On the road.

We went to Opera in The Park, which was brilliant, and had me in tears when they opened with O Fortuna! from Carmina Burana. Much as I complain at times about Leeds Shitty Council wasting money, I think there are worse things they could spend some Culture Budget on than free concerts for 50 000 people.

But for us, this was anything but free. Not because of the somewhat excessive amount of money we spent on perry, sparkling wine cocktails and antipasti in Aldi, but because to get there cost us over £20.

We did, admittedly get a taxi there. Which cost us £9.40, plus a tip for waiting in traffic jams for ages. This was because we were running slightly late, and getting in at half past five, getting changes and into town for seven is not something that First Leeds seem to think is reasonable. In any case, the bus into town would have been £3.40 and the buss to the event £5 for us both (day riders not being valid on special services). So not much saving on a taxi.

We got the event bus home, for a further £5  and then, because although the 56 bus is supposed to run up until 2am throughout the year, once the students have gone home it quite plainly does not, seeming because non-student residents of Hyde Park and Headingley are not considered to have a life, we got  a taxi from town. Another £3.

Unlike most events we were not hustled out of the arena before the last strains of the music had even faded, and were actually encouraged to stay for a period because of the congestion in the car parks. This being understandable when 50 000 people are trying to get out of the same place very fast.

I often comment about people who seem surgically welded to their cars, but certainly in this city (and much of the UK) the public transport system does not do a lot to discourage this. Though they always fire-hose us with adverts about how many cars taking the bus will take off the road.

Private cars are useful, fun and (for those who are unable to create any identity in any other way) are important for some peoples street cred. But they are also an incredibly wasteful and polluting form of transport. I am not going to go all greeny on you and rattle on about carbon and global warming, in part because although I think there is some validity in the science, there is also a certain amount of spin to detract from REAL environmental issues. But, for one thing, reserves of oil are NOT unlimited: this is basic common sense. And for another, if you have ever walked down Headingley Lane in the morning and found it hard to breathe you will know what I mean.

But we have a bus service which is, quite frankly shit.

The buses are irregular, costly (though First Buses makes a huge profit), the drivers are rude, and they are permanently filled with little scrotes acting like cunts, which the driver does nothing about.

I remember one occasion when after waiting 45 minutes for a service which is supposed to be ‘every ten minutes or less’ I asked the driver if there were problems with the service that would affect my onward journey. I was told to ‘shut the fuck up and get on the bus’. Charming, by any standards. I have mentioned the somewhat early hour that the services stop. And the price.

It is not uncommon in the morning to wait for a bus and have three drive past full. Leeds is apparently the largest city in Europe to have no mass transit system. OK, that is a fairly useless statistic, but it certainly makes the point. Millions was spent on planning the Supertram which was then scrapped (though why they decided to try and put the first one up to Headingley which would have meant ripping up a load of beautiful buildings and half the side of Meanwood Valley I don’t know).

Something needs to be done. I would personally advocate an underground – this seems in many peoples eyes to be something that is only done in large cities, though it seems there is a plan for an outer London underground circular. Why not here? Deep-level tunnelling will not fuck up the last remaining green spaces. Berlin manages a 24 hour service on the U-Bahn. OK, I am slightly obsessed with the Underground in London, but something does need doing. Or we will all just live even more in our cars.

Evolution of sense

I am concerned.  Concerned about the basic life skills of some people in Hyde Park at the moment…

Spatial awareness is something that normally is acquired by the age of about 8. I don’t know if there is some new thalidomide like drug reaction that has damaged the parietal lobes of a whole generation, or perhaps some trend in baby bonnets that has created pressure on the brain.

It seems to me, to be a sensible thought that when one is trying to get into an enclosed space, it it quite helpful to let those already in there get out first. This has the effect of creating more space for you to get in. This is something that over 100 or so years of micro-evolution most Londoners have finally learned in relation to the Tube. I am thus hopeful that in time that talent will evolve in the users of Stop and Save.

Another issue would appear to be malappreciation of width, of pavements and stairways. Pavements in particular seems one that we would hope some natural selection will soon resolve, as walking four abreast, particularly if very slowly, tends to result in the dirtying of those lovely Ugg boots, when someone treads on your heels.

