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Child Cruelty – Local Council Apologises

I didn’t want to write anymore about the case of Baby P because I find it immensely distressing and I can’t get out of my mind what that poor child suffered and how alone and distressed he was. That’s before I even think about the pain.

Yesterday a member of the ruling group of the local council, councillor George Meehan, apologised at a meeting. He said, “There is no failure to apologise in full by this council, we do so unreservedly.” When asked if he apologised personally, he said, “I have no problem saying I personally apologise.”  Now read more

We vote for our government quite differently here in the UK to the way it’s done in the USA.

For a start, we don’t vote for the Prime Minister. We vote for a member of Parliament (MP) from the people who are standing in the constituency where we live. We have a ‘first past the post’ system here meaning that each constituency counts the votes for all the candidates running for Parliament and the party that wins the largest number of seats (gets the largest number of MPs) forms the government. The leader of that party, like Tony Blair, is invited by the Queen to form a government and so becomes Prime Minister.

Election campaigns  are relatively short compared to the USA. Usually no longer than 6 weeks but they can be much shorter.

The other big difference is that, if the former party of government loses the election, the winning party immediately forms the government and its leader becomes Prime Minister. Usually, the ex-Prime Minister moves out of 10 Downing Street the day after the election and the new Prime Minister moves in. It’s quite brutal, really.

The way we actually cast our votes is different too – more primitive, I suppose. There are postal votes but these are a minority. Most people go along to a polling station in their constituence. This is usually a room in a school or town hall, or a village hall, even pubs are used in some places where there isn’t another suitable venue.


polling booths
Originally uploaded by knautia

When I vote, which I do in all elections, I go to the polling station, give my name and address to the polling officer who finds it on the electoral list for that constituency. I’m given a polling slip which has a list of all the candidates on it and the officer marks the register to show I’ve come in to vote. I take the slip to a flimsy little booth, knocked up from plywood but shielded on 3 sides so no one can see me vote with a horizontal, flat surface. There’s a pencil in the booth tied to the flat surface and I use that to put a cross in the box next to my choice. I fold it in half, take it out and put it in a big locked metal box. That’s it – my democratic right exercised!

Polling stations open at 7am and close at 10pm. During that time, no politicians or political party members may canvass for votes or try to influence voters. There are no discussions in the media of the issues or the chances of any of the parties. All the UK media is an election free zone – a blessed relief, usually. There will be party workers sitting outside the polling station but they are not allowed to talk to voters on the way in. On the way out they can ask who you voted for so they can compile an exit poll to see how it’s going for their parties.

No votes are ever counted before the polls closed. At 10pm, when the polling stations close, the boxes are taken, by high security transport, to a central place in the constituency. There bank tellers sit and physically sort and count the voting slips. The candidates are usually there trying to guess how they’ve done by the height of the piles of slips for each of them. There’s a race for which constituency counts the votes first. Of course it’s the smallest constituencies that win. When the poll is counted in a constituency, the returning officer gets all the candidates together behind him, on a platform, and announces the result. The winner makes a speech of thanks and the loser is magnanimous in defeat – that’s the British way.


Cambridge: Local elections
Originally uploaded by Michiel2005

The first results usually come in about an hour or so after polls close. After that, they continue to come in throughout the night. Some constituencies are bellwethers. I can always remember the May 1997 election when Tony Blair became Prime Minister and the Tories were defeated.  The first result came  through from one of these before midnight and it went to Labour. I was in bed watching TV and I bounced, punched the air and screamed “Yeeesssss!” I felt pretty silly a moment later. After that, it was like a massacre as prominent Conservative politicians lost their seats one after another. One was Michael Portillo who had been an important Cabinet Minister. For weeks afterwards people said, with a merry grin, “Did you see Portillo’s face?”

The next day, Tony Blair, with his wife, Cherie, were shown on TV going through the crowds in Downing Street to take up office. He did a speech in front of number 10 and I know that I wasn’t the only one watching who was in tears. We were so fed up with the Conservative government and the country were very happy to see the back of it. Who says the British have a stiff upper lip and don’t show emotion?

Of course, we didn’t know then he would take us to war in Iraq.

We vote for our government quite differently here in the UK to the way it’s done in the USA.

For a start, we don’t vote for the Prime Minister. We vote for a member of Parliament (MP) from the people who are standing in the constituency where we live. We have a ‘first past the post’ system here meaning that each constituency counts the votes for all the candidates running for Parliament and the party that wins the largest number of seats (gets the largest number of MPs) forms the government. The leader of that party, like Tony Blair, is invited by the Queen to form a government and so becomes Prime Minister.

Election campaigns are relatively short compared to the USA. Usually no longer than 6 weeks but they can be much shorter.

The other big difference is that, if the former party of government loses the election, the winning party immediately forms the government and its leader becomes Prime Minister. Usually, the ex-Prime Minister moves out of 10 Downing Street the day after the election and the new Prime Minister moves in. It’s quite brutal, really.

The way we actually cast our votes is different too – more primitive, I suppose. There are postal votes but these are a minority. Most people go along to a polling station in their constituence. This is usually a room in a school or town hall, or a village hall, even pubs are used in some places where there isn’t another suitable venue.

When I vote, which I do in all elections, I go to the polling station, give my name and address to the polling officer who finds it on the electoral list for that constituency. I’m given a polling slip which has a list of all the candidates on it and the officer marks the register to show I’ve come in to vote. I take the slip to a flimsy little booth, knocked up from plywood but shielded on 3 sides so no one can see me vote with a horizontal, flat surface. There’s a pencil in the booth tied to the flat surface and I use that to put a cross in the box next to my choice. I fold it in half, take it out and put it in a big locked metal box. That’s it – my democratic right exercised!

