24 August 2015

Aldridge, The Great War and The Aldridge Auxiliary Convalescent Hospital at The Manor House

I have mentioned the Aldridge Great War Project before. Today, I learned of a fantastic new aspect to the project that I want to share with everyone and I do hope that you share and can participate too. It's not too onerous to do so! 

If like me you are interested in the history of Aldridge Manor House, then this is for you. You may or may not know that during The Great War, the Manor House became Aldridge Auxiliary Convalescent Hospital for injured military personnel.

This is the text from a leaflet produced, which due to technical difficulties I cannot replicate as a separate form however, if you do want a copy of the form please email me at taxwizzardATgmailDOTcom and I will happily send you a copy.

"ALDRIDGE GREAT WAR PROJECT
270, Walsall Wood Road, Aldridge, Walsall WS9 8HB

In 1915 local people came together to provide a military hospital at the Manor House, Aldridge. 100 years later the Aldridge Great War Project is asking for your help to record the remarkable story of the Aldridge Auxiliary Convalescent Hospital. It is a story of sacrifice, dogged determination and triumph in the face of adversity; a story of ordinary people and their response to an extraordinary situation; a story of which we can be very proud and one which deserves to reach a wider audience.

In 2013 we received copies of documents relating to the Manor House from the family of Dr. T. Boyd Stirling. It is these documents which will form the basis of the book. The Aldridge Great War Project would like to give local people the opportunity to subscribe to the publication in order to fund the cost of printing. It is also possible to subscribe as a business, group, society etc. The book will:

Be A4 in size.
Contain seventy original documents, letters, postcards and photographs
Be given to all local schools and libraries as well as local archive repositories.

We would appreciate a minimum donation of £20 for each subscriber who will:

Receive a copy of the book delivered to any U.K. address.
Have the opportunity to have the copy signed if they wish.
Have their name and address included in a list of subscribers at the back of the book under the following heading: ‘In 1915 local people came together to provide a military hospital in Aldridge. 100 years later we are grateful to the following people who have subscribed to this book and thereby enabled this fascinating story from Aldridge history to be told.’

Should the money raised from subscriptions exceed the cost of printing any surplus will be used to further the aims of the Aldridge Great War Project. Details of money raised and spent will be published on our website or can be obtained by writing to the address above.

If you feel able to support this unique publication by subscribing to it please complete the attached slip and return, along with a cheque made payable to the Aldridge Great War Project, to the address above.

Alternatively return the attached form via email to aldridgegwp@outlook.com and make your donation to the AGWP bank account Acc. No. 27717760. Sort Code 77 31 09. Subscriptions close 25th September.

Thanks for your support. Sue Satterthwaite and Len Boulton                                                    Mob. 07982027256
Tear here

Name (Individual/business/society etc.)


Address


Contact number/email address

Donation (minimum £20)


Would you like your name and address to appear in the list of subscribers? YES/NO/NAME ONLY

Would you like a signed copy?                                                                             YES/NO "



I'm told by someone who is proof reading this book for Sue that it is a great read and very interesting. If it's anything like the other books that Sue has written about the history of Aldridge it will be fantastic! Sue has made a wonderful contribution in recording aspects of the history of Aldridge. Subscriptions close 25th September so hurry!


11 August 2015

Riding solo


Whilst we were in France I ventured out on the bike once again with my security blanket also known as Aiden. It had been a while mainly due to an awful bout of vertigo that left me virtually immobile for eight weeks. Even walking down to my Dad's house, ten minutes normally, became a marathon, with every step feeling as though I was walking through thick vegetable soup. I carried on with normal life as much as possible but some days it was impossible. I've never endured an attack that has lasted so long before and I sincerely hope that I never have to encounter one of such length again.

Riddians Bridge
So today I took the bull by the horns and risked a ride on my own and I am so glad that I did. It was a little gloomy when I set off but the weather improved as the ride   progressed and ended in glorious sunshine.

I took off down to Longwood Bridge and made my way along the canal to Rushall before risking a little road cycling before joining NCN5 up to Brownhills and a return to Aldridge along the canal. I can report no dizzy turns and only one prat of a driver!

I never get over just how rural the canal from Longwood feels and sounds. Buzzards were calling, swallows swooping down to the canal, mixed flocks of finches dropped from shrub to shrub and the dragonflies were busy never being still. Heaven.

Goscote Valley is looking gorgeous at the moment, go on, surprise yourself, take a walk down there and see for yourself the bounty of blackberries waiting to be picked and the wonderful array of bright and loud late summer colours lighting up the fields.

