12 May 2021
The month of May at the Town Council, is a month of change. It is the time that a new Mayor is voted in to take over, our Committees change both Chairmen and members. Last year was an exception as none of this occurred!
I was elected as your Town Mayor in May 2019 with a view to serving one year. My friend and colleague, George Watkinson, was appointed my Deputy. It was a normal Mayoral Year where I chaired Council meetings and went to local events where I was privileged to meet so many of you. I found myself at concerts, event openings, charity annual general meetings, Hometown Festivals and the Christmas Lights Switch on among many others. George would step in if I became overbooked and I was very grateful to have him. Fundraising is an essential part of the Mayoral Year and we usually choose a local charity to support. I chose the “Rosemary Foundation”, that wonderful group of nurses and personnel who continue to give such care to patients and their families during the last few months. In addition I also supported the Petersfield Salvation Army’s Christmas Hamper Appeal where people living on their own at Christmas receive a hamper of Christmas food and treats.
The money raised for the Hampers that year came largely from the collection that was made from the Christmas Lights Switch on event. It is one of my favourite events and November 2019 was a really great one. Organised brilliantly as usual by Ben Errey and Steve Jacob of Hometown Events and Kathryn Ellis-Blandford and Steve Field from the Town Council, it had one of the largest turnouts I have ever seen! It was jolly and full of children singing, the Salvation Army playing Carols and the Town Square full of people. Not only was the Square full, the overspill filled the High Street, Lloyds forecourt and the area outside the Post Office. We had had a similar turnout two weeks prior for our Annual Remembrance Service. We are a military Town and a lot of people are serving, have served or are family members of those in the Armed Forces. We had a strong representation from the Air Cadets, the Combined Cadet Force from Churchers College and the Petersfield School. I always feel humble watching the proud men and women from the Royal British Legion take their places on parade; they have seen so much.
The Salvation Army delivered around 100 hampers and the turn of the year brought more fund raising. It was around this time that we started to hear about the dreadful illness that was affecting many people in Wuhan, China. The Council carried on as normal as did the engagements. We held a double film showing of “Downton Abbey” to raise money and we also held the Council’s first “Barn Dance” in the Festival Hall, helped by the Twinning Association and Dominic from “the Townhouse” who kindly gave us all the profits from the bar. Matt Atkinson from East Meon ran the very successful Hog Roast and gave a very generous donation to the Rosemary Foundation.
By March last year we realised that the illness we thought so far away, was now on our shores and people were either mildly ill or dying from it. We held our Council Meeting in March, not in the Council Chamber as normal, but in the Rose Room with a lot of space between each Councillor and members of the Public. The main business of that night was that we were to go into an emergency state with the Town Clerk, Neil Hitch and myself as the then Mayor together with the Chairmen of the Committees making any decisions that might arise. None of us had ever been in this situation before and shortly afterwards came the Prime Minister’s announcement that we were all to go into a national “lockdown” for the first time.
The whole nature of Council business changed overnight. One of our main big projects – that of the Heath pond bank refurbishment was to carry on (having just got underway), as those working on the project by chance lived together and thus could work together. They supported the weakening banks and built the new Boardwalk which proved a success with people taking their permitted daily exercise. We discovered that we could still hold meetings on “Zoom”- which, until then, I, like many of my peers had never heard of. The announcement came shortly after that all Council appointments would not change in May, as usual, but would carry on. That meant that I was to carry on as Mayor for some time more.
“Agencies Working Together” had been set up by Steve Field and Councillor James Deane some time before with the objective of putting agencies in contact with each other to discuss areas where they were needed. It meant that things now moved very quickly and within days Sheridan Rocher of “Help the Aged” had organised volunteers to do shopping and pick up prescriptions for the housebound. Sheridan also came to an arrangement with the wonderful Catering Department at Churchers College whereby they would cook two hot meals a week for the elderly and vulnerable with her volunteers delivering them. They provided around 70 meals each time – roping in their Headmaster, Simon Williams, to pack all the meals into containers. More volunteers came forward; Sarah Thomas together with Malcolm Muggeridge and many others stepped forward to form “the Coronavirus Help Network”. The PACT (Petersfield Area Churches Together) Food Bank was running at twice the speed and the Petersfield Voluntary Group under Alison Gauld, adapted their services from taking people to Hospital and Doctors appointments to shopping, prescription delivering and making contact with the elderly who were on their own. I was in awe of the number of volunteers who came forward to help, so many that not all of them were needed.
The business of Council carried on but in a completely different way. Neil and I were in daily contact, our staff (apart from our Grounds team, Halls and head of Finance) were all working from home. The Grounds staff, under Dugg Budd, worked all the way through both lockdowns as they could work on their own and the two who could work together were brothers who live together anyway. As more people were out walking every day it was essential to keep our open spaces in good order. The weather was exceptional last Spring and Summer which made watering the new planting around the pond difficult, but that should show great improvement this year. The County Council, using money supplied by the Government for the purpose, introduced social distancing measures in the High Street and restricted car movements. We were told that this move was to be temporary and I, like many others, look forward to the day that the restrictions are removed and we can get our town back to normal. I also hope that over the last year we have learned much more about climate change and will walk and use bicycles where we can, but at the same time realising that the vulnerable and less able are reliant on their cars to purchase essential items.
Innovation was the name of the game. 2020 was the year of the 75th Anniversary of VE Day and Councillor James Deane, himself an ex-serviceman, planned a series of events to mark this. I can remember that he drew up a number of options for each one and the VE Day remembrance came in at option 5! He arranged a video recording of the event and we each took turns to do our part. He put it together with the help of technician Chris Pellet from Churchers College and it showed the Town’s salute to the end of the war in Europe. This can still be seen on our website. James arranged a numbers of events over the year which were all carried out with dignity and distancing. I laid wreaths for VE Day, VJ Day, the Battle of Britain’s 80th Anniversary and Remembrance Day. It has been an honour to represent the townspeople at these events, I myself am from a military family, my mother and my grandparents both contributed towards the war effort during both World Wars. It has also been an honour to work alongside James who organised so many events so well over the last two years.
Everything was different and we suffered a great loss when George Watkinson, who was “the Father of the Council” and respected by us and many, many others, succumbed to a dreadful virus (not Coronavirus) and died in QA. George was a wonderful man. He had served in the Royal Navy and then on the Council for 25 years. He was due to be Mayor again after me and we all miss him greatly. We also lost ex-Mayor Bob Ayer, husband of Hilary our last Mayor, who had been both a Town and District Councillor after a career in the Royal Navy. They both gave long and dedicated service to the Town.
November came, and with it thoughts of Christmas, wondering what sort of Christmas we would have. Kathryn set to, produced and filmed the Christmas Lights switch on with great effect and only a handful of participants. I was worried about the Hamper Appeal as the Salvation Army had had many requests for hampers but no collections were possible and the Christmas Lights had greatly helped in the past. In the end the Lions Clubs from Petersfield and all over the area gave us wonderful support, our Town’s District Councillors each gave us over £500 from their allowances and the Salvation Army and helpers made up and delivered 300 hampers in all!
The Corona Virus numbers crept up after Christmas and we once more went into lockdown. Council meetings continued on Zoom and our Festival Hall project continued. We are planning for the best and maximum outcome, but it will all depend on what grants we can receive and we will cut our cloth accordingly.
Last Thursday was the Annual Meeting of the Council and we have elected a new Town Mayor, Councillor Phil Shaw. I look forward to this new year and I am very sure that we have chosen a good, forward thinking man who will be a credit to the Town.
I would like to take this opportunity to thank some of the many people who have supported me throughout the two years. Neil Hitch, our Town Clerk, for his valued help, advice and support, Kathryn Ellis Blandford, my PA and council events organiser, for her endless patience and good humour, Sophie Fisher for everything, Steve Field for his help, Jon and the Halls staff for keeping going and looking after the Blood Transfusion Service and the NHS Vaccine clinic using the Festival Hall. Michelle and her team for everything that they have done.
To all of the very kind people who have given so much this year to my charities a special thank you, it has been an honour.
28 April 2021
The Town Mayor receives a number of invitations to events of all types during their year. As we all know, this year has been very different and there have been invitations of a totally different nature due to the Covid Lockdowns and social distancing rules we have all been following.
One thing that I have been able to do, thanks to my trusty laptop, has been to attend the Annual General Meetings of various voluntary organisations in Town. We have an extraordinary numbers of volunteer groups which offer a large variety of much needed support to which their members freely give those who are vulnerable and in need in Petersfield and the surrounding area. On Saturday 24th of April Phil Shaw, the Deputy Mayor, and myself attended the Zoom Annual Meeting of the Petersfield Voluntary Care Group. We were privileged to hear about them and to see many of them face to face on our screens. This group has been running for a number of years and their main function has been to take people to Doctor and Hospital appointments where they wait with them and bring them home. Last year things changed, as the vast majority of volunteers are over 70 years of age, were in the vulnerable category and had to shield; undeterred their Chairman Alison Gauld knew that the support they needed to offer would change. Hospital trips would be cut down and they needed to turn their attention to other forms of help. Shopping and prescriptions were delivered to those who needed it. They were very short here of drivers and so the Coronavirus Network set up by Sarah Thomas and her friends came to the rescue and supplied a number of their volunteers. Sarah has now joined the Voluntary Care Group herself and will be a great asset to them.
I was called to the Festival Hall the previous day to have my second Astra-Zeneca vaccination and once again marvelled, as many have, at the superb organisation of the vaccination hub. I came across a marvellous lady called Lin Piatek who had helped me greatly in the Christmas Card Shop and with working on the Christmas Hamper Appeal which was run in tandem with the Salvation Army. Lin is a member of the Petersfield Lions Club and has been on duty with many of the other “Lions”- including her husband, at every vaccination clinic since they started in November at the Hall. Their work in support of the NHS has been invaluable ushering people in, taking temperatures, allocating seats and making sure that everything is cleaned down and sanitized after every use. This has meant that the medical professionals have been able to concentrate on giving the vaccinations and completing the essential paperwork. I find that the sheer size of the operation is breath taking – on Friday they fully expected to vaccinate 1200 people!
I feel very humble after getting my second “jab”. We have been very fortunate in this country that the Government was very quick off the mark when it came to ordering in the vaccinations for the UK population. – Many words have been written about the behaviour of our politicians during this pandemic – I do think that mistakes have been made but I also think that they have done their very best to cope with this dreadful virus and its effects. We only have to look at vaccination numbers in the rest of Europe where the vaccine has been in short supply and where different governments didn’t order their vaccines as early and efficiently as ours did. As we stand today we hear news about the heart-breaking situation in India where cases of Coronavirus had risen to 16.96million by Sunday. Medical Oxygen is running out. We have sent out nine airline container loads of supplies including ventilators and oxygen concentrators. More will follow. As we move towards opening up completely we must still be aware that this virus and its mutations are deadly and that we must continue to take the utmost care to make sure that we avoid it coming back with a vengeance again.
14 April 2021
On Friday last we lost one of the most important figures in our Country. In many ways we didn’t really expect it to happen as Prince Philip had always seemed so alive and vital and was always there. Even though he retired from official duties in 2017 he could still be seen at the Queen’s side on many occasions and he was still carriage driving up until only two years ago.
