Saturday, 30 January 2016

When is a field not a field?

      When is a field not a field?

 Easy answer? When it has houses on it! 


Manor Road field


After watching the process of a planning appeal this week against Barrow Council's decision to turn down the development by Story Homes at Manor Road, I despair of local people ever having a voice. Don't get me wrong, the process is all very fair and the inspector diligent in ensuring all parties have a chance to put their cases. However, the rigidity of the process eliminates the chance to rebut certain aspects because it can be objected to in terms of "new" evidence. Of course it isn't new evidence, but it's classed as new because it hasn't been introduced in the mountains of files and paper  accrued since the screening stage of the debate. Our little protest group-who has been active since day one, said our piece, but  when trying to correct some blatant misinformation re the historic value of this little field, we were slapped down by the opposition flatly. Sadly, the objection was upheld and we were unable to correct this.

Naturally, the developer has appointed a costly barrister-who believe me is thorough and uncompromising-and good. The council have appointed a very competent young woman, and as good as she is, you can bet your life the council couldn't spend the same type of money that the developer has. So, we already have an unbalance. Allegedly.

Maybe the appeal will fail. So where does that leave us? Well-maybe the land owner and the developer will pack in then and there. After all, 38 houses -neither here nor there to a big company like Story Homes. However, There is a great deal at stake here-for a start the landowner allegedly stands to lose a huge sum; pension fund, self-interest-whats one paltry field? But let us examine... I am using barrister speak here... let us examine,the possibility that the 38 houses are merely a subterfuge, a test case, a blind. Maybe... other land owners are sitting waiting in the wings for payday too. Who knows? There are lots of fields round there and those don't have the annoyance of being part of a conservation area. These being adopted would finally urbanise the whole of Rating Lane up to and including Manor Farm and with some clever planning an enterprising speculative developer would sweep that site up and extend his greedy reach behind and beyond. Of course this is all in my fevered imagination... nothing more than a conspiracy theory... I am a writer after all. 

In our real world, it could never happen. After all the land is protected with being close to the abbey. Isn't it? But then with set backs, buffers and planting I'm sure any new builds in those locations would enhance and improve the scrappy fields. Let's face it-they are "urban edge" (whatever that means)-they have power lines and walls etc (watch out Lake District-you have pylons and power lines too). So the superior (definitely NOT standard houses-because they will have decorative roundels, gables and sandstone facing-and you KNOW Barrow is crying out for a better class of housing-because we all apparently live in slums) will improve all this field stuff! And of course-I am sure there are no landowners queuing up with their hands held out-most of them are guardians of the land and take care to conserve it for the future generations-don't they?

I'm glad we cleared that up! It would be unbearable if the future of our green fields, heritage and countryside was at risk from the highest bidder. It would be unthinkable that a massive, wealthy developer, who can fund litigation up to the highest level would be able to overcome extensive local opposition and even the council's rejection of their scheme wouldn't it? If the council win- surely the developer will cease - if its only for 38 houses-wouldn't be worth the while-they've made their point anyway? However, if it goes further- until they finally win-then one must wonder what comes next, because you can take a good bet that it won't stop at 38 houses... and if in the meantime if the council is bankrupted... well, hey... it's only Barrow!

But of course...none of this is true... is it? It's all in my imagination... isn't it? Oh... and put me down for the house that overlooks the abbey!

The blog has been amended to remove speculation about Sixth Form College-apparently this is not owned by the LA (Cumbria) and no plans are afoot to cease the use of the site for education despite amalgamation with another college. This was written as a speculative piece and I apologise for the inaccuracy of that comment. On the other hand, it is a great relief that this is so as it means further speculative development is less likely because of access; though of course not entirely impossible.

Monday, 11 January 2016

Time's little tricks

 With David Bowie's passing today it stirs a lot of memories and thoughts. I already hate January so maybe this melancholy turn of mind is just amplified with this news. I liked Bowie... I remember the first time I listened to Hunky Dory... when I didn't like him that much! On a rare occasion I skipped school (in Sixth form I might add) a girl called Melanie took me to her house for a cuppa. We weren't friends as such but we found refuge in each other's truancy. I was 16 and shy. She put on  a record (as we used to call it)-Hunky Dory... I had heard of it of course but was more of an Elton John fan-but I felt duty bound to listen and enthuse politely. It was a bit "far out" for me at the time and Bowie was one of the artistes on Top of the Pops who provoked the most expletives from my dad-who didn't really embrace the androgynous nature of David Bowie- or in fact any of those who dressed less than masculinely.

