Sandy 4 St Albans

Sandy Walkington campaigns with the Liberal Democrats across St Albans

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’40 maps that explain the world’

August 21st, 2013 · Sandy's blog

I am a follower of the Open Democracy blog pages.  Often their contents irritate, but they always inform, and sometimes I am completely gripped.

where-to-be-born-map3That was my response to a link to the Washington Post website with a posting by Max Fisher of  ’40 maps that explain the world.’  Not surprisingly it is biased towards the USA, but the choice is fascinating:

  • who welcome or don’t welcome foreigners
  • the best and worst places to be born
  • the countries where people are the most and least emotional (not much sign of an Anglo-Saxon stiff upper lip)
  • where people feel the most and least loved
  • languages and dialects of the Middle East
  • the best and worst countries to be a mother
  • where the atheists live

- to name but a few.

The link to the page is at

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Jack Noah James Oliver George is a nice name for a boy

July 24th, 2013 · Sandy's blog

Most press releases issued by the Herts County PR department are appalling drivel.  But yesterday’s sycophantic comment about the royal birth did contain this fascinating perspective on the naming of boys in the county.

Here are the top five names for 2012, beginning with St Albans and then the other county registry offices:

St Albans:

  1. Jack
   2. Noah 
  3. James 
  4. Oliver   
5. George

Bishop’s Stortford:

  1. George
   2. Riley
   3. Joshua
   4. Oliver   
5. William


  1. Mason
  2. Tommy/Thomas
  3. George
  4. Frankie  
5. Jude


  1. William
   2. Dominic
   3. Alexander   
4. Hayden   
5. Joshua


  1. Zachary   
2. William
   3. Charles   
4. Oscar   
5. Oliver


  1. George   
2. Oliver
   3. Nathan   
4. Harry
   5. Samuel


  1. Charlie
   2. Harry   
3. Joseph
   4. Joshua
   5. Stanley


  1. Harry
   2. Jack   
3. George   
4. Joshua
   5. Thomas

Make of that what you will.

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Minister for Forked Tongues

July 23rd, 2013 · Sandy's blog

Conservative Secretary of State Eric Pickles has just delivered an astonishingly two-faced speech to this year’s annual conference of the Royal Town Planning Institute.

He said:

You can plan for growth but not at any price.

So we have been very clear that we must have secure safeguards to protect the green belt.

That vital green lung which prevents urban sprawl.

Sometimes I feel politicians in particular forget that it is there, not simply for the beautiful landscapes, but to keep conurbations from running into each other.

To protect the nature of what we call home.

How hollow these words sound following his decision to stab St Albans and Park Street in the back over the Helioslough freight terminal.

They say judge a person by deeds not words.  How true.  Mr Pickles likes telling people to ‘man up’.  Well he should man up and admit that when it comes to the Green Belt, he simply doesn’t mean what he says.

You can read the full text of his speech here

PS When I e-mailed the local press about this, my fat fingers typed ‘Mt Pickles’ by accident – seems kind of apt

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Quart-size buses in pint-sized roads

July 15th, 2013 · Sandy's blog

St Albans School has been there a long-time – perhaps well over 1,000 years.  For most of the last century it was a very successful but largely local school.  For a period I was a member of its governing body, meeting in a wonderful room above the Abbey Gateway.

Romeland buses copyNow it is even more successful, but as a result draws in its pupil body from an increasingly large area.  Thus the buses have multiplied both in size and number, putting increasing pressure on the fragile environment of the Abbey’s west end, Romeland and the narrow streets of the conservation area.

Following a one-day experiment changing the routeing of the buses round Romeland so that all the buses exit up George Street, there is a suggestion that this might become a permanent solution.  One day was clearly not enough for a robust trial, and we certainly do not want to find that we are solving one problem at the expense of creating worse ones.

There are implications for parking spaces, always at a premium in the city centre both for local residents and the shops up George Street – will those ear-marked for removal be replaced by at least as many if not more spaces in the same immediate area?

How about pedestrian safety both for school pupils and local families who have to dodge round the giant buses as they manoeuvre – will it be enhanced or made worse?

What do we feel about the cutting back of trees on the Abbey side of Romeland to accommodate big buses?  Would this be an act of vandalism in what is in effect the cathedral precinct?

Is there a risk that residents down Abbey Mill Lane will be blocked in at school start and finish times?

District Council officers are putting forward their ideas at tomorrow’s Car Park Working Party.  This committee only has an advisory role, no final decision can be taken.  Once the suggested alterations are on the table and we know all the facts about what might be proposed, everyone should have their say – not just in the immediate area but also those likely to be impacted in the nearby streets.

In the end there has to be an accommodation between the school and the community in a way which works for the school and causes the least detriment to the fewest number of residents.

