Posts Tagged football

Ladies who lunch, dine and twitter

Like most people, I had rather an abstemious January, don’t seem to have been out for a meal for ages.

So it’s been nice to have two meals out in a week, both catching up with other women in politics.

Being a candidate is odd enough (not a regular job to start with, plus by definition you’re the only one in your patch), and being a woman candidate is rarer still, so we do lean on each other. Sometimes literally after an evening out…

Last Saturday lunchtime I caught up with Glasgow North PPC Katy Gordon, who was briefly in London. She came by the Islington Lib Dem office (by lucky chance we’d been having one of our clean-up mornings, so she saw it at its best: we do have carpet under those boxes) and then we went off to lunch at Browns on Islington Green. As well as Katy, there was Bunhill councillor Ruth Polling, and Holborn & St Pancras PPC Jo Shaw (plus Jo’s & my partners).

Our menfolk are both Scots in exile, so there was as much talk of the rugby as of Katy’s campaign to save her local primary schools from closure. Although I thought we’d have to change seats when it emerged she’s a Celtic fan (Richard prefers Rangers). The lads sloped off to watch the rugby while the rest of us were enjoying pudding. Well, we do live the stereotype occasionally.

Browns, like Waterstones next door, is on the site of the old Collins Music Hall, formerly known rather splendidly as the “Islington Hippodrome”. (Could be worse: the rather grand Cambridge branch of Browns is in a former VD clinic.)

Then last night I met up with Jo again, with Flick Rea, the doyenne of Camden Council, plus Lib Dem blogger Helen Duffett and rising star Mili Ahmed.

This time we were at the Pizza Express in Kentish Town (bosco salad, lemon sorbet and a glass or two of chianti: not a bad end to the week). It’s a spectacular building, a great semicircle with a high roof and curvy balconies; a bit like eating on a vintage liner or the set of a 30s musical.

Back in the 30s, the building was more prosaic; the home of the North Western Polytechnic, which later merged with the Northern Polytechnic to form the Polytechnic of North London. The Kentish Town site was closed about 20 years ago: the classrooms converted to flats, while the entrance hall and library became Pizza Express.

The other PNL sites in Islington are still going strong as part of London Metropolitan University. With the exception of the Libeskind building on Holloway Road, they are not exactly architecturally distinguished. I enjoyed my postgrad library course at Ladbroke House; but I don’t honestly think anyone would ever pay to eat there….

Anyway, we had a fun evening discussing among other things Twitter. Helen is an accomplished twitterer, I’ve only been tweeting for a couple of days, but keen to encourage others. So I was very impressed to find @CamdenJo online by the time I got home.

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IT’s a good servant but a bad master

My Wednesday was a long day but a good one.

I made it into Chesham for work despite the snow. I’d been able to check my chosen route online first, and got to work on time. A busy day sorting out customer’s software problems. Then straight to the Islington Lib Dem party executive where among other things we discussed the latest in web-based campaigning.

(Last time I posted that I had the party Exec in my Facebook status, I got a rush of condolence messages from other candidates! I’m incredibly lucky that I have a large and upbeat team and our meetings always get things done.)

We were meeting in Highbury Hill for a change, so my St Peter’s neighbour David and I were even able to hop on the train from Drayton Park to Essex Road: virtually door to door home. So quite a satisfying day and much of it made not only better but possible by automation.

But then disaster: I got in to catch up with Rich watching the Merseyside derby. Nil all, and well into extra time. Then suddenly ITV cuts to the ads, and back, and we find we’d missed the only goal of the night. One very grumpy Richard. So I’m glad to see that Michael Grade has apologised promptly.

It seems the problem was caused by an automated system for broadcasting adverts; it is designed to work with scheduled programmes, but not live events – like football matches going into extra time. There was no human in the room; so millions of viewers, including scorer Dan Gosling’s mum, missed out.

My day job is all about the need for an intelligent human interaction to control artificial intelligence. It’s made me a critical friend of technology, understanding its limitations as much as its benefits. Unlike code, real live people don’t always act in a pattern, don’t fit into boxes and are constant exceptions to our own and other people’s rules.

