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More Parties, Work Week and Running

Crow Link Coastline

Crow Link Coastline Low Tide

I was wondering when I thought about re-starting this blog whether I would have enough material to do a ‘weekly’ blog post summarising what i’d been up to.  The first two weeks have been busy!

This week started with a trip down to Eastbourne so I could ferry the parents to and from a couple of hospital appointments (to carry on a theme for last week!).  A tough time ahead for them unfortunately.  On the flip side, it meant that I was able to do a lot of work in peace and quiet and managed to crack on with some more J & J Air Systems CompAir and Bambi Air Compressor updates and of course Cater For You.

Whilst I was there, I also managed a couple of runs from their Friston base with the Downs and stunning countryside literally on their doorstep.  My Achilles recuperation is coming along well, I still have a bit of pain in the left one but it is definitely getting there.  Unfortunately, i’m still a long way from playing hockey which I miss dreadfully.  It is now almost two years since the right achilles went (tendinitis) with only a few months of fitness before the left one went in the Over 40’s final.  I’m targeting a return next season when Jamie is eligible to play and pootling around in the 5th XI with him and possibly the odd Over 40’s game this season if we are short (think that will be too soon though). I have been asked to try my hand at umpiring, but I’ve always been appalling when I’ve tried previously.

JJ Air Systems

JJ Air Systems Champion Air Compressors Photography

Once I returned on Wednesday afternoon, it was back to normal and a hectic work schedule.  Thursday was a catch up with J & J to plan some more developments and a quick pop into Cater For You to catch up on the comings and goings.  I’ve a backlog of about 20 products I have to put up on the site ASAP which i’d promised Jason (our fab purchasing manager) I would put on-line the previous week. Fortunately none of the products are Christmas products.  We also had the latest designs for our new site which is an evolution of the current web site but looking absolutely fabulous.  The timings seem to have slipped already which is a bit of a worry as we have the toughest development / integration bit still to come.  I’m still really pissed off about OGL / ProfitPlus API not being developed ready for our project, despite it almost being ready when they demo’d it at the start of September.  Then again, we cannot integrate our new VOIP phone system and they took many months to sort out MyHermes after disputing it was a major carrier! Anyway….

On Friday I had a series of meetings / catch ups with clients which I always enjoy, though you don’t actually manage to do any work! I started the day badly by going out in the rain for a short run and somehow managed to hit a lamp post with my shoulder – I was wearing hi vis so not sure how that happened… (idiot)… First up was the Community Centre where I was too early and hadn’t actually said I was going so went off to CSE where there was a chat about how to finish off their new CSE UK web site.  This has been in progress for way too long and this was to try and get it over the line and operating as was originally intended.  Good to be back at CSE as they have a great Marketing chap working there now meaning I’ve not had to do any work there for many months.  I started working with John in 2001 and he is also my C4U business partner – I thoroughly enjoy working with him.  He also bought me fish and chips for lunch, what’s not to like!

After CSE / Wooburn Green, I popped over to Fastbreak Sports in Chesham where they were having an email order confirmation problem. Turns out it was an issue from me moving one of their domains over to my new hosting company 20i from Fasthosts.  This is proving an immense project trying to migrate over 200 domains and hosting and I’ve not started on the trickier ones yet.  20i has been a revelation of customer service and also price point – I guess things might change as they get larger (I hope not).  Once Fastbreak was sorted, I caught up with someone else in Chesham to talk about moving forward with a brand new business – I’ve registered http://www.tradekitchensuk.com/ and will put some holding information up for them soon to get it propagating.

Once these series of meetings had finished, it was a quick change and off out to the Cater For You Christmas dinner at Taplow House Hotel.  The team has worked tremendously hard again this year, and I know they were all looking forward to being there.  We had partners along again this year and we numbered a total of 28 people, a record.  We’ve added three more people to the team in the last year. The meal was very good, the venue was very impressive, though I didn’t get to mingle as much as I could of done.  My impromptu speech in the bar at Midnight could have been a lot better too!  I did particularly enjoy catching up with a lot of the team, a highlight was with Sue and Partner Steve.  I’ve been working with Sue since 1992, she is an inspiration to me and just a brilliant person as well as pure silk on the phone when chatting to our customers.

Philips Wood Trail Running

Philips Wood Trail Running with Molly

Peppers from the Greenhouse

Peppers from the Greenhouse

Saturday morning was a late start, but I did take Molly out for a 10k jaunt over to Chorleywood and back.  Like my parents, we are very lucky being so close to the stunning Chiltern’s countryside though HS2 is re-starting in earnest at the back of us.  The run was a bit muddy as they’ve been doing tree work in Philips Wood but Molly and I thoroughly enjoyed it.  There are also some sheep on the way which Molly enjoys seeing, fortunately they are well fenced in to keep Molly out. I also attended to the greenhouse where absurdly I still have peppers and chillis growing.  I was hoping to have it all cleaned and empty by now ready for the start of a new growing season in February.

