Friday, 23 October 2009

Cornwall Animal Hospital

Tommy Bray has been a real trooper supporting local charities in the Redruth area over many years. So when he called me last week to invite me in to see the work of the Cornwall Animal Hospital, I had no hesitation at all.

The Cornwall Animal Ambulance and Hospital (to use its full name) supports local people with the veterinary needs of their pets. They now have around 10,500 customers and typically have about 40 dogs a day coming through the small centre at Treleigh. They have some exciting plans for a major expansion in capacity with plans for a new extension within the next few years.

They offer highly competitive rates to help raise funds from the public but also heavily subsidised rates for those who cannot afford veterinary costs. They have a network of charity shops in the area to raise the funds to allow them to run the centre.

Today I met Vicky and other staff from the hospital. Among the animals at the centre today were a cat which was recovering after being hit by a car and a young ferret they have named Francesca who was found wondering free in Tehidy woods last week.

For many people, particularly older people living on their own, their pets provide really important companionship and the work of charities like the Cornwall Animal Hospital is an important life line.

Thursday, 15 October 2009

Finding new homes

Today I visited the National Animal Welfare Trust based on Wheal Alfred Road near Hayle. The NAWT have had a branch on Wheal Alfred Road for many years but the site underwent a major refurbishment last year with completely new kennels.

Louise Barker manages the centre and explained to me how they re-home over 500 dogs and around 100 cats every year. A really impressive record. Today I met a number of the current residents. Across the country there is a real problem at the moment with Staffordshire Terriers being abandoned or given up and Cornwall is no exception. They are victims of a fashion for the breed among young men in particular, and a misguided perception that it is possible to make money from breeding them.

The NAWT has many volunteer dog walkers to make sure their dogs get good exercise and a change of scenery. They also have an agility course to keep them entertained and engaged.

Fifteen years ago I took on a rescue dog from the RSPCA. Mono was an amazingly intelligent and loving Border Collie but, like many collies, also suffered from a few issues - most notably bells and ringing phones which led to the interior of more than one of my cars being a bit torn up unexpectedly.

That we are a nation of animal lovers is proved by the fact that there are so many vibrant charities like the NAWT out there doing this sort of work with so many volunteers willing to support them.

Saturday, 10 October 2009

Campaign day

We have been on a tough timetable this last 10 days. First we drove from london to Inverness, I ran a marathon, then Inverness to Manchester for four days at the party conference and then Manchester to Camborne on Thursday in time for the campaign day today.

There will be a General Election within the next seven months. We have a lot to do between now and Christmas. Today we had another 50 volunteers out campaigning - delivering leaflets in Camborne and preparing a major direct mail operation.

The issue of MPs expenses has also returned as an issue. The current sitting Lib Dem MP has launched a fresh attack on MPs from other parties from other parts of the country but she has still refused to adjust her own behaviour and has refused to curtail her use of public money on perks like extra food and promotional literature about herself. The debate is going to run and run.

Thursday, 8 October 2009

The big speech

I have spent the last four days at the Conservative Party conference in Manchester. There is an enthusiastic mood - but also a strong sense of caution and a focus on what is needed to win the election. Nothing is being taken for granted. The truth is that we go in to this election with fewer MPs than Michael Foot had in 1983 - and although there is now widespread disillusion with Gordon Brown, there is still a big task ahead.

I worked for David Cameron as his Press Secretary until the end of 2007. Party conference was always a demanding time. The diary would be a nightmare, there were so many media interviews to try to fit in and it was tough keeping things to time.

I supported David Cameron from the very start because I think he has the judgement and character to become a great Prime Minister. It is an important mark of a leader that they are able to rise to meet new challenges and David Cameron always has. His speech today was no exception.

I think what people saw today was someone who is ready to lead the country, not just the party. And there is no doubt that Britain needs change and leadership.

Sunday, 4 October 2009

The marathon

We set off on Thursday for Edinburgh to break the drive to Inverness in time for the marathon on Sunday.

It was a long drive with a lot of road works. But the scenery on the drive yesterday to Loch Ness was stunning.

I got up early at 6.30 today. I needed to get on the bus to be transported to the start line. There was a bit of a hitch with the buses - three didn't turn up, which meant the departure to the start was delayed by almost an hour and the start of the race was also delayed until 10.50.

I had hoped that the Loch Ness marathon would be fairly flat - and since much of it runs along the side of the Loch it seemed a reasonable hope. It started well, beautiful scenery and, if anything, a little bit down hill for the first 5 miles.

But six miles in I started to get a bad blister and the course was actually quite undulating. Everything was fine for the first half. I went through thirteen miles in just over an hour and a half and well on course for my target time of 3 hours 30 minutes.

But it got tough at 17 miles. There was a long haul uphill to Inverness once we left the banks of the Loch. Three miles in fact. So, at just the moment when I was starting to flag, I had to start climbing a three mile hill. Four miles in to the marathon I had overtaken a man in his 50's who was suffering. "He won't make it" I thought. But amazingly he came past me on this hill - still sounding like he was suffering. That will teach me!

But I managed to keep things on course and, although the second half was obviously slower than the first half, I crossed the finishing line in 3 hours twenty nine minutes and 34 seconds. It was a reasonable time but I don't think I will be in a hurry to do another!