Well, with Bonfire Night over and done with, it looks like we’re on the steady rundown to Christmas – and already plans are having to be hastily re-jigged. Due to unforeseen circumstances, on Friday the Elgar Chorale was obliged to put back its annual Christmas Charity Concert to December 18. A minor setback but even so, a spectacular evening remains in store, as ever.
If there’s one task I particularly welcome, it’s the opening of new ventures in Worcester, and Saturday saw just that – hairdressers The House of Glew in the Trinity: no ribbons to be cut, but my hair was. And a very neat trim it was too!
Watching fashion models parading on the catwalk may not be everyone’s idea of a fun-day Sunday, but when it’s for charity – as was Bromsgrove mayor Cllr Rod Laight’s marathon event, the sum-total raised for Primrose Hospice nudging £6,000 – I consider the time exceptionally well-spent.
It was a case of best behaviour in the company of heavy-duty VIPS for the rest of the week: Monday, alongside the Bishop, Dr. John Inge at the Palace to welcome Martin Gorick, the new Bishop of Dudley, and later that evening with the University’s highest execs, heads of academic schools and new graduates for the Graduation Dinner at the Arena. If anyone knows how to put on a grand show, it’s the University of Worcester. I was most impressed.
And so, to a memorable end to a memorable week. In town for the university’s glittering Graduation week, the establishment’s founding Chancellor and Queen’s cousin HRH Duke of Gloucester is always a welcome visitor and this week proved no exception. We met during my first mayoral term in 2004 when his genuine interest in all the university’s activities and achievements was already clear to see and all these years on, he remains as committed as ever. The same can also be said of his wife Birgitte, HRH the Duchess of Gloucester, in the city to mark Leukaemia Care’s 50th year of working with the blood cancer community, meeting beneficiaries and fund-raisers. Deeply honoured.
We hear ‘disaster appeal’ or ‘earthquake appeal’ near daily, but nothing can convey their true horrors until they affect your own: the recent Kashmir earthquake was centred on my wife’s village Sahang in Kikree, the after-shocks still taking lives and destroying property. Many, not least Altaf’s Balti in Worcester, are contributing towards my Earthquake Appeal and heartfelt thanks to all.
Talking of which, guess who learned new life-saving skills on Wednesday – and won a certificate for cardiopulmonary resuscitation (that I can perform, but struggle to spell)? Right! Me! The event was World Restart-a-Heart Day at the Guildhall where later that day was I not delighted to show off the glories of my daytime workplace to a group of Taiwanese students. Attending the first of a series of charity nights at Manor Farm completed a dizzy whirl of a day.
Now here’s an amazing Worcester success story – the resurrection of Arrow XL’s distribution centre at Blackpole, destroyed by fire two years ago but re-emerging bigger and even better equipped than before. I was delighted to do the re-opening honours on Thursday, returning just in time to welcome a group of thirty chirpy Worcester Brownies to the Parlour – another joy, as was the Mayor of Kidderminster’s Charity Chinese buffet meal and quiz night.
‘Have chain, will travel’ proved the case this week, on Friday in Hereford for Mayor Kath Hey’s Chain Gang Afternoon Tea in the Town Hall!
And here’s another feather in Worcester’s cap that seems to have slipped under the radar…. for the past three years, the Royal Life Saving Society UK chose Worcester for its Presentation of National Honours. It is such an honour to be associated with so worthy an organisation.
Later that day, some fun: the Mayor of Pershore’s Charity Ferret Racing Night at which I won… precisely nothing!
Sunday saw me on very best behaviour for Malvern Hills DC Chairman Dean Clarke’s Civic Service at Hallow, followed by Evensong at the Cathedral in procession with the High Sheriff and six of Her Majesty’s judges, all in full court dress. Impressed, or what?
A remarkable week by any standards, the end of which saw me reaching for my umbrella and a handy lamp-post to swing around in the rain. But more of that later…
Several times this week the importance of mental health has been brought home. In short, it needs just as much care and attention as the physically visible kind. That’s why three remarkable events this week have stood out…
On Thursday in the Guildhall, an exhibition of photographs taken by people battling against enduringly difficult odds, during a course run by New Opportunities Worcester. ‘Touched’ comes nowhere near summing-up my feelings.
Later the same day, Headway Worcestershire’s AGM and 30th anniversary. This amazing organisation was one of my nominated charities in my first term and is again this year – and to hear the tally of current success tales as well as its plans for forging ahead in the future proved a huge thrill. More tales of caring work brought to the fore at the Mental Health Awareness drop-in event at the Angel Centre on Saturday.
In between, the notion that there’s just not enough hours in the day flashed in front of me several times …
Music to be enchanted by at the Chamber Music@Worcester reception and ‘Forests, Fjords and Fairytales’ concert in Claines Church on Friday evening, heralding three days of free musical events, with Astaria String Quartet in the Astarrying role!
Judging by the huge number of customers eagerly awaiting the opening of the new Hobbycraft store at Blackpole, I can see this lovely company emerging as one of the city’s great success stories this year – I hope so anyway.
I was delighted to join Worcester Civic Society in its all-day celebration of 60 years’ sterling service to helping preserve our Worcester. Two more civic events occurred as Saturday rolled into Sunday: Redditch mayor Roger Bennett’s autumn charity supper which raised £450 on the night, followed the next morning by Bromsgrove DC Civic service, hosted by Cllr Rod Laight.
And then an experience: WODS’ Singin’ in the Rain at the Swan. Doo-be-do-doob, doobie-do-be-doo-doob. Wonderful.
All weeks sparkle, but some positively dazzle – and this was one of those weeks, with four celebrations where I walked in procession with fellow mayors of nearby towns. At times there was so much gold on display that sunglasses would have been a welcome accessory: of which, more later!
Sunglasses were not required for Age UK’s Reconnections Outdoor Lounge last Friday; a street market held to raise awareness of the terrific work undertaken locally by the organisation previously known as Age Concern. Such a shame about the weather, though. Later in the day, I made another visit to the dazzling Stanbrook Abbey for the Worcestershire Association of Carers’ AGM and Conference.
And talking of dazzling locations…. such is Perdiswell Pool where I watched, amazed and lost for words, Worcester Swimming’s Club Autumn Open Meet on Saturday, involving 400 swimmers and at least as many spectators from 32 local swimming clubs. From what I saw, my confident prediction is that it won’t be long before Worcestershire has representation in the Olympic swimming contingent, for sure.
The season of mayoral civic services continues: at Redditch on Sunday, followed by a cross-county dash to Tenbury, both events confirming my belief that this is still the age of the chain! More gold on display in the Cathedral in the evening for the Farmers’ Harvest Festival, crops and produce demonstrating that when it comes to colour, Nature wins every time!
The Mayor’s badge and chain continued to draw admiring glances at Ledbury’s October Fair on Monday – as it did on Wednesday when I was utterly wowed by the work of children at Fort Royal School. They have embarked on a ‘Time to be Seen’ project, recording images of Worcester for posterity – but with a difference. In 3D! Stunning.
But back to dazzling… how can I pen a weekly diary without remarking on this week’s awesome achievement in raising the required £500,000 for little Oscar Saxelby-Lee’s treatment. Fingers crossed that much of the same spirit will be shown through my appeal for victims of the devastating earthquake in Kashmir…