Quote of the week

Life isn't about finding yourself, it is about creating yourself'

George Bernard Shaw
If you cannot mould yourself entirely as you would wish, how can you expect other people to be entirely to your liking?
Read more at: http://www.brainyquote.com/quotes/keywords/wish.html

Monday, December 31, 2012

New Year hopes for a prisoner of conscience

Along with the 60,000 other people who follow him on Twitter, I have received a New Year greeting from Mikhail Khordokovsky, who is now serving his ninth year in prison in Russia.

In May 2011 Amnesty International designated Khordokovsky, along with his colleague Platon Lebedev, a Prisoner of Conscience, recognising that his imprisonment is a direct result of his political beliefs.

To learn more about his case Click here.

The unfair, corrupt and politically motivated legal process that Khordokovsky has experienced over the years, is a worked example of the truth that, sadly, the authorities in Russia continue to have a very imperfect grasp on what it means to respect the Rule of Law.  This depresses all of us who love Russia and its people and hope that its leaders will  have the courage and confidence to embrace true democracy.

I notice that at present Kordhokovsky is in prison in Karelia, which is to the North of St Petersberg.   I spent some three months there when a student, and know that the ice only melts in late April and that the days in winter are very short.

So spare a thought for Mikhail Borisovich this New Year's Eve. 

Friday, December 21, 2012

Seasons Greetings

Santa at Little Hall
A very happy Christmas to all readers of this site, old and new.  

May you receive all that you hope for in 2013.

Lavenham Christmas Fair, 2012.

Tuesday, December 18, 2012

Prayers at Babergh

At the eleventh hour I was asked today to say the prayer at the beginning of the council meeting.

There is a prayer before the start of all full Council meetings.   This used used to be part of the agenda,  but now, due to objections from the National Secular Society, it happens a few minutes in advance.  Almost all of the councillors at Babergh participate, regardless of the level of their religious enthusiasm, although it is not compulsory (and indeed never was).

The prayers are not pre-written, but are composed by the chosen councillor, who tries to make the sentiments relevant to the current situation and the business of the meeting.  I have performed this function two or three times and, provided inspiration is forthcoming, it is an interesting challenge to strike the right note.

Since notice was short I did not have time to reflect too deeply on an appropriate approach today.  However, it did occur to me that the council has made terrific strides this year. Under the direction  of Charlie Adan and her team, we are well on the way towards the full integration of our officer structure with than of Mid Suffolk. This should mean more efficient as well as more cost effective services.   We have also made progress in formulating our strategic priorities and creating a joint vision for both Councils for the future.   I thought that it would be appropriate to give thanks for the relatively plain sailing that we have enjoyed so far, undertaking a complex exercise in a difficult and constantly changing environment.

Of course, additionally,  I could not ignore the fact that Christmas is almost upon us.

I asked for a peaceful Christmas for all Members, officers and residents of Babergh, and one that is free from worry and care. When making this request I particularly had in mind the Babergh staff. For many of the senior managers uncertainty about the future has now been resolved one way or another, and most, I believe are reasonably content with the outcome.    

A good many other officers however are still unsure about the nature and security of their employment at the council in the years to come.  When I worked in the City this state of uncertainty was normal, but the public sector has until now, been largely immune from this sort of pressure.  This must make it far worse for those involved and I do hope that Christmas will not be wrecked for them as a result.

Saturday, December 15, 2012

A money saving tip from one of our MEP's

One of our MEP's, Vicky Ford, sends out an interesting newsletter about her work at the European Parliament.

She doesn't just confine herself to the abstract world of European politics, although what she has to say about the workings of the EU circus is illuminating.  This month she also has the following advice for female drivers:

'I am keen to encourage all women, especially younger women, to check their car insurance renewal dates, and to consider renewing policies before a new EU law comes into effect on the 21st December, which prevents insurance companies from offering discounted rates to female drivers. As younger women tend to have few accidents than younger male drivers, to date insurers have been able to offer the women lower pricing, reflecting the lower risk. Now insurers will not be able to offer this differentiated policy. There appears to be a general consensus that car insurance prices for certain women drivers will rise significantly as a result. I don't think the ruling is sensible, it throws into question the whole theory of insurance pricing'

 If you want to receive Vicky's newsletter by e mail you can sign up on her website here

Wednesday, December 12, 2012

Chilton Woods Steering Group

The second meeting of the Chilton Woods Steering Group was held on Monday evening in Sudbury Town Hall.

The group is participating in a Babergh led 'place-shaping' exercise. The planning officers are seeking a steer about what the local community would like to see delivered in this development, which will have a major impact on Sudbury and the villages beyond.

Monday's event concentrated on the nature of the village hub; what shops would be appropriate?  what sort of public open space would be right for the centre of the development?  what about a community hall? a church? craft shops? flats for elderly people? a pub or restaurant?

There were many ideas forthcoming, not all entirely practical or sustainable, but mostly interesting.  I liked the idea of an open space that is configured such that it could become a small ampitheatre for plays, music, or other performances. There is nowhere in the Sudbury area at present where open air entertainment takes place (although I have often thought the the space in front of St Peter's could be adapted).

It is very important that Chilton Woods both complements and adds something a bit special to Sudbury.  The amount of open space that is envisaged should ensure that it is a good place to live and also to work, but it also needs to be well designed and a place that people want to visit and spend time in.

In recent months Babergh have been criticised in the press for not listening to communities when it comes to major developments in their areas.  Let's hope that this process, which is a first for the council, but which is very much seen as the way ahead, will be a success and become routine for such schemes in the future.

Next month's session will be about the green aspects of the development, including the community woodland, roads and cycle routes, access to open countryside, promotion of bio-diversity and other such issues.  If you have strong views about this aspect of the proposals, or indeed about anything else related to the plans, please let me know.

