Wednesday, 26 December 2018

A Very Merry Buckingham Christmas

Yesterday on Christmas Day, Julie and I popped into the lunch organised by the local Churches Together. It was great to see so many people enjoying such warmth, festive fun and amazing food! It was lovely to chat to people and exchange Christmas stories and Christmas hopes and Christmas wishes. And top marks to all the volunteers who had decorated the room, packed goody bags for everyone to leave with, created the quiz, served the food, washed the dishes, cooked the food, donated time and/or money to make this happen and so on and on!

This was Buckingham at its best. It was a joy to add a little Mayoral bling to the occasion. And I specially enjoyed the brief conversation with a Welsh lady who had recently move to Buckingham after becoming a widow a few years back. We were able to swap stories of the locality where my Mum still lives. And I was able to dust off one of favourite Welsh phrases:
Nadolig llawen a blwyddyn newydd dda
Lunch begins!

The Chefs with two of the volunteers waiters

The rest of the kitchen team

The goody bags to return home with

Wednesday, 19 December 2018

A Christmas for all our children

At this time of year, my head is crowded with memories of Christmases past, especially ones from my childhood. At school of course, the build up had been building up for weeks: drawing pictures, making cards, constructing paper chains and meeting Santa at the school Christmas party. And then at home, I can still recall and feel that simple overwhelming almost excruciating excitement of going to bed on Christmas Eve with such expectation and delight. I can conjure up than one Christmas morning when my brother and I got up at 4am to open our present of a Skalextric set and watching the cars race around the track in the darkness with their tiny headlamps shining.

So many memories, so many feelings.

And here I am, here we are, about to dive into Christmas 2018. Please accept my deeply heartfelt Christmas good wishes: please have wonderful time over this season of good will. May you be surrounded by love, joy and peace with your family and friends. And may you feel refreshed come the beginning of January to face the year ahead with all that you need to have an amazing year, full of love, hope, peace, friendship and good times.

And in addition may I ask you to always think about our children over these coming days and beyond into 2019. And I mean this collectively: we all have a part to play in the upbringing of all children and young people in our town. Every action we take, every word we say, and every piece we post: all help to shape the future in which our children will live. And I believe we all have a responsibility to make that future the best it can possibly be so that the next generation, and the next and the next... can all live lives full of ambition, joy, creativity, freedom, love and fulfilment.

Merry Christmas!!


I sat in on a committee meeting of the Friends of the University of Buckingham last night: and what an amazing organisation it is! I was thoroughly impressed with the range of activities they put on for students of the university and their own members during the course of the year. These include English language conversation classes (see below), a games evening for new students, arranging meals for students in local people's houses, cookery lessons for the 'domestically challenged' students and so on it goes. And it is only a fairly small group of active stalwarts who make all this happen! For the members there are annual meetings involving lectures, Pimms, BBQs and more!

So if you wish to join: please visit this page and sign up! There is more information about the group here

And back to the conversation classes: one member of the committee - Marilyn - has been running these for some Japanese students over the last few months. Below is how they thanked her. Wonderful!

Sunday, 16 December 2018

What a glorious (and dry!) Christmas Parade & Community Fair

It was wonderful to see the whole town turn out for the annual parade on Saturday. Such a fabulous event that brings such delight and joy to the town. As I was in it, I don't have any pics, but they are all over Facebook and will be in the local paper next week. I would just to pay huge credit to all the work that goes into organising this occasion and pay a massive tribute to all the imagination, sweat and tears that no doubt went into the floats and walking groups too. The results were fantastic. Well done all!

Here's a pic of the Town Council 'bling' group just before we strode proudly up through the town centre, accompanied by the Deputy Mayor Cllr Mark Cole, Cllr Robin Stuchbury (thanks for the pic) and Cllr Paul Hirons. Most of the other councillors and staff were making sure the road closure barriers were respected.

Afterwards lots of people retired to the Community Fair for warm drinks, amazing cakes and all the fabulous stalls. It was enchanting to be serenaded by the Buckingham Children's Choir (like last year). Again well done to all who organised and took part in this Town Council event too. Fabulous effort. 

