Comment: Negative thinking gets us nowhere

December 2, 2018

Be it Brexit, providing buses or a warm pub, negative thinking gets us nowhere.

Cries that we should vote against the agreements our Prime Minister has drawn up with the EU so that our country can leave with some semblance of a future are no help. No one has said that the deals are perfect, but at least we may have something to ensure our continued existence. The alternative does not bear thinking about. Imagine, the UK leaves the EU without any agreements at all. Why should the EU then have anything to do with us? Why should it accept our goods? What is to stop the EU suddenly raising their prices so high that we can ill afford them? What is to stop the EU piling on taxes to the goods we may wish to sell to it? What is to stop the EU suddenly closing its borders and demanding huge sums for us to apply for visas? Nothing. Some agreement is better than no agreement.

On the subject of buses, a local manager whose job is to provide a bus service made it clear at a meeting that it was cheaper for him to withdraw bus services that do not pay. While this may seem sensible, to take this way of thinking to its extreme would produce a bus service with almost no buses running at all i.e. he would drive himself out of business. When suggested he should invest in his business first so that his buses are on time, regular, comfortable and with friendly bus drivers, he asked who was going to provide the investment. In any other business, it is accepted that first you need to invest in your business dream before there is any chance of it succeeding. If you are providing a bus service, first you need to provide the buses before you can say you are actually providing a ‘service’.

I went to have lunch in a pub recently. The food was lovely, the place spotless but it was freezing. When I jokingly asked for a discount because the pub was so cold I was told emphatically that it cost too much to put on more heating. Again, this kind of thinking drives the customers away. No matter how much advertising is done, word gets round and other than bringing our own blankets and hot water bottles and wearing our coats as we dine, there is no future in this way of thinking.

We are frequently told by our mentors as we grow up that we should believe in ourselves. Pretend you are confident and are going to be successful, and more often than not, you are. It is time we put our negative thinking aside and thought positively about the future.




Comment: We need to keep our city centres alive.

November 24, 2018

One more shop in Ely bites the dust. ‘New Look’ has closed its doors and recently, the city has also lost ‘Mr Simms Olde Sweet Shop’, ‘The Yarn Room’ and ‘Select’. Whatever the cause, be it increasing rents or people buying all that they need on the internet, it is such a pity that Ely, along with many other city centres, is becoming like a ghost town.

There is no need for it. It seems as though our community of landlords, shopkeepers and shoppers has been drawn into a downward spiral of negative thinking which can only lead to worse conditions. The false logic is that you can save money by not selling anything. You certainly will not make any money by not selling anything and that is certain.

It is time our shop owners, shopkeepers and shoppers changed their way of thinking. If you want something to work, you have to invest in it – be it money or your time and effort. Most business people know that you cannot expect a huge profit immediately. You have to build you clientele, work hard and adapt to changing conditions. Closing the shop does not improve matters. If the shop is not making a profit, it certainly needs to change, but not necessarily to close.

If shop owners think only of making money by charging an increased rent each year, they are bound to lost tenants. If many owners thought more sensitively about their tenants, what they were selling and their value other than as money making objects, many of our shops would not need to fold.

If shop owners went with the flow, – if people are buying a lot online – then they should offer their goods online as well as selling them in shop. If sellers focussed on what people need, rather than on what they have decided to sell them, I believe they would have more success.

If shoppers realized that the more they rely on shopping online, the less they will be helping to create the community they often say they want. It is just as easy, if not easier, to telephone the local shop that sells what want and talk one-to-one with a real human being about it. You would more than likely be able to buy just what you want and have it delivered by the shop that day or the next. If there is a problem, you will most likely not have to wait indefinitely for a stranger to mishear you and frustrate you with discussions of proving who you are and whether your problem will be escalated or ignored.

The next time you see a sign saying ‘shop local’, why not?

Review of G4’s Christmas Concert in Ely Cathedral on Tuesday 20th November 2018

November 22, 2018

It is no wonder G4’s Christmas Concert in the Cathedral last Tuesday was a sell out. This unique group captured that quintessential quality that appeals to our inner-most senses. The difference between amateur and professional singers was never more obvious than when these great singers first opened their mouths. Serious training, well-placed and controlled voice production, the ability to express deep emotions in a single sound were in evidence with this group. Jonathan Ansell, Mike Christie, Nick Ashby and Lewis Raines knew their stuff.

They were joined from time to time by a huge young choir from the Cambridge Pauline Quirk Academy adding a touch of what Christmas is all about – the joy and spontaneity of children.  Harry Smith, in particular, gave a heart-stopping solo in ‘Once in Royal David’s City’.

Highly proficient accompaniments throughout the evenings were provided by the fantastic harpist, Zita Silva, and the phenomenal pianist and organist: Jonathan Hodgson.

