Communities Thrive on Trees

oak-treeYou would think that this is a statement of the blindingly obvious. But when you see the lot clearing that takes place when developers prepare land for building – then you do wonder where their brains are.
Trees reduce stress by filtering unwanted noise and replacing it with bird song and rustling leaves. Domestic abuse, including child abuse, is lower in homes near trees.
So why clear the land of trees?
We can all see that it is easier to lay out plot lines and install drainage if the land is clear. Yet one of the key things that makes our urban environment attractive is trees. Whether they be oaks, ash, London planes or even the sycamore they soften the impact of urban living.
Trees remove harmful gases, such as nitrogen oxide, sulfur dioxide, carbon monoxide, carbon dioxide, and  ozone. In Mecklenburg County, North Carolina trees remove 17.5 million pounds  of air pollutants each year.
Trees capture sediment  and toxins that lower water quality, which reduces the  need for costly storm water control measures,
Urban trees reduce the “heat island effect,” cooling  our cities by as much as 9ºF. One tree can cool as much as five air conditioners running  20 hours a day.
There are some conscientious developers in North Hills, Raleigh. They can be identified by their instinctive retention of the arboreal character of their lots. Others exemplify the slash and burn mindset of the 18th and 19th centuries when North American pioneers such as Daniel Boone cleared land in the Appalachian Mountains.
In the industrialized regions of
Europe and North America, the practice was abandoned with the introduction of market agriculture and land ownership. Land tenure systems  help focus on long-term improvement and discouraged practices associated with slash-and-burn agriculture.
Community responsibility does not begin and end with voting every couple of years. If the price of liberty requires continual vigilance, so does ensuring our environment does not deteriorate beyond recall.

Puppy Mills

puppy-millsOn January 16th the cartoon strip Non Sequitur published a strip showing a puppy mill operator being shown into a cage by the Devil with the comment “This is your forever home”
I have yet to meet anyone who objected to the cartoon.
But for all of us it is a message that if you engage in an enterprise without a soul, then you do not deserve to thrive!

Political Joke(s)

Political jokes have a long pedigree. Hey diddle diddle is said to date back to the 16th century.
In modern times we have the Little Johnny joke which takes place in a classroom and little Johnny sitting at the back is the unexpected voice of logic and wisdom
This joke came my way this week and I immediately recognised the genre.
The joy of such jokes is that names can be changed to suit the circumstances of the  target.

donald-trump-aDonald Trump was visiting a primary school in Orlando and visited a grade four class.
They were in the middle of a discussion related to words and their meanings. The teacher asked Mr. Trump if he would like to lead the discussion on the word ‘tragedy.’ So our illustrious Republican candidate asked the class for an example of a ‘tragedy’.
One little boy stood up and offered: “If my best friend, who lives on a farm, is playing in the field and a tractor runs him over and kills him, that would be a tragedy.”
“No,” said Trump, “that would be an accident.”
A little girl raised her hand: “If a school bus carrying 50 children drove off a cliff, killing everyone, that would be a tragedy.”
“I’m afraid not,” explained Trump. “That’s what we would call great loss.”
The room went silent.  No other child volunteered.  Trump searched the room. “Isn’t there someone here who can give me an example of a tragedy?”
Finally at the back of the room, Little Johnny raised his hand. The teacher held her breath. In a quiet voice he said: “If the plane carrying you was struck by a ‘friendly fire’ missile and blown to smithereens that would be a tragedy.”
“Fantastic!” exclaimed Trump, “That’s right.  And can you tell me why that would be a tragedy?”
“Well,” says Johnny, “It has to be a tragedy, because it sure as hell wouldn’t be a great loss… and you can bet your sweet a…. it wouldn’t be an accident either!”

Freely to breathe again!

Jenny Antill (a fellow blogger) posted this on Friday morning.
View from the window 160624View from the window. 24th June 2016 6.15 a.m.

Oh what joy, in the open air
Freely to breathe again!
Up here alone is life!
The dungeon is a grave.
We shall with all our faith
Trust in the help of God!
Hope whispers softly in my ears!
We shall be free, we shall find peace.
Oh Heaven! Salvation! Happiness!
Oh Freedom! Will you be given us?

CHOR DER GEFANGENEN (Prisoners Chorus, Fidelio)

Meanwhile on Planet Babergh – Angel Court

Angel CourtOn 30th April I wrote (in this blog) that Babergh District Council had purchased Angel Court and were exercising a black out on news as to why they had purchased the property and what they intended to do with it.
I duly lodged a Freedom of Information Request so that the disinfectant of transparency could dispel suspicions that the people of Hadleigh were to receive an unpleasant surprise.
Babergh have replied to my request advising that the acquisition is part of a wider joint strategy by both Babergh and Mid Suffolk to invest in our communities by acquiring redundant public sites and bring them back into use for housing. Proposals for a housing scheme are being drawn up and these will be subject to a public consultation through the usual planning processes.
So there we are. A positive bright idea from local government. I am happy and rejoice at the Council’s intentions.
Which of course brings us to the earlier question – if it was good news why the secrecy? Were they up to something and then changed their mind? Are they keeping their options open and may change their minds later? Or is it our old friend – business as usual?