Given that this is one of the very few occasions when the Town's Mace is on show out in the town (although you can always see it in the Old Gaol), I thought it worth highlighting its age and importance to the town. It is the most notable and precious article in the Town Council's regalia.

Thursday, 13 December 2018

The Mayor of Milton Keynes' Carol Service (Trefoil #2)

It was a joy to be part of the Christmas Carol Service hosted by the Mayor of MK Cllr Martin Petchey and his consort Ms Debbie Thomson. We sang all the traditional carols (which seem to be in a higher pitch these days - or maybe my voice has dropped an octave?) and heard some excellent pieces by the Cornerstone Choir. There was also a beautiful song by the children of Jubilee Wood School. And to top it all we had some hand bell ringing by the Woburn branch of the Trefoil Guild.

I had not been to a service in the Church of Christ the Cornerstone before - it is a wonderful building with rich acoustics. It was good to see old friends including the High Sheriff of Buckinghamshire, Professor Ruth Farwell. Money was being raised for the the MK Bus Shelter (homelessness action project).

Christmas lunch for older residents

Buckingham School provided their regular Christmas get together for older members of our community. I popped in to wish everyone a very Merry Christmas and I got a good seat to see the dancing and listen to the school choir. We all got to see an extract of Singing in the Rain too! Delightful and very well organised by the school students: well done!

What glorious feeling!

The Buckingham School put on a performance of Singing in the Rain this week. And it was marvellous! For those of us that know the film well (it is one of my all time favourites) you will know how tricky it is to replicate and stage. But it was done with great panache, verve and skill by all concerned. Not only was I impressed with the acting - the costumes were amazing and the direction / stage management were seamless! Well done to all concerned!!

Trefoil Guild #1: 75th anniversary

The Trefoil Guild was founded 75 years ago and on Tuesday I had the pleasure of attending their tea party to celebrate this. It was a most warm and welcoming afternoon of good company, good cheese, good cake and good tea. What more do we need!
Trefoil Guild is a branch of Girlguiding and its members agree to support the guiding ethos - including the pledge to help other people. Many members pass on their skills and knowledge to local guiding units, from helping Brownies work towards a badge to preparing older girls for a camping adventure. Many members are unit leaders or helpers in Girlguiding units.
Here are some pictures taken by Valerie Shaw (thank you!) and one by me of the cake! It was lovely to be invited.

Friday, 7 December 2018

Journey beginnings (and one ending)

The Buckingham School held their Celebration Evening last night. I had the greatest of honours to hand out all the awards to their high achieving students. It was such a wonderful occasion to see all these young people and their parents/carers beaming with pleasure and pride. Whilst the job of teacher can be most challenging, it must also be so rewarding to help launch these young people on their journeys through life. And as Mayor, I was privileged to have a small smidgen of that joy last night too. It was also the end of a journey for me too...

Last night I donated the tenth and final copy of the book about Jo Cox that I have been giving to the libraries of my life for the last year and half. It was a most fitting place and time to end my quest. My speech is below which explains why I have been doing this.

But meanwhile, here are couple of pictures from last night including Mr Andrew McGinnes, the Headteacher, Mr Matthew Watkins, the Chair of Governors and Cllr Robin Stuchbury (former pupil at the school). All the students who won awards had the picture taken but please check out the school website for those pics. The programme is also below.

Handing over the book about Jo Cox.

The speech I gave:

It is wonderful to be here this evening to celebrate the achievements of so many young people at this school. One of the great pleasures I get as Town Mayor is to witness, delight in and appreciate all the energy, ambition, hopes and realised dreams of so many people in the town, of all ages. We are all so lucky to live in a wonderful place with some very special institutions including this glorious school of course. It is very easy to take all this for granted.

But please let us be very clear, none of this happens by accident. The successes of the young people we are glorying in tonight have come from tough and detailed work by them, supported by great and hard working teachers and with the immeasurable patience and guidance of their parents and carers. And all of this is done within a community that wants our young people to do well. I believe that we all want all young people to do well.

But we live in divisive times where people, young and old, can so easily become the victims of hate or anger. This can happen online or in real life. Sometimes to extremes. Tonight this community, our community, is celebrating the success of our young people. But let us not forget that we must never take our community for granted. We must always be renewing our hope, our love and our understanding of each other. That is what community means.

