Blog 18 Nov 18What is that saying about the best laid plans etc?

I definitely felt like that bloke desperately trying to get home for Christmas last weekend…

After a wonderful trip to the States of Jersey last week on behalf of the Commonwealth Parliamentary Association (CPA), Jersey was hit by strong winds and heavy rain last Friday afternoon and evening, which meant that all flights to and from the island were cancelled.

This also meant that the delegation led by the Rt Hon. Lord Haselhurst, along with Felicity Herrmann who is the CPA UK Programme Officer and I were stranded on the island for an extra night.

Luckily the Pomme D’Or Hotel had three spare rooms.

I have to say that Felicity from the CPA was a star throughout the trip and spent a considerable amount of time on the phone with the travel agents last Friday evening, in order to try and find me a route back to the Isle of Man last Saturday, but despite her best efforts there were simply no seats or flights available to the Isle of Man until early Sunday morning. I almost felt that the forces of nature were working against me.

Ironically, Ellen was due to arrive in Jersey last Saturday herself on business, which was booked many months in advance of my trip. I remember her asking me if I could stay over for a few days but I simply couldn’t spare the time because it was Remembrance weekend, and I had already confirmed several engagements in my calendar for Saturday and Sunday….

The thought of not actually getting home until Sunday morning definitely hit me for an hour or so, as I genuinely felt I was letting people down by missing key events last Saturday morning, but a few wise words from Lord Haselhurst certainly helped….

Anyway, after an extra night in Pomme D’Or hotel we had a few hours to spare last Saturday morning, so after sending various apologies to people back in the Isle of Man, we visited the Jersey War Tunnels that told the true story of wartime in Jersey.

The exhibition is housed within an underground tunnel complex, built by the Germans using slave labour…. The Jersey War Tunnels are situated 4 miles north-west of St. Helier and are well worth a visit.

From there we collected our bags and headed to the airport once more at 13.30. Upon arrival, I noticed that Ellen’s flight was running 20 minutes early so I decided to surprise her upon her arrival in Jersey, which definitely worked.

The first two people off the flight were also two Manx people who I actually knew….. they certainly had to look twice, seeing me standing in the Jersey arrivals lounge!

After a very quick hello to Ellen, I headed though to departures and then flew to Manchester at 16.00, but with no flights available to the Isle of Man on Saturday evening I had to stay at the Holiday Inn, Manchester Airport.

I had another strange moment as I headed downstairs for something to eat and happened to bumped into Eddie Teare, former Treasury Minister – so we shared a table, which gave us an opportunity to catch up.

Then last Sunday morning, I was up for around 6.15am and flew back to the Isle of Man at 8.40am.

The flight was slightly delayed but I finally landed back in the Isle of Man for around 9.50am. From there it was a rush to get home, changed, feed the cat and to arrive at Onchan’s War Memorial for 10.30am.

Despite the delays getting back to the Isle of Man, it was an honour to be able to lay a wreath on behalf of our Community last Sunday morning.

As I mentioned last year – Remembrance Sunday is definitely one of those very few times in which the island and our communities stop, even if it is only for a few moments, in order to remember those few that sacrificed so much, in order to secure our future……

It is even more meaningful this year as we mark the centenary of the Armistice.

After a small break over lunchtime I headed down to St. John’s for the National Service of Remembrance and Re-Dedication taking place in the Royal Chapel at 15.00, which was also a wonderful service.

A real privilege and an honour to represent Onchan and our island.

There was a third event scheduled in the evening, but I gave my apologies.

As for Monday, I was still very tired so I took the opportunity to stay home until around 10.15am, at which point I headed to Ashley Hill School, Onchan with Julie Edge, MHK to hand out the special 50p coins.

Again, another wonderful visit to one of our local schools, which certainly impress me more and more every time I visit.

From there I headed into the office to start catching up with various tasks and departmental issues. I also had to go though a detailed paper relating to the TT, which needed very careful consideration.

My attention was then transferred to a very detailed DfE Agenda Paper, which ran into a few hundred pages, along with the PAC Agenda Pack.

At 14.00 I had a meeting with the Deputy Chief Executive of DfE, along with the Director Motorsport and other officers.

Unfortunately, I can’t give further details at this stage, but it was certainly one of the toughest decisions I have had to make. I am sure further details will be put into the public domain over next couple of months.

After the meeting, I headed home for around 15.30 in order to catch up with a few things, along with starting to go through the DfE and PAC agenda packs.

I finally finished for around 19.30.