Standing room only at Chilton Carol Service

The annual candlelit Carol Service at Chilton, which is always a busy event,  was amazingly well attended this year.

Some 160 people managed to cram into the Church, although it was standing room only for some, and I understand that some people gave up and went home!

Undaunted by the size of the crowd the Friends of St Mary's, Chilton, pressed on with providing refreshments to all after the service.   I understand that although the mince pies ran out, there was enough mulled wine for all.

As usual the Church looked marvellous, with seasonal decorations by Beryl,  and the new oil lamps meant that we could all read our service sheets.  The quality of the singing was first rate and the choice of carols happily traditional.

It was a great way to start the Christmas festivities!
Standing room only!

Saturday, December 8, 2012

Punch and Judy in Little Waldingfield

Thanks to Andy Sheppard for the report below.  I was sorry not to have been able to attend.

'Little Waldingfield History Society was delighted to welcome Peter Batty to the Parish Room where he regaled us with a host of stories collected over many years as a Punch & Judy man, both from presenting the shows and from close association with other Punch men, or Professors.

Peter gave a history of the tradition.  Mr Punch made his first recorded appearance in England on 9th May 1662, now traditionally reckoned to be his birthday.  Samuel Pepys observed a marionette show in Covent Garden performed by an Italian puppet showman, which he described as 'very pretty'.

Peter demonstrated how the puppets are traditionally made, then assembled his trademark stripey seaside booth before introducing the many characters one by one, showing us where each was placed in the booth before unleashing a great traditional show which took everyone present back to their happy childhood roots amid fits of laughter and audience participation.

Peter then mentioned some of the daft comments made by the politically correct brigade and how this has changed over time, noting that Punch performers adapted shows to the spirit of their age:
§  Celebrated Victorian showmen lamented that audiences had become genteel and wanted the Ghost and the Coffin dropped from the show, though this is now much less likely today.
§  Simplistic arguments that Punch and Judy promoted domestic violence were akin to saying that Tom and Jerry promote cruelty to animals. Luckily for us, Mr. Punch has a keen nose for spotting humourless and flawed logic, and his opinion of them is as low as theirs is of him!

Peter wryly observed that Mr. Punch reminds critics slapstick is the weapon that gave its name to physical comedy; it is the clown's weapon used to assault each other and the dignity of opponents.

Everyone agreed this was our most entertaining evening to date, with an action-packed story following the antics of Mr Punch, Judy and the baby, Joey the clown, the policeman, the sausage-eating crocodile, the hangman (aka Jack Ketch), the devil and many more; all in all, a rare treat.

The subject of our next talk will be Suffolk Poachers and Smugglers, at 7.30 pm on February 13th at the LW Parish Room, which will be presented by William Tyler.'

Thursday, December 6, 2012

Seen around Nedging with Naughton

Last week I was out and about in Nedging and Naughton.  It was a really beautiful day and I took some photographs as you can see.

For a place in Suffolk, parts of the parish feel quite elevated, with wide ranging views to enjoy in some spots.

Despite being called Nedging with Naughton,  the parish comprises three distinct, if rather widely spread, settlements, Nedging, Naughton and Nedging Tye.

Despite this, and the fact that is comprises a little under 400 residents,  a glance at the Parish Website shows a good level of community activity.

There are also two churches, one of which, St Mary's, Nedging,  is visible above,  and also some lovely old domestic buildings.  I was particularly taken with these wonderful chimneys, dating from the second half of the 16th century.

Tuesday, December 4, 2012

Sudbury Health Centre, the facts

I quote from the Chilton December Newsletter:

'Despite what you may have read in the press, the commencement of the building of the new Sudbury Health Centre in Church Field Road is still due to take place in 2013.  Delays have been caused mainly by NHS red tape and internal departmental wrangles over leases and contracts.  The Parish Council is assured that these will be resolved by the end of January.'

Monday, December 3, 2012

What would Thomas Gainsborough have made of textile recyling stunt?

I was going to alert blog readers to the interactive Advent Calendar that features on the Suffolk Greenest County Website, and which can be found here.

However, I was completely distracted by the feature on the site showing the statue of Thomas Gainsborough in Sudbury swathed in tatty old clothing in order to promote the County's textile recycling scheme.

Poor Thomas!  Gainsborough is known to have been very interested in textiles, and his technique in painting the clothing of his subjects is remarkable.  Unlike other portraitists he painted almost all of the costumes of his sitters himself, and his magical handling of silks,  muslins and the like is thought to be at least in part due to his childhood in Sudbury where cloth and clothmaking was, and is,  a key industry.

What would he have made of his statue being dressed in what is described on the website as a 'wide variety of old and worn textiles, t shirts, scarves and hats' ?  He did have a good sense of humour, but he was not without pride, and I rather suspect that he may not have seen the point of this particular exercise.

 I cannot bring myself to reproduce the photograph which you can view here, if you must.

Much better to take a look at the lovely Lady Alston, and her wonderful ruched silk dress.  Not suprisingly the picture is in now in the Louvre in Paris, where they also know a thing or two about textiles.

Sunday, December 2, 2012

Good news on rural broadband

A vital hurdle that might have stood in the way of Suffolk County Council’s intention to roll superfast broadband out across 85%  of the County by 2015 has been cleared.

The project is dependent on funding from the British government, but this will only be forthcoming if it could be proved that the payments were not being made in contravention of EU state aid rules.   

MEP’s from rural areas have been lobbying the Commission to speed up what can be a very slow approval process, and the Culture Secretary, Maria Miller has also been pressing hard on this, having visited the relevant commissioner last month.

It seems that the lobbying has paid off, and the green light was given last week.  A number of  Conservative MEP’s played a role in pushing the process along, including Vicky Ford, who represents the East of England.