Monday, 25 September 2017

The Golden Mayor

My wife and I have just returned from a week's stay in Golden, Colorado with an old school friend and his wife. We have had the most amazing time touring around this beautiful part of the world: our friends made us so welcome. Indeed, they fixed up for us to meet the Mayor of Golden, Marjorie Sloan.

I took over some small gifts for her and their Town Council (as suggested by Jane Mordue - thanks again, Jane) about Buckingham including the chart showing the soldiers who were killed during WW1. She gave us some gifts too. It was lovely to meet her and hear about the challenges facing a USA Town Council. She described herself a 'Weak Mayor' in that most of the running of the Council services is left to their chief executive - who looks after their own police and fire departments among other services.

Here we are outside the oldest building in Golden, The Armoury, followed by some more pics of the town and the state. The first shows the Mayor on my right with our friends on my left - Charlotte and Simon Maybury

 The Welcome Arch - perhaps we should have one for Buckingham?!

The river running through the town - flanked by two walkways and lots of wonderful statues. The 'M' on the hill refers to the School of Mining in the town which teaches students from around the world about Geology and Mining technology.

A view of the town from high on a hill above Golden

A nearby aspen forest - magical!

And the rockies are all around! Breathtaking!!

And a bonus: the flight we took over to Denver was the inaugural Norwegian Airlines flight to the city. And so we met the City Mayor who was on the flight too!! Here's a selfie of me and Mayor Michael Hancock after he had given his speech.

So, two Mayors in one trip!!

#MoreInCommon - my journey through the libraries of my life begins

I placed a bet on on how many seats the Conservative Party would win in the June general election. And I won! £140 plus my stake back. And I then pondered on what to do with the money... 

I decided I would buy 11 copies of the book about Jo Cox, the MP who was murdered by a right wing terrorist just before the EU referendum last year. My plan was then to donate some of these books to libraries I have known in my life. The purpose of doing this is to support the movement that has emerged out of her death to affirm that we all always have #MoreInCommon than anything that divides us. The book, written by her grieving widower, Brendan Cox, describes the story of her life and her death, and her love of the world's people. It is a very sad but ultimately very uplifting book that I commend to you.

And so my journey around the libraries of my life began on Thursday 6 July at my old school Purbrook Park School. I was honoured to meet the Headteacher and Deputy Head, Paul Foxley and Emma Bolton respectively. And of course, I gave my first copy to Kelly Morrison, the school Librarian. Three school students (Jamie Murdoch, Year 9, Charlie Carruthers, Year 9 and Hannah Vassie, Year 8) and Kelly showed me round my old school (which has changed lots and not at all in some places).

It was a good place to start and it got me thinking: what did I learn 40+ years ago while at school that I still carry with me... More of this another time.

Meanwhile, here is the inscription I placed in the book.

The betting slip!

The books arrived a few days later...

Friday, 15 September 2017

Silver linings!

I had the enormous pleasure of meeting David Hall yesterday who is the director and driving force behind the Cloudy Group. They were celebrating the launch of their new set of services yesterday and I was invited along to wish them well. And I certainly do!

It is great to see local companies expanding and providing such great support to other local companies and organisations. The Church and University were both represented as were a range of commercial organisations (including Oliphant & Pomeroy) and charitable ones such as the Sir Henry Royce Memorial Foundation

People might recall this company once being called PCPeople. It is clearly expanding into more and more interesting work. I wish them well!

Here is a pic of me cutting the ribbon with David Hall (thanks to Martyn Thompson for permission to use the photograph).

Happy 100th birthday Mrs Liz Zettl!

I had the enormous pleasure of meeting Mrs Zettl today and wishing her a very, very happy 100th birthday!! She was surrounded by cards and flowers as you can see in the photograph (taken by her good neighbour Brett), including one from HM The Queen!

She showed me pictures of her house on the High Street when she first moved in, in 1962. She and her husband clearly had their work cut out! And her home is now the epitome of warmth and cosiness!

