eCounts and eSentiment – Eezer Goode!

Yesterday was the By-election for Rutherglen South and I was working as an Information Officer at the count. It was always going to be exciting because if Labour won it would give them an outright majority and they would no longer need to be allied with the Conservatives.

I arrived bright and early so I could remind myself of the room layout. It was an electronic count and there were bound to be lots of questions about what was happening at each station. Candidates and agents could watch ballot boxes being opened and the papers being registered. They then crossed to the other side of the room where again they could watch as papers were scanned. This was a popular station as they could see the marks beside names as the papers went through and many stood furiously taking notes trying to get a feel if things were going their party’s way.

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After scanning, if the computer picked up any anomalies in the marks the papers went for adjudication by a human being. This was also a popular station as there was a screen facing the adjudicator and another facing the audience we could all see how people were filling out their papers. I remember at last year’s council elections being fascinated to track the progress of the ballot box from the polling place where I was Presiding Officer. I remember watching the adjudicator’s screen thinking, “I don’t remember telling you to use smiley faces!” Yesterday all the officers and clerks worked off a script and they went through the same instructions with everyone – use numbers, 1 for your first choice, 2 for your second, 3 for your third and so on up to 7 and you can fill in 1 box, all 7 or anywhere in between. Sounds straightforward but it would amaze you how many papers were filled out wrong. Some were accepted, some were accepted up to the point where the number sequence went awry, and the rest went to adjudication with the Returning Officer who either accepted them or rejected them. I was standing next to a Presiding Officer at one point who said he’d started his instructions with one voter who stopped him in his tracks and said he’d be purposely spoiling his paper as it was his democratic right and with seven candidates it gave him enough boxes to spell out something less than complimentary. Talking to others involved in the last local council elections ‘scoundrels’ was a phrase used to fill the boxes. Amusing but a bit of a waste of time, never mind a wasted vote.

There was a group of senior pupils from the local high school observing the process and it was great to see young people engaging with the democratic process. They got to chat with some of the people who work at the elections and also to the MSPs and other councillors who came along, as well as the candidates. I introduced them to Cllr Lynsey Hamilton who was only 22 when she was elected last year. I thought the fact that she was only 6 years older than them she’d have more in common with them. I must have done something right because we got an email from their teacher this morning thanking us for everything.

In the end Gerard Killen from the Scottish Labour Party was elected at stage 7 of the voting and it was a pretty close call at stage 6. He’s 26 and owns his own building company so some more young blood for the council as well as a self-starting small business man. What’s more he’s on Twitter – hurray 🙂

i have to say a big thank you to the SLC catering staff who kept us sweet all night with tea coffee, home baking and quality banter.

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Seeing as I missed Valentine’s night because of the count our tipple tonight was Prosecco in our new Marie Antionette-inspired champagne glasses. I have to say it went down a treat and I think it tasted even better in the glasses, although HimIndoors reckons mine are more likely to fit in a pint glass 😉

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On other news today I had a mini training session on using Excel spreadsheets. It was fascinating and I’d like to meet the devious mind who developed them and shake him or her by the hand. I’m now a step closer to creating some kind of sentiment dashboard capturing press cuttings, social media and, hopefully soon, our residents’ thoughts once we start our regular telephone surveys.

Also at lunch time I nipped into Oxfam and picked up this fab book of Elizabeth David’s recipes for a whole £2.99. I can now see how much this marvellous woman has influenced both British cooking and our national treasures and my favourite cooks, Hugh Fearnley-Whittingstall and Nigel Slater. No doubt she’ll influence my menus. What I do is follow a recipe then adapt it for my cupboards and my family so all the recipes on here are often many steps away from the original.

Today I have learned:

  • bubbles taste better in proper shallow champagne glasses rather than flutes
  • Excel doesn’t work with smoke and mirrors

Today’s recipe

Spiced squash soup with spicy caramelised onions

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The spicy onions go with numerous soups including lentil and tomato.

Soup

Ingredients

a knob of butter

1 onion

2 garlic cloves, sliced

1 butternut squash, cut into chunks

2 tsp ground coriander

2 tsp cumin

half a tsp Lazy Chillies

1 litre veg stock

a good dash of double cream

Method: Melt the butter, add the onion and cook over a low heat until translucent. Add the squash and cook for a few minutes. Add the spices and chilli and cook for another minute, stirring.

Add the stock, bring to the boil and simmer for 20 minutes. Allow to cool then whizz with the cream and reheat if needed.

Spicy caramelised onions

Ingredients

a knob of butter

oil for frying

2 onions, sliced

1 tsp Lazy Chillies

2 garlic cloves, finely chopped

Method: Melt the butter in the oil and fry the onions over a very low heat for about 15-20 minutes. Add the garlic and chillies and turn up the heat for five minutes, stirring until the onions have taken on a deep brown colour. Keep stirring to prevent them burning.

Add a good tablespoon of the onions to each bowl of soup for a deep savoury flavour.

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