Sunday, 28 February 2010

Never on a Sunday?

I have a computer file entitled 'Silly Old Blogger.' I keep in it my various blog contributions and postings. I am a blogger. I suppose that sometimes I come across as a bit silly. It is certain that I am old - well, relatively old, at any rate.

Why I am saying this? Well, because I have been watching David Cameron do his 'without-notes' performance at Brighton. He did it well, the speaking without notes bit, that is, but I fear that he said nothing of substance, which is what many of us expected.

But what else made this silly old blogger feel slightly uneasy? Why, it was because the performance was done on a Sunday. When I was a Conservative campaigner way back when, we never campaigned on a Sunday. It just wasn't done. I never go out campaigning on a Sunday now. And I still feel uneasy at the idea of anybody campaigning and preaching politics on a Sunday, one day of the week when we can all do without it. (Yes, I know, such as the Andrew Marr show is on TV on Sundays, but we have the on/off switch if we want to use it).

So, Mr Cameron may have 'performed' very well but, sadly, he crossed a line for me and for many that should not be crossed. I will not cross it, ever.

Shamed MPs can return to the House of Commons

The Sunday Times today carries the following report:

"Disgraced MPs will retain their privileged access to the House of Commons even after losing their seats in parliament.

Almost all will be entitled to a parliamentary pass for life as a result of a secret ruling by Michael Martin, the Commons Speaker who was ousted during the expenses scandal.

In the past only MPs with long service in the Commons have been able to obtain the pass, which gives access to the buildings and meeting places.

The ruling could help departing MPs to market their continuing connections with parliament to political lobbyists. Former members are forbidden from using the pass for lobbying, but there are no safeguards to stop them doing so.

Documents acquired after a two-year freedom of information battle with the Commons authorities show that 25 of the 200 former MPs who have a pass work in lobbying.

Sir Alistair Graham, former chairman of the committee for standards in public life, the parliamentary watchdog, said: “Access to parliament provides an incentive for lobbyist companies to employ ex-MPs.”"

The thought of pigs and a trough comes to mind.

Here is the link to the report -

I have commented on-line as follows:
"Even I am amazed at the amount of distrust and downright hostility being expressed in the streets and on the doorsteps of South East Cambridgeshire (where I am the independent candidate) towards ‘the present lot’ (meaning all of the present lots). It’s going to be difficult to restore trust in Parliament, but it must be done."

Saturday, 27 February 2010

A perfect day for electioneering - apart from the weather

This Saturday has been a perfect day for electioneering - apart from the weather. I have not yet found a feasible method of canvassing in rain and keeping my leaflets dry and I got rained off part way through the village of Horningsea. That place and its immediate neighbour, Fen Ditton, mean much to me because my great grandfather, Joshua Samuel Woollard (1844 - 1929), was the last of a long line of my family to have been born and raised at The Biggin, a quaint and ancient farmhouse located between the two villages. This place was the former summer residence of the bishops of Ely and also known as Biggin Abbey though it was never occupied by monks. Apparently, King Henry III visited The Biggin in 1238, when he spent three days at Fen Ditton, and King Edward II was there for three weeks in 1315. There are no records of my lot living there until much more recently - round about 1700.

Here is a picture of the house (as it's in the distance, you need to click on the picture to make it larger).

The farmland is in the care of my very good friend, Mr Michael Gingell, with whom I spent a delightful hour or more.

I also 'did' some of Fen Ditton, some of Milton, and some of Soham. The latter two are big places and one can only scratch the surface with a single visit but, as the American General Douglas MacArthur said, 'I shall return.'

I collected my newspapers at Milton and was delighted to see the following letter published in the Cambridge News:

"National Trust's blinkered vision

I wholeheartedly agree with your correspondent Geoffrey Woollard, that the NT seem to be living in a different world to some of us with their 'Vision' or in my opinion, lack of one.

We are now being told that the world population will be many more billions in the not too distant future. As we have difficulty in feeding the current population, to flood all these acres of grade one land would be totally stupid and no doubt the blinkered hierarchy of the NT would be the first to squeal about food poverty.

Did I not read a while back that the NT were about to start using some of their not inconsiderable acres for allotments? If so, does the left hand know what the right hand is doing?

Terry Rule
Pelham Close

My friend and fellow fighter Terry Rule used to live at Wilburton. Now he lives at Cottenham. Thankfully, he still resides in 'my' constituency.

Friday, 26 February 2010

Does one laugh or cry?

A most extraordinary letter appeared in this week's Ely Weekly News. I have no acquaintance with the author, but here is the letter:                                          

"Trust to create 1,000 allotments

Sir, I do hope that the people who so loudly condemn the National Trust for planning to return land that was once wetland to its original state at Wicken Fen have noted that last week the trust announced its intention of leaving over enough land in estates it owns to create 1,000 allotments by 2010.

Two of these allotments areas are in Cambridgeshire at Anglesey Abbey and Wimpole Hall.

The one at Wimpole Hall will be "community supported" which will mean that those people who would like to grow their own but may not physically be able to, will be able to work the allotments through a manager.

This seems a very good way to encourage a lot of people to improve their diet, health and psychological well-being by growing their own food and in doing so, connecting with the natural cycle of the growers' year.

Not only will these people discover the satisfaction of eating their own produce but it will inevitably lead to them becoming more discerning in their choice of food.

Meanwhile, Wicken Fen can help restore some of the real character of the area on a larger scale, and with it will come more wildlife.

Mr Woollard talks of flies, but if we have more predators on flies nesting on the land in the increased reed beds, it will soon be full of bird life to deal with those flies.

