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

Friday, August 28, 2015

Fundraising starts on Monday to replace stolen church lead in Lavenham

Lavenham Church
Many people will have heard on Suffolk TV or radio the terrible news about the theft of 225 square meters of lead from the roof of Lavenham church on Monday night.  The loss was discovered when rain started to come through the ceiling.

Lavenham church is one of the most iconic of all Suffolk's late mediaeval churches.  It is much visited by visitors to the county, but it does not have the sort of money in hand to pay for this sort of disaster.The insurance payout for incidents of this type is limited and is highly unlikely to cover the costs of replacement, which could be as much as £150,000.

Fundraising to remedy the situation is starting immediately.  On Bank Holiday Monday, the day of Lavenham's annual Carnival, a number of bring and buy stalls will be situated in the churchyard between 10 a.m.and 3 p.m.  If you have anything that you would like to sell please take it along!  Alternatively do show up and spend some money.

Please do all you can to help.

Tuesday, August 25, 2015

Have your say about crime in Suffolk

I understand that Parish Councils have received the e mail below  from the office of the Police and Crime Commissioner. Perception of the prevalence of crime in an area is often somewhat different from the reality, and therefore the results of this survey should be interesting.
I wish Mr Passmore luck with making savings in the police force.  People's perceptions are often hard to shift, however much one  emphasises the facts;  and, of course, knowing crime levels generally are low is no help if you are unlucky enough to be a victim yourself!

The message follows:

Suffolk’s Police and Crime Commissioner Tim Passmore is encouraging Suffolk residents to take part in a University Campus Suffolk (UCS) survey to help understand perceptions of crime, anti-social behaviour and local policing services in Suffolk.

Your views are really important so we hope you will find 10 minutes to complete the survey and encourage others to do the same.

A bit of background and a link to the survey are available here:

The results of this survey will feed into a project currently underway to identify where cost savings can be made in light of government cuts to policing budgets.

Sunday, August 23, 2015

'Ain't got no dough', an attempt to find a meal in Sudbury.

Sudbury was certainly buzzing on Thursday evening.  We decided to go out for a pizza, but it seemed that every other resident of the town had planned to do the same.  So it was that at around 8 p.m. we were informed by the staff at Pizza Express that they had ‘run out of dough’ and that therefore they could take no more customers that evening.

We had no luck either at Prezzo, which resembled one of those New York diners that are rated according to the length of the queue of people waiting for a table.  The pizza oven was roaring in the background, the temperature must have been in the 30’s, everyone was shouting, and the prospect of waiting for hours for a meal in this vision of hell was uninviting to say the least.

So we headed off towards the site of the old Boathouse Restaurant, where I recalled that a new place with a name which had something to do with cows, had opened relatively recently.  This initially looked promising, with people sitting at tables enjoying the evening sunshine, overlooking the summery scene of river and water meadows.  However it was hard to escape the fact that very few people were actually eating.  Apparently the new owner had ‘sold up’ and ‘gone abroad’.  New proprietors were in place and if we came back next week all would be well.  This week it was steak or nothing.

I suggested that we go and find  a pub somewhere in the countryside.

A welcoming solution.
On trying to leave the town it transpired that Suffolk County Council had closed the road towards Long Melford for emergency road repairs.  The traffic was solid. Making a quick turn back into the town and fighting our way through the ‘grid’ we found ourselves heading along Friars Street, and at that point I suddenly remembered the Angel Pub and Restaurant.  I can’t understand why we didn’t go there in the first place.  As usual it was busy but not overfull, the welcome was warm and the environment very comfortable.  It has been a little time since we last ate there, but the food was as reliable as ever.  I had a perfectly judged red pepper soup followed by haddock and chips and it was quite delicious.  Nick enjoyed deep fried squid with a dipping sauce and a Moroccan style lamb shank.  We went home happy.

If you haven’t visited the Angel I would urge you to give it a go!  I am sure that they won't run out of a key ingredient on a busy night, and if they do there will be a decent alternative choice available.

Thursday, August 20, 2015

GCSE Results in Suffolk

The Suffolk Schools' GCSE results have come out today and I have been taking a quick look.

On the face of it it seems that the county continues to move in the right direction.  This year 56% of students received passes at A to C compared with 52% last year.  It is clear that some schools did exceptionally well, but others have expressed disappointment and are looking to have papers remarked.

