :-((

Just noted that I was defeated by David Cameron - gutted :-((

... mind you, he does appear to have his own troubles at the moment ...

Great holiday

Back in sunny Edinburgh after a very enjoyable few weeks away.

First week in the Peak District, second in North Wales, and last few days in the Lake District ... in hindsight, I was pretty lucky to be on high ground throughout the holiday!

Saturday, July 14, 2007

Friday, July 13, 2007

Mad rush

Late Friday afternoon now, and suffering the usual last-minute mad rush to clear my desk - not to mention the never ending e-mails - before I finally manage to escape.

Why is it, that no matter how hard you try, it is nigh-on impossible to go on holiday without mild chaos ensuing beforehand?

And if escaping from work isn't proving bad enough, just wait until tomorrow at home ... will need to somehow deal with the ever-increasing pet menagerie before any final departure on holiday will be possible :-(

One third of all pupils in new or refurbished buildings

There's a rather annoying story in one of our local papers today - here. It doesn't come under the headline I've used above, but instead "Crumbling state of schools is failing children".

The story, quite factually it has to be said, mentions several Edinburgh schools that need some attention to their building-fabric - Portobello High School, James Gillespies High School, Boroughmuir High School, St. John's Primary School, and St. Crispins Special School.

These 5 schools were all identified to be part of a 'third-round' of school building programme ... all of which is uncertain now, due to the change of local and national administrations back in May. Fair enough ... that's politics.

Very annoyingly, what the article completely fails to mention is that once the current 'second-round' of school building programme is finished in Edinburgh (early 2010 - just a few years away now), then taken together with other schools newly built or refurbished since 2002 - one third of the pupils attending Edinburgh's schools will be learning in buildings either new or completely refurbished.

That's right - one third of all Edinburgh's pupils will be learning in new or completely refurbished buildings by early 2010. Obviously, far too positive a story to be reported as it just wouldn't sell newspapers :-((

I don't have to sell the Really Bad Blog - so here's the complete list of new, and refurbished, schools in Edinburgh:

New Build Schools - completed

Braidburn Special School
Rowanfield Special School
Oaklands Special School
Oxgangs Primary School
St Peter’s Primary School
Forthview Primary School
Castleview Primary School
Craigour Park Primary School
Craigroyston Primary School
Broomhouse Primary School
St Joseph’s RC Primary School
Pirniehall Primary School
St David’s RC Primary School
Gracemount High School
Craigmount High School
St Thomas of Aquins High School

Refurbished Schools - completed

The Royal High School
Firrhill High School
Drummond Community High School

New Build Schools - ongoing

Cairnpark & Canonmills SEBD School
New MLD Primary & Secondary – Kingsinch/St Nicholas
Bonaly Primary School
Juniper Green Primary School
Niddrie Mill Primary School
St Francis Primary School
Broughton High School
Forrester High School
Holy Rood High School
St. Augustine's High School
Tynecastle High School
Craigroyston Community High School

Refurbished Schools - ongoing

Canal View Primary School
Pentland Primary School
Curries Primary School

Now surely, if all that can be done between 2002 and 2010, it won't be beyond the wit of the new local and national administrations to renew the 5 schools earlier identified as now in most need of attention??

I won't be holding my breath.

Thursday, July 12, 2007

Walking the goat ...

Gorgie City Farm mania has continued unabated this evening ... apparently they were allowed to take the goats for a walk earlier today - here's the photographic proof.

So now, as well as the cat, the numerous fish, the hundreds of stick insects and the damned hamster, which I currently have to share the flat with, junior wants ... you've guessed it ... a goat :-((

When do the schools go back??

Problem Solving Partnership (PSP) meeting

A further PSP meeting this afternoon ... have mentioned progress with all of this on several occasions before: relevant links are here ... and the meeting heard from a variety of local agencies about progress with youth issues in the local area.

I would say this wouldn't I; but I am genuinely impressed with the efforts being made with this PSP - I've been through several PSP-cycles (so to speak) over the last 8-years, and this is by far the most successful.

