richard pierce

richard pierce

29 April 2018

A L'Inconnue 2018

In Avignon,
August 1987,
With money borrowed from my Arabian ex-girlfriend,
I feasted on croissants, black coffee, and Gauloises
Sans filtre
At 7 a.m.
In the sunlight alone and warm,
And wished for a single currency.

We had travelled a long time;
Boat train,
Change trains,
Gare du Nord,
Switzerland,
A labyrinth of connections,
Using sleeper trains as free hotels,
Mile after mile of strange country.
We were a part of the same continent.

That same day, after Avignon,
And croissants, and coffee, and Gauloises,
Sans filtre,
We found Nîmes,
The amphitheatre full of Norwegian music,
Stood outside to listen to a-ha,
Until they stopped,
And pretended to be them,
Cosmopolitan everyones.

Hot and brown,
We wandered into a cheap restaurant
And watched Europe around us,
With a few token Americans
And lobster-red English boys who didn’t understand
The sun.

I saw her then,
A dark head of hair, laughing,
Tied to a wheelchair
And happy. Beautiful.
I wrote a poem in French on the paper menu,
A L’Inconnue, and gave it to her
When we left.

No social media in those days,
Nor mobile phones,
And no presence of mind to even leave her my address.
She was older than me anyway.
It never would have worked.

What would she make of this?
This nation tearing itself away from its root,
This British nation of cross-breds
Tearing itself apart for nothing?
What would she make
Of poets becoming warriors?

24 April 2018

Stradbroke democracy under threat again - Scurrilous is as Scurrilous does

Over the last few days, an anonymous and scurrilous leaflet has been appearing in the letterboxes of Stradbroke residents, akin to the anonymous and libellous leaflet which was distributed during the 2015 parish council elections. The leaflet has even appeared in laminated form, nailed to lamp posts and other road furniture. In truth, it's not even worth reproducing this scurrilous piece of non-literature, except to say that it's full of lies and allegations with no supporting evidence, and that it, once again, shows that moves are afoot (by former members of the parish council no less) to undermine not only democracy in the village, but to undermine all the efforts being made for the common good in this part of Suffolk.

The people behind this leaflet, who have not been brave enough to sign it, but who have allowed themselves to be seen in public distributing it, have contributed nothing to public life in Stradbroke, contribute nothing to the various fundraising events which are held to support village organisations, and have made no effort to support those in need in the village, nor to drive its organic growth. Instead, they are part of a cabal of malicious souls who wish to become feudal overlords in a settlement of only about 1,200 people, who wish to consolidate all the perceived power in this hamlet around themselves in order to directly draw from it financial enrichment. These are people who have dared imagine they are the leading lights of this lovely village, and its most important residents. These are people who have bullied, and continue to bully, not just sitting parish councillors and the Parish Clerk, but individual residents, tradespeople, and visitors alike.

One of their fraudulent claims is that parish councillors have been resigning because the current council is badly run. I don't know what the reasons for some of the resignations have been, but, as one of the councillors to have resigned in the past 18 months, I can tell you that I resigned because I was sick and tired of people not working for the common good, sick and tired of being lied to, sick and tired of adhering to the seven principles of public office while none of them did so, while all they sought to do, on and off the council, was to disrupt and undermine the values of democracy and common decency. But then I forget that these wrongdoers actually consider themselves not just in a class above people like me (so I am one of the common people, one of the great unwashed as they see it), but also above the law. I also know that some of the resignations have come about because those ex-councillors were tired of being bullied and intimidated by the cabal of the scurrilous.

I am not an eloquent or articulate man, as those of you who read these pages know, but I know the values of truth and integrity and dignity, and these anonymous people whose names we all know - but which I won't use here for fear of having to wash out my mouth with a wire brush and Dettol - wouldn't know truth and honesty and integrity if they carved themselves into their burning flesh with the same implements.

They will try to disrupt the Parish Annual Meeting at the Community Centre on 26th April 2018 at 19:30 in order to force out the clerk who has actually been doing a brilliant job, so please be there to stop them from destroying democracy. Out-of-village visitors are very welcome to come and support us in our defence of the parish council and its clerk.

