Archive for October, 2018

Comment:We need a decent bus service

October 27, 2018

It has been revealed that a boy died of hypothermia last December after missing his bus to school. While this is an extreme case and there was also a suggestion that the reason why he missed his bus was because he may have been drinking alcohol and was confused, this case highlights a factor that is liable to seriously affect vulnerable people when they try to catch the Stagecoach buses in our area, Ely, Cambridgeshire.

The bus company has changed our service, in principle, from a one-hourly service to a two-hourly one. While it was bad enough waiting in freezing conditions for a one-hourly bus, it was nevertheless possible to catch a bus in reasonable time, allowing for some lateness that is inevitable with the large amount of traffic that is now on our roads, and because of the occasional accident.

With a two-hourly service, it is possible that if a person misreads or cannot find out when the next bus is coming to Market Street before they set off to wait at the bust stop, or when one of the buses is unable to come, they could be expected to stand (or half-sit in a minimal shelter that has proved to be no shelter at all) in the freezing wind, for over one and a half hours. It takes only a few minutes to make a person feel very cold, over an hour could be disastrous, especially if the prospective passenger is particularly elderly or disabled.  The elderly, especially, are the people most likely to be unable to drive and are the ones who need the bus service to be able to leave their town at all and make necessary appointments to the hospital, doctor or dentist.

They say that a ‘civilized’ society is judged by the way it treats its vulnerable people. The powers that be claim that they are unable to do anything, because they do not have the money. It would cost too much. However, it seems they do have the money to pay some of their staff in the region of £100,000 to say this. If the powers that be really wanted to make a change, they could. It would take a significant change in attitude. Caring for the vulnerable members of society should be a priority, not an inconvenience to be ignored.

It is time we had a complete re-think about the way our society is run. Give people a good, reliable and frequent bus service and over time it will be more than likely that fewer people will depend on cars, the roads could become slightly less impacted, and our vulnerable people could have smoother, more rewarding lives, possibly reducing the times they have to go to the doctor because of all their troubles, many originating from a callous attitude to their needs by the rest of society.

Review of ‘Goodnight Mr. Tom’ by Viva in the Performing Arts Centre Soham Village College on Thursday 25th October 2018

October 26, 2018

Viva Keith Gallois Judith Collingswood and Alison O'ConnorIf ever there was a performance that demonstrated beyond a doubt that live theatre outshines films, it was this one. Throughout the performance we were kept spellbound. We were there with the characters, living their parts. The acting was so good that we were never divorced from the tensions and emotions of the scenes being played out before us.

Mr. Tom, played by Vaughan Moll, was the epitome of those cantankerous old men that we know so well: all thunder and bluster on the outside, all heart on the inside. William (Oscar Vaughan) was the poor child so poorly done by. We felt his pain and wonder as he was slowly drawn out of his world of trauma and abuse into a loving and meaningful relationship with his adoptive father-to- be.

Costumes, hair styles and make up were so realistic that we were easily transported into life during WW2. One minute, children were jauntily rushing out of school as if they did not have a care in the word, at others, the reality of the most gruesome factors of a country at war and a childhood lost through abuse from an unstable parent were brought home.

Other main characters that shone were Zack (Torin Fahy) the vivacious, chatty child who enlivened the villagers’ lives with his unforgettable charisma, the unhinged and abusive mother Mrs Beech (Chloe Grimes), the warm -hearted much more motherly Mrs. Fletcher (Sarah Boor), kindly Annie Hartridge (Kerry Hibertt), the heavy-smoking, and sympathetic Dr Little (David Tickner – who also made a very colourful ticket collector), the Nurse (Sue Perry) and the consultant Dr Stelton (Peter Crussell, also the vicar).  George (Daniel Allgood), Ginnie (Tabby Kirk), Carrie (Lillie Coghlin), and the evacuees all helped to establish a realistic world of children with their games and antics. The remaining characters, too numerous to mention, were all just as effective and essential to the plot although mention must be made of the puppeteers: Sienna Warder and Sophie Jones who did a splendid job.

This was an excellent production. Judith Collingswood, Keith Gallois, Alison O’Connor and their team and are to be congratulated for such a meaningful, tear-jerking show. The tissue kindly provided inside the programme was definitely needed!