Dunedin-Canmore, Lothian and Borders Police, Council staff and the local Community Council have all pooled their efforts remarkably effectively and not only is a successful Youth Cafe being run, but also a summer programme of activities aimed at the younger P5-P7 age group is up and running.

Nobody is claiming it's been a panacea for all local ills - but equally, nobody doubts that the activities have had a very positive impact throughout the local area.

Wednesday, July 11, 2007

Gorgie City Farm mania ...

Junior is somewhat hyperactive this evening ... spent a day at Gorgie City Farm on Tuesday as a "Young Farmer", had a great time and is booked back in again for tomorrow (Thursday). He can't wait ...

Now, for me, slopping out the pigs (and other assorted animals) isn't quite how I'd like to spend a relaxing day off ... but it has to be said, that Gorgie City Farm have clearly got a winning formula on the go here - I simply cannot stop him talking about it :-((

Holiday blogging - NO

Some wag has just e-mailed me, I presume as a follow-up to my last entry, asking if he can expect to see regular blog posts whilst I'm off on holiday.

For the avoidance of any doubt amongst my regular readers, just thought I should share my straightforward answer to this question - "NO".

Thankfully I do not own a laptop and, in addition, have no intention whatsoever of frequenting any internet cafes whilst on holiday - sorry.

I know life will be difficult without a regular fix from the "Really Bad Blog" ... I'll try and post as much as I can up until Saturday afternoon, but then that's it for a short while I'm afraid :-))

Surgery this evening

Local surgery this evening at Fountainbridge Library ... all the surgery details here ... ones at the two schools in abeyance for the moment, due to the school holidays ... so the Library could well be busier than usual this evening.

Even that will be off for the next couple of weeks after this evening, as a long-overdue break begins this weekend :-)

Tuesday, July 10, 2007

Dreadful rumour ...

A truly dreadful rumour is doing the rounds at the City Chambers this week ... I've heard it from several sources, so that's as good as 'true' in local politics :-)

... apparently, the new 'Liberal-Nationalist-Tory' hegemony is on the verge of reintroducing Councillors Robes for all ceremonial occasions? Can you believe it??

Now, it won't come as a shock to regular readers ... but I am definitely not one for pomp and ceremony of any description, and frankly the chances of getting me into the type of get-up above are zero.

And just what would it all say about Edinburgh in 2007 - I'm sure some will think it positive - but for me, it would just be yet another nail in the coffin of Edinburgh as a modern, capital city.

We are truly going back to a different age ... pre- early 1980's ... when people only came to Edinburgh to see the castle, visit the zoo, or laugh at Councillors in ancient robes :-((

Monday, July 09, 2007

Optimum Population?

I've been taking a bit of flak at work over my recent ramblings on population - here.

By sheer coincidence, since that post on July 1st, I've heard several radio pieces on this very subject - one on Woman's Hour, and one on the Today programme (sorry, I am completely addicted to Radio 4).

Woman's Hour had someone on from an organisation called Optimum Population - now, if the graph above doesn't scare you, go to their website (as linked) and watch that clock :-((

The programme was debating the impact of population growth and - I thought anyhow - there was a spirited defence of why the developed world needs to end its obsession with population growth as a precursor for economic success.

A few days later, to my partial dismay, the Today programme had a couple of interviewees on speaking about the very same subject - one being George Monbiot. Now, I mention dismay, because George Monbiot - whose unflinching willingness to tackle difficult issues with rationale argument I greatly admire - seemed to be reluctant to accept the need to tackle population growth ... I nearly choked on my cornflakes. He mentioned, from memory here, 'fingers being burnt' over this issue in the 1960's when population growth in the third world was held up as being unacceptable and that whole debate (back then) getting mixed up in birth control arguments and thus overtly moralistic overtones.

Okay, maybe all true, but I'm 43 (born in the 1960's) and am part of the generation that needs to face up to this issue ... I have no specific knowledge of such a debate (may just be my own ignorance?), and genuinely don't think that it negates the compelling need to tackle the issue again now ... most people of child-bearing age now weren't even born in the 1960's and have a different set of reference points which drive their outlook on the problems facing the world.

