Sunday, 26 December 2010

Wales Air Ambulance

The recent extreme weather has proven the worth of an essential ‘big society’ service, I speak of no other than the lifesaver that is Wales Air Ambulance.

Wales Air Ambulance is an all Wales charity providing a vital service through emergency air cover for those who face life-threatening illness or injuries.

We in Wales are extremely proud of ‘Wales Air Ambulance’. In rural areas with poor road access it can be the difference between life and death.

Please give generously.

Tuesday, 14 December 2010

Hamperi Ynys Môn

When you think of Christmas you think of hampers, and if you are looking for a delicious hamper to give as a present look no further than Hamperi Ynys Môn.

They use the best quality food, locally produced, in their hampers, and were recently featured on Radio Cymru.

Their website is Hamperi Ynys Môn.

Friday, 10 December 2010

GVA per head - the bottom five UK

The following charts looks at the bottom five as of 2009 (Data from ONS - NUTS3.2 Headline GVA per head at current basic prices), looking at the years 2000 to 2008. The first chart shows the change in the GVA per head over the years, and the second chart shows GVA per head for 2008 minus GVA per head for 2000, showing which region in the bottom five the GVA has grown the most. I would add my usual disclaimer about comparing regions, but it does reveal some interesting results.

Ynys Mon is welsh for Anglesey

Thursday, 9 December 2010

Corrected GVA per head figures.

This week the Office of National Statistics published the verified and corrected GVA figures for 2008. As we know Anglesey has the lowest GVA per head in the UK for sometime.

I have argued previously that the use of GVA per head to compare regions should be done with caution (Anglesey and GVA – The Article), but I’m not about to defend or justify the current figures for Anglesey here. No the reason for this post is to answer the question: Why has Conwy and Denbighshire moved out of the bottom five.

The answer is seems, looking at the above chart is that Sefton, for some reason, has year on year seen it’s GVA per head grow slower than that of Conwy and Denbighshire, replacing them in the bottom five. Whereas Conwy and Denbighshire growth seems slower than the average for Wales, even that of Anglesey as shown in the chart below, showing growth in GVA per head between 2000 and 2008.

Jac Jones - Author and Illustrator.

A true son of Anglesey is Jac Jones, an award winning author and illustrator.

Jac was born in Gwalchmai in March 1947; he then grew up for a short while at his mother’s hometown Bristol, before the family returned to the island when he was seven years old. Jac was educated at Llangefni Grammar School.

When young his mother and father where hospitalised with TB and he lived for a while with his grandmother. He left school on finishing his ‘O’ levels. He recently said on radio, that although he enjoyed painting from a young age he learnt very little about painting at school.

His first job was as a designer for a graphics firm in Llangefni. Whilst working there he applied to attend Art College at Liverpool, but did not have English ‘O’ level, which was a strict requirement at the time. Much later in life he found that he had dyslexia.

He soon came bored with the work at the graphics firm and set up on his own as an illustrator. His career took off when he started work for the newly founded ‘Cyngor Llyfrau Cymru’ (Book Council of Wales) in 1974.

He has illustrated over 400 books in addition to numerous record covers and posters of various kinds, he has also written 6 books, including Betsan a’r Bwlis / Alison and the Bully Monsters, which he wrote and illustrated.

He has won Tir na n_Og Award (annual children's literary awards) several times, including the 2009 Award for ‘A Nod from Nelson’ by Simon Weston.

His illustration work includes welsh works of note such as Penillion y Plant, Trysorfa by T. Llew Jones and many of Mary Vaughan Jones' titles and famous characters including Jac y Jwc. He is listed in the book Best of British Illustrators.

The last 4 years have been difficult for him, not only has he divorced but he also has been ill with cancer, which thankfully at the moment is in remission.

Adolf Merckle and Phoenix

The Phoenix Group, the owners of Rowlands Pharmacy was founded by Adolf Merckle.

Merckle was born in Dresden, Germany into a wealthy family. He was educated as a lawyer, but spent most of his time investing and he developed his grandfather's chemical wholesale company into Germany's largest pharmaceutical wholesaler, Phoenix Pharmahandel. His family also owns the generic drug manufacturer Ratiopharm, and large parts of cement company HeidelbergCement as well as vehicle manufacturer Kässbohrer.

