It’s been a busy week and I’ve had 5 early starts.
Well actually not that early but earlier than I aspire to these days.
When I was working I generally set my alarm for 0700 or 0730. That got me into whichever office I was working at in plenty of time for an 0830 or 0900 start. The exception was the year or so when I worked in London when I got up at 0630 in order to get an 0745 train. In these days an early start was 0600 or earlier in order to get the first flights out of Stansted and Luton or to drive half way across the country for some business call or another.
Nowadays I like to wake up when I wake up but this week I had cause every day to set the alarm at 0730 (Friday at 0700) just to make sure that I did.
Mon 12 Oct 20: I’m fortunate to doing a little paid for work and I’m filling in as Sales & Marketing Director at a technology company in St Ives. We’re employing a couple of new sales execs and one was coming in on Monday for a second interview. The MD and I needed a good chat about how we would handle this beforehand; hence my need to get up ‘early’ so that I could meet him at 0930.
It’s an easy drive to St Ives these days now that the A14 has been rebuilt and I can use the local access road for my journey. Furthermore there’s a Costa Coffee just 5 minutes short of the office so I’m able to pick up a small Americano to fuel me for the next few hours.
The meeting and interview went well and we pitched the candidate a carefully crafted offer. He accepted and he’ll join the company in a couple of weeks.
Tue 13 Oct 20: if you’re a councillor of any type you can allow your role to be just about as big or as small as you like. As a county councillor I’ve spent my time being guilty of the former but nowadays I tend towards the latter. However you can’t avoid what’s grandly called Full Council and today it’s meeting. It doesn’t start until 1030 but we’ve got a group pre-meet at 0900.
To be honest meetings of Full Council are of little value these days. Most of the Council’s decisions get taken by committees so that most of the time Full Council just debates a bunch of motions and sadly most of these are of the ‘write a letter’ type. Today there’s three of these but at least there are two with a little more substance and one has the makings of a bit of a gunfight.
Our pre-meet is occupied with confirming our voting intent, it’s not just the Tories who have a whip it’s just that theirs is the most efficient. What should be straight forward isn’t because of the amendments which are tabled so all sorts of possibilities have to be considered. Actually it’s not that complicated because votes go the way the Tories want them to which makes you reflect fondly on the UKIP days when we operated with ‘no overall control’.
The motion which will generate the most debate is a Tory one about anti-semitism. We propose an amendment which makes it clear that it’s not just anti-semitism which needs to be addressed but all sorts of prejudiced behaviour. There’s much focus on the word ‘tolerant’. Is it sufficiently active or is it too passive? One worthy Tory quotes from Roget’s Thesaurus which seems to miss the point of that useful reference. I correct him and point Council towards the Oxford dictionary definition which is much more helpful for the Lib Dem position.
As the debate heats up the Tories complain about others ‘politicising’ it. It seems to be a standard Tory response these days when they find themselves on the losing side of an argument, witness Matt Hancock accusing Andy Burnham of ‘playing politics’.
As the debate runs on Lib Dems and Labour win all the arguments but to no avail. The amendment is defeated by the Tories and a sadly unamended motion then gets unanimous support because it’s better than nothing.
Wed 14 Oct 20: the NHS does a super job in post-cardiac therapy. Or at least Addenbrookes does. There are 4 stages and stage 4 is a weekly exercise class for which you pay. These used to run at the Buchan Street Community Centre and I’d attend after breakfast at the excellent Cafe CamTown. In these Covid days of course it’s online but it’s still an 0900 start.
The classes are run by the excellent Steve Symonds who manages to keep talking for a full hour not just giving instruction but also chatting about sport, what he’s been watching on TV and even a little light politics. There’s about a dozen taking part, sometimes a few more, and it’s predominantly male. It always puzzled me that the earlier stages of the therapy were maybe 50/50 male/female but very few women seemed inclined to continue.
The group I’m in is one in which I’m not the oldest, some are in their 80s. Neither am I the youngest. When we had chance to chat after the classes in Buchan Street I found out that some had been attending for several years so it’s become quite a club. There’s a disproportionate number from Histon & Impington, reflecting I guess the catchment area of Buchan Street, and I continue to encounter people in the street who say they’ve met me in the class.
Today I have to leave the class sharpish because my car’s in for a minor repair at the excellent BM Kempton in Barnwell Road. Barry did a bigger job for me some years ago and was maybe only 50% of the price of bigger places. It’s just a small business and his daughter runs the office. And I guess in true Cambridge style his wife is a Fellow at one of the colleges.
Thu 15 Oct 20: as with many communities Histon & Impington has a community group which did its best to help people during the worst days of the lockdown. It’s been stood down for a few months now but with the recent uptick in infections it’s started to stir itself again. I find myself in the position of chairing the group if not leading it. So at 0915 that’s where I am.
It’s not an entirely satisfactory meeting. The stats aren’t giving us a clear picture, misreporting of student infections is maybe inflating our numbers, and although we agree that low level mental health is our biggest issue nobody has any ideas about how it should be addressed. On the positive side the support network of street coordinators seems to be in reasonably good shape. There’s a general mood of ‘no problem yet’. I trust we’re not guilty of complacency.
I’ve got an incentive to finish the meeting on time, which I do, and that’s an appointment for breakfast at the Urban Shed. I really like the cafe side of the Urban Shed, it does good coffee and a helping of scrambled eggs with smashed avocado is a bonus mid morning. I’m meeting Jon Polley who’s going through a transition in his life. He’s always good value to talk to, we share many political principles, and if I can help him through this at the same time I’m really happy to do so.
Fri 16 Oct 20: just to complete a week of early starts today’s an 0800 job. It’s the board meeting of the Morris Education Trust (which is in the process of being renamed following its merger with the Cambridge Education Trust). Before the merger, which coincided neatly with the Covid lockdown, we met at 0730 at Impington Village College which provided breakfast. Now it’s 0800 and provide your own breakfast.
It’s quite a large board and we also have four execs in attendance so it’s rather a big Zoom. However it’s well chaired and I guess we’re all mature enough to behave ourselves. My particular interest at present is the growth of the trust which logically must include CPET which runs, inter alia, the two primary schools in Histon. It’s going to be difficult to finesse but that’s why we employ good people and pay them generously. I’m also concerned at present that the Trust and its schools are as a open and upfront as possible in their communications with the communities in which they operate. There’s a communications consultant involved but it needs to understand that there’s a difference between promotional PR and crisis PR.
It’s a full morning and at 1000 it’s a County Council committee meeting. It’s the Commercial & Investment Commitee and I’m the lead Lib Dem member. I have two colleagues, there’s one Labour and six Tories. It’s not a bad committee and is well chaired by Mark Goldsack but sadly it is governed by the Tory whip which means that decisions are effectively made before the committee meets. It also has a habit of going into secret session more often than it needs to.
In today’s meeting we have a pre-budget paper written some 5 or 6 weeks ago and, as a result, hopelessly out of date where Covid assumptions are concerned. And there’s an item on This Land, the Council’s wholly owned property development company, and, heigh-ho, which it takes in secret.
This Land is becoming an expensive hobby. It’s strayed from its original brief and has so far delivered little of what was expected. I can’t tell you what we discuss about it this morning but what I can say is that I voted against its current strategy at the April meeting and that my position is unlikely to change much today.
It’s easy to lose track of time as Covid and its constraints seem to take a lot of the structure out of the week but I still remember to celebrate Friday. Friday night is steak night and I enjoy what’s generally my only beer of the week along with a couple of glasses of decent red. This Friday I reckon I’ve earned them.