Monday, 20 April 2015

Mortgage bills in Harold Hill

With the Conservatives promising to give housing association tenants the right to buy, there's been a lot of looking back at one of the first council houses sold by Margaret Thatcher's government in 1980, in where else but Essex. The BBC News filmed outside 39 Amersham Road in Harold Hill, while the Daily Telegraph had a feature on the housing history of the property. Margaret Thatcher was famously filmed handing over the keys to the new owners, the Patterson family, although the pressure of paying a mortgage eventually resulted in their marriage breaking-up. It was sold for £8000 and has since increased in value hugely to more than £186k in 2004 and mirrors the history of housing in Britain. Click on the link to read the Telegraph piece.

Thursday, 16 April 2015

Basil Fawlty hits the Essex Riviera of Thurrock

The media has had a lot of fun with the fact that Nigel Farage's Ukip launched their manifesto at the Thurrock Hotel in Aveley. In addition to easy access to Lakeside, the Arterial and the A13, the Thurrock Hotel offers three-course Fawlty Towers dinners for £37, where professional actors offer "comic mishaps, manic mayhem and major mischief" based on John Cleese and Connie Booth's brilliant 1970s TV series. Cue lots of jokes from the hacks about a Fawlty manifesto. Not sure the Ukippers would approve of hiring cheap waiters from Barcelona. Though they might agree with Basil's views when Mr Johnson asks if there's anywhere they do French food. Basil answers: "Yes, France I believe. They seem to like it there, and the swim would certainly sharpen your appetite."

Wednesday, 15 April 2015

Chelmsford: what election is that, then?

Got a quote in the Essex Chronicle last week commenting on the fact that 20 per cent of people in Chelmsford don't know there's an election on. So much for the information age… and also on the premise that Essex Man is no longer connecting with the Conservatives in the way he did under Maggie Thatcher. Click on the link to read.

Thursday, 2 April 2015

Essex: The final frontier

Harlow, we have a problem… Essex has its own Space Agency it seems. Project HeliumTears has established twitter contact about its plan to send a giant weather balloon carrying a camera into space. The project plans to photograph the Earth from the edge of space and retrieve the camera and data upon its return. It’s all the work of Sky at Night fans Matt Kingsnorth from Warley and Phil St Pier from Romford. “We’re more Jupiter mining corporation than Starfleet fella,” declare the county’s answer to Aldrin, Armstong and Collins. They told the Brentwood Gazette: “We’re just a couple of geeks with acess to the internet and YouTube and a desire to say that Essex isn’t just about Towie and drunken people fighting on a Saturday night." The pair even have their own Essex Space Agency notepaper. One small leap for man, one giant leap for Essex. Follow their progress through the link and via twitter @ProjectHeT. Engage!

Wednesday, 1 April 2015

Top cat Joey

Enjoyed the fact that the Liberal Democrats' website changed their logo to read "Liberal Democats" in honour of Joey Essex's interview with Nick Clegg, in which Joey thought that Democats was the party's name. The Lib-Dems also replaced their soaring bird logo with a cat. Liked the way Essex established common ground with Clegg by quipping, "I sort of rule Essex!" Never mind the Daily Telegraph piece lamenting the "shameful dumbing down" of politics. People like politicians who are not pompous and don't take themselves too seriously. With Joey set to interview Ed Miliband and David Cameron for his Educating Joey Essex series, it might yet be Essex that decides the General Election.

Tuesday, 31 March 2015

Is Essex Man still a Thatcherite?

My book The Joy of Essex gets a mention in this BBC article on whether Essex Man is changing his Thatcherite image. Certainly the image of Essex Man has become a bit cuddlier and more emotionally aware than in the 1990 Sunday Telegraph profile where he was described as "Maggie's mauler."

The BBC's Jodie Smith talks to Alex Otaka, a graduate in Billericay who works in insurance and is leaning towards Labour after voting Lib-Dem last time. Of Polish descent, he's more concerned about the closure of Billericay police station than immigration. Paul Whiteley, a professor of government at the University of Essex, also has some interesting points to make about the county's political image.

And all this on the same day that it emerges another stereotypical Essex Man, Joey Essex, is veering towards the Lib-Dems. He's just interviewed Nick Clegg, and after learning that it's not 'Nick Leg' or the 'Liberal Democats', he describes him as "quite an honest person" and manages to get a confession from Clegg that he's not going to win the election. Essex also advocates voting, unlike another Essex icon, Russell Brand. Question Time surely beckons for Joey…

Thursday, 19 March 2015

Dagenham salad

A lot of things might be associated with Dagenham: Ford Motors, Sandie Shaw, Dudley Moore, Sir Alf Ramsey, Terry Venables, Jimmy Greaves, John Terry, the film Made in Dagenham and the song Dagenham Dave by the Stranglers. But salad? Yes, the Stoke Newington-based organic vegetable box scheme Growing Communities now has a farm on an ex-council nursery site in Dagenham, complete with a full-time grower, and is  offering the finest Dagenham Salad in its bags. This should put a rocket leaf under the notion that Essex's signature dish is chips. Could be the biggest boost for the county's cuisine since Jamie Oliver. Dagenham — it's the new centre for Essex foodies.