I will leave the articulateness to a very wise man for whom I have the greatest of respect, even if our views of some aspects of the world are diametrically opposed. Here Chris Edwards, a sitting parish councillor, writes strictly in a personal capacity. I thank him for allowing me to use his words.


Dear all

I am a Parish Councillor and have just received this leaflet. It contains damaging and misleading statements and allegations, and in the interests of truth and perspective I am writing to put a different point of view which is my own and does not reflect the PC’s own view.

One section is focused on the Community Centre. It also focusses one section on the allotment landlord. I hope it was not sanctioned by either set of Trustees as it is political and openly seeks to influence the reader’s opinion about a publicly electable body in a way that appears to breach its purposes which as stated in the leaflet are

The purpose of the Trust is to enhance the well-being of all residents in the village.

There is nothing remotely enhancing to the well being of the residents of the village in this leaflet. It contains a number of misleading and inaccurate statements. Reading it has caused me personally great distress (see misleading statement 3 below). It is of particular relevance because it refers to our/your landlord in detail among other things, although it has a much wider significance.

Misleading statement 1

“The PC have made unreasonable demands for the Centre to pay for repair work on property that belongs to the PC…. the PC now refutes responsibility for repair to the gates that it commissioned, paid for and maintained but now deny their obligations .”

Untrue. The statement refers to a set of gates. As a matter of evidence the gates do not belong to the Parish Council. If you wish to verify this there is a lease plan in the lease made between the Community Centre and the PC for the play area. The gates in question are clearly marked on land owned by the community centre. There is no maintenance agreement between the CC and the PC. If the PC were responsible for the gate repair it is highly probable it would also be responsible for other things on the CC land. Finally The Parish Council has invited the Community centre to apply for a grant towards the costs of repairing these gates. That is minuted in the last meeting's record. In case that is still not adequate evidence, the meeting is recorded word for word.

Misleading statement 2

“There was manipulation of actual facts regarding the level of contribution from the CC to the play park and the generous donation from the Centre yet despite f 10,000 being given”

Untrue. One main reason for the lease creation for the play park was because MSDC partly grant funded the play equipment. For whatever reason officers at MSDC were worried the CC might receive grant funding for the playground equipment and later develop the land on which the play equipment is located. The Council insisted that as a condition of grant the CC created a lease of the play area land to the PC to protect the MSDC investment. So the CC agreed the lease terms and signed it and also agreed to help fund the play ground with money obtained from income received from villagers using the centre, thus recycling your own money, and I see nothing remotely generous in this. Surely by definition this is what a Community Centre is all about?

Misleading statement 3

“The main reasons given in the majority of letters of resignation have been because of concerns as to how the council was being operated and, more specifically, the conduct of the Clerk.”

Untrue. As some of those resigning had requested their reason remain confidential to the PC the reasons are confidential, but while some were not bothered about their reasons being known some were and so all resignation matters were kept confidential to ensure fairness. How would the author know about all of them unless they are a current member of the Parish Council or the last one to resign?

I do not believe the author is a current member of the PC or the last one to resign. I do know the reasons given have been various and the statement made in the leaflet is incorrect and misleading.

A clerk’s duties are onerous and extensive and include (should anyone need reminding) administering the cemetery. I have first hand experience of this and may I say I found the clerk extremely supportive even to the extent that she bought some groceries for us at a time of need, and I particularly object to this statement, as we are fortunate to have a clerk who does not allow herself to be put in a box by her councillors as is often the case with Parish Clerks. I have been on training and have heard first hand about other PCs and how they run and frankly I wonder how those villages function at all.

Misleading statement 4, and two statements that do not follow each other

“The PC and in particular the Clerk has contested every action Stradbroke Charitable Trust has taken despite the Trust's efforts to co-operate with the PC and is actively reducing its work for the village. How?”

Untrue. The PC and the Clerk have not contested every action, and it is only dealing with issues that are not agreed between both parties around leases that problems have occurred.

