Tuesday, April 16, 2013

Margaret Thatcher - a personal view

It has taken me some time to write anything about the life or death of Mrs Thatcher since her death was announced last week.  Unlike many who have spoken loudly in praise or condemnation I lived through her premiership.  I saw at first hand the changes that took place and I wept at some of them.
I cringed on the day she first entered 10 Downing St as its rightful occupier when she quoted the prayer of St Francis, not because the prayer doesn’t contain laudable sentiments, but because it sounded as though she saw herself as some kind of messianic figure who was going to bring peace and harmony to a disturbed world.  A bit of humility at the size of the task in hand would have been more to my liking.
I wept when privatisation of one national utility after another was carried out.  I could not then, and cannot now, understand why making a profit for shareholders should automatically make a body more efficient.  I am convinced that with the right approach and the right people in place it should be possible to run state-controlled industries efficiently but with the best interests of the country at heart.  Now we’re in a position where no ordinary person knows quite where our electricity, water, gas come from nor who controls our transport; where fragmentation rather than co-ordination seems to be the order of the day and where global shareholders are more important than the British citizens who need and use the utilities.
I didn’t like the way that the right to buy a council house was introduced, with no corresponding mechanism for building replacements.  The legacy of that is all around us now, with property owning seen as the only real way to have a home, and affordability a joke in wards like Eaglescliffe.
I hated the confrontational attitude to the rest of Europe, and I’m still not convinced that the lives lost in the Falklands war were in any way justified.  Sure, the residents of the Falklands might not have enjoyed being under Argentinian rule but were they really at serious risk of death or torture?
So at the end of her life what do I feel?  To be honest, not a lot.  It’s a long time since she was Prime Minister.  Her legacy isn’t changed by her death.  Living out her last months in an expensive hotel room seems a sad reflection of her life - no such thing as society?  Yes there is, but it seems that in death as in much of her public life she wasn’t part of it.

Wednesday, April 10, 2013

Wheeled sports at Preston Park

The first consultation with probable users of the proposed skate park was today.  For the first time this month the weather was spring like, which was just as well considering the amount of kit set up outside and the number of people of all ages watching the demonstrations.  Lots of young people tried out the jumps themselves, at times perhaps surprising themselves at what they could achieve.

It's about 20 years since I first became aware of a desire in Eaglescliffe for such a place, and it's taken a long time and a lot of personnel changes at Stockton Council for it to be taken seriously.  For too long we were told that skate boarding or BMX was only a passing fad.  Patience is a virtue we're told.  We've certainly been able to practice!

The skills that these young people demonstrated today have to be seen to be believed - not just amazing physical strength, courage and coordination but sharing, cooperation, courtesy, helping those less skilled.  All really useful skills for life.  As one mum of 4 young boys said, it's so much better for them than spending all day with computer games.

And one 80 year old said she wished they had something like that where she lives because she so much enjoyed watching them.
The next stage is to get some proposed designs from skate park builders and to let people see them and comment on them, before one is chosen and the building starts.  This time next year we'll be looking forward to the opening.