Monday, March 09, 2009

The day started with the disappointing news that several schools and community centres in the Borough have decided not to provide space for a polling station for the European Parliament election in June. This is becoming an increasing problem and I'm becoming more convinced than ever that we'll need to turn to the supermarkets and such places in the future. It's sad that our public bodies don't see supporting the democratic process as part of their civic duty but it seems to by a sign of the times. Inevitably if we end up with polling stations in supermarkets we'll get even more complaints from our smaller retailers that everything's going to the big guys. But we do need to provide places for people to cast their vote, so anyone who lives in Stockton and knows of somewhere that would be willing - get in touch. It might be somewhere we don't know about.
I spent a part of the afternoon in Nightingale House, starting with a tour of the Bereavement suite. This has two functions. There's a comfortable room where bereaved families, or people preparing for the death of someone with a terminal illness, can discuss possibilities with a sympathetic member of the bereavement staff. They can explore possibilities without any pressure from funeral directors or friends or anyone else and the hope is that people will be able to decide on the kind of funeral which best suits them. The other room is a display room for a number of alternative coffins and containers for cremated remains. The traditional wooden coffin contains glues and varnishes which are not particularly good for the environment and an increasing number of people want something less damaging. There are plain cardboard coffins which can be personalised or left plain, printed cardboard coffins, woven wicker ones and now papier mache. The wicker ones are made in the south of England at present but I'm sure it won't be long before we have a firm in the north coppicing willow for this purpose. The papier mache ones can be finished with a top layer in coloured tissue paper and then decorated or you can go the whole hog for a real bling funeral - gold leaf finished coffin with a feather lining in a choice of colours. So there really is something for everyone. My personal favourite was the papier mache acorn designed to hold cremated remains for interment. It's attractive enough to be used as an ornament in any house, and far too nice to be buried!
Seriously, I encourage everyone to think about this seriously and make some decisions while fit and healthy and able to do it.
The committee went on to discuss the possibility of having a new crematorium in Stockton. One of the issues with the facilities currently available outside the borough is the increasing number of people who need a larger coffin which won't fit into the cremator. I'm not sure if that's an incentive to lose weight or not.
We also agreed our final report on Dog Fouling and Animal Welfare which will go to cabinet in April. All in all, a busy meeting and a very interesting one.
When I returned to the computer I found a photo showing the end of the bananan skins from Friday. They'd all been collected up and taken to the Shaw Trust in Fairfield. There they've been added to the compost heap and the photo proves the point.

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