Thursday, 21 December 2017

Warm greetings to all Buckingham folk

For me, part of the joy of the Christmas and New Year season, is that it makes us pause and reflect on the year past and the year to come. We carve another notch in life's walking stick and grow another wrinkle. And as part of this, at this time of year, I always think about how words are so very important to me. In essence they have been my trade as a management consultant and as a politician throughout my careers as both. So a few years ago, I happened upon a fundraising idea (for a charity called 'I Can') that involved 'adopting' a word for a year. The money raised helped children with communication difficulties. But this charity have now ceased this money raising campaign and I have switched my allegiance to a charity called "Clearly Speaking" which works with children local to Buckingham, who also have communication difficulties. (You can find out more about their work here) I will be making a donation to them.

So, towards the end of December, I decide which word to 'adopt' as a background theme for the coming year. I look for a word to guide me over the next twelve months and for a word that makes a statement about something that I think is important for the wider world. This time last year I chose the word 'rapprochement' for 2017 and the word for 2016 was 'dance'.

And for 2018, I have chosen the word 'patience'. Why patience?

It seems to me (and I include myself in this too, of course) that the world right now is in one big almighty hurry, as if time is running out and we all need to get somewhere next, fast! Many people it seems have lost the will to be a little bit patient. We even have the saying "good things come to those who wait" which we all too often ignore. So I have decided I am going to be a bit more patient next year. It is also my plan to prompt others to be a little bit more patient too. Good things will come!

So as we head into Christmas, may I wish you a very merry time with family and friends, where I hope all will be wrapped in love, kindness and peace. And may I hope that you will find 2018 to be a year in which more of your dreams, aspiration and ambitions come true, for you and those who are special to you. And may we all work for a world brimming with bliss, generosity, harmony and understanding.

With the warmest of seasonal greetings


Tuesday, 12 December 2017

The great Community Fair

Once the Christmas Parade is over, every year the Community Centre comes alive with the Town Council organised Community Fair. It is always well attended and stocked with great stalls... But I have this hunch that some of the hundreds of people attending the Parade, don't think about attending the Community Fair as well...?

It was another fab occasion which happened last Saturday and I had the pleasure of sampling a delicious cup of coffee and mince pie and visiting some of the stalls. I learnt about why the CAB is now simply Citizens Advice... And I learnt something about the support group for people bereaved by suicide of loved one. And the Town Twinning stall packed up early as all their tombola prizes had gone in flash (so good were the odds!)

I was also serenaded by the Buckingham Children's Choir. I have stolen this pic from their pages - hope they don't mind! Lovely singing - and their first public performance I believe!

Christmas drinks

Crunching through the snow, Julie and I joined a few hardy souls at the home of the University Vice Chancellor last Sunday lunchtime for Christmas drinks. Numbers were down of course, but it was a great pleasure to have some conversations with some of the lovely people associated with the University - from a lecturer in women's economics to a mum telling me about her son who has just joined Thames Valley Police as a new police officer.

As I have said before, we are very fortunate to have the University as part of our town. Of course it comes with its challenges, not least the pressure on available housing and some of the differences in lifestyle between students and 'ordinary' residents. But the University also brings a great deal of employment, money being spent in the town and a cultural diversity which all adds to our town.

The challenge is to manage the pluses and minuses so that all benefit.

Sunday, 10 December 2017

Buckingham Christmas Parade: another triumph!

One of the biggest events in the Buckingham calendar is the Christmas Parade. Yesterday we had perfect weather: crisp and sunny. And indeed the show went off perfectly as well. For something to work so smoothly must take an extraordinary amount of careful planning with which the Town Council assists. But the main organisers are the Christmas Parade Committee, chaired by Howard Mordue. You can read more about the history of the parade on their website.

So both Julie and I hugely enjoyed being driven through town as part of the parade, with the Town Clerk, the Mace Bearer and Cllrs Stuchbury and Hirons forging the way ahead of us. We were surrounded by lots of fantastic floats and walkers. I had the honour of awarding the prizes to the winning entries and there were many very, very worthy winners!

So well done to everyone who took part and those helped organise, design and build all the costumes and floats. And thanks of course to all the Parade Committee: another fantastic year!

Thanks to Robin for these two pics. And thank you to our driver and his 1911 Ford car! The seat leather smelt just like old car seat leather should smell!

There is a fabulous video made here too - which shows lots of the highlights from the Parade. Thanks Barry West.