Saturday evening was a night out I was particularly looking forward to, a few beers with some old Robertswood Dad’s to catch up on a few months. Just very chilled and relaxing in the Merlins Cave Chalfont St Giles.  I think that is my favourite pub at the moment.  Such a shame they’ve closed my old second home the Waggon and Horses in Chalfont St Peter, but it had gone downhill in recent times with some poor landlords and Greene King just wanting to cash in on the property value rather than manage it properly.  The Dumb Bell has had some investment into it over the last year, but I just don’t seem to have the urge to pop in there as much.

Sunday didn’t stop either.  When I finally got out of bed after watching some dispiriting politics programmes about Brexit, I got to work on the garden and clearing up the leaves.  The oak tree has finally shed its last leaf and so I could get to work.  I managed to fill our green bin and four recycling bins with leaves before having to just push them to the edges ready for when the composting has started and the next empty green bin.  I need to do a lot more work on the garden and hope to put a bird friendly new hedge in down one side as soon as spring starts springing.

Next off we’d been invited to Milton’s Cottage for John Milton’s 410th birthday party.  I have been working on their web site on and off since around 2002 through Sarah’s Dad who was Chairman of the Trustees for many years from the 80’s to the 2000’s (I think).  We happened to randomly bump into a few hockey faces too but it was particularly heart warming listening to fond stories of what Philip did for the cottage over many years.  The current trustees though are a world away from that era and have done an astonishing job to secure the future for generations to come.

To round off the week, the road had a festive get together at one of the houses who were overwhelmingly generous with their hospitality.  It is great getting together with everyone, we are very lucky having such a close community in the road and though we were late it was fun catching up with everyone.

I always thought I was fairly busy, and another week recounting what I’ve been up to kind of confirms that!  The week coming up is no different.

Christmas Parties and Work

PET Cake BoxesIt has been another very busy week since the last blog post and the upgrades to our data networking around the house,  On the work front I have been continuing to do some preparation for the new Cater For You web site.  With the help of SellerDeck, I finally managed to extract all of the data out in spreadsheet format to see what needs to be updated.  I thought I / we’d been thorough when adding new products – something that I think differentiates us from our competitors who just put the basics supplied by manufacturers and why we are near the top of the Google rankings… but I was wrong.  So that means I’ve a huge amount of measuring, weighing and photographing to do before February.  Unfortunately OGL who supply our finance system ProfitItplus have been incredibly unhelpful in finishing their API for data exchange, but fortunately we have a fall back option and everything is still on track for February.

We have a number of new products that I’ve been very slowly adding to the site – there is a great range of new PET cake boxes (photo above) ready to go up as soon as I’ve finished preparing the photographs I took last week. It is currently one of our peak times at C4U so I also spent a few hours in the warehouse putting stock away whilst the rest of the team were coping with the landslide of orders.  The seasonality of the business has always struck me as slightly bonkers and impossible to have the right resources available for all areas, but there is not a lot we can do about it.  Only a few more weeks and then it is low season until Easter next year (hence why we do our major projects between now and then!) and all our mince pie boxes are tucked away for another year.

I’ve also been doing a fair amount of work on the new J & J Air Systems web site where we’ve doubled the traffic since its relaunch, along with the enquires. In addition to the CodePath tool I bought for the SellerDeck extraction above, I also renewed my subscription to Screaming Frog SEO tool, I did a blog post on my Chalfont Web Design to cover that. Some good news on this front was that I had a successful ballot application for a ticket to BrightonSEO in April 2019.  Love going there and absorbing the best techniques and what is coming up in the future, it really is insightful.  We still also use the services of a dedicated SEO company for Cater For You for the really technical areas, but there is so much that most web sites can do easily to improve their rankings relatively easily.

Amersham Hospital ParkingI popped into Amersham hospital this week to have a blood test to check up on my Psoriatic Arthritis numbers and was staggered how busy it was and how much it cost.  For the first 30 minutes it is free, but after that it was £3.50 for the next 2 1/2 hours.  I would have preferred to use Chalfont St Peter hospital as it is local and free parking, but unfortunately, a few years ago they scrapped the queuing system and they outsourced the booking of appointments, where the telephone line is open for 3 hours and it is normally engaged.  Surely that outsourcing cost would have been better employed paying the phlebotomist for another hour a day rather than a third party telephone service – it is almost like the local health authority are trying to make it difficult to be used and maybe close it due to under use.  Saying all that, I was lucky to get a space at Amersham, the queue as I left (two 1/2 hours later) was almost back to the main road.

