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

Sunday, January 31, 2016

Acton store transformed.

 For some months now what was once Bob's Stores in Acton has been a building site. Some doubters had been heard to wonder whether anything would ever emerge from the chaos.  Well it seems that their worries were unfounded.

The other evening I was driving through the village and I saw a beacon of light in the middle distance.  On closer inspection I realised that this was the newly refurbished Acton Store, from whose large glass windows, a good deal of light was streaming into the cold winter gloom.

I decided to go down to visit the store on Friday morning, and speak to Muku, the owner pictured above, who comes from the north of Sri Lanka.

As can be seen from the pictures the cozy interior of Bob's, which did have its charms,  has been completely updated to provide a 21st Century shopping experience!  The shop has re-opened under the 'Costcutter' name.  This is essentially a buying organisation that helps small retailers to enjoy better buying power in order to compete with larger stores.

Muku tells me that in addition to sourcing branded goods through Costcutter, he is keen to stock local produce. Bread will be coming from Lavenham for example.

In Acton we are very lucky that an entrepreneur has decided to make this investment.  Elsewhere village stores are closing down, and there were real fears that this would be Acton's fate too at one time.

I hope everyone will support Muku and ensure the future of  the Acton store    

Saturday, January 30, 2016

Local artist Clive Madgwick remembered.

A Summer's Day (Great Waldingfield)

 At their last meeting, held on a foggy and frosty night in January, Little Waldingfield History Society welcomed Guy Madgwick and his sister, Fiona Raymond to the Parish Room.  Guy spoke about his father, the dentist turned artist Clive Madgwick, who lived in Little Waldingfield for many years from the mid 1960s.

Members of the Society bought along their prints and original works of art by Clive and a pop up Madgwick art gallery was created at the meeting which comprised over 40 paintings and prints of all shapes and sizes.  Two local scenes are reproduced here.

A full report of the meeting from Andy Sheppard can be read by clicking on the 'Clive Madgwick' tab above.

Farming Scene, Little Waldingfield

The next LWHS event will be on 17th February at 7.30 in The Parish Room Little Waldingfield, when Robert Leader will present ‘In search of Secret Suffolk’, an illustrated talk with over 100 images that covers the heritage and history of Suffolk.
Andy writes:-
 ‘Focusing on abbeys, castles, guildhalls & stately homes, Robert will take us on a fantastic journey that follows the course of major rivers to build a comprehensive picture of the county of Suffolk as a whole - it sounds amazing and we can’t wait.’

Tuesday, January 26, 2016

Oversight of the Fire Service. Too much power for PCC's?

Once again on the radio this morning it was suggested that Police and Crime Commissioners are to take over responsibility for the Fire Service nationally.

At present the situation is a bit of a muddle, with some Fire Authorities remaining the County Councils (as in Suffolk) and others being standalone entities run by a committee.  Simplification and standardisation of Fire Service governance would certainly be welcome, but I have grave misgivings about entrusting yet more power to Police and Crime Commissioners.

In Suffolk we are very lucky to have a first rate PCC in Tim Passmore.  However, notwithstanding the virtues of the individual, and however strong his or her political mandate,  I think that it is a mistake to vest so much power in one person.  The same applies to the concept of elected mayors, particularly if they are to reign over the vast regional tracts envisaged by Devolution.

My sense is that it is almost impossible for an individual to create on their own a vision and strategy for a complex area of government, wisely and fairly dealing with the commissioning of services and distribution of funding.  Inevitably they will be at the mercy, not just of their own officers (who have the knowledge and experience), but also buffetted by the whims of Central Government .

Cross party organisations such as the old Police Authorities, and indeed County Councils are, it seems to me, much better placed to exercise control and governance over public service delivery than one high profile individual.   When directly or indirectly elected, such bodies tick the democratic box, and the cross section of people involved are more likely to have the confidence and joint experience to make the right decisions and do the job.

Sunday, January 24, 2016

Local Area Co-ordination, building community connections

On Friday afternoon I met Cally Boardman, who since mid-December has been working as the Local Area Co-ordinator in our area.