I felt so good the mind was allowed to roam free, with the visual delights providing fuel for the mind. Yes Walsall really does provide a feast for the eyes.

It was good to feel a little independence once again.


Goscote Valley


Brownhills

17 May 2015

Child of Mine

You may not believe me but I think about you all the time. At least a hundred times a day my eyes fall upon one of the many photographs of you and I smile and remember one of the millions of memories of you stored away but kept within easy reach, ready to be treasured once again. Sometimes tears will fall when the memory is one where you were hurting and I berate myself for not having protected you from that pain. Mostly I recall all the many ways you  have me smile or laugh, enriching my existence in ways I could never have dreamt of when you were born or I have moments when my heart has nearly burst with pride recalling the so very many ways that you have made me proud of you and all your achievements.

Last weekend I was sitting in a hide watching birds when out of the corner of my eye I saw a young man perch himself on a bench just a few feet away. I caught my breath as just for a second I thought it was you. I stole many glimpses. He was a little younger than you, maybe just 18 but he was a similar build, tall but not quite as tall as you, slim with slender wrists and long, beautiful fingers. His beard was new with the young fluffy growth intermingled with the more mature manly whiskers. It was cut close to his face the way you used to wear yours. It was however, his eyes that mesmerised me. Dark endless brown just like yours, covered with lashes so long and curly that any woman would be envious of such a natural born gift.

Maybe he felt my glimpses because too soon he was gone.

And then the tears rolled down my face, slowly, silently. The pain in my heart solid like a rock. The longing to hug you and hold you, a physical pain almost renting my body in two.

Just a call. Tell me how you are, what you're up to, what your plans are, if you're keeping well and looking after yourself. Keep it light. No heavy stuff. Just a call.

I miss you Son.

4 May 2015

Sins of the Fathers: A Rant against laziness and an apology

I want to apologise to the young people of Aldridge. It isn't my fault because I didn't vote for any of them but I feel the need to apologise on behalf of those who are of an age to exercise their right to vote (and not to vote) for our local councillors who purport to represent the community of Aldridge Central and South.

Last Wednesday I emailed our local councillors, John Murray, Timothy Wilson and standing for re-election on Thursday, John Rochelle, as reported here. The email is reproduced once again:


Dear Councillor,

At the Hustings held at Aldridge Community Centre last Friday I asked a question regarding the future of the youth service in Aldridge and also about the sale of what is currently used as a community asset; Aldridge Manor House.

I was rather hoping that one of you would get in touch with me (I have emailed you on this subject before) in order to offer a helping hand in attempting to save the youth service in Aldridge. Alas this has not happened and so I am emailing all three of you in the hope that one, if not all, will step forward and help the parents who have children who attend Aldridge Manor House Youth Centre to assist in getting the wheels in motion to save this vital service.

When Walsall Council announced that much of the Borough's youth service would be closing, following the setting of the budget for 2015/16 I was most impressed with the way your party colleague and fellow Councillor, Garry Perry sprung into action to help organise and help those who wanted to save the youth service in Pelsall. All credit to Cllr Perry for his support of his local constituents.

There doesn't appear to have been any similar reaction in Aldridge. The young people who attend the centre would like to see it saved and there are parents of those young people who are prepared to go that extra mile to save the service. I can give you contact details if you so wish. One of the reasons that the parents and users of the youth centre have not come forward yet, is that they need constructive help, advice and organisational capabilities plus someone on the inside so to speak, to argue their case. I understand that with appropriate support and advice there is a possibility that this service could be run by the community. 

Furthermore, it is reasonable to say that many inhabitants of Aldridge would be sad to see the actual sale of the Manor House and more likely to be angry if it was bought and then used for a purpose that would not be of benefit to the local community! There is a possibility that the Manor House could be declared a community asset and for the local community to own and manage the building. This would also mean that the Youth Club would have a home as the council were unable to identify any building that was appropriate in the area when they searched for a new home for the youth centre! Again though, residents and those who care about this historical building need help, guidance, advice and some organisational application in order to go through the process if indeed it is a feasible proposition. It may not be. However, first a true temperature test of the strength of feeling would be helpful. If after all there is not enough interest in saving both the youth centre and the building then fair enough, sleeping dogs can be left in peace. I have to say from emails that I receive that there is interest, which is why I am pursuing this with you. Someone has to.