A gratifying result is that the rate of improvement among disadvantaged children has been good, with 72% of all Suffolk Schools seeing better results here.

It is difficult to tell at present how Suffolk has done relative to other parts of the UK, but the 4% uplift overall is higher than the national overall improvement.  This was only 0.2%, so we must have moved up the rankings to some degree.

Funding has recently been found from the Education Budget to try to speed up the rate of improvement, judged recently by OFSTED to be too slow.  I hope that as a result this time next year we will see another above average improvement.

I am looking forward to playing my part in driving things forward by sitting on the Schools Improvement Accountability Board in the autumn.

Friday, August 14, 2015

Cuba Libre?

Cars in historic Havana

I think it would be a mistake to get too excited about the re-opening of the U.S. Embassy in Havana today.

We visited Cuba last year and were surprised at how 'closed' the place remains.   We had two guides and one of them was relatively open about the realities of life in the country, and also restrictions on freedom of speech and thought, until the senior guide was in earshot!  Then he clammed up pretty quickly.  I do not think that this is a culture that will change quickly, and certainly not under the current regime.

And then there is the state of the place! As readers of this blog know I am not keen on governments, or indeed councils, owing property.  In my experience public buildings are rarely cared for properly and the value to the public purse rarely properly realised.

Some of the dire examples of public ownership in this country pale into insignificance however when passing through the once elegant suburbs of Havana.  Many tourists do not get beyond the atmospheric, if somewhat scruffy,  downtown historic area.  However, as can be seen from the picture below, large swathes of old houses further out of town are simply falling down.  I took this from a moving bus, so apologise for the 'soft focus' and 'slant'.

Seafront properties in outer Havana

In the interior the situation is even worse as can be seen from the photo that I took of empty factories in the industrial town of Hershey.

As was seen in post Perestroika Russia, public ownership of property over a prolonged period, results in urban squalor and decay.  The state cannot be trusted to look after things for long.

Wednesday, August 12, 2015

A chance to see a great production

I am surprised to see that there are still tickets available for the live transmission of the National Theatre's current production of Farquhar's The Beaux' Strategem.  The relay is taking place on 3rd September at 7 p.m. at the Abbeygate Cinema in Bury St Edmunds.

We saw the play a few weeks ago and it is a really great show!  If you are free you should try to get along.

Tuesday, August 11, 2015

Two Prime Ministers' country homes

We have just come back from a quick trip around the South and Midlands, taking in some cultural experiences and meeting some old friends.

En route we visited two National Trust properties, both of which are the former homes of two Conservative Prime Ministers.  The first of these was Chartwell , close to Edenbridge in Kent, where Sir Winston Churchill lived from the 1920’s until his death.  I have long wanted to visit the house, not least because a former window cleaner of ours who now lives in Chilton worked there as a gardener many years ago.  He told me how Sir Winston would don blue overalls (which they all wore) and enthusiastically work alongside the gardeners for hours in the extensive grounds.

The gardens at Chartwell are still managed for wildlife, (butterflies were one of Sir Winston's passions) and are filled with buddleia, lavender and other insect loving plants. This is in strong contrast to the gardens of Benjamin Disraeli’s country home, Hughenden Manor,  near to High Wycombe. Here the gardens were remodelled in the second half of the nineteenth century by his wife Mary Anne.  At the age of 74 she directed a gang of some 24 ‘navies’ in constructing a terrace and parterre, now used by the local croquet club.  Of course the planting here is much more in the formal high Victorian style:  pelargoniums and similar bedding specimens that are not much support for the insect world!

Hughenden Manor
Neither man could really afford to live in his country home.  Disraeli’s purchase of Hughenden in 1848 was ‘facilitated’ by his supporters who thought that he should have a stately home that reflected his status.  In any event, as a ‘country member’ he needed to be a landowner.  Similarly, Chartwell was purchased from Churchill in 1946 and rented back to him for his lifetime when it became apparent that he could not afford to keep it up after the War.

Both houses are well worth a visit, and are very reminiscent of their former owners.  Their studies in particular feel as though the great man has just left, and, unsurprisingly perhaps were the least altered rooms in both houses.
Insect friendly gardens at Chartwell