That said, my boyfriend who appeared the next year on, did like Bowie and we always shared music and often (with odd exceptions) adopted each others tastes. So Bowie then became the portfolio of our young adult lives. The significant songs matched to significant events and the memories attached. The excitement and familiarity of songs over the years passing to our children too-one of whom came to our 70s Pearl wedding dressed as Aladdin Sane! So, there is a catch in the throat and a small tear in the corner of the eye. Its not because he is a celebrity. Its because he has written the soundtrack to our and many others lives. Because he symbolises our lost youth and reminds us that we are all mortal! 
Bowie ever changing

Time plays a nasty little trick on us poor mortals-when we are young we hear our elders reminiscing about youth, which we dismiss. We have a quiet arrogance-we secretly believe we will not age or die. But suddenly, we wake up one day and we realise we have probably already had more years on earth than we are likely to have left. And its a shock! The death of someone immortalized on the screen or disc is a shock to us because it nudges our own mortality. When a young person dies its tragic and we acknowledge this-but we pretend its rare and unusual. Some of us say things like "only the good die young" to make it seem acceptable. But in this pretense that life goes on forever we feel the need to rationalize when it obviously doesn't! We trot out platitudes like "he had a good innings" or "he was getting on"- but it just isn't true-its never a good innings. All deaths are painful to those loved ones left behind and it matters not if you are 5 or 95! Life is precious and we want to hang on to it. Days like today just amplify the fact that death is one thing nobody-no matter how wealthy, successful, clever, beautiful or famous can avoid forever! And that's what makes it sad! That's what in the end is the great leveler and when we react or mourn-granted at different levels and extremes-to the death of someone like Bowie-its that human connection. We aren't just mourning him... we are mourning our own eventual demise too.
When a young person dies its tragic and we acknowledge this-but we pretend its rare and unusual.
Homage to Aladdin Sane

Thursday, 5 November 2015

If ye break faith with us who die...


In Flanders Field the poppies blow

Between the crosses, row on row


There is always debate at this time about the poppy and whether it should or shouldn't be worn, whether it glorifies war or is purely an act of remembrance. As with everything that endures over a long time, its meaning can become muddled and incongruous-usually because we have lost the meaning or because we anachronistically place our own flawed interpretation onto it. It has become a political instrument though it was never meant to be and I am a little irked by its detractors.


I am not one of those who dogmatically insists that everyone should wear a poppy, not would I insult or criticize you whether you did or did not! Neither would I post one of those passive/aggressive Facebook declarations which threatens and vilifies for either wearing or not wearing a poppy. To me the essence of the poppy is about choice- when it first began a huge majority of the population was proud to wear one-mainly because they all knew or had lost someone in the terrible war. As time moves on the remembrance is more distant and perhaps more collective, but certainly in my own case I remember the young men in the family (great uncles) who had no chance to live their lives as I have done. I like the poppy for its simplicity, for its symbolism. I don't see it as jingoistic or political and I certainly can't associate it with racism.If it is perceived as such-then the fault lies with those who have tried to use the poppy to promote a right wing nationalistic interpretation-not the poppy itself.

I refuse to abandon it or wear a "white" poppy on the strength of this. The whole point of the poppy is that it is red-to symbolise the blood spent for our freedom. The white apologist poppy is almost an insult-what's the point? Nothing is more poignant than the silent fluttering of the thousands of poppies falling from the ceiling of the Albert Hall at the end of the Remembrance ceremony. Each one representing the fallen-yours and mine... and even the apologists. It has nothing to do with glorification and sentimentality, it has to do with humanity and loss... and remembrance. So, although I would never wish to inflict my choice upon you... please don't try and denigrate mine and many others who are still proud to wear the poppy, in thanks for those long past and in the hope that by remembering we might one day stop the bloodshed and aggression in the world. We have not yet learnt from our mistakes, but if we extinguish remembrance, because it is not always presented in the way we would like then we have lost an important lesson. 

So I will wear my poppy and will not be made to feel guilty because it might represent something it isn't meant to! Flanders Fields by Canadian McCrae is poignant, because he was there. He died of meningitis and pneumonia at the Canadian Hospital in Boulogne-a less obvious casualty of war and buried at Wimereaux Cemetery. He experienced the worst of the war but he believed he was making a difference and believed in what he was doing-as most men at the front did. Who are we a hundred years later to criticise and denigrate the beliefs of a man who was proud to sacrifice his life-not just for his country but for the "Empire"? To do so is not only anachronistic but also a little insulting. We might not hold those views now-but we have no right to manipulate them into a time when things were very different.


"If ye break faith with us who die

We shall not sleep, though poppies grow

In Flanders fields."

