Five months down, seven to go: time for another review of the month
The World at Large
Probably the main event this month was the European and local council elections, which took place on 22 May. As widely predicted, UKIP did remarkably well, winning the largest share of the vote in the European elections with almost 28% of the vote – although only 36% of people bothered to vote. The UK wasn’t alone in electing MEPs from ‘fringe’ parties: far-right, nationalist and anti-EU parties also came first in France, Denmark and Greece.
UKIP also did well in local elections, although in Gloucester the Conservatives hung onto their seats with Labour and Liberal losing out. I kind of understand why people are put off voting for the main parties, but struggle to see how they end up falling for the UKIP rhetoric – I blogged about my frustrations here.
With one of the strange EU rulings that may be driving people into the arms of UKIP, Cornwall was this month recognised as a “national minority”.
Awful news came in the shape of the stabbing to death of an apparently well-liked 61-year-old Spanish teacher in front of her class at Corpus Christi Catholic College in Leeds by a 15-year-old pupil.
Further away in Nigeria, 230 school girls were kidnapped in the name of Islam by Boko Haram. There are reports that they are being used as slaves and threats of them being sold. After a slow response by the Nigerians the UK and US stepped in to offer help. They have apparently now been found, but Nigerian military authorities have assessed that it is too risky to go in and retrieve them.
Whilst on the subject of terrible abuses brought about by idiots mis-representing religious messages, a pregnant 27 year old doctor in Sudan has been sentenced under Sharia law to hang for apostasy for marrying a Christian man. She has also been sentenced to 100 lashes for having illicit sexual relations. Reports have just come out that she is to be freed, let’s hope it is true and not just a ploy to deflect international condemnation.
On the other side of the Muslim debate, there was much fuss about halal meat: I blogged about that here.
A couple of law and order stories for the month: firstly the news that Operation Yewtree bagged its first celebrity with Max Clifford found guilty of 8 charges of indecent assault and sentenced to 8 years. Meanwhile, the trial of Rolf Harris continues.
The second story was of the arrest of Gerry Adams, who was held for four days of questioning over the IRA murder of Jean McConville in 1972. There was much debate about whether the need for justice should risk the fragile peace process. I fear there are no right answers.
A remarkable teenager died during the month: Stephen Sutton, 19, had raised more than £3 million pounds for the Teenager Cancer Trust before finally succumbing to the disease himself.
And to finish on a lighter note, the Eurovision Song Contest was won by an Austrian bearded drag queen going by the name Conchita Wurst (real name Thomas Neuwirth). I didn’t think the UK entry was so bad this year, but “Children of the Universe” sung by Molly Smitten-Downes only managed 17th place with 40 points.
Just one science story this month. Following last month’s story that one of Saturn’s moons, Enceladus, is now thought to be the most likely place in our solar system to harbour alien life, this month they have been looking a little further away and found the first Earth-like planet orbiting a red dwarf star called Kepler-186. The planet, imaginatively named Kepler-186f is 500 light years away, so we may have to wait a while for a visit from the neighbours.
Not really a great deal caught my eye locally this month.
The big news is the announcement of the Blackfriars development with an agreement signed by the City Council and Gloucestershire County Council to pave the way for a £20 million regeneration of the Quayside and Blackfriars area. It covers a large area including council offices near the Quay, the magistrate’s court and the large derelict car park off Ladybellegate Street. It is hoped that whoever buys Gloucester Prison will also join in with the plan. We’ve been here before, but this time almost all of the land is publicly owned, so hopes are high.
A new motorway service station opened on the north-bound carriageway of the M5 between junction 11a and 12. This isn’t just any old service station though, oh no. This is a high-class service station with local produce, not fast food outlets. I haven’t been yet, but my wife visited and was delighted to bump into Nicky, formerly of StanMan’s Kitchen, running part of it. Whether motorists will relish the opportunity of stopping for posh nosh and the chance to shop at a deli and a butchers, or whether they will pass it by for Burger King and Costa is yet to be seen, but the Southbound half of the station is set for completion next year.
In pub news, there was sad tidings as Mark Deacon called an end to his dream of opening Gloucester’s first micro-pub, Inn the Round, thwarted by the cost of complying with planning regulations. I wrote a Citizen article bemoaning this sad situation and have copied it to my blog here.
And in other pub news, it was announced that the owner of the long derelict Prince of Wales in Station Road has allowed the Gloucester Paint Jam festival organisers to ‘use it as a blank canvas’ for the weekend of the festival (1-3 August). I am looking forward to the festival, but fear that this news means that the former pub will almost certainly be demolished soon afterwards. Oh well, I guess it was never likely to reopen as a pub now after being closed for 12 years!
May was a busy month personally. It started brilliantly when we were invited to a private viewing of an art exhibition by our friend Dave Seed at the Guildhall. Dave is an excellent artist and his exhibition was well worth seeing (especially if you like crows). Unfortunately you are too late now as it only ran for the month, but he has another coming up soon so lookout for it. Meanwhile you can see his stuff on FaceBook at https://www.facebook.com/DavidSeedFineArt
Having been all posh and cultured, we then moved onto the Fountain for the beer festival to celebrate the birthday of Ben, the landlord, and a superb event it was. Hopefully he will celebrate every year!
And then we barely had time to recover before flying off to Venice for a few days. It was a superb break, which I have blogged about briefly here – there will be more once I manage to get through processing the thousands of photographs that I took over the three days. I also provided some tips for tourists based on my experiences there.
There were two CAMRA events during the month. The first was a social which started at the Cafe Rene. Although one of my favourite pubs, the beer is often not of the best quality, so it didn’t go down too well with the group. We then moved onto the New Inn, which is under new management, and were delighted to find several excellent ales and a friendly barman: things are looking up there.
The second CAMRA event was a trip to Hillside (formerly May Hill) Brewery, which was superb. A cask of Legend of Hillside ale was laid on and we had the run of the barbeque for the evening, plus two bottles of beer to take away with us. The brewery formally opened to the public on 31 May, so I recommend a visit – and if you like dark beers, seek out the Severn Surge, it is delicious!
We attended a friend’s 60th birthday party at the England’s Glory and it was an excellent evening. The range of Wadworth beers were good and the buffet they laid on was superb: recommended if you have an event coming up.
We were also invited to not one, but two barbeques during the month – and the sun shone for both of them: amazing! Both were just what barbeques should be: an opportunity to relax, chat with friends, eat too much meat and get drunk. Perfect.
On a less happy note I had a bit of a mishap just before the Bank Holiday weekend. In my on-going, entirely unsuccessful bid to lose weight and get fit, I went to the gym. I admit I wasn’t paying attention, so I didn’t notice as I stepped onto the running machine that someone had left it running. Fast. This did not end well. Who leaves a running machine running when they finish with it? How do they do that? I was not happy.
I suffered nasty grazes to both elbows and my stomach, but the worst was on my knee. Two weeks later it is still not healed and I have been unable to ride my motorbike as a consequence, despite the good weather. As I said, not happy! Still, it could be worse: if I’d landed on my face I hate to think of the mess it could have made.
I only managed to write 9 blogs during May, but that’s fairly consistent and not too bad considering it was a busy month.
Overall stats were pretty good, down on last month’s best month ever, but still coming in at a healthy fourth ever.
Like last month, one post came out head and shoulders above the others, getting four times as many hits as the second place post: this month it was Beer Festival Bonanza. This is largely thanks to several people sharing it on FaceBook.
The top seven posts were written during the month, and I am pleased to say that (despite it being an election month) ‘Fighting Political Apathy’ was knocked into 12th place.
So that’s it for May, have a good June!