In an effort to improve commuter travel times between Lichfield City and Birmingham New Street train operator London Midland is facing the prospect of having its franchise revoked as Network Rail prepare to convert the line into a cycle track.
Severe weather, fallen trees on the line, overhead line equipment failures, trespass, fatality incidents, freight locomotive failures, winter conditions and displaced train crew : just some of the foreseeable events that competent train operators take in their stride.
But not London Midland whose public performance measure for December 2013 was, even by its own standards, appalling being its worst monthly performance for over two years.
Lichfield commuter and cycle enthusiast Richard Wheeler commented:
‘I’m delighted by the news, I really look forward to being able to cycle all the way to work in Colmore Row from my home in Brownhills. I think that I could do the journey door-to-door in three hours, which is probably a half-hour saving on my average train journey in January.’
Midland employers have also welcomed the news. Birmingham based international law firm Wragge & Co’s head of HR commented:
Birmingham City Council spokesman Peter Blinders added:
‘Many Council employees make the daily commute between Lichfield and Brum. We welcome the bold move by Network Rail, it will do away with all those old excuses about being late for work because of problems with the trains.’
Local council trade unionists however are less enthusiastic:
‘Our members have rights,’ said UNISON official Rob Robertson, ‘it has been a long standing tradition that we could blame ‘leaves on the track’ and ‘thoughtless bastard suicides’ for our members being late to work. This track conversion is a disturbing development. It puts the onus on our members to take responsibility for their own lives, that is completely unacceptable.’
Commuter and local real ale enthusiast Len Pearson also expressed concerns:
‘I’ve weighed in at over 22 stone for years now and I’m not sure if I’m fit enough to make the daily round trip, although if the rumours are true and each station is being converted to a Greggs then I’ll give it a go.’
Anyone who wishes to join in the debate can do so by contacting London Midland on Twitter @londonmidland or just use hashtag #incompetentcunts .
As the excesses of the festive season take their toll, many people are planning to get outdoors and take more exercise in the coming weeks.
And the question on many people’s lips is ‘Am I too young to join a rambling club?’
Paul Stevens, a 45-year old member of Lichfield Golf and Country Club said:
‘My wife and I gave up on the sex five years ago, so, naturally enough, I took up golf. The kids have now gone off to university and it’s become apparent that we haven’t actually had a conversation for over 18 years.’
Mr Stevens, who has recently been forced to leave the Lichfield Round Table on the grounds of age, has been looking for new ways to waste time and fill his meaningless life for the next twenty five years, after which he hopes to retire, and, shortly afterwards, to die. He continued:
‘I’ve found myself drawn to retail outlets such as Blacks and Trespass and admire the outdoor clothing, the walking boots and those extendable walking sticks. I’m seriously considering joining a rambling club but I’m not sure that I’m old enough?’
Lichfield and District Ramblers chairman Ron Shoosmith commented:
‘It’s true to say that most of our members are in their eighties and nineties, but it’s never too young to start. Nationally membership numbers are down; we don’t seem to be able to recruit new members as fast as the existing members die. So younger potential members are welcome to apply, in fact our youngest member is a sprightly 71-year old.’
The self-employed, unemployed former bank employee, Mr Stevens is not convinced:
‘I feel like I’ve been cast adrift, I’m an inbetweener,’ he said ‘I may have to take up cycling.’
Anyone who is in their 70’s, still alive and having an interest in sheep should contact Lichfield Ramblers at email@example.com
Lichfield City striker Nick Anderson has agreed not to use a “waving” gesture again during or after a match.
Anderson, 34, made the sign at the final whistle of Lichfield’s Boxing Day thrashing by Littleton.
Former BBC Midlands boss Cath Hearne, who witnessed the event in a photograph in the Lichfield Mercury, accused him of a “disgusting Ashley Blake style” hand gesture.
Ashley Blake, a former BBC Midlands Today presenter, was sacked following a conviction in 2009 which resulted in a two year prison sentence for being a ‘a bit of a twat’.
Ms Hearne told the Daily Mail:
‘Ashley Blake gave an informal, jolly ‘wave’ at the end of each news programme that many racists found offensive.
‘Ms Hearne quit the BBC earlier this year after evidence came to light that she herself was also ‘a bit of a twat’.