Would any of you be prepared to call a local meeting for the people of Aldridge in order to ascertain if there is sufficient interest and enthusiasm in forming a community committee that could perhaps in the future become a charity to help save Aldridge Manor House as a community building and asset run by local people for the local community?

I appreciate that this is a lot of hard work for one person which is why I am emailing all three of you. You have as Councillors, access to resources, help and guidance that the local people need. As councillors you are effectively facilitators.



Councillor Tim Wilson was good enough to respond within a couple of hours. This is what he had to say:



Good afternoon Linda,

Thank you for your email.

I was unable to attend the hustings on Friday and was therefore unaware that you had raised the important question of youth services in Aldridge.

Youth service provision in Aldridge is important to all three ward councillors and we have been monitoring what IYPSS propose for our young people and have voiced concerns where appropriate.

I think the best way forward is for IYPSS to provide an explanation of their plans for providing the youth service and then we can meet to discuss it if that would be acceptable to you?

Regards,



My response was swift (so apologies for any incoherence, it was bashed out in an angry manner) and to the point as I did not consider the response to be adequate to the requests for help that had been made:



Dear Councillor,

Thank you for responding so swiftly.

The plans for the Youth Centre have been well publicised as have the plans for all but one Youth Centre in the Borough to be closed, hence my reference to Cllr Perry. It was to close on 31 August 2015 but has been reprieved once again and will now close on 31 December.

The closures are down to the budget cuts.

The sale of The Manor House was agreed by the Council in 2011.

IYPSS searched for a suitable alternative premises but none that were suitable could be found in Aldridge. The Youth Centre was therefore to close with or without budget cuts! The decision was made by the Conservative administration!

IYPSS don't really have much input when budget constraints mean that virtually all youth centres are to close, so I see little point in prevaricating especially when the Centre has lived under the shadow of closure for some considerable time. IYPSS were not even willing to follow up on their promise of a further public meeting with the local community although they did consult with the service users and young people in the locality.

Are you willing to help through direct assistance or not? I don't personally want to get heavily involved although I am willing to be involved. I'm better serving as a campaigning mouth piece as my blog has a reasonable readership. However, I can supply details of one of the parents involved who would like the sort of support and help that Cllr Perry has provided to his constituents. Or perhaps you could attend the Youth Centre and talk to parents and the young people? Or both?

Kind regards



There has been no further communication from Councillor Wilson but at least he tried even if he failed miserably to take on board what the situation is and what help was requested. This is more than can be said for either Councillors Murray or Rochelle. To give them their due, they are merely being consistent in not responding to correspondence from me. 

I'll make no bones about naming and hopefully shaming the three conservative ward councillors for Aldridge Central and South. They each pick up an expense allowance of £10586 per annum to cover costs and help reimburse them for their time and trouble in the onerous job of representing the ward. That's over £200 per week! Now I know that there are Councillors out there that really do help and assist their individual constituents and local communities. They are out there visiting the elderly, the disabled and those that are neither but are needy, to assist with problems that a local councillor can help with and lending a sympathetic ear for problems that perhaps they cannot help with. They are worth every penny and I take my hat off to them and acknowledge the wonderful job that they do. However, Councillors Wilson, Rochelle and Murray have not covered themselves with glory thus far in  helping the young people of Aldridge and also  all the  people of Aldridge that would really like the opportunity to at least try and save the building for the local community. With help, a start could be made but we need that help and it is entirely appropriate for a local councillor to provide it and as I said in my original email, if the interest really isn't out there, then fine. Subject closed. The subject of provision for young people is not however, closed. The majority are not of age to cast a vote but I really hope that they have some influence over their voting parents and grandparents and ask them to NOT VOTE for the lazy, lazy councillors that currently represent our ward. 

No, I don't think calling them lazy is strong. It is my personal opinion based upon my own experience. When Tim Wilson was seeking election for the first time in 2013 he did pop into the Manor House Youth Club during the campaign period. He hasn't (so I've been told) returned there since his election.

Is this really what the people of Aldridge Central and South want? Councillors who are happy to take the generous allowances paid (and funded by us the ordinary people) but who ignore members of the local electorate, ignore the young people of the ward and do not give tuppence about the future of one of the few historic buildings that remains standing in Aldridge?

So I am sorry. I've tried. I asked a question at Hustings and Wendy Morton told me that the issue was of a local council nature, so I once again approached our local tory councillors and have been effectively turned down there too. There you have it. The Tories in Aldridge (unlike those in Pelsall) do not want to know and whilst I think about it, is Wendy Morton even registered to vote from the address given on her nomination form or does she remain on the electoral register at 'home' in Yorkshire?