Hilary van de Watering
St. Mary's Street

As my readers might guess, I could not nor would not let the letter go unanswered, so here is my reply:

"I didn't know whether to laugh or cry!

Dear Editor,

I didn't know whether to laugh or cry when I read Hilary van de Watering's letter. Does she seriously believe that the creation by the National Trust of 1,000 allotments - some of them with 'managers' - will in any sense compensate the country for the lost food production from up to 14,000 acres of our finest Fen farmland? Cornelius Vermuyden must be turning in his grave because of what is going on in our area and because of Ms. van de Watering's musings.

Hilary van de Watering also mentions me in the context of more flies in the Fens following the Trust's so-called 'Wicken Vision' being implemented. It is true that the Trust has admitted almost jokingly that we will get more flies but I have to say that those most affected - the residents of the ancient Fen-edge settlements of Wicken, Upware, Burwell, Reach, Swaffham Prior, Swaffham Bulbeck, Lode & Longmeadow, Bottisham, Stow cum Quy, Fen Ditton, Horningsea and Waterbeach - are much more concerned about a further influx of mosquitoes. Maybe Ms. van de Watering doesn't hear, see or feel many of these pests in St. Mary's Street, Ely, and isn't too concerned about them. Others of us are.

The saddest aspect of this on-going argument is the conspicuous silence of Mr James Paice, our present MP. Mr Paice, who is described as 'shadow minister of agriculture,' has had many opportunities to support agriculture and food-growing in our Fens. His being big mates with some of the early supporters of the so-called 'Wicken Vision' may be the reason for his still sitting on the fence. His doing thus is one of the reasons that I am campaigning against him at the General Election. Hilary van de Watering stands for 1,000 'managed' and very probably wet allotments. Nobody knows what Mr Paice stands for. Everybody knows what I stand for. I stand for farming and food production in our fine Fens because our growing population needs feeding and our food hasn't always been available from overseas and may not be in the future. Nothing is certain in this world any more.

Yours sincerely,

Geoffrey Woollard.
Independent Parliamentary Candidate for South East Cambridgeshire."

How full of cant you are!

I have just finished re-reading H. Montgomery Hyde's biography of the Rt. Hon. Stanley Baldwin, M.P. (1867 - 1947), who was three times Prime Minister and who headed the Government at the time of the Abdication of King Edward VIII. I thought - again - that it is a very fair biography of a political leader who was regarded with derision in his latter days but who, to me, epitomised an admirable Englishness.

I won't go into detail nor do I desire to get into an argument. Suffice to say, I believe that Baldwin handled the then king with kindness and correctness, which is more than can be said for the then Archbishop of Canterbury, Cosmo Gordon Lang (1864 - 1945). Archbishop Lang, as is customary, signed himself as 'Cosmo Cantuar' and his cruel and ignorant criticism of the king led to the composition of the splendid verse:

My Lord Archbishop, what a scold you are!
And when your man is down, how bold you are!
Of Christian charity how scant you are!
And, auld Lang swine, how full of cant you are!

Thursday, 25 February 2010

Two more doses of dreadful news from Afghanistan

Whilst I was out at Isleham today and, in a sense, enjoying myself electioneering, there came in two more doses of dreadful news from Afghanistan. Two more of our boys have died. This brings the total of British dead to 265.

The reports of the deaths appeared on The Times and the BBC News websites as follow:

If I thought that something had been achieved 'over there' or that something is being achieved 'over there' or that something will be achieved 'over there,' I would keep my counsel, but my honest belief is that our boys should be brought home before we lose more of them in what is, essentially, a wasteful war with no end in sight.

We and the Americans went into that hell-hole at President Bush's behest to 'smoke out' Osama bin Laden, and what has been achieved aside from the killing and maiming of hundreds of our own soldiers and thousands of Afghans? Nothing.

Osama bin Laden has done a bunk.

We ought to bring our boys home and, if the Labour Government will not decide thus, the Conservatives ought to say that they would.

I am not a pacifist as such, and I would support defence of the Falkland Islands or anything feasible to deal with, say, Zimbabwe, where Mr Mugabe was endorsed by both Labour and Conservatives.

To Isleham - pronounced EYE Z-L'UM

I have heard many different (and incorrect) pronunciations of Isleham but the correct one is as above - EYE Z-L'UM - and one says it in two syllables. I know the village well and have living family connections with
it. And Sue's gggggg grandfather was Thomas Moore (1724 - 1799), a 'gentleman,' of Isleham, part of whose Will is shown here. Thomas Moore's daughter, Alice Moore (1753 - 1816), married Francis Norman (1751 - 1779), and this couple's son, Thomas Norman (1775 - 1838), moved to Kirtling when he married Martha Dobito (1775 - 1832) in 1802. Thomas Norman had married well and he became a farmer at Kirtling as well as 'High Constable of the Hundred of Cheveley.' Bully for him!

Unfortunately, Thomas Moore, 'gentleman,' was not available to see me today (he being long since buried in St. Andrew's Churchyard) , but I did meet many others who proved to be equally interesting. Various views were received and noted. What was particularly noticeable was the rolling of the eyes and the looks of despair when the subject of MPs came up. We have to restore trust somehow. It won't be easy.

I parked for part of the time outside the Pound Lane Free Church, to which we also have family connections.

And, yes, I know: my car needs another clean!

George Osborne won't tell us what or how

"George Osborne: Tory government would quickly outline cuts to tackle debt" (Headline in The Times).

The shadow Chancellor of the Exchequer has been at it again.

