Friday, 28 March 2008


A new era is to begin at Lancashire County Council with the appointment of new chief executive Ged Fitzgerald. Last year, according to figures published by the Taxpayers' Alliance, Ged Fitzgerald was England's eighth highest paid chief executive working outside London, with a £170,036 pay packet. On June 1 he replaces the man who sat at number six in that Town Hall Rich List with £181,827 - although Mr Fitzgerald arrives on a salary of £190,000.

Ged was appointed to my Urban Programme section in Knowsley many moons ago. Good to see he's still smiling! I wish him the best of luck.

Thursday, 27 March 2008

Track Cycling World Championships


At the Cycling World Championships in Manchester the British Team Pursuit team not only took the Gold Medal but also set a World Record in the process.

Geraint Thomas, Edward Clancy, Paul Manning, and Bradley Wiggins formed the team.

Rower Rebecca Romero was part of the British crew that won the 2005 World Championships in the quad sculls in Gifu, Japan, and had won a Silver at the Athens Olympics the year before. Not content with a World Championship Gold Medal at rowing, Romero has turned her attention to cycling. Tonight she got a Gold Medal in the 3,000 metres individual pursuit.

Monday, 17 March 2008

The first Grand Prix of the season


The GP season has roared off with no traction control on the cars – taking them back a bit more to the ‘good old days’. It was the youngest ever front row - Lewis Hamilton in the McLaren and Robert Kubica in the BMW.

Hamilton’s new team-mate, the friendly Haiki Kovalainan, was third on the grid. It was good to see the two of them beforehand enjoying a chat together – a bit of a change from the bad-tempered relationship that Alonso brought to the team last year. It was the first Grand Prix for 17 years without a driver called Schumacher.

Heading for an early talk with Louise
On the first lap quite a few cars discovered that three into two won’t go and still leave all the numbers whole! Webber, Button, Vettel, Davidson and Fisichella all out while Massa ended up at the back after having his own one off accident. Sutil out in the second Force India car by lap 10. Raikonnen, who had had qualifying problems, jumped up many places during the chaos.

Massa and Coulthard collided as the former overtook the Scot and took him out. Coulthard was a little annoyed and commented that he expected Massa to admit the fault or he’d “kick the shit out of the little bastard.”. I bet that doesn’t make it to the edited highlights programme! Another safety car..

After it came in Raikonnen well overcooked an attempt to overtake Haiki and ended up running through the gravel trap and losing a load of places. As Brundle commented – he’d have needed an anchor to slow down enough to take the corner.

Piquet and Takuma Sato both stopped out on the track as did Massa – down to eleven cars and eight score points with 28 laps to go! Raikonnen put it on the grass and went back in the field again.

Then rookie Timo Glock did likewise but he managed to crash his car with a degree of spectacular bouncing and revolving that left him somewhat shaken.

Under the safety car Barrichello had to come in for fuel (or run out of fuel on track) which would have got him a penalty even if he hadn’t taken out the fuel filler men as the lollipop man lifted the lollipop too early.

Hamilton pitted just before the safety car but Haiki Kovalainen, who was running a solid second place, had to come in for fuel and that dropped him back to ninth in the crocodile behind the safety car. Nakajima hit Kubica on the restart and the BMW driver was out. Barrichello, despite his 10 second penalty, rejoined in eighth with Nakajima the only runner not looking like scoring points.

With six laps to go the remaining prancing horse went lame. Does he run the 5000 engine parts to bits and suffer a ten place penalty on the grid next time or retire and lose his two points. In the end the engine appeared to decide it for itself. Kovalainen still fighting Alonso for fifth place at the line and after a pass he got re-passed as his McLaren seemed to lose drive.

Poor rookie (but experienced ex Indy car driver) Sebastian Bourdais’s Torro Rosso (with a Ferrari engine!) lost out to five championship points as it blew up with four laps to go.

Hamilton had the advantage of all his main rivals scoring few or no points. The result -
1. Lewis Hamilton (GB) McLaren-Mercedes 58 laps one hour 34 minutes 50.616 seconds
2. Nick Heidfeld (Ger) BMW Sauber +5.478 secs
3. Nico Rosberg (Ger) Williams-Toyota +8.163
4. Fernando Alonso (Spa) Renault +17.181
5. Heikki Kovalainen (Fin) McLaren-Mercedes +18.014
DQ Rubens Barrichello (Brz) Honda +52.453
6. Kazuki Nakajima* (Jpn) Williams-Toyota 1 lap behind
7R Sebastien Bourdais (Fra) Toro Rosso-Ferrari 55 laps completed
8R Kimi Raikkonen (Fin) Ferrari 53 laps
R Robert Kubica (Pol) BMW Sauber 47 laps
R Timo Glock (Ger) Toyota 43 laps
R Takuma Sato (Jpn) Super Aguri-Honda 32 laps
R Nelson Piquet Jr (Brz) Renault 30 laps
R Felipe Massa (Brz) Ferrari 29 laps
R David Coulthard (GB) Red Bull-Renault 25 laps
R Jarno Trulli (Ita) Toyota 19 laps
R Adrian Sutil (Ger) Force India-Ferrari 8 laps
R Mark Webber (Aus) Red Bull-Renault 0 laps
R Jenson Button (GB) Honda 0 lap
R Anthony Davidson (GB) Super Aguri-Honda 0 lap
R Sebastian Vettel (Ger) Toro Rosso-Ferrari 0 laps
R Giancarlo Fisichella (Ita) Force India-Ferrari 0 laps

