Month: December 2009

Hebden Bridge in the snow

The town of Hebden Bridge – where I work – is a lovely town all year round, but in the snow it looks beautiful.  Over the last few days I’ve taken a few photos around the town, and I’ve uploaded a few of them to Flickr here.

My camera is just an ordinary compact camera – although as compacts go I would recommend a Canon Powershot A720 – and so on a dull day and over distances the pictures aren’t super sharp, but I’m still pretty pleased with them.  Unfortunately after downloading them what I realised was how many telephone wires, rubbish bins, grit bins, road signs etc. get in the way of what otherwise might have been an even better photo.  None of these photos have been tidied up or cropped yet, but I wanted to upload them as soon as I could.

Song of the week 1: Since I Left You – The Avalanches

I’ve just been reminded of a song that I’ve not heard for ages (thanks to Duncan Stott) and had forgotten about until spotting the video for it on his blog.  It’s ‘Since I Left You’ by ‘The  Avalanches’ which was released in the UK in 2001 and comes from an album of the same name.  Duncan pretty much sums it up with the comment that it’s “a truly unique work, and somehow manages to be exciting, groovy, silly, sentimental and cheery all at the same time.”

It’s always good to hear a song that you used to love but had forgotten about.  I may have to now find it and download it to iTunes as I think it’s something that I once had on a CD or cassette but don’t own anymore.  On a day where everywhere is under a thick layer of snow it also seems somewhat appropriate that it should be a track by The Avalanches that I rediscover.

BBC debates whether it’s OK to execute homosexuals

I think Caron Lindsay sums this up best with the following tweet:

I thought I was unshockable until I saw that the BBC were asking whether it was ok to kill gay people as if it were legitimate debate.

Whilst, the original question on the BBC website has now been changed from “Should homosexuals face execution?” to “Should Uganda debate gay execution” and they’ve closed the debate to further participants, it is still remarkable that the BBC should ever have thought this was a debate worth starting.

BBC debates putting to death homosexuals

Disapproval of homosexuality is your personal right.  But for the BBC to instigate a debate on whether gay men and women should be put to death is just unbelievable.

Update:  I see Caron Lindsay has also written about this on her blog.

Two bits of good news for Sheffield Wednesday – now that’s not something you hear very often these days

As a long-suffering Sheffield Wednesday supporter it isn’t often you get two bits of good news for the club in one day.

First, and the most exciting bit is that Hillsborough will host World Cup matches if England wins the bid for the 2018 World Cup.  Of course, that’s a huge if, but it’s really good news for the city.  Although a pessimist, I had an expectation that Sheffield, and Hillsborough in particular, would be included.  After all, to not include England’s fourth largest city, the home of Sheffield’s oldest football club and oldest ground and the place where the modern rules of football were invented, would have seemed odd.  Mind you, including Milton Keynes in the bid at the expense of Leicester, Hull and Derby does show that tradition can only carry you so far.  I was less confident of Hillsborough winning out over Bramall Lane, but hoped that its tradition of hosting international matches and its continuing status as the city’s biggest ground, would overcome the problems that, compared to Bramall Lane, it hasn’t had investment for years and in recent times Sheffield United (deep breath) has been the best club in the city.  By 2018, much of the planned investment in the city centre should have been completed with Sevenstone finally opening, the markets moved to The Moor and the redevelopment of the old markets and the riverside, and so Sheffield will be looking good.  It should be an exciting time.

The second bit of good news is that Sheffield Wednesday are expecting to announce a £20million investment in the club.  Now we’ve been here before and I still have doubts about how reliable any big investors will be if things get difficult, but I’m keeping my fingers crossed.  Chairman Lee Strafford has done a lot for the confidence of the club’s fans – he’s a genuine supporter and is a local boy from a nearby council estate who then went on to sell PlusNet ,the company he built up, to BT for £67million.  But the club’s poor performance and now the departure of Brian Laws hasn’t exactly helped things recently.  If he can now get the investment that will turn Wednesday back in to one of this country’s biggest football clubs, then he will be a very popular man indeed.  Well, at least he will be in the Wednesday half of the city.

Where can I get a map of the new constituency boundaries?

This post is a very simple plea for help.

At the next General Election most parliamentary constituency boundaries will change and what I’d like is a map of the UK showing the new boundaries that I can pin to my wall.

The last time this happened in 1997 I had a really good map that showed not only the boundaries but the main towns and cities in each seat too, so it gave you an idea in rural areas of what each seat actually covered.  I don’t necessarily need one that detailed, although it would be nice, or alternatively it would be nice to find one coloured in to show the notional winner last time.

I’ve already tried DODs and the Hansard Society, (who produced the last really good one that I had), but neither of them are planning to produce one before the next General Election.

Can anybody reading this help?

