Parking on new double-yellow lines in Wisbech, lap dancing claim and Somerfield’s big sale

A Fenland councillor’s thoughts on Wayne Rooney’s new salary at Manchester United and premature reports of another councillor’s possible defection to the Tories feature in our columnist’s diary this week.

Big Bang

IN my day, of course, fireworks actually looked like fireworks but these days?

Goodness knows but they were never like this firework, similar to one stolen from Emneth at the weekend.

Needless to say if you get offered one like it and you think the circumstances to be a little odd (I don’t know, perhaps in the back bar of your local or from some itinerant door-to-door salesman) then Norfolk Police would welcome the call.

Lapping it up

NEWS of the impending sale of the Clarkson Arms, in Wisbech, which follows, a year down the line, the failed bid for a lap dancing club, prompted a call from local marketing guru Annie Appleby.

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At one time she held the licence for the Wisbech Institute and remains convinced that the terms and conditions entitled them to hold lap dancing nights there if they so wanted.

“Shall I check?” she trilled but, in the circumstances, I felt it best not to do so.

Heaven knows the alarm bells that might ring around the town were it to be so.

Rough and tumble

THE ‘first lady’ of Fenland, an accolade I always awarded to Councillor Jill Tuck, leader of Cambridgeshire County �Council, turned up at Shire Hall last week for an important council meeting – only to later have to send members her apologies for being absent.

It seems Cllr Tuck, also a Fenland district councillor, of course, slipped and fell in the corridors of power as she headed towards the chamber.

She hurt her shoulder, was treated for her injury, and later headed off home.

This week, however, she was back at a Cabinet meeting and, according to my chum at Shire Hall, looked “fit, well and raring to go”.

So a happy end to my little foray into the world of county politics.

Court out

LIES, damned lies and statistics is always among journalism’s favourite sayings (and thank you, Mark Twain) and the phrase sprang to mind when number-crunching my way through a Government statement this week.

MP Graham Evans from Weaver Vale (that’s in Cheshire) asked Huntingdon MP Jonathan Djanogly, Parliamentary Under Secretary of State and responsible for the courts service, for the “utilisation rates” of each magistrates’ court in England.

Mr Djanogly was happy to oblige but whether you believe his assertion that Fenland has a “utilisation” rate of just 32 per cent is a moot point.

That implies the court, now under threat of closure, is used for two-and-a-bit days per week, and that is simply not so.

Mr Djanogly forgets it’s used on other days for inquests, for RSPCA cases and quite often for Council Tax and benefit cases. Indeed, it was being used on a Friday afternoon recently to find out if a taxi driver had been wrongly suspended by Fenland District Council (he had).

There’s a reasonable danger of the court in Wisbech being closed but, if so, at least someone please provide the �correct figures.

Independence daze

REPORTS of my defection are �premature (to misquote another Mark Twain saying) and so it might prove to be for independent councillor Mark Archer.

Cllr Archer, you may recall, has been merrily contemplating the ‘invitation’ by the ruling Conservative group to join their beloved ranks.

The independent councillor for Manea is, I believe, having second thoughts given the mutterings of disaffection coming through the ranks but mainly, I suspect, because people have told him they voted for his independency, not his party label.

The irony for NE Cambs Tory �grandee Robert Sears, whom Cllr Archer unceremoniously unseated last time round, might well have proven a ballot box too much anyway.

That’s the spirit

SORRY if you missed it, but I have been taking great delight in the Sale of the Century under way at the former Somerfield store turned Co-op in March.

Half-price whisky, half-price champagne and wine at �2 a bottle have been the order of the day as the store prepares to close for a week for a refit.

It’s been a magical, wondrous few days and now my cupboards are full to overflowing, feel free to pop into the store and snap up what’s left.

Chosen Phew

I GOT lanced with a Gilbertian dart this week as recoiled in horror at what might be going on within the ranks of the Tory party in March.

I heard rumours, from usually well-connected sources, that all manner of candidates were vying for selection in next May’s elections to Fenland District Council.

And, if so, it could mean – and probably for the first time in memory – sitting councillors having to suffer what some of them might regard as the ignominy of attending a selection meeting.

Almost akin, your diarist mused, to the Gilbert and Sullivan operetta Iolanthe, which touted the possibility of membership of the House of Lords being conditional upon competitive examination... and the good lords promptly abandoned their peerages!

Jams tomorrow

SPAT, bang, wallop – that’s what �Cambridge Tories think of the Lib Dems.

“Cambridge Lib Dems succeed in �scuppering A14 upgrade,” boomed the city’s Tory Association website as it sought to blame someone for the Government’s decision not to improve this major trunk road.

“Cambridgeshire’s drivers can look forward to another decade of worsening congestion and crashes,” tra-la’d �Conservative campaigner Edward �Turnham.

“Meanwhile, Cambridge’s Lib Dem MP Julian Huppert, and his colleagues on the City Council can celebrate their success in scuppering the upgrade.”

Footnote: Since May, the Lib Dems and Tories have run the country. They can’t agree, however, on anything to do with running the county.

Double trouble

WISBECH councillor Roger Green drops me a line to recount “an amusing little story I meant to share with you but forgot”.

He recalls that on a recent visit to his dentist in Alexandra Road, Wisbech, “I saw two men busy renewing the double yellow lines outside the Angles Theatre.

“Imagine my amusement when I came out 15 minutes later to see them working further down the road and already two cars had parked on the still-wet yellow lines.

“No wonder many consider Wisbech the ‘illegal parking’ Capital of the Fens”.

Lock and glee

BARRY Searle liked my piece about the calendar being offered for sale and featuring photos of many of the UK’s favourite prisons.

“Having just read your piece about the calendar it reminded me of a joke I thought might bring a smile to your face,” he wrote.

“Did you hear about the man who stole a calendar? He got 12 months.”

I also found amusing the ‘tweet’ this week from Nicola Sharp, who wrote on the social network site Twitter: “I really don’t want my life to end in Whittlesey. That’s just unfair.”

Definitely a young lady who needs to get out more.

I found amusing, but not sure if I should have, the T-shirt sported by a 12-year-old lad out shopping this week with his mum in March High Street.

It sported the legend “I like Drunk Girls”.

Wayney day

NEVER one to be short of a view, and he wasn’t, I turned to find out what Cambridgeshire and Fenland councillor Martin Curtis was thinking about the week’s news.

Cllr Curtis found time, surprisingly, to pass comment on the alleged �250,000 a week being paid for the services of a Mr Rooney and in the employment of a certain Manchester United Football Club.

“I consider myself a free marketeer but even I think Wayne Rooney being paid �250k a week is obscene – especially given the state of Portsmouth,” he ‘tweeted’.

I did ask if he felt Mr Rooney’s previous salary, whatever that might be, to be within the spirit of the free market but I’ve yet to gain a response.

Van gaffe

I’VE long thought of finding a regular slot for annoying press releases. If it launched this week, Volkswagen would have pride of place.

“New research sheds light on the stereotype of the modern van driver or ‘white van man’ in the East,” says their PR lady, Amy Richards.

“Van drivers are now fitter, better read, healthier and more tech-savvy than ever before. Our study also found that an increasing number (over a third) of all van drivers in the East of England are women.”

And amidst blurb that seemed never to end, she added: “Van drivers in the East of England embrace both traditional and new media.

“Whilst keeping fit is important to the modern van driver, a healthy and active mind is now also important.

“Thirty-nine per cent regularly support the arts, enjoying great films, plays, and exhibitions - maybe even the odd opera or two.”

Just think about that the next time one of these super-fit Mensa candidates cuts you up.

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