richard pierce

richard pierce

6 May 2015

Campaign Trail - Days 22-25

Necessity and fairness dictate that this should be my last Campaign Trail post. Tomorrow is Election Day, and I'll be spending it making conference calls to various countries and working on uotting together a 150-page report for my trustees. But I WILL VOTE. Please make sure you do, too.

I'm not going to mix my local politics with my national politics. I believe parish council level politics should be unencumbered by party-political things, unless a candidate's party-political beliefs interfere with what a parish council should be doing, which is representing the village as a whole.

So, a quick summary of my last few days.

I was meant to play cricket. It rained, so I didn't. I felt a certain amount of relief at not having to bat in four layers again, and at having a day to relax, but that turned into frustration, because I'm actually pretty bad at doing nothing.

Finished distributing leaflets, mainly in Battlesea Green. The leaflets were my own, and the leaflet of the Green candidate for the District Council election, James Hargrave, whom I strongly support. I was really happy to have the company of my eldest daughter, Charlotte, on this round of distribution. This election will be her first time of voting, and I hope she will be one of many 18-year-olds voting with their conscience.

I mowed the back lawn. Someone has to.

I mowed the front lawn. Someone has to.

Actually, having a front garden in the centre of the village is great. It has meant I don't have to go canvassing, because a huge amount of people walk by, stop and talk. It's like having an open MP's surgery. Except I'm not an MP. Anyway, many good conversations have been had over these past three and a bit weeks, in the fron garden, or on the pavement opposite.

The phone rang for the umpteenth time. It was yet another person from the village pledging their support. I am humbled and astounded by the volume of supportive phone calls I've had. This one was from an 80-year-old man who has lived in Stradbroke forever, and remembers a 100-year-old tortoise living in the garden of one of the houses on New Street. Amazing.

Bank holidays dislocate me, and I had a lot of work to catch up on. And I went fencing. And tiredness took me.

I thought today was Thursday, but I'm glad it's not, because I'd have forgotten to go to the polling station. It also gives me an extra day to get all my work done, and to look at how much I've spent during my campaign (on printer cartridges and paper, mainly).

Campaign highlights
The absolute highlight has been meeting so many lovely people whom I didn't know before. Amongst them are Andy from the Wirral; Sue (our lovely vicar who made me feel at home again when she called "God bless" after me as I was leaving her front door); the lady who told me she used to own the Skoda I now drive (she called him Alan; we call her Flic); the man who showed me round his land and his workshop and told me he hoped the parish council would stop being a "self-interested lot;" the couple sitting in the sun who asked to read my leaflet there and then (and it was obvious to me that they were so happy in each other's company). All those conversations and observations have had a huge impact on me, and made me determined, even if I don't get elected, to continue to put the interests of the whole village first.

Dead animals spotted while distributing leaflets: 2 birds and 1 mouse. Quite a small total, really.

And that's it. Just to reiterate my election call: Honesty. Integrity. Accountability.

Please vote for the following good people, too, who will do a fine job at representing the village:

Caroline Barnes, George Chaplin, Oliver Coles, Lynda Ellison-Rose, Brian Goffee, James Hargrave, Maureen John, Velda Lummis, and Ellie Wharton.

Thank you.

Promoted by Richard Pierce-Saunderson of Spring Cottage, Church Street, Stradbroke, Suffolk, IP21 5HT.

4 May 2015

Campaign Trail - Day 21

Saturday was more of a day away from the campaign trail than on it. I'd been asked a long time ago to do a set of poetry at the Turn The Page Artists' Book Fair, and spent a lot of last week thinking about which poems I would actually perform. I was sharing a stage with the very talented Two Coats Colder folk band, so I was even more nervous than normal. Footfall at 2014's fair was over 13,000 people over its two days, and first estimates are that this year's footfall was even larger. Every reason not to fall flat on my face.

In the end, it went really well, I'm glad to say. I made four new friends, listened to some great music, and contributed my 15 minutes to the 2pm performance with no greater problem than a very dry mouth, but had my bottled Stradbroke water to hand.

The theme of the set (music and poetry) was the sea, so I read a sequence of poems from a work in progress called the 366 which chronicles the existence of two beings in the forest near somewhere which could be anywhere on the east coast in Norfolk or Suffolk. I'll post all the poems I read on this blog at some point soon. I ended my first set with a poem I dedicated to all the women on the planet, prefaced with the hope that they will grab with both hands the equality they should have. I was really dead chuffed when that one had the whole of the Forum in Norwich applauding.

