Saturday, 21 September 2013

SECOND PLACE AGAIN FOR NBC - (But this time there were two runners not one!)

Northampton Borough Councils "Silver Medal" in this years East Midlands In Bloom contest sounds rather an accomplishment until you discover they actually came second to Mansfield, a town half the size of Northampton and then the achievement loses more shine when you discover that these two were the only two cities that entered!
But it was however, arguably an improvement on last years floral efforts when our cash strapped Council once again finished second (another Silver Medal) but then having the shame of only coming second in a one horse race, Northampton being the one and only sole entrant as a Small City!
Buts that Britain In Bloom for you, its the municipal equivalent of the ducks at the fun fair where every ones a winner, and if you cant hook your duck well no problem have a prize anyway!
So keen are the East Midlands in Bloom organisers to take your entrance fee and pin a medal on your chest as a "winner" at this annual flower fest that they will it seems make up a category for whatever suits you or even break all the rules to ensure you don't go home empty handed without your press release worthy medal. 
This year there were no less twenty three categories to choose from Small Village - Village - Large Village, Small Town - Town - Large Town, Small City - City - Large City, Coastal resort, the list is endless and covers every hamlet and multi sized conurbation imaginable, my favourite being the Urban Community category which I guess you enter if you don't like the look of any of the competition elsewhere?
But shock horror, I take no pleasure in exposing to the world that our council are in fact plant inducing, muck spreading, dirty rotten cheats and scoundrels, cads of the flower showing world. Not since Joe Grundy injected his giant marrow with steroids to win the Ambridge Marrowfest have we witnessed such skulduggery!
You see the population of Northampton is officially as per the 2011 census 212,100, and yet the "City" category to which we entered has a limited entry range of 100,001 to 200,000 with the Large city category which would include cities like Derby, Nottingham and Leicester and having a range of 200,001 or more the contest for us!
But cheats never prosper and I for one am delighted to see that we were beat by a smaller city which it seems were also being slightly cheated by EMIB but this time at the other end of the size spectrum. Mansfield (population 2011 - 99,600) had to punch well above their seed weight to beat off our local council . Loughborough then as a result won the Small City category albeit thanks to Mansfield's enforced promotion and the large city category in which Northampton should have been entered was won by Nottingham, as the only entrant!
But does any of the above really matter? after all its just a few flowers in baskets isn't it? Well yes, but it does matter because  it is a misrepresentation and fraud not just against the other entrants but against the Council Tax paying public of Northampton. It's no good NBC waving around its shiny silver medal to the world and showing off its flower baskets in Abington Street whist at the same time uncut grass levels on some of our estates is often higher than the cover in the amazon rain forest, not much use to our park based footballers who have to dribble around the dog dirt on the local pitches let alone try and find a white line to determine where their pitch ends, no comfort to those walking the streets who are forced out off the pavement and onto the road by hedges larger than some leylandii just so the Guildhall steps look a pretty picture.
This whole competition has it seems become a farce, an orgy of self congratulation and deception at a time of municipal floral shame due to years of cut backs and privatised services. 
But never mind at least the Cllrs from across the region get the opportunity to go to go to Skegness for the day to pick up their medals and awards and the category winners can all then pop off to the national "Britain in Bloom" finals! Last year for NBC and their category winning Silver medal that meant an opportunity for weekend on the Island of Guernsey!
If only they could have won this year! it would have made my day, the finals weekend is in Cleethorpes.

THE FIRST FIFTY YEARS (Same again please)

I penned this on my 50th Birthday. So keen was I not to get swept away in an air self congratulation and reminiscence I gave strict instructions to Carole my wife not to organise any "this is your life" style surprise party's and booked a work meeting in Bassetlaw to escape the occasion.
Yes this probably validates my membership of the "miserable old sod club" but I just don't do birthdays. I feel that I have been having so much fun on the other 364 days of my 50 years on the planet that any act of looking back on my life will somehow bring my good run to a halt and thus start a downward spiral.
But how can anyone really escape their birthday in these Social Media driven times? even before breakfast my Facebook account was lit up like a Christmas tree full of genuine best wishes and offers a drink or ten. But I stayed strong and carried on with the days tasks regardless.
Hopefully the current life beginning at 50 doctrine is the new version of the old life beginning at 40 mantra, and as such my years ahead will bring me ever rising opportunity and success, but then again the first 50 haven't been all that bad. After a tough upbringing I was employed even before leaving school, was self employed at the age of 18 began a career in Local Government as a Human Resources officer at 21, been elected 3 times onto Northampton Borough Council, once to Northamptonshire County Council and of course spent 8 years in the Houses of Commons as Member of Parliament for Northampton South. In addition I have blessed with serving 11 years as a director of my beloved Northampton Town FC, 3 years as General Manager, 3 as Chief Executive of our wonderful Football in the Community Charity, and even managed a 4 years stint as a Special Constable with Northamptonshire Police.
I perhaps should also mention my 20 years plus as a member of the Northampton Labour Party (remember them) and my subsequent expulsion, but having been airbrushed from their local history since our well publicised fall out I do not want to upset them by shouting out too loud that I mean them no harm.
So what of life post 50? Well I certainly seem to be kept occupied; I now work part time in our family Construction firm which is based in Sheffield, part time for the Local Government Association as a National Lead Peer advising Councils and I sit on a two local steering Boards one for Youth Work (Community Courtyard) and one looking to set up a new Community Radio station in Northampton, and of course politically I have found many new and very loyal friends within the Local and the National Green Party where I have been recently asked to take on a future role as a national spokesperson on International and Foreign affairs. So plenty in the future to keep me busy! I am blogging, tweeting and ticckling (video tweets) and now to mark the occasion of my half century I am now writing a small weekly column for our Local Herald and Post. 
 If I have achieved anything in these last 50 years on this planet,  it is I hope,  to have developed a healthy respect for openness and transparency and a desire to tell the truth, to tell is as it is, (from my mother) coupled with a pen-chance for mischief and mayhem (from my father)



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