Community Action Suffolk

CommunityActionSuffolk_VerySmallThe voluntary sector has become increasingly significant. The government wants to save money so they are encouraging volunteering. That doesn’t mean there is much money about; state handouts are harder to obtain, and there’s little sign that the obstacles caused by administration are being reduced, as promised.

I need to declare an interest. For some years I was a trustee/director of the Suffolk Association of Voluntary Organisations (SAVO). It was a worthwhile infrastructure organisation designed to serve the 5,000 (as identified at that time) voluntary groups in Suffolk. Everyone worked hard, although far too much time and energy was spent raising funds to keep SAVO itself going.

SAVO trustees identified some 16 different organisations providing infrastructure support in the county. There was a clear need for change, and with others I cajoled government, trustees and senior managers into considering amalgamation. Luckily that initiative coincided with the government’s plan to support voluntary groups, and so funds became available to engineer change.

Yesterday saw the public launch of Community Action Suffolk: http://www.communityactionsuffolk.org.uk, let’s call it CAS, which is designed to replace the previous hotchpotch of support.

This was the first of several launch events planned across the county, and Felixstowe buzzed as those interested in community organisations gathered at the Community Hub in the grounds of the Orwell site of the Academy.

Voluntary organisations need funds, volunteers, training, advice and a range of services, and to network with other organisations. These are all areas in which this fledgling organisation plans to work. They are not really a start-up as most, if not all, of their staff came from the existing groups. Even so it is early days as they create a workable structure.

There are many tasks to complete, their mission statement points to their vision; suggesting that Suffolk communities are stimulated, empowered and strengthened through an effective and sustainable voluntary and community sector. A mission to strengthen and champion community action in Suffolk by supporting the voluntary and community sector in its work with values that focus on collaboration, excellence, resilience, equality, accountability and transparency.

Starting and then running a small voluntary group can be daunting. You want to help, to serve and have a desire, a vision, to help your community. Immediately it can seem that barriers are placed in your way. Issues that reach beyond your campaign; governance, finance, ensuring that your message is heard, training, finding volunteers are all areas that need expertise, which you may not have.

We’ve seen many changes in our society. Third-party organisations are now being recruited to provide a range of services. The law of contract, which company structure to adopt, how to manage staff, including volunteers, all become issues if your group is to play its part in this new world. There’s now more need to publicise work undertaken. Now we have social enterprises, many of which have become major players, playing their part. This brings a political perspective that should probably become a major task for CAS, as an infrastructure provider. They will need to get involved with seeking funds, creating teams that can work together, providing help to apply for contracts, and then maintaining the businesses that are created.

It’s a tough world that CAS is entering. It will have to react quickly, to represent their members in many ways, and to ease charity and community groups into a rapidly changing environment.

Hopefully they will be able to provide the support that is clearly needed. They will need help themselves, and should be prepared to widen their perspectives, to appreciate that expertise is available and can be accessed, but that traditional methods are no longer appropriate. The edges between state provision, charitable support and commerce are now very blurred.

Privatisation

Can anyone tell me of any advantages the British tax-payer has gained from the sale of our nationalised utilities, banks and industries?

Many are now foreign-owned, some by the national concerns of other European countries.

It’s easy to get a few bob by selling off the family silver, but that comes at a huge cost.

Those industries are often strategically important and their sale can leave us exposed to outside influences over which we have no control.

Recently Grangemouth oil refinery, a major supplier to Scotland and northern England was threatened with closure. It was a old-style confrontation between commerce and the unions. It exposed the weaknesses. The government had no control, was forced to stand on the sidelines, make promises, possibly inject tax-payers cash, but they had no power.

There are a number of suppliers who should be nationally controlled.

What seems to be forgotten is the profit we previously made from these utilities. The government traditionally creamed off any profit that was made, and that left nationalised industries unable to invest. That strategy was reinforced as they became prepared for privatisation. A planned degradation.

