Wednesday, 14 November 2012

Police Commissioner voting

Tomorrow, I’m expected to vote on one of the major issues affecting my life: the policing of my town and county. I’m supposed to choose a commissioner who will be able to hire and fire senior officers, and set police budgets.

They’ll have the power to decide whether solving crime is financially viable or not. Technically, this could mean that if the burglary division uses its allotted funds within six months, the commissioner could refuse to allow them to investigate further for the rest of that fiscal year.

Quite an important position then.

So why do I know nothing of the candidates and their suitability for the role? How do I know which of them is best qualified for the job, most likely to understand the needs of police and public, and most able to work with the force to be effective in the fight against crime and the struggle to make Sussex safe?

I’ve had no flyers, no manifestos, no notice of public meetings. Nothing.

I did try looking up the candidates online. I found a page in the Sussex Police website which listed their names, but little else. It said some were affiliated to political parties – an open invitation to future questions of impartiality if ever I saw one.

There was no indication that any of the hopefuls had experience in policing, or understood what police officers deal with daily. No explanation of how they would do the job. Until this week only one candidate had bothered to write a statement saying why he’d like the post, although two others have now done so.

Last night there was a ten minute segment on the local news, when each candidate spoke. One kept on about her business experience. She obviously thought having a track record in keeping to a budget was the most important thing. Well, personally, I couldn't care less about the budget. If keeping us safe and crime free requires more money than the police have got, find the money. You could always take it from the commissioner's salary, politicians' expenses and all those civic dos they seem to like to attend.

Another kept on about how much experience he had with charity work. So?

A third made a lot of the specials and how they could be used to better effect. Specials have their place, but they are meant to complement the paid, full time officers, not to replace them.

I was left wondering if the one thing none of the candidates had to recommend them was a real concern for the police force and their ability to do their job properly, unhindered and unfettered.

The winner of this election will, undoubtedly, be powerful. The wrong person could conceivably make life less safe for us all, police and public alike. Yet we’re being asked to make the choice blindfold.

Considering what’s at stake, is that fair?

Wednesday, 24 October 2012

Known To God

Click here to go to the British legion website

Written after a trip to the war cemeteries at Ypres. If anyone wants to use it in an act of remembrance, feel free, but please don't make money from it, unless you give it to an armed services charity.


They seemed to go on forever. Little splashes of pure white on a lush green that rose and fell, rose and fell as far as the eye could see. The sheer scale of it overwhelmed me. It brought the sting of tears and a heavy heart.

There were so many.

I didn’t know any of them. I don’t have a relative or family friend here. But in a way, they were all my relatives. All my friends.

I walked slowly along the nearest row of crosses, reading the inscriptions. Some had names and regimental badges carved into them. Here a Sergeant slept beside a Private, who rested easily beside his Lieutenant. All of equal rank now. Every one of them of great worth to me.

Some headstones told their ages:

Forty two years. Did he have a wife waiting at home, anxious for news? Children who treasured memories of rough and tumble with Daddy on the green? Grandchildren to bounce on his knee?

Twenty one years. Just come of age, a lifetime ahead. A sweetheart, making plans for a wedding that never happened?

Eighteen years. Was this a spotty youth with a sullen lip that curled down when his mother called?

Fifteen years. A child! He should have been at home, chasing friends and shouting, “You’re it!” before running off for tea.

There were five men beneath one headstone. Three beneath the next. Eight men, huddled together for eternity in a space no bigger than a fox hole.

The next cross carried no regimental badge. No name for living fingers to trace. It said simply, “A soldier, known to God”.

Who mourned him? Who sat at home, waiting, wondering, hoping when hope was no longer an option? Did someone grow old watching the lane that maybe, just maybe, he would yet walk along?

“Known to God.”

I’d read about the place. The battle. The slaughter. I learned it in school, saw it re-enacted on TV. But nothing could have prepared me for this. I passed through the ranks of this company of crosses and became one with these uncredited men who had given their all. For me. A person not born when these lives were laid down. A person of no consequence to them. But they were willing to march into hell. For me.

“Greater love has no man than this, that he lay down his life for his friends.”

But there IS a greater love. It is the love of a man who will lay down his life, not just for his friends but for those who are not his friends: his rivals, his enemies, people he has never even met. That was the love these men showed, here, in Flanders’ Fields.

I looked down at the cross once more.

“Known to God.”

“Thank you,” I whispered.

Tuesday, 23 October 2012

Many are the ways God moves in our lives...

Maybe it’s because I write, but I am fascinated by other people, especially people whose experiences are completely different to mine. I want to know what makes them who they are, why they do what they do, make the choices they make. To quote my all time favourite fictional hero, Atticus Finch, I want to “climb into their skin and walk around in it.”

So I’m very much looking forward to a week long series of interviews with people, some of whose lives have been as different to mine as night is to day.

Hosted by All Saints Church in Crowborough, and conducted by Roger Carswell, the interviewees are diverse and include former UVF terrorist, David Hamilton, entertainer and broadcaster Fiona Castle, John, who works in countries along the silk route, Tim, a Christian minister with an Iraqi Muslim background and Susie, director of Bethany Children’s Trust, which rescues street children.

What all these people have in common is a strong Christian faith, and the interviews will, of course, show how that faith has affected their lives. Whether you share that faith or not, their accounts of the difference it has made to them promise to be riveting.

The interviews are part of The Cross Factor, which runs from Sunday 11th to Sunday 18th November. As well as the interviews, the festival includes a reasonably priced Men’s Breakfast at Barnsgate Manor, and special services on both Sundays.