For most of us His Royal Highness the Duke of Edinburgh was one of the two key figures in our Royal Family who have been there throughout all of our lives. He was much more than Her Majesty the Queen’s devoted husband and Consort. He was a man of duty and dedication who served our Country and the Commonwealth without question for nearly three quarters of a century. In this past year many of us have lost dear friends and family through Coronavirus. Over 126,000 have died of this dreadful virus and the loss of these good people has left us all feeling totally bereft. Funerals have been held under the most stringent of conditions with only a few close mourners being allowed. I think that this has helped to heighten the sympathy that we feel for Her Majesty the Queen and her family at this time.
Prince Philip married the Princess Elizabeth in 1947 and became a lifelong supporter of his wife. When King George VI died at a young age of lung cancer in 1952 Elizabeth became Queen. This was to change his life completely and he left his beloved Navy in order to support his wife. This support lasted through all of their years together. It was a difficult role for him to take on as there had not been a Prince Consort since Prince Albert who was the husband of Queen Victoria. Not one to stand still he was to turn his attention to being a champion of British Sport, Science and Industry. This was followed by presidency of the National Playing Fields Association. Always a military man at heart he remained dedicated throughout his life to the Armed Forces community.
He was interested in young people and started the Duke of Edinburgh’s Awards which took off and now covers 140 countries. His other main interests were in Conservation and the Environment and in many things he was ahead of his time as he was very concerned even in the 1950’s that ‘man’ was having a detrimental effect on the planet. I was very privileged to have met him several times and I remember waiting to see him when he was visiting the then Royal Naval College in Greenwich in the mid-eighties where my then husband was doing a course and was completely bemused when he rolled up in an environmentally friendly gas powered Black Cab in which he drove around London and not the usual Royal Rolls Royce.
Prince Philip was a caring and very forthright person. He did not suffer fools and did not like sitting around doing nothing. He played Polo and when he felt that he was too old for that he took up carriage driving. He was able to turn his hand to many things; was a pilot, a renowned yachtsman and an excellent cricketer. He loved his summer visits to Cowes for Cowes Week and until only about eight years ago was still leaping ashore unaided and striding onto the Racing Platform of the Royal Yacht Squadron where he came to take a great interest in the day’s racing.
At heart he was a dedicated husband and father, married for 73 years. We must all think about Her Majesty now on her own without him. We have lost someone vibrant and rather special.
Rest in Peace Sir.
31 March 2021
“Tomorrow will be a Good Day.”
It is now one year since our world as we know it changed completely and we went into “Lockdown” for the first time.
Most of us watched the daily bulletins and were aghast at the number of people who were dying because of this unfamiliar thing called Covid 19 or Coronavirus. We had to stay at home and only go out for exercise for a short time. Shops, cafes and pubs were closed and we juggled with the internet to do our shopping and communicate with work and families. Schooling was done at home except for the children of key workers. Teachers found themselves teaching in classroom and giving internet lessons at the same time.
Rules were set down regarding how close we could stand to other people and mixing with our friends and family. We seemed to live in a caring and uncaring time. Most people stuck to the rules, were worried about themselves and their families catching the virus. At the Town Council we were up and running with the Agency network within days. The Food Bank, Free Shop and Salvation Army swung into action to help families and people in need. Help the Aged was fast off the mark and arranged shopping and pharmacy deliveries to the housebound and shielding. Help the Aged Manager Sheridan Rocher also arranged that, with the help of the wonderful cooks from Churchers College, over seventies, elderly and vulnerable people would get a hot meal delivered to their homes twice a week. Sarah Thomas and Malcolm Muggeridge started up the amazing Petersfield Coronavirus network and worked with Steve Field, Kathryn Ellis-Blandford and Cllr James Deane from the Town Council to provide many more volunteers and answer needs. I was in awe of the sheer number of willing volunteers who came forward.
On the other hand we had the other group of people who were in complete denial. They did not believe that this virus was real and that they should take any care of themselves or others. It was a completely different story for a lot of them when they or members of their families became seriously ill. Although the law stated that there should no meetings of people in large numbers, they led protests and fought the Police who were trying to keep them in check. These acts also led to numbers of them falling ill and spreading the virus.
Sadly, still the death toll kept rising.
Our spirits were lifted by the sight of the remarkable Captain Tom Moore who, at the age of 99, took up his family’s challenge to walk the laps of his garden for which they would give him £1000 towards the NHS charities. He became a national hero and the sum quickly swelled to upwards of £33million. He was a wise gentleman who within short months became an Honorary Colonel and was then knighted by Her Majesty at Windsor Castle. Tragically he caught coronavirus and died in February, we all were saddened by the News but he became an inspiration to many of us with phrases like “Tomorrow will be a good day” and “We will get through this and come out stronger”. Captain Sir Tom also inspired many others to fundraise.
The numbers kept rising.
Lockdown stopped and Council Meetings resumed on “Zoom”. Autumn started and we became aware that numbers were rising yet again. The Country was split into different tiers with restricted movement between each Tier. A second lockdown got under way and it was back to food shopping only in November; it was lifted in December but we still had to distance and the wearing of masks was compulsory in shops. We were told that families were going to be able to mix at Christmas for one day but travel was restricted.
By now over 100,000 people had died and it was clear that some mixing at Christmas had resulted in another peak in illness. We went into Lockdown yet again on January 5th with the discovery of a faster spreading variant and a huge rise in cases. This time the ending of lockdown will be staggered. Numbers have by now dramatically fallen and the brilliant vaccination programme organised by the NHS means that the older members of society and the vulnerable have, by now, at least had their first vaccination and are heading towards their second.
We are now running into difficulties with vaccine supplies. Our Government ordered ahead, unlike many of the European Union countries who have not. They appear to resent the fact that our programme is racing ahead and are now in talks about limiting supplies to the UK. This may hold up the vaccinations for the forty and under age-groups and as these are the most socially active, and lockdown might have to go on for a bit longer. At this moment outdoor fitness and sporting groups can start again on 29th March. Family “bubbles” can meet again indoors -wearing masks and socially distancing from 12th April. Non-essential retail can open up again on 12th April too. From 17th May we can all mix indoors providing that we socially distance and wear masks.
Locally, we are opening up the Avenue Pavilion for bookings from 17th May but we won’t be opening up the Festival Hall until at least the end of August because it is being used by the NHS as the town’s vaccination centre – they will take priority for as long as they need it. We can all be grateful to our local doctors and health professionals who are carrying out the vaccinations, and we must also remember the army of volunteers from the Lions Clubs and local organisations who are working with them. I am hopeful that we really can look forward to the end of this Lockdown but there is also the possibility that we may not be out of the woods yet. To date, as I write this 126,000 people have died in the UK so far with 111,000 of those having died in England. Numbers are rising fast in Europe again with most countries either in Lockdown or contemplating it; let us hope that this time we will not follow them.
Keep well everyone and in the words of Captain Sir Tom – “For all those finding it difficult, the Sun will shine on you again and the clouds will go away”
17 March 2021
At this time of year our minds turn to thoughts of things to come.
Spring is upon us and daffodils are starting spring up all over Town. Easter will be here in a few weeks time. I am sure that many of us will still celebrate this but be wary of what happened at Christmas when families got together and there was a surge in the numbers who caught Coronavirus as a result. The NHS hopes that the 40’s and above will all be offered the vaccines by then and a number of us will be feeling a mite safer. It is to be hoped that the vaccines that we have been given will cover us for the various mutations of this dreadful virus and as long as we are careful hopefully we can look forward to the Summer.
I hear that many are booking holidays abroad for this summer and I wish you all well. One word of caution though please find out what the situation is in the countries that you want to go to. Your travel agent should be able to give you information on the different restrictions in force in your travel destination. It wont be much fun if you find yourself armed with your completed vaccination form but holidaying in a country which has a curfew running from 6pm to 6am each day as is happening in parts of Europe at the moment.
At this time of year – and especially last Sunday our thoughts turned to Mothers; this is a time when we, who have lost our own mums, think of the lady who brought us up. I lost my Mother many years ago now but I still miss her a lot. She worked amazingly hard, brought three of us up while learning her trade as a Chef and we were able to spend time with her if we worked alongside her. I still remember coming home from school at the age of eleven and changing out of school uniform and putting on a black jumper and skirt and going straight into the dining room or wherever we were serving “High Tea” or “Dinner” to our many customers. I would finish around 8pm and have my supper with her sitting at the end of the big kitchen table while my brother would take over in the dining room. We didn’t mind at all and we could come home to her wherever she was. We moved around a lot as she got better jobs and began to run her own businesses but essentially she was at the heart of our family and we all adored her.
This year for many, Mother’s Day will have meant something much more. Covid deaths have taken many from us and many have lost their own dear Mothers being unable to spend those last few days with them in hospital. Some comfort can be found in the knowledge that our medical friends will have stayed with them at this crucial time.
Lockdowns have meant that the elderly and vulnerable have had to be protected, and this too has caused families to be separated for long periods. Long distance travel has been difficult or impossible and I have many friends who have not seen their children or grandchildren for many months, my own daughter last came home in October and spent Christmas away from us. Contact has been maintained for many “online” and many, like myself, have benefitted from seeing family on Zoom or facetime. Unfortunately not everyone has access to a computer but contact can still be maintained by telephone or even by mail. Not everyone has fond memories of a good childhood and I sincerely hope that they are living in a better place now.
Last week, on her way home from a visit to a friend, a very beautiful young woman was brutally murdered by an off duty Police Protection Officer. We do not know why this happened and perhaps we never will. Sarah Everard had everything to live for and has now been tragically taken from her family, boyfriend and friends. Our hearts go out to her family and to her Mother who has lost her very precious daughter. I have never ever heard of a Police Officer in this man’s position ever taking the life of an innocent young woman. Close Protection Officers are meant to be discreet and thoroughly professional which makes what this man has done seem much more extraordinary.
I thought it very poignant when it emerged that the Duchess of Cambridge had quietly visited Clapham Common on Saturday afternoon and laid two bunches of Daffodils on the temporary memorial to Sarah. This was apparently because she too had spent time walking home from friends houses at night when she was a single girl living in London.
3 March 2021
I think that we all felt great relief when the Prime Minister announced that the end of Lockdown and the opening up of Society should be in place by 21st June, just over 4 months away.
The main reason is that the vaccinations are being carried out at a rapid rate and now, upwards of 20 million people have been vaccinated with both of the main vaccines – the Pfizer and the Astra-Zeneca – providing very great cover within weeks of a first dose. Lockdown is being eased very gradually this time with each phase depending on how the infection rates lower. I must admit that I have mixed feelings about this; I am really hopeful that we will get there but we are still being hampered by those who deny that there is a problem, refuse to distance and don’t follow the simple rules. Unfortunately we have a number of these people in the Town and if you watched the News on Sunday you will have seen the large numbers flocking to parks and open spaces. I took a walk around the Lake twice this week. It was lovely to see so many people enjoying the first proper sunshine we have had in ages. However I was really saddened to see groups of people meeting or walking around and not distancing at all. With this blasé attitude I fear that numbers will start to go up again.