Managers of care homes to be judge and jury

October 21, 2018

It has been reported that ministers may go ahead with plans to give managers of homes more control over the vulnerable people they care for. Currently, relatives of vulnerable people have some power to object to the way a home cares for their relatives by applying for a judicial review. Now the government is doing away with the Deprivation of Liberty Safeguards that makes this possible because it believes it is too slow and expensive. The new rules will make managers the assessors rather than relative being able to ask for independent assessors to judge whether their concerns are justified and should be upheld.  Instead of our current position, managers will ‘consult’ with people and make the decisions accordingly. They will be judge and jury – a worrying state of affairs. As we have found with many of our land developers, ‘consulting’ with someone does not necessarily mean taking notice of them or making any effort to comply with reasonable requests.

These new rules over the care of our vulnerable people  seem to open the gates for disreputable  homes to ignore relatives’ concerns and do whatever is cheapest for the home, irrespective of the effect on their vulnerable ‘clients’.  There have been enough homes already that have been in the press for negligence, we do not want more. More notice should be taken of the relatives of the vulnerable people. It is upsetting enough to have one’s relative having to go into a home in the first place. It is even more upsetting if one has to battle to see that they are cared for properly, especially when one is no longer in control of what happens to the relative. This change will make relatives feel even more upset should something go wrong.

Fortunately, most homes are functioning well and most staff care for the vulnerable people in their charge with diligence and compassion. While there may be the odd rogue carer when problems can occur, in our current good homes, this carer is soon reported and sorted. On such occasions the Deprivation of Liberty Safeguards does not need to be applied. However, given that rogue carers and relatively unfocused managers may still exist, who will be able to rescue the sufferers from them?

Let us hope the government will see the gaping hole it has created and make certain that when the homes themselves are assessed there will be some mechanism incorporated for relatives to not only have their say but to bring up concerns they may have had that have been ignored. Let us hope these concerns are included in the report of the home and action is taken to alleviate any outstanding problems.

Writers’ Day 13th October 2018

October 15, 2018

On Saturday 13th October a Writers’ Day was held in St. Andrew’s Hall Witchford when talks, mini-workshops and opportunities to mingle with other writers were provided. Speakers included Dominic O’Sullivan giving us insight into writing, Alan Moser Bardouleau talking about writing groups, Jackie Tyler with advice for short story writers, Julie Newman talking about the beginnings of her new writing career, Roger Rix on literary publications, Rosemary Westwell on ’Doing Dialogue’, Ben Langley on ‘Do I need to do a Writing Course?’ and Mike Rouse talking about is writing experiences. Refreshments were provided by Jackie Tyler and the winners of the Short Story Competition were announced. They were as follows: Joint first prize winners: Roger Rix and Lauren Thomas, third prize Rachel Winter, and highly commended  Ida Johnston, June Linscott, Lorney Hoey, Madeleine Funnell, Allison White and Brian Foster.

The next Writers’ Day will be from 1145 a.m. to 4.45 p.m. in St. Andrew’s Hall Witchford on Saturday 29th June 2019 as part of The Isle of Ely Arts Festival. The results of an associated short story competition will be announced. To enter this competition send your new unpublished 500-word story inspired by ‘Landscapes of Life’ to by Saturday 22nd June including your name, address, email address and phone number. It is free to enter and there will be a cash prize for first prize winner. For more information or to book your place at the Writers’ Day contact


Winning stories

First Prize


Winter by Roger Rix


Winter was angry. He sat slumped in his chair across my desk shaking his head. “This just can’t go on,” he said. “Something has to be done!”

I must admit I wasn’t at all surprised. When he had first demanded an interview I was warned by others in the Universal Complaints Office that I could expect fireworks. I’m afraid that ‘Old Hoary Locks had acquired quite a stormy reputation.

“Come now,” I said. ”Things can’t be that bad, can they?”

“That bad!” he shouted. “They’re all against me. They’re trying to get rid of me.”

“Just who has got it in for you?” I replied,

“That poisonous gang of three; that young upstart Spring, and his fat friend Summer who spends most of his time out of the office. He says he’s on business, but I know he’s gone off on holiday. And Autumn, don’t ask me about Autumn. ‘Season of mellow fruitfulness’ my arse. Supposed to be in charge of the Harvest, but I’ve never known him do a stroke of work in his life. He just sits at his desk taking calls from his broker and canoodling with his secretary, that Greek Nymph, I’ve forgotten her name. But enough said about that.”

“Well,” I said. ”Have you any proof?”

“ Proof! Have I any proof?” His white hair began to wave ominously over his head, and the icicle on his nose began to tremble dangerously over my coffee cup.

Here he fumbled in his pocket and threw a bundle of soiled papers across my desk.

“Read that.” He commanded. “It will make your blood freeze. It did mine I can tell you. They’ve hired a pack of insolent scribblers to praise themselves to high heaven while making me look like a cold hearted killjoy!”