That’s why I’m so sceptical about a national identity database. More and more chances for the computer says no to mess up people’s lives.

Using IT to implement our decisions is liberating; relying on it to take decisions for us is daft – and dangerous.

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No cuisine from this marine

This story made me smile.

Dutch footballer Michel Kuipers has long been reported to be a former army cook. But now Kuipers has revealed it was a joke by a former team-mate. In fact he was in the Dutch equivalent of the SAS.

Kuipers, who had to sign the Dutch official secrets act, said: “When I started at Brighton people asked me what I did in the marines all the time.

“I cannot really talk about all I did because it is still very confidential, so he made up this story that I was a chef.

“Unfortunately everyone believed it and I still get fans asking me about how to cook meals.”

The Dutchman claims he cannot even boil an egg let alone cook for hundreds of ravenous soldiers.

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Abide with me

Ever wondered why the crowd sings ‘Abide with me’ at the FA Cup Final? The explanation is here….

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Italian spring

On Sunday night we came back from a short break in Pisa, recharging our batteries before the final surge of campaigning for the London elections on 1st May.

It wasn’t exactly getting away from elections because Italians go to the polls on 13 April. Sipping a coffee in a cafe, we were handed election leaflets. Our hotel was the temporary base of a ‘Pisa First’ candidate. Strolling the streets we passed other campaign HQs, while official posters showed the parties that had made it to the final round; it’s a 16-horse race.

The Piazza del Duomo with the leaning tower, the Cathedral and the round Baptistery does take your breath away despite being such a familiar image. Even the crowds of street vendors and tourist stalls can’t spoil it, they just give a suitably medieval buzz. Every other tourist wants their photo taken ‘propping up’ the tower, so they are leaning, stretching and lunging away, making the grass in front of the Tower look like the warm-up venue for a bizarre sporting event.

The last time I visited Pisa, a decade ago, the Tower was supported by steel cables and had weights hanging on one side. Now it’s been stabilised, free of ugly cabling, and open to visitors again. The Tower started to lean even before it was completed, so the builders partly corrected the lean as they went, meaning the Tower is slightly banana-shaped. While you really feel the lean on the way up, the Tower is close to level when you reach the top.

As well as climbing the Tower we enjoyed some more obscure sites, including a visit to Pisa Calcio’s Serie B football ground, the Arena Garibaldi. Pisa’s ground is very close to the city centre, just outside the old walls, and surrounded by flats and villas. The residential streets around the grounds have 12 foot spiked gates at either end, ready to close for crowd control. It’s striking that we manage a Premiership stadium in Highbury without any such gates needed. The international language of football meant Richard ended up discussing the previous night’s Arsenal match with a Yorkshire Gooner met on top of the Leaning Tower, before in-depth analysis of Pisa & Fiorentina’s form with our hotel barman.

We also had a day out in Lucca, the birthplace of Pucchini, also the home (cheers Richard) of Sportiva Lucchese, and just 15 minutes from Pisa by train. Lucca is surrounded by 4km of walls which have been laid out as a park in the sky, with trees, benches, cafes and view points; we did a gentle circuit before lunch, along with dog walkers, cyclists, roller bladers all enjoying the spring sunshine and views over the town. We ate in the Piazza Napoleon. When Napoleon conquered Italy, he gave Lucca to his sister Elisa. She had a villa outside the walls, and according to one story, ended up being winched over them to safety when the plain flooded. Maybe the shared experience of floods is why Lucca’s British twin town is Abingdon.

Back in Pisa, we enjoyed some great meals out, especially at the Osteria dei Cavalieri and our favourite Osteria dei Santi, washed down with glasses of Montepulciano and Moretti. If we ate Italian all year round, we’d never have made it up the Tower….

