Monday 1st February - Preshute School. I very much enjoyed my visit, being shown around by Mrs Hicks and meeting Mrs Joyce White, a school governor and former Mayor. Also, having the chance to talk to the children. I was so impressed by the standard of behaviour and their keen interest in everything. I couldn't believe that there were 200 children in such a small space but, all the pupils were so attentive and charming. My congratulations go to Mrs Celia Hicks and her dedicated staff for attaining an excellent Ofsted report. I gather that she is retiring at the end of the academic year - she will be a hard act to follow but, will certainly have left a school with a reputation to be proud of. We wish her a happy retirement.
Wednesday 2nd February - Altzheimer's Association. I was invited to host a table for a Gala Dinner in the beautiful room in Devizes Town Hall along with the Mayor of Devizes. There were 10 tables of carers and their partners or parents with dementia. We were treated to a lovely dinner with spring daffodils on each table. All those waiting on tables were staff from the Alzheimer's Association and had given their services free. A talk was given on how to eat well. I enjoyed talking to carers who were all very upbeat. I think the whole occasion was appreciated by everyone who attended.
Tuesday 9th February - it was with great anticipation that we were all taxied up to Savernake Hospital from the George Lane car park on a lovely sunny day (a relief after such a wet Monday) to witness HRH Duchess of Cornwall officially open the new Prospect Outreach Centre. The Duchess is the President of Prospect Hospice.
The Outreach Centre project was achieved by the amazing effort of raising over £260,000 and the foresight of Kevin McNamara, Director of Strategy at the Great Western Hospital, to charge only a peppercorn rent. I was honoured as the Mayor, by being presented first and introduced by the Lord Lieutenant, Mrs Sarah Troughton. The Duchess was escorted around the unit by Mrs Angela Jordan, Prospect's Chief Executive. It was clear that she enjoyed talking to everyone, especially the patients whom she put at ease with her quiet charm. During her tour, she was shown the counselling room with its soft furnishings, watched a collage being made and chatted and thanked volunteers who give so much dedicated time to the hospital. Before she left, she signed the register and was presented with a beautiful cream posy of flowers by a young pupil from Ogbourne St George who made the most elegant curtsy.
Savernake Hospital is very dear to us all in the Marlborough area so the effort that has gone into this project will not only help to give this building a new impetus but, support patients in overcoming and working with their disabilities which is to be applauded.
Tuesday 10th February - today I attended two meetings. One as a representative to the Stonebridge Management Committee with Action for the River Kennet where we discussed projects and the maintenance in Stonebridge Meadow and then down to the Football Club to discuss land for a possible football pitch. Before the day finished, I had a quick look at Cooper's Meadow to get ideas for future projects.
I now go off to Spain for a week to tend a very different garden.
I returned from Spain with a suitcase filled with Seville oranges, large oranges and lemons too, all from the trees in my garden. I also tackled the prickly pears which had taken over but, are now dying with a fungus
Saturday, 20th February 2016 - today saw Councillor Marian Hannaford-Dobson and me playing bingo with the local MENCAP Group. Marian actually managed to win a prize. I wasn't so lucky!
Thursday, 25th February 2016 - Councillors were invited up to Greatwood for a guided tour to learn more about how looking after retired race horses was combined with a work programme with schools helping disadvantaged children. Sasha Thorbek-Hooper, Fundraising Manager for Greatwood, who clearly has wide expertise in this field, took us round. It was apparent right from the start that helping to look after these beautiful animals in such a happy environment really contributes to building up confidence in these children's own abilities.
The Town Council congratulated and praised Greatwood for its work with young people and the educational programme it provides, enabling many to eventually work in that field of employment or simply find their way back into society with confidence, believing they can contribute. We were fortunate to be able to meet and talk to many cheerful youngsters as the mucked out stables and fed the chickens. "It takes courage to grow up to become who you really are". EE Cummings.
I had great pleasure on behalf of the Town Council, in presenting the Co-founder and Managing Director, Helen Yeadon, with a cheque for £928 which will go towards ongoing programmes.
Friday, 26th February - Friday saw me in the wilds of Wiltshire along farm tracks, wandering around looking for Winkworth Farm whilst hoping I was not lost forever. I was invited to the North Wilts Annual Awards and Celebration of Guiding and Achievements so, it was a relief when a glimmer of light appeared in the distance. (More signs please).
I was greeted and made to feel very welcome.
The event was attended by Sir Mike Pitts and the Mayors of Malmesbury, Swindon and Chippenham along side Guides and their Leaders from around the county. I was particulary proud when four young Guides from the Ogbourne St Goerge Unit, which is counted in the Marlborough division, went up for the Baden Powell Challenge Award - the highest award a Guide can achieve. I was honoured to have a photo taken with them afterwards. I have to be honest and say I knew little of the guiding movement in Wiltshire so to see so many dedicated Leaders go up for 10, 20 even 30 years' service awards was very impressive. Sir Mike spoke with affection of his Skipper (Scouts) and camping days. There was an interesting exhibition and I was shown a picture of the camping ground which is owned by the county. We were also treated to some delicious hot chips served in cups and a large bowl of fruit.