Now we see concerns, such as Lloyds Bank being prepared for privatisation. Tax-payers have supported the bank through a difficult period. It has paid for the management mistakes of the private company we were forced to take over (not sure why we had to do so, but we did, at great cost). Now, thanks to public support it is making a profit and so it is about to be sold off. Undoubtedly the buyers will reap considerable profits, as they have done with the sale of Royal Mail.

Yet the British public are so browbeaten they do nothing. They no longer protest. They do not seem to realise that this country has very little left. Manufacturing industry  remains stagnant, or, like the City of London, is now controlled by multi-national concerns.

When will the British wake up?

 

Where Next BBC?

The BBC has an enviable reputation. The underlying principles of its constitution are:

  • To be independent from outside interests and arrangements which could undermine editorial integrity.
  • Not endorse or appear to endorse any other organisation, its products, activities, services, views or opinions.
  • Not give undue prominence to commercial products or services.
  • No product placement in programmes.
  • On-air and online credits must be clearly editorially justified.
  • They must never include a link on a public service website or within the editorial content of a commercial site, in return for cash, services or any other consideration in kind.
  • Finally they must not unduly promote BBC commercial products or BBC-related commercial products and services on our public service outlets.

The BBC provides plenty to comment upon, we could all moan and groan, and I intend to carry on doing so. Healthy, well-meant criticism that is properly considered is vital to maintain the vibrancy and integrity of this unique organisation.

Grant Shapps, Conservative Party Chairman, is threatening that the BBC Licence Fee will be taken away, or given in part to private sharks, if the BBC doesn’t sort itself out. I’m not sure if Shapps believes he should be listened to because he has an HND in business and finance, and has run a web-based media company. The rationale behind his threats is very weak, and will not stand up to serious scrutiny.

It may be better if we all took an interest. The governance of the BBC is both strange and largely unworkable. The licence fee brings in a constant source of revenue, yet fee-payers have very little say in the products they receive. Two 15-minute programmes a week, one on the radio, one on the TV, are hardly sufficient. Particularly so when producers never accept criticism, tending instead to denigrate and dismiss the questioners.

Could we look at the role of the licence-fee payer? Should they become shareholders of the BBC? Is there a structure that will allow every British citizen (and that will need to be defined) the right to share ownership, and just one share at that?

This is not to argue for lowest common denominator productions – the USA provide enough of such rubbish to keep centuries of morons satisfied. Yet we do need better access to the seats of power.

There’s an initiative under way right now, if you can find it. I’ll help you, go to http://www.bbc.co.uk/aboutthebbc/insidethebbc/whoweare/wherenext/ In the second paragraph Get Involved you’ll see a link to complete our online survey. On that page you will be shown the following:

‘Click here to launch the online survey and share your thoughts on some of the various proposals.’ You read:

  1. ‘At the end of each section there will be an opportunity for you to save your response if you prefer to return to it at another time while the feedback form is open.
  2. If you represent an organisation and would prefer to send a separate response, you can send your submission by e-mail to: wherenext@bbc.co.uk.
  3. Or if more convenient, you can send your feedback by post to: BBC Where Next Feedback, B5232, The Mill, Burn Lane, Hexham, NE46 3RU.’

That all sounds very good. There are sections that promise to deal with:

  • ‘Services: Making our television channels, radio stations and digital services work better so everyone gets the value from them they deserve
  • Digital access: Making improvements to BBC iPlayer and making the BBC more personal and tailored to you so you can discover more of the things you love.
  • Creativity: Bringing the best of British creativity to everyone by being world-class in Drama, News, Music, Arts and Education’

At that point you can breathe a sigh of relief. It is now clear that action will be taken, and you can play your part.

Except for one sentence on that opening page which says:

‘We now want to give you the opportunity help shape this by letting us know what you think about the plans we’ve outlined.’

Start the survey and the significance of that statement becomes clear. ‘They’ have decided and this survey is designed so that you can endorse the decisions made.

There is no space for criticism. You are asked to rate 1-5 but then asked to tell which of the new ideas you really want to see.

As a past Director of the Community Media Forum Europe, and of the Community Media Association and having started community radio stations I was keen to suggest that we adopt the system used in France where community stations each receive a modicum of state funding (or Licence Fee in our case), and are welcomed as invaluable contributors to the media community. No chance.