I imagine that come Friday morning we will have another tory MP who does not engage with all of the electorate, her failure to respond to tweets (on this very subject) is proof enough of that but who in the eyes of many appears to love a photo opportunity more than any super model and come Friday tea time, we will have the same tory councillor who as reported by me along time ago, thought the sale of the Manor House was a good thing. Is that what we really want? Is that what we should be inflicting upon our young people?

Wake up people of Aldridge before it's too late.

3 May 2015

Sitting, waiting, wishing....

To Aldridge Central and South Conservatives. I'm still waiting. Very politely but getting impatient just like the young people of Aldridge.


29 April 2015

Returning to the Manor

In my last blog I mentioned that I had been able to ask a question at the Aldridge Brownhills Hustings that was held last week, about the future of both Aldridge Manor House Youth Centre and The Manor House itself. The question although causing a  dispute between two of the candidates was firmly marked as a "matter for the local authority"

In the hope that someone somewhere might actually want to help the constituents of Aldridge Central and South I have today sent an email to all three local Councillors, who all happen to represent the Conservative Party; Messrs John Murray, Timothy Wilson and John Rochelle, who is seeking re-election next Thursday.

The email is self explanatory and is reproduced below. I have informed the Councillors that I would be publishing my email and any responses. When/if I get a response I'll let you know! This is after all a subject that should be open to all and although it's me asking, I am merely a mouthpiece attempting to get some help.

Dear Councillor,

At the Hustings held at Aldridge Community Centre last Friday I asked a question regarding the future of the youth service in Aldridge and also about the sale of what is currently used as a community asset; Aldridge Manor House.

I was rather hoping that one of you would get in touch with me (I have emailed you on this subject before) in order to offer a helping hand in attempting to save the youth service in Aldridge. Alas this has not happened and so I am emailing all three of you in the hope that one, if not all, will step forward and help the parents who have children who attend Aldridge Manor House Youth Centre to assist in getting the wheels in motion to save this vital service.

When Walsall Council announced that much of the Borough's youth service would be closing, following the setting of the budget for 2015/16 I was most impressed with the way your party colleague and fellow Councillor, Garry Perry sprung into action to help organise and help those who wanted to save the youth service in Pelsall. All credit to Cllr Perry for his support of his local constituents.

There doesn't appear to have been any similar reaction in Aldridge. The young people who attend the centre would like to see it saved and there are parents of those young people who are prepared to go that extra mile to save the service. I can give you contact details if you so wish. One of the reasons that the parents and users of the youth centre have not come forward yet, is that they need constructive help, advice and organisational capabilities plus someone on the inside so to speak, to argue their case. I understand that with appropriate support and advice there is a possibility that this service could be run by the community. 

Furthermore, it is reasonable to say that many inhabitants of Aldridge would be sad to see the actual sale of the Manor House and more likely to be angry if it was brought and then used for a purpose that would not be of benefit to the local community! There is a possibility that the Manor House could be declared a community asset and for the local community to own and manage the building. This would also mean that the Youth Club would have a home as the council were unable to identify any building that was appropriate in the area when they searched for a new home for the youth centre! Again though, residents and those who care about this historical building need help, guidance, advice and some organisational application in order to go through the process if indeed it is a feasible proposition. It may not be. However, first a true temperature test of the strength of feeling would be helpful. If after all there is not enough interest in saving both the youth centre and the building then fair enough, sleeping dogs can be left in peace. I have to say from emails that I receive that there is interest, which is why I am pursuing this with you. Someone has to.

Would any of you be prepared to call a local meeting for the people of Aldridge in order to ascertain if there is sufficient interest and enthusiasm in forming a community committee that could perhaps in the future become a charity to help save Aldridge Manor House as a community building and asset run by local people for the local community?

I appreciate that this is a lot of hard work for one person which is why I am emailing all three of you. You have as Councillors, access to resources, help and guidance that the local people need. As councillors you are effectively facilitators.

25 April 2015

A Hustings We Will Go

Storm clouds gather over Aldridge Comm
Last night we attended a Hustings for Aldridge Brownhills. Firstly I would like to thank Russell Smith and his team at Aldridge Community Centre for organising the event. They did a grand job and around 100 or so attended, making it a worthwhile exercise. I hope that it is something that could be done for local elections and not just national and I also hope that more ordinary local people could be encouraged to attend such events rather than just party activists.

