Saturday, 10 May 2014

Latest News

If you're interested in the latest news in Bar Hill then the local Liberal Democrat focus team is running a blog;

For information about the 2014 election campaign please follow the above link.

Thursday, 21 November 2013

Celebrating 50 Years of Doctor Who!

How fantastic is that? The worlds longest running Science Fiction show in history and still going strong celebrates 50 years since Episode 1 of "An Unearthly Child" starring William Hartnell aired on a dark November evening way back in 1963.

The Krotons - Image (c) BBC
As someone born over a decade later my first memories of Doctor Who are of the black and white Patrick Troughton episode The Krotons which was repeated in, if memory serves (and this is really going back a bit) the TV slot on BBC2 where I was used to watching Harold Lloyd after dinner in the evenings before going off to bed.

I remember being absolutely fascinated by this, and loving Patrick Troughton (who, to this day, is still my favourite Doctor Who), it wasn't just that this show was different to the other shows on TV at that time (well, that I was allowed to watch!) it was just the whole idea of this figure who could go anywhere at any time and see anything.

I watched the show like I think many people did - religiously for a few years, on and off for a few years and finally, by the time Sylvester McCoy was battling his way into his third season I think I would only watch it by exception - the timing didn't fit in and, to be honest, the day when everyone was talking about Doctor Who in the playground had passed - it may be heresy now but I don't even particularly remember mourning it's passing.

It was only when Doctor Who started to be released on VHS that I got back in. I remember picking up a few videos here and there and enjoying them. As is often the case with those of us of a slightly geeky-nature with more money and not enough things to spend it on I started buying a video every other week and after a few years I had a fairly complete collection. For whatever reason the BBC decided that what we really wanted wasn't 4 episodes on a tape - we wanted the story to be in some way edited together into one "film" (that just had odd scenes about every 20-25 minutes when there would be huge moments of peril following by 2-3 minutes of quick resolution, sometimes with a few snatches of a familiar soundtrack!). Robots of Death I remember being particularly bad!

Of course VHS moved on and the "unedited" versions of series were released (which I brought as well - literally my Doctor Who, Star Trek, Babylon 5 collections used to cover an entire wall!). In my time I collected the entire set of Target Books, and the huge bulk of New/Missing Adventure books from Virgin still adorn my bookshelves - even after house moves and lack of space, not to mention a young family, have meant that all the VHS, and Target books have gone.

I enjoyed the books and was thrilled to hear of the TV movie, as I'm sure will be true of many people "of a certain age" I watched the 1996 revival starring Paul McGann and quite enjoyed it - although I can see why it didn't make it to series - and then it was back to the books for a few years before in 1999 a company called "Big Finish Productions" started putting out audio adventures featuring the surviving Doctors.

The First "Paul McGann" Big Finish Audio
These were a massive departure from what us Doctor Who fans have been used to since Sylvester McCoy and Ace walked off into the sunset in Survival. It's one thing to hear the voices of past Doctors as you read them on the page (my particularly favourite being The Dark Path - with Patrick Toughtons Doctor and Roger Delgado's Master!) quite another to hear the actors you know and love voicing them. If you're looking for a good episode from the very first season then I'd recommend The Genocide Machine with Sylvester McCoy, Sophie Aldred (Ace), and the Daleks. Not just well acted (the actors have certainly grown into the roles) but a good story as well. When Paul McGann started making audios in 2001 it was just fantastic to hear his Doctor turning from a single-episode Doctor into a much more rounded character. The regeneration scene in Night of the Doctor had just about made my year even before the 50th Anniversary special!

Like many others I tuned in in breathless anticipation when Christopher Eccleston took over the role after almost a decades gap. I loved Christopher Eccleston as the Doctor and was genuinely surprised (which was a glorious feeling!) when he regenerated into David Tennant at the end of his first season. My Sci-Fi had previously come from the US and I'd been reading spoilers on the internet or viewing fan-recorded copies brought at conventions months before anything appeared on UK TV. To be surprised by a TV series you think you know and love is an absolute treat, I hadn't realised how much those little moments mean.

David Tennant was fantastic, his partnership with Rose was perfect. There have been good companions in the past, Jamie, Adric, and (at least for the Big Finish audio adventures) Ace but Rose combined with David Tennants Doctor was just perfect, right down to the poorly mis-timed goodbye between them before Matt Smith took over the role.

So that brings us up to date. I am really looking forward to tonight's special. I've actually booked a ticket and will be watching the 50th Anniversary episode in a Cinema in Cambridge amongst other fans. That's what I'm looking forward to the most, it's going to be fantastic.

