La Reine Margot r.i.p.

We have just said good bye to Margot who was just shy of sixteen years old and who suffered a stroke which hastened her demise, since a dog’s life not worth living is not worth living.
Margot had been with us since 2005 and was a beautiful puppy and became a beautiful dog. She was shown at Cruft’s as a puppy and film from that time shows what a wonderful dog she was.
However her personality rendered her not suitable for the show ring. My main conclusion was that she was a winter baby and so was not used to the usual rough and tumble of spring litters which enjoy the garden and open air. I also think that she was spooked in the show ring by a dog behind her and so developed a dislike of anything behind her.
I considered arranging therapy for her and the advice I received was that animals like ourselves must learn to conquer their fears – so every day I took her with me to collect our morning newspapers. The route was direct but she got used to road traffic coming from behind her. She also got used to other dogs and people in dark clothes (I never understood that one).
When it was raining, I would carry her from the newsagents and on one occasion it was noted by my fellow District Councillors that instead of having a German Shepherd to reflect my Council persona I had a small blond dog whom I indulged beyond expectation.
Over the years she became less intolerant and enjoyed trips out in the car.
She was not a timid dog and I characterised her as being able to identify possible intruders at 100 yards.
She faithfully defended our households and I shall miss her loyalty and regard for us.
If there is a dog heaven, then she has a place scrutinising all new arrivals to check that they are worthy of admittance.

Poodle Councillor of the Year

It’s not too late to nominate the Poodle Councillor of the year.
Alastair McCraw, Babergh & Mid-Suffolk’s chair of Scrutiny gets my nomination.
His comment (EADT 21st Aug) that it was not the job of his committee to delve into the accounts of the Council’s property company indicates that he and his committee felt able to discuss the results of the Council’s endeavours without seeing the formal accounts of the company.
Had he reviewed the formal accounts, he would have seen that the auditors have revalued the property portfolio downwards as at 31st March with a note that the revaluation included material value uncertainty as a result of the pandemic meaning that less certainty and a higher degree of caution should be applied to the valuation than would normally be the case.
In other words, the situation may be worse than the figures suggest.
Moreover, he would have also concluded that the revenues may have been overstated as they include rentals billed but not paid. Indeed, rentals not yet paid are treated as debtors (current assets).
So, there is possibly a double whammy of overstated profits and unrealistic current asset values.
The Joint Scrutiny Committee could have teased out all these issues and taken an informed view.
There may be a case of muddling through to see what happens, but that requires the people who perform oversight and scrutiny to fully immerse themselves in their responsibilities.
Alastair McCraw self-confesses that he doesn’t do this.
He is the Council Executive’s ideal choice as Chairperson.
As such he is well qualified to be Poodle Councillor of the Year


There is always plenty of doom and gloom wherever you look. Sometimes the morning news makes valiant efforts to stress the nice things about the day – such as spring blossoms but often the focus is on pollen and the associated allergies (welcome to my world). On the other hand there are many people making significant and beneficial changes to people’s lives. I came across one such person at the Triangle BABCNC Tra’Li Networking Social where I met Vivienne Carosso who is a key member of the Wags4Tags team. Basically Wags4tags unites psychologically and emotionally impaired Veterans across North Carolina with trained Companion, Emotional Support Dogs rescued from kill shelters so the two can heal in unconditional love, trust and loyalty. They are coming up to their 50th pairing so all credit to their President and Founder Ronnie Sadoski Trained animal companionship can help Veterans in their readjustment to civilian life by easing their symptoms and providing assistance, unconditional love, trust and loyalty.   There are many ways to support this enterprise. It takes up to $2,000 per dog to prepare it for his/her new Veteran-owner. This includes, but is not limited to rescue/adoption fees, and cost to spay/neuter, vaccinate, treat for heartworms, take care of other medical issues (such as eye infections, flea infections), micro chip, feed, foster/train, certify. None of these costs are passed on to the Veteran. The contact for Wags4tags is Wags4Tags is entirely volunteer-based, and all donations stay in North Carolina. 98% of all donations go directly to rescuing, vetting, training, and matching a dog to his or her new Veteran, including any and all supplies the Veteran will need.

