26 February 2013

Conspicuous in absence?

My recent journey has been a little cold and frosty at times!
Perhaps not! You may have noticed that the Mad Old Baggage hasn't been rambling so much of late. I have, just not here. Instead a lot of time and effort has been going into this. The flames that were re-lit last March appear to have grown into a full scale bonfire of local political interest.

I've always taken an interest in politics, particularly local but it's been more years than I care to remember since I was active in any way whatsoever, be it politically, on local issues or as a trade unionist. Aiden's accident rekindled the flame of not taking injustice lying down, so in a way West Midlands Police are to blame for what happened to me one Friday night back in November when the Save Walsall's Green Spaces and Countryside Services was born. I had blogged about my fears for Walsall's Green Spaces before that night but the passion that I felt for this exceptional service run by Walsall Council hit me like a sledgehammer that night (or perhaps it was one glass too many of red wine?) and I knew I couldn't let the council make the budget cuts they were talking about without at least trying to persuade them that there was a path to insanity.

The Campaign became my whole life for a while. I had a steep learning curve to negotiate reading every set of minutes of appropriate committees, examining the new Green Spaces Strategy adopted by Walsall Council, discovering that more could be learned by what hadn't made it into the final Strategy compared with the very successful earlier strategy and reading all manner of reports on parks, green spaces and local nature reserves. Lots of lovely people got in touch with me and helped so much with ideas, information and general advice. I'm not going to name them but you know who you are. Thank you.

The Facebook Group became a lively affair and I discovered that although we all shared a common bond, that didn't necessarily mean that there was agreement about how we should pursue the campaign! Administration work, keeping the blog and Group fully updated ate into my time and then thankfully because I organised a protest outside the Town Hall, the media became interested and in particular BBC WM. Adrian Goldberg must have got fed up with all my umms and errs as week by week I got invited to comment on his engaging morning phone in programme.

On the whole I have enjoyed the experience although at times it has been incredibly stressful. Being invited to give a presentation at a Council Cabinet Meeting was approached with nervous dread and days of preparations but in the end it was actually far less intimidating than meeting senior council officers. The reception was polite and courteous and I felt that the majority of Cabinet members had listened to me and therefore all the voices I was honoured to be representing, albeit there was never any vote for me!

The campaign has had it's dark side too. It is unfortunate that when you stick your head above the parapet some people, with all the backbone of a jellyfish, feel it is their right to email you anonymously and insult and threaten intimidation, name calling along the way. Fortunately it proved to be isolated and although I was shocked at first, I didn't think about it for very long. I've been called worse though usually I did know who was slinging the stones!

The situation with Walsall's Green Spaces has yet to be put to bed, it probably never will be in all honesty but that's OK because I'm not going anywhere. I've enjoyed this experience and feel that I have learned a lot and grown as a person even more. What's more, every time there is a full council meeting I get a night of free entertainment courtesy of our councillors, one or two of whom could do with learning some manners, by attending. I intend to continue and see where this path I've fallen onto takes me and enjoy the walk along the way.

If you're a user or a friend or a worker in any of Walsall's Green Spaces including allotments, nature reserves, parks, village greens or even that bit of scrub down the bottom of the road, you may wish to pop along and 'like' this.

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