In this regard, I have come with a small gift this evening to donate to the school.

The story of my gift begins with the tragic murder of Jo Cox MP by a right wing terrorist during the EU referendum campaign. It was a moment that shocked and saddened me deeply, as it did most other people of course. Here was an MP working hard to listen to and help her constituents in Batley and Spen. She was on her way to a regular surgery on 16 June 2016 when a man stabbed and killed her. As the world reacted to this event, much about Jo became to be more widely understood.

In particular a paragraph from her maiden speech in the House of Commons delivered by her on 3 June 2015, just a year previous, became well known:
“Batley and Spen is a gathering of typically independent, no-nonsense and proud Yorkshire towns and villages. Our communities have been deeply enhanced by immigration, be it of Irish Catholics across the constituency or of Muslims from Gujarat in India or from Pakistan, principally from Kashmir. While we celebrate our diversity, what surprises me time and time again as I travel around the constituency is that we are far more united and have far more in common with each other than things that divide us.”
Just to repeat that last bit:
“we are far more united and have far more in common with each other than things that divide us.”
And so wind forward another year and the general election of 2017 was called. I placed a bet of £20 on how many seats the Conservative Party would win (within a 25 seat margin) at the odds of seven to one. And I was right and I won my stake and £140 back. So then I thought, what should I do with the money? I could have blown it all on a night out or given it to a charity. But I decided instead to purchase 11 copies of the book about Jo’s amazing life and tragic death. And I decided at the same time to donate ten of these books to the libraries of my life.

So here I am today, on the last stage of my journey. I began in the secondary school that I went to - a school called Purbrook Park just north of Portsmouth. I have been back to my University in Reading and also the Oxford school where my own children were educated. I have been to the other libraries of Buckingham and there is even one now lodged in the public library of Mouvaux, our twin town.

So I bring this book today for The Buckingham School library, as the Mayor of Buckingham. It is my earnest hope that it will be widely read by all the students here in the school now and in the future. And I hope that all will be inspired to work for the kind of world, the kind of community, that Jo was working for.

A world in which everyone recognises that we have always far more in common than anything we have that divides us.

A world in which there is less hate and more love.

A world where people experience interest and compassion, not othering and bullying

A world in which there is more delight in difference, where all forms of diversity are celebrated and enjoyed.

I have the greatest of pleasure in donating this book to this school’s library. And in so doing, I bring my small journey of ten book donations to a very satisfactory close. I can’t think of a better place for this tenth book to be.

And so on with the show: let’s all admire, celebrate and simply love all the talented young people we are honouring this evening!

Thanks to Robin for the pics.

Happy kitchenmas!

I had a wonderful and very tasty Christmas meal at the Well Street Church on Tuesday. It was both a festive get together for the regular crowd of churchgoers and a celebration of their new kitchen. This was installed care of WREN which helped to pay for all the new units. It was good to look around the church too, never having been in there before. It is a most warm and welcoming place. With even more warm and welcoming people of course!

I met lots of lovely people including Lorna who is 98 and has lived all her life in the town. Indeed, she told me that her father had once been Mayor too!

I wish all the congregation well and of course, a very Merry Christmas!

Monday, 3 December 2018

Christmassy Aylesbury

Julie and I spent yesterday evening being wrapped in festive spirit at the Aylesbury Town Mayor's Carol Service, at St Mary's Church in the middle of the old town. The church was packed to the rafters. We were treated to some glorious singing from Aylesbury Choral Society, and children from Bedgrove Junior School ably supported by the Aylesbury Concert Band. We had traditional readings of the nativity and mince pies at the end. Perfect!

A thoroughly warm and most wholesome service that mulled all our hearts as well as the wine! Huge thanks to the Aylesbury Town Mayor, his colleagues and everyone who was a part of yesterday's event. Merry Christmas!

Lighting up Buckingham

The Christmas lights are on again in Buckingham - and they are a new style this year. We had the grand switch on, on Saturday supported by a cast of thousands, not least everyone who turned up to count down to the moment.