Puppy Mills

puppy-millsOn January 16th the cartoon strip Non Sequitur published a strip showing a puppy mill operator being shown into a cage by the Devil with the comment “This is your forever home”
I have yet to meet anyone who objected to the cartoon.
But for all of us it is a message that if you engage in an enterprise without a soul, then you do not deserve to thrive!

What is French for Walkies?

Rough_coat_Jack_Russell_terrier (2)I am indebted to today’s Sunday Times for the linked  article Allez Archie 151107 on Archie an Irish canine waif and stray who (only) responds to commands in French.
But, whilst the French have a specific word for dog doo (la crotte) the Collins’ Dictionary does not show an equivalent for “Walkies”.
The article poses more questions than it answers.
Are the staff polishing their Franglais skills by watching ‘Allo ‘Allo?
Is the dog calmed down by watching the antics of René Artois and other inhabitants of Nouvion in Northern France?
We, who have nothing better to do on a Sunday afternoon, demand answers!
With the onset of Winter, little stories like this brighten the day.
À bientôt!

Heaven for Dogs

Margot 0407 110909 H&S aI was not surprised to see an article on the Pope’s supposed statement about dogs going to heaven on the front page of the New York Times.
I always thought that as dogs had a sense of humour they were created in God’s image and therefore worthy of a place in Heaven.
Apparently the Pope spoke his words to comfort a little boy whose dog had just died. The Italian press quoted the Pope as saying: “One day, we will see our animals again in the eternity of Christ. Paradise is open to all of God’s creatures.”
Father James Martin, (Jesuit priest, writer and Culture Editor of the Jesuit magazine America) seemed unconcerned with the reality of what the Pope said, and took the opportunity to understand the statement as saying that the Pope’s statement means that “God loves and Christ redeems all of creation.” Therefore, according to Fr. Martin, “He said paradise is open to all creatures. That sounds pretty clear to me.”
Not to be outdone, the New York Times quoted the Professor of Religion & Environmental Studies at Southwestern University in Georgetown, Texas and “an expert on the history of dog-human interaction”, as saying that she believed that there would be a backlash from religious conservatives, but that it would take time.
“The Catholic Church has never been clear on this question; it’s all over the place, because it begs so many other questions,” she said. “Where do mosquitoes go, for God’s sake?”
As another response, animal rights activists are heralding the advent of a “vegan world”.
All very good issues, no doubt. But dogs display loyalties which are not always present in other animals, dogs feature in a significant supporting role in the Book of Tobias and dogs deserve their place in Heaven.
It’s good to know that Pope Francis and myself are thinking as one.
What more can one say?
For more discussion please see Father Richard Gennaro Cipolla

Chihuahua of Doom

ImageOn Thursday I attended a full Council meeting at Endeavour House, Ipswich. The day started at 10 a.m. when the political group meets and chews over the bones in the documentation and discusses best ways of answering the questions and motions put and proposed by the other parties. We look not only at the questions and the motions but also at the minefields which might come from the follow up discussions.
So it was seemingly innocuous in the afternoon to hear Motion No. 1 – proposed by Councillor Julian Flood and seconded by Councillor Tony Brown “That Suffolk County Council supports the Leader of Her Majesty’s Opposition in his aim of freezing energy prices, and  will work towards the same goal.”
Julian turned his opportunity to speak into an attack against green taxes. Claiming that they did little to counter adverse climate change but instead penalised the consumer and those businesses who had to compete in a world where effective green policies were not always in evidence. And then it went pear shaped. Julian was trying to highlight the effect of carbon in the U.K. It was the equivalent of six thousandths of a degree of temperature change. As you usually have to ascend or descend a thousand feet to see a change of one degree – this was the equivalent of six feet of vertical movement. Suffolk’s carbon emissions were the equivalent of less than one part per thousandth of a degree or about ten inches of vertical movement – the height of a Chihuahua.
And then it went surreal as we were cautioned against the Chihuahua of Doom which was threatening our economic survival and the richness of our countryside through unnecessary wind and solar panel farms.
There were enough votes in the Conservative Group and their friends to defeat the motion.
Best entertainment of the day was the way in which the Leader of the Labour Group tried to endorse the motion but distance himself from the idea that green policies were overdone.
More details can be viewed on