Cally is one of only two such co-ordinators in the county, (the other is Imogen Sherwood who is based in Sudbury) and she is responsible for a swathe of villages to the north of the town, including some in the Cosford Division, including Cockfield, Lavenham, Monks Eleigh Thorpe Morieux, and Preston. All the Waldingfield Ward villages are also included.   I was able to give Cally some contacts and ideas which I hope will help her in her new role.

Local Area Co-ordination is currently being run as a pilot in Suffolk, although it is more developed elsewhere (information here.). The programme aims to support people to improve their lives by making connections with their local community.  Although the co-ordinators have links with, and can introduce people to, the usual agencies (social workers, NHS, police etc) they are not affiliated with any formal particular structure and the aim is not really to create new clients for them.  Rather it is hoped to reduce demand on local services by helping people to link with other residents and community organisations.

An example of how the scheme works can be illustrated by the lonely person who continually visits the Doctor’s surgery, even though they have nothing medically wrong with them.  They go because they are lonely and seek human contact.   In other places where the scheme has been running such unnecessary visits to the health centre have been significantly reduced.

A cynic might say that this is simply the county council trying to deflect demand at a time of cuts.  Well, to some degree this might be the outcome, but surely it is better both for individuals and for the community at large if people can achieve a better life by connecting with their neighbours and supporting local organisations.

In any event I look forward to seeing the results of Cally’s efforts.

If you are aware of someone who needs support to connect with the community, or are part of a community organisation that can help, Cally can be reached at

Saturday, January 23, 2016

Russian reflections

Tsar Nicholas II 1900

 Time has now run out for anyone who, like me, would have liked to have caught the major exhibition marking the 150th anniversary of the birth of the Russian artist, Valentin Serov (1865-1911) at the Tretyakov Gallery in Moscow.

The show finishes tomorrow and Russian newspapers have been reporting today that Muscovites have been queuing up in sub zero temperatures to see the show before it ends.

Serov, who combined the Russian realist tradition with elements of art nouveau, was one of the leading portraitists at the turn of the 20th Century.  He also painted landscapes and scenes from Russian History, including a wonderful image of Peter the Great striding about in his unfinished city of St Petersburg (below).

How I would like to have gone to the exhibition!  However, it is much less easy to go to Russia these days.  Visa complications apart, relations with the UK have now plumbed further depths on account of yesterday’s shocking report about the death from polonium poisoning of Alexander Litvinenko in London.  Consequently, an English traveller may not enjoy the customary warm welcome, even from ‘ordinary Russians’ at present.

Given Russia's problems these days, some people find it strange that I still maintain my enthusiasm for all things Russian.  It is important to realise however that the country is not the Government, and also to hope that, against the tide of history, things may one day change in this most fascinating of places.

Meanwhile, keep watching War and Peace!

Peter the Great, 1907. Tretyakov Gallery, Moscow.

Caine hits the spot on EU.

It was a great pleasure to hear Michael Caine on Radio 4 this week.  I have been a fan of his ever since watching him way back in the1960’s playing Harry Palmer in The Ipcress File. It seems that his acting career is still going strong with a new film, Youth, in which he is co-starring with Harvey Keitel, coming out at the end of January.

On the radio Caine made some typically PC-lite remarks about the lack of black actors in the Oscar nominations; (‘I think in the end you can’t vote for an actor just because he’s black’). Then, inevitably, he was asked about his views on our membership of the EU. (I think this will be a question for all interviewees for the foreseeable future).

Caine’s response really chimed with me because it closely reflects my own feelings.  He said that leaving the EU was ‘scary’ and he is right because the truth is that either option, in or out, entails a high degree of uncertainty.  However, as he continued to speak (and he seemed to be almost thinking aloud) it became clear that his preference was to leave.

It seems we will soon hear what David Cameron has managed to ‘negotiate’ with the Brussels bureaucracy, and I will make my final decision once details become clear.  However my gut feeling as things stand now is that we would be better off out than in.