I certainly (still) think it's a debate that could do with even more air-time ...

Saturday, July 07, 2007

Falkland, Fife

Heading up to Falkland, in Fife, later today ... creatures of habit I'm afraid ... it is a bit of a favourite family haunt.

Looking forward to visiting the Pillars of Hercules and doing some walking in the area around Falkland House.

Hoping the weather stays fair?

Hamster hysterics

Very slight hamster hysterics in the household this weekend ... news has reached the less-balanced members of the flat of Canter's Council fame

... and some serious Presidential campaigning assistance is now being offered ... as you can see :-)

How can she now possibly lose - Bush's days are numbered.

Friday, July 06, 2007

Fair weather commuting cyclist?

First big test today of whether (sorry!) I'm going to be a 'fair weather commuting cyclist' or not ... was indeed a bit damp on Monday morning when I started the new regime, but this morning it was belting down.

I have to admit, nearly polished off the bus pass when I looked out of the window ... but, temptation was resisted and I cycled to work, getting pretty soaked in the process :-(

I definitely need to get to a decent cycle-shop over the weekend and buy a good light-weight rain-proof jacket ... only 'water-tight' jackets I have at the moment are of the mountaineering type; not really suitable for cycling!

Face another conundrum later, as being Friday there is the distinct possibility that one or two drinks (of the mildly alcoholic variety) may be consumed before returning home for the evening ... now, this was never a problem when on the bus :-((

Really Bad Blog ain't so bad after all

Well, news has just reached me that - amazingly - I've been shortlisted in the 'Elected representative' (scroll down a bit on that link) category of the 2007 New Statesman New Media Awards!

Just look at the company I'm in - "Cllr Andrew Burns, David Cameron MP, Ed Miliband MP, Jo Swinson MP" ... my reputation (no counter-jokes please) is ruined :-))

Now, can I be the only one who thinks they may "just" get some assistance with their blogs ... or am I being too cynical? I see a few other bloggers have picked up on this point - here and here. Surely, if there's any justice in the world the award should go to someone who actually "writes" their own blog ... I can but hope!

Tragically, I can't make the 'awards ceremony' in London later this month - due to being on holiday - and can only keep my fingers crossed that doesn't count against me ... watch this space.

Thursday, July 05, 2007

Neighbourhood Partnership meeting

I might have escaped being at the City Chambers during the day, but no escape tonight ... Neighbourhood Partnership meeting this evening.

First, full 'Business Meeting' in preparation for the first Public Meeting later in the early Autumn. Was reasonably well attended, with most Councillors and Community Councilors present ... Police and Voluntary Sector there also, but no one (unless I missed them!) from the Health side?

Pretty, straightforward functional meeting ... agreeing Chair-elect (Donald Wilson), meeting arrangements, provisional dates etc.

Looking forward to just getting on with some real business now!

Day off!

Most of the day spent away from the City Chambers today - wonderful!

My parents were over from deepest, darkest Salsburgh to spend the day with us (good web-site about the village here, showing the Primary School I attended!).

Lazy morning wondering around Harrison Park and the adjoining canal (just 5-minutes from the flat) ... huge improvements in this area just in the decade or so I've been living locally - both playgrounds in the park fully renewed and the canal towpath upgraded. I spent an inordinate amount of time around here when junior was a baby and he still loves it aged 9! Long may it last.

Afternoon, and we set off to the National Museum of Scotland, which was very busy with large visiting Groups - still very enjoyable.

Mobile 'phone didn't ring once all day - absolute bliss :-)

Wednesday, July 04, 2007

Not so quiet for July ...

There are a distinct lack (not a single one in today's diary!) of formal Council meetings at the moment - July recess does tend to be 'comparatively' quiet on that front - but I've noticed a big difference this year at a local Ward level ... I appear to be getting as many constituent and 'local group' queries as ever, despite it being July.

