Andrew Abbott's Blog

Thursday, 21 June 2012

Lincolnshire this week.

The consultation period on plans to build two footbridges over the railway at Lincoln has been extended to give people more chance to have their say. Hundreds went to view the plans at two separate venues in Lincoln city centre, appropriately either side of the level crossings with most firmly in favour of the bridges but those that went to view want to know how the crossings will look. Phil Verster, route managing director for Network Rail, they received "strong support" for the bridges from the majority of the 600 people who went to have a look and a chat with the representatives of the initiative.

"We intend to have detailed designs to share with the people of Lincoln next month, allowing time for further comments before we submit a planning application," he said.

"We regularly see people rushing across the level crossings once the warnings have started," he added.

"We even have instances of people lifting the barriers. Clearly this behaviour is highly reckless and dangerous.

"Much level crossing misuse results from people not thinking about the risks but we believe frustration caused by the location of the crossings is also a factor in Lincoln."

A round the country kayaker is due off the coast of Lincolnshire shortly. Dr Martin Lee set himself the challenge of canoeing right around the coast of the UK and is due to stop off in Skegness next week. The intrepid paddler is hoping to complete the 2500 mile epic journey to raise awareness of rheumatoid arthritis. In a charming tale he set off from Deptford but, in the Bristol Channel lost his bearings as high winds and waves disorientated him. Lost and with an increasing sense of hopelessness two dolphins appeared and guided the doc, one dolphin each side, for 15 minutes encouraging him to continue. That wasn’t the end of his woes and the journey round the north east of Scotland almost finished the venture off as he capsized several times before being washed up on the beach. After all that, bracing Skeggy should be a doddle.

It’s almost time for the Olympic Torch to reach civilization and councils have begun to give details of road closures and advise those who wish to see the spectacle to allow plenty of time to secure their place. On 27 June it will pass through Louth, Mablethorpe, Skegness, then move on to Boston and Sleaford before finishing the day in Lincoln. The torch procession spends the night in the city before progressing through Saxilby to deepest Nottinghamshire. Mike Nicholls, highways network manager for Lincolnshire County Council, said: "Businesses, schools, transports and many other services across the county will be affected, so it's important you find out what's happening near you.

"A full list of road closures can be found on your district council's website.

"Some disruption is inevitable so please allow extra time for your journeys, find an alternative route or perhaps reconsider them altogether," he said.

It seems this story just runs and runs but it has been announced that the Red Arrows will be remaining at their Scampton base for the foreseeable future. The base, north of Lincoln will also retain the RAF’s Air Surveillance and Control Systems. The runway will be resurfaced now that the bases future has been assured. Local MP Edward Leigh welcomed the decision and said it was testament to the hard work of local people determined to keep base open:-

“The Red Arrows are a treasured part of Lincolnshire and I welcome their continued presence.

“The MoD’s investment in RAF Scampton’s runway demonstrates a welcome commitment to the future of the base. It is appropriate that the decision to keep open the historic home of 617 Squadron, the Dambusters, comes in the month which a lasting memorial will finally be opened to the brave men of bomber command, many of whom flew from bases in Lincolnshire.

“It is fantastic news that we will keep all the jobs associated not only with the Red Arrows, but also with the ASACS unit, within the local area.

I have always been clear on my desire to keep the Red Arrows flying out of the home of the Dambusters and I welcome the MoD’s vote of confidence in North Lincolnshire.”

It looks like Lincoln Christmas Market will have to do without one of it’s most prominent attractions as the rent on the big wheel was set by Lincoln City Council at £13350, a rise of 93%. The owner of the ride, John Armitage says if that’s the case the wheel will not be appearing at the market this year:-

"We have always turned out and it is a landmark for the city. I just feel I'm being bullied by the council with a 93 per cent increase," said Mr Armitage, who has been involved in the market since 1982.

"If this rise stays then I'll not come. We don't just turn up with a van. I've got the expense of lorries, cranes and three days getting it up and down.

"When the market was cancelled through snow it cost me £10,000 to put it up and take it down and I did not seek compensation from the council.

"I'll have no problem at all getting business if I don't come. I do feel very let down."