Buckingham School: beginnings and endings

Thursday evening at the Buckingham School was a very special evening. It was their Celebration Evening where students past and present are awarded recognition and prizes for exceptional work. It was just such a delight to hear about all the students being praised from the teachers who knew them well. Such an impressive array of talent, effort and great results! After an evening like that, no one should be in any doubt that Buckingham School is one of the finest schools around. 

Well done to all the students who worked so hard. And well done to all the teachers, assistants and all staff who all work together to create such a fantastic learning climate. It was wonderful to imagine what these students will be doing in the future: such great beginnings for their young lives.

But the evening was also very important because it marked the moving on of Angela Wells, the headteacher, onto pastures new. As announced by the school back in September:
Miss Angela Wells, who has been Headteacher at The Buckingham School for the past nine years is set to take up a headship at a school in South Yorkshire from 1 January 2018.
And so it was a very special evening for Miss Wells too. Here are some pics and below, the valedictory speech I gave on behalf the town. Naturally the Chair of Governors, Matthew Watkins wished her well too and thanked her for all that she has done for the school and students. Cllr Robin Stuchbury, as a former parent (and indeed former student many moons ago) gave his thanks too.

My selfies are bit fuzzy - especially there seems to be someone flying across the back behind us on the second one...!!

Does anyone know who that is in the background...? Impressive timing!!

And so here is the speech I gave:
Many people have tried to bottle what good leadership is. The interweb is awash with quotes about leadership and what it means - and how people can become better leaders… Having spent nearly my whole career focused on leadership and organisational change, I have become very pragmatic. 
Put simply, the measure of a great leader is results. 
Now I don’t have all the figures and I am very much an outsider looking in. But it seems evident to me that since Angela arrived to head up this school, results in all different ways have improved. This school is not the same place it was those years ago. 
The school is now a far better place in which young people can learn and can grow. This is a place in which young people can set their course to become the citizens of tomorrow. In this respect I am reminded of a verse by Khalil Gibran who talks of children and parents (although I think he is talking about teachers too):

Your children are not your children.They are the sons and daughters of Life's longing for itself.They come through you but not from you,And though they are with you yet they belong not to you.
You may give them your love but not your thoughts, For they have their own thoughts.You may house their bodies but not their souls,For their souls dwell in the house of tomorrow, which you cannot visit, not even in your dreams.You may strive to be like them, but seek not to make them like you.For life goes not backward nor tarries with yesterday.
You are the bows from which your childrenas living arrows are sent forth.The archer sees the mark upon the path of the infinite, and He bends you with His might that His arrows may go swift and far.Let your bending in the archer's hand be for gladness;For even as He loves the arrow that flies, so He loves also the bow that is stable.
So I believe Angela, through your great leadership, you have been a very strong bow, sending forth arrows into life’s great infinity. And of course, I praise all the ‘bows’ in this school - who are all focused on helping young people have ambitions, hopes and dreams, and the wherewithal to achieve those.
Angela, you have taken the school from being in the doldrums to being one that is the envy of the county and beyond. You and your leadership of very fine team of excellent teachers have transformed the school and achievements of the children who attend in all ways - and not just educationally. 
Well done! You have helped make an important chapter in the town's history that for which many local people - students and parents - will remember you fondly. Yours will be a hard act to follow but I am confident that the next Headteacher will be able to build on your successes.
I wish you well in your new position in Barnsley. I am sure you will do a fantastic job for the young people of that town as you have for ours here in Buckingham. Thank you.

Random chocolate kindness!

I arrived home a couple of days ago to be greeted by this lovely letter from some children at Lace Hill. What a delightful idea! So I will be looking for some ways in wish to pass this random act of (chocolate) kindness on to others. Thank you Mylee, Cory, Valerie and Keeo!! And well done!

And if their parents are reading, I would love to hear how this project is developing.

Monday, 4 December 2017

Keep dancing!!

Last night was the 'Strictly Buckingham Christmas' event at the old Town Hall. Many months ago, I was invited to be one of the judges. And what a thoroughly charming, heart warming, inspirational and thrilling event it was. So much amazing dancing from people young and getting on a bit!

There was precision, smooth moves, elegance, focus, control and seemingly effortless balance and harmony between the couples as they danced around the floor. The dancers were vivacious, dramatic, funny, graceful, steamy and edgy... and so much more!