So, I quote the Guiding promise which is something we all could aspire to for better communities and a better world to live in:
I promise that I will do my best
To be true to myself and develop my beliefs
To serve the Queen and my community
To help other people
To keep the Guide/Brownie Law
Tuesday, 1st March - St David's day saw Cllr Hannaford-Dobson and myself being chauffeured to a visit of 4MI Battalion at Kiwi Barracks, Bulford. We were very warmly welcomed, given a tour of the building and introduced to a number of personnel. Col Matt Brown gave us an insight into the work and training of the Battalion, the ethos of 4MI as an intelligence unit and it's close connection with Marlborough.
I was presented with a cheque for £285 for my Mayoral Charity The Brain Tumour Charity raised by soldiers playing a football match, whom we enjoyed meeting. Also, Capt. Mickey Yendall who, alongside his team, hopes to fund raise through a 1,000 mile sports activity finishing up in Marlborough on 30th April, again in aid of my Charity.
I presented the 4MI Library with a collection of books on Wiltshire regiments and one about the Battle of Gallipoli which were well received. We had lunch in the new Sergeants' Mess and then went on to visit the Welfare Office Department and met many who support the Battalion before being safely chauffeured home by a delightful young soldier.
Wednesday, 2nd March - All Councillors were invited up to Savernake Hospital to tour the new Outreach Centre run by Prospect which had recently been opened by the Duchess of Cornwall. Over £300,000 was raised in a very short time by the community enabling this worthy project to go ahead. We were given an overview on how much it cost to run and what could be done to help often terminally ill patients. The unit offers a community room with a kitchen, an Occupational Therapist and counselling and therapy treatment rooms. We came away pleased that Savernake Hospital offers a new project enabling a secure future to a much loved building.
Saturday, 5th March - Today saw the Youth Council, under the guidance of Cllr Lisa Farrell, work towards the Clean for the Queen campaign, a national initiative to celebrate the Queen's 90th birthday. We all had a photo taken on Marlborough Town Hall steps before setting off down the High Street all armed with gripper gloves, plastic bags on hoops and tongs for picking up rubbish. We all became quite adept at picking up cigarette butts. Can I make a plea for all smokers to dispose of these in the right receptacle? There are a number of these attached to the bins in the High Street.
The youngsters entered into the spirit of it all with great enthusiasm. After the High Street, we carried on to the Recreation Ground and I left them as they made their way up the Salisbury Road to Tesco. I gather they were rewarded for their endeavours by cakes and cola back at the Town Council offices. From what we saw on our route round the town, it's clear that more certainly needs to be done to encourage everyone to take their litter home or bin it properly.
After attending a Memorial Service in the afternoon, I made my way to St Mary's Church in the evening to attend the Marlborough Concert Orchestra perform its Spring Concert. It was with great sadness that we heard of the death of Janet Tanner who played the violin, a founder member of the Orchestra and a former teacher at Marlborough College. The programme had overtures from Mozart, a symphony by Schubert and the programme ended with Johann Strauss and The Blue Danube which set all feet tapping.
On 3rd December, the Orchestra celebrates its 10th birthday with a special programme to include young international soloist, Irene Enzlin, cellist and Mathieu van Bellen, violinist, so a date not to be missed.
Monday, 7th March - A very full start to the week. In the evening, we held a welcome ceremony in the Court Room for our new Town Cryer/Beadle, Michael Tupman, a former Special Constable. I gave a brief introduction of the history of this ancient position of the Town Cryer/Beadle recorded as going back to at least 1699. Our now retired Town Cryer, Alfie Johnson, handed over the bell and staff.
Michael gave a rendering of acceptance of the position which includes Ale Tasting in all the public houses in Marlborough. We feel very lucky to have someone with such a big personality who will grow into this position and become very much a part of Marlborough. He will soon become just like his predecessors who are depicted in the paintings in the Council Chamber. We now just wait for his distinguished outfit to be delivered.
We then retired to the Chamber for a Full Town Council Meeting where there was interest in staging a street party to celebrate the Queen's 90th birthday. It was then on to Planning Meeting with discussions about the new school in Ducks Meadow. All in all, a long day for Councillors and Staff.
Thursday, 10th March - Today gave us the 34th Marlborough Brandt Group Annual Lent Lecture in Marlborough Town Hall which was given by Harriet Lamb, CBE, CEO of International Alert who was introduced by Lord Joffe, a leading member of the defence team in South Africa for Nelson Mandela 1963.