The programme was well selected and there was something for everyone, even a chance for the audience to join in. Along with popular Christmas Carols and songs were a number of other delightful items including ‘Panis Angelicus’ by Cesar Franck, ‘Ave Maria’ and ‘The Lord is my Shepherd’ (Vicar of Dibley-style).

Highlights for me were ‘We’re Walking in the Air’, ‘Good King Wenceslas Last Looked Out’, ‘To Where you Are’, ‘Bring Him Home’, ‘All I want for Christmas is You’ and ‘Nessun Dorma’.

The event supported the charity ‘Missing People’ – so pertinent at this time of year.

G4 will be coming to Ely Cathedral again next year on Thursday 21st November. You are advised to book as early as you can.

Comment: It is time bullies had their wings clipped.

November 17, 2018

Deep inside today’s ‘Daily Telegraph’ is a small article announcing that the White House has been instructed to return a press card to Jim Acosta, a CNN reporter, who had it taken away by Mr Trump during a press conference recently. Mr Trump had called Mr Acosta “a rude and terrible person” and had immediately demanded that the pass be taken. The judge, Timothy Kelly, said Mr Acosta’s credentials should be returned so that he could gain entry to the White House and continue with his occupation as a reporter until the full hearing is held after CNN sued the White House over the matter.

This is the type of article that should be splashed on the front page. At last reason and the law prevail. Have we become such an unfortunate world that  it seems acceptable for a ruler, supposed to be head of a democracy, to demand someone’s rights be taken away from them simply because he doesn’t like them?

Why did CNN have to sue, surely Mr Trump’s advisers should have been able to advise him that being “rude and terrible” at a press conference was not a good reason to take away a person’s right to work?

The world would be a bland and unfruitful place if it consisted only of people someone liked. The behaviour of Mr Trump is close to that of a dictator, a bully who is not interested in due process, only in what he wants.

This kind of behaviour is not unique to the USA. I am sure there are many of us who can cite other cases where bullies seem to reign. Although they may claim to chair meetings in a democratic way, they make decisions without consulting the others, or at least asking their opinions. They may not even be aware that their behaviour is so dictatorial. They may believe that they have everyone’s support in whatever they do.

At least in the UK with all the fuss over Brexit, our Prime Minister continues to consult, discuss and tries to persuade and those of us who disagree with what she is doing are allowed to say so.

When no one responds or does anything, this could easily be misinterpreted as unequivocal support. The well known saying by Edmund Burke is certainly relevant to this situation:: “The only thing necessary for the triumph of evil is for good men to do nothing.”

It is time we spoke up for people’s rights, no matter how small or insignificant they may be. It is time this took top place in our list or priorities. Unless we stand up to bullying and insist on fair play, matters can only get worse.

Comment: Risk Assessments may not be a waste of time

November 10, 2018

The recent fires and deaths in California are a reminder to us that we are all vulnerable to nature’s forces. Even the famous are not beyond being affected. Cher and Lady Gaga are apparently two who were concerned about their homes in the area.

There will be few families who will be completely unaffected by the devastating effect of fire, to themselves, to other relatives or friends.

Coming from Australia I was brought up to be very careful with fires and we were never allowed to leave one until it was well and truly out, even to the extent of dampening the wider edges of the ground that surrounded it.

When I visited the house in Hobart where my grandparents used to live, the true force of fire came home to me. The house was no longer there. It had been destroyed by the 1976 fires. Gone was the long rock garden at the front with a lot of bright-coloured flowers. Gone was the large grandfather clock tickling loudly in the dark interior. Gone was any evidence of all the childhood memories I had of them when we visited so many years ago.

Now living the UK few people worry about forest fires for it rains here far too often and the land is usually too damp and green – or is it? There have been serious accidents when farmers used to fire the fields. We have had some very warm, dry summers lately and I feel I am often speaking to myself when I say how we should be careful. Apparently very few fires are actually caused by a natural event, the main cause is human behaviour – such as lighting barbeques in built up areas and ignoring floating embers as they lift up into the sky and come down anywhere. They could easily land on some of our very dry trees which could easily catch alight.

We should all take heed of the possible consequences of ignoring the risk of nature’s forces, be they fire or flood. While some people can be over pessimistic and fearful, we should all at least take precautions and think what we would be able to do should   a catastrophe occur.

One local had to demand a double-glazing firm replace the upstairs windows they had installed because the windows could not be opened fully. What were the residents supposed to do if there was a house fire? Another keeps telling us to get a fire blanket in the kitchen because water does not put out fat fires.

We should no longer ignore these things. Whenever preparing an activity we should all think the ‘What if?’ questions. The ‘’Risk Assessments’ we have to fill in may not be such a waste of time after all.