It's funny when you look back at how far you've come. My children (2 and 6) have enough problems listening to audio or watching TV with, dare I say it, programmes that someone else has picked in an order they can't change! (when compared to the instant gratification they get watching video on the iPad). I wonder what they will think when they get the chance to sit down and watch Doctor Who for the first time. Will they feel the same magic as I did? Will they see the infinite possibilities and dream, not just of what they saw, but what was possible?  I hope so. But when I look back at it now I honestly can't remember what my father wanted me to be interested in, I certainly feel I picked my own interests and, given the "polite interest" he show'd when sitting down with me a few weeks back to watch "Face of the Enemy" (one of the newly discovered Patrick Troughton stories) I can't honestly think that one of his interests was Doctor Who. Apparently he watched it up until William Hartnell left and then stopped (so Patrick Troughton probably wasn't the best choice! - he did tell me that *afterwards*). I just hope that when my kids watch their first episode they aren't put off.

But as far as I'm concerned I'm looking forward to the next regenerate in December, following some as popular as David Tennant must have been phenomenally hard for Matt Smith but for the little it's worth think he did a good job and a whole rash of new stories in 2014.

 I wonder what TV will be like when it's the 100 Anniversary?

Friday, 14 June 2013

Superfast Broadband Rollout

So you might have noticed this;

In Cambridgeshire, and in a number of other places around the Country, taxpayers are subsidising the rollout of Broadband to the more rural areas where it's not commercially viable for anyone else to do it.

So how bad does it have to get for the government to think your broadband provider needs it's money? Well it's easy for those of us sitting in one of the many well served areas (the cities or large towns and their surrounding villages) to wonder what exactly is the point of spending all this public money on Broadband? It's good enough!

As you can see from my result (via there aren't any problems with speed in Bar Hill (via Virgin Media). In fact it's faster than 93% of the Country - and yet the BT exchange in Bar Hill is still one of those scheduled to be upgraded as part of the Connected Cambridgeshire program. As you can imagine this seems a little unfair to me, a taxpayer, and I'm sure Virgin Media are none to happy about the state subsidising BT to compete with them!

It's very easy to look locally and just extrapolate this for the whole of the County and come to the conclusion that the program is a complete waste of money - very easy indeed - however I've done a bit of digging (based on this article) and the result of which is it;

Broadband speeds in some areas across the County are *terrible*. It's not just the fact that they're slow, we all experience "slow" moments in our broadband, they're so slow loading even simple pages would be terrible. You can forget about YouTube and iPlayer, I'd bet that even PicasaWeb and Flickr are unusable - you're certainly not going to using iCloud to sync your 5GB of pictures in anything less than hours!

People whose broadband is this slow are being left behind.

While it's difficult to argue that not having access to old shows on iPlayer is a "must have" for the 21st Century the world is increasing moving online. You can get your car insurance online, pay your council tax, get home insurance, book a holiday, etc. Sure you can do all those things in person somewhere - but I'll bet you that will both cost more money AND take a lot longer. How much do you value your time?

There is also the other side of the coin; what do you think is cheaper having a highstreet chain of shops or having a single website? Amazon vs. Woolworths perhaps? vs HMV? So what does this mean for government? You often hear people moan about how expensive Council services are, how inconvenient they are to get to, etc. etc. There is a lot you can already do online, both locally and nationally, but it's often the case that the people who need the government service are the least likely to be able to access it electronically.

By encouraging the rollout of broadband the government is hoping, in the long term, to reduce it's own costs while providing a significant quality of life improvement for those that choose to take up the enhanced service. For those that don't well - there's only the (laughably slim!) prospect that money will be saved that will lead to a reduction in the level of tax they pay over time.

Of course there will always be other benefits - I'm thinking of the reduction in rural isolation of someone who can, for example, follow their children and grandchildren on Facebook and be a part of their lives rather than someone they see infrequently.

To me this scheme makes sense, there are bits of it that I don't like, but I can see the need for something to be done in it's totality but just because I don't like some bits doesn't mean we should throw out the whole scheme. Virgin Media, for example, had their chance to be the preferred bidder.

And finally, does it matter? In 20 years I'll bet that rural areas like this will be getting their broadband through 10G, 14G, or whatever the mobile technology is at the time. I was recently on a training course when we had "less than 1MB" broadband and ended up sharing a hotspot on a mobile phone with a simple 3G signal that managed to get about 20 times the speed. This is the way the world is going; in rural China (or Africa or India, etc) I'll bet that no-one will ever rollout copper wires (or fibre optics) to each house. Let's be honest if the cables weren't there then we no-one would be considering putting them in ...

So here's the dull bit - how did I come to this conclusion? Simple, if uninteresting, answer: using the internet to get at the data. First of all where do you start?  If you look at the list of "first phase" places in the news article you'll see;
  • Ely,
  • Soham,
  • Littleport,
  • Willingham,
  • Papworth, and
  • Elsworth
The article says "... much of East Cambs" but only picks out the places in the list above.