As always it was great to be a part of this and I enjoyed the privilege of flicking the magical switch! Thanks to everyone who took part and made it all happen including:

  • The Buckingham Society with Chairman Roger Edwards handing out the awards to best traders and eating places 
  • The Buckingham Children's Choir, led by Suzy Smith
  • The Winslow Concert Band
  • Stagecoach Buckingham led by Tilly James
  • Capt Coleman and Capt Coleman from the Salvation Army
  • Fr Roy Karrakkattu from St Bernardine's Catholic Church
  • Pucky the mascot from MK Lightning Ice Hockey team
  • Strawberry Fieldz events and marquee hire
  • Buckingham Table with a special guest appearance by Santa
  • Amanda Brubaker, Events Coordinator from the Town Council assisted by several colleagues and councillors
Thanks to Cllr Robin Stuchbury for the pics below.

Christmas cheer at the Community Centre

With an invitation and promise of a cake, I popped into the local Age Concern group that meets every first Saturday of the month. This week was a special festive meeting of nearly a hundred older people from Buckingham and surrounds with oodles of tea, cake, Christmas cheer and live music!

And... there was a special Christmas quiz (which flummoxed me) and a stunning raffle with more prizes than you could shake an elf at! Altogether a lovely occasion supported by some stoic volunteers who have been providing all this for years. Well done to Ros, Phillippa and the whole team.

Inflatable antlers!

Bourton Meadow School had their Christmas Fair on Saturday last. It was great to be there. I enjoyed all the stalls - especially the one that involved inflatable hoops and a girl wearing antlers that I had to land a hoop upon..! (She kept walking further and further way! I got no hoop son but I did win a raspberry flavoured pencil.) The face painting and glitter tattoos looked brilliant. All in all a wonderfully festive event which I hope raised lots of money for the school. And....(a small elfin fanfare sounds) I got to meet a very tubby and cheery Santa in his grotto!!

I did want to sit on his knee, but Santa explained that I might be the reindeer to break his already sore back (from stooping over to read all the letters to him). But still, I hope he grants me my wish... (whatever that might be!)

The majestic reindeer greeting everyone to the fair!

Friday, 30 November 2018

Skating on thick plastic

This year, for the first time, the Town Council arranged for a skating rink to be added to the Town for the week running up to Christmas lights switch on. I understand over 700 people have booked slots during this period, which is fantastic! (There is room for more too!)

The ambition is for this initiative to be cost neutral to the Council with the costs being offset by tickets and sponsorship. It was fabulous to officially open it on Monday evening with the aid of Pucky from MK Lightning, our local ice hockey team. Indeed some of the team came along too! Thanks to Town Clerk Paul and Events Coordinator Amanda Brubaker and colleagues for the pics below.

Keep... skating!!

With fellow councillors - the Mayoress is hidden!

I was on skates - as was Cllr Stuchbury

... but a little nervously!

Magical new building

Wednesday this week saw the official opening of the new Vinson Building. This will be the centre of activities of the economics and entrepreneurship departments. And frankly with a building as beautiful and well designed as this, I fully expect the University of Buckingham to be turning out some of the best business people over the coming years! (To add to the ones they have already produced of course!)

And what is delightful is that this building will be open to non-students too. You will be able to pop in for a cup of coffee, browse the University Bookshop and just soak up the scholarly ambience! Who knows, you might even get into a conversation with a student or lecturer who might inspire you to take up some study too.

All credit to the architects and builders. And of course, huge thanks to the people who have funded the building especially Lord Vinson. I had the pleasure of thanking him personally for his contribution to the heritage and culture of our town.

I wish I could capture all the speeches that were made, including those by the inspirational and warm Sir Anthony Seldon and the indefatigable & inimitable, The Right Hon Frank Field MP. Suffice to say that freedom, innovation and hope for the future featured large! (There are some notes here produced by the IEA)

Here is Lord Vinson and Frank Field opening the building.

And some of the people present


I had the greatest of delights to watch the Royal Latin School's production of "The Magic of Mary Poppins" yesterday. And it was made even more wonderful by watching it in the company of primary school children from around the town. We all enjoyed the performances hugely! It is majestic show with song, dance, moments of anguish and moments of joy. It features a cast of dozens and a backstage crew to match. It was stunning show to watch and see how all the pieces fell into place as the story was told. All credit to the performers, the backstage team, the directors and everyone else involved. You have done the school proud!

Go see it if you can!

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...