The re think on rents has come after the council revealed that it made a £113000 loss on last years extravaganza. Kate Ellis, lead officer examining the proposed market changes, said they are not trying to discourage fair rides:-

"That part of the Christmas Market is really important to us," she said. "The big wheel has become an icon. However, we need some consistency in the way we charge for it. We are not trying to say we don't want it.

"It is a significant rise and I'm not going to deny that. It is a substantial increase.

"The exercise we have gone through is to bring the charges in line with the rest.

"We have only pushed the prices of some stalls up by one per cent as we recognise the economic difficulties.

"We understand the concerns held by Mr Armitage and we are willing to talk to him."

It’ll be here before you know it, especially as summer disappeared before it had started and is showing no sign of getting going again. Whether you’re up up and away or hiding behind the sofa until things improve, have a good weekend.

Friday, 15 June 2012

Imps balance sheet gives a mixed message.

It’s generally a slow time in Impdom, certainly as far as readership of this blog goes but there again if there’s no news…….

Last weeks boardroom blog #3 (the clubs terminology, not mine – is it a sort of twitter-esque affectation or is an American doing the typing?) dealt with some information that was too old to be described as news, David Holdsworths continuance in the hotseat but reading a little further on produced something that made me sit up and take notice. David Holdsworth kept the club up, strong discipline, professionalism, yes, yes, nothing about winning there, good communication, granted that, the board were delighted to confirm the appointment. Someone’s happy then, good. Now (for me) the bombshell. City made a profit of £58500 for the 10 months ending 30 April 2012. Profit?? You could have knocked me down with a feather!

The profit was before depreciation and redundancy costs, so don’t bother asking David but even so where did that come from? The profit situation is not expected to last the summer, not surprisingly but, here’s another shock. Debt to trade creditors are at their lowest level in the past five years. Now again, that’s good. At least local traders will be happy to extend credit to the Imps where they are reasonably sure of being paid although there are fans who will argue for every cent going into the playing budget and to hell with everyone else but, in the present climate where clubs actions are going to be under the microscope it’s hard to argue against the present situation even if we are not going to be watching silky skills for the foreseeable future, not from Imps anyway.

The T & R Executive Lounge is to be refurbished, the dressing rooms, particularly the home one is to be revamped, well we wouldn’t want the opposition to get too comfy would we? Remember those tales of John Beck’s shenanigans? Bigger gym. Didn’t know we had one, shows how long it’s been since I went to an open day. A Sports Psychologist will work with the team next season (can he spare any time for us fans?) and, da da da da! Season Tickets are ahead of the figure for the same stage last year and if this level of sales continues season tickets income will exceed the budget forecast. My gast has never been so flabbered.

Apart from the official site may I recommend Roger Bates’ question and answer session now being carried on, an organ I haven’t written for in a good while, a riveting read.

Thursday, 14 June 2012

Lincolnshire this week.

In a scene reminiscent of 1976 when Dennis Howell was made minister for drought only to end up being minister for floods, the moment a hosepipe ban was announced it started raining and has hardly stopped since. Last week, as reported here Anglian Water said they would not be dropping the ban, unlike many neighbouring authorities. This week, you guessed it, they have dropped the ban. Hopefully cue some dry sunny weather again.

Fears that the European Championship football might spark some mis placed nationalism in the multicultural melting pot that is Boston have proved groundless so far. Police had taken the threat of trouble seriously after the problems in the town during the last championship but so far those flash points have only been in evidence abroad, despite the presence of many Poles and Ukrainians in Boston. Lincolnshire Police expressed the hope that it stays that way and everyone can enjoy the spectacle, whatever their allegiances.

Staying in Boston and a very sad tale to report with the news that a fountain in the towns Central Park which had been described as a lasting tribute to the Queen lasted a mere two days before being repeatedly vandalised. The fountain has had to be dismantled and removed. Of all people two girls were seen to be standing on the feature, rocking it. A saddened Coun. Yvonne Gunter told the Boston Standard that the fountain was erected, at a cost of £1000, for everyone to enjoy and as a reminder of the Jubilee. It is the latest in a series of mindless acts of vandalism in the park.

A policeman who fought in vain to save the life of a stricken motorcyclist has been given a top honour by the Royal Humane Society. Patryk Wojtczac crashed his motorcycle into the rear of a stationary van causing horrific injuries. PC Ryan Murphy was one of the first on the scene and administered cardiac pulmonary resuscitation but was unable to save the life of the victim.