The report reads as follows:

"George Osborne would set out the scale of cuts required to start tackling Britain’s debt mountain within weeks of taking office, he said last night.

And by the autumn a Conservative government would identify the savings required of every government department, the Shadow Chancellor said.

Mr Osborne, delivering the prestigious Mais lecture at the Cass Business School in London, said that without immediate action Britain risked losing its economic sovereignty.

Credit agencies would take fright, interest rates would rise and recovery would be undermined without prompt action, he said as he laid out a three-point plan of action should the Tories take office.

A new Office for Budget Responsibility would publish an independent audit of the public finances within weeks so the country could see the true scale of the challenge ahead, he said.

Mr Osborne would then present a Budget within 50 days to set the overall spending targets for four or five years. It would also set in train the Tories’ promised public sector pay freeze, cuts in the cost of running Whitehal by a third and moves to accelerate the rasing of the pension age to 66.

By the autum, Mr Osborne would be taking the “difficult decisions” about spending after a summer spent poring through the books of every government department.

The Shadow Chancellor put debt at the heart of the Tory election campaign when he insisted that prompt action on the £178 billion budget deficit was required to establish credibility with the markets.

It would also save money over the medium term, he said, because the markets would otherwise turn against Britain and force the next Chancellor into “dramatic tax risis and spending cuts that were indeed savage and swinging”.

The Government insists that early cuts would jeopardise recovery, and is not planning to make significant savings until 2011.

Mr Osborne said that whoever was Chancellor after the election had to establish their credibility with the markets by proving they were serious about cuts.

“A credible plan is not really credible unless you’re prepared to make a start on it this year. Otherwise, we are trying to persuade people that we will be virtuous, just not yet — and when you’ve been as irresponsible as Britain has been, that isn’t easy.”

Mr Osborne said: “Britain cannot run away from its problems. We have to deal with our debts to get our economy back on its feet.”

He added: “There is no choice between going for growth today and dealing with our debts tomorrow. Indeed, we will not have any meaningful growth unless we show we can deal with out debts.”"

I have two simple questions for Mr Osborne:


Are you too frit to tell us? 

George Osborne and David Cameron have the nerve to ask for our votes, but theirs is a false prospectus, for they are not telling us what they would do about the debt nor how Tory cuts would affect us.

Wednesday, 24 February 2010

The weather is better - at last!

Today's electioneering has been a joy because the weather is better - at last. I could actually walk the streets of Balsham and delve into the villages of Hildersham and Horseheath with just one coat on, for the first time this year and in this campaign.

It was a joy for two other reasons, too, one being that the people I met were more willing than hitherto - due to the weather being better - to discuss issues more thoroughly and to express their views. Having said that, those views are not changing: they are very often in favour of what I have to say and they are very often extremely derogatory about the party politicians, and it doesn't seem to make any difference as to which party. The people hate the lot of them and have had enough of the lot of them.

The third reason that it was a joy was because, when I 'did' Hildersham - a really charming Cambridgeshire village - I called in at Holy Trinity Church in order to locate the graves of Sue's ggg grandparents, William Reeve (1792 - 1836), and Elizabeth Reeve (née Chalk) (1787 - 1871). They lived at Hildersham Mill. William was a miller. Not only did I find the graves and the gravestone (pictured right), but I also visited the Mill for the first time. It is pictured below and Sue and I have been invited to tea by the present owners.

Horseheath was also both fascinating and rewarding (in terms of support) and the village sign told me some of what I knew and some of what I didn't know. It and part of the village are pictured below.

The sign bears plaques either side of the base. One explains what I knew, namely, that the 1834 Derby winner was a horse called Plenipotentiary that belonged to Mr Stanlake Batson, of Horseheath Lodge.

What I didn't know was that Queen Elizabeth I and King George V had visited Horseheath and that the village sign was given to Horseheath by the late Sir Arthur Marshall, also of Horseheath Lodge, in memory of his wife, Lady Marshall.

Ten 'thank you' letters went out from here today

Ten 'thank you' letters went out from here today. They are self-explanatory.

Telephone: 01223-861823.

24th February, 2010

Dear ******

I am both grateful and honoured that you should have seen fit to sign my Nomination Paper for the up-coming General Election in South East Cambridgeshire. The Paper was checked by East Cambridgeshire District Council yesterday and found to be 100% OK.

We don't know the actual date of the election yet, but I can assure you that before the campaign, during the campaign and after the campaign, I will do my utmost to ensure that the confidence that you have so generously placed in me will be fully justified.

In the event of my winning, I hope very much that I shall continue to be your friend and that you shall continue to be mine.

With kindest regards and so many thanks again,

Yours ever,

Geoffrey Woollard.

Tuesday, 23 February 2010

The nightmare didn't come true

I have a nightmare. It is induced by the memory of what happened at a County Council election several years back. My Nomination Paper was all filled in with the required ten signatures. It was delivered to the District Council's offices. It was found to have an error in it. The error was mine. I had to get the whole thing done again.

I had the nightmare again recently regarding the General Election Nomination Paper. Mine for this election was all filled in with the required ten signatures yesterday. I delivered it for checking purposes to the District Council's offices today. Two very helpful lady officers checked it. It was found to be perfect. The nightmare didn't come true. There will be no more nightmares on this score. I thank the ladies.

Here is a picture of East Cambridgeshire District Council's offices at Ely. (The Cathedral is in the background).

I'm a bunny-hugger!

I shall be accused of being a bunny-hugger after today (some already label me thus), but I couldn't resist posting on this blog some remarkable pictures of English brown hares and their young - known as leverets - that Sue has found.