All this had been coordinated by the simply astounding Viv Rhymes (of Step by Step Dance School in Brackley) and her huge team of supporters. The evening was excellently compered by Aaron Williams. My fellow judges guided me through the process (having never done such a thing before). So thanks to Nick Kelly and Cheyenne Russell, Gemma Dearsley (Founder of the Lighthouse Centre which was the main beneficiary of last night's charity event) and especially to Glenda Harper who made sure I put the numbers in the right boxes!

And of course, huge congratulations to the winners and runners up. The competition overall was won by Julia Souter (Local Hero) and George Merry (Stepper). The runners up were Diana Bugeag (Local Hero) and Dominic Fuller-Lowe (Stepper). But well done to all the dancers: to the local heroes for daring to learn and showcase their dancing and to the steppers who were such excellent teachers and supporters of their new partners.

Julia and George, the winners

Diana and Dominic, the runners up

The celebration begins for Julia and George and everyone!

So if you want to be there next year (and I very recommend that you should) you might want to think about being one of the local heroes... could you learn to dance? (In case you ask, I am thinking about it, maybe not next year, but perhaps for 2019!)

More pics and information here from Viv's FB account.

Bourton Meadow Academy looks at health

A couple of weeks ago, I had the enormous pleasure of sitting in on a special assembly in BMA where each year group presented their projects that they had been focusing on as part of the Health Festival. It was a rich and dynamic display ranging from the A-Z of health, to new (and healthier) breakfast bars and models of healthy meals. There were T-shirts with health messages on them.

And a report of how one year was had the opportunity to dress up as people who help other people stay healthy... Julie, the Mayoress, went along to meet some of these children during the week itself. She was thoroughly charmed. And she was intrigued to notice one young man who was dressed in a smart blazer, white shirt and chinos. She asked him what profession he had come as and he proudly announced to her that he was a Doctor of Philosophy! All credit to the parents who must have helped him to understand that good ethics and good morals are as important as good care and good medicine!

So well done to Bourton Meadow Academy for a superlative contribution to the Health Festival Week and getting their students to think so much about their health now and in the future.

I only have this pic below to show you: the models of the healthy meals & the new breakfast bar (which was yummy!). The school has promised to send me other photos that they took (and cleared for social media publication) but I am guessing that end of term activities are snaffling all their spare time at the moment.

I should also mention that health festival activities also went on in Buckingham Primary and George Grenville schools too but I was not so directly involved in those. But well done to them too for getting involved in the Health Festival week!

Sunday, 3 December 2017

Love every drop

On Friday, I was invited to partake in an event hosted by Anglian Water called the 'South Midlands Growth Forum' over in Colworth Park just north of Bedford. And despite its title, it was an enormously intriguing and educational morning. I will try to summarise some the thoughts I was left with.

Stewart Patience and I spent an intense half an hour over a cup a coffee and a bun at the beginning of the day before the formal started. He introduced me to the concept of Long Term Water Resilience. In our region, we have the dual challenge of being mostly a fairly flat part of the country and a lot less rainfall than other parts (such as the North West). This means we have to be planning now for a future where their may not be enough water to go around.

So how do we do this? (I emphasise 'we' since that was the main theme of the event: how can Anglian Water work with other stakeholders to manage the water supply and management of the waste better?) The other stakeholders include the planning authorities, strategic planning authorities, the Environment Agency, housing developers, third sector landscape partnerships and others.

But back to my conversation (or tutorial in fact!) with Stewart who works to ensure good linkages between Anglian Water's systems and plans and the local plans being developed by the likes of Aylesbury Vale District Council and indeed Buckingham Town Council. Some of the key tasks ahead include how to trap and use more 'grey water' (rainwater to you and me). Anglian Water are now offering something of deal with housing developers whereby if they promise to install grey water management into their new houses and also domestic taps that use less water, then Anglian Water will reduce the connection fees for a new estate.

We also talked about sewage too and how Anglian Water negotiate and plan improvements in these systems. There is some bewildering complexities to be engineered in concerning storm water and foul water and how it is vital to keep some of these separate or risk flooding of the kinds that none of want to see!

The rest of the day was a very pleasing blur of information and ideas from lots of quarters concerning how water could be better managed and planned for coupled with the powerful idea that we all need to be even more focused on building communities rather than estates... And these communities include water environments that benefit wildlife, plants and trees too.