Adolf Merckle committed suicide on January 5, 2009.

Read More: New York Times

The local chemist

Seen the Doctor or nurse recently? - Then in most cases afterwards you will have visited ‘Rowlands the Chemist’ to obtain your prescription.

This year ‘Rowlands the Chemists’ have had three reasons to celebrate, it is two hundred years since they were established in 1810, and they have been voted the ‘Retailer of the Year’ in the Chemist and then Druggist categories run by the leading weekly magazine for retail pharmacists.

Over the last few years the company has invested heavily in its shops to improve the quality of service they provide, as good advice from the local chemist is seen as important part of our health service. The company is also an important local employer.

Rowlands Pharmacy to give them their official name, have 8 stores on Anglesey and you can find their opening hours on their website.

Rowlands Pharmacy have 500 stores in the UK and are part of the Phoenix Group.

Wednesday, 8 December 2010

The cornerstones of a good education.

I am still reading and inwardly digesting the book “Policy Development and Reform Principles of Basic and Secondary Education in Finland since 1968”, but I have learnt that the six cornerstones to a good education in Finland are:

Same nine-year basic school for all. Finnish children start compulsory nine-year basic school in August of the year when they turn seven years old.

Good teachers. The teaching profession has always enjoyed great public respect and appreciation in Finland. Parents trust teachers as professionals who know what is best for their children. Teachers therefore have considerable independence in the classroom in terms of choosing appropriate pedagogical methods

Sustainable leadership. Education sector development in Finland has been based on the continuous adjustment of schooling to the changing needs of children, families, and society.

Recognition and appreciation of existing innovations. During the last 30 years, the culture of innovation has taken root in the education system.

Flexible accountability, i.e. focus on deep learning, not testing. Finland has not followed the Anglo-Saxon accountability movement in education that believes in making schools and teachers accountable for learning results. Traditionally, evaluation of student outcomes has been the task of each teacher and school in Finland. The only standardized high-stake assessment is the Matriculation Examination at the end of upper-secondary school before students enroll in tertiary education. Prior to this Matriculation Examination, no external national tests or exams are required. This has helped both students and teachers to focus on learning in a fear-free environment. At the same time, creativity and risk-taking have also become common features in Finnish schools.

The culture of trust. The culture of trust basically means that the system, that is, the Ministry of Education and the National Board of Education, believes that teachers together with principals, parents, and their communities know how to provide the best possible education for their children and youth.

I'll finish for now, on the fact that according to the CIA World Factbook, public expenditure in Finland on education in 2007 as a percent of GDP was 5.4%, in comparison to the UK who spent the same year 5.6% of GDP.

Anglesey and winter

We are lucky in Anglesey we have relatively mild winters in comparison to rest of the UK. The chart below shows the minimum winter temperatures as recorded by the MET weather station at Valley since 1914. The coldest winter we, in Anglesey, have experienced was the winter known as ‘The Great Freeze of 1963’. It was when the Thames froze as can be seen on the Royal Windsor website. I say we, I wasn’t even born then!

The chart below is all the min temp data between 1914 and 2009 plotted by month, showing the changes in our seasons. It doesn’t show anything in particular just that it looks nice.

Tuesday, 7 December 2010

Learning with Finland.

With the publication of the PISA results for 2009, we see that Finland once again top the league tables, whilst Wales performs well below average on all indicators. Maybe it is time, we learned with Finland?

Students from Finland outperform peers in 43 other nations – including the United States, Germany and Japan – in mathematics, science and reading skills. Finland is also ranked top in economic competitiveness.

The performance of this small and remote European country springs directly from education policies set in motion 40 years ago, according to the World Bank in its report “Policy Development and Reform Principles of Basic and Secondary Education in Finland since 1968.”