The trust is the landlord of the allotment and the surgery. In previous years and before the time of the present clerk the PC and the Trust were very close, far too close in my view. I have a commercial background and some experience in leases and when I saw the way things had been run I was shocked, as the Trust is a leaseholder for the surgery and the PC is the freeholder and yet one might have been forgiven for thinking the Trust was the freeholder and the PC its leaseholder. The PC is acting in the best interests of its asset in its dealings with the Trust and these things are not always publicly obvious. Again as these matters are commercially confidential and a matter between landlord and tenant I cannot discuss them but this does not seem to stop people who are claiming to speak for the Trust telling their side of the story knowing full well that the PC cannot respond in detail to allegations made.

Two statements that do not follow each other

“Recent legislation means the Trust can benefit (therefore we all will) by changing to a Charitable Incorporated Organization”

This legislation is designed to allow Charity trustees to avoid personal risk in being trustees. At the moment trustees are personally liable for debts of a charity. Previously the Trustees of the Trust had to underwrite debts eg for the surgery and that was a fine thing to do. That personal risk is removed by the new CIO organization, meaning that if the CIO were to borrow in the future it would need to do so against the assets of the CIO and not the trustees' own assets.

There is no connection between the Trust benefitting, and all of us benefitting. It may or may not be true depending on the plans the Trust has. All I can say is the Trust had a choice of structure and has consciously chosen a limited membership structure (trustees only) and not a wider membership structure and if it really wanted to benefit all then surely it would consider a structure in which more people could have a say in what it does?

Misleading statement 5

“This involved the PC simply writing a letter of support and approval.” However, the PC refused to do this

Untrue. This is nonsense. It implies the PC has prevented the Trust from forming a CIO. The CIO already exists. It was set up on 30 April 2017. See

http://beta.charitycommission.gov.uk/charity-details/?regid=1165750&subid=0

The statement also assumes the Trust’s interests and the PC’s interests are one and the same. They are not. The PC is the freeholder/landlord and has a duty to act to protect its asset.

Misleading statement 6

“The public are no longer able to express themselves or have their opinions heard by the PC. Why?”

Untrue. The new system came in because there was a period of several meetings in which a small group of people came along and were very aggressive in their approach to the meeting. A PC meeting is a Council business meeting to which the public are invited, it is not a public meeting. A lot of time was being wasted on things which did not further Council business at a time when there was a lot to discuss. I cannot speak for my fellow councillors but I give time to this unpaid and I got really quite annoyed that the issues being raised seemed to be directed as personal attacks not just against the Clerk but also councillors. This unpaid work takes place when we could be at home relaxing or out with friends /family etc, and so it was important to try and stop this disruption. At the last meeting the PC was able to deal with 2 points raised as questions under the new system and take them on as action points and so this statement is simply not true.

Misleading statement 6

“There has been a serious challenge to the Neighbourhood Plan that has resulted in it being delayed. Why?”

Untrue. This is nonsense. The plan is with MSDC on their website for the next 6 weeks and then goes to examination. This is more than nonsense this is insulting to work the NP group has put in over the least year to make the plan happen. See:

http://www.midsuffolk.gov.uk/planning/neighbourhood-planning/neighbourhood-planning-in-mid-suffolk/stradbroke-neighbourhood-plan/

I am happy to discuss these things with anyone who might wish to do so.

Chris




10 April 2018

across country

fens flat
boots dark parchment
trees straight and vague
amid a massacre of uprooted siblings
open fields
tiny horses
shrubland soil dunes
tilled and tilted
wild hair under his russian hat
sudden sun
parched sand unrested
faded haystacks mouldy
pylon robots stalking
lonely houses
occasional trains
the rhythm of the crossing
horizontal lines on the map
the vertical interrupted
settlements not villages
the softness
where wings join the body
a sudden cathedral
up out of the water
silhouettes and hatless shadows
and she's too young to be certain
and he's too young to ask
the silence of the old observer
headphones and beer and tea cakes
and smartphones
the mechanics of avoidance
a long-forgotten scent
origin and memory unknown
far-off rain and sunbeams
emptiness
unending straight lanes
a raised expanse of water
discarded metal
half burned
but the fire went out long ago
vast empty steel barns
the middle of nowhere
is somewhere
stones and poles and tangled wire
the horizon slides
time is a destination