It's undoubtedly partly to do with the increased size of the new multi-Member Wards, but also - I think - a sign that the mythical "Member-Ward Link" is actually not about to collapse and fall apart under the new electoral system.

All the evidence - in particular from both Northern and Southern Ireland - does show that the Ward-Link actually strengthens under STV-PR, but it's only now that the reality of the situation is very slowly starting to sink in with most elected Members.

It's all pretty obvious really - 3 elected Members (4 in some parts of the city) for each Ward; mostly from different political parties; bit of internal Ward competition ... the result is hardly rocket-science? Elected members have to work harder ... no wonder most of them wanted things to stay as they were :-)

Indeed, some readers will know that in Southern Ireland the politicians loved the system so much they held a referendum (twice!) to try and get the voters to scrap it ... the voters (twice!) elected to keep STV-PR.

That says it all really.

Tuesday, July 03, 2007

Traffic Congestion a thing of the past

After years of searching for the perfect solution to traffic congestion, suddenly came across this stunning example of 'ingenuity in action'.

Rumour has it that the new Scottish Executive, worried about the scale of spend within the transport budget and its actual impact on journey times, has decided to trial this 'congestion-busting methodology' during the upcoming construction of the Edinburgh tram network :-))

Monday, July 02, 2007

Day one ... still living

Well, the cycle-commuting has begun and I appear to have survived - if not a bit damp, given the wonderful start to July's weather that Edinburgh appears to be experiencing.

I've actually got a pretty straightforward (mostly) off-road route into the city ... out of the door on Cowan Road, on to the canal at Ashley Drive, along to the Leamington Lift Bridge, Gilmore Place for a short distance, skirt the Meadows, up Middle-Meadow Walk, Forrest Road, George IV Bridge, Royal Mile, City Chambers!

And it was definitely quicker than the bus :-)

School holidays ...

Start of the school holidays today in Edinburgh ... it's that desperate time of year (as far as I'm concerned) when both wife (who's a teacher) and child are lounging around at home and I still have to go to work. Nightmare.

Only one answer to it ... I'll need to get on my bike and cycle to work ;-)

Sunday, July 01, 2007

Quieter Sunday

Bit of a quieter Sunday - thank goodness - after the fairly frantic last week or two. Group of us undertook a very easy, low level walk in the Pentlands which tragically ended up at the Flotterstone Inn ;-(

In the group; eight adults with seven children ... with another child on the way to one of the couples. Having only one ourselves, feel like we're letting the side down ... but more seriously, I do worry just were it's all leading us and never cease to be amazed that 'population size' seems to be a completely taboo subject in the western developed world. I've yet to hear a really compelling argument as to why we need 'population growth' to succeed economically (and more importantly, socially) yet it seems to be simply accepted as a given?

Population turnover - age profile/mix etc. - I can accept as a fairly crucial component of success, but why small can't be successful I just don't know.

ERS Meeting

Well, the Electoral Reform Society meeting (was their AGM) went well ... managed to get elected back on to the ERS Council for another two years.

There is an air of mild excitement about what the new Government may announce in the next few days, as regards constitutional reform ... personally, I'm not convinced it will contain a firm commitment to electoral reform for Westminster. I sense another consultation actually ;-(

London itself had a strange, almost becalmed, feeling about it. Visibly more police on the streets ... especially at Kings Cross on the way home.

Suzanne Vega

Back in Edinburgh (now Sunday evening) and have to comment briefly on a really, really enjoyable concert I went to on Friday evening ... just before jumping on the sleeper!

Suzanne Vega was playing the Queens Hall on Friday night - mainly showcasing her new album, which has just been released; "Beauty & Crime" - and it was the fourth time we've seen her.

I thought she was 'sounding' as good as I've ever heard her ... I can't easily think of any other artist whose every word (and I do mean every word) you can understand, no matter at what volume or pace the accompanying music is being played.

The songs from the new album sounded great, and the old favourites are just as moving today as they were when we first saw her in Bristol in May 1987. Back then, both musically and lyrically, Suzanne Vega was the backdrop to the start of a long romance that I'm glad to say is alive and well today :-))