With the city gearing up for the arrival of the Olympic torch it has been announced that the Red Arrows will be performing a spectacular fly past to mark the occasion. Furthermore, the Reds have confirmed that the Lincoln event will be the only one of its kind to have a fly past by the world renowned acrobatic team. Squadron Leader Jim Turner, Officer Commanding and Red 1, said:-

“The Red Arrows are honoured to have been invited to take part in the London 2012 Olympic Games celebrations and to represent the Royal Air Force within our home county at the Lincoln Olympic Torch Relay Evening Celebration. My whole squadron, pilots and ground support staff alike, share the pride and privilege of being part of such an auspicious occasion.” Council leader councillor Ric Metcalfe, said:-

“It is a huge honour for us that the Red Arrows have agreed to play a part in this once in a lifetime event.

“The fly-past will help bring our evening celebration to a dramatic conclusion as the torch cauldron is lit. We have always had very strong links with the team and I’m looking forward to them being welcomed home by 10,000 people, not to mention those people lining the route.” The event is fast becoming the must see local Olympic extravaganza but if you want to go, you’re too late as the tickets went within days of becoming available.

Stamford has welcomed the Queen and in doing so trumped the rest of the county in the jubilee visiting stakes. The town is the only one in Lincolnshire to host the monarch as part of her tour of the country. Sadly after his recent bout of illness the Duke of Edinburgh was not on hand to add his usual irreverent take on the proceedings. Lincoln, or rather Lincoln Cathedral did get in on the act though when a carved crown, which will eventually have pride of place on the south west turret at the minster, was presented to the Queen to mark the Diamond Jubilee during a picnic at Burghley House. The solid stone, gold painted crown now returns to Lincoln to be fitted into place high on the west front where it will no doubt attract lots of interest, hopefully not from the pigeons.

Cooee, it’s time to go now. Have a good weekend wherever you are roosting.

Friday, 8 June 2012

Lincolnshire this week.

Despite the fact that Lincolnshire has been deluged since it was announced, the hosepipe ban is still needed say Anglian Water. Seven water companies across southern and eastern England imposed bans and now the largest; Thames Water has said that their ban could be lifted sooner rather than later. Anglian however point out that our area is the driest in the country (hard to see how that works at the moment) and the exceptional rainfall is not sufficient to replenish stocks particularly in aquifers, water retaining rocks, from which Lincolns water is drawn. Peter Simpson, managing director of Anglian Water, said: "The possibility of a warm summer and a third dry winter is still a concern for our region. The very wet few weeks we experienced in April followed two exceptionally dry years, and most importantly, two dry winters.

"That long, dry spell left water levels in reservoirs, rivers and underground aquifers significantly below normal - and in some cases historically low.

"Almost half of the water we put into supply comes from groundwater sources, particularly in the east of our region. The full impact of the recent rain on these sources remains to be seen, largely because our aquifers refill naturally and more slowly.

"We don't want to keep the hosepipe ban in place for a day longer than we have to, and we're keeping the situation under constant review. However, restrictions remain in place for now.”

Lincoln’s Emily Taylor has secured her place in the Great Britain 2012 rowing team. She now has an anxious wait to see if she is in the eight who will row or a reserve but nevertheless is delighted to have made the squad. Taylor told BBC Radio Lincolnshire:-

"It's a massive relief and exciting as it's my first Olympics.

"If I am a reserve it will still be a really important job but obviously I would rather be in the eight."

The Olympic Torch is edging ever closer to the county and it has been announced that the torch will visit Lincoln Cathedral when the extravaganza hits the city on 27 June having already visited Louth, Mablethorpe and Skegness. A massive knees up is planned at Yarborough School where 10000 tickets were snapped up in days by Lincolnians keen to get a piece of the historic action (myself included). The evening celebration includes music, dance and all sorts of other fun. A no doubt bleary eyed torch, having spent the night in the city will then leave for Nottingham and Newark before re-entering the county for a visit to Grantham but not before visiting Lincoln Castle and Saxilby.