CSE Bowling and Curry night out

So after a busy week, it was a busy weekend.  I was very lucky to be invited by a couple of my customers to Christmas do’s on Friday and Saturday.  The Friday was a pleasant evening out with the CSE Distributors team in High Wycombe bowling and then a great curry in the Chutney.  It has been ages since I went bowling and enjoyed it.  I also enjoyed spending some time with the CSE team too as I’ve not seen them for a while since they employed an excellent full time marketing person.

Saturday evening I was out with the fabulous Trading Depot team who have worked tremendously hard this year to keep up with the growth in the business.  It was a great night out at Windsor Race Course and parties organised by Best Parties Ever with acrobats, good food and decent disco afterwards.  The facilities were top notch, though not sure my Dad dancing was…

Home Networking Upgrades

Loft 5 Amp Socket and Network Router

Loft 5 Amp Socket and Network Router

It has been a while since I’ve regularly blogged and since then, R & J have tipped over into double figures and thus heavy data and device usage.  I have the best broadband from Virgin Media at 200mbps (though on checking it turns out not the best, they now have a whopping 362mbps!) yet we were all struggling with enough bandwidth over wi-fi.

Jamie asked for an x-box, a very straightforward request we though as after all ‘all his friends have one’.  That isn’t quite how it turned out.  First the old plasma television we had ear marked for the job didn’t support HDMI and Scart connections weren’t good enough, so we had to acquire a new television.  Then apparently, the wi-fi wasn’t good enough for Fortnight (yes that kiddie crack as one of my parent friends put it) and it kept lagging out.

To rectify this (or so I thought) we asked Virgin Media to move the broadband router into the lounge for the new TV (Amazon and Netflix were also cutting out and poor quality on the wi-fi) and add another Tivo box upstairs.  I naively thought I could have them run the broadband upstairs too, but that it turns out is not part of the deal!

Cat 6 LAN Cable UTP Solid 4 pairs

Cat 6 LAN Cable UTP Solid 4 pairs

So, for several months we had network cable running all round the house and veritable trip hazards including up the stairs to the Fortnight hibernation room.

I therefore turned to our local fab electrician Vincent who popped round and scoped out networking the house so that no more wires were required to run along the floors.  We needed the cables running from the new router location in the lounge to the garage, study and upstairs bedroom.

He proposed CAT 6 networking cable run up  the side of the house inside some trunking on the side where it is more exposed to the elements into the loft to a new network switch. From the loft back down into the garage and the X Box room.  Vince also put a cable directly back into the study.

At the same time, we decided to deal with the issue off too few USB plug adaptors by swapping over a few plug sockets with new ones that have USB points included.  These have proved particularly useful at overcoming the problem of other people unplugging someone else’s charging device and missing adaptors, hunting in obscure places for where they may be hidden.

Study networking USB socket

Wired broadband in the study and USB Socket

The net result of all this is that we have super fast broadband in four rooms with the capacity to drop cables into many more rooms from the loft if required.  I can now do my web design uploading and downloading much quicker than over wi-fi, the TV streams programmes no problems, I can watch football on my laptop in high definition in the garage doing a work out and Jamie doesn’t leave his room for days on end as Fortnight no longer ‘lags out’.

Not just an X-Box after all…

London to Brighton Cycle Ride

Ditchling Beacon pano

About a year ago, in the Dumb Bell over a pint or two, Cashman and I were chatting, as we do and drifted onto the subject of cycling. I was in yet another enforced hockey injury sabbatical (see previous Hockey Masters post and my achilles issues) and needed something to keep me fit to try and limit the risk of my Psoriatic Arthritis coming back.

Bacon Sandwiches at Loch 81 Cafe So we decided to enter the London to Brighton cycle ride and started our ‘training’ going down to West Hyde. From there we picked up the canal (nice and flat) most Sunday mornings and had a bacon sandwich at Lock 81 Cafe (highly recommended) and a cup of tea before cycling back.  That ride is a measly 12 miles or so, not quite the 56 or so miles for the London to Brighton cycle ride!

Spring arrived and Cashman bought a new road bike as we thought that it could be a bit tough on his old mountain bike and we started doing some more training.  At this point, we owe a huge thanks to Finchy, a seasoned professional who showed us some of his favoured local routes.  Shortly before the actual ride I was riding 2/3 times a week through the long sunny evenings normally over 30 miles each time.

Training near Ley Hill

Training along the country roads near Ley Hill

I used to love running as I explored the surrounding countryside and places I had never been before and beautiful views.  Cycling takes this to the next level and Finchy showed us a whole series of routes around the Chilterns, predominantly via Ley Hill (where I might have occasionally curtailed a ride to see my mate Martin!), St Leonards, Cholesbury, Hawridge, Hyde Heath and more.