This is also a potential problem with door-ways. Whilst Leeds has some magnificent internal architecture on some of its buildings, stopping suddenly to marvel at this has quite a negative effect on the general flow of movement. If you really wan’t to stand and gawp at the ceiling, why not come and do it at a less busy time of day. This again makes things much easier for everyone concerned. The same goes for sitting on stairs gossiping, emptying the entire contents of your handbag out on the stairs, or standing around talking on your mobile.

We now move onto human machine interactions, this being a key strand in the evolution of the human race. Cars are one of the most common machines that we need to use, along with busses. Cars are quite bulky and need particularly developed spatial acuity to manage.  If you drive a car from up in Headingley to the vicinity of the University and dump your car in a stupid place it makes it harder to manage the matter of not blocking the pavement. The more astute will make the connection that if you then intend to get the bus the remaining 150 yards, this becomes a bigger problem as the bus cannot get up the street.

Of course, spatial awareness is only the beginning. I agree that it is normally about 16 when this skill develops – the effect of your actions of other people.

At some point, you really must learn about full time employment, and how that involves some people getting up at 7am, which can make them a little fractious if you have been making a ridiculous racket with your monkey noises until 4am. However you will learn that it also can make local residents a little annoyed if the night afterwards (whatever the situation with your hangover) you bang loudly on the wall when they are trying to have a shag.

Also important is that some people do have other things to do than wait in a gigantic queue behind you in Sainsburys and Stop and Save while you attempt to pay for a frozen pizza on a succession of cards all of which are declined. Giggling and trying to then find lots of change to cover your purchase is also likely to become quite irritating.

Advanced students and those with a particular interest in the Social Sciences will be able to discuss the meaning of the contested term “community” and how it is defined as something more than a geographical area. This will look at networks, and how their application can mean that local residents are allowed to stumble around the Kit-Kat shop with a can of Special Brew in their hand, because “exceptions can be made for certain customers”. This will also explain the reason why however much you would like to define Hyde Park as “a student area”, wearing a ridiculous “LS6” hoodie for the reason that you think it looks trendy does not make you a local so and only succeeds in making you look like a twat.

Get ’em out by Friday…

Though I’ve not really been able to take part due to a profusion of essays and idiots jamming trolleys into my back, I have been watching with some interest the developments at the Royal Park School. For those who don’t know, this local landmark has been rotting for 5 years after the council closed it as a school. Various typically hollow promised have been made about returning it to the community which it seems ‘becuase of the recession’ (funny how that is an excuse for everything) have ‘failed’. Of course this failure is nothing to do with the political bullshit inherent in our city council.

Recently, a group of people moved into the building, where they repaired a significant amount of damage, made a number of things safe, and utilised the building in the way that the council itself has promised it would be used: as a resource for the community. The council has evicted them and is now seeking costs of over £3000, despite a request from Greg Mulholland that this not be the case.

I’m not going to go too far into my views on this event. I think they are obvious, or will become so. But one wonders two things: first, whether local politicians have any influence at all, and secondly, if one charitably accepts the first, where their loyaties lie.

I worte to Jaime Mathhews (and the other two useless fools that represent us in Headingley, neither of whom replied):

Dear Mr Mathews

I am writing to you regarding the current situation regarding the Royal Park School.

As you are aware many local residents feel very strongly that the council has continually prevaricated over the issue of this building, and that many of the responses given to local people’s concerns have been tantamount to lies, with a hidden underlying agenda that is not in line with local residents’ best interests.

I am writing to communicate my full support for the current action taking place within this building. It saddens me that as a councilor elected by the residents of Hyde Park you have chosen in the press not to support the wishes and actions of local people, but tow the council’s line of ‘health and safety’. For what is is worth, I can assure you that many of the people involved in this project are known to me and have experience and qualifications in the work they are undertaking. Sadly that level of expertise did not seem matched by the ‘security’ on whom the council has spent over £20 000 of our money to allow the building to fall into such disrepair (though I guess this is fortuitous in the end in allowing local people to access the building).

The people involved in this work have done something that the council, and (by your seeming inaction you as councillors) have failed to do; that is putting their time where their mouth is and doing something constructive for the benefit of the local community.

I understand from the council’s statement on today’s Look North that Leeds City Council is preparing legal action to evict the people doing this work.

