Tuesday, 27 October 2009

Party Leaders' Knock-out Competition?

Here’s an idea about Party Leaders’ Debates in the run-up to the General Election – a bit off-topic for a blog about Morpeth but….

I’m not happy about debates between Party Leaders being televised because they imply a presidential style of election, and people have enough problem understanding that they are voting for someone to become MP, and only indirectly for someone to become Prime Minister.
And… they will only feature the major two or three parties, which makes things even more difficult for us minor parties.

So why not have a knock-out series of debates in the style of the FA Cup?

The leaders of very small parties would be drawn against each other for debates televised on say Five – and a phone poll would take one of them through to the ‘next round’. And just like the FA Cup, the leaders of the major parties would enter the competition in later rounds – and the ‘final’ debate would get broadcast on BBC1 – the media equivalent of Wembley Stadium.

Well – I think it’s a good idea…

Monday, 26 October 2009

Happy Birthday Morpeth Farmers’ Market!

Morpeth Farmers’ Market celebrates its 10th Anniversary on Saturday 7th November.

There’ll be a real party atmosphere on the market with competitions, buskers and a birthday cake provide by Country Markets (aka the WI). And there’ll be a chef doing demos throughout the morning using what ingredients he can cadge from the market stalls – a bit like a live version of ‘Ready Steady Cook’.

And the Barnacre alpacas will be back.

It’s hard to imagine it’s been going so long. I’d been a councillor for just six months when Castle Morpeth BC first started the Farmers’ Market in November ’99. And apart from a five month gap during the foot & mouth crisis, missing one market on the day after the 2008 flood and the occasional January market date that was too near New Year - it hasn’t missed very many months.

Initially it was held in the Town Hall, then after refurbishment of the Morpeth Market Place it was split between the Town Hall and the Market Place. Then in October last year, it was switched from a Sunday to a Saturday and is now located entirely on the Market Place. And it is still thriving when other farmers’ markets are in a bit of a decline.

I think a lot of people don’t realise just how lucky Morpeth is in still having locally owned shops. These have always sold local produce, but I think the farmers’ market has raised an awareness and appreciation of local food with a wider public.

In fact, a number of businesses – including Doddington Dairy Ice Cream and Northumberland Cheese Co – which started selling through farmers’ markets are now supplying the local shops, and in some instances supermarkets – so the wheel has come full circle in a sense.

And several producers from the farmers’ market – like Jimmy Bell and Janet Lawlor – are now selling at the Wednesday Charter Market too – which I think is part of the reason why that is flourishing so much, against national trends.

Sunday, 25 October 2009

Remembrance of wars - past and present

It looks as though there will be rather more awareness of the Remembrance Sunday parades this year - with increased awareness of death tolls in Afghanistan and Iraq.

I'll be wearing both red and white poppies again this year. As far as I am concerned, the red poppy commemorates all those who have died or suffered in wars on all sides - not just the soldiers. And the white or 'peace' poppy (and I have a few available if anyone wants one) is to highlight that war is not a solution - for example, it is rapidly becoming obvious to everyone that the 'war on terrorism' will not be won by military means.

In Morpeth, Morpeth Town Council are taking on full responsibility for the main Remembrance Sunday th Nov) parade and service for the first time (though they have run smaller parades in Morpeth in the past when the Castle Morpeth Mayor attended a service elsewhere). There'll be a lot of people attending - so let's hope it goes well. We are still not allowed to lay a wreath of white poppies though - because the British Legion considers that this would be a 'political act' - and Remembrance Day is supposed to be apolitical.

Then on Weds 11th -Armistice Day - there is the two minute silence at 11am. Over the past few years, there's been a campaign by the British Legion to turn this into a mini-Remembrance Day service. And, the Town Council will be making a civic event of it at the Town Hall. I disagree with this - for me, the two minute silence should be held, but it should be held as a simple pause in the middle of the working day.

Thursday, 8 October 2009

Let's Talk about Death

Message from the NE Director of Public Health… please complete the survey

North easterners are being asked to tackle a taboo and talk about death as the region launches the UK's first ever charter on end of life care.

The pioneering charter sets out proposals for the kind of care and support which people who are dying, their families and carers, can expect. Once agreed, it will guide those who plan and provide end of life care or support.

NHS North East has worked with a range of partners across health, social care and voluntary sectors, plus patients and carers, to produce A Good Death charter. A public consultation on the charter will run until December. It aims to gather the region's views and start a discussion about death and dying, an issue which is often avoided and ignored, despite being the one common inevitability we all share.

Professor Edwin Pugh, consultant in end of life care in NHS North East, says: "Death and dying is taboo, its reality is put off until the last minute. We live in an increasingly death-denying society, despite the fact that all of us will die. Death and dying is seen as a medical problem. Almost six in 10 people die in our hospitals, even though most people wish to die in the comfort of their own homes. The launch of this charter is the start of a process to make sure our society, and the support services people rely on during these difficult times, respond with compassion to the needs of those people who are dying and their loved ones. This is not principally about dying - it's about ensuring we live life to the fullest of our potential, with meaning and value, in whatever time we have."

The consultation on A Good Death centres on a questionnaire available at
www.agooddeath.co.uk and research will also be carried out by an on street team in towns and cities across the region.