The trip was supposed to be a stress-buster, so we were a bit alarmed when the cashpoint rejected Richard’s card on our first day there. He eventually got through to Lloyds TSB on the phone; just a fraud check, because of unusual activity. Unusual activity equals being in Italy? Yes, but don’t worry sir, now you’ve called, your card is cleared. Which is fine... except it’s not really fine to have to phone your bank from abroad when on holiday. And given how often Richard travels for work it wasn’t unusual activity either. Especially when I travel much less, and my card worked fine throughout.

The only other downside of the trip was the journey home. Just hours after we’d been sunning ourselves on our hotel’s roof terrace, our (carbon-offset) flight home was delayed six hours by snow at Gatwick. Yet another argument for holidaying by train in future!

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On the stump for Brian

We really seem to have had four seasons in a week this last week, talk about campaigning in all weathers. But as the nominations close for the London elections on 1st May, there is also a change in the political climate towards Labour and Mayor Ken Livingstone.

As a loyal Lib Dem, naturally I’m backing Brian Paddick. But what’s refreshing about campaigning for him is how Brian is reaching out to lots of different people, not all of them natural Lib Dem voters.

I’ve been door knocking and phoning residents across Lib Dem and Labour held wards in Islington this week, many different people with different views; but a uniting factor is dislike of the Mayor and a lively interest in how best to replace him. And for many of the them, the answer is not Boris or Berry but Brian.

The Greens have done themselves no favours by forming an electoral pact with Labour, when much of their recent electoral success has been by picking up anti-Labour protest votes.

Even habitual Labour cheerleaders, like Nick Cohen (an Islington resident), are warming to Brian. Writing in the Evening Standard, Cohen says “if you want a candidate who can reform the police, take a Leftish stand on social, environmental and economic issues and beat the Conservatives, then Paddick, not Livingstone, is your man.”

At a friend’s party last night, one group was exchanging football trivia, as you do… The question that had us all stumped was “What is the highest altitude (professional) football ground in England?” For the answer, according to friend Bill, click here.

Meanwhile, the question that’s stumping them on the doorsteps is “Who is your GLA member here in London North East? and what have they ever done for you?”

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Happy times in Highgate

Another by-election campaign is underway, this time in Highgate ward. So this morning saw me heading up the Holloway Road on the 43 to meet the Highgate team at Jacksons Lane community centre. It’s an appropriate rendez-vous, because the future of the community centre is one of the key issues in the by-election.

Jacksons Lane is a converted church, and as busy as many churches this Sunday – with salsa and belly dancing classes, a children’s play and an evening theatre session on offer. Last year a tree fell and damaged the roof and thousands of pounds have been spent on repairs; so it’s particularly short-sighted of Labour-led Haringey Council to be non-committal about future funding of the centre. This may explain why Labour have come fourth or even fifth in Highgate ward of late.

The weather was sunny and so was our mood. The Lib Dem candidate, Rachel Allison, is charming, energetic and cares passionately about her area, pointing out key local issues – from shortage of parking for patients at the 15-doctor GP surgery to over-development of the conservation area – and greeting lots of residents by name; she’ll make an excellent councillor for Highgate, and I hope she gets in. Certainly the voters I canvassed, in a typical London mix of big houses and small flats, were all very supportive.

One woman I met was an academic studying women in politics, and voting for Rachel; and she’s also a big fan of Highgate’s Lib Dem MP Lynne Featherstone. We also chatted about Hillary Clinton’s prospects. I aired my theory that having seen the achievements of Madeleine Albright, Condi Rice and Nancy Pelosi, maybe the US just doesn’t see having a woman President as the big breakthrough it would have been a cycle ago? Not so, said my contact: they just don’t like Hillary.

As an armchair Arsenal fan, watching a Carling Cup final between Chelsea and Spurs was never going to be a priority for me; but Highgate is full of Spurs fans (Rachel’s husband and son were already at Wembley) so canvassing was off for the afternoon. I headed to the West End bar where Richard was watching the match. It was an exciting finish with a winning goal in extra time, and good natured despite several yellow cards; nothing like yesterday’s horrific foul against Eduardo. It’s deeply weird being surrounded by cheering Spurs fans – even the evening rain didn’t dampen their spirits – but at least it’s a good omen for Rachel.

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