Saturday, 4 October 2008
Wouldn’t it be nice
The other day I went down Wood Street and it was a revelation. Compared to the disaster that is Hoe Street it is a “New Bond Street” amongst a dowdy “Oxford Street”. It is human sized –except for a couple of out of place towers; and the shops, while not pristine do look as if they properly serve the local area.
I particularly like the railway bridge with the narrowing road by the Plough pub; it gives a nostalgic feel to the place. It’s a shame that the station is so ugly and neglected - but you can’t have everything. The Plough Inn opposite the station is a treat. I’ve been there for a number of gigs; most recently the “British Beach Boys”. They were great fun, and musically excellent; it was a shame the audience was so small. But that didn’t seem to put off either the group or the audience – everyone appeared to be having a good time.
It’s places like the Plough and Wood Street that contrast with the unmitigated disaster that is Lib/Lab’s stewardship of our borough. People rage at the ineffectiveness and inefficiency of the street cleaning services, at the shambles that is the Arcade site. But most of all it is the total lack of vision or direction that characterises the Council. Grandiose plans for the borough put forward by our leaders are in stark contrast to their inability to operate essential services. And people wonder why we have a democratic deficit.
I wonder whether the relatively prosperous period, which has come to a shuddering halt, might have been in part to blame. The Council believed that it could tap into the cheap money and speculative builds and, rather than focusing on incremental change, let their ambition and delusion get the better of them. Maybe, with reduced revenues from the local taxpayers and from central government the Council will be forced to be serious about value for money – to focus on delivering real, if small changes, which will improve the Borough’s environment.
I went to a funeral on Friday. It was the funeral of the partner of the man whose funeral we attended four weeks ago. The most poignant thing for me was the photograph of the deceased projected on a large screen in the crematorium. It was a picture of her looking out of a car window at her partner’s funeral last month. In the right hand corner was the date stamp “05 -09 -2008”. Looking out at us was this middle aged woman, staring into who knows what. She looked remarkable composed – although in reality she was probably just shell shocked and possibly drugged up to ease the pain of her own serious, and soon to be, fatal illness. Many of us there on Friday had also been at her partner’s funeral. It was a sad event, except for two happenings. First, as the hearse was driving up to the entrance of the crematorium it had to slow down – because in front of it was a crowd of mourners greeting each other; laughing with joy at meeting old friends and exchanging news.That was so fine a sight and sound. Second, after the celebration we all congregated where the floral tributes had been laid. The nieces and great niece released two white doves, and then someone shouted “Three cheers for Raymonde.” And we all cheered our heads off.
Slightly earlier at the same cemetery there was a funeral for a black victim of a stabbing. We drove back to the deceased house. At the end of her street, crowds of black people were streaming out of the local church. The funeral of another stabbing victim.
Death is always shock, especially when it’s unexpected. In the case of our two friends it took away a future of a retirement together, time to do and to say much that was left undone and unsaid in busy working lives. For the two black victims their potentials were snuffed out. They don’t have the chance to test themselves, their abilities and their friendships. I hope their services were also celebrations. Yes, regretting what might have been but recognising what they had been.