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Whatever we get time to write, we'll write it here. Probably.


Having lived together for thirteen years, Kate and I plan on doing most things together now. One thing we didn't plan on doing together was getting expelled from the Labour Party. But last month, two days before Kate was due to travel to Blackpool to join UNISON's delegation to the Labour Party conference, we both got identical letters from Roy Kennedy, who styles himself the “Director of Finance and Compliance”:

Great to have Karen back on the SGE

Some great news a few days ahead of the next UNISON Health SGE meeting this Wednesday - Karen Reissmann has been elected to the health seat on the NEC. This means she will be part of the NEC and also the health SGE, as Kate is. Karen replaces Paul Harper, who has left UNISON.

Karen was in a head-to-head election with Eric Roberts, one of the few people in UNISON I have heard speak against UNISON calling national demonstrations in support of the NHS.

Karen was an asset to the health SGE when she was a member of it representing her region last year, and it was a real shame that officers ruled her ineligible to stand again this year.

Unison protest at UHL public meeting

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Unison protest at UHL public meeting

Members of Unison from sterile services and medical secretaries took part together in a brief protest tonight before going in to the UHL's public meeting to ask questions about the threats to their jobs.

UHL annual public meeting

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I'm sitting at the back of the audience for the University Hospitals of Leicester NHS Trust annual public meeting. Martin Hindle has given an introduction and Angus Maitland is presenting a review of the UHL's last twelve months.

I'm waiting to see if he talks about the decision to contract with Capita for our payroll (which has been a complete disaster seeing thousands of staff wrongly paid) or to invite private health company Birkdale to operate on our patients at Glenfield. Birkdale's contract was suspended after orthopaedic consultants raised concerns about the quality of the operations carried out.

Our little baby leaving home

Our little baby leaving home

OK it is only for a week, but Greg set off on a school trip to Brancaster this morning. That's him, the grey shadow at the back of the bus waving goodbye. I think Sophie and I were more nervous about saying goodbye than he was!

A wooden tractor!

A wooden tractor!

A couple of days before the end of our holiday we went to the Quiberon peninsula, where there just happened to be a farming and agricultural show. Amongst the cows and horses on display were a couple of quite amazing exhibits.

This wooden tractor, along with some full-size wooden motorbikes and even an all-wood hand plough, were all made by a chap who also showed off his collection of hand planes from round the world. The tractor was just so lifelike that we had to have a bit of a discussion about whether you could build an internal combustion engine with only wooden parts. We decided not,

Homeward bound

Finally back in UK waters after a long and rather queasy journey from St Malo. Sophie is esconced in the TV room, Greg has just bought himself a set of Top Trumps, Kate is sleeping and I'm working my way through a bottomless cup of coffee.

The ferry crossing was already delayed by an hour from the previous run being held up. Then someone drove their caravan into the side of the car deck, and a rival ferry company decided to cancel a sailing to the channel islands resulting in this ship being packed to bursting with caravans and motorhomes. Departure from St Malo, which should have been a respectable 8.10pm, ended up being about quarter past ten, and our ETA in Poole is now about 2 in the morning. The seven hours between then and starting work will have to be evenly divided between sleep and driving the 160 miles between Poole and Leicester. Now you get why I'm pleased Kate was able to get to sleep.

We're in France... and I can't spell

Just grabbing five minutes in an internet cafe (where the kind man installed PuTTY so that I could fix my mail server) to report that we're all having a great time in France. But typing anything on this French keyboard is almost impossible, so for full details you will have to wait until we get home. It's not just that the letters are in the wrong order, but the @ sign is hidden in the most impossible place - so just checking your email seems to require re-wiring of the keyboard.

Touch typing is a real pain right now!

Trowbridge - our festival-going grows up

We've made family trips to the Tolpuddle Martyr's Festival since the very first year that they allowed camping - in a recently-mown corn field that was still very spiky with stubble. We, and especially the children, have grown up with Tolpuddle, appreciating the new features each year: hot showers, children's entertainment, music on the Saturday, and more recently, the Friday night, and food now on sale throughout the weekend. That first year we went to Tolpuddle our only hope for Saturday lunch was a pasty bought from the village petrol station.

The petrol station closed the next year, and this year we noticed that a block of flats has been buit where it used to stand. Bad news for the villagers but no bother for us since the caterers at Tolpuddle now serve food from Friday until Monday.

We're all going on our summer holiday... with a pay strategy

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Unison's Health Service Group Executive AGM is over, and we're heading to Trowbridge for the Folk Festival and the start of our holiday.

I don't think I can write a full report of the meeting on my BlackBerry whilst driving down the M6 (I know, I know, I'm a diletante) but I will just comment on the most important debate: that on the question of re-opening year two of the three-year pay deal.

There was a unanimous view that the re-opener clause will almost certainly need to be triggered. There was little or no support for the idea of Unison trying to re-negotiate the first year increase.