I surprised myself with my training and even hired a bike on the Isle of Wight, completing the round the Island cycle route with my brother in law.  That was an epic achievement over a whole day covering almost 70 miles, glorious countryside and a lot of hills – who knew it was quite so hilly.  The roads (unlike Buckinghamshire) were like cycling on a billiard table.

So the day itself came along and I had no qualms about finishing thanks to the IOW trip, just the odd worry about a puncture – but I have tyres that minimise that risk.  It was a dry day, though overcast and cold at the start at Clapham Common.  Thanks to Cash’s better half Ang for driving us there for our start (and for driving my bike back from Brighton too).

We set off a little later than we hoped at 8.30 and were quickly on our way.  The initial few miles were a series of traffic lights and roundabouts, which was tricky with clip in pedals and we saw one or two people falling off their bikes at the lights!  We were soon out of the suburbs and into some beautiful Surrey villages coasting along with the crowds.

London to Brighton Lunch Stop

London to Brighton Lunch Stop

We did stop for lunch, but the queues were so long we decided to press on without eating – we had plenty of reserves about us, so confident we could keep going.  The ride was a delight until we arrived at the hill at Ditchling.  This was an absolute killer, but I had gone ahead of Cashman so thought I would try and cycle the whole way up and relax at the top.  I managed it!

The final ride into Brighton was a delight and the city is really geared up for cycling though again the constant traffic lights were there to stop and start us.  By the end of the ride, I was tired but also ecstatic that i’d achieved what we had set out to do and tick it off my non bucket existent list.  The time of just over 4 hours was pleasing too.

The beer with Cash and our families in glorious sunshine and hot weather was well deserved, even if I had to drink it out of plastic pint glasses.

The two long rides have really whetted my appetite and I’ve entered the London 100 cycle ride and hear in February whether I’ve got a place or not.  In the meantime, with the darker nights, my cycling is restricted to the weekends and maybe a few more bacon sandwiches…

Below is the Strava route (slightly short) and a few photos of the day.

A huge thank you to everyone who sponsored me too, raising over £400 for Versus Arthritis.

England Hockey Masters Final (T3) 2018

I’ve been playing hockey on and off since 1996, mostly off due to my useless body which continually gets injured.  Two years ago after a summer 1’s game at OMT we were laughing about how the youngsters were all flying past us and wouldn’t it be a good idea to (re)start the ACHC men’s Over 40’s team.  So a germ of an idea snowballed into reality and somehow I was Captain and using my (and the teams) extensive list of contacts, we set about creating a squad and entered the England Hockey Over 40’s national competition.

ACHC O40’s September 2016 vs Old C’s

After dredging through my contacts and getting back in touch with a heap of people I hadn’t spoken to for many years, we gathered a fearless group of players, some who hadn’t played for many years and had a friendly against Marlow Hockey Club who helped us out tremendously. The first game and real thing came against Old Cranleighan hockey club.  We were fortunate in that game and the old competitive spirit came back into everyone and we won on flicks, though this meant we stayed in Tier 2 and not drop into Tier 3 which would have been more suitable for this newly assembled group of friends.  We lost to Marlow in an absolute humdinger on a hot day 6-5, but we had all re-formed and the banter was non stop – something that I think is missing from many current Saturday teams with many players not going back to the bar and mixing, or just sitting on their phones – maybe i’m just getting old!

So roll on the 2017-18 season and I was still the Captain of the team despite being long term sidelined again, this time with an achilles problem. This time we lost our first game of the campaign against previous Tier 2 winners and runners up Henley.  With only 11 players we started slowly and the game was over by the end of the first half at 5-0.  We drew the second half 1-1.   So the third tier beckoned.

The next couple of fixtures we squeaked through against West Herts b team and Luton (won on flicks though we did dominate the game) and a very stressful re-arrangement due to snow.  The game against Broxbourne was interesting as it was half term – my goodness it was tough to get a team out, but I turned up some unexpected gems who hadn’t picked up a stick for quite some time. Trick even turned up from Cambridge to help us out.  Somehow, we battered them 7-2, our only comfortable win of the cup run.

So the quarter finals arrived against Petersfield, and snow threatened to intervene again, what a nightmare.  The squad came out on the Saturday and cleared the entire pitch of snow – though typically it would probably have cleared with warmer weather – but the team bonded even closer.  From this point, I said that the team would not change unless there was unavailability or injured – we had the same squad of 16 players for the last three games, which was really tough on a couple of players who were back from injury or illness – including this season’s captain Paul who would probably have made the difference in the final.