I would like to know your views on this, as it seems that you cannot claim to support the local community, whilst agreeing with the councils actions (and previous inaction).

I am writing to you, as someone who helped vote you into your current position (something I am close to coming to regret) to ask that you take every action within your power to prevent the eviction of the residents of the building, and this this is with the aim of handing over the building to community control, in order to allow local people to show that in the same amount of time that this building has been left to rot they can reverse the damage done by Leeds City Council and create a useful and community owned space from this building.

If you are not willing to do this, I hope you will take time to think about your position, as it seems that you are more in line with the overall aims of the Council, rather than the aims of the people you have been elected to represent.

I would appreciate your thoughts on this matter.

Yours sincerely

Christian Bodden

OK, I may have sounded a bit stroppy. But the reply was a fucking joke:

Dear Christian

I must say I think you have, from the outset, misrepresented my views.

Yes I am concerned about peoples’ safety in the building, it would be irresponsible for me not to be. However, I went in on Sunday afternoon myself and had a walk round with Sue Buckle, Ted Winter and Andy Beresford, who all know that I am supportive of their aims, which is what I said in the Evening Post.

I am adamant and I am doing everything I can to save that building. It’s worth noting that from the day the previous administration closed the school local Lib Dem Councillors have done everything to ensure the building stays standing. I understand there were plenty of bids to demolish the building and build something else originally but local Councillors insisted the building remained, and remained in community use. We had, in my view, a very good bid from Rushbond which would have included keeping the building, converting it into elderly flats, a community space and a brand new library – this of course fell through because of the recession.

I personally do not support them being evicted from the building as they are doing a good job, and I told them this on Sunday. However, as I have said, I am concerned about their safety but I am supporting their efforts to work with council officers to legitimately and safely be in the building.

It’s a bit insulting to suggest we have a record of inaction on this one, this is not true. I have consistently demanded that the building be a) refurbished and kept in community use and b) in the interim the roof be repaired and the building be made safe. I have been ignored and overridden by Council officers – this is something I will be continuing to demand. I have not been told about any legal action to evict them but I will endeavour to find out what is going on.

I hope this clearly sets out my views for you.

Regards

Jamie

Councillor Jamie Matthews
Headingley Ward

I like the phrase ‘insulting’. It is one you tend to hear when you have made a point that someone dislikes. One that perhaps touches a nerve, makes them think about their errors and ways.

Oddly, the eviction happened two days later. Either Matthews is as naive as his colleague Monaghan, a liar, or just thinks he can fob off someone who doesn’t appeciate his politics. Maybe all three.

What this event has highlighted is the real lack of interest in this area from the council. I note that some (mostly Labour) councillors from nearby have shown quite an interest and considerably more proactive support. But of course it is electioneering, as the flyer through my door proved the other day. So I would, personally, counsel against too much trust in them.

I’ve commented on these before – but to review: I’ve mentioned Monaghan before, standing up and displaying he cannot even be bothered to learn a bit of history about the area he ‘represents’, but has made it quite clear he will never live in. He was assigned to discuss my issue with the way the bin-yard fines was handled and the ludicrous response from environmental services about the problems in my area. He plainly did not actually read my comments and request for help/advice, just kept forwarding it to the person concerned. OK, he was a bit busy at the time valiantly trying to beat the BNP to the Yorkshire and Humberside Seat, but lets face it he’d probably move to Kent with his MEP’s salary, saying the North was a bit scummy, like he did about Hyde Park, in Leeds student.

Matthews: Well, this incident is clear. He also claimed he would help with various noise issues, the general lack of local nous indicated by the Police, being threatened by builders wrecking local houses. A veriatble Yes-Man, he was. But nothing really came of it, like everything it faded away when he’d made some lame and false promises.

As for Hamilton: Well, I contacted him about the same issues. It took a complaint to the council to get a response (not from him, he was on an extended holiday apparently). I wonder if he exists.

This leave our worthy MP, Mulholland. I also wonder if he exists. I have never heard from him at all, in reply to any letter I have sent. Probably for the best – a friend of mind contacted him about the embryology bill, and got the reply that her request was counter to his religious beleifs, so he could not address her concerns.