All of this will become increasingly important if the recommendations of the National Infrastructure Commission and the idea of the Oxford Cambridge Arc (or is that Ark?) move forward at a pace...

You can read the whole report here. And this one will become important for the Town Council once we embark on refreshing the Neighbourhood Plan.

Final thought: we forget how precious and miraculous water is at our peril...

RAF Halton & leadership development

Following up my visit to RAF Halton a couple of months ago, I paid them another visit last Thursday to find out more about how they go about training their non-commissioned officers in management and leadership. It was a fascinating couple of hours learning about how they put their newly promoted corporals, sergeants, flight sergeants and warrant officers through management development.

The building where it all happens is surrounded by extensive grounds which they use to create physical challenges that develop the leadership of those attending the training programmes. Ditches, tyres, ropes and cables all form part of a hinterland within which RAF personnel gain insight into their own and others' leadership. I was told that sometimes even skipping ropes and light sabres feature but I am not sure I can explain how! Ensconced in the centre of a building is hub from which they marshal simulations designed to shrewdly test the limits of the leaders' capabilities and understanding. I quipped it was not a million miles from the Hunger Games! Here are some pics of the RAF personnel engaged in some of these activities (kindly supplied by my contact there)

And just at the end, I was shown a part of the site where soldiers were trained in trench warfare before being shipped off to France in the WW1. You can read about the project here of where some of the trenches have been recently restored to provide a place for education and indeed filming. It was an eerie experience walking through the trenches. And made more so given John Lloyd's description of his time filming last scene of Blackadder, the previous evening... (see blog below)

I won't name the officers who showed me around as I am cautious about releasing such information into the public domain. But I am enormously grateful to the Flight Lieutenant and his colleagues for sparing me their time.

Not the best pic I am afraid, but a brief timeline of the site and how it has been used to train combatants in trench warfare methods.

The benefit of being a university town

Last Wednesday, I had the greatest of pleasures to listen to a conversation between Sir Anthony Seldon and John Lloyd, TV producer of great stature (Spitting Image, Hitchhiker's Guide, Blackadder, QI to name but four).

John gave us some very entertaining and insightful stories from his life at the BBC and elsewhere. I won't attempt to replicate them here. Except to say his description of the how they came to film one of the iconic moments of TV history: the closing scenes from Blackadder - was moving, inspiring and funny.

This was one in a series of presentations hosted by the University in the run up to next year's Literary Festival. There are two more in this Autumn series, I heartily recommend attendance if you obtain a spare ticket... We are indeed privileged to have such events in our town.

Tuesday, 28 November 2017

Part of our wherewithal commonwealth

Just been down this morning to the Shop Mobility service to conduct the official opening of the service. Here is the speech I gave on this occasion:
Welcome to all fellow councillors, past Mayors, esteemed guests and town council officers.
Many moons ago, in my twenties, I had a job creating a computerised register of people with learning impairments. I am proud that I helped to make sure that the data held on the individuals emphasised their abilities and potential rather than reporting on their disabilities & limitations. 
I also learned a very big lesson during this period of my career: no one has a disability. All of us have impairments to a greater or lesser degree. These impairments or limitations only become disabling as a result of the physical environment and/or the social milieu in which we live. 
If we are surrounded by a physical environment that restricts us or hobbles our dreams and ambitions or even just gets in the way of our ordinary day to day lives - then we can become disabled. If we are unable to escape attitudes that condemn, judge or cosily patronise us then we are disabled by our social environment. 
Everyone one of us has the joy and responsibility to work to create a world in which all of us can live amazing and ordinary lives, where there are no hurdles that disable any of us or barriers that hold us back from achieving that all that we hope to achieve. 
And our Buckingham Shopmobility is one vital ingredient of that world here in our town. Shopmobility, run by the amazing Sue Rossforth, provides a service that enables people to shop who would otherwise find it something of a struggle. To its absolute core, this ShopMobility service is about adding another jigsaw piece to a world here in Buckingham that will, I hope, be one day a place where no one is held back by barriers that can be simply engineered or planned away. 
Some while ago, Buckingham Town Council was proud to take over the Shopmobility service from AVDC. In turn, AVDC, through the New Homes Bonus committee, made sure that our bid to build this whole complex of new toilets and shopmobility service was accepted. And we and the people of the town are grateful to them for this money, which is provided to the District Council by central government to compensate areas affected by new home developments. 
I am proud and glad to be part of a Council that is 100% committed to working for an accessible world. I want a world in which everyone has dreams and ambitions and the wherewithal to achieve these. Buckingham Shopmobility is part of that wherewithal commonwealth, provided by the Town Council on behalf of the whole community.
So I will finish with thanking all the people who have made this possible, not least Sue and our Town Clerk, Chris Wayman and his team. Thanks again to AVDC. And thank you to the County Council library people who so ably and delightfully hosted the Shopmobility service while we were in transition.
And thanks to my fellow town councillors. As we all know, it has been something of a journey to get here, a journey that required a fair degree of both vision and tenacity. But here we are at last, nonetheless. 
And the Town Council will continue with its ordinary business of looking for all opportunities to make sure that we have equal opportunities here in Buckingham - so that we are a place where there are no hurdles, no cuts and no ramps getting in the way of people living amazing and ordinary lives. 
We will never give up on that quest.
And so I declare the Buckingham Town Council Shopmobility service officially open for business. 
Do all your Christmas shopping here!!
Thanks to Anthony Ralph for the pics below.

