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Friday, 28 May 2010

Visiting Richard and Wendy Hill

Roach (Rutilus rutilus) carved by Richard Hill in 1975 and 2010
I took the train to Havant to see Richard and Wendy Hill again. I forgot the number of their house, cycled by, turned my head and there he was to usher me into his home where Wendy had a cup of tea ready.

I restrained myself from asking, despite my keenness to see the sleek carving of the roach he'd finished. He gave it to Jack forty years ago - a fish he'd carved in profile - right side only - from a piece of the taffrail of an old paddle steamer. J fixed it to the bedhead at Raven Cottage (Googlemaps identifies the wrong address) where he lived to the end of his life in 1994. This March Richard took the fish back from me after I'd asked if he'd carve the blank side.
He'd done an exquisite job as I knew he would - adding an eye, a gill, a second pectoral fin, filling fixing holes in the fish's uncarved flank, scarfing a new tip for the chipped tail fin.
I knew Richard would balk at any payment, but I'd been able to dig out a passport of JH's with signature and photo as a small souvenir and gift.
I'd met Richard because he'd sought my help getting permission to extract a film* from the archive in Plymouth of him taking Jack fishing long ago - a day that J made into an episode of Out of Town. Richard showed me a DVD put together by South West Film and Television Archive of him, two friends - Eddie Cooke and Jamie Fox - fishing for Black Seabream off Littlehampton in 1975. Jennie Constable and her colleagues at SWFTA managed, out of hundreds of separated clips, to marry Stan Bréhaut's film with a background soundtrack, and sent it to him. I've borrowed this, ripped it and added some titles and uploaded it to Vimeo (click on the four diverging arrows next to the word Vimeo to get full screen).
We enjoyed each other's company chatting about everything until it was time for my train back to Birmingham. Richard wrapped the wooden fish carefully and I brought it home. * * * That same evening Kim and Tanya and I had one of our regular reunion suppers at Henry's in St.Paul's Square, sharing news, speculating about the future, wondering what's going to happen - "let's be adventurous" - ordering nearly all the same things. "People are vexed aren't they?" I said, retailing recent incidents. "I was in a shop the other day buying ciggies, and caught the tail end exchange 'anyone could be redundant'. I was in front of a large new car cycling to a meeting at Warwick. The driver abruptly hoots at me, mainly, though I don't really understand, for being in front of him. As I left Euston station a man in his thirties with an earphone and a sagging shirt muttered 'Idiot!' I was cycling slower than he was walking. 'F*ck off' he muttered not even glancing askance as he scurried by' I was puzzled but not as dismayed as this morning on New Street concourse. A man walked by trailing a loose lace. 'Excuse me, your shoelace's undone' I called, 'Piss off' he says not looking at me." Casual incivilities. Growing cracks in a strained dyke? The recession isn't bringing visible privation - yet. "Maslow's hierarchy reversed. A vacation that can't happen; a voyage postponed more and more indefinitely. Hope of a place at university recedes; a house move grows impractical. Young people can't leave the parental nest. A business can't expand. Hopes become attenuated. "perhaps it's that being older I forget my own volatility when younger." Tanya and Kim asked me about Greece. I surfed impressions - strongest in their impact on Linda and me are local robberies. We'd felt free of that. Then in early May I heard of two burglaries - one from the home of an acquaintance in the centre of Corfu town; another from the house of relatives of friends on the fringe of Ano Korakiana and I read that Teacherdude in Thessaloniki- whose street blog with images on how things are in Greece I value - had had his apartment robbed yet again.
** ** **
To supplement recollections. The event was put together by xx & ** with Simon Baddeley, Birmingham University, as facilitator. The programme, from 1000-1530, was introduced by the Leader and CEO, followed by a talk and discussion with ** ***, Mayor of *** then two sessions – one from the senior council lawyer on decision rules and one from head of corporate strategy on ***'s structures and processes, a talk from Simon on constructing trust at the political-management interface, followed by two exercises – one facilitated by Simon B and *** *** exploring differences in perspective among members and officers in the policy process, with the final session led by the Leader looking at issues surrounding the development of a performance framework for Cabinet
Leader of the Council: What does ‘cabinet’ mean? What are we going to do? How do you want to lead the council in a different way? Every member of staff behave like a parent, treat members of the public as if they were a relative. Treat council finances with the same care as you would your own money. Innovative approach to problems – whether with officers or people outside. Important the Leader and CE work together, and remember we are the politicians.
CEO: We want the same close working relationships we had with the previous administration. Positive things. We don’t have to broker now between parties. We need to be told how in future you want us to manage things. “We need to be told that” ‘Talk-machine’. How staff see and note the officer-member conversation. Extremely difficult times. We want to be challenged. “A draft is a draft”. We’re here to help you on the journey.
*** *** Mayor of *** - Taking power: working with councillors and officers: What was the vote? Manifesto – respect for detail. How to get it into the Corporate Plan of the authority. Meetings, meetings meetings with officers. How will it work on the ground? How much £? Group has already worked up proposals within the officer machine. A method of performance management – embedded, strong performance management, scheme – web based programme. – In-depth quarterly reviews of performance, key projects – phone charges – detail. “Don’t get sucked in.” Follow the finances – your relationship with the direction of finances. (We brought in financial competency at 2nd/3rd tier. Expensive but essential).
Councillors’ role in changing the system. Capacity/competence. Procurement is managerial but it’s also political. Political-management. Capital projects. BSE. Decent homes. Make it possible for “officers to ‘fess up.”