* Nakajima handed 10-place grid penalty for next weekend's Malaysian Grand Prix

Monday, 10 March 2008

U-boat in the Mersey

Work is under way to move the only World War II German submarine in the UK to a new location. The U-534 has been stationed at Mortar Mill Quay, near Birkenhead, Merseyside, in the Historic Warships Museum, until it closed last year.

Now the 900-ton U-boat, which is too big to move in one piece, has been cut into five parts and is being floated to Woodside Ferry Terminal in Birkenhead. Once it has been put back together it will become a tourist attraction. Work to divide the vessel into portable sections took a month to complete and it is expected to take barges another week to transport the parts along the River Mersey.

Merseytravel, which owns and operates Mersey Ferries, bought the U-boat to house it at its terminal. Neil Scales, chief executive and director general of Merseytravel, said: "It's a really important piece of history which we want to preserve." The Imperial War Museum confirmed there are only four full-size WWII German U-Boats in existence, and that U-534 is the only one in the UK.

According to the museum's archives, the submarine, which was launched on 23 September 1942, was used as a training vessel in the Baltic. However, it was sunk less than three years later on 5 May 1945 by depth charges dropped by an RAF Liberator. The vessel was salvaged in 1993 and brought to the UK in May 1996, before becoming a popular tourist attraction in Seacombe, Wirral.

The new exhibition at Woodside, which includes artefacts from the submarine and an enigma machine, is due to open in July.

(from the BBC)

Sunday, 9 March 2008

Barnsley FC


Barnsley from the Championship beat us 2-1 at Anfield a fortnight ago and now they have just knocked out Chelsea, 1-0 at home. And they deserved it. Barnsley last made it to the semi-finals in 1912 in which year they went on to win. (Also today Portsmouth knocked out Man Utd – double hooray.)

Odejayi the goalscorer.

I hope they make it to the Final. There will be far more interest in the FA Cup Final now that the top four clubs are out. Middlesborough play Cardiff and Bristol Rovers play West Brom today for the other two places.

Winter's Worst on its way

Hold On! Winter's Worst On Its Way To UK

Forecasters are warning of a potentially fierce and damaging storm heading for the UK. It is expected to hit on Monday, bringing severe gales and heavy rain, and is being billed as possibly the strongest storm of the winter. To blame is a band of exceptionally low pressure which is expected to climax on Monday morning when it swings east across the UK.

Pressure in the centre of the low could fall as low as 950millibars (mb) west of Ireland. The lowest pressure yet recorded over the UK was 925.6mb at Ochtertyre, near Stirling, in Perthshire in 1884. However, the storm is unlikely to be quite that deep when it crosses the UK. Sky weather forecaster Francis Wilson said: "The unusual thing is that these storm force winds of 80 mph will affect the southern, coastal counties of England. "Coupled with heavy rainfall, that could cause serious travel problems."

The high winds are expected to ease during the day but increase again in the evening, with fierce gusts after dark in the west and south of the UK. It could mean a bonus for air travellers, though. Wind speeds five or six miles up in the atmosphere will approach 240mph and anyone flying back from North America at the end of the weekend might do so in record time.

Ear Plugs

Young people are being urged to wear earplugs in nightclubs to protect themselves from permanent hearing damage caused by loud music. The Royal National Institute for Deaf People (RNID) has asked young designers to come up with new styles of earplug that could be worn without risk of stigma by clubbers and those who regularly go to concerts. Exposure to loud music has been shown to impair hearing over time. But surveys have found that young people are reluctant to wear earplugs because they are deemed to be "too medical", aesthetically unappealing and socially unacceptable.

RNID says that the items do not block hearing, they simply reduce the decibel level reaching the ears. Revellers can still hear music at the same quality but at a reduced risk of damage. Research by the charity indicates that 90 per cent of young people have experienced the first signs of hearing damage after a night out.

In an attempt to change the image of earplugs, students from De Montfort, Coventry and Sheffield Hallam universities have been invited to take part in a competition to come up with more appealing designs. Students who produce the most exciting blueprints will be awarded placements with a number of leading design consultancies.
Emma Harrison, head of campaigns at RNID, said: "If you slather on sun cream or wear a bike helmet when you cycle, why not wear earplugs and protect your ears from the risk of permanent damage?"

(Daily Telegraph)