So let's look at those places in turn.

First of let's look at Ely. I'm going to pick three places at random looking at a Map of Ely. These are;
  1. Dunstan Street, CB6 3BA
  2. Mulberry Way, CB7 4TH
  3. Barton Road, CB7 4HZ
Now looking these up on the Virgin Media website the results are;
  1. Connected, 120MB
  2. Connected, 120MB 
  3. Connected, 120MB
So in Ely it looks like the rollout of "Superfast Broadband" which promises speeds of "up to 80MB" is actually slower than the speeds already available in the three randomly selected roads I've picked.

Looking at wikipedia the population of Ely, as of the 2011 census, stands at 20,256 with a population density of 340/km sq.

But this is a little unfair as of all the places named Ely has the largest population which means it's likely to be commercially viable for companies other than BT to install cable.

So let's move on to Soham. Same rules as before, find it and pick some random streets;
  1. Martin Close, CB7 5EJ
  2. Speed Lane, CB7 5BT
  3. West Drive, CB7 5EA
The first thing to note is that Soham is considerably smaller than Ely and therefore is likely to be considerably less commerically viable for Virgin. Hence the results are not entirely a surprise;
  1. Not in a Virgin Media area
  2. Not in a Virgin Media area
  3. Not in a Virgin Media area
If you take a look at the Broadband Speed Checker website you'll notice that the reported download speeds peak at around 5Mb - pretty appalling! If you look at the the population (from the Wikipedia page) it is showing at 10,860 (as of 2011 Census) - this gives it a population density of 511 /km sq.

So let's move on to Littleport. The three random streets I've chosen are;
  1. Longfield Road, CB6 1JY
  2. Ferry Way, CB6 1QJ
  3. The Crescent, CB6 1HS
In pretty much the same way as Soham the population isn't very large and so, again, the results aren't that much of a surprise;
  1. Not in a Virgin Media area
  2. Not in a Virgin Media area
  3. Not in a Virgin Media area
Again if we go back to the Broadband Speed Checker website we'll now see the familiar picture of very slow broadband seeds - a few 10Mb's creep in there but not very many, the speed seems to be between 5 and 10Mb.

The population of Littleport, from the 2011 Census, is 8,738, this gives a population density of 119 /km sq.

So that's taken care of East Cambridgeshire, the majority (2 out of 3) of which it has to be said is highlighting pretty appalling broadband speeds.

On to South Cambs and Willingham. The random streets are;
  1. Fen End, CB24 5LH
  2. Silver Street, CB24 5LF
  3. Haden Way, CB24 5HB
Looking once more at the Virgin Media website the results are;
  1. Connected, 120MB
  2. Connected, 120MB 
  3. Connected, 120MB
This isn't that surprising, I'm living just down the road in Bar Hill and Virgin Media broadband is available here.

The population of Willingham stands at 3,900. No population density is available. Also there doesn't seem to be any results on the Broadband Speed Checker website for Willingham either.

Next is Papworth. The random streets are;
  1. Wood Lane, CB23 3RL
  2. Byfield Road, CB23 3UQ
  3. Elm Lane, CB23 3RY
The speeds reported by;
  1. Not in a Virgin Media area
  2. Not in a Virgin Media area
  3. Not in a Virgin Media area
Again if we go back to the Broadband Speed Checker website the first thing you'll notice is that there is no data for Papworth. But if you zoom out a bit you'll see some very un-broadband-like speeds - 0.6Mb, 1.6Mb, etc. It's unlikely to be faster in the village!

The population is around 2,770 (mid-2010 estimate), no data for density is available.

And finally the village of Elsworth. The three random roads are;
  1. Paddock Row, CB23 4JG
  2. The Drift, CB23 3AG
  3. Spigot Lane, CB23 4JT
The speeds reported by;
  1. Not in a Virgin Media area
  2. Not in a Virgin Media area
  3. Not in a Virgin Media area
The population, as of the 2011 census, is 657. This is clearly very small and you can see why it's not commercially viable for cable companies to come here.

Sadly the Broadband Speed Checker is no help as there isn't anything even remotely near the village.

Friday, 26 April 2013

Cambridge Cycling Campaign Questionnaire

When you stand of election you get sent all manor of things in the post. If you stand for election in and around Cambridge one of those things will be a questionnaire from the Cambridge Cycling Campaign that is attempting to elicit the candidates views on cycling.

Those candidates that complete the questionnaire get an immediate audience of members of the Cycling Campaign who, all other things being equal, will vote based on the candidates responses.

The full questionnaire is available here;

You can switch to see other divisions should you choose to do so.