An early start (7am) on Tuesday as I needed to prepare a few notes ahead of a Manx Radio interview, which went out live just after the 8am news bulletin.

The interview related to the number of sexual assaults occurring on the island and the level of support service being provided, especially around those individuals being referred to a sexual assault referral centre in the UK.

After the interview I stayed on at Manx Radio for a catch up with some key members of staff.

I finally got into the office for 9am, which gave me an opportunity to prepare for the House of Keys sitting, which started at 10am.

We started with 11 oral questions, one emergency question and 9 written questions. The Criminal Evidence Bill 2018 received its Second Reading, along with the Third Reading of the European Union and Trade Bill 2018.

The sitting finished at 11.30am.

I had an hour or so at my desk to catch up with a few emails and phone calls before heading up to the Barrool Suite for two presentations at 13.00.

The first presentation was by the Department of Environment, Food and Agriculture and related to the water quality and the 2016 EU bathing directive.

The second presentation was given by the Department for Infrastructure and the proposal and design for a new tram depot.

Those presentations finished at around 15.15 and after sending a few emails I headed into Onchan to attend a quick Constituent meeting before going home at 16.00.

At 17.30 I drove down to Castletown to meet up with a few of my MHK colleagues, which has been a regular event amongst some of the newly elected MHKs since 2016.

I finally got home for around 22.00.

Wednesday turned out to be a very busy day, with so much paperwork to work through in relation the DfE and PAC meetings, I headed into the office for around 6.30am.

It was definitely the right decision as I was able to spend a couple of hours reading though the large volume of documents before walking over to DfE at 8.50am.

At 9am DfE had the usual catch up meeting with the four new Agencies Boards Chairs and Executives.

At 10am we had the board meeting with several key decisions being made, and I am sure that further details will be put into the public domain in due course.

Unfortunately, the meeting overran, which meant that the political members were late arriving at Government House for 12.15.

His Excellency, Sir Richard Gozney had sent out a kind invitation to the Agency Chairs, Chief Executives and the Political Members to attend lunch at Government House, which was a simple menu but very enjoyable.

Straight back to office for 14.00 to start putting together additional papers for the PAC meeting, which started at 15.00.

It was a long meeting, which finally finished at 17.30 as the PAC continue to review the DHSC overspend.

Straight after the meeting I needed to make several urgent calls relating to TT motorsport issues, which continued once I reached home.

I finally finished for the day at around 20.00.

A change of gear on Thursday, which was long overdue….

I was still in the office for 8am on Thursday, but I cancelled a couple of meetings in the morning, in order to give myself sufficient time to start catching up with a few things.

I spent the first couple of hours trying to sort out emails, which were falling well behind once again, along with completing a small project in the office.

Once I caught up with emails etc, I then started to draft a number of letters on a particular Constituency project, which also took at least a couple of hours to complete.

Before I realised, it was lunchtime so I took the opportunity to have a lunch break with colleagues.

At 14.00 I headed up to the Barrool Suite for a Pensions Legacy Funding Workshop, which lasted almost three hours. I am certainly no expert in this particular field, which is very complex, especially because of the time lapse and the depth of the financial problem.

I wish I could tell Constituents that there is an easy solution on the horizon, but there simply isn’t……

I left the workshop at 16.40, in order to get home and changed before attending the Isle of Man Newspapers Excellence Awards, which was another fantastic evening celebrating everything good about this beautiful island.

I finally got home for around 23.00.

Back in the office for 7am on Friday because I needed to review some documents on the Isle of Man Post Office strategy before a DfE meeting scheduled to start at 8.30am.

The meeting only lasted around 30 minutes, so I spent the next hour in the Minister’s office catching up with emails etc, because at 10am we had a meeting with Douglas Corporation.

The meeting related to the ongoing dialogue around the TT Grandstand and future plans which are still at a concept stage.

At around 11am I headed back to the office to start looking at the Tynwald Order Paper, and starting to print out various reports, which I will review over the weekend.

Just after 12 noon I met up with a Director of SES Satellite Leasing Limited for lunch, which is a friendship I have built up over the last couple of years.

Back to the office at 13.30 to finish printing off various part of the Tynwald Order Paper before heading home at 15.00.

I completed a few tasks at home before trying to catch up with emails once more.

I finally finished for the day at around 18.00.

As for the weekend, I have my Political Surgery on Saturday, along with picking Ellen from the airport in the evening.

On Sunday lunchtime I will be a guest on Sunday Opinion, which will look at the MHK’s role in respect of engaging with Constituents.

I also need to prepare for Tynwald next week.