Instead I’m asked to make a choice:

‘Help BBC One stays the nation’s favourite, by:

  1. Investing in new programmes in drama
  2. Investing in family entertainment programmes
  • An enhanced focus for BBC Four:
  1. Make it more of a channel that covers a range of different types of programme to include more new history and science and live performances from major arts institutions as well as continuing to provide the high quality programming it currently offers
  • Use technology to make the channels more relevant for you:
  1. Launch a BBC One +1 channel, showing all the content from BBC One an hour later*.
  2. Launch BBC ‘Connected Red Button’ service across more platforms (currently only available in Virgin homes)(Remember: Not give undue prominence to commercial products or services . BBC Connected Red Button brings TV, Radio and online together all on one screen – the TV – and enhances the enjoyment of programmes by, for example, enabling you to watch programmes from BBC children’s channels, BBC Three and BBC Four any time even if the channel is off-air, or providing more streams, clips and content from your favourite sporting events.
  • Continue to bring people together for big events:
  1. Building on the expertise and technology developed during the London 2012 Olympics, we will bring you a new live, digital experience for even more events across the BBC, combining the best video, audio, text and stats, alongside the BBC’s world class digital journalism, to audiences across TV, computer, mobile and tablet
  2. Offering a richer, more social, mobile, personal experience for the big festivals, sporting events, landmark television moments and major news events

Which, if any, of these Services plans appeal to you personally? And,

Is there anything else you want to say about the full range of ideas we’ve outlined in the Services part of our new strategy?’

It is clear thinking outside of the box is not allowed. You cannot easily comment about the limited range of talent who are allowed to broadcast. The same old faces can be relied upon. Don’t mention repeated shows at prime times. I think the best was Dad’s Army (now about 40 years old) shown at 8pm on Christmas Eve. There’s no space here to ask what the myriad number of managers really contribute to the BBC, nor is there any way in which we may ask how much money the BBC gets from selling programmes (which we paid for). Perhaps licence-fee payers could obtain a discount from revenues earned instead of producers spending the cash flying all over the world to film a presenter walking into the haze along a mountain-top.

Shapps is an opportunist, to be dismissed out of hand because he is a politician, and his arguments are, at best, fatuous. We all know what he is up to. The BBC has been known to criticise the political system, and so must be removed.

I’d send an email or a letter. The online survey is useless.

Equality for Women

That women should be not be regarded as equal to men is an anathema to me. To be generous I can only suggest that such men are frightened by women. It’s likely that, given the chance, most women can be better sexual performers than men, at least they are likely to last a lot longer before climaxing. That explains why men try to disregard women,  Period (that’s a male excuse).

There’s evidence to support the assertion that women are more likely to tell the truth. Not that it’s easily recognised. In a recent sex-trafficking case in which nine men, eight from Pakistan, were found guilty of rape, child molestation, false imprisonment of young white girls it took years before the authorities accepted the evidence the women provided.

We need to be aware of the barbaric practices that are being introduced to our country. As a people the British are docile and accepting. One in eight people now living in the UK was born abroad. About half of the children now born here are to mothers who were born elsewhere. That demographic will alter our perception of the world.

This country has a long history of invasion and of acceptance of foreigners. Our tolerance must not be lost. It is more than just an expression of our national character it is a beacon of light that we should be shining at a world. A world that often looks darkly primeval.

The contrast was revealed to me this morning as I lay in bed, alone, listening to the radio. Today Saudi Arabia plans to reinforce its insistence that women should not be allowed to drive on the roads of that country. There was a short explanation, with no conclusions drawn, no comments made, certainly no condemnation of this clear example of inequality. The BBC seems frightened to question the morality of this approach taking place in a country where it is accepted that women are second-class citizens at best, or no more than chattels to be used by men.

Not that misogyny is not to be found in Great Britain and Northern Ireland. The Church of England has formed a Steering Committee to consider whether women should become bishops. It took them 2000 years to accept women priests, having done that it must surely be a very small step to offer women the same career path as men. Failure to do so means that paedophiles and male homosexuals (please don’t assume to place both in the same class) are both acceptable, whereas women are forbidden.