The Mayor's Bear visits Bourton Meadow Nursery

I had simply the most charming time visiting the Bourton Meadow Academy Nursery last week. The Buckingham Mayor has a bear* and so it was appropriate to take him with me when I visited the nursery. The children were delightful and it seemed, a little in awe of their Mayor reading them a story. Here are some pics of my visit (thank you to Rebecca Jackson, one of the staff for these pics).

I had such a wonderful time, if there are any other nurseries that would like a visit from the Mayor to read them a story, please get in touch!

The book I read was The Chimpanzees Of Happytown by Giles Andreae and Guy Parker-Rees. It's a fabulous story which features a rather grumpy Mayor... (Thanks to Town Council officer, Nina Stockhill for loan of the book and for fixing up the visit in the first place.)

* But.. the Mayor's Bear... what is that all about? Here is a short history as compiled by Katharine McElligott, the Town Council's planning officer:
We organised a teddy bears’ picnic in 2007, intended to be on the Church grass, with a marionette show we booked occasionally for children’s events and the Community Fair to keep children occupied in the small hall while their parents took the weight off their feet and had tea and mince-pies. There was other children’s entertainment and games as well, organised by the (documented, safe) staff from Tumbletots on Bridge Street (now PK Kidszone?) with their equipment (hoops, skittles,  and so on). We had a similar event in 2008 and 2009, the last with a Best-dressed Teddy competition, photos on file under Events. 
Due to inclement weather we moved the whole event to Tumbletots (where we discovered the entrance lobby was the exact width of the marionette theatre, handily) and everyone  had a super time. (Marionette Man could make his puppets do magic tricks, he was rather good). 
However, the Mayor and Town Crier were to open proceedings in the usual manner, and Cllr Howard Mordue, the Mayor at the time, said that he couldn’t go to a Teddy Bear’s Picnic without a teddy bear. Cllr Ruth Newell produced a bear she’d won in a raffle, but her children were well into their teens by then, and it was sitting around doing not a lot. I bought a damask skirt which was going to be junked at the Willen Shop as the zip was broken and a square of red felt from Nimble Thimble, and added some oddments from my ribbon and lace bag and cobbled him up a costume. Russell Cross (the Town Crier) subsequently found the little Mayor pin for his hat, which he donated. Helen Hill from the Old Gaol also confirmed that the oddment of lace  I used for the jabot was, in fact Buckingham lace (which I hadn’t known).
Howard went to the teddy bears picnic with the bear, which was joined by his Mouvaux partner (Mouv-ours).  (Ours is French for bear, pronounced oors.) Brackley brought theirs to the next Mayormaking.

Former Mayor, Cllr Mordue at tumbletots with the bear

Mouveaux's Mouv-ours (with beret and striped shirt, of course...)

The Brackley Town Council Mayor's Bear

Monday, 27 November 2017

Christmas has begun in Buckingham!