The first one is of a female hare - a doe - suckling her young.

The next is of baby leverets sheltering from predators.

Finally, a 'teenage' leveret leaps for joy.

These beautiful creatures have natural predators but I am opposed to the so-called 'sport' of hare coursing. Please sign my on-line NoToHareCoursing E-Petition to 10 Downing Street at -

Monday, 22 February 2010

To Burwell, Fordham, Lode, Newmarket, Soham, Stretham, Swaffham Bulbeck, Swaffham Prior, Wicken, etc.

To Burwell, Fordham, Lode, Newmarket, Soham, Stretham, Swaffham Bulbeck, Swaffham Prior, Wicken, etc., today to collect signatures for my Election Nomination Paper. This Paper requires a Proposer, a Seconder and eight more who 'assent' to the nomination. The whole thing was done in about five hours. I didn't hurry because the weather was awful - again - and because I was offered several cups of tea (thanks, in particular, to Bryan and Alex) and also because it was wonderful going from place to place and home to home picking up what was needed with little or no discussion or dissent. My supporters know instinctively what to do and why we are doing it. We are on to victory whenever the General Election comes.

One of my calls was at this house close by the village of Swaffham Bulbeck and the snow from last night and this morning is still evident. Despite the snow, it is easy to see the lovely location beside Swaffham Bulbeck Lode. (Lodes are ancient canals that date back to Roman times and they used to carry boat and barge traffic from the Fen-edge settlements to the River Cam and on, eventually, to the North Sea). We haven't had all that much snow, but the Winter is almost too much for some of us. Roll on Spring!

I was also in Burwell and had intended to call on my friend, Mrs Lesley Reader, who is Clerk to Burwell Parish Council and whose office is at the Jubilee Reading Room on The Causeway. The building was named for Queen Victoria's Golden Jubilee in 1887 and was actually opened a year or so later. Meetings of Burwell Parish Council are held there and I have attended many of them over the years. Today, the door was locked and I missed Mrs Reader.

Sunday, 21 February 2010

A Woollard family birthday

On the 21st of February, 1875, there was born at Church Farm, Croydon-cum-Clopton, Cambridgeshire, Walter Clifton Woollard, my late grandfather. He died in January, 1942, following a motor accident (my Aunt Joan, who was driving, was also killed) on the A11 Newmarket/London road near what was then the Balsham/Fulbourn cross-roads. He farmed at Downing College Farm, Swaffham Bulbeck, and Chalk Farm, Bottisham. By all accounts, he was a highly regarded farmer and a gentleman. Sadly, I have only vague memories of him.

The picture above is of my grandfather, my late grandmother, and my late father as a child. It would have been taken in about 1910 at Downing College Farm. If my dating is right, the picture is about 100 years old.

The other picture (below) is of a view from Croydon-cum-Clopton - a high point in our County - of the flat Cambridgeshire countryside. I thank the anonymous photographer for it. I found it on 'the net.'

"Tories offer bank shares for all as poll lead dives"

"Tories offer bank shares for all as poll lead dives" - (Headline in the Sunday Times - see link below to the actual article).

"One senior [Conservative] MP said last night: “The inner circle can crow all they like about how well they are doing, but the elephant in the room is the polls. Cameron spent last week talking about sexualisation of children and nine-year-old girls in suspenders, when there are much more important issues he should be talking about.”"

I smell panic!

'Late' news (10 a.m. Sunday):

Lord Mandelson (on the Andrew Marr show) has just described the Tory bank shares scheme as 'headline-grabbing incoherence.'

I still use shorter words and I still smell panic!

Saturday, 20 February 2010

A quote attributed to Otto von Bismarck

A quote attributed to Otto von Bismarck: "Der ganze Balkan ist nicht die gesunden Knochen eines einzigen pommerschen Grenadiers wert." (The whole of the Balkans is not worth the bones of a single Pomeranian grenadier).

Substitute Afghanistan for the Balkans and British for Pomeranian and you have my feelings exactly.

There aren't enough hours in the day!

I've come to the conclusion that there aren't enough hours in the day. The campaign went to Ely this morning and, the City being busy on a Saturday, we met hundreds of people and handed out hundreds of leaflets. The trouble was that I have to be elsewhere this afternoon and have just snatched some lunch at home before heading off again.

The first task at Ely was to visit Oliver Cromwell's House. As a member of East Cambridgeshire District Council and as honorary treasurer of the Cromwell Association, I was pleased and proud to be one of those who ensured that the District Council purchased the historic house and did it up to make an excellent attraction for visitors and a Tourist Information Centre.

A lady member of the TIC staff kindly took my picture alongside 'Mr and Mrs Cromwell' and I should add that I don't normally keep company with dummies, but these are special ones, though I couldn't get a word out of them.

I next traipsed the streets and met a large number of people, most of whom, like me, said that they were fed up with all of the major political parties. In my opinion, the disillusionment of the public with all politicians is an extremely serious matter. This disillusionment and downright distrust must be transformed so that, once again, electors will feel confident about and trusting in their representatives in Parliament. I have never, ever, experienced anything like this before. Disillusion and distrust with regard to individuals, yes, but it appears that many now hate the lot of them.

Of course, as an independent candidate, I shall be the beneficiary of this in South East Cambridgeshire and I am only too conscious of the responsibility of restoring that much-needed trust.