For a summary of the report see Bert Maes blog

PISA 2009 Results

With thanks to Prometheuswrites, who commented on the following BBC News report. The PISA 2009 results are now available on their website. For the UK, key highlights of the report include:

  • Mean performance of United Kingdom 15-year-olds in the middle of the rankings

  • Only seven OECD countries spend more per student than the United Kingdom

  • Parents in the United Kingdom are better educated than in many other countries

  • The share of students from disadvantaged backgrounds in the United Kingdom is well below average.

  • Among OECD countries the United Kingdom has a relatively large proportion of students with an immigrant background

You can also download the PISA 2009: Achievement of 15-year-olds in Wales
by nfer.

Psycho-social wellbeing.

A recent report entitled “The role of local government in promoting wellbeing” written by nef (the new economics foundation) is interesting reading. This report examines how local government can support a better life for its citizens to help build resilient communities, both now and in the long term.

The following extracts emphasises the importance of psycho-social wellbeing:

“Psycho-social wellbeing is people’s sense of how their lives are going, and the strength of relationships that sustain community life, are strongly influenced by psychological and social wellbeing: Having a positive outlook in life and feeling good about oneself – the elements that make up emotional wellbeing – directly promote a more positive experience of life."

“The factors driving both material and psycho-social wellbeing are not equally distributed among local populations. Some individuals or population groups live in better-quality housing than others. Some have fewer money concerns. Some have stronger support networks. Some feel valued, respected and included in a way that others do not. Some have the time and facilities they need to engage in activities to promote their wellbeing. Wellbeing is highly dependent, therefore, on the distribution of social, economic and environmental resources in any population. The prevalence of social or cultural discrimination (on grounds of social class, gender or ethnicity, for example) impedes equality in the distribution of social determinants of wellbeing."

One of their "online contributions (www.idea. Lynne Friedli distinguishes between “efforts to address the symptoms of inequality - for example, the steep social gradient in health and education – and the wider strategic challenge of reducing the gap between rich and poor”. Research suggests that high levels of inequality are damaging to communities and society as a whole. There is growing evidence that relative deprivation and social injustice erode mental wellbeing and increase stress, and some have argued that the differences between us put a strain on social relations, by reducing trust and interaction. The conclusion from all this is clear: local government cannot improve the wellbeing of its local population without directly addressing inequalities."

Source: Above extracts from page 11 and 12 of report referred to.

Monday, 6 December 2010

The 'Teetotal Society' and Llanfechell, Anglesey

During this years general election there were objections to the hotel 'The Holland Arms', Llanfachraeth from being used as a polling station. This was lead by the Christian Party candidate David Owen.

The reason given for the objections, the islands long history of temperance. It was in Llanfechell in 1835, that the first teetotal society in Wales was founded, the society advocates the virtues of total abstinence.

The temperance societies started in the USA in the early 1820, and Welsh migrants in 1832 established the first welsh temperance society in Manchester, UK. The early societies emphasised drinking in moderation, the Ebbw Vale Temperance Society allowed two pints of beer per day.

There was a growing concern about the level of drinking in Wales following the passing of the Beerhouse Act 1830, which allowed for a huge increase in the number of drinking establishments.

The Beerhouse Act 1830 liberalised regulations on the brewing and sale of beer by individuals in the UK. The Act enabled anyone to brew and sell beer, ale or cider, whether from a public house or their own homes, upon obtaining a moderately priced license of just under ₤2 for beer and ale and ₤1 for cider, without recourse to obtaining them from justices of the peace, as was previously required. The result was the opening of hundreds of new pubs throughout the UK, and the reduction of the influence of the large breweries. It was only repealed in 1993

It was believed that the passage of the Act during the reign of William IV led to many taverns and pubs being named in his honour. Backed by the Duke of Wellington's ministry, allegedly to wean the public from gin consumption, the Act proved controversial, having both removed the lucratively monopoly of local justices and by failing to apply to publicans running existing public houses. It was denounced as promoting drunkenness.

Source: 'A history of Wales' by John Davies and Wikipedia.

Saturday, 4 December 2010

Global Warming and Valley, Anglesey

As the United Nations Climate Change Conference is taking place in Cancun, Mexico as I type; from 29 November to 10 December 2010, I though I would look at some historical data.