Relations with senior officers – strong relationships/ strong partnerships. Can take years. Away-days. Tricky but you need quality time with them. Myers-Briggs? Relations with the wider political party - have a detailed performance ledger to show them what you're achieving with what resources.
Structures and decision-making. Principle Lawyer/Head of Corporate Strategy
SB on political-management leadership. ‘Cabinet’ is still a relatively new idea in local government. Can you present your portfolios in 3 minutes? Present and defend each other’s portfolios? Speak for Cabinet if required? These challenges are made manageable by the quality of your collaboration; the quality of briefing from officers. Constructing trust. Recognise tensions between political and managerial spheres. Working where these activities overlap. Negotiating the overlap. Simplistic separation of policy (members) and implementation (officers) not an option given communication and trust needed to address ‘wicked’ challenges. A frequent conversation in political-management space is about where policy is made. A 'fuzzy grey area' that needs to expand. This can be compared to ‘policies’ about what is cooked and eaten in a restaurant. Decisions by a guest presented with a menu are constrained by decisions made in the kitchen about the menu’s content. Choice may be widened; the initiative shifted if there’s prior discussion, between chef and guest, about the menu. Choice-making becomes more sophisticated as the guest learns more about how the kitchen works and the chef learns more about customers’ tastes. Guest palate and chef’s cuisine may - via mutual learning based on conversation, tasting, observation, ratchet up the quality of the relationship between what’s cooked and what’s eaten, making it increasingly difficult to tell where decisions are made about what gets served, even though it remains clear who’s guest and who’s chef. (‘don’t get sucked in’”, “If the chef insists on observance of certain health and safety rules before you enter the kitchen, that shouldn’t be construed as reluctance to have you in there.”)
Leader of the Council - ‘Performance framework for Cabinet
Ability to defend the Cabinet beyond the scope of your portfolio
Engagement with the local population – keeping in touch with the voters. ‘Winning the argument in the community” “Being political champions”. Campaigning
Building an understanding and keep on refreshing that understanding of finance + the way money is spent in your portfolio (and beyond)
Taking people with you → public perceptions
Knowing what the risks are
How you recover from a bad situation
Managing political risk
SB suggested evolving a web profile of Cabinet – first for internal understanding among Cabinet members and senior officers, other members and all officers, and as its refined, the public domain (not a big exercise. With the web so available, a cabinet profile can be assembled piecemeal by individual Cabinet members. S volunteered to help)
*** *** Amy's changed her name and is now in the police. Her formal training started in April; continues to October, followed by two years' probation. With public sector cuts these posts are vulnerable, but cutting front-line policing is politically unpopular with the public.
And on the Ano Korakiana website Thanassis has posted a picture of me walking with Amy to the church on her wedding day and sent this sweet message:
Γάμος και χαρά
Οι συγχωριανοί και φίλοι μας, ο Simon και η Lin, βρέθηκαν αυτήν την περίοδο στην Αγγλία με αφορμή ένα ευτυχές γεγονός: στις 17 Μαΐου παντρεύτηκε η κόρη τους στην εκκλησία Alvie στη Σκωτία, σε στενό οικογενειακό και φιλικό περιβάλλον. Όπως σημειώνουν στο blog τους, η τελετή ήταν απλή σαν την εκκλησία και η μουσική έπαιζε για την περίσταση. Ο ιερέας τους καλωσόρισε και η γαμήλια τελετή άρχισε με την απαγγελία ύμνων, ενώ οι δύο γονείς ήταν φανερά συγκινημένοι...
Τους ευχόμαστε ολόψυχα κάθε ευτυχία…
The posting titled 'marriage and happiness' finishes: .
...the priest welcomed them and the wedding ceremony began with the recitation of hymns, while both parents were visibly excited ... We wish them every happiness ...
* * * *
On Tuesday I met with friends at The Soho Foundry pub to learn, after missing several meetings, about progress on winning support for Black Patch Park. Harjinder, Andrew, Barbara, Ron - our chair, and Sue were in our group. Links have at last been made with residents of Murdoch Avery and Boulton Roads who are concerned about Midland Heart's plans for their future.
There's no money - now or in the future - beyond the most basic maintenance from Sandwell Council responsible for stewarding the park. On Saturday the council will provide us and other volunteers with a skip, gloves and litter-pickers so we can spend a couple of hours cleaning up. Harjinder has been working over the last year on listing all potential partners and the group commented on a final draft of a membership form - to build up support and raise money through subs. We do not seem to be a site for drug users, mugging or other delinquencies - possibly because though full of large trees, hedges and shrubs the park is quite conspicuous from the surrounding roads and most of its users travel to the park from quite a distance. Its relative isolation in a limbo between Birmingham and Sandwell turns out an advantage. Part of our strength comes from Ted Rudge's work in bringing back the history of the Gypsy connection with the Black Patch and the support we've had campaigning from old Gypsy families. Another strength comes from the footballers and the value they place on this piece of ground. The hoped for connection with next door Soho Foundry remains tenuous. Sandwell with many other local councils is deeply cash strapped but at least the Soho Foundry has been moth-balled rather than set for demolition.
Black Patch Park, Foundry Road, Sandwell
** ** ** Very encouraging news about the old band building - a most handsome but semi-derelict structure at the top of Ano Korakiana. We'd heard rumours of an application for a restoration grant. That's now in the pipeline along with grants for musical instrument:

