Well, I achieved something of real value today - in more ways than one. I secured free transport for two container loads of blankets and clothing collected by the people of Sheringham to the Bande Aceh region of Indonesia. The goods will be distributed to the hardest hit areas by the Indonesian Ministry of Welfare. 

Late last week I contacted by one of the organisers of the Sheringham Tsunami Appeal Collection, Tabitha van der Does, to ask if I could cut through the barriers which had been put in their way. More than 40 tonnes of clothing and blankets were collected at Sheringham Fire Station last Friday, which I helped dozens of Sheringham residents to load into lorries. Since then the goods have been stored in a barn at Stratton Strawless. Tabitha and Eroica Mildmay (the other organiser) were then left with the problem of what to do next. 

I sent out a press release today containing the following... 

Tabitha van der Does said: "Even though the charity that originally wanted the goods decided at the last moment to turn us down, we decided to go ahead with the appeal, not realising the amount of goods which would arrive and the amount of time Eroica and I would spend trying to arrange transport to South East Asia. I phoned Iain Dale and told him of our problem. In his usual reassuring way, he said "Leave it with me!". So I did!. Late yesterday afternoon (Thursday 13 January) he phoned to say he had negotiated two containers with Norman Global Logistics and the Yang Min Shipping Line. I happened to be in Hunts in Sheringham and my excitement was apparent for all to see! These companies are offering to transport the containers free of charge to Indonesia and we are very grateful that Iain broke through the logjam and came up with this superb solution." 

Iain Dale said: "I must admit I took a deep breath when Tabi phoned to tell me that she was having difficulty finding a way of getting the blankets and clothes to Indonesia. I used to work in the ports and shipping world, so I opened up an old contacts book and got on the phone. We are all indebted to Norman Global Logistics, the Yang Min Shipping Line and the Port of Felixstowe for waiving all port dues and shipping charges. We had offered to get the goods to Felixstowe ourselves but instead the containers are coming to Stratton Strawless at the end of next week, where we will have a large team of volunteers to help fill them. 

"This has been a tremendous community effort and I feel very privileged to have played a part in it. I know the people of Indonesia will put the blankets and clothes to good use and the shippers tell me that it will be clear from the customs documentation that the goods have come from the people of North Norfolk. Tabi and Eroica have done a fantastic job and our thanks go to them."