“Here, let me read you some of their grossest libels.”

“Here’s one written in praise of that young rapscallion Spring,

‘Nightingale , Lark in sky – merrily, merrily to welcome in the year.’

Written by that William bloody Blake, what a plonker! And what about this from our very own Will Shakespeare ; ‘When daisies pied and violets blue , do paint the meadows with delight.’ Sentimental rubbish , all of it! And when it comes to praising Summer and Autumn, well they’re all at it. Keats , Shelley and that scotch git Robbie Burns.”

“Well,” I said.” What do you want me to do?”

“I suppose you could find some poets of your own to write some sympathetic words about how Winter can be a lot of fun. Christmas, New Year and all that.”

Winter sat for a moment, before he began to smile.

“You know ,”he said. “I think that’s a capital idea.”

He scooped up his papers and almost skipped through the door.

A few days later I came across a poem in praise of Winter in The Daily Blog.

It began, ”There was a young lady called Pinter,” but I don’t think I’ll bore you with the details.


Joint first prize

‘Autumn Leaves’ by Lauren Thomas

Jasper was a collector, but never more so than in autumn. He would come home and lay out his treasures on the table, small hands working quickly. Conkers and their broken shells, waiting to be unsuccessfully pieced together like an impossible jigsaw. Large red leaves that left a rusty confetti on his fingers. Cobnuts that he would later place in piles in the garden for the squirrels he liked to watch from the windows. The only items that never made it home were the blackberries that he would eat as messily as possible, leaving purple kisses on her cheek when he ran through the door. She would inhale deeply as he placed his arms around her neck, his red hair smelling of warm earth and sour apples.

“Why does Autumn happen Mummy?”

“What do you mean sweetheart?” She watched as pulled his latest haul from the pockets of his bright yellow rain jacket, conkers glowing under the kitchen lights. The macaroni cheese cooking in the oven made the room smell comfortingly musty.

“Everything dies. Why?”

She folded her arms and looked at him. He never failed to surprise her with his questions, thinking deeper than his years. Her parents said he had been born wanting answers, his forehead constantly pulled into a thoughtful frown above large blue eyes that seemed to get brighter as he aged.

“Why do you think everything dies?”

He chewed a fingernail, a habit she hated but one she knew he had learned from her. “All of the leaves fall. We stomp on them until they’re dust and then the rain washes them away. The flowers in our garden die. Their petals turn a funny colour and then they shrivel up.”

She sat down next to him and chose a conker, rolling it between her fingers. “Ok. But what about spring when it all comes back again? Nothing has really died. The tree grows new leaves, and the flowers come back. They might not be the exact same flowers as before, but they have come from the same plant. They have transformed, like the way a caterpillar transforms into a butterfly. It’s not dying. It’s becoming new.”

The frown. “Does that mean Daddy will transform and come back new?”

She had known the question was coming, thoughts of Andrew never far from their minds. His smell could still be found on their bedroom pillows, a mixture of woodsmoke and leather with a soft undertone of caramel.

“I’m afraid it doesn’t quite work like that with people. We have to keep them alive by keeping our hearts full with thoughts of them. But we do have daddy’s tree, and we’ll help that grow by sitting underneath it and telling each other our favourite stories about daddy. How does that sound?”

He took the conker from her hands and placed it with the others. “Will you help me choose some leaves from under his tree?”

She kissed the top of his head. “Of course I will.”


Third prize

‘Letting Go’ by Rachel Edwards

“They’ve accepted me!” Sam calls up to me in a strangled voice. “Starting in September. And I’ve got a place in Halls if I want it…” His voice tails off.

I hurry downstairs and envelope him in a hug. By the time he wriggles free (‘Oy- muuuum!’), I’m beaming, and the suspicious wetness around my eyes could easily be taken for tears of joy.

“That’s marvellous,” I tell him. “I’m so proud of you and-” I pause to swallow a croak, “I know your dad would have been too.”

We share a watery smile and then Sam rubs the top of my head. When did he get so tall? Is this the same boy who clung to me every year on that first day in the playground as Autumn began?

During the next few weeks though, it’s clear that the frightened child still lingers. Over breakfast one morning, Sam speaks solemnly to me about his responsibilities. “I should stay here with you. I’m worried that once I’m gone, you’ll never see a soul. Loneliness is the curse of the modern age, after all.”

I want to agree, but I know I need to let him go. So I hatch a plan. I begin by enthusing about the benefits of learning a new skill to keep the brain active.

