I don’t normally publish two Blogs in the same week, but given the fact I was out of the office last Friday, Monday and Tuesday this week, I guess an explanation is required….

In this role the support given by a partner is invaluable and I think most political members, either on a local or a national platform would praise the amount of time a partner gives up through support, advice or by simply giving a shoulder to lean on after a difficult day…..

Over the past twelve months my wife Ellen has attended almost every evening/weekend event with me, and has certainly been a rock after a difficult day.

Anyway, what I am trying to say in a roundabout way is that a simple thank you doesn’t go amiss especially at this time of year…

We normally try to go away for a few days over the Christmas break, but this year I decided that I would take her Berlin to look around the many sights and not forgetting the Christmas Markets.

I have never actually been to Germany myself, but I knew Ellen had visited Berlin as a young 15 year old (many years ago….) So a very early start on Friday morning.

However, it certainly wasn’t the best start of the day. After checking the usual online sites before leaving for the airport I noticed that one post had taken my good intentions and completely twisted my words, for reasons that remain unknown at this stage.

After a strong phone call at 5am and now running late for the airport I thought it would be best to simply put the phone down and to address the matter at a later date.

What I will say is that I have continually put pressure on both the Government and Manx Gas through the media and social media to look again at press releases, tariffs, standing charges, along with the actual cost of gas here in the Isle of Man for over three years.

The reality is that we will never remove the standing charges from utility bills as this pays for the infrastructure costs in the future, and I am also aware that we are a small island in the Irish Sea and that we cannot ignore economies of scale etc, but we have to find a fair pricing structure for all of our utility companies, not just Manx Gas.

Therefore, I was extremely grateful that the new Manx Gas senior management team invited me, along with other MHKs to meet and greet them last week. It gave us a perfect opportunity for us to put forward our concerns, which is the feedback we have received from Constituents over the past three years.

The Government’s Advisory Committee is looking at the Manx Gas User Agreement, but my concerns have always been the 5,500-plus local authority tenants and the many other tenants living in private accommodation who are totally tied in to using Manx Gas.

Using a rough calculation, I believe one third of Manx Gas Customers are automatically tied in to using gas as their main source of heating or cooking with no alternative options available – and that isn’t right…

To address the other concern, the ongoing protest relates mainly around the standing charges – therefore, asking someone to pay the same tariff as a previous home owner or tenant is completely unfair.

Reverting a new customer automatically to Band A make senses, even though they will be paying slightly more in the KwH unit price, but it could potentially save hundreds of pounds in unnecessary standing charges until the account is fully reviewed.

I appear to have digressed slightly, but I don’t like seeing my words being twisted or taken out context, especially on key topics that affect so many people.

Anyway, we got to the airport at 6am on Friday morning and flew to Manchester before jumping on a further flight from Manchester to London Heathrow.

One final flight from London Heathrow to Tegel Airport in Berlin and we arrived in our hotel for 16.00 (local time).

Berlin is an hour ahead of the UK, so after a quick stroll around the city we headed to our hotel for tea and the funniest thing happened. I suddenly realised that someone was staring at me and when I looked up it was my good friend, Tommy and his wife Jan, who were also taking a weekend break in Berlin!

Just before 19.00 Ellen and I walked over to the Komische Opera House, as I had tickets for the “Magic Flute”, which was truly amazing and equally on par with the live opera we attended in an old Venetian house a few years ago.

I enclose a YouTube link to the show, which is certainly worth a look, but the actual performance was around three hours.

https://youtu.be/lS8m-ulLOK8

Saturday was spent touring the City visiting Check Point Charlie, the Reichstag building, Brandenburg Gate, etc. The weather was very cold but I was more surprised by how dark the city felt, not because of the buildings but through the lack of natural light – I think it started to get dark from 14.30.

Not sure if there are any Manx people left on the island at the moment, as we also bumped into another couple from the Isle of Man during our walk around the city!

Saturday evening was spent looking around the Christmas markets, which was truly fantastic – not forgetting some fabulous food.

Still bitterly cold outside on Sunday and there was also a heavy snowfall early in the morning, but it didn’t matter as we were jumping on a sightseeing bus around the Eastern parts of the city.

As we walked in the snow to the bus stop you could certainly see the city transform from the modem West Germany sector to East Germany with many parts remaining unchanged since the 1940s or 50s.

After the Second World War, the USA, UK and France occupied West Germany and Russia occupied East Germany.

During the tour of East Berlin on Sunday, it was hard to imagine how it felt when Germany was split into two, when the Berlin Wall was built in 1961 and for it to remain in place until 1989.

We then continued to walk around the city before heading to the IMAX cinema to watch Star Wars – the Last Jedi, which was in English and 3D.

One last trip to the Christmas Markets before getting back to the hotel for 21.00.

Monday morning was spent travelling from Tegel Airport in Berlin to London Heathrow and that’s when our best plans started to unfold.

Our flight from Heathrow to Manchester was delayed and we were sat on the runway at London Heathrow for more than an hour because of heavy fog and technical issues on runway 1 and 2 at Manchester Airport.

We finally arrived in the Manchester just before 16.00 and were expecting to fly to the Isle of Man at 16.50.

If our flight from London had arrived on time, we would have checked in and gone through security like many other passengers, but we arrived just as the flight was being cancelled.

The airport was certainly packed and the queue to the Flybe desk was very very long, but to be perfectly honest the staff at the Flybe desk were fantastic. They quickly put us up in a hotel, provided dinner and breakfast at no extra cost or questions asked…… top marks to Flybe under extreme pressure.

I know from speaking to several passages waiting in the queue that there was genuine concern around when the next flight to the Isle of Man actually was, costs for staying an extra night, food and how to claim a refund, but again Flybe staff were fantastic, and so were the staff at the Hilton Airport Hotel.

The delay has also meant that I have missed the final sitting of the House of Keys before Christmas, but to be fair no one was expecting a sitting when I booked the flights…. but this simply confirms that you can’t book trips around any sittings.

Anyway, finally home after a 20 hour delay…..

I will also put a few pictures on my personal Facebook Page…..