Wednesday, 30 July 2008

Letting the Brain take the Strain

Last week, in my regular bulletin to my loyal and admiring staff, I wrote about the extraordinary uplifting effect of endorphins. It is a phenomenum of which I have personal experience from my regular strenuous cycling exploits. The threshold of pain is a thing of the past to me. I have exceeded my own abilities and conquered the after effects. I would like to share some of my discoveries with you all and now reproduce a simple explanation of the chemical forces at work:

"Endorphins are natural pain killing substances found in the human brain. The name comes from endogenous (meaning within) and morphine (morphine being a pain killer). Endorphins are one of the neurotransmitters in the brain. Levels of endorphins in the brain may be changed by taking a number of drugs including alcohol, anabolic steroids and heroin and other opiates. Electro-acupuncture and binaural sound have been used to stimulate the production of endorphins. Time and again you've experienced the intense effects that food can have on your moods. Cakes, cookies, and fudge are known as pleasure foods not only because they delight your taste buds but because they can make you feel calm and happy - at least temporarily. This sugar induced sense of euphoria comes from several chemical mechanisms in your brain. First of all, the sheer pleasure of tasting a chocolate treat or powdery donut stimulates your brain's pleasure pathways and the release of dopamine and endorphins, the chemicals that makes you feel exhilarated. You also get a quick surge of energy as the sugar hits your bloodstream. In one study thirty patients had binaural sessions at a particular frequency and experienced relaxation states of 80-100% after five minutes as well as improved pain relief. Eight patients had blood tests before and after the sessions and showed improved beta-endorphin levels of 10-50%. A specific binaural frequency in the high beta range has been identified as the most potent stimulator of Endorphins."

One after-thought. Endorphins can have strange effects in other more personal areas of life. It is not something I would like to discuss in this forum but this link may be instructive.

Friday, 25 July 2008

Those nice folk at the Audit Commission have sent me a copy of their new discussion paper about the role of Chief Executives. It is aptly titled "Tougher at the Top". I intend to submit a great deal of evidence. I have been vilified and insulted by an ITV programme, subjected to insults by an ignorant MP, treated with contempt by some of my colleagues and undermined by a vicious little man who was, quite rightly, kicked out of the Liberal Democrats for his behaviour. And what behaviour. Read all about it

Thursday, 24 July 2008

ITV - The one NOT to watch

I did not have a copy of the 1714 Riot Act handy this afternoon, but I would happily have read it out loud to the nosey little madam who is producing tonight's so-called documentary about SouthWest One on ITV. Fiona, I said to her straight, you have lied. And I gave her a proper earful. Perhaps my tone would have landed me in deep water if she had been an employee. But, frankly, I wouldn't give her or her biased colleagues an interview, let alone a job. This programme is travesty of the truth, cobbled together by those who seek to denigrate one of the greatest experiments in local government innovation for decades. You would think that TV people from Bristol - once home to that renowned Victorian innovator I K Brunel - might be able to spot a genuine winner. Instead they are sniping from the sidelines, trying to poison the water not just for me but for the prosperity of the people of Somerset. I will not tolerate bad journalism served up in the name of public service. Be warned.

Behind the disguise?

I hate people who try to disguise their real identities. It is a dirty deceit and those who know me well will understand why I resent deceit of any kind. This picture is supposed to be Radovan Karadizc the Serbian ex President and war criminal. But it could equally well be Bill Oddie's uncle, a representative at the Lambeth Conference or even the scoundrel who is currently trying to impersonate my good friend and trusted colleague Roger Kershaw.

Make-overs and make-ups

Oh what japes yesterday! It gave me a secret twinge of joy to know that the journalists who turned up in the faint hope of seeing me squirm in the council chamber were, themselves, about to fall victim to my own cunning powers.

My able deputy David Taylor told one of the gutter press that I was in London. My loyal press office told another that I had taken time off for illness. And the truth was I was actually selecting decoration for the new house! There is a great deal to do. Walls to be knocked down, doors to be changed, fittings to be added and space to be made. I anticipate stress on a very grand scale as Farrow and Ball move in with pigs' bristles at the ready.

Tuesday, 22 July 2008

The S Word

....and it isn't Strategy or Synthesis.

The word I have in mind (and mind is the operative extra word ) describes in six lettered, stark simplicity the appalling toll of hard work and pressure upon the human psyche. I confess to being a sufferer. I can no longer suffer in silence.