One of my colleagues came across a party of teenagers on saturday in a large group and warned them about the fact that they could transmit Covid to each other and that by meeting in a group they were breaking the law; they quite frankly told her that they couldn’t care less. It doesn’t actually matter what they think, what matters is the fact they could pass it on to a relative or a vulnerable person they happen to brush passed in the street.
Sadly, this is the attitude that we are up against. All groups are still vulnerable with more and more young people being infected. We are now facing the different mutations of the virus and we really don’t know if the vaccinations will be effective against them; it may be that we have to have another vaccine later on to protect us.
I was thinking about what I have missed most over the last year. I love shopping, but I haven’t missed it and apart from ordering a quantity of bio-degradable dog poo bags I really haven’t done much in the way of shopping on-line. I find now, like a number of my friends, that I am quite happy to bring out those things that I haven’t worn for years that still fit. I was helped by the fact that when putting on weight I held onto the clothing in smaller sizes that I refused to throw out “just in case”. Having lost over two stone and a dress size or two, I can now resurrect them. I am not hanging onto the larger sized stuff as don’t want to put in on again! I have also missed being able to chuck my dogs in the car and going off to find new places for walks. As one of the few who has always enjoyed driving I do miss the freedom of going on long journeys to see friends. The main things that I have missed over the last year quite frankly are “hugs” and on my walks people that I come across have often said the same thing. But more seriously for some of them they have missed being able to hug a parent who is in a nursing home or is seriously ill in hospital.
Many of you will know that my charity for this year is the “Rosemary Foundation”, that wonderful local group of nurses and health professionals who look after the terminally ill, enabling them to spend their remaining time at home. This service enables families to stay together and means that the patients will get the very best care possible in their own surroundings. I would like to thank all of those wonderful people who have donated to the Mayors Appeal – my very sincere apologies if you have not received my personal thanks yet – it will be on its way to you very soon. Should you still want to donate to the appeal then please send your donation to the “Mayors Charity Appeal” either to the Town Hall or leave it with my friends Paul and Georgie at the “Old Stables Wine Bar and Kitchen” in Pages Court (much to be recommended-great grub!)
17 Feb 2021
Up until now I have always avoided the subject of my age – why should I want to keep it quiet? Well, I have now been a Town Councillor for nearly ten years and as such, age doesn’t matter. However people’s attitudes do change and you suddenly know that you are being judged on whether you have now become an even worse grumpy old whinger. I suppose my answer to that should be “No, I have always been one of those!”.
One of the benefits in reaching three score years and ten a couple of months ago has been that last Monday I received the text summons to go to the Festival Hall on Wednesday for my Covid Vaccination. I must admit that I was a mite apprehensive about getting it as I had heard that if, in the past, I had experienced an allergic reaction to a vaccination or to a drug then I should let the doctors know. I had had a bad reaction in the past to a tetanus injection and one Christmas several years ago I ended up on my way to QA having passed out because of an antibiotic which didn’t agree with me . My Doctor was very reassuring when I broached this with her and completely put my mind at rest.
I joined the queue outside the Festival Hall just before my allotted time. If you remember the weather last Wednesday it was clear but absolutely freezing. Fortunately, the wait wasn’t too long and we were politely but firmly ushered in by a well wrapped up lady from the Lions Club who kept us all apart and well distanced. The Lions Club has been volunteering their services to the vaccination clinic in Petersfield since it started just before Christmas and have been doing a superb job.
Once inside the hall foyer, after I had registered, I was given a clipboard and biro and ushered into the main hall where a very nice lady with a pointy thing took our temperatures. We were allocated a (socially distanced) seat and given the opportunity to fill in the basic questionnaire. The seats were in distanced rows and as soon as each one was vacated they were cleaned down with an antiviral liquid. Although the Town Hall is “my office” and I have visited it more than once a week since the start of the first lockdown this was a very different Festival Hall from the one I know. The lines of chairs were in the middle surrounded by a number of very private cubicles into which we were being ushered one at a time. My turn came and I was sent to a cubicle where an extremely pleasant lady Doctor from Liphook gave me my “Astra-Zeneca” jab. The whole process was over in minutes but I was well aware that the Doctor would have made more time for me had I wanted it. She took time to answer my queries and told me that I should be recalled for my second jab within 12 weeks.
The next step was to go into the Rose Room where more volunteers took the clipboards and pens and we were recommended to sit for 15 minutes in case we had any reactions. We watched as these volunteers carefully sanitized the pens and clipboards and cleaned down the chairs when they were vacated. Everything was very calm and orderly. We could not really see who was having the jab with us as we were all masked.
I have described what happened in order to let you know how very efficiently the Vaccinations are being carried out in our area. Doctor Richard Kershaw and Doctor Andrew Holden from the Swan Surgery have organised and are leading the local team of doctors and Health Professionals who are involved in the vaccine programme on top of their normal duties and they have roped in other volunteers and I spotted one of our local Dentists, Dr Afshin Khalessi of the College Street Practice who was also giving vaccinations very efficiently. Our Council Halls staff have been on hand all the way through to give them any assistance and the Lions Clubs and many volunteers have been roped in to make sure that patients are dealt with as quickly and efficiently as possible. The Hall will be in the hands of the NHS until the programme is complete. At the moment both the “Astra-Zeneca” and “Pfizer” vaccinations are being given on separate days depending on supply. The doctors have provided the special refrigeration needed to keep the Pfizer at the required low temperature.
Please go and get it done when you are called. A lot of research has produced these vaccines and a lot of trials have been done to see their efficacy and safety. This virus is awful – yes, a lot of people will only suffer mild effects with it but many will be extremely ill and over 110,000 have died in this country with Coronavirus so far-with many more suffering long-term conditions as a result. I really commend our local Surgeries for providing us with a pathway to a better tomorrow please do not let them down by not going for a simple vaccination.
3 Feb 2021
The number of cases of the virus appear to be falling now as the effect of this lockdown kicks in; however, the numbers at this moment are still higher than they were during lockdown last year and many people now have lost relatives as a result of meeting up at Christmas which is tragic. It appears to me that every time lockdown is eased because of the public wanting it to it is then that numbers go up. We need to be patient for a bit longer. Over eight million people have received their first coronavirus vaccination and the intention is that everyone in the vulnerable categories will have received it by the middle of February which is positive news. Petersfield is playing its part in this with our own doctors running the main centre in our local area. Let us hope that everyone is able to receive both doses as soon as possible thereafter. The time that it has taken for the Scientists to produce these vaccines has been, to me, nothing short of a miracle.
We have in this town something else which I think is a bit of a miracle of our own. In 1997 a group of local nurses got together, they had all been working in a local home which cared for the terminally ill and which had just shut down. They decided that they wanted to carry on their work but this time in the community and the Rosemary Foundation “the Hospice at Home” was born. In the beginning the nurses worked without pay, offering their services to all who needed them free of charge. Gradually they received funds and have evolved over the last few years to become the service which we have in place now. Their aim is to provide end of life support to patients, their carers and families with patient-based nursing care, which is available day and night seven days a week in their own homes. This care and support continues until life ends and beyond with bereavement counselling. Their services are offered free of charge within a fifteen mile radius of Petersfield. With no statutory funding this valuable service comes with no cost to patients or their families.
I am sure that you will help me to support this wonderful team of qualified and experienced specialist nurses, counsellors and carers, assisted by clinical, financial and admin services. They look after patients with cancer or other life threatening illness within their own homes and have continued this service unbroken during the current pandemic. All patients are assessed by a Rosemary Nurse who will visit a patient and their family then contact their GP and District Nurse to assess the type of care involved. A care plan is then drawn up together with the patient, and care arranged with one named carer who will take overall responsibility for each case; this is all done with the agreement of the GP. They believe that every person is of immense value and thus deserves the utmost courtesy and consideration in all matters. I was also so very grateful to them not very long ago for the care they gave to a very dear friend and her family during her last few weeks.
You may wonder why I am writing about them? It is one of the main functions of a Mayor to raise funds for their preferred Charity and the Rosemary Foundation has been mine during my time as your Mayor. Normally I would have left office after one year which would have ended in May last year but the Coronavirus situation meant that Councils stayed as they were and I carried on for a second year. My Deputy Mayor last year was the late Councillor George Watkinson and I know that George too supported the Rosemary Foundation hence the main reason that I have kept it as my charity in my second year. Before Christmas the main Appeal was for hampers in partnership with the Salvation Army and, with the help of the Lions and our local District Councillors, we were able to have just over 300 delivered to the elderly and vulnerable. I was also – thanks to your generous donations – able to give a cheque for just over £600 to the Rosemary’s at that time. I am, unfortunately, not able to run any fund raising events and will not be able to for quite a while, so I have my begging bowl out once again. Anything that you can give whether a cheque or just a few pennies will be very gratefully received. Please make your cheques out to “The Mayors Charity Appeal” and post them to the Mayor at the Town Hall, or just put them through the Town Hall letterbox. Otherwise you could leave it with my friends Paul and Georgie Stuart at the Old Stables in Pages Court who are kindly collecting donations for me (and offer an excellent takeaway menu!).
Please remember : Stay Home- Protect the NHS- Save Lives
20 Jan 2021
I must admit that I knew that teachers were working hard nowadays but I confess that until now I never really appreciated just how hard they were having to work at the moment. With most children now at home, lessons are being conducted on the internet and these lessons involve preparation by their teachers who also have to be delivered using a medium that many of them were totally unused to before the lockdowns. In addition, many, if not most, schools are open for the children of key workers so lessons there are being prepared for and taught. These add up to long hours for many as work has to be marked and feedback given to parents as well as support being given to many parents who are home schooling in subjects that most left behind years ago.
I am also now aware that quite a few of our teachers have themselves been ill with Covid, as have their pupils, thus the strain falls on others. Parents are anxious that their children don’t fall behind because of the current situation and, to be honest, we don’t really know when it will end at the moment. Hopefully everyone will be vaccinated by the middle of the year and we can return, in the autumn, to a semblance of normality – whatever that may be. We always know someone who has had experience of something we are talking about don’t we? Well, I myself went to a number of schools – some for just a few months – while I was growing up. The main disadvantage was that I never stayed in one place long enough to make longstanding school-friends. My parents separated when I was very young and my brothers and I were brought up by my very hard-working mother. My mother became a chef and was exceptionally good at it, moving on to better jobs all the time and it meant that by the time I was 16 she had a small hotel and a guest house as well as our beautiful home in North Yorkshire. My brothers were away at school, returning home in the holidays, and I stayed with my mother. ( I can still remember her sitting me down at the age of 11 and saying to me that either I could go to a girls boarding school in York where I would be at one stable place or travel with her when she moved around, meaning attending whichever school was nearest – of course I chose to stay with her.)
The effect on my education? I was lucky enough to go to a strict primary school in Halifax on the lead up to the 11 plus. We were drilled in tables and had one hour of mental arithmetic every morning. The result? In a class of 39 pupils 38 of us moved on to grammar school. In the three years and three schools that followed I was taught Latin for one year and German, also for a year. This paid off in later years when we spent two years in Denmark and travelled as much as we possibly could. I never wore out a school uniform, except in my last school which was a private girls school where I stayed for three years. (I went to a real mixture of private and state schools during my school career). What I am trying to say here is that, despite the constant changes and disruption I experienced, I was able to adapt to the circumstances. I feel sure that with the care, attention and sheer professionalism that our teachers exhibit our children too are adapting to the circumstances and their future will not suffer as a result of this pandemic.
