I was delighted to welcome year 5 children from Holly Mount School last week (Parliament Week) for an extended Question Time, where I was grilled about democracy and local politics.
As you know, children come up with the most fascinating and imaginative questions. One of the best had to be: “Do you have any special powers when you wear your cloak and chain?” mmm.. it left me a little stumped and I politely proceeded to explain that I hadn’t, but if I did it would be great have teleportation – how much time I could save!
I was also asked if I have the number for the Queen and Number 10 – or the power to sack the Government? These ones needed more careful negotiation and diplomacy, as you can imagine.
Thank you to all those children and schools that took part in my Christmas card competition. There were some wonderful and imaginative designs which grasped my theme of ‘Love Not Hate’ perfectly – winners will be announced in the following week.
Children in need always brings a smile to people’s faces and I thank Worcester Ukulele Group and Crowngate for inviting me to a sing along in the Shopping Centre. It was thoroughly enjoyable and entertaining, whilst raising money for a very good cause!
I got the chance to dress up with a Flower Power theme as I visited nPower HQ in the evening, to thank all the staff taking calls from the general public for the BBC Children in Need appeal. Well done for your precious donations of time and money!
On Saturday I was entertained by the Worcester Festival Choral Society at a concert in the Cathedral. Can I take the opportunity to say it was a fantastic spectacle and an evening full of high quality music – to my untrained ear it was seamless and heavenly, especially from the Soprano and the choir.
A crisp Sunday morning saw me join the Royal British Legion in remembrance of the Prisoners of War that are buried at Astwood Cemetery. It was a poignant moment to recognise all those that were caught in this terrible war. It was heartening to see representation from the Polish Association of Worcester there too.
Have a great weekend.
Last week we attended the University graduations in the historic Cathedral, which has been a seat of learning for centuries. Hundreds of students received their degree there this year. I am proud of the fact that despite the current mood of uncertainty around, our University goes from strength to strength. It is testimony to the ingenuity, entrepreneurship and innovation of the university staff, governors, chancellery and last but certainly not least, the students. Together they make the University a great success, not only in academic terms but also by providing such a rich contribution to life in the city.
Words cannot describe the scenes and emotions I felt on Remembrance Sunday, walking out into a packed Cathedral Square with hundreds lining the High Street to pay their respects at the end of the First World War centenary.
Not only did we remember the British soldiers that died in the First and Second World Wars, but all those who passed away in other conflicts since then. The scenes in Cathedral Square were awe inspiring; the power of the moment was sublime and you could really feel the City united in respect. The March and parade to follow was equally impressive, with the members of our Armed Forces, Cadets, Emergency Services, Scouts and Veterans receiving the salute by the Lord Lieutenant – a fitting way to inspire and remember those that fought for our freedoms.
I am honoured and grateful to have witnessed this momentous event – which according to many has been the best public occasion in recent living memory in this wonderful city of ours.
The beacon lighting ceremony at Fort Royal Park that evening was equally special. We reflected on the valuable and crucial contribution that women made during WW1. A powerful performance by DanceFest left many stunned, as they expressed their feelings and powerful message through dance and music.
As we continue to ride the wave of goodwill and positivity generated last weekend, I pray for peace across the globe and hope that our leaders can use this opportunity to build bridges not walls – and to put aside our differences under the umbrella of love, not hate.
It was a terrible tragedy to hear the news of the body of Stuart Downing, the missing man from Kidderminster, being found in the River Severn on Wednesday. His is another tragic loss in this city of ours, when we are still raw from the shock of student Tom Jones’s death. My heartfelt condolences go out to his next of kin, family and friends. My thoughts and prayers are with them at this time.
Worcester has also been remembering the fallen with some major events. I was honoured to be asked to launch the poppy appeal in Worcester. Dave Waldron, the Chairman of the Royal British Legion, rightly announced that the poppy is a symbol of universal remembrance and it represents all those who have fallen in all wars in this world of ours. These were fitting words as we prepare to mark the centenary of the armistice that brought to an end the First World War.
At Gheluvelt Park, I was invited by the Worcestershire Regimental Association to mark the 104th anniversary of the Battle of Gheluvelt, to pay respect and honour to the brave men who were the last hope and defence against German forces. A brutal and bloody battle ensued with many lives lost, and the Worcestershires emerged victorious from what seemed certain defeat and what was described by many as a suicide mission. They did us proud. Worcester will never forget its heroes. We salute you.
As we mark the 70th anniversary of our beloved NHS this year, I was delighted to welcome scores of NHS volunteers to the Guildhall. This was for an event organised by the NHS Trust in Worcestershire, to thank them for their incredible contribution to the county.
As with many organisations and charities, the NHS relies heavily on volunteers to spare precious hours to help to keep providing the excellent service we have come to expect. Theirs is a commitment that truly carries a message of Love not Hate, and I thank them for their brilliant effort.
It’s bonfire weekend, so please enjoy the Firework celebrations safely and spare a thought for neighbours and pets. Have a brilliant weekend.
Life is full of extraordinary stories of hope, determination, perseverance and triumph – despite personal injury, loss or trauma suffered in the process. Man has long sought comfort and inspiration from tales of exceptional bravery and victory in the apparent jaws of impending doom, failure or defeat.
One such character who I was privileged to hear about at a recent talk by the great speaker and explorer Rob Caskie, was the legendary Polar explorer Sir Ernest Shackleton.
The truly heroic story of Shackleton’s mission, interpreted initially as a failure by the outside world, has gone on to be recognised as one of the most incredible examples of loyalty, unbreakable Iron Will, determination and the truest test of the mettle and will power.
Therein lies the lesson for all of us. It is not uncommon to give up on something that is seemingly too difficult or too long or unrealistic. Far too often we panic or falter at the first sight of an obstacle, or are not patient enough to wait for the results to appear. My many attempts to lose weight or bowl at 100mph spring to mind!
But it is often in the attempt itself that you discover your greatest strengths and weaknesses, and find the motivation to carry on.
I am currently on a personal mission to beat the scales so that I reach the weight necessary for a personal operation to go ahead. To date all the necessary tests have come back clear, but I am awaiting the result of one more crucial one. Thanks to everyone who has offered their support and well wishes in this endeavour.
Shakelton’s family Motto was “by endurance we conquer” and he stated that “difficulties are just things to overcome, after all.” These are words that will serve me well in the weeks ahead.