Lincoln’s re-introduced open top bus is proving a hit and not just with tourists taking it easy whilst the sights come to them. Locals, including the Girl Guides, Rotary Clubs and teenagers are all interested in hiring the bus for an outing with a difference. Michelle Sims, visitor information manager at the visitor centre explained:-

"We've been getting requests from all kinds of clubs and societies.

"We've had rotary clubs from across the county interested, girl guide groups and the Lincoln Minster Round Table.

"We even had one enquiry to see if it could be hired out to take some students to their school prom.

"We'll consider any booking for the bus as long as it's outside of operational hours and that there's a driver available.

"We can tailor a booking to whatever the group needs."

In our Olympic year comes news that Lincoln may get an Olympic sized swimming pool courtesy of the city's ever more impressive university. The city punches well above its weight in producing or attracting from elsewhere, swimmers, many of whom go on to grace the sport at the highest level. The trouble is when they get to that sort of standard they then have to move elsewhere to progress because of the lack of facilities. Now ambitious plans are afoot to give the city a £30 million fifty metre pool and that could even lead to some swimmers returning. Martin Hill, leader of Lincolnshire County Council, said:-

"A new pool would be a positive move for Lincoln and yet another sign that this is a city on the up."

Sophie Allen is a former Lincoln Vulcans Swimming Club member and has just booked her spot at the London Olympics.

The 20-year-old, who will compete in the 200m medley in London later this summer, had to leave Lincoln two years ago to realise her dream.

Allen said: "I know there has been a lot of talk about this in the past but it has never come off. I had to leave Lincoln in the end to progress my career. A 50m pool would certainly help the up-and-coming talent."

Don’t know about swimming its certainly nice weather for ducks. Have a good weekend wherever in the world you are. You never know, the way things are going, when you tell people you are from Lincolnshire, they might just know where you mean.

Thursday, 7 June 2012

No news is not necessarily good news.

There’s been a lot of talk on twitter about more new signings and the names that come up the most are Miller and Lloyd, the latter being a prolific tweeter. Nothing about Lloyds tweets however particularly pointed to him signing on the dotted line. Now the weekly Lincolnshire Echo is out we know why; Money, as if we didn’t guess.

The Echo reports that David Holdsworth’s squad rebuilding is over for the forthcoming season. Not sure I’m entirely convinced about that but Lloyd will not be part of the Sincil scene in the future. The reason is that the player and others are still in denial about what clubs and particularly our club will pay:-

"There has been a group of players with higher expectations of what the club has in terms of finance," said the City supremo.

"Those players are still under my surveillance. However, there has been no pay rises. Some players have out priced themselves and I would like to have kept them.

"People have to understand where we are financially, and those I've brought in understand that.

"Those I've brought in want to play for Lincoln City and want to play for me. There are those which have taken a pay cut to do so.

"Finances have been used up, we have made a few new signings and the squad is developing, that's where we are at the moment. The funds are tight and we are having to work very diligently."

Having been through the agony of administration and if we are to believe what we hear that spectre is never that far away I have to say I’d sooner have a club to support than a blaze of “glory” and then implosion and there are plenty of examples of that scenario about.

One thing I am pleased about is that team rebuilding has taken place early. Whether that’s it, well, we’ll see.

Sunday, 3 June 2012

Lincolnshire this week.

The county joined the rest of the nation to celebrate the Diamond Jubilee despite the dire weather. In Lincoln the main event was the at the Castle where there was a medieval themed event. This continues on Monday. Boston’s Central Park has a celebration similar to the successful party in the park knees ups and this takes place on Monday. There will be cabbage throwing, you read correctly and karaoke and a picnic. Heighington will hold its own Jubilee flotilla with boats made by local children being launched into the village beck. Skegness held a street party whilst the “bunting babes” were busy in Rippingale near Bourne created four miles of decorations to hang around the village. Belton House, Gainsborough and Doddington Hall all held events to commemorate the Jubilee.

Continuing with the Jubilee theme Grantham museum reopened a year after it closed it’s doors when Lincolnshire County Council ended it’s funding. A special 1950’s themed weekend was held to coincide with the you know what.