My very grateful thanks to hard working head teachers and teachers for all that they are doing.
Keep safe everyone, we will get through this.
13 Jan 2021
It certainly was a strange Christmas wasn’t it? Normally it is a family time – but for many of us this year it meant that some of our nearest and dearest were missing. My own daughter was locked in Tier 4 and I suspect that many members of your families were locked in as well. In our own way we made the best of it and thanks to the wonder of “Zoom” and “Facetime” we were able to share much of our Christmas Day.
Many were asking why did this dramatic lockdown have to happen? There is a new variant of Covid 19 which is now targeting younger people and spreading fast. We have lived with Covid for so long now that many are not taking it seriously and in doing so are not following the simple rules. I walk through town on my way to the food stores and often have to dodge around groups of people milling around chatting. They are not obviously members of one family or in a “bubble” together. We are so used to having this awful thing around that we wonder why there is any need to follow any rules? Those of us who dip into “Facebook” to contact friends and catch up with what people think about developments read entries from the doubters who think that this plague is merely a means by which Government is forcing Control on the population. They are the ones who are living in a “bubble”. I read that someone had even driven down to Queen Alexandra’s Hospital in Cosham to look at all the Ambulances parked at the Accident and Emergency Department and noted how there wasn’t much going on there.
I was down there myself in April with someone who had been taken in for tests (not for covid). I saw the row of Ambulances and was told that the A&E Department was dealing with everything as usual but not with Coronavirus patients. They were to be taken to a separate entrance in another part of the Hospital away from Accident and Emergency. The normal A&E patients were down in numbers as lockdown – and now I guess Tier 4 – seems to have reduced the numbers of road accidents as people are tending to stay nearer home. So, doubters, we know of Doctors doing 12 hour shifts in Intensive Care and Critical Care Departments and have been doing so since March. Friends who are Physios who also have had no time off – helping people to breathe again. Friends working in the NHS have told me that Ambulances are now taking young people to Hospital who can hardly catch their breath. It is here and around us and we must follow the rules. It is wonderful that the vaccines are becoming available and our local Surgeries have been working extremely hard over the holiday period calling people in all over the festive season to get their shot in the Festival Hall. I must thank all the medical Staff, also Jon and his wonderful Halls Team for giving up their well earned Christmas break in order to carry on with the vaccination programme.
Now a more positive subject – together with a lot of help from the local Lions groups, the Mayor’s Fund, Petersfield Town District Councillors and the Salvation Army were able to make up and distribute over 300 Christmas hampers to the lonely and vulnerable. Major Michael Harris, Salvation Army leader in Petersfield, put in a heroic effort in collecting the food for the hampers and at one time was seriously worried in case he wouldn’t be able to get into his house as over 300 meant an awful lot of stuff! Our thanks also go to the ladies of the local WI who knitted gifts which were able to go into many of the local hampers.
I do feel that the Spirit of Christmas shone out this year helped by the actions of two very fine ladies – Sheridan Rocher, Age Concern Manager, who arranged for her team of helpers to deliver 125 Christmas meals cooked by the catering department of Churchers College to elderly people. Marika Kyjovska who cooked the PACT Christmas lunch in the Salvation Army Hall and the Rev Will Hughes who coordinated it and to the many helpers who delivered the meals and gifts which had been donated all giving up their time on Christmas Day.
We are very fortunate to have in Petersfield our very own “Hospice at Home”. A group of professional nurses and doctors who offer palliative care to those who are battling terminal illness. Over the years they have helped many many families and are on call 24 hours per day 7 days a week. I have supported them as my Mayor’s Charity each year when I have been Mayor and it was also the choice of the late George Watkinson who would have followed me as Town Mayor. I have received such overwhelming generosity from you all so far in this Mayoral year and together with the Lions and the District Councillors managed to raise over £5,000 for the hampers and I was able to give a cheque for £630 to Christopher Wilton head of the Rosemary Foundation just before Christmas. Now I have my begging bowl out again. The Rosemary Foundation depends on fundraising events to raise what it needs to keep going. As you know no-one has been able to hold any such events this year so if you find yourself with something to spare please drop a cheque or cash to the Mayor’s Charity Account at the Town Hall. Alternatively drop an envelope through the door or give it to Paul and Georgie at the Old Stables when you pick up one of the best takeaway coffees in Town.
Please all keep safe, follow the rules and a Very Happy New Year to you all.
23 Dec 2020
In the space of half an hour on Saturday afternoon our plans for Christmas were turned upside down by an announcement by the Prime Minister and the Scientists who advise him. We had in the main nearly all been looking forward to seeing some of our families in a more relaxed way for just a few days at Christmas. Five days in which we could all live with a semblance of normality.
I must admit that I do love Christmas – I always have, even though for many of my teenage years it meant that my whole family including me were working all the way through it. We had a hotel in Richmond in North Yorkshire, it wasn’t big but had two dining rooms and we usually did around 200 Christmas meals on Christmas Day and on Boxing Day. I remember the first year that we had it rather resenting the fact that I was waiting on tables on Christmas Day while my Mother and our Chef were working hard in the kitchen.
The first people who came in were two girls – one in her early twenties and her younger sister. They were very sad and rather upset and I asked them if they were alright and could I help. It turned out that this was the first Christmas without their parents who had been both killed in a bad car crash six months before. They had decided to come out for Christmas lunch instead of having it at home or going to the relatives. That pulled me up and my resentment disappeared, we made sure that we made that lunch an enjoyable meal for them. They came back to us every year after that. I realized that a lot of people who came to us would otherwise be on their own and without any of their family.
We now find ourselves at the end of what has really been what I would call an “If only” year. If only this virus hadn’t hit us this year, if only people had taken it a mite more seriously and if only we could realise that the Government is trying its best to handle something that is a threat to all of us. I certainly wouldn’t like to be in charge of the country at the moment. All through this year I have wittered on to you about the need to follow the basic rules that is wash your hands, keep apart from other people and wear a mask now. Most of us keep our hands clean and use the sanitizer when we go into a shop. We will even queue for a shop keeping the regulation 6ft apart then we let rip. Walk into any town and you see that no-one has heard about 6ft or 2 metre distancing from others. Supermarkets used to follow a strict distancing rule but they no longer do so so doing the shopping is pretty difficult for those who want to keep apart from others. I, like many others, keep a close eye on the News and watch film of the City Streets on shopping days or during demonstrations showing crowds of people milling around in big bunches not keeping apart or attempting to. If only they had taken note, if only they had stopped to think about that Great Uncle or Aunt who might have been vulnerable and who might not have ended up being fatally ill.
Most of us agree that “Facebook” is a great way of communicating and showing us pictures of what we are missing. We were all happy when the last Lockdown finished just a few weeks ago. Facebook started to show pictures of everyone out and about again. Italy and Spain are again in Lockdown and now we have joined them with this multi-tier system. This has not been done deliberately with a view to rotting up the end of our year – as the Archbishop of Canterbury said on Sunday – Christmas will still happen it will just take a different form.
This was due to be my “Mayor’s Jolly Holly Christmas” article. It has had to be rather different. We must bite the bullet, follow the rules and if we do we will all be able to have a simply wonderful Christmas next year. Meanwhile to everyone, including those like mine, who will have to be apart because we live in different areas have a Wonderful Christmas and thank goodness that we have the telephone, the Internet, Zoom and all the other communication channels that mean that we don’t have to overwork the pigeons. That being said think about the elderly relative who is on their own and doesn’t have a computer – they will most likely have a telephone and you could make their day special by a five minute call to show them that they hadn’t been forgotten.
A Happy and Safe Christmas to you All
9 Dec 2020
A couple of weeks ago I wrote about the Mayor’s Christmas Hamper Appeal with the Salvation Army for the lonely and vulnerable and how numbers had soared from the expected 100 that we did last year to approaching 200 so far. We were greatly helped by the Petersfield District Councillors and the Petersfield Ladies Lions Club. The numbers have now gone up to around 305 now many of whom are out of town but still local. The minute Lin Piatek, a Lady Lion, heard that more funds were needed out of Petersfield (and therefore out of my area) she contacted local Lions Clubs in the areas where we would need help and within days we have heard that those Clubs will have meetings to see how they can help the Salvation Army. I am delighted to say that we have also had an extremely generous response to the Town Mayor’s Appeal on behalf of the Rosemary Foundation, who are also being hit by the lack of funding due to the fact that we, and others, are unable to hold money making events for them.
We have many organisations in Petersfield offering help to those in need and now and again I would like to write about just some of them.
In my ignorance I didn’t really know what the “Lions” did until I joined the Town Council and became aware of this body of men and women who worked together to raise much needed funds for local projects. I found them last year in Winton House holding a “Diabetes Awareness Day,” giving up their time to give advice to people about the dangers of Type Two Diabetes. They were very professional, and were able to pick up indications that meant people should be sent to their doctors for confirmation. Equally I found them in the Festival Hall from time to time running a “Prostate Cancer Awareness Day” where they have been able to send quite a few gentlemen with symptoms to their Doctors to get sent for treatment early.
Who are they? Well Petersfield Lions Club is one of around 46,000 Lions Clubs worldwide with over 1.5 million members in 207 countries. There are 1,000 clubs in the UK and Ireland with approximately 20,000 members. They believe in service to others without regard to race, religion, politics or the personal interests of others. Their motto is “We Serve” and the emphasis is on Service to the needy and less fortunate in the community. Not only do they raise money to help support local charities but they also give their time to help them. They fund raise by organising their annual quiz, running stalls and side shows at fairs, fetes and raffles . Members fees cover the cost of club administration so all collections go to their worthy causes.
The Petersfield club has 24 members at present either working full time or retired. Many of the members will also volunteer to help in other organisations and I have a number of their wonderful ladies helping me in the Charity Christmas Card shop at the moment. Their Financial Year ends in June and last year they donated over £10,000 to local charities and individuals. Since then they have donated £3,600 to local causes . They have also gathered £3000 so far from generous pensioners who feel that they do not need their winter fuel allowance. They never stop! They started their envelope collection on December 4th and will be collecting at Tesco on 19th and 23rd December.
In all they recently donated £400 for Brain Tumour Research, provided £500 for Ramscote and other homes for Christmas Activity bags. They have given my Appeal £340 for 20 Christmas Hampers and £1,000 to Home Start, plus given 20 x £20 vouchers for Home Start families. £300 has been given to Age Concern for Goody Bags to accompany the Christmas Meal. They have given £250 to the Food Bank and two soup heaters to the Free Food shop.
You can see that they really help a vast range of the needy. They have, in addition, donated £200 for blankets for the children at Herne Junior School and purchased clothing for an Asylum seeking child who has learning difficulties. They have also collected and delivered 500 pairs of spectacles for recycling to be sent to Africa.
I have lately come across them marshalling at the Flu Clinic helping to usher the 800 or so patients a time who are given flu vaccines.
If you would like to volunteer then contact the Lions Club on 0345 8335734 or Petersfield.firstname.lastname@example.org or on their website www.petersfieldlions.org.uk
We are very fortunate to have so many caring good people in our community.