Polling stations open at 7am and close at 10pm. During that time, no politicians or political party members may canvass for votes or try to influence voters. There are no discussions in the media of the issues or the chances of any of the parties. All the UK media is an election free zone – a blessed relief, usually. There will be party workers sitting outside the polling station but they are not allowed to talk to voters on the way in. On the way out they can ask who you voted for so they can compile an exit poll to see how it’s going for their parties.

No votes are ever counted before the polls closed. At 10pm, when the polling stations close, the boxes are taken, by high security transport, to a central place in the constituency. There bank tellers sit and physically sort and count the voting slips. The candidates are usually there trying to guess how they’ve done by the height of the piles of slips for each of them. There’s a race for which constituency counts the votes first. Of course it’s the smallest constituencies that win. When the poll is counted in a constituency, the returning officer gets all the candidates together behind him, on a platform, and announces the result. The winner makes a speech of thanks and the loser is magnanimous in defeat – that’s the British way.


The first results usually come in about an hour or so after polls close. After that, they continue to come in throughout the night. Some constituencies are bellwethers. I can always remember the May 1997 election when Tony Blair became Prime Minister and the Tories were defeated. The first result came through from one of these before midnight and it went to Labour. I was in bed watching TV and I bounced, punched the air and screamed “Yeeesssss!” I felt pretty silly a moment later. After that, it was like a massacre as prominent Conservative politicians lost their seats one after another. One was Michael Portillo who had been an important Cabinet Minister. For weeks afterwards people said, with a merry grin, “Did you see Portillo’s face?”

The next day, Tony Blair, with his wife, Cherie, were shown on TV going through the crowds in Downing Street to take up office. He did a speech in front of number 10 and I know that I wasn’t the only one watching who was in tears. We were so fed up with the Conservative government and the country were very happy to see the back of it. Who says the British have a stiff upper lip and don’t show emotion?

Of course, we didn’t know then he would take us to war in Iraq.

Although they are moving out of the East End of London, Cockneys can still be found in and around the capital in a wide range of occupations. Some still eat jellied eels and pie and mash. There are even still pearly kings and queens.

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Since I last wrote about Squidoo, I’ve done some new lenses. They are:

Torquay, South Devon
Sugar – Friend or Foe?
Chocolate & Butterscotch Brownies
Tea – Black or Green?
Stazjia’s English Travel Lenses
Stazjia’s Lensography

The Chocolate & Butterscotch Brownies is a recipe and is done in aid of charity as part of the Bake Sale Group – all the lenses in this group support charity.

The Lensography is a complete list of my lenses, sorted into subject. I’ll just keep adding lenses to it as I do them.

I wanted a change from travel lenses so I thought I’d start on food and drink. It was prompted by reading about the charity bake sale and doing the brownies recipe for it. The lens about sugar is a factual look at the use and characteristics of sugar – no recipes. With Tea – Black or Green? I’ve covered the history of tea and then indulged into some nostalgia of high teas of my childhood. I’ve also described a typical ‘English afternoon tea’.

Rudyard KiplingI’ve been very busy over the last few days doing two news lens. The first one is on Rudyard Kipling, author of books like The Jungle Book and Kim and numerous poems. I know a lot of people think he was racist and jingoistic but I really don’t think he was. His language was definitely that of a Victorian or Edwardian upper class man but then he was a product of this time, just as we are.

If you read his novels and poems it quickly becomes obvious that he loved the East, particularly India where he was brought up until he was 5 years old. It’s also obvious that he loved and respected the people there. Another thing that shines through his work is his understanding of enlisted soldiers, often treated like the scum of the earth when they went home to Britain – see his poem Tommy.

I first read Kim when I was a child and loved it. I’ve re-read it several times since and it’s still pleased me as much as it did when I was young. I’m sure when Kipling was sent to England at the age of 5 to be educated while his parents remained in India, he must have hated being parted from his mother and father, his friends and all the familiar sights and sounds of India. Surely, as he served his sentence in England (it must have felt like a prison sentence), got a bit older and read adventure stories, he must fantasized about staying behind in India and living on the streets, pretending to be an Indian boy and having adventures of his own.

I don’t expect this lens to be particularly popular because, although Rudyard Kipling is less unfashionable than he was, he’s still not high on most people’s reading lists. They just don’t know what they’re missing.

The other lens I did is on The New City of Brighton & Hove in Sussex. Brighton is such a popular and fashionable seaside resort and, together with its neighbour Hove, was officially designated as a city in 2000. It’s most famous for its flamboyant Royal Pavilion built by the Prince Regent (later King George IV) in the late 18th century. It was the scene of the Brighton Bombing in 1984 which was meant to kill Prime Minister Margaret Thatcher. Although Mrs Thatcher survived uninjured, two people were killed and many others seriously injured and left with permanent disabilities.

Then there were the mystery fires that finally led to the end of Brighton’s West Pier – were they arson? The Police and Fire Brigade certainly classified them as ‘suspicious’. Even four years later, there are no answers.

Brighton is a most attractive place to live. It’s 60 miles from London and there is a good, fast rail service to the capital. It has an active nightlife, restaurants, clubs, entertainment and is close to beautiful countryside. It’s little wonder that it attracts a lot of famous people. Currently these include people as varied as Simon Cowell, Lord Richard Attenborough and Nigel Kennedy. In the past they have included Lord Laurence Olivier, Graham Greene, and the exiled Napoleon III.

A View Across the Levels

A View Across the Levels


© Copyright Tim and licensed for reuse under this Creative Commons Licence.

I’ve published my latest lens, Ancient Somerset Levels. I’ve got more stuff to put on it but I think there’s enough to be OK but I won’t join any groups just yet.

I’ve had some of my lenses featured on the All Things Travel group page which I’m so pleased about.