Thursday, 14 March 2019

All aboard!

Nice one. Stoke-on-Trent wins £5.6m for train station improvements – and there's a bid for another £50m.

How local MPs voted, to stop a 'No Deal' Brexit

Last night's votes in Parliament, by local MPs:

* MPs who voted to stop a 'No Deal' Brexit were:

Ruth Smeeth (Labour, Stoke-on-Trent North).
Gareth Snell (Labour, Stoke-on-Trent Central).
Paul Farrelly (Labour, Newcastle-under-Lyme).
Laura Smith (Labour, Crewe and Nantwich).

* MPs who voted to allow a 'No Deal' Brexit were:

Jack Brereton (Conservative, Stoke-on-Trent South).
Karen Bradley (Conservative, Staffordshire Moorlands).
William Cash (Conservative, Stone) (aka Bill Cash).
Fiona Bruce (Conservative, Congleton).

Monday, 11 February 2019

The status of allotments held in trust

New in the Law Society Gazette, a detailed article on "The status of allotments".

As I understand it, putting it into simple language: there's been a new legal ruling that affects council allotments. If a local council was long ago given allotment land with words such as "to be held in trust as allotments for the labouring poor", then that purpose to be stuck to by the council.

Very obvious, you might think. But apparently there have been claims from some council officials that 'charitable trusts on allotment land' was something abolished long ago. It wasn't, and the new ruling says: "The 1908 Act contained no express revocation of such trusts, its provisions did not prevent such trusts from continuing".

Why is this important? Because if land is "held in trust" then it can't be sold off. Nor can the council jack up the rents so high that poor people in a low-paid job can no longer afford to have a local allotment.

Tuesday, 22 January 2019

Cop this

From this week's Spectator magazine: "West Midlands Police had failed to record 16,600 violent crimes a year, 22 per cent of the total, according to Her Majesty’s Inspectorate of Constabulary."

Saturday, 19 January 2019

'Magic mushrooms' grow in abundance in Staffordshire

'Magic mushrooms' grow in abundance in Staffordshire:

"Specialists say the warmer weather means the psychedelic, naturally-occurring class-A drug has been found growing in large numbers across Staffordshire and Shropshire. Usually, the fungi, found on grasslands and pastures grazed by sheep due to the nutrient-rich manure, are long gone by this time of year, but the mild and wet weather means they have stuck around."

I am not quite sure what this mysterious "warmer weather" he's talking of is, as it seems like a normal winter to me. But I guess he means that until recently we hadn't had a severe cold snap with heavy ice and snow. But given the cold and ground-ice in the last few days I assume that all the Psilocybe semilanceata will have gone now for another year. If you've got these long thin-stalked nipple-shaped mushrooms in some grass on or near your allotment, then that's what they they are...

Friday, 9 November 2018

Getting snippy on the High Street

There's an interesting counter to the gloomy story of the 'inevitable' decline on the British High St. While some of the big chain stores have faltered and closed, usually due to mis-management, shops dealing in personal services and non-alcoholic meet-up spaces appear to be doing well:

"Barbers, beauty salons, shoe repairs, ice cream parlours and coffee shops were among the retail sectors to see increases in shops opening in the first half of 2018, according to retail intelligence business the Local Data Company."

Some shops like this are combining their sales, such as the vintage barber at Vagabond's in Stoke-on-Trent who offers a vintage beer option with every haircut. Presumably there's also a nice ginger beer on offer in the chiller, for those who don't drink.

What else could be sold to the older gent, that they can't get more easily on eBay on Amazon and through the letter-box, and which wouldn't get the shop in 'change of use' trouble re: the planning and zoning regulations?

Walking sticks and suchlike are out of the question. True, you wouldn't want to get a walking stick through the post, but at the same time they take up space, are awkward to display, and would sell only rarely. Collapsible seat-bearing 'flipsticks' might be another matter, since one would on need to have one display-model out front. These enable one to have a sit and a breather when walking, even if no seating is around or it's only a bum-numbing mesh-grid, or the metal-box type now plonked around the centre of Hanley. If not needed for carrying or sitting, they can be slipped into a bag.

But such things are not an ongoing regular purchase. Once thirty of your regulars have them, you're not likely to sell many more.

Perhaps a curated little rack of difficult-to-find print magazines, with nostalgia value? The small Commando booklet-comics, perhaps. What bloke of a certain age wouldn't be tempted to try one of those, from a rack displaying titles guaranteed by the barber to have a combo of the best art and the best writing. Once they'd read a classic such as The Long Chase, they'd be wanting more. The publishers of Commando might even offer barber shops their own little fold-and-slot stand of classic titles, that could hang on a wall. Each purchased copy would have a voucher inside with a discounted year's subscription and a flyer for The Oldie. The barber would be given a small commission for each subscription taken out, for either title.

That might not be for all such barbers, of course, and many will have a clientele more interesting in sports, fishing and gardening. And selling to older men is generally difficult, which is why the high street is so geared to other market segments. But that leaves a gap which is not being catered for, and ideas such as those above show how barbers might 'up their game' in terms of repeat-sales of 'small pleasures', and how these might then be leveraged into bigger purchases such as annual subscriptions.

Tuesday, 6 November 2018

Slightly soiled

Coming soon, as part of Stoke-on-Trent City Council trimming its budget...

"Introduction of charges for soil, plasterboard and rubble at household waste and recycling centres – saving £120,000."

I'm rather surprised to hear that it's been free, until now, but then I've no need to use such tips and thus don't know about such things. I guess this new charge may possibly affect allotment holders, re: getting rid of bags of soil that's been contaminated with something or other that's not toxic but is still unwanted. Though, in reality, you'd probably just build a mound or bank somewhere on the allotments site with the soil, and then turf over it.

Wednesday, 26 September 2018

Manifesto for Wildlife

Just published, Chris Packham's A Manifesto for Wildlife. He asked 20 people what their "top 10" measures would be. His choice of people was obviously highly selective, and as a result a lot of the document seems to be a front for "anti-hunting and shooting" / "anti-farmer" / "more laws, bans, taxes and Big Government" leftist types. Wildlife often seems to get a little lost among the political axe-grinding. But the following picks would be my do-able practical measures from the document, in no particular order:

"Hedgerow trees to be celebrated and replenished – today they are almost uniform in age, and are not being replaced as they die."

"Focus on increasing domestic fruit and vegetable production with special support for small-scale producers."

"Identify no-dig Root Protection Areas (RPAs) around valuable trees and protect them."

"All new-build estates must have a pond".

"In areas designated as nature reserves, dogs – with the exception of assistance dogs – to be banned. On areas or footpaths adjacent to nature reserves, dogs should be on their leads at all times. ... [serviced] dog-walking hotspots should be established to attract owners away from a wildlife-sensitive area".

"A small increment on benefit payments (from universal credit to pensions) in return for hours worked on local wildlife conservation" or litter picking in green spaces etc.

"Every primary school in Britain to be twinned long-term with a farm".

Either give up and "downgrade all National Parks to Upland Nature Areas", or else give them real powers to actually protect and boost nature. Such as by robustly excluding damaging human activity (e.g, motorbikes, trail bikers, mountain-bikers, dog walkers, cars) from key areas.

Thursday, 9 August 2018

National Allotments Week, starts 13th August

The National Allotments Society has a National Allotments Week, Monday 13th August to Monday 20th August 2018. Nicely timed for the easing of our very dry summer.