Keep Safe and Keep Well
25 Nov 2020
I feel that this has been a month of contrasts for us.
The National Remembrance Day is always held on the Sunday closest to 11th November so on the 11th a very small group of us met again at the Memorial all suitably distanced by Councillor James Deane for Prayers led by the Vicar of St Peter’s Canon Will Hughes and the two minute silence. There were members of the Royal British Legion also in attendance and we expected it to be just a very small short event. The High Street was closed due to necessary emergency works having to be done by Southern Water which meant that Will did not have to spend part of the time dodging the traffic as he said prayers. I was very moved to see that a lot of Petersfield people appeared that day. All standing quietly, properly distanced and all meeting to show that they too were wanting to be involved in the act of Remembrance. Times may be bad at the moment but they were there because they wanted to be.
Lockdown is upon again as we all know and will hopefully end on December 2nd at midnight. The numbers suffering from Covid 19 have risen sharply in East Hampshire so great care has to be taken. The volunteer groups are once again in action and I can only commend them for getting so quickly off the ground. We all want to celebrate Christmas and see our loved ones but we must be wary also because that last thing that we want is to enjoy Christmas with them and then lose them in January.
Now you will have seen the Christmas Lights going up in Town. Unfortunately this year there will be no switch on event and therefore there will be no collection for the Town Mayor’s Charity as there have been in previous years. This is a great blow because it was from this collection last year that we were able to give a significant sum to the Salvation Army who were in partnership with me to give a Christmas Hamper to those lonely people who would be spending Christmas on their own. They were greatly appreciated so we decided to do the same this year. We ask the agencies, like ”Help the Aged” to identify those people and the Salvation Army puts the hampers together. Covid has caused us a real problem because there are so many lonely, vulnerable people who have had to spend the best part of the year on their own and may not see anyone at Christmas. Already the agencies have identified numbers of people like this and requests have come flooding in. We now find ourselves facing the situation that hampers are needed for upwards of 200 souls this year and not the 100 that we expected.
This is where I have had a horrendous problem! Last year I was able to raise additional money from holding fundraising events in order to help finance the Hampers Appeal. This year we faced being desperately short of funds. It is one of the key functions of the post of Town Mayor to raise money for Charity but this year has proved to be almost pretty impossible and the numbers of vulnerable, lonely folk have risen sharply. I have received a wonderful donation from the Lions Club Ladies of £340 to pay for 20 hampers and I am very grateful to them. I am well aware that times are hard for everyone at the moment. A hamper costs us £17 to put together and it looks like we needed enough funds to pay for 200 of them. We needed to raise approximately £2960 within the next few weeks and I was at my wits end.
The Town Councillors and the local East Hampshire District Councillors have often been at odds in the past – such is the nature of local politics. However, we all agree that this has been an awful year and the priority has been to pull together and do all that we can, in our own way, to look after all of the townspeople in need at this awful time. We have talked and feel that we are much better when we work together to achieve our mutual goals. (Although, like families, we will still have a go at each other when we feel that the need arises!). I sent an appeal to the five District Councillors who serve Petersfield on Friday afternoon wondering if they could spare any change from their respective Councillor Grants for this Appeal.
They have been working together this year to pool their resources and I was hopeful.
I was contacted on Sunday morning to say that they had been in touch with each other by frequent emails since my message and wanted to help the lonely and vulnerable this Christmas. They have each put in £590 which makes a total of £2950 towards the Christmas Hampers. This is absolutely wonderful . It means that the Salvation Army can cover the costs of what is now the Town’s Gift. If anyone feels like donating for this appeal or for the Rosemary Foundation it will be gratefully received please give cheques to “The Town Mayor’s Charity Account” and they can either be posted through the letterbox at the Town Hall or given to Paul and Georgy at “Stables” in Page’s Court. Paul and Georgy also have the Charity account details – and you can of course pay over the counter at Lloyds Bank in the Square. Very many, many thanks to those people who have already donated and many, many thanks to our local District Councillors – Councillor Julie Butler, Councillor Ben Bentley, Councillor Jamie Matthews, Councillor David McKinney and Councillor Matt Gass.
Thank you all so much -Stay Safe and Well
11 Nov 2020
Many of us are not surprised to find that we are once again in “Lockdown”. Over the last few weeks we have looked at the news from the North of England and seen the dramatic rise in covid cases up there. The numbers have increased in the South now and hospitals are once again on high alert and wondering how they will be able to cope with larger patient numbers.
I watched the “Festival of Remembrance “ from the Royal Albert Hall on Saturday and in interviews with many of the serving members it became clear that our Armed Forces are now heavily committed to supporting the National Health Service -supplying Nurses and doctors who are helping to cover patients needing intensive care and soldiers who are carrying out many of the tests that are being done all over the Country.
Members of our Armed Forces join up because they want to make a difference. Many people are not completely aware that they are essentially sign up willing to give up their lives for Queen and Country.
I think that no one is more aware of this than Her Majesty the Queen. Hence her determination to be at Westminster Abbey on Wednesday to leave a floral tribute based on her wedding bouquet on the Tomb of the Unknown Warrior whose burial at the Abbey took place 100 years ago. She wished to honour this anniversary in a quiet but simple service. It is one hundred years since her grandfather, King George V honored the Unknown Warrior in the same place in the presence of one hundred women who had lost their husbands and all of their sons in the war. It was her mother, the Lady Elizabeth Bowes-Lyon who left her wedding bouquet at the Tomb in April 1923 in memory of her brother Fergus who had been killed in the first World War . The Queen did the same when she married and the Duchess of Cambridge followed suit on her marriage. Her Majesty was also determined that nothing would stop her being at the Annual Remembrance Service at Whitehall on Sunday. It was a very much scaled down event but the Royal Family were there to show the Nation that they would never forget the debt that we all owe those brave souls who gave their lives in the service of their Country in many conflicts over the last one hundred years. Her Majesty watched it all closely from a balcony above the Cenotaph paying particular attention to all that was going on- she would never miss it.
In Petersfield, on Sunday, we had our own Remembrance Service at the War Memorial. In the last few years the Annual Remembrance Service here has been getting much bigger -this one had to follow Covid guidelines and numbers had to be severely restricted but we were determined that whatever was decided we would be there on behalf of the Town. The event was arranged and co-ordinated by Councillor James Deane, himself a retired Soldier and now a member of the Royal British Legion. James’s event planning has been at the root of all the military anniversary celebrations that we have had this year. We laid Wreaths for VE Day, for VJ Day , for the 80th anniversary of the Battle of Britain and now for the Remembrance event which we felt would be in a lockdown -and it was.
James has planned them all and Sunday’s event was a masterpiece, beautifully distanced and stage managed. As is proper Tom Floyd, a Deputy Lord Lieutenant of Hampshire, laid the first Wreath on behalf of the Queen and I followed laying the Wreath for the Town. To me this Remembrance event is one of the most important duties of the Mayoral Year. It is a time for reflection and to remember all of those men and women who have given up their lives so that we can live in peace. Jeff Williams, the President of the Royal British Legion laid the next Wreath and he was followed by our MP Damian Hinds and then Councillor Julie Butler, Deputy Leader of the East Hants District Council laid their Wreath. These were followed by those of the Police, Fire and Rescue and the various organisations that are an important part of the Remembrance ceremony in Petersfield.
I was especially touched to see the wreaths being laid by the Head Boys and Head Girls from the Petersfield School, Churchers College and Ditcham School who came to the ceremony in the company of their respective Headmasters.
The life that we lead now is often far from peaceful and conflict still goes on all around the world. We rely on our Armed forces to protect us and be the barrier between ourselves and these conflicts. We must support them, and respect them. We must always ensure that the values they are fighting for on our behalf are worth fighting for.
26 Oct 2020
I met an old friend this Sunday morning as we were both in my local shop buying newspapers. I asked him how he was and what he was doing at the moment. Inevitably we got round to the subject of Christmas. “I have Great Expectations “he said- and I asked him why. “ Well, it has been a gloomy year for us all but Christmas means that the New Year will be next and I have Great Expectations that next year will be a lot better because, let’s face it- this one couldn’t get any worse!”.
I think that we all now have “Great Expectations” that the future will get better and this is what keeps us going. We can’t turn our back on the dreadful Virus that has been multiplying again in our midst and as I write this it is with the knowledge that my daughter is in “Tier 2” in London and can’t mix with anyone apart from her three flat mates. Fortunately she is working from home as she has done all the way through as her Charity, SSAFA (the Armed Forces Charity) is a very active on catering for the needs of serving service people and military veterans.
Like many charities at the moment ,SSAFA is suffering from the lack of ability to hold major fund raising events and so income is much lower which affects their ability to use those much needed monies to help those in need. The next few months are an important time because this is a time when they raise funds from the sale of Christmas Cards either in their own Charity Shops or through “Cards for Good Causes” shops which are springing up in our High Streets or in other suitable empty premises like churches and halls.
My great friend Phil Willoughby ran our local Christmas Card Pop up shop for many years and it was taken over by the lovely Jules (Julia Crook) last year. She has had to step down this year due to shielding her elderly relatives and many of the wonderful army of volunteers who normally man the shop have also had to be very careful for themselves and their loved ones.
I received a call from Phil just a few weeks ago- you know how it starts- “Lesley, I’ve just been thinking- are you doing anything at the moment?” (I smiled to myself- this is the busiest year as Town Mayor that I have ever had as a lot has had to happen behind the scenes these days). “No Phil why?” Within moments I found myself agreeing to have an interview to run the shop and now, as of last week we are up and running in the old Thornton’s shop in the High Street. The cry has gone out for helpers and many now have come forward- I have four ‘Lady Lions’ from the Lions club, two ‘Save the Children’ Ladies and a wonderful group of volunteers as well as Mike Robinson who has stepped in as joint manager when I realised that being your Town Mayor still comes first, of course .
I am unashamedly wanting to plug the Christmas Card shop- in the short time we have been open we have sold many cards to people who don’t normally send them but feel that in this year when they haven’t been able to be in close contact with old friends and Family sending a Christmas Card with a note will help people to know that they are still being thought of. “Cards for Good Causes” takes 30% for overheads covering the shops costs and the remaining 70% goes directly to the Charities. Please come and see us we have lots of cards and lots of stocking fillers. Remember those lonely relatives and friends far away .
Keep well and please do “Shop Local”- we have some wonderful new independent shops in Town and many old favorites which are still here.
Great Expectations?- Yes, things will get better as long as we are all mindful of the guidelines- numbers are down in Germany and Scandinavia because they have been following them.
7 Oct 2020
Well Autumn has come in with a “Bang”. We were getting worried about the level of water in the Lake being very low but I personally reckon that if this rainfall carries on then our worries in that respect will be over.
Time to get the winter woollies out, look out the thermals and see if the heating works again. We may have had lockdown and had to distance and be aware but until now it has been a fairly warm and sort of an extended summer. Now reality hits and we realise that it’s eleven weeks until Christmas and goodness knows who will be able to come on Christmas Day this year but despite that we will still enjoy it!