Friday, 19 February 2010

In the South East Cambridgeshire parts of Newmarket

I was in the South East Cambridgeshire parts of Newmarket today. Newmarket means a lot to my wife and I. Sue was born there; I courted her there; and we were married at All Saints' Church. We have relatives and friends who live in Newmarket. The biggest beef that I have, however, is that only parts of Newmarket are in South East Cambridgeshire. I asked people what they thought about this silly anomaly that helps nobody except Councillors who 'belong' to Forest Heath District Council, which is based at Mildenhall in Suffolk. The replies were mostly pro-Cambridgeshire and something must be done to sort out this nonsense.

Other concerns expressed were about immigration - I want a slowing down of inward migration to Cambridgeshire and a slowing down of immigration nationally; the rise of the BNP - I am opposed to those people because I believe that they are anti-Semitic, homophobic and Socialist; and our involvement in Afghanistan. Well, readers know what I think about that wasteful venture, so I won't repeat my thoughts here.

I am receiving an increasing number of complaints about potholes in the roads. I know someone who has had no less than three alloy wheels buckled by different holes in indifferent local roads. Cambridgeshire County Council (and Suffolk County Council) need to get cracking or drivers' tempers will soon crack.

Two of the pictures - the Newmarket Stallion statue and the July Racecourse (above) - in this report are of Newmarket scenes in South East Cambridgeshire. The pothole (below) was elsewhere.

Thursday, 18 February 2010

And another political letter in the Ely Weekly News - we both had a really good laugh at this one!

"Vision needed as region grows

It was with great interest that I read in the Weekly News of the Wicken Fen Vision and I am somewhat surprised to opposition to the project ('Wicken Fen Vision vital to help climate - February 11).

The creation of new wetlands will lead to a number of benefits, including the promotion of bio-diversity, absorbing CO2 and other greenhouse gases.

With the A14 corridor likely to develop with new homes and businesses, the creation of green infrastructure where people can walk and ride bikes or horses is important to the wellbeing of the community.

The new nature reserve will also act as another venue for tourists to come to as they enjoy the historic delights of Ely and other activities in the local area.

John Cowan
Labour Parliamentary Candidate for South East Cambridgeshire
Goodwin House
William Snaith Road

This letter is transcribed as it appeared. Anybody else spot the other 'deliberate' mistake?

I have already written to the Ely Weekly News, as follows:

"Dear Editor,

I see that John Cowan, the Labour Parliamentary Candidate for South East Cambridgeshire, has started to take an interest in local concerns. I have no problem with any Johnny-come-latelies. After all, it's a free country - to date - but it might be an idea if Mr Cowan were to realise that his office is in Willie Snaith Road, Newmarket, not 'William Snaith Road.' I know this, of course, not only because I use the road regularly, but also because Willie Snaith, MBE, the famous former jockey of Newmarket, is married to Silvia (née Jones), my wife's cousin.

Yours sincerely,

Geoffrey Woollard.
Independent Parliamentary Candidate for South East Cambridgeshire."

A letter of mine in today's Cambridge News

A letter of mine was published in today's Cambridge News, as follows:

"What a waste of good land

I see Lord Smith of Finsbury and of the Environment Agency, whilst visiting Wicken Fen for World Wetlands Day, "insisted only poor farmland will be flooded". His Lordship has been misinformed, presumably by the National Trust, promoters of the so-called "Wicken Vision".

The fen lands in and near the ancient fen-edge settlements of Wicken, Upware, Burwell, Reach, Swaffham Prior, Swaffham Bulbeck, Lode & Longmeadow, Bottisham, Stow cum Quy, Fen Ditton, Horningsea and Waterbeach are mostly Grade One and are, therefore, the best food-growing farmland in the kingdom. It is just too awful for the trust to be letting such land go to rack and ruin, covered with elder bushes, ragwort, stinging nettles, and thistles.

Geoffrey Woollard
River Bank
Near Upware."

The picture that accompanied my letter was not published, so I publish it again here. It was taken last Summer when the thistles were in full 'bloom' and shows what the National Trust is doing in Swaffham Prior Fen.

I don't believe in slavery ... but go to youtube

I don't believe in slavery, but I slaved away into the wee small hours to complete a new youtube presentation called 'Geoffrey Woollard - Progress Report.' There are pictures and up-beat music on it and the text - short spurts for speedy reading - is as follows:

"This is a progress report on my campaign to represent South East Cambridgeshire ... In short, it's going really well and I have canvassed most of our communities ... People are very kind and, what's more, I know I have lots of support out there ... I and my helpers have visited Ely, Soham and most of our villages ... Oliver Cromwell, who lived at Ely, was as independent as they come ... Voters are taken with outing the current crowd and having an independent MP ... I had a great time meeting people at Linton on the 1st of February. It was cold ... In Soham on the 6th of February, I met Mr Keith Green and members of his family ... And I photographed Soham's fine war memorial ... The 13th of February saw me at Milton Tesco, along with shoppers and supporters ... We were at Willingham, Histon and Impington on the 16th of February ... The 17th of February saw us busy at Wilburton and Haddenham ...We have even set foot in Newmarket, which is partly in Suffolk ... I knew it: our electors are independent-minded and many are with me ... Most of them support my fight for our Fens and for our food production ... I haven't met anyone who doesn't dislike the 'sport' of hare coursing ... But I haven't come across Clarissa Dickson-Wrong - yet ... ... and I wouldn't want to, even on a dark night! ... But the questions asked of me more than any other are ... "Why are our boys still in Afghanistan?" "What is gained by them being there?" ... Too many young lives have been lost in this wasteful venture ... What about Leeds and Leicester and Luton and London? ... This General Election is not about me. I am old. It's the young ones who matter ... It's also about respect for and trust in our Parliament ... And it's about the future of this great little country of ours ... There'll always be an England, While there's a country lane, Wherever there's a cottage small, Beside a field of grain. There'll always be an England, And England shall be free ... And at what cost?"