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In praise of roundabouts

July 6th, 2013 · Sandy's blog


Is it proper to admire roundabouts?  The first British ‘circular junction’ was constructed in Letchworth in 1909 (another dodgy first for Hertfordshire together with St Albans’s contribution of traffic lights).

I remember them being hygienically shaven or if they behaved themselves having serried ranks of municipal geraniums.  By contrast, modern planting seems so much more imaginative.

My picture shows the top of Bluehouse Hill with the Abbey in the distance – although I tried and failed to capture the luminosity of the alliums with the sun behind them.

All we need now is for the roads to be repaired.

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NHS – 65 today

July 5th, 2013 · Sandy's blog

I have lived all my life with the NHS.  It delivered me (rather to its and general surprise, my sister having popped out first and before the age of scans), it jabbed me, mended me (some spectacular scars in different places), removed my burst appendix, and has generally been there not just for me but for close family and friends.

Is it perfect?  No.  Have I been frustrated?  Occasionally.  Does it fail to meet its own ideals?  Sadly sometimes.  Does it need reform?  Of course any institution needs continuous reform to meet new demands and new realities.

But two years in the USA totally convinced me of the NHS’s value.  Here’s to the political vision of Liberal Beveridge and Socialist Bevan.

I’d like to think that I might just see its centenary without being too much of a burden on it.

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Costs of using your mobile/smartphone on holiday slashed thanks to EU

July 4th, 2013 · Sandy's blog

Roaming_Charges_BulletinWhat did the Europeans ever do for us?  Well the above infographic dramatically illustrates the way that the EU has gripped the scandal of massively high mobile phone roaming charges, particularly for data.  In a European Union common market, individual mobile operators cannot hide.

The new prices came into force this week just in time for the summer holidays.

A simple example of lives being improved because we are members of the EU.

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The train now standing at Platform 1

July 3rd, 2013 · Sandy's blog

My brother, sister and I were lifted into the cab of a live steam engine as children.  It was at Tain Station on the Wick-Thurso section of the Highland line, the driver was family friend George Macdonald, and health and safety hadn’t been invented.

Cab rideFifty years later I was delighted to take up FCC’s offer of a ride in the cab this morning between St Albans and London.

Non railway buffs can look away now but for those who know about this kind of thing, it was the workhorse Class 319 rather than one of the new Electrostars, operating the all stations Wimbledon loop service (although we changed at Blackfriars for a Brighton train so I could see the Thameslink engineering works coming into London Bridge).

It was not the happiest of days for FCC since there had been a power failure on the northbound line at Kentish Town.  As a result no trains came northbound for a period in the morning peak, meaning no stock to take St Albans commuters southbound.

I have criticised FCC in the past for lack of communication at these times, so I want to pay my respects to James, the St Albans station announcer, who kept up a clear, calm and courteous running commentary on what was going on.  “I will let you know, I will not let you down,” he said and he was true to his word.

But it was a horribly full train which headed south, making the cab seem guiltily spacious even with four of us in it.

It was fascinating hearing the driver lucidly explain the challenges along the route when he wasn’t responding to the Automatic Train Control klaxon, operating the doors at stations, or switching from AC to DC at Farringdon.  The core of the network is the two-track section between London Bridge and Kentish Town and it is easy to see how rolling stock or power issues on this stretch can quickly lead to a horrible accumulation of problems.

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Gardens are an open secret

July 1st, 2013 · Sandy's blog

open gardenI popped into two gardens yesterday in St Stephen’s Avenue, which were opened to raise money for charity under the National Gardens Scheme.

My picture shows the back garden of Heather and Peter Osborne’s home, created in a redesign which commenced in 1995.

The garden was full of visitors when I took this snapshot – and yet all are hidden and absorbed in the separate ‘rooms’.

I’m not the gardener in the Walkington household.  My chief task is to kill and trim things.  There is an honourable role in cutting and composting.

The little guide we were given to the garden explained that Heather is the chief plants person.  Congratulations to her and Peter and hooray for summer in England.

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Larks in the Parks

June 30th, 2013 · Sandy's blog

LarksIt could not have been a better day for Larks in the Park at the Victoria Playing Field.  It’s a slightly off-putting brand name for a variety of events round St Albans including this one organised by the Friends of the Victoria Playing Field.

We had music, all sorts of activities including juggling and hula hoops, a miniature railway, vintage cars, candy floss, lots of different stalls, and more good music.

The musical performers included The Blues Neighbours, The Kid Gloves (their first ever gig), and the Swan Vesta Social Club.

I was delighted to provide sponsorship in partnership with Chris White through our county councillor ‘localities budgets’ to fund free Punch and Judy, free juggling workshops and performance, power for the bands and for the stage tent.

Thanks all round to the weather, Andy Hayes and the Friends team, local residents generally who made such a good-natured crowd, and all the other sponsors and stallholders.

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