In the same cemetery lies my great uncle John Wilkinson-one of three uncles who died. He was rejected at the start of the war due to poor eye-sight, but was recalled in 1917 when men were needed to replenish the human cannon fodder. I am sure he went with the same beliefs as McCrae-I am also sure they must have questioned why they were there, but that is part of the tragedy of war-which is probably as true today as it was then. The poppy still stands for those men and as simple as it is I think it does its job admirably.


In Flander's Fields the poppies blow

Between the crosses, row on row,

That mark our place; and in the sky

The larks, still bravely singing, fly


Scarce heard amid the guns below.

We are the Dead. Short days ago

We lived, felt dawn, saw sunset glow,

Loved and were loved, and now we lie

In Flanders fields.

Take up our quarrel with the foe:


To you from failing hands we throw


The torch; be yours to hold it high.


If ye break faith with us who die


We shall not sleep, though poppies grow


In Flanders fields.

Saturday, 12 September 2015

This is a party political broadcast on behalf of ... the confused!

I say I am not political. However, I am political. Political with a small p -in a more holistic way-not in a red/blue or yellow way...political in a human way. As long as I remember politics has been discussed in my environment-as a child at the tea table, at my Nannies, at my Grandma and Granddad's, through the news on TV and in any gathering of more than two or three. So you might think I would have a distinctive political leaning. Well you would be wrong.

My politics has veered left to right, right to left through the years, cherry picking certain elements, admiring certain political strengths but never coming down wholly on one side or another-mainly because I have a distinct aptitude for seeing value in many opinions and being persuadable. In fact I have reached a point where I don't think there is a party to represent me totally.

Today, has brought this into sharp relief. I have to declare I have found what Jeremy Corbyn has had to say quite refreshing. He appears to be honest, steadfast and genuine-time will tell I suppose and some of what he says convinces me. Obviously, there are bits that I have problems with-mainly due to personal circumstances-son and husband working in the nuclear industry, my town reliant on the success of Trident... but his stance on the NHS, housing and refugees resonate well! 

Then I think back. My brief flirtation with Thatcher (ok ok  I know-I grew out of it) but again-circumstance defined some of that too- a GLC mortgage-when we were struggling to get a house in London, the feeling in the early days that if you work hard you are rewarded. Then Maggie lost it totally and became a raging dictator...

I remember the feeling of euphoria when Blair and new Labour emerged from the ashes of old Labour! The sort of politics that seemed all encompassing-a genuine guy and all that! Then Blair lost it totally and became a raging dictator and got us into an illegal war-well we know what that led to...

So middle of the road it was. Lib Dem -a bit loosey goosey and less extreme than the other two.Well that turned out well! An alliance from hell with the Tories-and this lot more about elitism than ever-no room for social mobility and removal of much of the public service built up in the halcyon days of Labour.

So look to family, friends and acquaintances. I have a schism in my family-one half rabid red -t'other bright blue! So no help there! Friends-a spectrum of colour! On the red team- I have to say-united in hatred of Thatcher and all things Tory-but shades of red from cerise to pink! This highlighted even more with the Corbyn issue-I have friends I would previously have marked as just socialists... now? Well hard to say what to call them-disagreeing as vehemently with each other as if they were on different sides. Blue team-Tories more united and gloating over the Corbyn emergence and believing everything the Murdoch press tells them. 

I don't think I am a stupid person-but I am confused! I believe British politics is in a mess and the electorate are fed up with disingenuous politicians who only seem to be concerned with image and self-promotion. I know this is not all politicians-but the public do tend to tar all with the same brush! I think this is why Corbyn is appealing to so many-he has, on record stuck to his guns for 40 odd years. We might not like what he says and we might fear the effect he will have-but what you see is what you get! Its that and his traditional views on housing, education and the NHS which are impressive-he actually does believe in fairness and equality. I don't know if he's good or bad for the country. He is in opposition now and I don't know whether he will lead Labour to victory. But at the very least he has promoted a massive debate and I believe he could be exactly the catalyst we need to kick start politics again and throw off the shackles of this elitist, unsympathetic, feudal Tory government. Surely anyone who can promote this level of debate and rock the foundations of a political system which has become unreliable and untrustworthy must be for the public good.

So, come voting day-what type of party do I want to vote for? One that values people, all kinds, all creeds, colours and persuasions. One that cares for the old, the young, the sick, the disabled, the homeless, the weak, the vulnerable... one that watches the pennies and spends on the right things and values public service. One that invests in children and education-but allows professionals space and doesn't quantify success with league tables, one that pays nurses and doctors properly and doesn't stop people's drugs because they are too expensive...in short a party that cares. It remains to be seen if JC is the new messiah! One can hope-or dream...