The semi finals saw us turn up at Witham, a club where one of my hockey touring colleagues was chairman for a while and have a great hockey pedigree.  We got hammered 5-1, with a couple of their players dominating the game.  Our best players Richie and John commented at half time that they weren’t able to get near them but they battled on and on.  Whilst we drowned our sorrows in the bar afterwards, their Captain told us that the team was an amalgamation from other teams (as some of our previous oppo was) and it turns out, England Hockey adjudged that they shouldn’t have been playing in Tier 3 as they were regularly playing at too high a level.

So completely unexpectedly, we were through to the final and rather disappointingly, they had moved the date and venue to Birmingham University – superb facilities but we were rather hoping it would be at the Olympic Park!  Despite the date change, every one of the 16 players made themselves available and the club vintage team were so generous and sorted out a coach to take most of the players and spectators – spectators who would have to buy a ticket to watch us play!!!

This would be the greatest day of my hockey career (only the CSP 1st XI being promoted can compete) and I woke up feeling rough / temperature (probably stress!) and highly dubious about my other achilles lasting the game. Paul was still on standby, should I be unselfish and get him playing instead of me – unfortunately, I decided to play myself and had the honour and privilege of leading the squad out onto the pitch and various team announcements.  We were playing Holcombe, a club who are right at the top of the hockey family tree, a fact that I think got into our heads for the start of the game.

By half time, we were 3-0 down and at one point it looked like a drubbing was on the cards.  Then we realised that we could play, we were fit and nerves seemed to disappear and we eventually clawed our way back to 3-2 with all the chances going our way. I still maintain another 10 minutes and we’d have won!

Even though we didn’t make it, I’ve never been so proud to be a Captain and be part of that squad of players on that day – I was bursting with pride with what we created over those two seasons.  The coach home was just as good, clearing off three mini barrels of beer from the Rebellion brewery and just as many bottles of lager.  Twenty five people went for a curry in Amersham – what a day (and night). Unfortunately, my other achilles went half way through the game and I could hardly run and has again put me out of hockey for the foreseeable (the physio did say forever, but I want to play with Jamie next season).

So in summary, we had seven games, lost three, drew one and won only three (fourth on flicks) and despite hardly playing, it was one of the best season’s of hockey of my life, something I will treasure forever.

Below are a few photos from the day:

Trip to Barcelona, Spain

Popped over to Spain with my fellow Trading Depot director Darren House last week for the Magento Live conference.  Cater For You is implementing a new Magento web site hopefully by the start of next year, though integrating with our backend OGL Profitplus system will no doubt be fraught with issues.

Anyway, I decided to stay over for an extra day to have a look around some of the town before jetting back on my Easyjet flight back to Luton late on the Thursday.

First on the stop was the magnificent La Sagrada Família church, Gaudí’s designed and partly finished masterpiece.  The church was currently being worked on and was a magnificent sight. Unfortunately I wasn’t organised enough to buy a ticket to go in and look round (they were sold out) and the outside was teaming with tourists.

Once I had negotiated the tourist and maraca street vendors, I started wandering in the vague direction of the marina, taking in the look and feel of the town – it reminded me a lot of Mahon (unsurprisingly) with narrow streets and boutiques.  First off was the Arc de Triomf then I passed the Picasso museum (12 Euro to go in so passed as short on time) but did go to the free to enter El Born Centre de Cultura i Memòria which has on display historic ruins of the original city and an overview of the history of Barcelona from its roots and various rulers.  Well worth popping in to see.

Barcelona Boat Show

After that, I took a short walk to the much more modern marina area where there happened to also be a boat show taking place.  Having previously visited the spectacular Southampton Boat Show, I didn’t pay to enter, but looked from afar.  Sitting on the decking outside the new waterside retail park was a great time for reflection and watching the world go by.  Sporadically a flotilla of yachts would potter pass as the walkway bridge was opened to let them out of the marina into the Med.

Barcelona Marina Decking Views

As the time approached to catch a taxi to the airport, I wandered up the Rambla and stumbled upon a great rustic market where local meats, produce and delicacies were on sale, the Mercat de la Boqueria.  There are also plenty of chances to sit and eat at the Mercat and watch as everyone bustles past.

Barcelona was great, blessed to have some great weather when I was wondering round (storms for the actual Magento conference) and well worth visiting.

 

Local Chalfont St Peter Consultation for Housing

This was my response to the local proposed housing developments.  I’d thought about it for a while, but as usual left it to the last minute so maybe not quite a coherent as it should have been:

In principle, I am in favour of building new homes in the local area, although contentious, we have a surging population that needs to be housed properly and it is only right Chiltern Disctrict takes its fair share.

There are a few points though that I would like to raise in regards Chalfont St Peter (CSP) in particular as my local village as part of the broader scheme of things.

