Villagers do their bit but it’s a bit too much for the Council

Posted in Litter, Thurrock Council, Volunteers at 4:27 pm by henrysgauntlet

“Sofa and no farther” that is the headline in today’s Times.

It seems the villagers of attractive North Stifford decided to do their bit for the environment and their own surroundings by clearing up litter.   If the sides of the nearby A13 are anything to go by, there would be plenty to clear up.  

They obtained bags from the Council to use for their voluntary effort, and a Council lorry came to pick up the results.   In three hours work they had gathered up 43 bags of rubbish and an old sofa to be taken away.   And that’s when Thurrock Council informed them that their efforts were excessive and should be curbed.  According to an e-mail from the council the results of the clean up were excessive and filled up the bin men’s lorry so much that they couldn’t then go on and do their normal round.

The story has also been noticed by the Nanny Knows Best blog, which highlights ridiculous political correctness and similar matters, and has given Thurrock Council its “Prats of the Week” award for this week.  
It seems Thurrock Council has now apologised, and claims the email was sent in error.   I wonder why.   Perhaps they don’t like us all calling them Prats of the Week for their treatment of  keen volunteers;  or perhaps they were just getting too many calls from the national press!



Should security staff have police powers?

Posted in Crime, Law 'n order, Police at 9:04 pm by henrysgauntlet

The BBC reports that an Essex-based security company is to be given powers to hand out on-the-spot fines.   The idea is that door supervisors working for the company have some of the powers that the police have to tackle anti-social behaviour, (how I hate that phrase).

The company provides security staff at shopping centres and over 200 door supervisors at venues in Basildon, Chelmsford, Harlow and Colchester.   The company’s staff will carry identity cards issued by police under the Community Safety Accreditation Scheme, and then will be able to hand out the on-the-spot fines.

Well, most of us don’t like yobbish behaviour in shopping centres, around clubs and so on, but this does seem a step too far.

Last November I was at Lakeside Shopping Centre on a Friday evening when a gang of teenagers of both sexes made a huge nuisance of themselves.   They were in the lesser populated side walkways, and were harrassing shopkeepers, and throwing themselves against plate glass windows.   Lakeside makes good use of CCTV cameras, and the splendid security staff arrived very quickly.   They escorted the group to the nearest outer exit, but it wasn’t very long before they were back again.   This happened three or four times, and then the Police were called.   Again, they reacted quickly, and this time the youngsters were ejected and didn’t come back.

So, should Lakeside’s security staff have had the power to issue fines?   Well, it might be a quicker response, but almost certainly the youngsters would not have the cash to pay the fines.   Then there would be a long-drawn out process of trying to make the parents pay, probably unsuccessfully.  So it seems a rather pointless exercise.

But, even more importantly, I can’t condone extending police powers to other people.   Already there are too many instances of  “authorities” having the right to enter our homes and boss us about.   I don’t want to live in a police state, and giving “security” staff police powers, albeit in a small way, is a step in the wrong direction.


Old Grays shops recalled at Thameside exhibition

Posted in Local History at 11:06 pm by henrysgauntlet

If you are around Grays town centre in the coming week do call in at the Thameside Complex and have a look at the Exhibition now on in the foyer.   Entitled “Fond memories of Grays High Street”, it covers the history of shops, shopkeepers and businesses from 1900 to the 1970s.  

Museum Officer, Jonathan Catton, has put together a mix of photographs, advertisements and even some paper bags from the shops, and then there is a powerpoint display of various parts of the High Street “then” and “now”.   People have already shared their memories of the shops, and some of them are highlighted in the display.

When the writer was there, there was a group of about ten people who were chatting happily away together, all anxious to recall their memories of the old shops.

It occurred to the writer how marvellous it would be if owners/managers or their children from the old family businesses, now sadly all gone, could get together and record as many details as possible about those old businesses.

For example, in the 1950s and early 1960s, the Convent of La Sainte Union de Sacre Coeur, in those days an independent school for girls from 4 to 18, and boys from 4 to 8, numbered amongst its pupils the daughters, and a couple of sons, from Westwood the tailors, Jordan the chemist, Munt the butcher, Harris the coach company, Gurnett the jewellers, Simons from the Wharf Hotel, Crouchman the hardware shop, Burney the ladies dress shop, Walsham the builders, Eve’s the ladies and children’s dress shops, Baird the bakers, Wisbey the scrap metal merchant, Euin Steele the optician, and more.

The exhibition is really well worth a visit, and it is understood that it could be taken round to, for example, pensioners’ clubs where no doubt many more memories would be jogged.


Help for Heroes to fund new forces’ recovery centre at Colchester

Posted in Armed Services at 8:54 pm by henrysgauntlet

Help for Heroes is a wonderful charity.   It has come from nowhere to be a most important pressure group and fund raiser for our armed services serving in Iraq and Afghanistan.   It all started because of the disgust that many felt at the way our service men and women were being treated:  badly equipped for warfare; inadequately housed in this country; and poorly paid.  Yet we were asking them to risk their lives in these two far-flung places.   Yes, they are all volunteers these days, but that does not excuse the government for neglecting its duty of care as an employer.