A statement from Lichfield City FC said:
‘The club has asked Nick not to perform the gesture again. Nick immediately agreed to adhere to this request after acknowledging it had caused offence in some quarters.’
The club will continue to consider Anderson for matches while the matter is being investigated internally and by the Football Association.
Anderson said that he gave the characteristic wave as a gesture of support for the former TV presenter who has not worked in the media since his release from jail.
He vehemently denies having any intention to cause offence by his club’s dismal recent performances.
Lichfield MP Michael Fabricant has responded to claims that his appearances are “harming society” and helping to fuel the fear of clowns.
Tony Eldridge, secretary of Clowns International which represents the performers in the UK has said:
‘The Lichfield Clown is doing clowning no favours and is spoiling the reputation of professional clowns.’
The Lichfield Clown has regularly appeared in the City since his election in April 1992 and has more than 13,800 followers on Twitter. Often considered to be a copycat clown in the tradition of fellow Conservative buffoon, Boris Johnson, Mr Fabricant has made appearances on ‘Have I Got News for You’ and at Prime Minister’s Question Time sporting a false moustache and comedy wig.
Mr Eldridge said:
‘He might see it as a bit of a laugh, but for his constituents it can be a horrible experience. This has nothing to do with clowning, it’s just a small group of politicians with stupid views and it spoils the fun for everybody else.
‘Most professional clowns follow the clown code of conduct which includes not wearing their costume in public. Yet Mr Fabricant can regularly be seen in garishly coloured outfits in Lichfield and behaving like a fool.’
But, in an exclusive interview with Five Spires Live the publicity shy 75-year old MP said:
‘I’m sorry if my appearances have affected the work of professional clowns. All I do is appear in recognisable places around Lichfield and a lot of people still love it.
‘I wave at people who spot me and they wave back and ask for a photo. I can’t help it if some one who sees me is afraid of clowns.’
Although Mr Fabricant concedes:
‘I did have to apologise when I once posted a photo on Twitter with a guy standing behind me with his cock out.’
Staffordshire’s Police and Crime Commissioner @MatthewEllis was today recovering at home after being admitted to the Samuel Johnson Community Hospital (@SJCH) with suspected repetitive strain injury (@rsi) to his right index finger.
The 19-year old Police Commissioner admitted:
‘Since being elected I may have become a little obsessed with Twitter, tweeting the most inane rubbish and then repeating it all over again in my “Weekly Twitter Roundup” at the end of each week. This has resulted in a serious strain to my typing finger.’
Mr Ellis has warned fellow serial tweeters @StaffsPolice, @LichfieldPolice, @BurntwoodPolice, @CannockPolice, @StonePolice, @EStaffsPolice,@ACC Blazbey of the dangers, he said:
‘I spnt a day of xmas @ SJCH aftr 2mch finger action pls b carfl’
Other casualties of twitter are also being reported, traffic cop Sgt Mick Stallone of C-unit based in Lichfield commented:
‘ There’s been a lot of pressure on the lads this festive season, not only have we had to do a full shifts work every day for a month during the Drink Drive campaign, we’ve also had to follow PCC Ellis’ lead and now seem to spend more time on twitter than on the beat. I’m expecting many officers to be on sick leave in the New Year as Mr Ellis has highlighted the dangers and RSI does provide a credible alternative to the traditional bad back.’
Mr Ellis, a self-made politician, has urged all local police officers to limit the use of social media to emergencies only:
‘Many of my voters, sorry members of the public,have contacted me to say that they do not want constant updates on the contents of PC Smith’s lunch box.’
Some though are concerned that Mr Ellis is over reacting, widow Mrs Anne Jones of 23 Field Lane Stonnall, who did not wish to be identified, commented:
‘ I actually find it very reassuring to receive 200 tweets a day from the local police, it certainly makes me feel more secure in my home even though a real policeman has not been seen around here for over five years.’
Hospitals are bracing themselves for an influx of officers with RSI related conditions following the festive season. SJCH Consultant Ravi Singh explained :
‘The local police have been extremely busy over the festive period, typing their tweets and updating their facebook statuses which, when compounded by doing a full day’s work,may result in many serious injuries to the index finger. We have had to implement the hospital disaster preparedness plan to cope with the casualties.’