The evening started with a reception and speech given by Alison Burden who has spearheaded the successful campaign towards Marlborough's Fairtrade status. I was presented with a certificate in recognition of the Town Council's support. In my acceptance speech, I said I was pleased to accept this as a sign of our ongoing support to the farming community around the world, aiming for a fairer world where everyone has an equal opportunity to work and make a living. I also praised Alison and her team for their perseverance which enabled all of this to come about. The Manager of Tesco in Marlborough, Nick Helps and Poppy, Community Co-ordinator from Waitrose, gave a perspective from a Supermarket's view.
Harriet Lamb's lecture was based on 'To Bomb or not to Bomb' - That is the Wrong Question!'. She talked with great knowledge, having worked with these countries with Fairtrade for many years.
Peace is when people are able to resolve their conflicts without violence and can work together to improve the qualities of their lives, everyone has fair and equal access to the basic needs for wellbeing such as food, clean water, shelter, education. Peace can only last when human rights are respected, where people can practice their own beliefs, where individuals and nations are free to live their lives in safety from oppression.
So, we have a long way to go before everyone around the world enjoys the freedom and equality that we take for granted in Marlborough.
Sunday, 13th March - Today was the Service for the Rule of Law in the magnificent Salisbury Cathedral. This is held to commemorate the Office of the High Sheriff which goes back over 1,000 years, its roots going back to Saxon Times. It's the oldest secular office under the Crown until when, in 1908 under the right of King Edward VI, the Office of the Lord Lieutenant became the Sovereign's personal representative in a county. Whilst the duties of the High Sheriff have evolved and reduced over the years to a mainly cermonial role, he or she still remains the Sovereign's representative in the county for all matters relating to the judiciary and the maintenance of law and order.
So, all of Wiltshire's Mayors processed into the Cathedral in their red robes and ceremonial chains leading onto the main aisle followed by the judiciary who looked very impressive in their High Court wigs and robes.
The service was very moving with a reading from Roman 13:1-10 read by the Hon. Mr Justice Dingemanns - "Let every person be subject to the governing authorities".
There was a reading from the Quran, some rousing hymns and we ended up singing the National Anthem before processing out to queue for a nice cup of tea and chocolate chip cookies!
So we say goodbye to Lady Gooch who has done so much in her year, not only with youth groups, SPLASH and YAW but, supporting the Probation Service, the Royal Cadets, the Asian Women's Group and many others.
Here, I quote from Magna Carta 1215:
No free man shall be seized or imprisoned, or stripped of his rights or possessions, or outlawed or exiled, or deprived of his standing in any way, nor will we proceed with force against him, or send other to do so, except by the lawful judgement of his equals or by the law of the land
I would like to think this still works for us all today, that a man is innocent before being proved guilty but, sadly, I think not.
Monday, 14th March - We celebrated Commonwealth Day and Members of the Town Council met on the Town Hall steps, all holding the Commonwealth Flag. I then read a message from the Secretary General, Kamalesh Sharma, reiterating the bond that binds the Commonwealth of 53 countries and 2 billion people. The Commonwealth Charter asserts that everyone is equal, deserves respect whatever their status in life and seeks to build a better world.
Alan, our Caretaker, raced up to the roof top to fly the flag which fluttered proudly over our historic town on a beautiful spring morning.
Wednesday 16th March - Wednesday evening saw many Councillors supporting the Shopmobility evening when traders from the High Street were invited to a reception with a welcoming glass of wine to learn about what the Town Council, the Area Board and the Mobility Shop are trying to achieve. It was to highlight Marlborough's committment to support disabled people in enabling them to shop in Marlborough. This scheme is up and running in Salisbury very successfully. Sadly, the evening was not well attended. I was asked to name 3 of the mobility scooters and now we have Henry, Bella and James, perhaps with Thomas the tank engine in mind - great fun they are too.
We are looking for volunteers to give a few hours a week to support this venture.
Sunday 20th March 2016 - In the morning the Friends of the Victorian Cemetery met up. It was a lovely day and we put in valuable time raking up old grass and digging up brambles. The daffodils are beautiful so, do go and look. Sadly all the new bulbs that were planted have not materialised and the damage done by the contractors has not helped. However, in May we are invited to talk on wild flowers in churchyards and be presented with our first certificate for ongoing efforts. We also are discussing bees which is something important to work on.
Wednesday 23rd March 2016 - A Common Users Group meeting in the Council Chamber with different groups coming together and discussing main issues on the use of the Common. It's important to keep a fine balance of use and users and to protect and repair this beautiful piece of land which belongs to use all and is for everyone to enjoy.
As we now celebrate Easter and the start of new life, it is a great joy to see the fritillaries coming up and the daffodils in full bloom, a pure white heron feeding on the Kennet and the Kites flying over head. I am reminded, in these troubled times, how blessed we are to live in Marlborough. May I wish you all a peaceful Easter.