EDITORIAL: Jan 29th 2012 As we have said many times in these editorials over the past sixteen months that we’ve been running, one reason we write these weekly editorials is to keep a record of just went on over the life of this magazine. I think we’ve commented on an article within the magazine somewhere in our past, that with the advent of the Internet and web-sites, it is probable that in years to come we will be able to go back into the archives of any and every organisation or media outlet and see what went on. An alien watcher might think we are becoming paranoid about history - but history is interesting when you can look at the nuts and bolts of it. Who said or thought what, is interesting. I say this because one of the aspects of our life within Rochford Life is just how long it takes to add different things to the magazine. Adding a small shop or business is easy stuff, just a couple of photos and the basic information to show what they do, when they do it and how to contact them.That is simple and can sometimes only take half an hour. But then you have the ones that have turned into interviews with a page or more or writing to add to that other basic information. Interviews, whether they be with shop proprietors, business owners, church leaders, teachers or members of the Council take the time. In the past ten days we have sought to keep on top of the goings on of the Hall Road Development plans (and that after a large interview with Terry Cutmore) all of which took a very long time. It seems that it is at times such as this that life intervenes with little quirks. When I have a Dictaphone full of recorded interviews I sometimes resort to using speech recognition software which, these days, is quite good. Well it would be if that morning I hadn’t woken up full of catarrh and my obviously slightly indistinct or blurred speech clearly gave my computer a headache, hence I spent most of the time instructing it how to spell words it wasn’t recognising. If there is any speech recognition software writer out there, could you tell the computer how to recognise the words when the user has a cold please. Anyway scrabbling out of last weekend trying to get on top of the last interview of last week with WRAG I cleared the deck by late Monday morning, only to do an interview with Gill Lucas-Gill who had stood against the tide at the Council’s Development Committee Meeting the previous week. It’s always well worth reading what she has to say. From our point of view, the only problem with some of these excellent interviews we’re given is that because they take up so much time we don’t have any left to go hunting places we haven’t yet got on line - but if you come to us and ask us, we’ll still put you on quickly. That’s just how it works. Returning to Waterman school I had what I consider a very revealing interview with Louise Matthews who is a newly qualified teacher at Waterman’s. Louise pulls no punches about how difficult it is starting as a teacher today. For those who go home from work at six and put your feet up in front of the TV, this is worth a read! Also interesting is the brief interview that I had with Bruce McMillan, also of Waterman’s, about the links they are forging with New Zealand and Kenya. We live in a day of communication that almost makes the world appear small (until you get on a plane and fly there!) When I look back to my younger school days, if you’d told me you could talk face to face with people on the opposite side of the world, I would have thought this was the stuff of Dan Dare and the Eagle comic (sorry that just lost three quarters of my readers). Where will we be in another twenty years I wonder? Have a good week. EDITORIAL: Jan 22nd 2012 Who says variety is not the spice of life! One week we’ll find ourselves adding a shop or business to Rochford Life, another week it’s an archery or tennis club, the next it’s an interview with a teacher and then the next week it’s into the midst of local government. This last week has been all about that latter one. It is largely coincidence that two local authority articles arose on the same day this past week. On Wednesday we obtained a long sought after article with leader of the Council, Terry Cutmore, while in the evening we were able to attend what may turn out to be an historic meeting of the Development Committee of the Council in the Council Chambers in Rayleigh. Terry had very willingly given us an interview about a year ago, and when we ran across him just before Christmas we asked could we do another interview looking back over 2011 and on into 2012. Thus it was, because yours truly is still unable to do much driving, we met in one of the rooms of the Council in South Street on Wednesday morning. Letting Terry loose is like opening the lock gates. Sorry, Terry, that’s meant to be complimentary not derogatory! Terry has the broadest knowledge of the activities of the district of anyone that we know, and so we really appreciated his time and sharing. So if you want to learn about the goings on in the District in general terms, this article is a must! Wednesday evening saw us attending the Council’s Development Committee meeting that was discussing and voting on the outline planning application for the 600 dwelling Hall Road development. Having had it drawn to our attention by the West Rochford Action Group (WRAG), we considered