“And even though I’ve knitted for years, I’ve never done colour work! Getting you to wear one of my fishermen’s sweaters was hard enough.” Sam rolls his eyes as he remembers, no doubt, the procession of cabled creations with which I unwittingly dented his teenage street-cred.

I ask Sam to teach me how to place an order on Amazon. When the package arrives, I leave my copy of ‘Complete Fairisle Techniques’ ostentatiously on the table, pages marked with post-it notes and cryptic annotations.

“Just think!” I say breezily as we walk into town one blazing August morning, “Once you’re up in Newcastle, I’ll have time to keep up properly with my knitter’s group at last!”

Sam looks unconvinced, as well he might. After all, it doesn’t require a huge amount of time to confirm that yes- Janine still’s a martyr to her leg and no- Gaynor still hasn’t pickled those plums that she discovered at the bottom of her freezer.” Hastily, I embellish the group with some new members.

“Grace has been desperate to come over and tell me all about her charity sky-dive,” I expand, “and Laura needs advice about a couple of chaps that she met on Tinder-”

Sam’s eyes widen and he frowns. “Not really?” he asks dubiously.

“Oh yes,” I continue. “I’ll come up and see you, of course, but most of the time I’ll be very busy here.”

Sam says nothing, but it’s always been easy to read him. The cogs are beginning to turn.

So it is that when Autumn comes and I wave him off, he knows I’ll be fine. And I will. Although I probably won’t be knitting him a Fairisle jumper any time soon…


Report: 11th October 2018 The Dinner, Music and Quirky Quiz Evening

October 15, 2018

At the fund raising dinner in St Andrew’s Hall Witchford guests enjoyed a two-course dinner with music by Phil and Laurine and the Isle Singers. A ‘quirky quiz’ completed the evening and the best slogan for the Friends of St. Andrew’s Church Witchford 200 club was ‘Give a pound to spend a penny’.

The winner of this month’s £20 for the 200 club or the Friends of St. Andrew’s Church Witchford was Mrs. A.Tyler.

The event raised £218.50 towards St Andrew’s Church Extension Fund. A similar event is planned for next year.

The next event to enjoy will be a photographic competition. To take part, send one to three unmounted photos sized A4 or less on the subject of ‘Life’ with your name, address, phone number, email and age or ‘adult’ on the back to ‘Antipodes’, 17 Common Rd., Witchford by Thursday 22nd November 2018. The age groups will be adult, 13-17 years and up to 12 years. It is free to enter. By entering you agree that the photos may be kept and used again for other fundraising activities for the church.

The photos will be displayed in the church on the Saturday and you are welcome to come and see the photos and to help judge the photo competition – in St Andrew’s Church, Witchford 10 a.m. to 2 p.m. on the 24th November 2018.

Coffee and cake (£2.50) available 10.00 a.m.-12.00 p.m.

More information from R.Westwell tel: (01353) 663918


Comment 15.10.18: Loneliness

October 15, 2018

A doctor recently stated that many of her patients are not actually medically ill, but that they are lonely. The 10-minute consultation they have with their GP is the only time they have to sit down and talk to someone.

The solution suggested is that GP’s ‘signpost’ these patients to social activities which seems a worthy solution.

However, for this to work, there needs to be social activities in place. Visit any community and it is more than likely that one age group has none or very few social groups or activities to join. If a community has a thriving social life for the over 60’s it may well have very little for teenagers. Mothers with small children need an opportunity to get out of the house and for them and their toddlers to socialise but mother and toddler groups are not always available.

Even if there are social groups to try, some can be intimidating. We all know what it is like to visit a new group of people and at the first instance, to feel out of place and unwelcome.

There is one idea that seems to be rarely mentioned and that is, that loneliness stems from the lonely person. Such a person is the only real solution to the problem. They need to make an effort to go to places where they can meet like-minded people. They should talk to people they meet, even if it’s only saying a few words to the person taking their money at the supermarket till.

One suggestion I learned of many years ago that seemed to make sense was to make a point of speaking to someone new every day, even though you feel shy and reluctant. This is a good way of broadening one’s horizons. Of course, you need to make sure that the environment is safe and that there are other trustworthy people around when you start up conversations with new people.

So often you hear individuals complain that they are lonely. They would like to take up a hobby but there are no classes for the subject nearby. The simple solution is for that person to start their own group of people interested in the subject. A simple advert in the local post office, providing phone number only so that prospective people can be vetted and meetings arranged in a public place at first – a café or pub, would be the way forward. Many groups have begun this way and have lasted for years. It only takes one person to make a start.