Tuesday, 25 August 2015

Unexpected adventures

Don't you just love spontaneity? I do! Today after a good walk to Bosun's Locker for lunch a friend and I noticed the ferry boat for Piel Island was in-we suddenly decided to go for it! Boat rides are always exciting and we were giddy as a couple of school girls (well quite mature school girls it has to be said). We alighted on the jetty at the island and proceeded to explore the medieval castle! It was just as I remembered it-it must be 20 years since I last went! Obviously, those familiar with Out of Time Secret of the Swan know that George and Sid visit the island too. So it was great fun locating where the action occurred!
Ferry to the Pile of Fouldray

                                                                                                             We found where I had located the oubliette! Even though I knew there was no such item-I couldn't help but look for it! We wandered for some time and reflected what a great place to take children to! The ferry was a fiver return and you had from 11am till 5pm to return! The beaches and the castle make it a rich adventure for any child-add a picnic or bar meal from the pub and you have a fine day out! Entry to the castle is free courtesy of English Heritage                                                                                   
Gate house
The outer ward

 Anyway... back to our explorations... suddenly we came upon the stone below! I had never seen this before and a shudder of deja vu or something prickled my neck! It said Aug 193? The final figure looked to be either a 4 or a 9! For my purposes it has to be 1934... the exact year George and Sid explored! How weird -reality mimicking fiction-or is it the other way around? 

I think George and Sid might have more adventures after today-after all its too good not to follow up isn't it?
The Keep

















Wednesday, 19 August 2015

We're all going to the zoo...

Another trip out was to the South Lakes Animal Park at Dalton. I am not a lover of zoos but this one has its conservation message and breeding programmes so as the young man we were trying to entertain wanted to go we gave it a whirl. Ignoring the annoyance of parking at the now defunct entrance and then having to find the new one, parking was quite extensive. It was quite a trek for anyone with mobility issues however... or pushing a buggy as we were.
We had a long wait in very hot sunshine but when we arrived at the cash desk we could buy a variety of options. We chose the cheapest-which allowed free entry for the boys. It cost £31 for two adults-we declined the offer of paying to feed the animals. One of the things we chose the zoo for was because Baby Jonah likes trains. We located this and found we had another payment of £1 each to pay. It was irritating again as I queued in a long line-by which time we also wanted ice cream-only to be told this kiosk didn't take cards and I would need to queue again! So we didn't bother and just got the tickets.

We saw lots of animals and the most popular part was the open safari trail. It was exciting for the children and terrifying for the granny and auntie to see emus and lemurs in close proximity. 
Some of the animals were easier to see than others and I don't think the heat helped with the smell. My personal impression was that there were lots of good ideas but it has an unfinished and slightly grubby feel to it. I know there is major reconstruction going on but some attention needs to be given to the general tidiness and appearance. However, as a family-if you purchase the best option and hold out against the gift shop, ice creams and extras it could be a cost effective day out. There is plenty to do-places to eat a picnic, a new adventure playground and the different animal experiences -all in all a good day.

Friday, 14 August 2015

Further adventures

Well nobody can say we don't get out and about! We had another couple of trips in lovely sunny weather this week.
We decided to take Great Grandma with us and this meant we had to look for somewhere with easier access whilst balancing with the needs of a young child! We had a delightful lunch at The Swan Hotel at Newby Bridge, al fresco as it turned out-very hot and sunny. We had sandwiches, drinks and a child's meal, spending around £40 for four of us-average I would say for a Lake district hotel. 



We sat beside the lake under the trees, with space for the six year old to wander and play. There was also a small adventure trail for children which is a good distraction whilst waiting for food to arrive (it was very busy). The wasps were a nuisance around the tables and it might be an idea to put out some citronella candles to ward them off. Otherwise a very pleasant repast in beautiful surroundings.


Cheers!

We then moved on to the more child centred activity of Fell Foot which is a National Trust property. Access was fairly easy although parking was tight due to the vast numbers of visitors. 

Parking for non NT members is free but the cost is reasonable anyway. The grounds are beautiful and give open access to Lake Windermere which is a magnet for all children in hot weather. It is perfect for a picnic and you can easily spend the whole day there. The shop has the usual array of goods-high on the agenda drinks and ice-creams and the Boathouse cafe has delicious refreshments to sample indoors or out. A day here could be as cheap as you can make it-if you take a picnic you don't need to venture to the cafe and shop. Other activities include rowing and the ferry to Lakeside. A grand day out for any family.
FELL FOOT PARK

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