Five of the six candidates standing for election attended, the only one not there was The Monster Raving Loony Party candidate, which was a pity because his manifesto although perhaps written with tongue firmly in cheek does contain elements of local problems that do need addressing.

It was successful, however my evening was spoiled by the malevolence of a couple of people seated behind me. Fortunately the majority did not have to hear the nastiness and hatred that was being spouted towards those who are not the most blessed or fortunate in society. During a discussion about carers and the elderly words were uttered about how caring should be done for free and no allowance be paid. That's lovely if you can afford to do it for free but the majority of carers in this country cannot afford to do it freely no matter how much they love the person they are caring for. One candidate on the platform mentioned that some carers do not claim Carers Allowance because they do it out of love and respect for the person cared for. Love and respect do not put food on the table or pay the rent. Many carers now have young families in addition to an elderly or disabled relative that they care for. They give up jobs and careers in order to care for a friend or relative for the paltry sum of  £62.10 per week and to receive that, you need to care for someone for 35 hours per week! That's a maximum of £1.77 per hour, far less if you care around the clock. Carers save the government millions of pounds that would otherwise have to be spent on social services and the NHS and yet they are treated with contempt. Furthermore I am concerned that if the Tories do form the next government that Carer's Allowance will be further restricted as there are indications that it will be included on the list of benefits that are to be reformed. It is already a taxable benefit. How thoughtless and uncaring can people and political parties be?

Another piece of bile from behind me came when food banks were discussed. One candidate pointed out that it is not a case of if you build it (food bank) they will come. This time the voices were a little louder, "oh yes they will" came the response, "can't resist free food whilst they're standing outside the food bank smoking their cigarettes". I doubt these people even know where the food banks in Aldridge Brownhills are, let alone stood outside one of them and seen the people that are forced through dire circumstances to seek assistance. Nor were they believing of the evidence that was quoted at the meeting about the food bank schemes being run on a voucher basis and that people are restricted to a maximum of three visits. No, they were firmly ensconced inside their own little world where those who need help are scroungers and should be looked down upon. They left a very nasty taste in my mouth which is why I'll not detail all of the other ill informed comments that they made.

I got to ask a question. Unfortunately I was asked to rewrite my question and make it briefer so I was unable to impart within the question that I do know that the provision of youth services and the sale of council owned buildings are a local government issue. Does it matter though? The question was aimed at seeking out which of the candidates were prepared to help the local community. It became clear that most of the candidates knew little about local issues and one did have the courage to admit this. The question I asked (with apologies made to the people of Brownhills, Pelsall etc for it being an Aldridge centric issue) was;

"In 2011 Walsall Council decided to sell The Manor House in Aldridge. Unfortunately the resident youth club couldn't be found a new home and will now close at the end of the year due to the cuts made to youth service provision in Walsall. What support would the candidates and their parties give to the local community in saving this important and historical community asset and its youth club?"

None of the candidates addressed the historical importance of The Manor House to the people of Aldridge. One candidate pointed out the reason why the Manor House was identified for sale; it will realise a good capital sum. Another candidate talked about other buildings being found for the youth club, clearly not knowing that Walsall Council searched in vain for a year in an attempt to find another suitable building in Aldridge and discovered that there was no such building and also mentioned other youth provision in the area. Where? Yes there are a couple of church groups but that's it. Not every young person wants to attend a club that has a religious bent, some find the thought of doing so abhorrent. Ignorance of important local issues is not good enough if you're standing to be an MP and are not familiar with the locality. If you want the job, if you really do care as opposed to saying that you care, then you need cramming sessions on the locality about the issues that matter to ordinary people as opposed to the issues that matter to your local and national party and the political dogma you carry.

My question did provoke a very heated debate between two of the candidates, when remarks about the cuts that have been made to local authority budgets (the cuts being responsible in effect for the decimation of youth services in Walsall) being neither equal throughout the country nor fair, made by one candidate led to red mist descending and the gloves coming off with another candidate. It wasn't pretty to watch the party political animal appear.

In brief, the majority answer to my question (with one exception) wasn't positive.

I have deliberately not named any of the candidates in this blog because I am not entirely sure that any of them are really fit for the purpose of representing the people of Aldridge Brownhills. I listened to a lot of statements that were effectively a regurgitation of their own party mantra. I didn't hear a lot about what they can do for the area they wish to represent. Another reason for not naming is that although I am very political, I am not by nature a party political person and yet the choice before me is about party politics and not about service to a local community.