The link to the latest on youtube is -

Click on the first or second one down. It should have this 'portrait' as a pointer.

Wednesday, 17 February 2010

To Haddenham - memories of the Steam Rallies and the Ploughing Matches in years gone by

A much better day weather-wise saw me working the streets of Wilburton and Haddenham and I was lucky again in that I met many interesting people including one elderly gentleman whose daughter and son-in-law live at Bottisham. I knew them when they were in business, he as a hairdresser, at Burwell.

The elderly gentleman knew my old friends, Mr and Mrs Ron Sulman, of Haddenham, who helped me with advice, etc., when Sue and I had horses. The picture above is of Linda and Laura, the American Belgian mares that we bought from an Amish farming family in Ohio. They were lovely animals and we took them to the Haddenham Steam Rally and the Haddenham Ploughing Match, where we were assisted by Mr Alfred (Alfie) Sennitt, who farmed land near Upware and now lives at a house in Ely called 'Dunfarmin.' Very appropriate.

The ploughing matches that we attended were held on the Haddenham farming estates of Mr Richard Wright, of Great Wilbraham, when they were under the very capable management of Mr Michael Church.

Then I met a lady and her son who were cleaning the family car (mine had a quick do earlier, so it is respectable again). The lady was rightly worried about the future of the National Health Service and we are undoubtedly entering a period of some uncertainty. Sue and I strongly support the NHS.

I also met a postman and commiserated with him regarding the difficulty of negotiating some letter-boxes: it's the 'hairy' ones that I dislike and, besides, one can never be sure that a dog isn't waiting to grab one's hand.

Next I came across some students of Witchford Village College and they all spoke highly of their school. I have heard other good reports, too, and this is excellent. Our country relies on our young people being well educated. I persuaded one of the students to take my picture with another student and a younger boy who is busy acquiring some more teeth. It's a nice picture. I don't know the names of the youngsters but I told them that the picture would be on my blog this evening - and here it is.

I also spoke to a gentleman and was getting on well with him until I discovered that he lives in Greece and doesn't think that he can vote for me. Ah. well, I can't win them all.

Finally, I got a useful picture of the traffic junction in Haddenham complete with the village sign and, more importantly, an illustration of the heavy traffic that is constantly thundering through this once-quiet village. Something must be done. I understand that my old friend, County Councillor Bill  Hunt, is on to it. Bill is tenacious and I have every confidence in his powers of persuasion at the Shire Hall.

Luton was famous for straw hat making - no longer!

This picture is supposed to have been taken in Luton, Bedfordshire, in the early part of 2009. Luton was once famous for straw hat making - hence 'Luton Hatters' - but no longer. The town is now better known for Islamic demonstrations and fundamentalism and a fondness for Sharia law.

I have not detected much in the way of fundamentalism or fondness for Sharia law in South East Cambridgeshire - yet - so by my reckoning the residents of Aldreth, Ashley-cum-Silverley, Balsham, Bartlow, Barway, Bottisham, Brinkley, Burrough Green, Burwell, Carlton, Castle Camps, Chettisham, Cheveley, Chippenham, Chittering, Dullingham, Ely, Fen Ditton, Fordham, Fulbourn, Great Wilbraham, Haddenham, Hildersham, Histon, Horningsea, Horseheath, Impington, Isleham, Kennett, Kirtling & Upend, Landbeach, Linton, Little Thetford, Little Wilbraham, Lode & Longmeadow, Milton, Over, Prickwillow, Queen Adelaide, Reach, Saxon Street, Shippea Hill, Shudy Camps, Six Mile Bottom, Snailwell, Soham, Stetchworth, Stow-cum-Quy, Stretham, Stuntney, Swaffham Bulbeck, Swaffham Prior, Teversham, Waterbeach, Wentworth, Westley Waterless, West Wickham, West Wratting, Weston Colville, Wicken, Wilburton, Willingham, Witchford and Woodditton may sleep safely in the beds.

However, in the context of flag-waving demonstrations, I plan to suggest at the next meeting of Swaffham Prior Parish Council that we get up a demonstration with the slogans of 'Save South East Cambridgeshire' or Save The Farmland from the National Trust' or some such.

I have, by the way, used the Luton picture on my youtube presentation which my readers might care to view at -

Tuesday, 16 February 2010

Canvassing was good today until I got rained off - again - and I concentrated my efforts on Willingham and Histon and Impington.

So far as Willingham is concerned, I have relatives who married and lived there and I am proud to number among my friends my old County Councillor colleague, Mr Tony Manning. Because I was more than willing to use some of my time gossiping with an old friend and colleague, I had half an hour or so with Tony, who is now nearly 90 but is as fit as fiddle. He kindly offered me coffee but I didn't accept because, having had lots of tea earlier, I was fearful of the need to pee later without anywhere to go. One can't just ask for someone's vote on the doorstep and then ask to go to their loo: it creates a bad impression!

Tony Manning was for many years County Councillor for Willingham and his son, Ray, carries on the family tradition of distinguished service to their community. Cllr. Ray Manning is Leader of South Cambridgeshire District Council. The Manning family business is fruit growing and I can recall when much of Willingham was engaged in this and other forms of farming. Now, it is a great deal larger and largely a commuter village. I supposed that the new Guided Bus system will be of some assistance to Willingham but I was told that additional traffic coming through from Earith and beyond could be a bit of headache for the village's residents. There is certainly no easy or cheap answer to the Cambridge area's traffic problems, though I do recall the late Cllr. Robert James, when he was Leader of Cambridgeshire County Council, putting forward the best idea for Cambridge that I ever heard when he advocated the construction of an underground car park beneath Parker's Piece somewhat akin to the Park Lane one under Hyde Park in London. The idea didn't catch on at the time and it may not be on now, more's the pity.