this might be an historic event in the life of Rochford and so went to our first such Council meeting. With this sort of thing, with such a large potentially town-changing development, there are bound to be many undercurrents that are not visible on the surface but we just witnessed an orderly and good discussion as to the sustainability of this proposal. Ultimately it appeared to boil down to a number of serious concerns on one side (by those who wanted to turn it down) to, on the other side, the reminder from the Planning Department that the Council had already set in stone the principle of the possibility of this development on sustainability grounds, in the Core Strategy which was passed at the end of last year. As one councillor stated, “We have got ourselves in a pickle” and I think everyone knew what he meant. The ‘serious concerns’ did not sway the majority and by the end of the meeting, the outline application was approved. This will be a subject of major interest to be carefully watched for some years to come. Being open to listen to all sides, we found ourselves yesterday morning listening to the very eloquent concerns being expressed by some of the WRAG committee members and we hope to have their comments on line shortly. This matter is far from being over. We hope we have served you faithfully this week, keeping to our dictum of “bringing the community to the community”. Much more will no doubt follow as we as a community struggle with these issues of what to do with the resource that is our land and our community. Have a good week. EDITORIAL: Jan 15th 2012 The New Year moves on. Amazingly the sun continues to shine a lot but the temperatures have dropped so the other night we recorded below minus three. But the sunshine!! So life continues on and despite ongoing physical infirmities we have plugged on this week. One of the frustrations of being out of commission, with first an increasingly arthritic knee and then a complete knee replacement, has been our inability to follow up on ongoing relationships and it was nearly six months since we were last at Waterman School. As has become clear over the last year or so, this is a school that does not stand still and it is a delight to go back there each time we can, and see what has been happening. After meeting with the head, Rachel Welch, this week we are left with the overwhelming sense of “school wasn’t like this in my day!” Have a read of what Rachel had to say, and you’ll probably agree. I’d almost like to go back to school! Having talked with Kelly Holland, Clerk of the Ashingdon Parish Council back in September, we had determined to follow it up with a chat with Debbie Constable, the chairman of that council, but again ‘infirmity hindrances’ prevented that until this last week. I think Debbie would probably call herself a very ordinary lady and if that is so, she’s one of those excellent examples of ordinary people who want to change their communities for the better, with a serving heart. We were approached a little while back by Tim Reeves of Rochford Tennis Club. As you’ll see if you read the report, the temperature was still at freezing when we turned up to see a number of young tennis players receiving coaching while parents huddled on the side lines trying to keep warm. I’m not sure who were the more dedicated!!! Rochford Tennis Club is below the station, tucked away out of site but obviously doing good stuff. If only I didn’t have this knee!!! We’ve also added this week a flyer that we’ve received from WRAG, the group you’ll find we interviewed back in March last year. WRAG are protesting against the possibility of six hundred houses being built on their doorstep off Hall Road, and draw our attention to a meeting this Wednesday of the RDC Development Committee. Is this a case of NIMBY or are there genuine reasons why this development might not be a smart idea? Well come along and watch democracy (we hope) in progress. If you want to prepare yourself for this you might want to read our original interview with Alison Henwood and Brian Martin, and our subsequent meeting with Shaun Scrutton, the Chief Planning Officer, and Keith Hudson, Portfolio Holder for Planning. Both very informative! Let reason prevail! So there is this week’s mixed bag: a school, a Council, a sports group and a protest group. Who says you don’t see life on Rochford Life! Have a good week. EDITORIAL: Jan 8th 2012 Here we are well into January and, for most, well out of the holiday period and back to work, school, college etc. The sun shines, the wind blows ad then clouds appear but the temperatures remain unseasonably high and there is little rain. What an unusual Winter it has been so far! But the odd thing is, as we’ve commented on the ‘Seasonal’ pages here in the past, merely because it has been mild so far it doesn’t mean we’ll miss cold temperatures or even snow in the coming months - and we probably won’t know until it happens! I came across a light-hearted definition of a barometer the other day: “an ingenious instrument that indicates what kind of weather we are having.” Apparently Albert Einstein was of the opinion that, “one only need to think about the weather, in which case the prediction for even a few days ahead is impossible.” I wonder what he would think of the BBC’s 24 hour News channel that pumps out a weather forecast every half