Monday, 25 December 2017 0 Comments by Claire
The Ottery church bells are ringing for midnight mass on Christmas Eve.
... They called me, so I slipped out and arrived at the start of an absolutely packed service. The realisation that I had left my electric blanket on was a bit distracting, however, so I disappeared before the end. But not before the chaplain of Exeter University gave a powerful message about homelessness.
A homeless man had taken centre stage at Exeter Cathedral last week and was asked to talk about his experiences.
I have bought the Big Issue many times. But I admit I have also walked past homeless people many times, feeling horribly callous. The chaplain asked us to be caring on a practical level. The man’s advice on this was that people should stop for a chat if they have a few minutes and buy a coffee or a sandwich. This would mean a lot and be of practical assistance .... I made a mental note.
But there is so much suffering. Including those on the brink of homelessness, such as those who are relying on the good nature of friends, or those who are forced to use foodbanks.
The Trussell Trust, Britain’s biggest foodbank network, reported earlier this year that it gave out a staggering 1.2million food parcels to desperate families and individuals in need in 2016/17, the ninth successive year, in which demand has risen.
In my role as a councillor I have seen and try to help many people in need due to poverty. And I also meet people who are sceptical about the need. I can assure anyone who is sceptical that it is VERY real and people are really suffering through no fault of their own. In work and disability benefits keep being cut.
It’s time for some compassion – especially from this government, whose policies are largely the cause of such poverty and suffering… while corporation tax remains very low, billions are spent on Brexit, free schools and many other things that apparently we do have the funding for.
Well the years of catering for 12 on Christmas Day seem to be over for now at least, due to my tiny (cute) cottage. These days my family look at me as though I am mad if I make (an admittedly half-hearted) offer to do Christmas lunch.
So yesterday, my only responsibilities were to bake some mince pies and make some festive red cabbage, infused with cinnamon, star anise and red wine.
Happily, the red cabbage is absolutely fantastic, however, the mince pies are a little less successful due to me somehow switching off the oven mid bake and not noticing for some time. They are edible at least, but I doubt my efforts will win the bake-off competition with my 14 year daughter, Katie, who is also making mince pies and is a brilliant baker and cake maker…. and VERY competitive!
My sincere apologies to those people who didn’t receive a Christmas card from me this year and noticed. You haven’t offended me. I just didn’t send any. I have instead, donated money to the NSPCC and apologised via this blog! Thank you to all those who kindly sent me a card. They look lovely in my house pinned to my wooden beams.
Well, what a year it’s been. Re-elected to Devon County Council, which was a wonderful moment ... and a snap general election - an amazing whirlwind of activity. Exhausting, but totally exhilarating. I remain in awe of the number of people who kindly helped with the campaign and delighted with the result of over 21,000 votes.
I have made some wonderful new friends (one or two I hope to be in touch with for life) and thank you once again to everyone who helped. I so appreciated it.
Will there be another general election next year? Possibly ...
Will I run again, I keep being asked? Possibly ...
Nationally and internationally, it has been a turbulent year. I can’t quite believe that Trump hasn’t yet been impeached but at least it feels that the net is closing with the ongoing investigation by the painstaking former FBI director, Robert Mueller.
Brexit continues in its hapless, chaotic, and in my view, shambolic manner. And the inordinate sums of money that it’s costing to leave the EU continues to mount up. I still feel really disappointed that we are even in this position and very much hope that this government will retain what is positive in EU law and translate it to British law.
On a more positive note, I am pleased to see that Environment Secretary of State, Michael Gove, is making a series of policy statements on animal welfare and nature. He even visited the place where the River Otter beavers live last week.
They are of course, the only wild beavers in England and are much loved and cherished by the local community.
I also welcome Mr Gove’s u-turn on animal sentience (now promising to include a vital piece of law on the state being responsible for animal welfare, which had been omitted in a parliamentary vote in November).
I was so incensed by this vote I submitted a motion on it, at the last Devon County Council full meeting earlier this month.
Unfortunately, the Conservative and the coalition governments’ record on environmental issues has been appalling generally right up until the general election earlier this year, when shockingly, they dropped the ivory ban pledge and suggested they may resurrect fox hunting.
For years, the Tories have not cared one jot about renewable energy. Ruthlessly slashing subsidies, while ploughing billions into subsidising the nuclear and fossil fuel industries instead.
So until some of these new statements are actually enshrined in law, and firm policy has been developed (without loopholes) I will remain sceptical about whether this new direction is more about clawing back a few votes, as opposed to being genuinely committed to ecological issues and animal welfare.
On personal level, sometimes I find it a bit hard to stay positive. I have absolutely nothing to be down about, my head tells me that, but nevertheless I find it a bit hard at times. There is a lot wrong in the world, the problems seem insurmountable and I am only scratching a tiny part of what is wrong.
Damaging my knee and not being able to dance (or do much at all) for three months was difficult, but it certainly gave me an insight into how some people struggle on a day to day basis and how fortunate I was that my injury was only temporary. I am fine now and keeping my fingers crossed that I (and my family and friends) continue to enjoy good health.
I try and dance three to four times a week, which increases my happiness levels dramatically!
I can’t sign off without paying tribute to 15 year old Daniel Chambers whose body was found last week near Tipton St John. I was at Ottery Sports Centre last Monday and saw the students lay bouquet after bouquet of flowers for him. Many were visibly upset. It made me feel so very sad. My heart goes out to his family. A terrible thing to happen. And even worse at this time of year.
I also wish Ottery’s excellent vicar, Steve Weston, who is currently in hospital, a very speedy recovery and I look forward to seeing him around Ottery again very soon.
There isn’t much else left to say (I have to collect my nan and time is running out!) except to wish you all a wonderful Christmas and a very happy, healthy and successful 2018!
Pic: No, not a heap of miniature legless turtles, but my slightly dubious mince pies.