Anyway, having become more fully energised and much more knowledgeable as a result of my 'gossip' with Tony Manning, I embarked on 'proper' canvassing in Willingham and, later, in Histon and Impington. Sadly, there is still widespread lack of knowledge of the basics of South East Cambridgeshire. Indeed, a lot of people don't know that they live in the constituency and some have no idea as to who their present MP is. Needless, to say, I filled them in as best I could. The usual issues of MPs expenses, our involvement in Afghanistan, and Council and Government 'cuts' came up. I have even been advised that one of the other candidates 'is a fraud.' I have high hopes that this will not be said about me. Indeed, many people either know me or know of me already and I guess that, if they feel antagonistic for any reason, I would have heard about it by now.

The first and second pictures (above) are of Willingham street scenes and the third one (below) is of the middle and most attractive and old part of Histon. I know: my car needs another clean!

Monday, 15 February 2010

Free care for the elderly need not be ruinous

"Free care for the elderly need not be ruinous

Don’t believe those who say Scotland is suffering a social care catastrophe. Its experience is vital for the rest of the UK"
These are the headlines in today's Times over an article by Stewart Sutherland. Bearing in mind all the shouting in England, it makes for interesting reading and, being one fourth part Scots, I recommend it to my South East Cambridgeshire readers.
The link is here -

Another Tory 'poster' - which is the real one?

There's another Tory 'poster' going the rounds. The question is, 'Which version is the real one?'

To Balsham - home of Sue's ancient ancestors

I go to Balsham again later today.

Balsham means a lot to my wife and I. Sue's gggggg grandmother, Mary Wakefield (1724 - 1792), was born there and married John Chambers (1711 - 1765), of Woodditton. I have done business with Balsham Buildings (see their work above) and the old KNS company. And Jim Golightly, who was head teacher at the Meadow School, taught my daughter and son when he was head at Swaffham Bulbeck.

As well as the Mary Wakefield link, Sue's gggggggg uncle, Thomas Wakefield (1700 - 1770), who was born at West Wickham and is buried there, left a fascinating Will that mentions Balsham property and the Will told me, as a family historian, much of what I needed to know about that part of Sue's ancestry.

The Will reads as follows:

"I Thomas Wakefield of West Wickham in the County of Cambridge Gentleman being of Sound and Disposing Mind Memory and Understanding Praised be God Do make Publish and Declare this my last Will and Testament in manner following (that is to say) First I Give and Devise unto my Nephew John Cole Son of my late Sister Mary Cole All and every my Meƒsuages Lands Tenements Hereditts and Premiƒses whatsoever Situate lying and being in Balsham in the said County of Cambridge together with all rent and arrears of Rent which will be due to me at the time of my decease for the same Premiƒses To hold the same and every part thereof unto him my said Nephew John Cole his Heirs and Aƒsigns for ever Subject nevertheleƒs to and charged and chargeable with the Payment of the Sum of Three hundred pounds unto my Nephew Thomas Cole Brother of the said John Cole within Twelve Calendar Months next after my Decease And also with the Payment of the Sum of One hundred pounds unto my Sister Margaret Purkis Widow within Twelve Months next after my Decease And in Case my said Nephew John Cole or his Heirs shall neglect or refuse to Pay the said Sum of Three hundred pounds unto his said Brother or the said Sum of One hundred pounds unto my said Sister Margaret or either of them in manner aforesaid or any part or parts thereof I do Will and Direct that it shall and may be lawful to and for the said Thomas Cole my Nephew and the said Margaret my Sister or either of them which shall be unpaid as aforesaid to enter into and upon the said Estate and Premiƒses by me hereby Devised to the said John Cole and his Heirs and the same to have hold and Enjoy until he or she shall be paid their respective Legacy or Sum of money or such part or parts thereof as shall be behind and unpaid as aforesaid together with all Costs and Charges that shall be Occasioned by making such Entry or Entrys as aforesaid shall be fully satisfied and paid Also I Give and Devise unto my said Sister Margaret Purkis all and every my Meƒsuages Lands Tenements Hereditts and Premiƒses whatsoever Situate lying and being in Sturmer in the County of Eƒsex and now in the Tenure or Occupation of Joseph Purkis or his Aƒsigns To hold the same and every part thereof unto her my said Sister Margaret and her Aƒsigns for and during the Term of her natural life And Immediately from and after Decease I Give and Devise all my said Estate and Premiƒses in Sturmer aforesaid unto my Nephew Robert Purkis one of the Sons of my said Sister Margaret and his Heirs for ever Also all those my three Meƒsuages Tenements or Cottages with the yards Buildings and Appurts thereunto belonging Situate lying and being in Horseheath in the said County of Cambridge now in the Tenure or Occupation of John Webb John ƒƒoreman and ƒƒlack (in the margin: 'orig. so') or their Aƒsignee or Aƒsigns I Give and Devise unto my Nephew William Purkis and his Heirs and Aƒsigns Also I Give and Devise unto my said Nephew Thomas Purkis and his Heirs and Aƒsigns All those my three Meƒsuages Tenements or Cottages with the yards Buildings Rights Members and Appurts thereunto belonging Situate lying and being in West Wickham aforesaid and now in the Tenure or Occupation of John Whitby David Willows and John King or their Aƒsignee or Aƒsigns Also I Give and bequeath unto my said Sister Margaret Purkis One hundred pounds Tom my said Nephew Thomas Purkis the like Sum of One hundred pounds To my said Nephew William Purkis the Sum of One hundred pounds To my Nephew John Purkis the like Sum of One hundred pounds To my Nephew Robert Purkis the like Sum of One hundred pounds To my Niece Ann Purkis the like Sum of One hundred pounds To my Niece Mary Chambers* the like Sum of One hundred pounds And to my Niece Ann Peachey the like Sum of One hundred pounds all which said several Legacys or Sums of Money amounting together to the Sum of Eight hundred pounds I Will Order and Direct shall be paid unto my said Sister and my said Several Nephews and Nieces by my Executors hereinafter named within twelve months next after my Decease Also all the rest residue and remainder of my Goods Chattels Rights Credits and Personal Estate whatsoever and wheresoever and of what nature or kind soever the same be after Payment of my Just Debts ƒƒuneral Expences Charges incident to the Execution of this my Will and the above mentioned Several Legacies or Sums of Money above by me Directed to be paid by my Executors I Give and bequeath unto my said Nephews John Cole and Thomas Purkis Share and Share alike to be Divided between them as soon as Conveniently may be after my Decease And Lastly I do hereby Nominate Constitute and Appoint them the said John Cole and Thomas Purkis Executors of this my last Will and Testament In Witneƒs whereof I the said Thomas Wakefield have to this my said last Will and Testament contained in two Sheets of Paper to the first of them set my hand and to this the last my hand and Seal this ƒƒirst Day of September One thousand Seven hundred and Seventy - Tho. Wakefield - Signed Sealed Published and Declared by the said Thomas Wakefield the Testator as and for his last Will and Testament in the Presence of us who have Subscribed our names Witneƒses - Thereto in the Presence of and at the request of him the said Testator - John Adkins - Peter Lofts - Tho. Tebbit -