Councillors and the Council have known about these housing targets for a very long time, so I’m concerned that there hasn’t been a more long term plan with regards building these houses.  My focus is drawn to the brown field sites that have been built on or given planning permission in CSP.  We had an abundance of these sites which if maximised properly could have been used to meet our housing criteria, and probably Chalfont St Giles’s too.

Newland Park – I went to college there and still play hockey there.  This site could easily have sustained a 1,000 dwellings, it is huge instead of the 300 odd that CDC knocked them down to.  Gorelands Lane could easily be widened to cope with the increased traffic to Nightingales Lane (I believe on one side of the  road, the houses have in their deeds that the road could be widened and they must give up the land in the front garden) and also good access links to J17 of the M25 and Old Shire Lane upgraded to be made into a convenient walk / cycle path to Chorleywood train station.  No spades have been put in the ground yet by Comer Homes and CDC should re-open negotiations or compulsorily purchase

NSE – this is a most bizarre one – the councillors fought hard against the NSE over a decade ago and someone must have known about the housing quotas then?  I also think their original plan was better as we’ve just ended up with very expensive older people’s homes and care homes – none of which particularly contribute to the vibrancy of the village replacing the student economy that left when BCUC closed Newland Park above.  They have also built huge three storey buildings which in the original plans were fought vigorously.  The NSE though is a sensible option for building on and will provide them with valuable revenue to continue their medical research and care – though they can only sell the land once of course.

Denham Lane – again seems fairly logical, however this will be the third big development in Chalfont St Peter along this road.  Again, this area brings up the question of why if we have such steep figures to hit for housing, did the local councillors not allow the development of Winkers as they originally proposed and knocked them down on the number of houses to be developed.  That site could easily sustain a close of 20 houses rather than the 8 that was granted.

Holy Cross – why weren’t the villages told by local councillors that if they knocked down the total here from 400+ to 180 another 200+ would still have to be built in the village – a huge wasted opportunity and detrimental to our village.

Instead of the Denham Lane development, a much better solution would be to build more homes on Mumfords Lane and widen that down to the A40 – that is the only lane that is usable in the mornings.  It is also walking distance to CCC.

 

I posed this question about brownfield sites being wasted in the village and thus having to release green field sites at the exhibition and the attitude seems to be, that we’d still have to build on green field even if we’d maximised brown field because Aylesbury would insist on it??  This seems completed absurd, corrupt and someone needs to get hold of the situation and planning this County wide rather than our little individual fiefdoms.  If brownfield has been wasted county wide as it has in just CSP then there has been a staggering wasted opportunity.

 

With regards whether the village and Chiltern as a whole can sustain these developments, I was very disappointed to only see notes about added play areas and other meaningless gestures.  I was hoping I would be shown a district plan for coping with the roads and rail, education, health and more (if I missed this my apologies but I wasn’t directed to anything at the exhibition).

CCC is already huge and appears to be full to capacity and with other South Bucks villages including Iver in particular hugely expanding their population, another secondary school will have to be built there or the one that was closed re-opened.  I’d also assume Amersham School will be hugely expanding its capacity and catchment area. I’m not so concerned about infant or middle school capacity (which is directly opposing the Holy Cross arguments) as Robertswood take a lot of students from outside area so have capacity I would suggest.  They could also split into two sites on Denham Lane either side of West Hyde Lane and provide much better facilities at the same time.

Of course, if CDC / Bucks CC were to be very bold, they could purchase Newland Park and move CCC to that site for improved facilities, maybe capacity and more community housing and also build on the existing CCC site.  This would also provide CDC with ongoing revenue as Wycombe Council is doing with their land bank.

A major concern would be the transport infrastructure.  The A413 is already gridlocked most mornings and evenings at peak times.  With the increased population in the whole of CDC it will fall over?  What are the plans for this?  Another reason why Newland Park is so attractive to develop instead is that there are multiple exits.  The extra load from the NSE (unless it is all retirement properties and care homes – I hope not) and Denham Lane will be too much for Joiners / Copthall and Rickmansworth Lane. In a wider context, with these extra ‘000’s of new homes, there is no way the existing infrastructure can cope – what are the plans?  Will the A413 be widened to be dual carriageway from Aylesbury to Denham – a solution first proposed in the 60’s but would have a massively detrimental effect on the landscape of all the villages it goes through if done properly?

What are the plans for trains?  There is standing room only on the Chiltern Line already?  The Met Line isn’t flush with capacity either?

