July 5, 2016
My book of the month is ‘The House at the edge of the World’, by Julia Rochester. I’ve really enjoyed reading this novel because I like stories that keep you intrigued right to the end, plus it’s really well written. To make the most of my Rome visit last month I’ve read ‘SPQR – A History of Ancient Rome’ by Mary Beard and watched her BBC programmes on catchup. What I really like about Mary Beard is that she communicates with the reader at both the general and the detailed levels in a really interesting and clear way.
It was my birthday this month. I usually receive my first message of this day from either my wife or my children, but this year they were beaten to it by loveholidays.com. Loveholidays.com sent me an email at 6am wishing me ‘happy birthday’ and also attaching a present:a £10 voucher for any holiday. I’ve unsubscribed from all the junk emails now but they are still coming. ‘Are you sure?’, ‘Did you make a mistake?’ etc. I’ll be a lot more careful about inadvertently subscribing to such email ‘newsletters’ in future. To complete the Italian theme we went to an Italian restaurant for my birthday, and thought about backing Italy for the Euro 2016, but obviously that wasn’t possible with Wales there!
We now know that there isn’t going to be a Local Government Reorganisation in the next five years, and probably beyond that. This is both good and potentially bad. On the positive side spending the next few years developing ambitious improvements rather than managing a messy reorganisation is more inspiring and better for our county and Wales. However, 22 local councils, the demands and expectations on our health services, lots of Welsh Government bureaucracy and hundreds of public bodies are even more unsustainable now than they were a year ago and deciding to leave these structures as they are is not, in itself, an answer to the sustainability problem. Welsh Government must set out a clear alternative to LGR otherwise we’ll simply replace ‘an answer’ with ‘no answer’.
June 9, 2016
My book of the month is ‘This Orient Isle: Elizabethan England and the Islamic World’ by Jerry Brotton. This is a fascinating book about the influence of Islam on English history and culture which I’m sure, like me, many people are unaware of. We had three lovely days in Rome; our first visit but not last. I think I said three involuntary ‘wows’ during our visit to the Vatican Museum and St Peter’s church.
I have been doing about 50 miles a week on my bike. Not in one ride, but in three. I have become more confident and, although I haven’t been timing myself, I think I’m faster. It takes me about an hour and twenty minutes to ride to St Asaph and back from Llandyrnog. And, for several weeks, I’d not been overtaken by another ‘not very good’ cyclist. But the other day someone just cruised past me and as I was trying to convince myself that he must be a semi-pro, he said ‘hi, I seldom overtake anyone’. This immediately put my progress in perspective, but it didn’t shake my confidence. In fact I have stepped up: I’ve swapped the pedals for cleats and have set myself a target: I will not be overtaken by anyone (obviously other than those that look the part) for the rest of this year.
We have an excellent elections team in Denbighshire and, as usual, the organisation and conduct of the counts for the Welsh Assembly and Police Commissioner elections were very efficient. However, I think starting the count in the middle of the night, often after 2am, is wrong. We do this, not because it’s good for the wellbeing of the staff involved or because it improves accuracy but because of pressure from politicians. They say it’s vitally important to have the results as soon as possible: they can’t wait a few hours. They apparently need the results before breakfast because they must immediately get on with establishing the new government! Well it took the newly elected AMs two weeks to form a government. There really is no good reason for continuing with overnight counts but several good reasons why we shouldn’t.