Quis Custodiet

YThe Watch Dogesterday I attended the inaugural meeting of the Babergh & Mid Suffolk Joint Audit & Standards Committee. The first substantive item of business was to approve the Committee’s Terms of Reference (TOR). The TOR is nice document, well written, reasonably unambiguous and for the most part fit for purpose. It is however written by officers and lacks sensitivity to the needs of the tax payers’ and residents.
Readers of this blog will be aware that I often feel that the information and opinions given to us at Babergh are often not as robust as I would like. I’m also conscious that some of my Councillor colleagues are reluctant to challenge and hold the executive to account.
So in a cross group collaboration I suggested that the TOR should be invigorated with the following additional duty:
To peruse, review and comment upon the non-salary expenses of the officers of the joint councils.
You would think that this was a no brainer – but no – the Chairman dithered and at one point suggested that such oversight could be unnecessary. None the less the item was put to the vote and approved (but not unanimously).
Already I can hear the Sir Humphreys in Corks Lane telling me that the new requirements will be too complicated, too expensive, and (I expect) too controversial to implement..
But the outcome will be that our employees will be fully accountable for their travel expenses etc., and we will enjoy a greater degree of transparency.
There’s nothing like the disinfectant of sunlight to force out sloppy practices.

In Touch

Hopefully there can be few people who are not aware that I am hoping to be elected County Councillor representing Hadleigh on May 2nd. The current weather situation has precluded me and my team of helpers from delivering leaflets. However with just over a month to go it’s time to crank up operations.
I enclose a link to my In Touch leaflet.  Can you help by displaying a poster for me and/or by delivering leaflets? Canvassing support on the doorstep is not everyone’s cup of tea but if you fancy that, please come and join me enjoying inter-action with the residents.
The leaflet includes an article on land in Cock’s (Cox’s) Park which is used by St. Mary’s school. I have had an interesting response by the Head of St. Mary’s School advising that the field is not ‘common land’ or public land.  The field is owned by Suffolk County Council, for the school (and has been in the County Council’s ownership since the 1960s).
The field is open to tCox's Park 1303he public out of school hours (evenings, weekends and holidays).   The pedestrian gates are always left unlocked, other than in exceptional circumstances, such as when the playgrounds are being resurfaced.  (The gates I saw locked were  the double gates for vehicles. These are always locked unless the County Council Grounds team are mowing the grass).   It is very uncommon for schools not to have a fence around their land.  This is for obvious safety reasons and I have some sympathy for the school in the way in which dogs foul the grounds.
 However, none of this moves us from the point that some time in the past, land which was part of Cock’s (Cox’s) Park was transferred from the town to the school via the County and we need to be vigilant that in future (for whatever reasons) green space is not given up without the full consent of the people.

No Dogs – Polite Notice autumn 2012

The Artist

At the weekend we took ourselves off to Leavenheath where the village hall was screening The Artist.  The hall is part of the Suffolk Digital Cinema Network (a non-profit association) which encourages community film screenings across Suffolk.  Network members borrow digital projection equipment, and get advice and training on how to run properly-licensed screenings in their own venues. Members choose the films they show to meet the needs of their local audiences. There were just under fifty people in the audience and it all went very well. There was a interval during which we could buy drinks and ice creams. I fully recommend The Artist which is a 2011 French romantic comedy-drama film in the style of a black-and-white silent film and stars Jean Dujardin and Bérénice Bejo. The story takes place in Hollywood, between 1927 and 1932, and focuses on the relationship of an older silent film star and a rising young actress as silent cinema falls out of fashion and is replaced by the “talkies”. (A sort of Singing in the Rain without the wetness).  Some might argue that the real star of the film is Uggie, Dujardin’s Jack Russell .
Sound finally comes in as the film starts rolling for a dance scene with Dujardin and Bejo. Once the choreography is complete, the two dancers are heard panting, and this is only time in the film sound is heard coming from Bejo, who otherwise says nothing. The director of the musical calls out audibly, “Cut!” to which producer adds: “Perfect. Beautiful. Could you give me one more?” Dujardin, in his only audible line, replies “With pleasure!” revealing his strong French accent. The camera then pulls back to the sounds of the film crew as they prepare to shoot another take.
Well worth a trip to one of the villages and well worth seeing the film again