hour? Caution, I note, is their watchword and so what we might be getting in the months ahead still tends to be a mystery. It may be with this kind of thinking in my mind that I ventured out on this month’s ‘Review’ article into pondering what might be coming in this year ahead. It’s only a light-hearted doodle but it may alert you to some of the bigger things looming on this year’s horizon. Still being limited by the knee-eye restrictions that I have briefly mentioned before, it’s not been possible to pick up our usual process of getting out and about this past week, and so it’s been a week, as far as Rochford Life has been concerned, with tinkering with the innards and doing some odds and ends of clean up that mostly will not be observable except by the most discerning. One of the things we have done on the front page is provide a Quick Guide for New Arrivals, being aware that as each week goes by, new people hear about us and come and check out the site. If you read our early editorials you may remember that someone once said in our earliest couple of weeks, “I like your site because it is simple, straightforward, very readable and very easy to navigate.” Well, we have developed a lot since then and managing nearly seven hundred pages and keeping it easy to navigate is a bit of a challenge but I hope the front page hasn’t become too ‘busy’ and still provides the easy doorways you want into all other parts of the site. If you are a ‘late arrival’ (we’ve been here for fifteen months) Rochford Life is first a directory that covers Rochford, Ashingdon and East Hawkwell (the main conurbation seen on a map before hitting the surrounding countryside) and covers all the things on the first ten buttons on the left side of the front page. But in talking to people we’ve also recognised some needs we can address and so there are three series’ of ‘Help’ pages, three sets of ongoing information updates and then seven archives of our ‘recreational material’ for light reading. Over on the right-hand side of the front page you’ll find buttons to take you to general information pages which we hope you’ll find helpful. If you’re a recent arrival - welcome! If you’d like us to cover your shop, business, club, group, school, organisation, let us know - it’s free! Contact means are at the top of every page. Have a good week. EDITORIAL: Jan 1st 2012 2012! Happy New Year! Where did last year go? How did it go so quickly? For us as a nation it may go down as a black year, a year of credit-crunch worries, a year of rising unemployment and rising numbers of house repossessions. Really bad news! It was also, we are now being told, the second warmest year since records began back at the beginning of last century. How amazing! For us at Rochford Life it has been a year of steady growth and we now have nearly seven hundred pages online, with the vast majority of shops, restaurants etc. online, together with growing numbers of businesses and organisations etc. We have been pleased that more and more this year our experience has been that we have been approached by organisations wanting to be covered, rather than us looking for them. It has been a year of constant encouragement and we are so grateful for the many encouraging words so many of you have conveyed to us. We’re just here to serve you and we intend to do that to the best of our ability in the coming year. Although in the more recent couple of months we’ve had limited mobility and in the last week or so, limited sight, we’ve managed to keep going, even if it means peering a little more intently at the computer screen! Although we’ve been largely in holiday mode this past week, the machinery of communication continues on with the help of the Internet and so we can remind you again that in the Square, Bow Jangles is just starting their New Year Sale and in West Street the JJW Designs Sale is under way. Receiving regular updates from the Council we note that Voluntary Sector Grants for 2012-13 have been allocated, so if you wonder how the Council helps such organistions, go and have a look at that page. On a wider front we have increasing been seeking to provide information that is either more Essex wide or is of more general interest. The former is demonstrated by our regular provision of the activities of the Essex Wildlife Trust in the county, and so the Essex Wildlife Trust January Activities are now here online. An example of the latter, which we started covering recently is update regular new bulletins from Neighbourhood Watch, which we would thoroughly recommend to you and so the Neighbourhood Watch Winter News 2011 is now here on line as well. From the outset, it has been our intention to ensure that Rochford Life is people-focused and although we are quite happy to provide just the basic information of a shop of business etc. - address, hours of opening, contact numbers, direct links to web-sites etc. - our preference has been to cover people because people are the community and our ongoing desire throughout 2012 is to stimulate interest in who forms this community and then show the workings of the community. We have a variety of interviews lined up in the pipeline for the next month and wnat to keep on expanding that throughout this coming year. So that only leaves us to wish you a very happy, contented, and (despite the forecasts) prosperous and successful new year!