Congratulations again Mrs Zettl! May you have many more birthdays!

Wednesday, 13 September 2017

Buckingham Tennis Club Finals Day

Julie and I had the pleasure of visiting the Buckingham Tennis Club Finals Day on Sunday last to hand out the cups and awards. Well done to all who took part especially the winners who braved inclement weather to make sure the championship was completed.

Buckingham Tennis Club is one of the treasures of Buckingham and the club is always looking for more members. You can find out all about them including details of adult and junior coaching with this link.

I wish them well and thank you to Malcolm Clark for the use of the photos below. And thank you indeed to the Club Chairman, Chris Northey for inviting us.

All the winners out on one of the three courts

Ladies Singles winner Keira Ainsworth

Men's Singles winner Chris Hebert

Ladies Doubles winners Keira Ainsworth & Alison Powles

Men's Doubles winners Anthony Green (centre) & Chris Hebert

Mixed Doubles winners Alison Powles & Oli Jaycock

Congratulations again to all the winners!

Sunday, 10 September 2017

The rinsing of the river

This morning marked the first of the two Town Council's annual "River Rinses". 

Three weeks today, the plan is below:
River Rinse Sun October 1, 2017 10:30 AM to 12:00 PM
Bourton Road Car Park
The second of this year’s River Rinses is taking place on Sunday 1st October 10:30am - noon. With the help of Stowe Sub Aqua Group, the fire service and local volunteers, the section of the river from the Bourton Road Car Park up to the Athletic Ground will be cleaned of debris such as tyres, shopping trolleys, bottles and tree branches. (NB: this is an update on the previous edit)
Today, much debris both in and around the river side was collected by a team of upwards of 40 people: townsfolk, TC staff and local councillors. It is a most enjoyable event and I encourage people to come along and take part. You see parts of the town that are often hidden and there is always the excitement of waiting to see what the river pixies will find under the water...!

Great thanks, as always, to the Stowe Sub Aqua Club and the local Fire Service who always turn up to help. And great to see so many local townsfolk young and old there! Thanks for coming.

The crew begins to assemble

Some of the early finds

The river pixies in deep meditation

The rubbish collecting caravan advances up Chandos Park

The skip begins to fill

Saturday, 9 September 2017

Our great and good market town

As most local people know now, there was awful crash in the town centre on Tuesday 5th September. Several people were injured and one seriously and our thoughts are with all those people wishing them a speedy recovery. There was also significant damage to trade in the town and elsewhere as the whole centre was cordoned off as the emergency services got down to business.

Today, after encouragement from various quarters including me, the town was very busy. I went down to the town centre to offer my support to the traders - listening, shaking hands and buying some produce. There were lots of townsfolk there doing the same thing. I even spied our Deputy Mayor, Cllr Mark Cole buying a bunch of roses for his wife (which coincidentally, I had done earlier too!)

(And you can see Nigel in the background getting on with his business after the 'scattering' on Tuesday)

I know how glad I am to live in a town where people get on with getting on, supporting our markets and shops, supporting each other. This is a great and good community!

Friday, 8 September 2017

Blooming Buckingham!

Mayoress Julie presented the awards this morning to prizewinners from the Buckingham in Bloom competition. You can see the report of this on the Town Council FB site here which lists all the winners.

I enjoyed being part of the side show this morning!!

Julie and I went round our allocated patch of the town earlier on this year to find gardens that we thought deserved to be recognised. We found lots although sadly none of the winners.

But the winning gardens that we have seen are deservedly so: lots of wonderful colour and sparkle! I will leave it to the TC to announce the full set of winners and their addresses so that everyone can admire the gardens.

Well done to Cllr Bloomfield who organises this every year with Amanda in the office.

Café Crawl Number two!

We had a fabulous time yesterday: the weather remained dry and warm enough to sit outside in most of the places we visited. Thank you to everyone who came along: Margaret, Andy, Sophie, Chris, Peter, Julie, Penny, Mike, Joy, Charlotte, Helen, June and John (and a few small people too!)