Meanwhile, Hyde Park falls into disrepair, the mess from the bin strike, half of it made by the scabs they employed, still fills our streets. My plants grow legs and wander down the street to be found dead in student houses, the same ones that try and blame people who complain about their continual noise for that same noise, and worse. Raw sewerage pumps from broken pipes when one bedroom houses are converted to house six.

I don’t know what it is like for those whose ward reflects where they live? I apparently live in Headingley, quite how that works I don’t know. I hope I don’t get asked to pay a parish precept for Headingley to have the Town Council it wants. They will care about us in the Harolds and Thornvilles about as much as the Lib Dems care for anyone except the student vote they want. But I doubt anyone else will truely be any better.

Copper’s Knock

I’m sat the other day, minding my own business trying to digest a paper on positivism without going to sleep, when there is someone decide to come and try my door handle. So I go and open the door to shout something along the lines of ‘whaddatheFUCKyouplayingatyoulittleSCROTE’ to see a pair of (fairly little, it must be said) members of Her Majesty’s Finest, wandering around the street trying doors.

I gather that this is a new side of the community policing in Hyde Park, as it does seem that ‘robbing students is sometimes childsplay’ to quote the pretty good new video that LUU has made.

But, as someone with a bit of an interest in privacy I am not 100% sure I approve. There is an interesting legal question here: if they had caught me up to know good, would that evidence be admissible, gained via entry without a warrant. Probably, and that is really not on.

Though it seems that things are a bit hot in LS6 at the moment, we are hearing about a fair number of burglaries and so on.

There also seems to be some mad genetic engineering going on as several of my plants have recently evolved into triffids, and wandered off down the street of their own accord, seemingly to attend student parties (the ones that could be found).

I also note that Leeds Landlord Supplies on Brudenell Road has strated to stock what every landlord needs at this time of year: fireworks. Huge big 200 shot airbombs being the preference. Welcome to Basra, LS6.

On a worse note it seems that there have been some muggings going on locally, one at only 8:00pm on the park, and also one at knifepoint, (well four points actually), in Woodhouse, this being in the time taken to walk from a taxi to the door. So be careful kids…

A small lesson in Pragmatism.

The Moor, once again, is the latest issue for Hyde Park Busybodies to throw a wobbler about.

As you will all know, when the weather gets hot, people flock to the park, many of them using those pathetic tin-foil barbecues and burning huge holes in the grass. Which is pretty fucking selfish and irritating, I agree.

So the Council, in one their rare bursts of sense have come up with the idea of sinking barbecue slabs into the ground to provide a means to do this with less damage. Which seems to me a sensible idea.

But of course, for some, this is not good enough.  People feel that this will spoil The Moor. That Money should be spent on enforcing the present By-Laws. That Barbcue smoke is Toxic.

Lets look at these, one by one. I’ll start with the last. Barbecue smoke may be greasy and nasty. But you can’t stop people having a barbecue in their garden (at least not in Hyde Park, at the moment). I’m also guessing a fair number of people opposing this on the park will be lucky enough to have a garden.

Spoiling The Moor:  I’m inclined to say that stone slabs set over a small area will spoil The Moor considerably less than the current mess caused by people who don’t use them. The Moor is not some ancient burial ground that is defiled by building facilities on it. Or maybe it is, and that’s why after ten years we still don’t have any lighting.

So lets look at the last one: Park wardens technically have the power to remove people from parks. It’s in the By-Laws. But they don’t. And those who will ignore the By-Laws clearly ignore the wardens as this letter suggests. So personally I resent paying for someone who doesn’t actually do their job. I fail to see how more wardens will help.

So the Police then? Well, the only time I’ve seen the Police do very much on the park is hassling people sat there in the mornings (because staying up all night and sitting on the park at 8 o’clock on Saturday Morning is oh so much more of a social evil than burning holes in things). The Police say it is the councils repsponsibility, the Council say it is the Police’s. Like Noise, that old chestnut. I’d be very suprised if the Police would ringefence the money that would have been spent on barbecue facilities, if it were to be given to them.

So, what will happen, is as usual nothing. And the park will continue to be burned.

The local resident bigmouths say ‘why should Hyde Park be any different?’ Because Hyde Park is different. Like it or lump it, we have a large population of students and young people. That’s life.

I have lived in Hyde Park 15 Years.  I am not an incomer student. But I agree with a pragmatic response to a problem. God I’m such a misfit. This shows, once again, two characteristics of ‘community’ in Hyde Park.