It is high time for me to seek professional help

I have struggled for too long and without sympathy

My hope is that the cynical political classes will take my case seriously

We, who are driven low by the pressures of power, have to alter our lifestyles

My mission is to get well as quickly as I can and return to the task of transforming local government. Happily there are failsafe systems already in place that will compensate me for as long as my recovery takes. Of course this is a costly process and it may prove more intelligent to create a situation in which I may be allowed to leave in comfort and with no hard feelings. But this, for the moment at least, is a stressful thought in itself. May your prayers be with me.

Dulverton deserves my favourite Geeks

A sudden brainwave struck me. I was about to grease the gear nipples on my new racing pride and joy when it came to me: why not get some top class talent involved in the Dulverton Parish Plan. I met the two bright young sparks in the picture when I was fact-finding in California. So I will be sending word to Larry and Sergey to get on over and help. Mr Page and Mr Brin know a thing or two about picking up a good idea and making it run. They have become firm friends over the years and, I know, regard me as a little bit of a mentor. More to the point I am absolutely sure they would jump at the chance of doing something positive for me and for my new town. I seem to remember that Google was once subjected to Government legal action in America but stood up to the threats with great robustity and won the case. That's the spirit! The idea of bringing them in to Dulverton has cheered me up a great deal. Life has been tough lately. The pressures remain enormous. And, as with all such challenges, the costs emerge as stress. I admit it. I have become a victim of this malady and I need time to put things straight. I hope it will not be necessary to take too much time off, but my medical advisors will surely want me to recuperate completely if I am to work at my usual pace and efficiency. If I miss the final session of full council tomorrow do not be surprised. I will be here at home, gazing at the Google boys signed photograph which now has pride of place on the dresser in the kitchen.

Dulverton Parish Plan

My new neighbours have been telling me all about their plans for the lovely parish of Dulverton. I must concede that the idea of canvassing ideas from the public is sometimes strewn with danger, but in this case the rewards outweigh the risks. Thus 600 different positive responses have been submitted to the Town Council committee charged with producing a long term plan. I will help all I can. My experience shows the need for active input in the area of strategic planning. I believe that the use of reliable contractors can also help, provided the elements of risk management and business realisation are cemented into any agreement at an early stage. Dulverton deserves the best. I hope to attract global players to assist the town in achieving the ambitions of greatness to which we should all aspire. My very good and loyal senior colleagues at the County will do all they can to oil the wheels and secure a fine future for everyone.

Sunday, 20 July 2008

A Moving Experience

The time has come to admit the truth. I have, at last, transferred my home and its many practical and sentimental chattels to the lovely town of Dulverton. The little house in Wivey is still for sale - perhaps one day it will sport a blue plaque with the legend "A Jones Resided Here". I am, as ever, open to all offers - or, indeed, belated house-warming presents. Friends have asked me how I can contemplate the daily journey to Taunton. Surely, they say, Dulverton to Taunton is not a leisurely bicycle ride. Oh ye of little faith. I take my lead from the tireless Mark Cavendish and my strength from the power of self belief. I owe much to Assos, of course. My incredulous critics will only marvel at my abilities in the saddle. Dulverton today. The world tomorrow. Meantime I have decided to become involved in the community of my new town. It seems to me that the Dulverton Trust, for example, is in urgent need of some professional help. Sometimes it vexes me that places like Dulverton - beautiful as they are - fail to receive the recognition they deserve. I will take it up with my new Member of Parliament, whosoever that may be.

Wednesday, 16 July 2008

The Return of the Luddites?

I was brought up with respect for straight forward economics. You could not honestly have what you couldn't afford in the poor Liverpool of my childhood. Today and tomorrow many of the key workers in this County have decided to take industrial action. They want more money. But they have failed to spot the obvious flaw - we cannot afford the pay increase that is being demanded. It is no good them bleating about the large increases already awarded to senior personnel. Senior players make senior contributions - that is why they are recompensed. If we failed to buy the highest calibre of leadership we would end up with incompetence or anarchy. And even if all the Chief Executives in England were deprived of their justifed annual rises it wouldn't come anywhere near meeting Unison's unreasonable demands. What saddens me is the short-sightedness of those who have chosen to withdraw their labour. IBM does not suffer from strikes. Indeed it may be that the future direction of employment with SouthWest One will have to take account of such risks. Perhaps binding contracts are necessary. Maybe confidentiality agreements should be standard. Loose talk is costly. And industrial action is neither acceptable nor sensible. That is why I am at my desk as usual today. You will not catch me warming my hands on a picket line brazier.

Sunday, 13 July 2008

Hot wheels

Mark Cavendish proved again that he is the fastest
sprinter in the world by dominating his rivals in the final 50 metres of yesterday's eighth stage of the 2008 Tour de France. 24-year-old Mike exploded out of the pack and crossed the finish line nearly two bicycle lengths ahead of his Team Columbia teammate Gerald Ciolek of Germany to record his second stage win of this year's Tour. Frenchman Jimmy Casper finished third. "It was really fast," Cavendish said after the race. "I was too far back at the last curve and too far back when the sprint started. So I began the sprint early and built up a lot of speed. I'm so fast that I can make up ground."