Meanwhile on Planet Babergh – Angel Court

BureaucracyI recently had a call from a constituent asking what was happening to Angel Court in Hadleigh. Angel Court was formerly a residential care home and subsequently became a temporary housing unit and more recently Suffolk County Council sold it to Babergh District Council. My usual sources at Babergh tell me that they are unable to throw any light on the situation – so the question remains why and what do Babergh intend to do with the property? I have looked over the agendas and minutes of Babergh’s Strategy Committee and I can only surmise that the authority to acquire the property was contained in their meeting of  4th February. The minutes record that The Committee  noted the action taken by the Chief Executive in consultation with the Chairman of the Committee, as set out in Paper R95. Paper R95 was discussed without the public being present as it was  likely that there would be the disclosure of exempt information. Moreover the public interest in maintaining the exemption outweighed  the public interest in disclosing the information.
So what are the options for the property?

  • Turn it into a hotel? (After all Babergh is accruing an investment fund of £25 million – Paper R83)
  • Turn it into housing – since there is a constant demand for commercial or social housing.
  • Turn it into a state of the art e-commerce entrepreneurial centre.
  • Turn it into a new set of offices, thereby vacating Corks Lane and possibly leading to the consolidation of yet more services into Mid Suffolk’s offices at Needham Market.

You can guess where my suspicions lie. If it was good news why the secrecy. Once again the disinfectant of transparency is needed to dispel suspicions that the people of Hadleigh are to receive an unpleasant surprise. Meanwhile I have lodged a Freedom of Information Request to see if we can get some light on the subject.

Small Successes – Benton Street

Every now and then, there is an alignment of ambition and actuality.
One recent example of this is the provision of a disabled parking place in Benton Street, which for some time has been on Benton Streetmy list of things to be achieved. The need for the place is based upon the changed (health) circumstances of  one of the residents.
When I was in Hadleigh recently I heard that a Town Councillor (who is also a resident of Benton Street) had commented that the resident was not that disabled as he exercises a dog! What claptrap! Pure politics of envy! The dog is small and walking the dog is doubtless recommended exercise for the resident, who has good days and not so good days – hence the need for a disabled parking place.

Setting the bar

Oreos 151231When it comes to ambition it is a mistake not to set the bar high enough. Yesterday I had a full 800 calories lunch and in the evening we went to Big Easydinner at the Big Easy (a Louisiana restaurant  – before going to a New Year’s Eve concert at the Meymandi  Concert Hall, part of the Duke Energy Centre for the Performing  Arts. Dinner of course was a tasty dish of shrimp and grits with a side of fries.
Roll on when I get on the scales and have a new bench mark to use for weight loss.
It could have been worse. The street was full of food trucks and two delicacies I eschewed were the deep fried Oreos and the deep fried Reese’s Pieces. Sometimes one can be just too virtuous.
Happy New Year to all my readers
Reeses Pieces 151231

A Woman Worth Celebrating

Grandmother LuckMy grandmother Alice  Luck was born in 1891 and died in 1978 and so managed to live over eighty five years through good times and bad. She had many aphorisms one of which was that you should always enjoy good times. When I asked why, I was told because good times come and good times go. When you are down you have something to look back on and more importantly something to look forward to. I suspect that she understood economic cycles better than many professionals – certainly she had prudence built into her bone marrow.
There were often back handed comments as to how we were all destined to go to the workhouse. This was strange as the workhouses were officially closed in 1930, but many persisted as the inmates had nowhere else to go. Of course I asked the obvious question were you or your family ever in the workhouse and the answer was a definite “No!”
So I was a tad surprised when following up an link to see my grandmother being entered on a school roll in 1898 as being sponsored by the Guardians of the Ratcliffe Union (who were part of the Stepney Poor Law Union). Further (incomplete) research shows that her workhouse experiences included the following:

Date Activity Comments
January 8th 1898 Admitted With two siblings
February 12th 1898 Discharged To her father
July 2nd 1898 Admitted With her mother and two siblings
September 14th 1898 Admitted With three siblings.
The youngest sibling Charles was only one year old and as he was admitted from Bromley it’s possible that he was referred to the workhouse Master by the hospital.
September 14th 1898 Discharged With three siblings. All to her mother

The causes of the admission and discharge on the same day are probably hidden in a dusty day book– but the whole year must have been traumatic for the family. My grandmother at this time was seven years old. I’m not sure why the family resorted to welfare but the scars resonated over the years. Grandmother went on to marry three times and have four children. She was first widowed at the age of 26 and then again at 34.
Together with her mother Katie O’Brien  and the support of other family members she kept her children together and in due time rose up the economic ladder and even managed to pay for her daughter Mary to have piano lessons and to have a formal dress wedding. Tragedies came and went.
My parents were killed during an air raid in 1944 and it is obvious from hindsight that there was going to be no way their two sons were going to be split up outside of family resources. Which is how my brother went to live with our late father’s sister (Mary) and how at the age of 52 my grandmother became my guardian and took me to live with her.
What a woman! Well worth celebrating and thinking of at this time of the year when we have so much to be thankful for.