We received lovely welcomes and great menus in all the places too!

I don't think we quite stuck to the starter topics, but we had lots to talk about! Not sure when the next one will be. Probably we will wait until the Spring now. Unless someone else would like to initiate one...

A delightful RAF Reception

Along with many other local councillors and town clerks, Julie and I were treated to a reception at the Officers' Mess at RAF Halton on Wednesday evening. Deputy Town Mayor, Cllr Mark Cole and his wife Alix were also present as indeed was our Town Clerk, Chris Wayman.

And I must say I was extraordinarily impressed with the welcome that the RAF officers gave us. They had clearly paid great attention to organising the event in such a way that everyone felt individually welcomed and had room to circulate easily. The officer who met me told me he had even researched me beforehand!

We were treated to a small military display, some bagpipes (which I adore) and a (very quick) fly past of a Chinook helicopter.

All in all, a delightful couple of hours in a beautiful setting with some very interesting people. I will probably be visiting again to learn more about their leadership development programmes. And I had a fascinating discussion with a woman from Hertfordshire about her role as a Community Navigator. It sounded to me that we could do with some of such people around here!

Here's a selfie with fellow Town Councillors from Aylesbury Town Council: Mark Willis (Deputy Mayor) and Mike Smith

Not the best panoramic pic but you get the impression of the room we were in.

Our growing University

People often comment to me that they do not see students around the town very much. I reply with several answers: firstly they are working very hard on their intensive two year degrees. And secondly as I understand things, many of the students are here with sponsorship from their country's government, often from a relatively poor country compared to the UK, and they feel driven to work hard (and play less) as a consequence. But thirdly, I also say: how do you know? Students don't look any different to other younger people in the town... they are among us!

And they will be among us in increasing numbers as the University is expanding rapidly. The Medical School started a couple of years ago and now with the new 'Vinson Centre for Liberal Economics and Entrepreneurship" even more students will be arriving soon. I and the Deputy Mayor, Cllr Mark Cole had the great pleasure of being part of the assembled group that learnt more about the new Vinson Centre and watched while Lord Vinson (who has donated £5.5m to its construction) and Sir Anthony celebrate the moment where the building work began. (The University's press release is here.)

This build and later planned builds on the old Innov8 site on the Tingewick Road and Chandos Road will bring lots of construction jobs to the town as well eventually more students and more academic posts too. As it stands, the University is already the biggest employer in the town and is set to grow. I and the Town Council are committed to building stronger links between 'town and gown' and ensure that mutual benefits are shared all round.

People may question what am I doing as a socialist supporting the development of liberal economics and entrepreneurialism. I have always said that my goal as the Town Mayor is to support ambition and I am truly delighted when anyone sets out to start a new business and takes an entrepreneurial risk. In these moments, people affirm their creativity and dreams, and seek to spread these to others as well. Throughout my life, I have been working for a world in which everyone has dreams & ambitions... and the wherewithal to achieve them. I celebrate all entrepreneurial ambitions!

We were treated to some inspirational presentations from past and present students of Professor Nigel Adams and his team. Here is a picture of Abi who just started her own brand of gender neutral clothing called BlackWolf. I wish her well.

Liberal economics is of course a very different kettle of fish (defined as "emphasising the concept of the free market and laissez-faire policies, with the government's role limited to providing support services" by the FT) and perhaps one day Lord Vinson and I might share a cup to tea and discuss how the banks needed governments around the world to underwrite their massive losses accrued from pursuing raw laissez-faire business deals... but that is for another day!

Meanwhile, we can now all watch the new Vinson Centre emerge on Hunter Street. (Thanks for the picture below from Beverley Kelly)

Tuesday, 5 September 2017

Sport for All!

Julie and I had a most wonderful morning on Saturday, attending the official opening of the new pavilion and changing rooms at the Gawcott Playing Fields of Moretonville Junior Football Club.

