Monday, 27 January 2014

Holiday Jet In UFO Near Miss Over Reading

A report in today's Daily Telegraph describes a pilot's report of a near miss with a UFO over Reading. 
The Thomas Cook jet was flying from Ibiza to Manchester in July 2013 at an altitude of 34,000 feet and 516mph when it was apparently passed by the "rugby ball shaped" UFO.
The official report of the incident states that "The captain was under the apprehension that they were on a collision course with no time to react. His immediate reaction was to duck."
The skies above Reading often resemble an aerial magic roundabout, but this certainly is a new one. 
Where's Mulder and Scully when you need them!

Sunday, 26 January 2014

1984 - Frankie says: Relax

"Relax" was the debut single by Frankie Goes to Hollywood, released in the UK by ZTT Records in 1983. Although fairly inauspicious upon initial release, "Relax" finally reached number one on the UK singles chart on Sunday 24 January 1984, ultimately becoming one of the most controversial and most commercially successful records of the entire decade. The single eventually sold a reported 2 million copies in the UK alone, making it the seventh best-selling single in UK singles chart history.
At this point I was knocking on doors in Whitley with Labour Councillors Mike Orton and Doris Lawrence, on my way to being elected in May 1984. 

Friday, 24 January 2014

Exclusive: Willis Leadership Bid Fails

New Tory Leader Jeanette Skeats
Further to my post last week, news has reached me of the outcome of the Reading Conservative leadership contest.

Despite feverish efforts over the past few days it seems that Richard Willis has failed in his attempt to become the next leader of the divided group. Known to split loyalties and opinions, it is believed that at least one leading Tory would have stood down from the council rather than serve under Willis as leader.

And so Jeanette Skeats has emerged as their new leader.

However, the plan to have Ed Hopper serve as a compromise or unifying Deputy to satisfy the fighting factions was dumped in favour of Willis being given that position. 

Interestingly, neither Willis' blog ("First for local news") nor his twitter feed has yet to offer any words of congratulation to Cllr Skeats.

So well done and good luck Jeanette - with Tory leaders on Reading Council lasting little longer than a Premiership manager these days - enjoy it when and while you can!

Sunday, 19 January 2014

Reading's Food Bank: Dramatic Rise In Demand For Help

Readifood, Reading's food bank, is appealing for increased food donations to meet the growing demand for emergency food parcels.
In 2012/13 Readifood was delivering an average of 50 food parcels a week. Against the background of welfare reforms and cuts, this number is steadily rising - and currently averages 91 parcels per week.
I am therefore glad to see that Reading Borough Council is proposing to increase support for this organisation, with grant aid to be increased from £10,000 a year to £15,000 in 2014/15.
If you can help with donations, then tinned meats, fish, vegetables and fruits are particularly welcome donations, as well as tea bags, biscuits and toothpaste.

If you can help - or feel you may need help - more information and contact details
Of, course, the coalition government doesn't want to talk about the rise of the food bank since 2010.

Thursday, 9 January 2014

New Tory Leader On Reading Council

Just where will Reading Tories find a successful leader?
It's about this time of year, every two or three years, the Conservative Group on Reading Council elect a new leader.

With the present incumbent Tim Harris standing down from the council rather than face certain defeat in Church ward next May, it's probably time to look across the benches at who is left, who is capable and who simply doesn't figure in the divided and factional Tory group.

Caversham - Andrew Cumpsty - up for election in May - uncertain to stand, but even if he does and wins, no return for this former Leader who tasted power for just one year. NO

Caversham - Tom Stanway - up in 2015, but a precarious choice if Labour win in the ward in May. Charming, funny chap, probably too nice to be leader of that group. NO

Kentwood - James Anderson - cuts little presence in the Council Chamber and as about as effective as his namesake on the recent Ashes tour. NO

Kentwood - Jenny Rynn - recent Mayor who often seemed a bit flustered, is up for election in May in a ward where Labour won last time. NO

Mapledurham - Isobel Ballsdon - seems to have to write everything out before she speaks in the Council Chamber, and more than a tad brittle, so unlikely leadership material. NO

Peppard - Jane Stanford-Beale - a relative newbie, who hasn't really shone (but, fair play, none of the opposition has over the past couple of years) but could be a dark horse. LONG SHOT

Peppard - Richard Willis - easily the Tory's best performer (with Jeanette Skeats) by a considerable margin. But with a reputation for dividing opinions within the Tory group and a rumour that he will be off to run a Bed & Breakfast in Bournemouth when his term ends in 2015, he may not be a long term prospect. Interim leader perhaps? POSSIBLE - TOO LATE?

Thames - Ed Hopper - another relative new comer, who is quietly building a good reputation in the Council Chamber. Bright, courteous, and with some humour (lacking in so many of the others) his time will come, only when? POSSIBLE - TOO EARLY?

Thames - Jeanette Skeats - experienced, fair, funny and human (a rare Tory quality), you would think the Tories would beg her to be their next leader: perhaps they have and she has said "no"! POSSIBLE - CAN'T BE BOTHERED?

Thames - David Stevens - sure to be re-elected this May, is another to command a deal of respect across the benches. Sometimes gets stuck on broadcast rather than listen mode, but can't be ruled out. POSSIBLE - SHORT ON CHARISMA?

Tilehurst - Sandra Vickers - another relatively new councillor still finding her way. Solid back-bencher material. NO

So, one from Stanford-Beale, Willis, Hopper, Skeats or Stevens.

More next week.

Saturday, 4 January 2014

1984 - The Flying Pickets

I was first elected to Reading Borough Council in May 1984. 
At the start of that year The Flying Pickets were number one in the charts with this a cappella cover of Yazoo's "Only You". The height of the group's fame coincided with the Miners' Strike of 1984/85, of which they were great supporters.

Friday, 3 January 2014

Help And Advice From Shelter

A message from SHELTER

We know that one in 13 people in the South East fear they won’t be able to afford to pay the rent or mortgage at the end of this month. Yet many people in this situation would feel too ashamed to ask for help. 

Shelter’s helpline receives too many calls from people in desperation, and on the brink of losing their home, because bills and notices have been left unopened and problems have piled up.

This January we are encouraging those at risk to seek advice from Shelter and avoid problems spiralling out of control. 

We would very much appreciate your help in getting this message out there. You can take the following actions to help people in Reading to find professional advice:

You can get help from Shelter via our online advice and free telephone helpline number -    0808 800 4444
Tweet our online advice details, or retweet us. You can find us at @Shelter 

For lots of people, the New Year period brings further challenges and worries.  That’s why we are urging anyone worried about paying their rent or mortgage to make seeking early housing advice their New Year’s resolution. 

Warmest wishes for the New Year,

Martha Mackenzie