Monday 13th: A “tidying-up and catching-up day”: there wasn’t much time last week.
I had a telephone call from Richard Vernalls, reporter at the “Worcester News”. He wanted a comment about the recent issue of “Prayers” at Council meetings. Apparently we do not have the legal right to say prayers at a local council meeting, such as “Full Council”, to which councillors have been summoned. Does this really offend anyone? Well, it seems so. The National Secular Society has won a test case in Bideford Town Council. The practice “as part of the formal meeting of a council is not lawful under section 111 of the Local Government Act 1972, and there is no statutory power permitting the practice to continue.” But the key words here are ”… as part of the formal meeting…” to which councillors have been summoned. There would be nothing to prevent prayers being said before the formal start of a meeting: those who wished not to attend would have that option. I have full respect for the views of everyone in society and would never wish to offend or remove the rights of anyone no matter how small the minority. But it does work both ways and I think the Bishop of Exeter is correct when he is reported as saying: it is a “great shame that a tiny minority are seeking to ban the majority”.
I have just noted an online survey from the “Telegraph”: “Britain is a Christian country and prayer should play an important role in public life” 56.49% agree (5,807 out of 10,280 votes). Another question was: “It is unfair to make non-Christians take part in prayers, or be absent from meetings while they take place”: 14.24% (1,464 votes) agree with that statement. I think this says a lot!!!
However it seems commonsense is prevailing and I understand that from 18th. February the right to pray can be exercised by major local authorities in England. Whatever you may think of it this must be a victory for “Localism”.
Tuesday 14th: I opened the “Love Your Home Shop” (Community Safety) in “CrownGate” this morning. The shop has been set up in vacant premises (loaned by “CrownGate”) and runs from today until Saturday, 18th. February. It is a great idea that was the brain child of Inspector Janet Heritage. This is a community venture making accessible, under one roof, advice on crime prevention and safety. Other agencies were there including the Fire Service, Health Service, Worcester Community Safety, Neighbourhood Watch and Safer Roads Partnership. When I arrived the shop was already packed with interested people. One thousand visitors passed through the shop when the initiative was run last year: I think more will come this year.
Someone has broken the lid of the Mayor’s Royal Worcester Porcelain teapot! I took it to Bronte’s in Hanley Swan and they are going to attempt a repair. I was able to have a short tour of the factory and was delighted to see the most exquisite porcelain production and painting going on.
It’s Valentine’s Day!! Cllr. Jim Bulman, Mayor of Evesham, held a Valentine Dinner Party at the Raphael’s Restaurant (next to Hampton Ferry across the River Avon) to raise funds for his charities. A most enjoyable evening with quizzies scattered between the courses.
Wednesday 15th: Twenty eight students (aged 13 – 14 years), from our German twinned-town of Kleve, came for a welcome and short talk about the Guildhall. They attend the Freiherr-vom-Stein Gymnasium in Kleve.
It is 25 years since the City of Worcester Twinning Association was established. It has been a great success linking us with Kleve (Germany), Le Vesinet (France), Ukmerge (Lithuania), Worcester (USA) and Vernon (France). Jane and I, as President (during my year as Mayor), attended the AGM of the Association this evening at the St. Dunstan’s Bowling Club. From the reports it is clear that a great deal of work has been done to nurture these friendships. These are so important to promote peace, understanding, trade and co-operation. Membership of the Association is open to anyone interested in improving international relations. Members benefit from regular newsletters, social activities, and the opportunity to travel abroad and make lasting friendships by
exchange visits to our twin towns. More information and an application form can be found on www.worcester-international-link.org.uk/
Thursday 16th: An extra Planning Committee meeting to consider the 250, Bransford Road (old Kay’s site) housing application.
Friday 17th: The Vernon (France) Rowing Club is visiting Worcester for a few days for a regatta on the River Severn with the Worcester Rowing Club (WRC). Mr. Robert Wooding, The President of the WRC, presided over a reception held at St. George’s Catholic Primary School to which Jane and I were invited. It was a pleasure to welcome the club from the town with which Worcester has had a Friendship Agreement since 2006. I was presented with a letter that had been brought from Monsieur le Maire de Vernon, Philippe Nguyen Thanh, and I reciprocated by handing over a letter of greeting.
Saturday 18th: The Worcester Re-enactors organised a huge event in the Guildhall and Tudor House Heritage Centre (Friar Street) today presenting “Living History in Worcester”. From the Guildhall steps I opened this thousand years of history which were told in many and vivid ways: soldiers, civilians, weapons, drill displays and crafts, a history fair, Viking warriors displayed their fighting skill on the forecourt, a group from the 17th and 18th centuries (Lace Wars) set up a small camp, Napoleonic groups showed what life was like for the soldier.