Commissioner Ellis continued:
‘This has certainly been a wake up call for me, my doctor explained , in no uncertain terms,that if I continue this way of life there is a serious risk that I could contract a condition that could end my political career, it’s known as Fabricuntitis.’
Lichfield resident Mick Brown had his world turned upside down today when his wife declared Pandora products were ‘crap’.
The 35-year old self-employed decorator explained:
‘Me and Vicky have been together since we met at school. Over the years it got more and more difficult to think of anything a little bit different or special for her, the low point was the steam iron in 2008.
‘Then along came Pandora and all my problems were over. Every Christmas, birthday, Valentine’s Day, anniversary and the day after a stag weekend, I knew that all I had to do was to go along to the Pandora shop and choose a couple of random charms for her bracelet. She was always delighted.’
Mick’s friend Pete Adams fears he may have the same problem:
’The girls had a night out last Friday and, according to my missus, the first bottle of Chardonnay slipped down easily enough and then Vicky went all moody, started fiddling with the beads on her Pandora bracelet and burst into tears. “Expensive tat bought by unimaginative, thoughtless, selfish, lazy bastards, that’s what this Pandora crap is, and to think I’ve fallen for it all these years” she sobbed. As soon as heard that I knew Mick was in big trouble.’
Pandora bracelets,introduced in 2008, have a patented threading system that allows over priced and aesthetically questionable charms to be placed, added and rearranged to create a cheap looking bracelet with a staggering value, when complete, of over £1,000. According to some commentators they are the modern day equivalent of the expensive heavy yellow gold bangles and necklaces worn by the heavily tanned affluent but tasteless ‘new moneyed’ class of the 1980’s and 90’s.
Local Pandora stockist ES Jewellery of Lichfield are concerned. Proprietors Emma and Steve said:
‘Yes, we’ve had a really great run up to Christmas and, yes we have been able to pay off the mortgage on our second home. But if this sort of view gains traction it could have serious implications for our plans for the French villa.’
‘It’s even worse than that,’added Steve and Emma,’if Pandora goes out of fashion we may have to go back to being proper jewellers again.’
The shops are now closed for Christmas and Mick is in trouble.
If you have been affected by this report contact Birmingham Law Society on 0121 237 6004 who can recommend good matrimonial solicitors.
A pothole that appeared in the road surface opposite Chandlers ‘toilet with en suite cafe’ at the corner of Beacon Street/Swan Road over six months ago has been looked into by the Beacon Street Area Residents’ Association (BSARA) and remains unresolved.
BSARA was established in 2001 with a broad remit to enable local residents to collectively lobby on potholes, wheelie bins, Newcastle United scum and any other pressing issues troubling the public-spirited pensioners on the committee.
Committee member Mr Sidney Sprite, 85, commented: ‘Potholes are more than just a nuisance, they can be a real danger especially to elderly pedestrians trying to find their way back to St. Andrews House and to blind cyclists.’
The Ego Hole, as it has become known, resulted from a collapse of the road surface in Beacon Street over the previous six months. Although some rudimentary repairs have been carried out, a final solution is still proving elusive.
The problem was originally reported to Staffs County Highways in July via FixMyStreet, the website for citizens troubled by dog faeces and illegally parked cars.
Charles Chevron, a Highways surveyor, insists: ‘This was a ‘drainage’ issue rather than a ‘highways’ issue so I referred it to South Staffs Water.’
Keith Marshall, acting MD of South Staffordshire Water plc admitted: ‘I’m not remotely interested.’
‘Nor am I,’ added local councillor Terry Finn (C0n).
But help was at hand in the form of local lad Sam Wheeler. The 25-year old labourer, currently employed on the LEGO Award nominated Friary Phase 1 development told Five Spires Live:
‘As a cycling enthusiast I was sick of listening to club members moaning about the Ego Hole, so last Saturday night I had a few bevvies with my mates, got some stuff from the building site and went and filled it in. Any hole’s a goal on a Saturday night.’
BSARA’s Mr Sprite is delighted: ‘The lad’s done a great job, though frankly he’s not really Beacon Street material.’
If you live in the Beacon Street area, enjoy writing letters to the Lichfield Mercury and satisfy the age requirement you can join BSARA through their website http://www.beaconstreetresidentsara.organ