One: it is self-serving, parochial, and serves a small group. Two: these small groups of people who claim to be the ‘community’ quite clearly have their heads up their own ar, sorry, firmly in the clouds.

Community Plods

The other day I swear I saw Herr Flic walking down the street. OK the leather coast had been replaced by orange hi-vis, but the sour unrelenting face and demeanour, the purposeful walk was the same. This was on Moorland Road, walking off down towards Hyde Park. I then swear down I saw him again on Campus.  Who was this strange fellow?

He was a Local Authority Enforcement Officer, or rather I am guessing two of them, but the uniform and face were of course indistinguishable.

These pseudo police, along with their brethren the PCSOs are the champions of community cohesion in Britain Today.

I become more and more concerned by this as time goes by. Zygmunt Bauman talks of community as The Agony of Tantalus, something so desired, but so out of reach. And my question here is about how the hell this can enforce community.

These fellows were issuing parking tickets. Now parking is something that kind of gets my goat, but one of these was placing them on about 2 cars in the otherwise empty resident’s parking on Moorland Road. The other, on Campus. OK the first, maybe fair enough. The second, although a public highway, should really be the Universty’s look out. But my main issue here is this for me just highlights a little over regulation. Where was he dealing with the blocking royal park road so the buses can’t get by; the cars permanently so close to junctions that their arse end is blocking the entire pavement?

It also amuses me that it is highlighted now that Police must trust the public more. Far be it from me to comment about whether police are “more concerned with the rights of perpetrators than victims” of course, but we have all these people aimed to promote “community” dressed up like the Gestapo, and probably as unpleasant. How is that going to promote trust. Or community? I fail to see.

Community, or “Social Capital” to use Labour’s buzzword cannot be enforced. “Respect” cannot be enforced. Yes the Police do need to trust the public more, listen more. Help people to look after their areas, collect their trash and they won’t tip it, make sure there are places to park that don’t cost a days wage and they won’t park where they shouldn’t and so on…

Two grumpy old men

Well, Jamie Matthews got back to me. Actually had quite a constructive conversation which was good. Though it is a shame it took a complaint to make this happen.

From this I have had contact from the local police too… Predictable though. Police responses are reactionary (no shit, Sherlock) and of course officers cannot be expected to understand issues from all areas they Police. The Inspector dealing with the complaint got back too: He has discussed the issue with the officer concerned and “advised him”. What that will do I do not know, but at least he listened. We’ll see if I encounter that officer again when I am pissed and get harassment. Of course that will never happen.

As for the bins. That has been reported to the council. Apparently they will deliver four new bins, in four to six weeks time. What a fucking joke! They did say that they will provide some green bags, though it is of course the householders responsibility to clean up the mess (personally I think this is a bigger blight than graffiti and posters which seems to have plenty of money poured into their removal, but anyway…) No sign of the green bags I was promised, so with the general lack of bins from not getting the increased number I was promised 6 months ago I can see even more mess… Am tempted to say sod it as I am moving down the road and so it will no longer be my binyard (though the new one looks just as problematic…)

It’s kind of the same old story really. Empty promises and excuses. Of course if you believe half of what I have been told none of this is paid for by the council tax, so I cannot use that argument, and doubtless rattle on about Thoreau like all apprentice disobedients do (usually the ones who pay it off when it gets tough). I disagree with the council tax for many reasons, for many reasons, house size not being an indicator of income being a main one, and much as I comment often on the benefits of a more mutualist society where this may not be needed, poor service is not a reason for not paying it. This may strike you as odd from me, as I am committed to actually getting value for what you pay out in the consumerist transactions we all are slaves to and frequently complain about how our taxes are spent, but the simple matter is that not paying does not solve anything, oppressive as that situation is.

I heard a great one the other day too: students do not use the majority of services paid for by council tax (education, social services and so on), this is why they should not pay it. True, but neither do I. And a fair proportion goes towards the “gentrification” that the University then lays claim to. What do we do, give up on Welfare as a bad job, so everyone pays for exactly what they use? Anyway, I digress.

I am going to continue. Be an angry young man (or maybe a grumpy old man, now) and become the thorn in the side of local services. And incidentally the new neighbours, looking at the state of the binyard for my new house…