The American Civil War soldiers and ladies were there showing camp life, with medical care for the soldiers and a barber surgeon. The 19th century Southern African and the Zulu and Boer Wars were represented as well as the First World War (the Great War) and the Battle of Ghelevelt (October 1914) where the Worcestershire Regiment won one of its greatest honours. The Second World War displays included British, American and German troops and the RAF had a full working mock-up of an Emergency Operations room re-enacting a raid by the Luftwaffe over the south Coast of Britain. The Tudor House in Friar Street became the Cross Keys Inn, set in the time of the English Civil war when Worcester was occupied by the Royalist forces in the days before the Battle of Worcester in 1651.
Admission to this event was free but it provided an opportunity to collect donations from visitors for my Mayor’s Charities Leukaemia Care and Worcester Farmers’ Overseas Action Group for which I am most grateful to the organisers. For more information about the Worcester Re-enactors see www.lhiw.org.uk
Sunday 19th: It was a pleasure to attend Eucharist at Whittington Church this morning and see our friends: we have not had many recent opportunities because of other commitments.
The Church of St. John-in-Bedwardine was dedicated as the Parish Church on 17th February 1372 (although the building dates back to about 1165). A Service of Thanksgiving and Rededication was held this afternoon to mark this 640th Anniversary and the completion of works on the Tower and Bells. The Right Reverend Dr John Inge, Bishop of Worcester presided and gave a sermon on the value of “place” in our lives. Death-watch beetle was found in the tower in 2008 and the bells of the Church of St. John-in-Bedwardine have been silent since then. So it was wonderful to hear them ringing out again today. This is thanks to many people and organisations who have managed to raise the huge sums of money needed for the project.
On Friday, 10th February we held a “Diamond Jubilee” dinner in the Guildhall. Theo Theobald recited his new specially written poem. I am delighted to be able to reproduce it here with Theo’s agreement:
The Queen’s Handbag
by Theo Theobald,
Poet Laureate for Worcestershire 2011 – 2012
After 60 long years as our monarch, there’s one question we feel we must pose.
It’s our natural curiosity ma’am it’s audacious but sod it here goes…
“What’s in yer handbag Lizzie?”, what do you keep in there?
Reveal the secrets that lie therein – after this long it’s only fair…
Its volume is cavernous let me say at the start – lest you question my story’s veracity.
It came from the shop Mary Poppins got hers – and it shares the same large capacity.
There’s normal stuff like a hairbrush, a comb and her favourite lippy.
A hat, knitted scarf and full balaclava in case the weather turns nippy.
A neat little gizmo translates dialects to understand scousers and Geordies.
She also keeps treats made by pedigree chum which she dispenses freely to her …..corgis.
A dog-eared letter to Charles proclaiming him King when the time comes for him to take over
Is twinned with a similar missive to Camilla suggesting she gets a makeover.
A cattle prod she used on her spouse when he made the occasional gaffe
Has given way to a more modern tazer which she uses now and then for a laugh.
Her iPhone’s got its own Royal Apps and a host of most-regal features
Like a dictionary, thesaurus and even a thingy – that is useful for writing her speeches.
The inflatable arm is a boon in the car – it’s often been her life saver,
It means she can do her sudoko while it acts as a surrogate waver.
Surprisingly…surprisingly “Take That” are her Her Majesty’s favourite pop combo.
She carries at all times a signed photograph of her heart throb, one Gary Barlow.
[OF COURSE THIS ISN’T TRUE AT ALL, IN FACT HER FAVOURITE BAND MEMBER IS JASON ORANGE, BUT AS THE POETS AMONGST YOU WILL KNOW, THERE’S NO RHYME FOR ORANGE…THAT’S CALLED POETIC LICENCE!]
In her bag – purse or – pockets, we’re all well aware no cash is in there to be found
Which is why she makes herself scarce when it’s her turn to buy a round.
Some “Rennie” for hubby whose troublesome tum sometimes causes him indigestion
When windiness risks red faces all round, she covers it with the royal pardon.
Forgive me for poking fun in this way I trust your enjoyment won’t have been blighted
But poets are irreverent buggers who very seldom get knighted.
The truth is I hope for everything good for a woman whose spent most of her life
Reigning over us all through tortuous turbulent times of trouble and strife.
Sixty years is cause for high celebration, let’s party, let’s open the bubbly.
Then in future we’ll reminisce with affection on the most wonderful luverly jubilee.
On Friday, 24th February at 7.30pm I will be hosting a popular annual brass band concert in the Assembly Room at the Guildhall performed by Worcester Concert Brass. The programme will include well-loved songs from West Side Story, a Beatles medley, a trio of tunes from the American Deep South, a traditional brass band march, some light classical music and an appearance by the charismatic local mezzo-soprano Margaret Peters.
This will be an evening not to miss. I am immensely grateful to Worcester Concert Brass for their generosity. Their performances are always outstanding and thoroughly enjoyable and fun. The proceeds will go to Leukaemia Care and Worcester Farmers’ Overseas Action Group.
Tickets – including light refreshments – cost £5 in advance or £7 on the door. They are available from the Worcester Tourist Information Centre at the Guildhall, the Mayor’s Office on 01905 722001, or through the band on 01905 640456.