I couldn’t see any discussions about health provisions– it is already difficult to get an appointment with a GP and emergency services are I believe already stretched at Wexham and Stoke Mandeville?  I suggest CSP hospital is re-opened properly as a drop in health centre like Mount Vernon which is superb and where I normally travel to.  (Yes I know about the asbestos but that is easily fixed with will power and resource).  The two GP surgeries could then re-locate into the hospital and a one stop service provided at lower cost.

 

hs2 Train Steve Baker Blog Page

HS2 My Opinion

The new High Speed 2 rail network was first proposed by the Labour government in 2009 as a means of introducing additional capacity to an allegedly creaking rail network.

My original opinion was that it wasn’t required and there was plenty of capacity on existing networks and there are plenty of decent projects that could be implemented before HS2.

Since its inception seven years ago, I am resigned to the project going ahead after reading how congested existing networks now are, not least the fact we are growing our population by around a 1/3 of a million people every year we need to invest in all infrastructure.  Saying ‘we invest’ is not quite strictly true of course as the Chinese will be investing a substantial sum of money which in turn will pay for NI and salary taxes paying for the vast majority of the rest of the spend (though the Chinese will sensibly want a guaranteed return on their money whether or not a single passenger boards the trains and hence be profitable). I always read the argument of spending more on NHS nurses by cancelling HS2, capital project vs cash flow running costs isn’t going to happen (though buying out the absurdly expensive PFI hospital contracts might be sensible).

HS2 will be running a few hundred yards away from our house, with a tunnel shaft being put in place to allow the air to be flushed out as trains push through. As a result, there will be a huge amount of disruption to the local area with new roads being put in to take away spoil and many of the local footpaths being closed.  I would imagine there will also be a huge increase in the number lorries in the local area too.

There are a few things that are annoying me now, the most frustrating is the sheer amount of time this project seems to be taking to get to putting an actual spade in the ground.  The local politicians are out in full force in the local area spending valuable local government resource on protesting HS2 with pretty much zero chance of overturning the decision – if it is cancelled it will not be through their vocal opposition, more likely if the Chinese pull out.  Sure, let local people have their say, but seven years down the line? Really? The opposition means that costs escalate and where the line affects people, creates more uncertainty for those living there, particularly if they need to sell up through circumstances beyond their control.

Other things that annoy me about the project is why it doesn’t connect with Heathrow and why it stops at Euston rather than go straight through to HS1 at Waterloo.

Dropping back though to the point about local opposition, I was considering the amount of money being spent and that Bucks CC is crying huge poverty.  With my business ideas hat on, if I was Bucks, I would be lobbying very hard for a station at Aylesbury.  The county town of Buckinghamshire is growing rapidly to accommodate the population increase that is overtaking the country via successive governments.  If there was a stop at Aylesbury, it would create an incredible case for business and economic growth in Aylesbury. I can easily envisage financial businesses wanting to be located within a short 10 minutes train journey from the centre of London?  Just imagine the prestige for County Councillors who could secure a station at Aylesbury with the local population then being able to hop on the train in Aylesbury and be in France or Belgium within a couple of hours – absolutely brilliant (though with the obvious massive flaw of the line finishing at Euston and not being joined up with HS1)

This new station and economic revitalisation would in turn create a huge increase in business rates revenue for Bucks and Aylesbury Vale District Council.  This is important as if you build houses for population increases, the council also has to spend and provide services for education, health and general infrastructure (I’d be interested to know the correlation between the spends and increase in revenue). However, if you build offices and warehouses, the council receives a huge amount of money (my warehouse in High Wycombe donates a huge amount of cash to Wycombe DC) for absolutely nothing in return ie pure profit for their strapped coffers.  I’m planning another post about local planning and councils being short of money in the near future so won’t digress too much.

Going back to HS2, and my thoughts drift towards the house prices and population increase in London.  I feel sorry for the immigrants that have come to this country and are then forced to live in poverty in hovels around London – as well of course of not having enough dwellings to house the existing population (indigenous – not sure we have an indigenous profile any more do we?).  So what to do and how could HS2 help?  HS2 won’t help, maybe putting the odd commuter in London.  What ‘they’ should do is to look at the Brighton example.  As far as I’m aware, the Brighton line into London has been updated several times over the decades and a quick Google search shows that the fastest trains now take only 52 minutes with a couple of stops in between.  Brighton has subsequently become a hot spot of inward investment and creativity on the South coast and shining example of what could be achieved.

Therefore, surely a much better exercise for the South East would be to upgrade all of the lines to the South Coast towns such as Hastings, Margate, Ramsgate, Dover etc all of whom have over the years become run down and requiring substantial inward investment.  People could then commute into London from there, bringing much needed commuter money whilst also easing the over population problems of London.

First things first though, can local government stop wasting cash fighting it if you are so hard up and second, can we just get on with it – why take so long and be such a laughing stock.