Last night saw the annual and traditional switching on of the Christmas lights in Buckingham town centre. At a guess, there were probably upwards of 500 people, big and small, in attendance. And this year the Christmas Tree was topped by a star! (A kind donation from the local WI which past president Sian Whyte described during the event). The event also began with the awarding of the Buckingham Society's Traders of the Year awards, the second year of it running. So congratulations to:
  • Leeders Hardware (winner of the overall Buckingham Trader of the Year)
  • Pasha (the runner up)
  • Meadow Row Tea Rooms (winner of Buckingham's Favourite Eating Place of the Year)
  • Bees Kitchen (the runner up)
  • Isla Jane Bakery (winner of Market Trader of the Year)

(And thanks to Roger Edwards and his colleagues, of the Buckingham Society, for organising this)

It was a great pleasure as always to hear the singing by the Buckingham Glee Club who entertained us with some wonderful harmonies. And of course the two Captain Coleman's from the Salvation Army delighted us all with their chocolate themed rendition of the Christmas Story. The Winslow Concert Band were brilliant as always: thank you so much to them. And of course thanks to Amanda, Events Coordinator, and all the TC staff, the lighting and sound people (Sparkz Electrical), the Buckingham Traders Association and everyone else who helped make this all happen.

Wrapped around the event were some food stalls in the cattle pens and down by the entrance from the car park, outside the community centre. Also there had been a craft fair in the Cote next to the Woolpack pub for most of the day. Many of the shops stayed open on the Sunday as well. Attendance and pick up on these all was, shall we say, sporadic. Although I think as people returned to their cars the food stalls did some good trade.

As with all events, you can't please all of the people all of the time and there has been some discussion around the timing of the event and the success of the wrap around trading stalls... (etc) There has been lots of praise too, of course, and I met some very happy and excited children last night. But if you have any ideas about how the event could be even better next year, or you just want to say thanks!, please send all those thoughts to Amanda Brubaker at the Town Council and your thoughts will be reviewed by the Council. Her email address is: 

And thanks to Cllr Robin Stuchbury for the pics below.

Sunday, 26 November 2017

The Charity Challenge

The world is changing for many charities. Resources and donations are being squeezed and as the state is being made to roll back, demands on services provided by charities are escalating. Therefore charities have to be that much more fleet of foot and business like in how they use their scarce resources effectively, efficiently and strategically.

Ten days ago, I attended a conference organised by Action 4 Youth to help leading members of charities work their way through some of these challenges in the company of their peers. Sadly I had to leave at lunchtime but the whole day promised to be a highly developmental occasion for those who attended.

The Conference Theme was Community Cohesion: In rapidly changing and uncertain times, how can we contribute ? What is the way forward for our sector? 

Here is a pic showing Jenifer Cameron, the CEO opening the event. It was good to be there to hear the presentations and network with local charities.

A quick panorama of those present. It was well attended!

Tuesday, 21 November 2017

Orange the World!

Saturday 25 November is the UN International Day for the Elimination of Violence against Women. Yesterday, I attended a half day conference organised by the County Council and Aylesbury Women's Aid to prepare for Saturday and reflect on what more can be done to ensure that women do not experience violence in their lives. It was a highly informative event and I am not sure this blog will do justice to all the ideas that were talked about.

But let me first say why this movement is particularly important to me.

Four years ago a dear friend of mine, Kate Dixon, was murdered by her ex partner. Kate was a brilliant colleague and we had worked together on many projects including (ironically) one on reducing gun and knife crime in the UK. She was working in Islington when she was murdered. It is difficult to explain the combination of deep sadness and raw fury that I felt when I heard about what had happened to her. Whilst tackling domestic abuse has always been important to me, this event in my life has made it even more important.

Some facts from yesterday's conference: the National Domestic Violence helpline (0808 2000 247) takes 500 calls a day. There has been a 31% increase in domestic abuse related crimes in England and Wales since 2014. About 2 women a week are murdered by their partner/ex-partner. In many of these cases, the children of the relationship are also murdered or watch their mother being killed. There were 8000 calls to the police concerning domestic violence in 2016 in Buckinghamshire alone.

This is a massive problem and one that is not going away.

The conference was chaired by Phil Dart of the County Council and then we had two impressive presentations from Annie Reeve and Dr Jane Monckton-Smith. There was sadly insufficient time to get into the detail of what all of us can do to prevent violence against women and girls, but here are some thoughts that I was left with at the end of the conference based on what I had heard:

  • "Controlling people present the most threat" said Dr Monckton-Smith, "there is nothing as dangerous as coercive control". If are a woman in a relationship where you feel controlled, stalked or spied on, please get advice. 
  • If you know of a woman who you think is in such a relationship, please talk with her about it. Look for opportunities to validate (not dismiss or invalidate) her, perhaps vague, concerns or worries.   
  • A history of stalking past partners is a red warning light. Take great care.
  • Do not assume that domestic violence is something experienced only by women of a certain age: it can happen at all ages. 
  • If you are a parent, ask your school about their Personal, Social and Health Education lessons. How well are they doing? How do they measure success?
  • And use whatever influence you have, wherever you have it, to educate boys and girls that #lovedoesnthurt 
One special idea: Ask Me Ambassadors