You can see the whole emerging story and lots of pics on their website and facebook pages. Phil Doran, the club Chairman spoke with such glowing and grateful words about everyone who has invested time, sweat and money over the years to get the Pavilion built and open. I dare not list them all here as I would be sure of missing someone out, and that I would not want to do!

But please know that if you have contributed to the creation of the Pavilion in any way, big or small, or indeed are part of the army of people who sustain the club week in week out: thank you!! You are doing immeasurable and wonderful things for the young people of Buckingham and surrounding villages. As Phil pointed out: the young people are not just learning football skills and having fun while they do it, they are learning life skills as well which will help them lead ambitious and fulfilling lives.

Pete Winkleman, Chairman of MK Dons provided some wonderful footballing celebrity glitter to the proceedings and performed the official opening. He praised all involved and emphasised that everyone should feel very proud.

Here are some pics

The 'tunnel' from the new changing rooms out onto the pitches!

Phil and Pete

Dave Newman provided much needed underwriting and financial support at a critical time!

Phil talking about his vision.

Friday, 1 September 2017

Honouring our seafarers

Sunday 3 September is Merchant Navy Day and the Town Council decided to commemorate this day by hoisting the Red Ensign on our flag pole over the weekend. As Mayor, I was asked to raise the flag. I wrote a speech to mark this occasion which I reprint below. As I was donning my regalia, Amanda from the TC offices arrived with a letter that she had received the day previous from a lady whose brother was a Merchant Seaman. Her daughter was present and I asked her if she would like me to read out the letter. She said that would be fine. So I did. Here is all that I said this morning.

Welcome everyone to this occasion to remember our seafarers, thank you so much for coming along.

We are an island people: we depend upon our Merchant Navy to bring us food and provisions that we have not grown or produced ourselves. More than 90% of our imports are carried by ship. And with more sea ports and harbours than any other European country, we depend on the Merchant Navy to help the country handle over 75% of our exports

And in times of war, the Merchant Navy has sustained our armed forces abroad and the people home in this country, often in great peril. Thousands of ships were sunk and many thousands of merchant seafarers, from many nations, lost their lives during the world wars - some were just teenagers.

Redan Sydney Jeffries of Lowestoft aged only 13 was drowned on 24 October 1917. And some were very much older than their combatant colleagues: Patrick Casey, aged 73, was killed when the SS Dotterel was sunk by a mine off the French coast on 29 November 1915.

My own brother-in-law, Chris Uglow, was a merchant seaman with the Falklands War. Thankfully he survived like many others but he will never forget his experiences there.

And I have here a letter from Molly that I was given this morning:

Memories of John Henry Swift, known as Jack, by his sister Molly

My elder brother 'Jack', my three sisters and younger brother, Pete were all born in London. We were a loving and close family, living with Mum and Dad in Clapham.

John preferred to be called 'Jack' and he followed in Dad's footsteps and became a carpenter / joiner. Jack was commissioned into the Merchant Navy as a Ship's Carpenter.

I adored my 'Jack', he was my hero, very handsome, very kind, and he had a cheeky sense of humour. He married Win who was in the W.A.A.F. and I was their bridesmaid.

He looked so handsome in his uniform, and I always felt so proud holding his hand walking down the street.

Jack was killed in 1941, aged 29 years old. His Merchant Navy ship was hit by a torpedo off the West coast of Ireland. Jack's body was never found.

I am now 93 years old, but I still remember the pain, and grief of losing Jack, and that feeling has never gone. God bless you darling.

Your loving sister, Molly

And so today, we honour all those seafarers who have kept us safe, fed and warm over the years - and we honour all those who are still doing so. I am pleased and humbled to be raising the Red Ensign today which will fly here all over the weekend, including Merchant Navy Day on 3 September.

And here is a picture of Jack.

Let us never forget the people who work hard to provide us with the food, energy and safety that we all need, especially this weekend, our merchant seafarers, past and present.

I hope to have a cup of tea with Molly sometime soon.

Some more pics taken by Amanda this morning.

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...