As we roll along towards November we think more about Remembrance and, unlike every other year, we are unable to buy our poppies from many British Legion Poppy sellers in the Street or from boxes in our local shops and garages. The main army of people who sell Poppies are in their seventies or over, and the Legion does not want to risk any of them being infected with Coronavirus, so there will be very few sellers on the streets or in our supermarkets. Equally there is a small risk of infection being carried from coins in the collecting boxes, so not many of them will be around. The British Legion does a great job in looking after our ex-service men and women and this costs money. This money is greatly supplied by the Annual Poppy Appeal and this year we can support them by going onto the Royal British Legion Website, type in “Poppy Appeal “ and fill in the form by 31st October at the latest. They will send you 20 poppies free of charge. Please sell to your friends and colleagues and return the money to the Royal British Legion. The website also shows many other ways to donate and you can get all manner of different Poppies from the “Poppy Shop”- which you will also find on the website.
There have been rumors going around that the Town Council have cancelled Remembrance this year. As you will all be aware the rules relating to gatherings change all of the time and we must obey these rules, like them or not. At the moment we can meet only in numbers of six but I can assure you that whereas we cannot have the marching young people who help to make this annual event so memorable the Town will be remembering the fallen and all who served in conflict in the service of the Country. The Annual Service at the Cenotaph in London will still be happening in the presence of Her Majesty the Queen. HRH the Prince of Wales will lay her wreath on her behalf as she watches from the building above.
You may wonder why I am mentioning this now and not at the beginning of November? Well I had to give you all the opportunity to visit, or get a member of your family to visit, the British Legion website in order to get your poppies. Since the beginning of the 20th Century so many have fallen in armed conflict or received life changing injuries and very many of us will number our relatives amongst them. We must never let them be forgotten.
Remember also-Keep safe, follow the rules and keep well.
30 Sept 2020
I cannot believe that we have reached the end of September already and with the start of October we all start to look towards Christmas .
This has been an extraordinary year for all of us -we never even knew what a “lockdown” was this time last year. We do now. We little realized that our young people would not be taking the examinations that they had been working so hard for. Neither that there would be very many of us working from home or “ on furlough”. As summer came we realized that the numbers of people struck by this virus were falling and we looked hopefully towards the end of it. Not to be! All over Europe the numbers are “racking up” and we are now in the firing line again.
Students have gone to University and, as Students do, have been out and about in their University Towns getting to know new friends and fellow students. They have been hit and many are now in lockdown. There is a difference this time and although many have tested positive the numbers going into hospital are relatively few at the moment. The problem comes when these poor Students want to come home at Christmas and spread the virus to older family members. Okay, the Government are limiting contact to six people- yet Grandparents will want to see their young people lets hope that everyone takes the greatest care.
I always usually love this time of year as your Mayor. The diary is normally getting busy, filled with a vast range of things from the part that the Town Plays in the Remembrance service – which year after year gets more and more support. To the Christmas Lights event at the end of November when the Square is bursting with Charity Gazebos, the Hometown Hospitality area and the stage is filled with Children singing. The Salvation Army plays Carols in one corner and the Tree gets lit. I am afraid that these events will be very different this year. There will only be a limited number at the Remembrance event because, regrettably, that is all that is allowed. We will have no young people marching this year but I am sure that we will have a full event next year…I very much hope! Similarly the Christmas Lights will go on but only one person will be there to switch them on- but they will be splendid again this year because we are not forgetting Christmas-even though it will be quieter.
This is where I really need your help please. The collection that is normally made at the lights event, like last year, would have been part of the “Town Mayor’s Appeal” again and the collection would have gone to the Salvation Army. This has been a really grim year and many of our older and lonely townspeople will be on their own again. Last Year we were able to collect enough money to cover the cost of almost 100 hampers which we were able to give as Christmas Presents to these people. They were made up and given out by the Salvation Army and were a great success. We would like to do it again this year but are unable to have a street collection to raise the funds. Please, if you can spare us a pound or two, would you be kind enough pop it in an envelope marked “Mayor’s Appeal” and drop it into the post box at the Town Hall or the box at “The Old Stables “ – the lovely wine bar and restaurant ( with darn good coffee!) in Page’s Court- up the alleyway next to the travel agent in the High Street. With many thanks to owners Paul and Georgie Stuart.
As many of you know we lost our Deputy Mayor George Watkinson in late July. George was a well-known and much loved Councillor and he had three loves in his life. The first was his wife Jackie and his family, the second was the Winton Players and the third was this Town. George served the Town Council for twenty five years and would have rounded off his long service by being Mayor again in this civic year. One of George’s main charities was the local “Rosemary Foundation” and my idea this year is to support the Rosemary Foundation again in his honour and to ask for donations towards a bench and an oak tree both in George’s name
Please help – just a few coins or a cheque made out to the Mayor’s Appeal in an envelope and given to Paul and Georgie or popped through the Town Hall post Box will help a lot towards this Appeal. Normally we would be holding lots of events to fund raise but they, like many others are on hold this year. You are most welcome to post your donation through the door at the Salvation Army Hall in Swan Street-once again marked “Mayor’s Appeal” so that we know it will be for the hampers.
Many thanks to you all.
7 Sept 2020
I feel like we are living in a parallel universe at the moment.
The Covid 19 virus properly hit our country in February and the Government put Lockdown in place towards the end of March. At that time we were all apprehensive about what we were facing and in the main, obeyed the rules that were imposed on us. We could exercise for one hour per day, not travel on public transport unless absolutely necessary and go out only for essential shopping.
The elderly and vulnerable people were to shield themselves and help groups were set up to deliver supplies and medicines to them. In Petersfield Help the Aged, the Salvation Army and the Food Bank together with charities and other agencies in the Town Council’s “Agencies Working Together “ scheme were very quickly mobilised. Offers of help quickly flooded into the newly set up “Corona Virus Helpline” and the Town came together to help and support the marooned.
We got our information from the Downing Street daily broadcasts and the morning broadcasts on the “Petersfield Community Radio” not to mention the Coronavirus pages, set up as part of Petersfield Pulse. In my daily walks I came across a number of residents who were extremely worried, some had relatives who were in Hospital and others had friends and relatives who were suffering at home. Distances were maintained while we chatted and all appreciated the steps that the local Supermarkets had put in place to ensure that supplies could be bought in the safest possible environment.
At the Town Council our Staff were sent home to work- which they did very well and efficiently. Our Ground Staff carried on working in their usual manner as they were to be in the open air and most of the new machinery which we now have can be operated by a single person. Our very professional Finance Officer stayed on and working happily on her own turned in all of our “End of Year” and Annual Statements. The Council itself went into “Emergency Procedures” with the day to day business being dealt with by our very able Town Clerk in consultation, if needed, with myself and the heads of the relevant Council Committees.
Time moved on and we started to get bored with being kept in. The rules were flouted and people would meet on the Heath in larger numbers. The amount of rubbish in the Council bins told us that many more people were out and about- a very good thing as long as the regulations were observed. Gradually things started getting back to something a little more like normal. We were told that we were still to “Social Distance” and we got used to socially distanced queuing for the banks and to get into the supermarkets.
But it got increasingly obvious that, although as businesses opened up and they had taken great care to ensure that regulations were observed, many were totally now ignoring or even forgetting (!!) these simple rules and doing exactly what they wanted, oblivious to the fact that the newly released vulnerable were scared to move around. Even though numbers of the death from Covid was now over 40,000. Walking around the town it is more and more obvious that little notice is now taken of distancing.
Many people now are able to work successfully from home. As we have a lot of London Commuters living in and around Petersfield this would seem like a plus to me and for them. No long hours spent on the train or the Underground must be a bonus-as well as being altogether beneficial to the environment. Some have been told they won’t be back in their offices until next year, some have been asked to go back in one day per week.
I have heard of more than one City Investment Company who will send employees home to isolate for 14 days if they use public transport to get to work. On public transport and in many companies the use of face masks are compulsory. We are now asked to wear them in shops. Yet many flout this rule deliberately because they say that it “undermines their civil liberties” to me it just seems to be sensible that if we happen to be carriers of Covid 19 by wearing a face covering and unless we are one of those small percentage of people who are unable to wear one due to medical reasons then we will prevent up to 30% of the transmission of this “thing”. Also many of these people have, fortunately for them, older relatives who are still vulnerable and if they pass it on to them they may lose them.
Why a “parallel universe?” – well, businesses throughout the country have taken a great deal of thought and planning into making their premises safe for their staff and customers. Teachers have spent hours making classrooms and corridors as safe and functional as possible. Yet walk down any High Street and you will see loads of groups who are totally oblivious to distancing or the need to take care for the sake of others.
The numbers are racking up again in the rest of Europe and I have heard that we could possibly have another wave here in about eight weeks’ time.
Why does this matter so much to me? Because my Mother lost her own Mother when she was two months old from Spanish flu’ (my Grandmother was a nurse who had just gone back to work) and she lost her Father only four months later also from Spanish flu’ (and from the effects of having been shot in the throat at Ypres. Spanish Flu? This was the last major pandemic to hit us at the end of World War I when over 400,000 lost their lives in this country in two waves.
29 July 2020
It seems a very different world now from the one that we were part of this time last year. I can remember having a picnic with my family and whingeing about the melting heat and wishing that we were under cover. Had I known what we had in store this year I would have savored the moment, the company of our friends.
We all know that this year has been very different. We have been asked to stay and work from home, pubs, cafes and “non-essential” shops were closed down and for some reason we were lost without our daily lattes. We were also introduced to the new concept of “social distancing”. The distance was to be, and still is, two metres -or six foot six in old language!
Every day we watched news and saw what was happening in the rest of the world and it was very, very scary. Suddenly we realised that our daily COVID figures were even more terrifying with 20,000, 30,000 and now climbing towards 50,000 deaths from this virus which now dictates our lives and our foreseeable future lifestyle. We all came to appreciate the pressure and sacrifice put on NHS workers.
It was very noticeable that during the lockdown people were apprehensive. Most people went exercising and all ages would enjoy walking out for an hour or so each day. If someone got out of the way the other would smile and say “thank you”. Volunteers signed up in large numbers to help the vulnerable who had to stay at home. They shopped, delivered medicine and kept the lonely residents feeling that here were people who actually cared. The Government introduced the furlough system in order to help firms maintain their workforces and keep as many as possible with jobs to go back to when they could work again. A lot of small businesses became desperate and the catering trade rose to the occasion adapting to circumstances many started “take away” meals, pubs became small grocery stores and wholesale food businesses started selling products to the ordinary customers instead of to the trade.
However the mood of the Nation gradually changed and we got fed up with being inside, fed up with not being able to go on holiday and what were the statistics about? They didn’t really affect us did they? We have clamored for the shops, pubs and cafes to open up again. The Government relented and we were let ‘out’ and told to be aware that social distancing was still in place, that this virus was very much alive and there would be a second wave in the autumn when the virus would attack again.
But now – we are a bundle of contradictions – going to the beach in large numbers ..social distancing? No, we would be alright. Happy to congregate in parks in big groups – but let the children go back to school? Perhaps not… we would rather take them to the crowded beaches! Still the numbers go up and we have been told that apart from restaurants, cafes or public houses where the distances could now be one metre we are still to keep to the two metre distance in every other place. County Councils have been given large sums of money in order to put in safe distancing measures in our High Streets. Shopping in supermarkets, so safe in the lockdown, is almost back to normal. Most of the supermarkets themselves have maintained their previous distance measures however these are followed by only some of the shoppers while the rest blithely ignore the signs.