Comment: We need a change of attitude towards aggression.

November 4, 2018

I asked a senior member of the police force why sometimes people report crimes, such as pickpocketting, and they feel ignored by the police.  I believe I was told that it depended on the outcome. If the police do not have enough evidence, they may decide that the case is not worth pursuing. Surely, in the case of pickpocketting, there would have been a witness report from the victim? Also, the police would have been told where the pickpocketting occurred. Surely this information was enough to at least be concerned and take steps to prevent further incidents? But then, perhaps this is happening and it is not being made public.

We have had numerous other reports in the press about aggressive behaviour from man and beast. Knife crime appears to have increased; burglaries and theft are being reported daily. There was a woman who tried to save her child while thieves were stealing her car with her child still inside. The thieves thought nothing of running the woman over with the car as they made their escape. How callous is that?

Then, of course, in the animal world, there was the man-eating tiger in India which has finally been shot amidst cries from animal welfare people saying the animal should have been tranquilized and taken to a zoo instead. While I can understand this point of view, I cannot help feeling that if it were my job to tackle a man-eating beast I would rather be on the safe side. Tranquilizing a beast can sometimes go wrong.

We are told of a man who had to climb for safety up the cliffs of a beach in Scotland as a seal colony nearby turned aggressive. They were probably protecting their territory and their young ones. While it is a shame that such a charming-looking creature as a seal has now been represented as a dangerous animal, when you think of how humans behave when they believe their home is being threatened, it is understandable.

In Australia, when a couple were feeding wild kangaroos they were attacked by one of them. The attack was so bad that if it had not been prevented from continuing by the couple’s son, they could have been killed. The explanation here, again, is that the kangaroos’ territory may have been invaded by the homes that were built in the area and with the lack of food or a drought, the animals were forced to come further inland.

Whatever the case, we need a large, strong and reliable force, be it the police force, or members of our society to prevent uncontrolled aggression at its earliest stages, even in children or in the event of territory invasion of animals. This is one problem that will not go away if it is ignored.

Review of Viva’s ‘Fiddler on the Roof’ on Thursday 1st November 2018 at Granary Barns, Woodditton.

November 2, 2018

Viva’s production of ‘Fiddler on the Roof’ was splendid. This well-known story of the trials and tribulations of a Jewish family in a small village at times of hardship was brought alive under the perceptive directorship of Sarah Dowd. .

The long-suffering father, Tevye, played by Richard Dodd, tried his best to preserve the stabilizing traditions of his people but events and even his own five daughters seemed to turn against him and change his whole world irrevocably. Nevertheless, his wonderful way of coping, with his frequent Bible quotations and his private conversations with God peppered with lovely moments of humour helped us to survive the anguish and horror of events as they unfolded.

His wife Golde (Samantha Gallop) was the epitome of a Jewish housewife with too much to do fulfilling her household duties to stop and pause to think about the love she has for her husband. The banter between husband and wife was very effective and her outraged cries and variety of facial expressions were phenomenal.

The five daughters and some of their loved ones were all believable characters and we felt their anxiety as they worried about who might be their future husbands. They were Tzeitel (Dresden Goodwin) and the tailor Motel (Oliver Squires), Hodel (Phyllida Hickish) and the young revolutionary Perchik (Mark O’Reilly), Chava (Emma Gilbey) and a brave young man of a different, challenging faith Fyedka (Dylan Caldwell), Bielke (Tara Gilbey) and Sprintze (Elisha Cardwell).

Other characters that shone included the rapid-speaking, busy-body-come matchmaker Yente (Bridget Hickish) , the disappointed butcher Lazar Wolf (Frank Crosby), and the unforgettable ghosts: Grandma Tzeitel  (Alison Smith) and Fruma Sarah (Anthea Kenna).   Suffice to say the remaining characters, including the marvellous animals (especially the clucking chicken), were all highly credible and vital to the drama.

The live music created the setting perfectly. Timing, orchestration and skill made the familiar, stirring melodies memorable, ranging from the deep sorrow and warmth of ‘Anatevka’ to the uninhibited joy of ‘To Life’ and the ‘Wedding Dance’.

The chorus was strong and the harmony very moving. The dancing was delightful, the choreography developing a sense rhythmic strength and joyful abandonment that seemed oblivious to the small stage.

Different scenes developed some mesmerising atmospheres, especially the opening fiddler playing on the roof, the family’s celebration of the Sabbath and the Tevye’s nightmare.

Costumes, scenery, lighting and sound all helped to make this a wonderful show. Sarah Dowd (Director), Maggie Brackenbridge (Producer/Stage Manager) and Jenny Taylor-Surridge (|Musical Director) and their teams are to be congratulated for such a fantastic evening’s entertainment.Viva Fiddler on the Roof 2 Y

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.