To my surprise, Two Coats Colder asked me to have a cup of tea with them, and then asked me (even more surprisingly) to stay on and contribute to the 4:30pm set they were due to perform. I was humbled and flattered, and obviously couldn't refuse. Good job I'd brought some more poems with me. And, because I was asked by so many people to do so, I finished with the same poem I'd finished the first set with:


You make yourself old before you are,
Hiding behind the invisibility the world
Creates for all women of a certain age.

Time is nothing.
Time doesn’t move.
We move through static time.

You could wear now
The clothes you wore when we first met.
You could wear now
The smile you wore when we first met,
And I looked up from some book or another,
Full of useless scribbles,
And you looked back, because I was there.

What has passed has passed.
It is not what makes us. These numbers
Are artificial measures of a time
We don’t have.

You could wear nothing
And I would love every mark
Of the time you have passed through.
You could wear leopard skin legs
And I would worship you
The way I do now, in the cloak of the banal.
Nothing changes inside us,
And time is outside.

Stop counting.
I have. I never started.

The great thing about the fair is not only the amazing book art that is invariably present, but the fact that it seems to attract so very many zine producers, and most of them radically feminist. These are old-fashioned pamphleteers who put their thoughts (and those of their contributors) down on paper, who print and fold their zines by hand, for whom the digital manifestation of their thoughts and beliefs is a by-product, who believe that pieces of paper, passed on hand-to-hand, is still the best way of spreading their message, just like Tyndale's bible was. We forget, in our digital age, how much power paper still has, and, coming back to Stradbroke, not always power for the good (my election leaflet excepted, of course).
I hope to be able to do a gig with Two Coats Colder again in the near future, and I hope next year's Turn The Page fair is even more successful than this year's. To go to Norwich was to escape the insanity of the awful things that are happening behind the scenes her in Stradbroke as we strive to move towards a better future for the village, only to have some parish councillors, and those who would be the powers behind the throne, assuming they still hold the trump cards that will prevail. Well, they are mistaken. This is a free election, and the people of Stradbroke will, hopefully, vote in their droves, and vote for change.
Thanks to Marina Florance (left) and Jules (second from right, and whose surname I always, in a very non-politician way forget) for booking me, and for organising one of East Anglia's best events every year. And thanks to Two Coats Colder (the rest in the pic) for putting up with me.
Promoted by Richard Pierce-Saunderson of Spring Cottage, Church Street, Stradbroke, Suffolk, IP21 5HT.

3 May 2015

Campaign Trail - Days 18 to 20

Random recollections of what's been going on. If days could be extended to cover 36 hours it might be helpful.

Wednesday was fragmented. I had a lot of work to catch up on and then, mid-afternoon, I had a meeting with the ECB about Stradbroke Cricket Club's self-accreditation as a ClubMark club this year, a meeting which then extended into discussing club sports in Norfolk and Suffolk in general. It's a fact, unfortunately, that most sports clubs are losing players at both ends of the age spectrum, and that there are a variety of reasons for this, ranging all the way, in cricket's case, of there not being enough (any) coverage on terrestrial TV, through parents' and players' time constraints, all the way to how tight money is with everyone because of the unnecessary austerity imposed on the country by the Tory-led coalition, especially with salaries at the lower end of the scale still not rising enough to keep pace with even the low inflation of food and utility prices. By the way, on a general election issue, don't let the numbers being out out there by the current government fool you - the average wage, which is going up, includes the salaries of all those who earn millions of pounds every year, as well as those subsisting on below a living wage.

Thursday was interesting. I spent the morning with the auditors of the charity which employs me, finalising the narrative and financial content of our annual report. The financials were still £1 out on a rounding issue, which needs to be resolved before I can take the report to my trustees. One of the mandates the auditors have is to question someone like me about how our cashbook is maintained and how the organisation's strategy has been kept to, and what the organisation's strategy for the next 3-5 years is. I am always grateful to the auditors for keeping these meetings as brief as possible, with little or no time wasted on what people might regard as niceties. We're there to do a job, not to socialise.

After that meeting, I went to the headquarters of a national mental health charity, to discuss everything to do with its national information service, and to look in detail at the performance of its national helpline. Alarmingly, due to lack of funding, the charity only has the capacity to answer 50% of all the calls it receives. Even more alarmingly, although the NHS mental health provision has improved significantly over the last ten years, one of the colleagues I was meeting with pointed out that the provision is still "not fit for purpose." This is a sad fact, and one which must change. Mental health is a serious issue, depression a serious illness and NOT a state of mind.