Note: Yes, I know this does show me to be a complete elections anorak!

Got a problem winning by-elections? Who do you blame? Immigrants!

It’s one of the great electoral stories of 2009, and yet it’s hardly been reported in the press.  At a time when they are riding high in the opinion polls, the Conservatives are losing shedloads of seats in council by-elections.

In the year to date, (with only one principal council by-election left to be held on this coming Thursday), the Conservatives have had a massive net loss of 25 seats (losing 34, gaining only 9).  The big victors are the Liberal Democrats with a net gain of 17 seats (losing 11, but gaining an impressive 28), and surprisingly Labour are not far behind with a net gain of 11 seats (losing 11, but gaining 22).  I won’t go in to the statistics any further, as ALDC will be producing its annual analysis of the year’s by-elections in its January edition of Campaigner magazine (if you are a Liberal Democrat campaigner and aren’t already a member then why not join).  After all, it helps keep me in employment).  But I will let on that this is one of the best years for the Liberal Democrats in a while.

But the point of this post is to highlight one of the most bizarre excuses given for the poor electoral record of the Conservatives in 2009 – it’s apparently all the fault of immigrants.  In one of the best conspiracy theories I’ve heard recently, Labour are supposedly letting all of these immigrants in to the UK so they can then go and vote for them, which they are obviously persuaded to do by the public funding obtained by that supposedly dodgy organisation Operation Black Vote.  To conclude, it is apparently now made worse by Cameron no longer demanding a referendum on the Lisbon Treaty.  For this gem we must thank one of the people commenting on the ConservativeHome website, where Conservatives routinely tear themselves apart over their abysmal track record in council elections at  time when they are apparently on course to be the next government.  From this particular comment it’s nice to see the new allegedly liberal Conservative party in full flow.

If I was being charitable I would say that part of the reason the Conservatives are losing so many seats is because they have so many to defend.  But it’s noticeable that not only are they losing council seats to the Liberal Democrats in crucial parliamentary seats that they desperately want to win, such as Newquay & St. Austell and Outer York, (and I can think of few better people to be Lib Dem MPs than Steve Gilbert and Madeleine Kirk respectively), but it’s also in seats where it’s supposedly a purely Labour/Conservative battleground in which the Lib Dems won’t get a look in, such as High Peak and Harlow.

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The Ice Princess by Camilla Läckberg

2009 was the year I discovered Swedish crime writers.  It’s a surprise in a way that it’s taken so long given my love of crime fiction and my Swedish background, but it was also only recently that they became widely published in English (my Swedish is simply not good enough for me to read a book in the language).

Until now I’d read a number of Henning Mankell‘s Wallander books and the first two by Stieg Larsson – both of which have become bestselling authors worldwide and so are an obvious starting point.  Then I’ve read the first book by Maj Sjöwall and Per Wahlöö, two writers who whilst nowhere near as famous as Mankell or Larsson have also sold in huge numbers around the world since they were published in the 1960s and 1970s and are often spoken about by other crime writers as one of their biggest inspirations.  The latest book though – The Ice Princess by Camilla Läckberg – is by an author who has yet to become well known in this country but has now published seven novels in Sweden, two of which are now available in this country with another due shortly, and which have already been turned in to a series for Swedish television.  What attracted me most to this book though was not just the recommendations from others, but also the location.  The village in which they are set – Fjällbacka – is where one branch of the Swedish side of my family came from and so it added another interest in the story, as, (just as I find with Danuta Reah‘s books set in Sheffield), I could picture quite vividly the places about which she was writing.

I will be honest in saying that I didn’t warm to this book straight away.  It seemed to take a long time to get going and it felt as though there was too much time spent on the personal lives of the two main characters – Erica and Patrik.  But after a while you love both of them and you start to relate to them both.  From what I’ve read about Camilla Läckberg, the character of Erica must be based on her, which perhaps explains why she is so good at explaining Erica’s personal feelings.  What I found most of all though was that as the secret past of some of the characters emerged and the book headed towards its conclusion, I was hooked.  What finally sealed my enjoyment was how the bits of the story came together to create a well thought out and interesting story that remained a mystery almost to the end but was entirely logical and almost obvious by the time you knew the full story.

There are two aspects of the style of the book that particularly stand out.  One I found a little odd was that occasionally there would be a very modern or slang word that jarred with the overall style of the book – a swear word used Fjällbacka, Bohuslän, Swedenunexpectedly or a very specific modern phrase.  Whilst, these don’t bother me they didn’t always seem to fit.  It could be that these are a consequence of the translation from Swedish, where they may have fitted better with the original style.  The other aspect which worked really well was the tendency to tell you the two stories in succession of what two different people were doing at the same time before they met.  It was a clever device and worked well.

So all in all, a good book and most of all it as a well thought through plot.  I look forward to reading more of her books.