Network Rail held two exhibitions in Lincoln this weekend to give local residents a chance to see and make comment on the proposed footbridges over the railway at High Street and Brayford crossings. Your correspondent was at one such event, at the Waterside shopping centre to hear that the bridges really were to go up. Both the High Street and Brayford Wharf will be made one way to allow space for the bridges. Doing nothing is not an option we were told. Unlike governance of Lincoln for many years but lets not criticize the powers that be for trying to alleviate this embarrassment although the solution, which will still feature level crossings, is hardly space age.

Part of a restoration project on one of England’s largest churches has been completed and will be opened by the Princess Royal. St Botolphs Church, otherwise known as Boston Stump now has a new gift shop, cafĂ©, toilets and offices. Princess Anne who is a patron of the fenland masterpiece will do the honours at a topping out in July. Fundraising manager Peter Coleman said: "We're really looking forward to the opening because it's obviously a really special year for the Royal Family.

"Her Royal Highness is coming to visit us late afternoon on 17 July and will perform the opening ceremony."

Talking of churches if you have £30000 to spare you can have your own as the church of St Mary, West Torrington goes on the market. You can’t however turn the place of worship into a home. One enquiry could see the grade II listed building into a recording studio. Judy Crowe, secretary of the Closed Churches Uses Committee for the diocese, said the Church of England was not a "bottomless pit".

She said: "Unless people who live in these communities support their local churches, then the future for them isn't very good.

Sue Heron, former churchwarden said it was extremely sad as the building brought people together – then revealed the only local using it was herself! The church originated from the 14th Century but was rebuilt in 1869

North Hykeham is the latest venue for Lincoln's long awaited park and ride following the allocation of £5million to alleviate traffic problems in South West Lincoln. The funding could see improvements to the towns railway station which has a large car park. Can you see where this is going? An application has been made to East Midlands Trains which could result in four extra trains into Lincoln per hour meaning a traffic free solution to travel into the centre. Good job those bridges are going up. More buses could also be provided as well as cycle lanes for the area. North Hykeham town councillor Wallace Lee told the Lincolnshire Echo: "This is incredibly good news for people in North Hykeham and Lincoln.

"One of the biggest problems that both Lincoln and North Hykeham face is traffic congestion. This will greatly ease that problem.

"North Hykeham has a population of 14,000 and is getting bigger and bigger. It's about time something like this happened.

"We have put in a bid to East Midlands Trains for a bigger, more comprehensive service and this could work brilliantly with buses and cycle routes.

"It will be a great facility."

The station itself would have a makeover too with a properly surfaced car park, shelters and a cafeteria.

Time to hit the road myself, have a good long weekend, if this rain ever stops.

Saturday, 2 June 2012

HM Queen Elizabeth II – Republicans look away now.

Throughout my life and when you think about it the majority of the population of this country, the Queen has been around as a sort of mother of the country, never giving interviews so we don’t really know her but in some way we feel we do.

There has been much talk over the years of whether we need a monarchy, the iniquity of hereditary succession in a democracy, waste of money etc etc. Throughout it all the Queen has continued carrying out her duty as she said she would.

In my view the reason the republicans make so little headway is that the Queen is so much better at what she does than the alternative which would be some kind of elected presidential head of state. Our politicians are so badly thought of, even the decent Prime Ministers come unstuck eventually, some of them spectacularly but Her Maj just carries on. It’s tempting to say never putting a foot wrong but of course there have been times when she has not been so sure footed but this is usually corrected and most of the people of this nation are content in the knowledge that we are all human.

That last point brings me to past monarchs, many of them, particularly Charles I who lost his head for his trouble, believed that they were chosen by God and had absolute power as a result. Our present Queen may believe that but, for all their old fashioned anachronism the Royal Family are a modern dynasty, maybe it’s self preservation, they’re good at that too but the point is in their funny old way they do move with the times, just not on our level.

So, to the point, at last I hear you say. When I think of the Prime Ministers of this country and the various messes they and their administrations have got us into I think the Queen and I suppose I should mention the Duke of Edinburgh have and still are doing a pretty good job. It is an unfair comparison of course as they have no real power but I find myself wondering what sort of country we would be if they did.

Getting to the Queens age is, putting it bluntly no huge achievement given the advantages but I know I wouldn’t like to be working as hard as she and her husband still do at their ages and still keeping to the promise she gave at the start of her reign. Long may that continue.