Με το έγγραφο αυτό η Νομαρχία θα προχωρήσει εντός των ημερών στη δημοσίευση πρόσκλησης ανοικτού διαγωνισμού στον Τύπο, προκειμένου να αναδειχτεί ο Ανάδοχος του Έργου, στις 29 Ιουνίου (αν όλα πάνε καλά), οπότε θα ανοιχτούν οι προσφορές.Ήδη σήμερα, στη Συνεδρίαση της αρμόδιας Νομαρχιακής Επιτροπής, εγκρίθηκε η διενέργεια του διαγωνισμού.Έτσι, μάλλον ολοκληρώνεται η πρώτη φάση της προετοιμασίας, της εξασφάλισης χρηματοδότησης και της προκήρυξης του διαγωνισμού και στο μεσο-καλόκαιρο θα ξεκινήσει η φάση της υλοποίησης.
There'll be an invitation to tender and the successful bidder should be announced on 29 June '10.
** ** **
*Except for commercial material sold on DVD of Jack Hargreaves' Out of Town series, I had, until the SWFTA's collection appeared, a number of extracts recorded on domestic VHS video recorders. I'm enormously grateful to people who donated copies preserved this way and then donated them to me, and since kept on CD as MPG and MOV files. Here's an example:
Jack Hargreaves 'Out of Town' ~ Dorset Buttons

1 comment:

  1. Hi Simon,

    Another informative and lovely video from Jack. Nice work, and thanks for sharing it!



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Simon Baddeley