I got back from London just in time to stuff my face with a couple of bits of pizza before heading off to the Annual Parish Meeting. I was really pleased that, before the meeting started, the Clerk to the Parish Council made the point that this was not a normal parish council meeting, and also pointed out that no comments, favourable or unfavourable, could be made about any people standing for election to the parish council, because the purdah period running up to an election was still in place.

A couple of things of interest from that meeting were a comment from the floor that the doctors' surgery was beginning to see patients in their thousands, not in their hundreds, and that the village's SpeedWatch volunteers were catching an average of 9 speeding vehicles on each outing they undertook. I think these points are illustrative of the need to grow the village organically rather than through an explosive over-development of the Grove Farm or any other sites.

For me, the most significant issue to come up at the meeting was the uncertainty about the provision of fibre broadband into the village. Unfortunately, and this is actually a problem with very many politicians, Guy McGregor, our county councillor, doesn't really understand the technology, so the numbers and forecasts he brought with him weren't really worth the paper they were scribbled on. As I've said before, universal access to really fast Internet communications is vital for the sustainability of this village.

Friday was spent working and leafleting, leafleting on behalf of myself and James Hargrave whom I am supporting in his campaign to become a district councillor for the Green Party. James and I split the leaflet distribution between us, with me covering the east side of the village, including the Hopkins development, Westhall, Grove End, and Laxfield Road. What hit me was something I should have realised before - that Stradbroke is in reality already a very big village, that it should be no surprise that the infrastructure is already creaking, and, most importantly of all, that the people living here are really friendly and inclusive and (inserts over-used word) nice. It took mae five hours to distribute all the leaflets I had, mainly because I spent lots of time talking with people, people who turned out to know of me already, who said they would vote for me. That's quite humbling.

One final word - draft excluders on letterboxes are a bane. I pity our poor posties who must get scars on their fingers every single day.

Promoted by Richard Pierce-Saunderson of Spring Cottage, Church Street, Stradbroke, Suffolk, IP21 5HT.

2 May 2015

Campaign Trail - Day 17

On Tuesday I spent most of the day in London, attending a mass assembly for children from North London schools to raise their awareness of whom they could seek help from and talk to if they were being mentally or physically abused. Quite an eye-opener again, in all honesty, and really of much more importance than a local election campaign.

The assembly was held at a football stadium, and, walking back to the Tube station after the assembly, through bustling streets, past terraced houses and past new flash offices where terraced houses had once been, I was taken back to my childhood when I lived in just such a street in Doncaster, albeit in a semi, just five minutes walk away from Doncaster Rovers' football ground (Belle Vue in those days). Back then, there was a sense of community, even in the northern urbanity of one of South Yorkshire's biggest towns. We played football in the street, left our doors unlocked, flocked to the park in the summer to play cricket against the West Indian lads who lived on the other side of the park. And when we went to football matches at Belle Vue we always turned up an hour early so we'd have time to chat with the mates we'd probably last seen at school the day before, or, as we got a little older, whom we'd not seen since the last home game because they were working now (while some of us were wasting our time with A levels or university).

This set me to asking myself about the sense of community in Stradbroke. My feeling is that the village is now more fragmented than it ever has been since I moved here in 2006. Although some people were telling me, even then, that the village was made up of 3 discrete communities, I must admit that I didn't see it quite like that, although there did seem to be groups of people who very rarely communicated with each other. The sense of fragmentation I get now comes from the very real division between what could be described as the haves and the have-nots. And from the conversations I have had during the past two or three weeks I get the message that the people of Stradbroke consider the majority of current parish councillors to belong to the first group, not the second. I think that view comes from the fact that there has not been an election for the parish council since 1999 and that there is a perception that the parish council has been self-selecting in all that time.

This is why it's refreshing that there is now an election, when the people of Stradbroke will hopefully flock in their hundreds to the polling station on 7th May and choose those people they wish to represent them. And maybe the new parish council will be one that is united, and one which will send a message of hope and healing to the community and say to them "Look, we stand shoulder to shoulder, all of us here in the village, and we want what's best for the young, the middle-aged, the old; we want what's best for those who have been so badly hit by the politics of austerity; we want us all to be equal, with an equal voice and an equal say in the affairs of this our home." I certainly hope so.

Please make the effort to vote on 7th May.

I continue to strongly support the candidacies of Caroline Barnes, George Chaplin, Oliver Coles, Lynda Ellison-Rose, Brian Goffee, James Hargrave, Maureen John, Velda Lummis, and Ellie Wharton.

Promoted by Richard Pierce-Saunderson of Spring Cottage, Church Street, Stradbroke, Suffolk, IP21 5HT.