Looking specifically at Bar Hill the candidates are;
  • Lord Ian BROUGHALL  (The Official Monster Raving Loony Party)
  • Norman Alexander CROWTHER  (Labour Party)
  • Helene Yvette DAVIES-GREEN  (UK Independence Party)
  • Andy PELLEW  (Liberal Democrat)
  • John Edward REYNOLDS  (Conservative Party)
  • Teal RILEY  (Green Party)
In Bar Hill Labour, UKIP, and Conservatives all refused to take part in the survey. I'm a little surprised Labour weren't interested (but they were running a candidate from outside the division) but clearly UKIP and the Tories took the view that they were unlikely to win any votes by completing this survey and chose not too - or maybe they just took the view that the survey didn't matter. Who knows? Frankly I spent about 10 minutes completing the survey and it's difficult to see that the other candidates were too busy to find 10 minutes to do the same!

Monday, 8 April 2013

Vote for Andy Pellew for the County Council in May

Cllr Andy Pellew with Lib Dem President Tim Farron
Local Parish Councillor Andy Pellew, who is also an existing Cambridgeshire County Councillor from King's Hedges in Cambridge City, will be seeking your vote for the County Council elections on Thursday 2nd May.

Andy Pellew said; "I'm delighted to have been chosen by the Liberal Democrats to contest the election on behalf of residents of Bar Hill Division which includes Girton and the villages of Lolworth, Boxworth, and Dry Drayton".

"The next four years will see significant development in our part of Cambridgeshire with groundbreaking of Cambridge Universities' North-West development and the new settlement of Northstowe. It's vital that we have someone on Cambridgeshire County Council who is willing to speak up for our villages, someone with a track record of action, independence and transparency."

"The decisions made in Shirehall will dramatically affect our lives; whether it's cutting local bus services, funding the legal fees for the Guided Busway, refusing to sell Shirehall which costs over a million a year to maintain, or tolling on the A14. It's vital that we have someone in Shirehall who is looking out for us."

"I hope, with the support of local residents, to be that person."

Andy Pellew lives in Bar Hill, and has served on the Parish Council since 2011. He's married with two small children (ages 2 and 4). He works on Cambridge Science Park so is very familiar with the problems of the A14!

The Liberal Democrats Manifesto for the 2013 Elections is available here.

If you'd like to contact Andy you can do so via email - -, via Phone 07814 871 752, or via post at 9 Foxhollow, CB23 8EP.

1/3 Of County Councillors Standing Down in May ...

With the next round of County Council elections looming in May it's worth noting the Councillors who have decided not to seek re-election;

Conservatives (12, 151 years service)

  • Dutton - 8 years continuous service
  • Harper - 12 years continuous service
  • Hutton - 4 years continuous service
  • Johnstone - 20 years continuous service
  • Lucas - 12 years continuous service
  • Melton - 16 years continuous service
  • Oliver - 16 years continuous service
  • Pegram - 16 years continuous service
  • Powley - 21 years service - 16 years continuous service
  • Tuck - 20 years continuous service
  • West - 4 years continuous service

Labour (2, 16 years) - 2/3 of the Labour Group!
  • Carter - 12 years continuous service
  • Sadiq - 4 years continuous service

Liberal Democrat (7, 57 years service)

  • Heathcock - 20 years continuous service
  • Shepherd - 4 years continuous service
  • Stone - 8 years continuous service
  • Whelan - 5 years continuous service
  • Whitebread - 4 years continuous service
  • Wilkins - 8 years continuous service
  • Williamson - 8 years continuous service

Independent (1, 8 years)

  • Harrison - 8 years continuous service

This nearly amounts to 1 in 3 Councillors standing down and over 200 years of service to Cambridgeshire between them.

I'm sure at the first meeting of the new Council these retiring Councillors, along with those who are defeated, will be honoured for the service they have made to the County.

List Of Election Candidates for Cambridgeshire County Council Election on May 2nd Published

A full list of candidates standing in the County Council elections on May 2 has now been published.

A total of 294 candidates are contesting the 69 seats on the Council - all of which are up for election in May. Of the present County Councillors, 21 are not standing for re-election.

The full list of candidates can be found in the PDF below (via Google Drive):

Cambridgeshire County Council Elections 2013 Statement of Persons Nominated

Residents of Cambridgeshire wishing to vote in the elections are being reminded that they must be registered first. Paying Council Tax does not automatically register the individual to vote, if you live in Bar Hill (in South Cambridgeshire) you need to complete the following form on the District Councils website;

Voter Registration Form - South Cambridgeshire District Council 2013

Potential voters have until 17th April to register.

If you would like to register for a postal vote then the form you need to complete is here. You do not need to be "away" in order to register to vote by post, the aim is to increase voter turnout by making voting more convenient so if you think you would benefit then please apply.