I am sure there is much more than can be done. One initiative I heard about that might interest people and perhaps a small local network could be established was "ask me ambassadors". You can find out more here. Essentially these are volunteers who, after a free two-day training course share the learning with their friends, family, neighbours, colleagues and challenging myths, stereotypes and victim-blaming attitudes in their community. The learn how to respond to a disclosure and about the expert services they can signpost people to for help. Some ask me ambassadors may go onto to create an ask me site, creating a space in the community such as a community centre, high street shop or café where survivors can access advice and information from.

Could this be you..? 


I will end this blog with a poem I wrote for Kate and which I read out at her funeral. She is buried in a woodland site not far from here.

I wondered what kind of tree Kate would have been, had she been one…
The tree would have been tall, strong, powerful but able to bend in the wind, even strong winds
When the sun shone, her leaves would have left dappled pools of warm light and cool shade
And when it rained, she would have provided shelter
Her roots would have been deep, gripping the Earth in a gentle embrace
Her bows and branches would have been wide enough and long enough to touch the sky
Her leaves and twigs would have gently rustled as they listened to the breeze whispering through them
In the spring, she would have radiated new life, with that special and fragile green than only new leaves have
And in the autumn, her golden leaves would have fallen but become the mulch for nurturing new life
Farewell Kate

Fundraising for Carers Bucks

I bumped into Deputy Town Mayor, Cllr Mark Willis from Aylesbury Town Council at the Bucks Vision event at the Speaker's House. I promised I would help him with sponsorship for his marathon run.

So here are the details:

You can click here for a link to his fundraising page. And here is a link to Carers Bucks so you can see what your money will be supporting.

A visionary day

Regular readers will remember my visit to Bucks Vision a few weeks ago (link here). I was delighted to receive an invitation to their reception at the Speaker's House in the Palace of Westminster last Wednesday. It was an informative an inspiring occasion where I got to meet some fascinating people connected with the charity.

We were also given an informative presentation about Charles Bonnet Syndrome by Judith Potts, Founder of Esme's Umbrella which is the Campaign Group for everyone working towards a greater awareness of the syndrome. She was joined by Dr Dominic ffytche who was able to give more of the medical background. It seems as if there are many people who suffer with the hallucinations (that come with the syndrowe) in silence, fearing that if they speak about them with a doctor that they might end up being sectioned under the Mental Health Act. The message of Esme's Umbrella is not to do this. But have a read and find out more. This could be very relevant to you if you or someone close has failing eyesight.

Here are Ms Potts and Dr ffytche in front of the portrait of our MP, John Bercow.

I also met these wonderful women (Phillippa Atkinson and Sue Thornhill) who run the local Bucks Vision group out at Gawcott Village Hall on the afternoon of the first Tuesday of each month (from 2pm I understand). This is a support group for anyone experiencing sight loss. I plan on being at the next one to show my support. (5th of December)

And here is a rather blurry picture of John Bercow who dashed over to just make the end of the meeting, having been held up in the House of Commons. There are some much better pictures here of the occasion, taken by Derek Pelling.

And is here is what the Houses of Parliament look like at the moment. They remain, for me, one of the most thrilling places to visit. (I watched Nikki Morgan and Vince Cable walk by...)

I have just been sent another pic of the 'chain gang' present at the event:
  • Cllr. Emily Culverhouse – Mayor of Chesham
  • Cllr. David Hopkins – Mayor of Milton Keynes
  • Cllr. Mark Willis – Deputy Mayor of Aylesbury
  • Mr Speaker, Rt Hon John Bercow MP
  • Me, obviously
  • Steve Naylor CEO of BucksVision
  • Cllr. Ranjula Takodra MBE – Aylesbury Town Council
  • Cllr. Clive Morgan – Mayor of Amersham
Great to see them all. (Thanks to Derek Pelling Photography for this pic)

Sunday, 19 November 2017

Conserving our town

The Buckingham Society exists to campaign to enhance and improve our town. Last week Society held their AGM followed by an excellent presentation from Ian Harvey from Civic Voice, a Scouser with a passion for preserving the beauty, quality and elegance of towns throughout the UK. Here he is in mid flow!