Whether or not you and I agree with British troops being in these countries, (and now they are out of Iraq), the fact is they are there and they need our support.   In particular, those service men and women who come home with terrible injuries need proper medical care and recuperation in an environment where they feel at home.   A campaign was started to ensure they were in dedicated military hospital wards, and to ensure that there were proper recuperation facilities where they could be taught to use prosthetic limbs and given new skills either to enable them to return to their service units, albeit not to the front line, or to face life in the outside world.

So Help for Heroes was formed and has raised considerable funds for this work, as well as leading campaigns for better conditions and facilities for troops.

Today we hear that the results of these campaigns will become clearly visible in Essex with the news that a new recovery centre for wounded soldiers is to be built at Colchester Garrison.   (This is one of four announced by Help for Heroes, the others being at Catterick, Tidworth and Edinburgh.)

The personnel recovery centre will open in 2011 and is designed to help injured service men and women to recover and to learn new skills.   It will hold 20 full-time residents and 40 day visitors, and there will be a couple of family rooms so that partners and children can stay.    The new centre will be used both by Colchester-based soldiers and those from other parts of the Army.

Although built on Ministry of Defence land within the Garrison, the funds for the building project will be provided by Help for Heroes, and it will be run jointly by The Royal British Legion and the Army.

A wonderful project and all credit to Help for Heroes for raising the money and The Royal British Legion for agreeing to run the centre.

More of our heritage to be saved – Naze Tower to be protected

Posted in Heritage at 1:09 pm by henrysgauntlet

Excellent news today that a well-known and loved Essex landmark is to be saved. 

 The Naze Tower at Walton-on-the-Naze is in danger of slipping into the sea as the cliff becomes more and more eroded, by 6.5 feet a year.

Now a scheme has been agreed, and full funding confirmed, to shore up the cliff and build a walkway.   The project will cost £1.2 million, with £500,000 being granted by Essex County Council and the remainder from Tendring District Council and local fund-raising.   Great work by the locals!

The Naze Tower was built in 1721 as a landmark for ships approaching the harbour at the nearby port of Harwich.  It is good to know that another piece of our heritage will be preserved.   For many in Essex it brings back childhood memories of day trips to Clacton and Walton.

You can read the story here.


Tremendous effort by Choir and Church to help Haiti Appeal

Posted in Concerts at 9:06 pm by henrysgauntlet

Congratulations to Thurrock Male Voice Choir and Lodge Lane Methodist Church, Grays, for a superb concert last evening in aid of the Haiti Earthquake Appeal.

Arranged at short notice, it was an example of what can be done when everyone wants to show their support for a disaster like the Haiti Earthquake.   The Choir was on excellent form, and put on one of its very best concerts.   They had two guest soloists, both of whom were finalists in last year’s Thurrock Young Musician Competition.  Lizzie Bird played three violin pieces, and Natasha Neilson three flute pieces, and both showed a professionalism and technical competency beyond their years, together with lots of charm.

The Church was packed out, and hopefully a really good sum of money will have been raised for the Appeal.


Mayhem, murder and myth: cricket at Tilbury in 1776

Posted in Local History at 12:54 am by henrysgauntlet

This is one of the great ‘stories’ about cricket in Essex in the eighteenth-century.  It comes from the Gravesend correspondent of the London Chronicle and is dated 29th October, 1776.

“A terrible affair happened this day at Tilbury Fort.  A great match of cricket being to be played between Kent and Essex, the parties assembled on both sides.  When they were met, a man appearing among the former, who should not have been there, the Essex men refused playing, on which a very bloody battle ensued, and the Kentish men being likely to be worsted, one of them ran into the guard-house, and getting a gun from one of the invalids, fired and killed one of the opposite party.  On seeing this they all began running to the guard-house, and there being but four soldiers there, they took away the guns and fell to it, doing a great deal of mischief.  An old invalid was run through the body with a bayonet: and a serjeant who commands at the fort, in the absence of the officer, endeavouring with his four men to quell them, was shot dead.  At last the Essex men took to flight, and running over the drawbridge, made their escape.  The Kentish men then made off in their boats, but search is making after them.” 

It is a fascinating story, one that was repeated again and again in nineteenth-century anthologies.  The trouble with it is that no other report ever appeared in any other newspaper of 1776:  no one was named as one of the two victims murdered on this occasion and absolutely no one was caught or prosecuted.  No advertisement for the match between Kent and Essex had appeared, indeed there was no place in ‘Tilbury’ where the match could have been played since, apart from the fort, the ferryhouse and a milking shed about a mile away, there were no buildings or settlements there.  The ground around the fort was, moreover, too sodden for any match to take place there, let alone one at the end of the month of October.  Engaging though this story is, that is what it was – a ‘story’. 

Eighteenth-century people, just like their twenty-first century counterparts, enjoyed ‘spoof’ accounts of improbable events.  This one had all the elements – mayhem and murder – to keep it alive for over one hundred years.  Its author would have been proud of that at least.

Author  –  Christopher Thompson