But it’s the interviews, the insights into extraordinary lives, that I suspect will have the most impact on the audiences.

Attendance at the interviews is free. All of them will take place at All Saints Church Centre, and all you need to do is turn up. For more details, call the Church Office on 01892 652081, or visit the festival website,

Sunday, 10 June 2012

Back on track

Over the last couple of years, I've been writing, as much as I ever have. I wrote whilst I was ill, and it was the only thing that kept me sane. I wrote as I recovered my strength and my confidence, and I wrote when I began full time work after thirty years of having no boss. (Now THAT was a shock to the system!)

In the last five months, since I started working, I have managed to complete a stage play, polish two more which have been accepted for publication by Lazy Bee Publishing, and polish and edit two screenplays which I've entered into screenplay competitions. I've now started work on the next screenplay.

All of which proves to me that I can work a full time office job with overtime, and write. Of course, the dust is building in the house and my friends don't see so much of me, but hey! I am only human.

However, what I would really like to do, no, make that dearly LOVE to do, is write for my living. I'd love to have enough money from the scripts each year that all my bills are paid from that. Which is not to say I'd give up the day job. I enjoy the job. I like the people I work with, and I feel I make a difference in peoples' lives. But the gilt does chip away from the gingerbread somewhat when I'm there because I have no choice. How wonderful it would be to be able to say I am here because I wish to be, and the salary is of secondary importance.

I have come to realise that the only way that is ever going to happen is if I get an agent. Someone who will represent me, show my screenplays to those who can turn them into films. Indeed, without an agent, selling a screenplay is next to impossible, as so many film companies and producers won't even look at an unagented script.

I made a start. I sent a script out to an agent. Now for the hard part. Waiting for them to read it and reply, hopefully positively.

Wish me luck.

Monday, 4 June 2012

Freebies for whom?

Some years ago, when the statue to Conan Doyle was erected, Crowborough town council had a bit of a bunfight to celebrate. They invited the great and the good from across the globe to eat, drink and be merry. The taxpayers of Crowborough were, of course, not on the guest list. We just paid for it.

I remember wondering if our councillors would have been so keen to attend if they’d had to pay for themselves – not from their expenses, since, apart from the Mayor and possibly the deputy mayor, it was hardly essential that they attend.

This year, to celebrate the Olympic torch coming through, there’ll be another shindig. We will feed and entertain visiting VIPs. Again, you and I, the ordinary people, aren’t invited to the feast.

I wonder. Who’s paying for it this time?

I have no objections to entertaining visitors to our town. I don’t object to the costs coming from my council tax, provided their visit is pertinent to the occasion, and of course the mayor and deputy mayor should be there to greet them. Perhaps others, too – Crowborough sporting representatives, perhaps, or some of those who have volunteered to help with the Olympics.

I’m less happy to pay for others. Those who are known as “Local Dignitaries”. Local, they may be. A Dignitary, even. But are they essential to the Olympics, or Crowborough’s involvement with the Games? If the answer to that question is no, should the taxpayer pick up the bill for them? Or should they pay for their own ticket to the table? 

At a time when we’ve stopped raising the flag to save money, and when our District council wanted to charge for collecting grass cuttings, surely all “Dignitaries” should lead by example and refuse to take council money when it’s not absolutely vital?

Friday, 27 April 2012

False economy

I popped in to Crowborough Library recently, and in the council’s foyer I saw the plans for lighting our streets in the nights to come.

I know the council must save money. I’m all for sensible cost cutting. I have no issue whatsoever with turning off every other light in a road. Presumably, that’s a 50% reduction at a stroke, with little loss of illumination.

I’d even cut every other light on those roads where they propose keeping things as they are. They’d still be well lit enough to be safe, and I doubt it would distress anybody.

What will distress people is the proposal concerning other streets, whereby ALL lighting will be turned off from 00.30 to 06.30 nightly. To me, that’s economy at the expense of public safety, and that’s no economy at all.

For one thing, people are still out and about at half past midnight. Even my quiet cul-de-sac is not completely deserted at that time, although Sunday to Thursday it’s generally silent by 1am. Waiting an extra thirty minutes could make a big difference.

Fridays and Saturdays, of course, people are out till the small hours and need lights to get home. Girls in particular need to see properly to feel safe. Would you be happy if your daughter was walking home in the pitch darkness? I know I wouldn’t.

And what about potholes? Treacherous in daylight, in the dark they’d be lethal. A few compensation claims from Lawyers4U would completely wipe out the savings on the electricity bill.

I hope the council will think again and leave us some lighting, at least at those times when people are still likely to be out. Or will someone have to be hurt before they realise that some economies are just not worth the candle?

Saturday, 21 April 2012

Pit Your Wits for World In Need

If you enjoy Quiz Nights, there's a treat in store for you. 

Come and join us at the All Saints Church Centre on Saturday May 12th for the World In Need “Pit Your Wits” Evening. Doors open at 7pm for a 7.30pm start.

Our quiz master is Nigel Large. While he tests you, his sister Hilary and her team will provide a ploughman’s meal to help keep the little grey cells nourished. Drinks will be on sale, to include teas and coffees as well as wine.

Tickets for the quiz and buffet are £7.50 per person. Bring your own team of up to eight players, or come along and we’ll find you a team on the night.

Nigel has a devious mind, and to make the evening a little different while raising as much money for World In Need as we can, he has devised and prepared some extra brain teasers. These puzzles are in addition to the main quiz rounds, and are not included in the ticket price. They will be available before the quiz starts and in the interval, and will cost you a small extra donation.

Tickets are available from Marilyn on 01892 669834, or reserve yours by emailing