Members of The Buckingham Society share the following aims:

  • Promote the distinctive character of our town
  • Set high standards of design and sustainability
  • Celebrate and safeguard Buckingham's heritage
  • Find solutions to environmental problems
  • Improve the quality of life in our community
  • Inspire sensitive changes within the places we cherish
  • Create and consolidate effective partnerships between community, business and local government.
One of the subjects under discussion last Wednesday evening was the Buckingham Conservation Area. Do you know what the area covers and how being in an area affects planning decisions...? If you are curious (and I would hope that you are), you can find out lots more here

Meanwhile, the Buckingham Society is keen to grown and extend its influence. If you would like to join, please click here.

A baton is passed...

As we all know, the work of the Willen Hospice is second to none in providing effective and compassionate end-of-life care to hundreds of local people. Julie and I were invited to attend a short reception at Chicheley Hall last Thursday evening to welcome the new Chief Executive of the Hospice: Peta Wilkinson. You can read more about her here.

This was an inspiring event and as always, great to meet many people involved in supporting and working with the Hospice. Peta was introduced by Paul Davis, the Chairman of the Board of Trustees. You can see them both below.

If you would like to support the work of the Willen Hospice, you can volunteer, or buy things from the local shop or donate money or (as I do) take part in their regular lottery! There are lots of ways to be involved.

As an aside, I had a fascinating conversation with the Peter Bhupatsingh Kara, the High Sheriff of Buckinghamshire where he challenged me (in an utterly charming way) to arrange something in the town to do with Mental Health... Thus challenged... watch this space!

Disabled? Go go go!

A few months ago, the Town Council hired a social enterprise called DisabledGo to survey shops and restaurants in the town for their accessibility. The idea being that it is good for the town's commerce if people from out of town with access needs can browse the website for where to go and by understanding what facilities are available and where. It is also good for people living in the town too! It is a key part of the Town Council's commitment to making the town as accessible and open as possible

You can find out more from the BTC pages here. The ambition of course is that people from far and wide will come here and spend their money! And that they will enjoy the town like those of us who live here already do. I am proud to be part of a strategy that reflects the fact that the Paralympics started down the road. Of all places, our district should be amongst the most accessible in the country, if not the world!

And so last week, a number of town councillors and members of Buckingham Access for All were trained by DisabledGo to become assessors ourselves. This multiplies our capacity to get all the shops and cafes etc on the database and keep it up to date. And I had a great time visiting a few nearby shops and restaurants to find out what they had by way of access. We kept stressing that this was emphatically not a pass/fail/guilt tripping kind of exercise, merely an information gathering one so that people could decide when and how to visit. (So if your cafe/shop/restaurant is not yet on the database and you would like to be, please contact the town council and all can be arranged.)

Here is part of the team who were trained: Cllr Christine Strain-Clark, her husband Peter, myself and our trainer Emily Edgar (Partnerships Manager)

I was particularly delighted to visit Clinkards who proudly informed us that all staff have done Autism Awareness training and are more than happy to adapt to the special needs of anyone (young or old) who is on the autism spectrum. Just pop in and discuss what is possible, and buy some lovely shoes.

So thanks again to all the places that were part of our training last week. Watch out for more visits! (And thanks to the team from DisabledGo - Emily above and Philip Holt for an excellent day of training)

Wednesday, 15 November 2017

Books, beautiful books

A good book is a joy. And some of my fondest and favourite memories of my children when they were small are when I was reading good books to them. Having a small child enjoy listening to you as you read a story to them is one of life's great treats, in my opinion. And so it was an enormous pleasure to open the new school library at the Lace Hill Academy yesterday. And it was even more fun to see the children scampering around the library in search of the book they had been challenged to find.

Here are some of the year two children lined up with the headteacher, Mr Griffiths and volunteers who will be staffing the library. (Thank you to Karen Herring from the Academy Trust for this and the other pics of the children below)

And here is the official opening... with ribbon being cut!

I donated a book to the library:

And this was my favourite moment when I read this book to the children:

And here they all are...

And one small bit that charmed me: there is a plaque!! 😀😀😀

My last post on this blog

Last night I handed on the Buckingham Town Mayor's chain of office to my very worthy successor, Cllr Mark Cole. This marks the end of my...