We have now been asked to wear face coverings in public places and most people are doing so. Still the numbers climb- albeit a lot more slowly now. However, very sadly, a number of people flatly refuse to do so. It is understandable if face masks cannot be worn for health reasons but apparently some object because it is against their civil rights or other such, similar reason. I feel that we must do all that we can to protect our hard working Health Workers. Things may be better for a large number of us at the moment- It is summer and they say that this virus fares better in cold weather. Yet Spain has once again got rising numbers of victims and we are now imposing quarantine rules on tourists coming home from there. All I ask is that we be wary , wear a mask because it does give us and others a measure of protection.
1 July 2020
We had a very short but moving ceremony to raise the Armed Forces Day Flag on Armed Forces Day last Saturday. As we stood to attention I was very aware of the people around me. Only a few of us but mainly men who had served their Country in conflicts and by the very nature of Military Service had stood ready to give up their lives on our behalf, if necessary, in one of the three Services. It had been arranged by Councillor James Deane, himself an ex-Army officer and, as with all the military connected events that James organises, it was done well and with meticulous attention to detail. I realized that the flag raising meant a lot to these people who had experienced the worst of times- some in Aden, Northern Ireland, the Falklands , Kuwait and Afghanistan to name but a few of the conflicts in which our people have served. They have survived where many have not and many more bear the scars. We now have many military charities which exist to look after our serving and ex-servicemen and women and Armed Forces week salutes them all .
As I stood watching the flag being raised I began to think about the other people who have been serving us with little heed to their own safety and putting us first. Doctors and Nurses at the sharp end of the Coronavirus have been in as much danger from this virus as we have yet have gone to work -many into intensive care departments that had to be hastily adapted to cope with the large influx of seriously ill patients which they had to and still are having to look after. The numbers may have come down at the moment and some of them can take a short breather but they could rise again due to people taking no notice of the distancing rules. Many of us have taken the National Health Service for granted over the years but I think that it is only lately that we have really come to realise what these men and women are prepared to do and at what cost to them. Indeed many, far too many have died yet their colleagues have carried on looking after the sick on ventilators. We moan about 8 hour days-yet these people are working 12 hour shifts with many taking little time off for breaks. That dedication too is courageous, must be respected and we must be forever grateful to all of them.
I would like to take this opportunity to thank a group of volunteers. They are not working for any particular Charity or network . They don’t expect any recognition but from the beginning of this crisis have helped many of their vulnerable, housebound neighbours by shopping for them and picking up prescriptions or just letting them know that they are not alone and have people who care about them. I have heard about many neighbours having a cup of tea together (each one making their own) and having a chat separated by the garden fence. One of my older Council colleagues who lives alone has been greatly touched by a young eight year old neighbour bringing him the occasional cake that she had made. ”They were jolly good too!”
Lastly my thanks go to the supermarket, small food shop and market staff who have kept us supplied from the very beginning of the Lockdown. I am thinking especially of the checkout staff who carried on working in the beginning without screens or face masks. They must have been as worried about taking this dreadful illness home as the rest of us yet they carried on. They have been helped by people on furlough . All the supermarket staff have done all they could to make sure that customers could shop safely while they carried on with deliveries, filling up shelves and all the very many other tasks that they carry out on our behalf.
17 June 2020
It seems that we are moving on slowly from Lockdown and that March and the start of it seems a very long time ago. We have all come through this period with households being in their own “Bubble” for long weeks and many of us have been and are still respecting the social distancing guidelines.
Thankfully we are now gaining a little more freedom with more shops opening up where we will find that the Shop Owners, Managers and Staff have worked really hard and have been very careful to put systems in place to welcome all us back safely onto their premises. Many shoppers have commented of being brushed past on such visits especially in supermarkets by those who choose to wander the wrong way and taking no heed of the need to exercise the guidelines by keeping apart. Words can often be exchanged which does not help and only helps to escalate exactly what we are trying to avoid. Surely there is no way that anyone would want to be responsible for passing this awful virus on, indeed as well as they themselves becoming infected and taking back to their families. In the next few weeks those more vulnerable citizens of the Town who received letters saying that they had to stay in lockdown will at long last be able to go out. It is highly possible that many will be anxious and most probably some will be puzzled by the seemingly inability of many people just to distance themselves. I would ask that we all follow the example of our volunteers and help and respect each other on every occasion they can.
I think that we all must agree that this year so far has been a year like no other and the next few months will be very strange as we all attempt to return to a kind of normality. I have been absolutely bowled over by the number of townspeople who have come forward as volunteers. The organisations have been splendid and all of them have done a sterling job in looking after many of the housebound and the needy. I have mentioned most of them already but no-one can fail to appreciate the help given by the Petersfield Coronavirus Network set up by Sarah Thomas, Malcolm Muggeridge and Maurice Snell among many others. Help the Aged run by Sheridan Rocher were very quick off the mark as well and with the help of Churchers College catering department have provided and delivered hot cooked meals to many of the housebound. The Salvation Army and the Food Bank have provided much needed food for people in need. Church volunteers have been calling on the elderly parishioners to see if they are coping in, what has been for many, lonely and isolated times. Many more of our Agencies have been working to support the needy. I would like to take this opportunity to thank all of the many other volunteers who have been quietly helping their neighbours -for example shopping for them, getting their medicines from the pharmacies and even having a quick chat as they delivered necessities at a distance.
There are signs everywhere that we are starting to get back to normal and this week we will be opening up our Boardwalk on the Heath enabling walkers to walk one way along it and taking pressure off the narrow Sussex Road pavement. It has been good to see so many people using and appreciating the open spaces which have been kept well maintained throughout by our own Town Council Grounds Staff.
I do hope that many of you will visit the Hampshire County Council website to comment on the temporary measures being put in to try see how effective cutting the access of traffic to parts of the Town might be. It is meant to be a short term experiment. I can see some of the plusses and some of the minuses- the limiting of traffic in the High Street and access for more bicycles to park will lessen pollution meaning cleaner air. However the loss of the short term parking in the High Street will make life more difficult for those who may not qualify for disabled badges but don’t find movement easy and who just want to go to the Post Office, Library or one of the Banks. It will also be difficult for those using one of the many Charity shops in town to drop off donations or pick up purchases during the day.
I wish you all well in these uncertain times, please be careful-both for yourselves and for others. We do not want a second wave of this dreadful virus or to add to the over 42,000 deaths that have already happened and have many, many more families in mourning.
3 June 2020
Around 38,500 people have died of this terrible virus so far. A dreadful total – one of the highest per population in the world. During the daily bulletins we hear that the “peak” has passed-I must come from another planet I think because to me around 2000 deaths a week seems a similar number to the number of deaths we had last week and the week before and that we are still very much in trouble. People have been meeting in groups. Shopping in the Supermarkets is an increasing nightmare. The shops themselves have kept their distancing measures in place but many people don’t seem to care any more and wander all over the place. Our open spaces are being used by many more people -which is a great thing, it’s why they are there, but people are meeting in large groups, not social distancing, leaving litter everywhere and totally oblivious to the risk. Looking at the number of cases in Europe (some countries can number fatalities on one hand) the deaths in the UK are still in their hundreds. The last thing I want to see is another total lockdown. Please everyone take care wherever you are and respect those who are still distancing even if you are not. This thing spreads fast, you might not feel too bad with it but it could be fatal for your parents.
(edited so that the emphasis is on people and not politics)
20 May 2020
The one thing about Lockdown is that you see a lot of people who have spent most of their day living within their four walls and just want a change and a chance to chat. Oh believe me this has involved no breaking of the rules, no arranged meetings and making the best of the daily recreation time. I have seen a side of Petersfield that I wasn’t really aware of -I know that we are a town full of exceedingly kind and generous people but we all have a story to tell, and in this normally busy world we don’t often get the chance to just be ourselves and let the curtain that we hide our real selves behind get ‘drawn’ aside for a time.
My morning walk is around three miles long and I usually encounter the two ladies having coffee together first. These two are neighbours, living in adjacent houses. Both are widows and separated from their families by the distancing rules. At 10.30, each (suitably warm) day, out come the folding chairs and their own coffee mugs and they sit in their respective front gardens passing a pleasant hour, two gardens widths apart. Both now on their own and very sure that the lockdown had been absolutely necessary. They were worried when Boris was very ill as “He seemed to know what he was doing,” they both avidly watch the news and didn’t feel that the time is right at all to relax the lockdown-why not wait until the numbers of pour souls dying come down? They are very worried, now that the rules are relaxing a bit, that people are taking no notice of the distancing rule because one had gone to M&S to do her shopping and seen people talking in random groups, while the other had walked round the Pond. “Never again! They just walk straight past you! Don’t they care that thousands have died?”.
I leave them and walk further on to pass one of the best tended gardens around. Beautiful at the front, with a well laid out vegetable garden at the side, tended by an extremely knowledgeable newly retired man. His wife works part time for one of our main supermarkets. She goes in at 3am three days a week to set up and process home delivery orders, there are many others working through the night with some starting at 2am. She is more than happy to finish at 10am as she misses the main rush avoiding the customers who can be rude, confrontational and can often get extremely angry if they miss out something that they want. On her working mornings she comes straight home and goes to bed for a few hours. On non-working mornings she sits on a bench beside her front door at coffee time with her husband and watches the world go by. I like to stop just for a few minutes to have a ‘socially distant’ chat. She is a very wise lady with the ability to put a very serious situation into perspective. Also very worried about a near neighbour who was taken away by Ambulance but hasn’t come back yet and hoping that she hasn’t got “It”.
Further down the road, after avoiding two cyclists who have never heard about “distancing” I come to a house with lots of teddy bears in the window. It turns out that the couple who live there put on plays for young children, I look forward to their next project, an outdoor play done in front of children (and their parents), all sitting appropriately distant. Their enthusiasm in these dark times is lovely to see.
All of these people are just a selection of the ones I come across on my walk. I find it interesting that they all expect the threat that we are living under to stay with us for some time to come.
In contrast, I went into Town on Thursday at midday with my daughter. We took my Setter to the Vet for her inoculations and for a check-up. Great care was taken by the St Peters Practice to maintain distance and the dog was taken from the car and examined in the surgery without us then returned to us very quietly but with great care for our beloved canine, our safety and the safety of their staff. We parked a few minutes later in a completely different world. The High Street was an absolute “Corona” nightmare. People were casually chatting in large groups with no intention of standing two metres apart or getting out of the way as people tried to get past on the pavements. Older people were just wandering around looking as if they were glad to be out again. Queues for Boots were standing about half a metre apart. It was as if the actual townsfolk had taken the Prime Ministers’ broadcast to mean that the lockdown had ended! And not, as he intended it to mean, that we could have more time for exercise but still had to stay at home. We should only go to work if we could get there safely otherwise we must stay at home.
Two metres is 6ft6, the width of a park bench, it’s longer than you think! And it could literally be the difference between life and death. Over this last weekend, the Heath was full of people enjoying the freedom but many taking little notice social distancing.
This virus is dangerous, over 36000 people have died over a few short months – there is no magic cure, some people are lucky enough to show no symptoms and can pass it on to others without knowing it. I am afraid that a lot of us are not treating others with respect.
