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Sunday, 28 July 2013


In between the endless onslaught of reading worthy and important (and usually badly written) official documents, there's so much more to be read.
This always feels like a July poem; especially after the weather change we've just had, of almost oppressive heat, building into the inevitable downpour.
This poem also reminds me too a bit of the dusty corridors of parliament, where there air is thick with ancient quotes, the over-bearing weight of history, infinite detail and a stifled perspective and anachronism rule - and it is sometimes easy to feel that 'none but insects dare to sing or pirouette.'    At times when the air seems unbearably thick with third-hand breath, it is easy to wish the rain would come to flush it all away- and I think many might suspect that politics can always do with more of those who have the gusto of wind or water-spout...

O that the rain would come— the rain in big battalions— 
Or thunder flush the hedge a more clairvoyant green 
Or wind walk in and whip us and strip us or booming 
Harvest moon transmute this muted scene. 

But all is flat, matt, mute, unlivened, unexpectant, 
And none but insects dare to sing or pirouette; 
That Man is a dancer is an anachronism— 
Who has forgotten his steps or hardly learnt them yet. 

Yet one or two we have known who had the gusto 
Of wind or water-spout, and one or two 
Who carry an emerald lamp behind their faces 
And— during thunder-storms— the light comes shining through. 


The Henbury Loop Line - it CAN happen!

Isambard gave us the Suspension Bridge - surely we can achieve this?!
Can you imagine Isambard Kingdom Brunel planning to build a railway line from Bristol to London now? Or the Clifton Suspension Bridge?  Local authorities would have to agree, there would be an awful lot of very expensive consultants employed, then everyone would suck their teeth, look concerned ,say they were terribly supportive of the idea but of course, it could never be done, would be far too expensive, may require planning permission etc etc etc blah,  and a million reasons 'why not'
Flapjacks- an essential part of any journey
Everyone ready to board the Henbury Loop Special!
That's what's going on with the far more modest proposal to open up a small stretch of existing freight-train track back up to passengers again, as it used to be. The track between Filton, Henbury and Avonmouth already exists. As part of the 'Bristol Metro' plans, most people with any common sense whatsoever think it would be a good idea to use this existing track for passengers to create a real circle line round the city.

All that is needed now is for the good people at the West of England Partnership to agree and put in a 'Henbury Loop' into their bid for Government funding. Yes, we'd need a bit of double-tracking, and perhaps think about some signaling issues. We might even have to think, wait for it, creatively, about ensuring that freight trains are not held up by passenger trains - but this is far from rocket science and other areas of the country seem less squeamish about building new track than we do about using existing track for passengers as we once used to do.

Stephen Williams MP has been a real supporter of this campaign
SO - to prove it's all very doable, I decided not only to talk about it, but to DO it. With the great help of First Great Western, we chartered a train along the Henbury Loop Line. We only had a limited number of tickets, so huge apologies to all those people I had to disappoint.  But the trip was enormous fun and a great success-  from Temple Meads all the way up to Severn Beach and back again in about an hour. Some people told me they'd driven about an hour from Brentry to even get to Temple Meads...

Sue Flint bought flapjacks which we passed round and I chatted with Cllr Mark Bradshaw, Stephen Williams MP, and other cross-party transport campaigners about how we can make this a reality.

If you haven't already, please sign the petition: and forward to all of your friends!
Isambard Gromit Brunel says YES to the Henbury Loop! Don't you, Gromit..

Monday, 22 July 2013

A magic garden for Brenty's children

With the outstanding garden creator, Mike Follett.
I have bizarrely vivid memories of when I was very little. Colours, shapes and textures all meant a lot - a lot more than they do as a grown-up. So I've always found it little wonder that exposing young children to a variety of inputs like this is vitally important to their learning and development.

The brand new garden at Brentry Children's Centre - now a centre of excellence for early years -  is a little-learner's paradise. It was designed by special early-years garden designer, Mike Follett. Mike has used random objects from the reclamation yard to make a practical, fascinating, varied, suitably 'risky' outdoor learning environment for the children - of all ages, and learning abilities, including those with SEN and many who did not have a garden at home.   I was honoured to open the new garden - and it was particularly gratifying seeing the children rush into their new play space and immediately get busy (and wet) with the gargoyle water-feature. It was a gloriously hot day, perfect to make the most of the garden . I had to tear myself away from the cold drinks, cakes and water-feature - but thanks to all for a lovely afternoon, and congratulations to all involved.

Sunday, 21 July 2013

LifeCycle in Avonmouth

Being put through my paces at LifeCycle on the bike rodeo...

There's a lot of paper work being an MP, and anyone who knows me (especially my long-suffering caseworker) will tell you that I'm none too keen on paperwork.

However, the job does have its significant perks ( and no, I don't mean the type of perks that hit headlines and involve moats).  In the last year I've been caving ( which I never thought I'd do) and abseiling down Avon Gorge. This weekend, I got to do a 'bike rodeo' which was a first, with the superb group,  Life Cycle   who held an event at Avonmouth Community Centre to get local young people on their bikes, swapping bikes, getting their bikes fixed, and generally celebrating the joy and benefits of life on two-wheels.

It was a packed, popular event, and I was told how at least three children had taken their stabilizers off for the first time that day. Well done and thanks to all of those who introduced more kids to life on two wheels. Being on a bike this size reminded me of happy hazy days as a ten year old on my BMX, with home-made ramps in the car-park and playing field and constantly grazed knees...  I think the ten year old me may have put me to shame on the Bike Rodeo too...

Thursday, 18 July 2013

10 Years at The Mouse!

The Mouse Pub is a true local. Just a short way up the hill from my house, and just a short stagger downhill back, The Mouse has been a second sitting-room for me in so many ways, and the welcome and friendship of Elaine and Billy who run it has been an anchor in many a storm! 

Celebrating 10 great years of Elaine and Billy running 'The Mouse' pub in WoT!
I remember when a car alarm went off in the middle of the night- and I found it was mine: A car up the hill had rolled down the hill and smashed up my little Yaris. I was half-a-sleep, in a combination of night-clothes and jumper, and not in the mood at all for such an unpleasant surprise. Elaine and Billy were wonderful.

Many people enjoy the hospitality of The Mouse - and the other weekend we all came together to celebrate 10 great years of Elaine, Billy and Lauren running the pub.

Yes, Elaine may have made me enter the infamous Mouse Chilli Eating Contest  ( joint 4th! C'mon! ) and been responsible for one of the most gastrically painful nights of my life, but I can't thank them enough for the warmth, friendship, hospitality - and of course, beer, they have provided since I have known them. Thank you! Here's to another 10 years! 

Saturday, 13 July 2013

Southmead Festival fun

With local girl and campaigner, Paige Golding
I'm beginning to say things that I remember my mum saying about getting old...  Watching Ronan Parks at the brilliant Southmead Festival was one of those times - Ronan is exceptionally talented 14 year old,  but I found myself muttering all sorts of things about feeling very past-it!

The Southmead Festival, now held in the Greenway Centre was a huge success - helped by the weather and the tireless energy, enthusiasm and talent of the Southmead Community. I feel humbled and proud to be the MP for such a great communities, and Southmead is one of the very best.

Southsound Radio deserve a special congratulations for pulling in a real celeb in Ronan for the Southmead Festival - what a superb day.