Perhaps GP’s should simply ask their lonely patients these two questions: Do you feel lonely? What are you doing to overcome this loneliness?

Review of the Medlock Ensemble’s Autumn Concert in All Saints’ Church, Cottenham on Sunday 7th October 2018

October 7, 2018

The Medlock Ensemble gave a splendid concert in All Saint’s Church on Sunday. The programme contained many popular items and the calibre of this ensemble drew a very large audience.

The pieces were introduced by Tim Lihoreaureview Cotteham Medlock 07.10.18Helen Medlock Y of Classic FM fame and the first item consisted of three people who benefit from Camtrust  saying how much they appreciate their time with Camtrust, a local independent charity working with adults who have learning difficulties . (The concert was in aid of this trust).  The look of joy and sense of pride on the faces of these three speakers after they had spoken was delightful.

The musical items played by the ensemble began with a lively performance of ‘Allegro and Romance from Eine Kleine Nachtmusik’ by Mozart.  There was nothing hackneyed about this performance and these excellent musicians brought life to a piece that we often hear in not so splendid circumstances. There was no doubt that this ensemble was formed by the most talented of instrumentalists and the gorgeous rich and well-blended tone the members produced was phenomenal.

‘Intermezzo from Cavalleria Rusticana’ by Mascagni followed and in this familiar, slow piece, the passion was rung out of every note. The harpist, Elizabeth Bass, was heard for the first time in this piece and she produced the very attractive, romantic accompaniment expected.

‘Adagio for Strings and Organ’ by Albinoni was the next item and it certainly did not disappoint. From the start, the organist Ralph Woodward  playing softly with the cellos and double bass plucking their strings with the opening of the familiar bass line  heralded the forthcoming work beautifully. Helen’s solo late in the piece was spellbinding.

Before interval came a more modern item: ‘March from Serenade for Strings’ by Wiren.  This was no ordinary march. The ensemble made it especially jolly and easily moved into the more unusual swaying section not very common in marches. It certainly worked here.

After interval, the concert resumed with a delightful performance of Grieg’s  familiar ‘Prelude and Air’ from the Holberg Suite and then a harp solo by Elizabeth Bass who demonstrated tremendous skill and understanding when she played the demanding ‘Impromptu’ by Faure.

Nostalgia and gentility returned with the ensemble playing the very popular romantic music from ‘Ladies in Lavender’ . The concert ended with a splendid tear-away feel  in Brahms ‘’Hungarian Dance no 5’. The ensemble had no trouble in playing with the abundance of exuberance the piece required.

A jazzy encore:  ‘It Don’t Mean a Thing if it ain’t got that Swing’ rounded the programme off nicely.

This was indeed an excellent concert, more so because it was in a very good cause.

Comment: Charles Aznavour had a lot to teach us

October 6, 2018

The loss of the French singer Charles Aznavour recently was felt world-wide. Even though critics had dismissed any possibility of him succeeding because he was too short, too ugly and had a terrible voice, he proved them wrong. He became one of the most famous, most popular and most memorable performers in all the years that he sang.

The way he ignored the critics, did what he wanted to do with little concern about what other people thought, was a testament that it is not our outward appearance that helps us make our mark on the world; it is a tenacity and belief in ourselves and our own ability that create the capacity to bond so effectively with other people and make a success of our lives.

He was not afraid to sing about taboo subjects. He drew every ounce of passion from internal feelings that we all share and moulded his songs and his singing so that we could recognize the heart-felt sentiments immediately and make them our own.

If only we could have the same courage and determination.  There are so many reports of people feeling suicidal, wanting to go through a series of body reconstructions simply so that they can look more like the celebrities they see and admire in magazines and on the television and people who are easily put off by the critics. While there are some artists who could do with some help, there are undoubtedly many more that we rarely see who are highly talented and could develop into effective, moving artists if only they had the will to rise above their concerns for self, seek what help they needed, if any, and have the determination to make their mark, no matter what.

So many people feel insecure about singing. They often say that they have never sung since childhood after they were criticised. Why, singing should be a natural part of our lives! When on holiday in Spain recently, it was quite common to see a father pushing his baby’s pram along the street and singing quietly, oblivious to the surrounding audience. What did it matter? Even when swimming, fellow swimmers felt no inhibition about singing to themselves, using this expression as a way of saying that they were happy and enjoying life. I do not remember a single occasion when I have witnessed the same in the UK.

It is time this nation relaxed, let our voices out and stopped having to have a few drinks to get up the courage to take part in a karaoke. It is time we, like Charles Aznavour, developed the courage to be content with ourselves and had the determination to move our lives forward, come what may.