If I have any facts wrong, please just let me know.

BBC License Fee

BBC License Fee Irrelevant

I was thinking about upgrading our TV the other day from our perfectly adequate 12 year old plasma TV to a much more energy efficient LED Ultra 4k HD (and other buzzwords which I need to research further) when I started to consider our usage in the house and what we actually need.  I then also thought about the BBC scrapping BBC3 and my thoughts veered towards the fact that the BBC licence fee is completely irrelevant in this modern era and should be ‘scrapped’

We only watch a fairly limited amount of television in the house these days, primarily it is tuned to Disney channel or if I throw a big enough tantrum, I get to watch the football.  However, what generally happens is that I invariably ‘watch’ the football on my dual screen set up whilst working on my other screen.  If the Tivo card is removed, the kids simply switch to YouTube and their devices to watch what they want – invariably though they watch YouTube whilst also having the TV on in the background.

So all in all, we actually watch very little BBC content and even the radio I listen to is usually non BBC stations.  However, when I do tune into TMS or 6Music, quite often they have texts / emails etc from listeners who contact them from various locations across the world.  Which also got me thinking as to why can they do that, probably not have to pay their license fee and subsidised by a compulsory tax on UK residents, except the over 75’s.  Many of my friends live abroad these days and simply bypass the BBC’s geo restrictions via VPN and don’t pay the license but watch and listen to the content anyway.

With my commercial head on, I was wondering why on earth this system is still in place and that the BBC should change its role in broadcasting.  The media industry is now global and local rather than by country.  It has a magnificent brand across the world, why not sell the content globally as a content provider rather than the outdated UK only content provider.

As an example, Amazon has purchased Top Gear (not the brand, but the essential branded content) and is basing its business model for Amazon Video at a cost of £79 / year (yes I know it includes other things as well) on this content.  The BBC has a huge bank of content it could put on demand to compete with Amazon, Netflix, Sky and everyone and still make the license fee optional with a large number of people taking it up not just in the UK but across the world.  I’m sure it could then also bid for sports again and other events by scrapping the flat rate everyone has to pay into a tiered model, basically doing what Sky and BT are doing.

I’m amazed that the BBC isn’t pushing to do this (the fear of change i’m sure) and wanting to move from a 60 million customer base to a 6 billion customer base and delivering multiple content channels across traditional broadcasting and on-line mediums thus boosting its revenue from the current £5 billion or so (similar to Sky who have a lot less content).

Scrap GP’s

Chalfont HospitalI don’t have a huge amount to do with our NHS and health care system, I am under a specialist for my Arthritis and in between bouts of hockey retirement, I pop to Mount Vernon in Northwood for the odd break or pain.  This amount of usage though is considerably more than my friends who have often gone years without visiting their local GP and have to re-register to get an appointment.

The service at Mount Vernon is amazing as you pop in, practically no one else is there as they are all visiting the local A & E for their blocked nose, you are seen by a knowledgeable nurse who then refers you to an X-ray straight away and subsequent treatment.

If you visit a GP now, they are of course extremely pleasant and helpful, but all they do is refer you to someone else, basically the same as a triage nurse but with a several week delay follow up and layers of admin (cost).

Calcot HospitalIt strikes me as increasingly bizarre that if you need a blood test, despite the Chalfont’s Hospital being just over the road and the medical centre having a nurse (surely the GP has the skills), you have to go back home, try and phone for an appointment a few weeks later (the phone lines are also always engaged since they outsourced it), then go back or chase them for the results (unless something is wrong and they are very good indeed and phone of course).  It is also frustrating trying to make an appointment with your GP as the secretary seems to go for lunch for two hours, just as you want to make the appointment.

I’m not sure of Mount Vernon’s blood testing arrangements as I’ve never used it, but it seems bizarre that you have a whole layer of admin processes simply to book a blood test.  The same I assume is also true for an Xray which is also available at the Chalfont Hospital.

Surely it would make more sense for the local GP surgeries to be closed down (GX, CSP & CSG) and merge them into the hospital which has only a fraction of its space used (yes I know it has a load of asbestos but that can be sorted)  – probably losing a few GPs along the way saving further money and making money by selling the existing GP sites.

The vast majority of people don’t need to see the same GP so just turning up to a health clinic like Mount Vernon and waiting for an appointment makes absolute sense.  It could also open from 6am to Midnight meaning you’d take pressure off the A & E at Wexham or save patients having to make the long haul to Stoke Mandeville.

I this is incredibly simplistic and the easiest response is to say no to change, but surely this is the way forward and could be readily replicated across the regions. I know not all areas are lucky enough to have their own historical hospital to hand but this system would save layers of admin, create a quicker more responsive service all at lower cost and efficiency?