Vote for me!

People say I’m crazy doing what I’m doing,
Well they give me all kinds of warnings to save me from ruin,
When I say that I’m ok they look at me kind of strange,
Surely your not happy now you no longer play the game,

People say I’m lazy dreaming my life away,
Well they give me all kinds of advice designed to enlighten me,
When I tell that I’m doing fine watching shadows on the wall,
Don’t you miss the big time boy you’re no longer on the ball?

People asking questions lost in confusion,
Well I tell them there’s no problem, only solutions,
Well they shake their heads and they look at me as if I’ve lost my mind,
I tell them there’s no hurry… I’m just sitting here doing time,

I’m just sitting here watching the wheels go round and round,
I really love to watch them roll,
No longer riding on the merry-go-round,
I just had to let it go.

“Watching the Wheels”
John Lennon

I chopped one leg off the stool of my extra-domestic affairs when I took early retirement at the end of last month. Ok so it was the one leg that got paid, which is kind of troubling, but the pension folk seem on the ball and we probably won’t starve… However, my work for the Parish Council and for The Druid Network charity continues for now.

On May 7th everyone able to cast a vote goes to their local polling station, to tick a box on a sheet of paper. I was written to recently by someone who emailed me, saying from now “until May 7th no-one can describe themselves as an MP!”. I can’t help it but I smiled to see the email headers identified the sender of the email as Steve Webb MP.

My term as a Parish Councillor comes to an end then too, and it remains to be seen if I am returned to office. It may be that so few people care to get involved in local politics that my election is uncontested, and although that might save us the cost of the ballot (not inconsiderable in a small parish like ours) it is sad that the job is seen as too hard to be worth the pay you get for it. There is, of course, no pay at all.

Being a volunteer is about many things, but it’s not about money. It might be about the fun of the role. It might be about feeling valued. For some it’s a stepping stone to greater things. I would claim some self esteem value if I thought more than half a dozen of my parish residents would be able to identify me in a line up, but that’s unlikely. I got into this thing, in a roundabout way, through Druidry.

Initially I wanted to offer some help to a group of Councillors who were seeking a solution to a problem – we had no burial site in our village. People were born here, grew up here, worked here, married here and raised children here, but when they died – off away to an impersonal ending. It seemed utterly wrong, counter to community and an affront to anyone (well, me) who sought links to deity through interaction with landscape.

At the Council meeting I offered some minor practical help in the form of trees and planting works for the proposed burial site, paid for from The Druid Network‘s environmental project fund. ‘Oh, you’re interested’, they said, ‘do you want to be a Councillor?’ ‘Not likely”, I said, and yet the following month I went back for more information. I joined the Council in 2007, and in 2009 was voted in as Chairman.

Tonight, I watched leaders from seven political parties vie against each other in the hope of scoring one for the team, while crying foul on all the others. I don’t actually know the political affiliations of most of my Parish Councillors, and I care not a jot. We’re there to do a job; to seek the best outcomes for our community, often in the face of national policies that work against us (sometimes in our favour too, but you know…).

I wonder how the clap-o-meter that ran across the bottom of the tv screen this evening would have reacted if I’d been on the stage. I’m currently chairing a Parish Council defending against two hostile housing developments – one just completed a Public Inquiry but has yet to report back, the other is waiting in the High Court.

Some folk might argue I’m utterly NIMBY, but I’m merely trying to balance the need for housing against the lack of infrastructure we have out here – few shops, few employment possibilities, little public transport, lots of traffic and yes everyone has a car because of all of the above. More houses and no additional services will only exacerbate that.

I led the Parish, indeed helped lead the County Council, into part night street lighting. During the middle of the night, after nearly everyone has gone to bed and before nearly everyone gets up, street lighting across the village is turned off. This has produced the most wonderful starscapes across the night sky, and saved thousands of Pounds and kilograms of CO2e greenhouse emissions. Not everyone was cool with it immediately, and even more reacted when we set the whole street light estate to LED lamps, which have a different lighting effect to sodium.

Our playing field has one of the largest cricket squares in the county, and we also refurbished the children’s play area using low environmental impact landscaping and an award winning local designer. We later built a new multi-use games area (MUGA) and when the local authority ended youth services in our area we enabled a replacement youth club to be established. But kids don’t get to vote.

I’d be rubbish in national politics. But I like to think I’m not so bad in the local arena. Let’s hope, come May 7th, a few folk agree.

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