I know exactly how you felt Mark....and I was with you all the way in spirit. A great job well done. My sentiments exactly. And may I recommend my favourite product: Assos - a suggestive name, maybe, but at less than a tenner a tub it really does the business and it is so simple to apply (ask my PA)

Friday, 11 July 2008

Trimmed with Ermine

It was such a positive pleasure to meet Paul Hanningfield and his colleagues. Paul can trace his ancestors back a full five hundred years in that part of the County of Essex. Hanningfield is the very district from which he took his baronial title when he was elevated to the peerage. Lord Hanningfield, however, displays no airs and graces these days. He is the leader of a very large county council with challenges which resonate here too. Essex may once have presented an image of poorly-constructed Ford cars and young ladies more given to frolic than academic fancy. But this is a huge county of varieties. The task for Essex county council is to spend public money wisely. And that's why Paul and his far-sighted colleagues came to talk to us. SouthWest One may be born here in Taunton but we are happy to welcome all customers - especially when led by such a splendid member of the House of Lords! It is easy, when you meet him, to understand why
he was recommended for an honour. His untiring work in the community surely clinched it. Local Government can be a hard and anonymous calling. Perhaps you can think of other such unsung heroes who deserve recognition. Thankfully, these days, anyone can be nominated , even me.

Thursday, 10 July 2008

My Hero

The Prime Minister Gordon Brown may choose to liken himself to the dour and unsmiling Heathcliffe. Perhaps we all seek Solace in another identity? Mine is - as you would expect - loyal to the corporate cause. I am a committed romantic both at heart and in reality. My choice for hero, doppelganger and role model must go to the incomparable Mr D'Arcy. He, the true gentleman as well as the courageous champion. He, the model man most discerning women would rather be with and breed from. Colin Firth is popularly known as IBM -Ideal Breeding Material. The character he portrayed is strong, kind, generous and fair. In all my work it is my business to make big dreams become true. Surely this cruel world can allow me a small personal dream of my own. It would be Prejudice not to. And it is not a matter of Pride.

Wednesday, 9 July 2008

Getting Geared Up for the Big One

I was always a proud Sturmey-Archer sort of chap. I backed British. But as the race game becomes ever tougher (and when the Tour de France makes it down to Somerset again you will be able to see exactly what I am talking about) the job of keeping everything well oiled is becoming still more complex. I know. I ride. And I read the learned publications with special care too. The International Journal of Urology has just issued a treatise about the bodily risks of riding. Surgeon Vinod Nargund, from St Bartholomew's Hospital in London, said that cycling restricts blood flow and generates excessive heat. This could result in men having difficulty with erections. More than 60% of male cyclists experience genital numbness, according to Mr Nargund. He is, I am sure, not far off the mark. But perhaps fellow occupants of the racing saddle would like to know my secret - chamois cream. This splendid substance lubricates parts that might otherwise uncomfortably chafe. I invite all comers to apply it liberally and I raise my glass to its inventor. Bottoms up!

Monday, 7 July 2008


My firm favourite for the Mens' final, Roger Federer, took his punishment like a man last night. If there was humiliation in his heart it showed not a jot on his handsome visage. He could see the justice of his own defeat at the hands of a player who outclassed him on the day. And I'm sure he could see the true worth of the technology that confirmed every challenged ball. IBM technology, no less. The best in the world. The best for Somerset. Because Somerset deserves the best. Justice is sometimes displayed as blind. But those with the in-sight know more. Justice will vindicate all the work we have done to improve people's lives and generate real new economic opportunities. Justice will also be meted out to our political detractors and to any snipers in the media careless enough to transgress the criminal law. This is not a threat, but a just promise.

Keeping it in the family

Many happy returns to Tom - 68 today, but still capable of drawing the crowds and causing its female element to remove personal items of clothing and then fling them at him by the basket-load. Like all we Jones's Tom has admirable qualities and unquestionable abilities. He is also unremittingly honest. Would there to be a Standards Board for popular musicians Tom's reputation would never be besmirched. More of us should emulate his skills. I confess to sometimes rehearsing those magnificent hip swings of his in my own wardrobe mirror (fully clothed of course). Though I am always aware of the close proximity, and consequent danger, of my faithful Corby trouser press. Tonight, however, I may throw a little caution to the wind and "take my hat off" on the winding road home to Wivvy.