I have talked about people that I have come to know on my rambling. Good, bright people who are very aware of the present danger they are doing what they can to keep you safe when they are out and about. Please take a minute to think about them and good people like them-obey the distance rules, stay at home unless you are out for exercise and most importantly ….stay well.
6 May 2020
‘If I am ever asked what did I remember about 2020? I will, (if I am spared) say that we all lived through a time when we were faced by an enemy with no face, that the battle against it was fought by an army of able people without guns and ammunition but who wore uniforms and gave selflessly of their time, humanity and medical knowledge. That we were asked to “stay inside and save lives” and in the main, we did.
A time when total strangers rushed to help the vulnerable who were stranded at home needing food and medical supplies. When Aid Agencies like ‘Help the Aged’ mobilised within hours and persuaded the cooks at Churcher’s College, who gave freely of their time, to provide hot meals twice a week which were then delivered to the elderly at home.
In the beginning the roads were quiet except for the hum of the delivery vans and we could hear the birds sing out as if we were hearing them for the first time. Pubs became shops and together with many restaurants and cafes became “takeaways”. Through it all the supermarkets and other food shops remained open. Customers waited outside patiently, in some cases, for their turn to go in to shop in stores where staff had been filling shelves all night, going in to work at all hours in order to make up home deliveries whilst the day staff worked hard to serve customers who at times were less than pleasant when they found that a special item wasn’t in and that was what they wanted- even though during the lockdown the factory who made it was closed because their management were shielding their workforce.
Yes, we were in “Lockdown”. The Government were taking advice from Scientists and the National Health leaders as to how they could protect the National Health workers who were working in situations where they could catch this awful “thing”. It meant that we were all to stay at home for most of the day except to get food or exercise for an hour. It made sense as other countries were closing down as well because horrendous numbers of people were dying. Oh yes, we had experts everywhere-from Scientists who argued that we shouldn’t be shielded, that although it was highly infectious and as yet they had no cure.
To the many amateur experts too who felt that it was fine to flout the rules and that “It wouldn’t happen to them!”- the problem was it often did. It was a year when we came together to celebrate the 75th Anniversary of the ending of World War 2. That awful conflict that our parents and grandparents lived through, or didn’t. When, as the then Prime Minister, Winston Churchill said, when the Germans had conquered most of Europe and were now just on the other side of the Channel, “..We stood alone. Did we want to give in? Were we downhearted? The lights went out and the bombs came down. There was no thought of quitting. We came back after long months from the jaws of Hell!” In a way, for many of us, this is the feeling that we had in 2020.
We were “at the jaws of Hell”. Not knowing what would happen next would we all be “set free?” and look forward to the re-occurrence of the numbers of dying shooting up? Or would common sense win? Would we be asked to stay at home for just a bit more? As yet, no one really knew what the right thing to do was-after all, if we were set free and many more loved ones died we could blame the Government and if we were all kept at home for longer and we neither liked it nor appreciated why?..we could blame the Government.
Now I revert to the present day. There is danger outside if we are not careful. Unlike the war years we do not know our enemy or where it will strike but let us pause for a time and think of all those people who, during that conflict that ended 75 years ago, gave their lives or returned home injured in body or mind. Who worked in factories, shipyards, mines and farms, the ARP wardens, Police, Doctors, Nurses, Firemen, local volunteers and the many many others who supported the war effort. We also remember the NHS, the Armed Forces and the key workers and volunteers who are giving so much now and every day and also some of them losing their lives against this new enemy.
On Friday, wherever we are, let us raise a glass – or a cup to all of them. “..For your tomorrow, they gave their today”.
17 April 2020
I don‘t think that any of us have been surprised by the announcement from Dominic Raab to extend the lockdown for at least another three weeks. I know that this is hard for many of us, especially those among us who no longer have jobs and who haven’t even been furloughed, but I have just watched an interview in which a young woman described her feelings as she held her Father’s hand as he died; It caused me to look hard at my son and daughter and think how I would feel if I sat beside one of them while they struggled for breath.
The speed which this thing has spread through the world has been terrifying and yet there are still a number among us who feel that it won’t touch them and are oblivious as they jog or cycle within inches of us as we take our daily walk. We are asked to maintain a distance of two metres from each other when we are out unless we belong to one household. (That is six foot six in old language!) I must admit I do say something, but as they inevitably have headphones of some sort in they sail blithely on. Not very good for the blood pressure!
I would say to them – ‘Think of others!!‘ You might be carrying this virus and might pass it on to them and those who live with them who might be vulnerable. They might be carrying the virus themselves and may give it to you – Yes, it is that bad.
This is a time when we find who and what really matters and what doesn’t. When we can reach out to those who are dear and just tell them what they mean to us. If we are not able to call them or use the internet we can write it down. It is a time to think about those old friends in far away places – you know, the ones we may still write Christmas cards to – who would really appreciate a word at this time. They may be feeling just as scared as we are by something over which we have no control.
A lot of you are used to going to work each day – whether locally or on the endless commute to London, and only spending weekends at home or the odd holidays. Living together can throw up lots of different problems, the children can be very restless cooped up for such a long time and not really understanding why they can‘t see their friends. Couples are thrown together for longer than usual periods, habits irritate, everything can irritate and rows happen. This can escalate into real fear for just a few ( I know what that can be like as I grew up in this environment – luckily we escaped). Please be very aware that the Police have got special powers at a time like this so please seek their help if you are in real trouble you can dial 999 followed by 55 quietly on your phone. This will immediately alert them and they will locate you and can rescue you. I sincerely hope that no one needs this.
Stay well, stay 2 metres away (well 6ft 6ins!) and stay safe
10 April 2020
Another week has passed by and I find that it has been a week filled with strong contrasts. Last weekend we had reports about groups of people meeting on the Heath contrary to Government directives. I noticed on my daily perambulations that for some social distancing was a thing that others did.
Then the unthinkable happened our Prime Minister went into hospital and then into intensive care. The streets cleared and social distancing was much more in evidence. He seemed to be such a strong man and overnight he became one of the vulnerable. If it could happen to him then it could happen to any one of us.
After 2 days he is now out of intensive care and on the normal wards. Let us hope that he will recover soon because no matter what political persuasion we are at this time we all feel that he is trying to do his best for everyone .
Locally the agencies working together plus the many volunteers are doing their best to look after the vulnerable and doing a great job. Captain Linda Read, the local head of the Salvation Army is giving food to the very needy. Steve Field, her Sgt. and our Town Council Project Manager, collects and delivers food parcels to the housebound who have very little. This is only a very small example of the help being given. Help the Aged are delivering prescriptions, hot meals and shopping to the elderly and vulnerable. They are not the only ones many of the
others are working hard to help in any way that they can.
Now we have reached Easter Weekend at the end of Holy Week and It is also Passover. A very strange Easter when those of us who want to are not able
to go to church. The Church through the internet can come to us instead.
For everyone it is a holiday- but a holiday with a difference. Please, for the sake of the NHS, phone your relatives and friends do not see them. If you go out for exercise then keep your distance , stay safe and stay well.
A Very Happy Easter to you all
2 April 2020
We have been locked down for over one week. Most of us are keeping to the rules because we understand the reason why we are having to do this. The shopping frenzy is quietening down because our supermarkets and corner shops are keeping open.
It is unfortunate that there are still individuals who are flouting the law. People who are shopping who are taking no notice of social distancing, pushing passed in queues or out jogging and brushing passed innocent walkers. Please stop and think about how easily this awful virus spreads and that, while you might feel absolutely fine but someone’s aunt, uncle or parent with a health problem may not be.
Meanwhile council work carries on. The hall is closed but repairs are being done. The grounds are inspected regularly by the Head Groundsman Dugg Budd and the public open spaces will start to be mown from next week. Regrettably all the play areas will remain closed.
The staff are in constant touch and are all working from home now, with our very efficient financial officer, Michelle coming in every day to finalise the end of year accounts.
The other thing that we have to think about is the feeling of loneliness and isolation that many are experiencing at the moment. My daughter showed me this: https://www.ssafa.org.uk/news-articles/9-tips-to-stay-mentally-healthy and I felt that it sent a clear message. It was developed by Tom Fox who runs Thoughtify (https://www.thoughtify.co.uk/) for SSAFA, the Armed Forces charity, of which my Daughter is Head of PR we have permission to share this with you. Look after yourselves, keep well, keep safe and keep the space!
24 March 2020
Last night the Prime Minister told us to stay at home and put us under a state of restricted movement.
He has closed all (non-essential) businesses. I am sorry that people who rely on these businesses can’t work but we are in a situation that is grim and measures have been put into operation to save our lives. This is what has been so difficult for us to grasp, because as a nation we value our freedom.
Coronavirus is not flu – where if we had it we can infect 1.5 other people – this is a serious infection where one single person can pass the virus onto 30,000+ people in one week.
It is the vulnerable that we should care for, the elderly and those with long term serious conditions of any age.
The NHS does not have the capacity to cope with these large numbers and we must protect as many others as we can.
Please follow the guidelines – stay at home. It takes something very serious to close schools and churches.
We will get through this.
Follow the rules Petersfield!
23 March 2020
As the news unfolds and the number of poor souls who have died from this awful virus rise, we in Petersfield appear to carry on with our daily lives taking little notice it feels, of what is ahead.
I almost feel that we at the Town Council represent three towns; the large army of people who have come forward to volunteer to help those in need, those who are ignoring assurance that shops will continue to be stocked by buying in bulk and those people in the vulnerable groups who are ignoring NHS advice and socialising as normal.
Going by the Italian model the next few weeks are going to be grim, you must remember that self-isolation is not for you, it is for the people who might catch something from you. If any of us suffer any of the symptoms we must self-isolate for a two-week period. If you are over 70, have a long-term condition, are pregnant or a weakened immune system please stay safe and well.
The prospect of self-isolation can be daunting, but this is a deadly disease and we must learn from what has happened and is happening in those countries which are already at the height of the virus.
What is not acceptable is the behaviour of those supermarket shoppers who clear the shelves, buying in bulk when throughout the next few weeks these shops will still be operating. Because of this, some of the most vulnerable are going without vital supplies. This is even stopping those members of the NHS and Emergency Services from getting basic groceries at the end of the long and highly pressured shifts they work.
I am deeply disappointed at the reports that supermarket staff have been shouted at, sworn at and I have even heard rumours of things being thrown at them. These people are only trying to do their jobs in very difficult circumstances.
I called up the all the supermarkets in town on Thursday to thank all the managers and staff who are working so hard. I went to Tesco in person to see the manager when I heard that staff had been subject to abusive behaviour. Despite this, he was very positive and concerned about those in dire need and told me about his plans to expand his workforce of part-time staff, which I’m sure will be released in the next few days.
We are here to help you in the best way that we can. Contact us at the Town Hall asking for either our Aid Coordinator Stephen Field (email@example.com) on 264182 or Kathryn Ellis-Blandford (firstname.lastname@example.org) who is running our COVID-19 Facebook group (search Petersfield Pulse: Coronavirus) and updating our website: https://www.petersfield-tc.gov.uk/covid-19-response/
These are your current board of Town Councillors. Councillors are here to listen and support our Community. Click the image for their contact details.