The chart below shows the min temperatures for November from 1914 to 2008, as recorded at Valley, Anglesey. The raw data is available on the Met Office website. The red line is the trend line (linear), which shows the min temp decreasing over time (less cold in other words).

I’m not claiming that this alone proves global warming, it most likely shows a change in the seasons, we do experience milder autumns. But if that is the effect, then maybe global warming is the cause.

Also remember the earth's wobble, and its constantly changing path around the sun. The chart below (data from Redshift) shows the nearest distance the earth gets to the sun (perihelion), as you can see we are in the current cycle where we are moving further away from the Sun during winter and conversely closer during summer. You would think therefore our summers should be warmer and our winters colder . The perihelion-aphelion distance will be equal sometime after 38,000 AC.

The reason why this winter is so cold could be explained by the perihelion chart below, and why next winter it could be even colder, before it starts to warm up again.

Thursday, 2 December 2010


With thanks to Weather Online a computer model showing the changes in temperatures at different latitudes, and the warming effect of the gulf stream on the UK.

Winter and snow

We in the UK, love to talk about the weather, especially when it snows and brings the whole country to a complete shut down. Or so you would believe, if you watched the rolling news, with the annual calls for inquires and better preparation for next time.

This year the snow arrived early, it’s not officially winter yet, winter solstice is 21 December 2010. On that day the sun is at one of the two points in its path around the sky where it is as far from the celestial equator it ever can be. It normally snows in this country February and March.

Another annual popular question is - Why when it snows does the Scandinavian countries seem to cope so well?

Well, they are further away from the equator than most of the UK for a start, with the exception of parts of Scotland, and therefore get shorter days in winter. They also do not benefit the same as we do from the Gulf Stream, which warms the UK in winter. This means for them more snow, more often making the additional expenditure to cope justified. Then there are the strict driving laws during winter.

In Norway “there must be a minimum of 1.6 millimetre tread on summer tyres and a minimum of 3 millimetres on winter tyres. Vehicles must not be used unless they have sufficient road grip for the road surface.

During the winter, you must drive with winter tyres with or without studs. All-year tyres can also be used. Use of studded tyres is allowed from 1 November - 15 April. In Nordland, Troms and Finnmark studded tyres are allowed during the period 15 October - 1 May. Studded tyres may also be used outside these periods if the weather and road surface conditions make it necessary.

If studded tyres are fitted to a car weighing under 3.5 tonnes, they must be fitted to all four wheels. Vehicles with a permitted total weight of 3.5 tonnes or more, must carry snow chains if ice or snow is expected on the road. These snow chains must fit the vehicle's wheels.”

But don’t forget that sometimes even they cannot cope, as happened in Oslo last winter:

Complaints have poured in over lack of snow plowing"
February 5, 2010

"City officials in Oslo have been as dissatisfied with snow clearing this winter as local residents, and have issued fines amounting to several hundred thousand kroner to the three firms responsible for plowing streets and sidewalks.

“They just haven’t done a very good job,” Arne Sørlie of the city transport department told Norwegian Broadcasting (NRK). Slippery streets last week prompted numerous vehicle collisions, while pedestrians were falling with alarming regularity.

The firms involved blame “two demanding snowfalls,” claiming they hadn’t finished clearing up the first dump before the second one hit. That was weeks ago, though, and many sidewalks still haven’t been cleared.

Consistently sub-freezing temperatures have meant they didn’t get any help from melting. One of the firms, Oslo Vei, admitted that “we can be better, like all others,” and promised to “check our routines” and “see what can be done differently.”


RSPB South Stack

One of the best places to see wildlife, in their natural environment is South Stack, Anglesey. The award winning wildlife reserve is managed by the Royal Society for the Protection of Birds (RSPB).

Don’t worry if it’s cold weather, you can always buy a warming cup of tea at their café. Or visit the Visitor Centre, from which; in the breeding season, there are spectacular views of the seabird colonies. The reserve is especially important for its breeding choughs, with their nine pairs representing 2% of the UK population. The RSPB maintaining the heathland and farmland to provide suitable nesting and feeding conditions for this rare bird.

For more information and opening times visit their website.