I the within named Thomas Wakefield Do hereby request my Executors within names to Distribute to and amongst the Poor People of the Parish of West Wickham the Sum of ƒƒive pounds in Bread, viz. ƒƒifty Shillings Worth at the time of my Decease and the other ƒƒifty Shillings Worth upon St. Thomas's Day next happening after my Decease - Tho. Wakefield - Witneƒs - Tho. Tebbit -

This Will was proved at London (with a Codicil) the thirtieth Day of May in the Year of our Lord One thousand Seven hundred and Seventy one before the Right Worshipful George Long Doctor of Laws Master Keeper of Commiƒsary of the Prerogative Court of Canterbury lawfully Constituted by the Oaths of John Cole and Thomas Purkis the Executors named in the said Will to whom Administration was Granted of all and singular the Goods Chattels and Credits of the deceased they having been first Sworn by Commiƒsion duly to Administer &c."
*'my Niece Mary Chambers' was Sue's gggggg grandmother, as mentioned above. 

This is super stuff for a family history buff - or nut!

The picture below is of Sue at West Wickham Church and was taken in the Spring a year or so back. Her mother was born at Manor Farm, West Wickham, in 1911, and baptised at St. Mary's Church.

Sunday, 14 February 2010

South East Cambridgeshire is wide open

I have been actively canvassing for several weeks in the towns and villages of South East Cambridgeshire and I thought that it might be an idea to record my impressions thus far. We are probably about eleven weeks from the General Election day itself - most commentators seem to think that Thursday, the 6th of May, is the most likely, and I agree - so where are we?

My experience of active General Election campaigning goes back to 1964 when I was working with and for the greatly-respected Mr Francis Pym (later Lord Pym and now sadly deceased). At that time, party loyalty was prevalent. One often found on the doorsteps that people would say things like, 'We're all Labour here' or, 'I've always been Conservative: you can count on us.' There was also strong personal loyalty to Mr Pym and, even among his opponents, deep respect for the work that he was doing. We campaigners often found voters who were grateful to Mr Pym for something that he had done for them or for some cause he had taken up in and for the old Cambridgeshire constituency, as it then was. I believe that the same loyalty and/or respect was felt for the late Sir Harry Legge-Burke, the then MP for the Isle of Ely.                                                             

What do I find now? Why, no mention of the sitting member, no party loyalty, no respect for any of the political parties or their principal supporters, nor indeed any loyalty or respect for the institution of Parliament itself. It is quite extraordinary how old loyalties and respect, though they were sometimes tinged with a certain cynicism, have become disloyalty, disrespect and sheer derision. I have no reason to believe that the sitting member for this constituency has been on the fiddle, but his constituents believe that all MPs and all politicians are on the fiddle. The old saying that one sometimes heard on the doorsteps, 'Oh, I'm not going to vote for any of them, they're all the same,' is now said more and more often - with obvious hatred in the eyes of the interviewee - and it is very worrying for the future of our democracy. Fringe parties might benefit from this disillusionment and hatred and that would not be good, for some of those parties are crazy and others are quite nasty.

Fortunately for me, a relatively well-known person in the whole of the constituency for several decades, people not only exclude me from their tirades about politicians in general, but they also state strong support for my independent line. They commend me for being different from those others who, they think, are 'all the same.'

Consequently, my assessment is that the parties have all to play for nationally, but that they must do much more to re-establish themselves as honest and credible. And, here at home, because there is no old loyalty or respect for the parties or for individuals, South East Cambridgeshire is wide open. I am out to win and that is more than possible. Others might think otherwise, but I now have the evidence and I go along with the evidence.