It’s sometimes difficult to find supporting evidence. Women have been forced out of their traditional environs as the task of home-maker has been seriously downgraded. Our government leaders suggesting that for a women to stay at home is a career choice that is not recommended, and should be penalised. They should be out, working, making money for men and pseudo-men (once also known as women). All will be power-dressed in suits, perhaps with a flash of red to emphasise their dominance. Well, they will in the eyes of the rich boys who run our government. For the rest of us it’s more likely they will be sitting on the checkout at a supermarket, although their presence there for much longer is threatened.

Many women do manage the juggling act. Many are worn to a frazzle. Others survive. In some cases women are allowed to work together, and get on with the job themselves, with only the lightest of outside interference. My heroines are the team of women who make the BBC Farming Today programmes http://www.bbc.co.uk/programmes/b006qj8q. They are interesting, questioning, vibrant and extremely well-produced. Please praise them whenever you can.

We need more teams of women working like that. Then men could get back to what they do best. Sitting under a tree, with a glass of beer, putting the world to rights.

 

Privatisation

There are 243,610 square kilometres of land in the United Kingdom, and the latest survey suggests we have 63.7 million residents. That gives us each about 0.95 acres of land to call our own. That’s not true, of course, because although many of us hold the freehold to our little patches, the land is really owned by nobody, except in our case we say it is owned by the Crown. That gives the Queen true ownership rights (ooh how I wish it were true). Unfortunately her name is used by politicians (masquerading as the State) to exercise the absolute right to commandeer all that we possess.

Some of you may recall I wrote about Pope Pius VIII who suggested that distributism would be a better situation. If you own something, you look after it with more care. Our present system has eroded individual control. The State (those pesky politicians) have taken over practically everything. They need to be stopped, even removed, although I’ll not go as far as using the guillotine. There’s a story going around now that the USA government has purchased 30,000 guillotines – ooh err!

The Enclosure Acts in the United Kingdom removed the rights of local people to carry out activities in areas that had been used by everyone for centuries for cultivation, cutting hay, grazing animals, and providing resources such as firewood, fish, and turf and collectively enjoying open space. There had been acts to enclose small areas since the 12th century but the killer blows to community living were passed between 1750 and 1860. It was a mean measure perpetrated by the aristocracy against the poor, and changed the structure of our society. This legislation enclosed 21% of our land. At today’s reckoning that’s a fair-sized allotment taken from us all.

The excuse for this monumental crime was that the poor peasant did not know how to look after the land. Over-grazing and poor land management were the major excuses used to ensure land was handed over to a few people, estimated at around 40,000 land-grabbers.

This was privatisation on a grand scale, but its effect was no more than the privatisation of state-owned utilities since the 1980s. The same arguments were expressed then, and the ordinary folk suffer now as they did during the Enclosures.

It’s theft now as it was larceny then.

It’s time we got it back.

Is Packaging Needed?

Apparently there’s a plan to start a soup kitchen in the car park park behind our local Co-op store. The churches are working together on the project, and at least 100 volunteers have come forward. Excellent idea for a civilised society, one of the richest in the world. One rumour says that all the soup must be provided in commercial packets or cans. Home-made soup is far too dangerous, even though it is probably more nutritious and cheaper.

That got me thinking about all those cans that will be thrown away. What a waste. Let alone the money that will be spent, no wonder the store agreed to the use of their car park!

Packaging is used to protect the product from damage during shipping and handling, and to lessen spoilage if the product is exposed to air or other elements. As I walk from my home to the shop, grower or creator then the goods can be placed in a shopping bag I made myself. A simple tote bag is easy to make. I know, because I make them!

Problem is much of the price of a product is to cover the cost of packaging, and usually that is not of any benefit to the consumer even though it is unavoidable, who could either place it it in a bag carried for that very purpose and reusable, or have a simple paper bag.

Retailers have other reasons for making you pay for packaging. They want to capture your attention as you shop, or when flicking through a catalogue or website. The product must stand out – look more attractive than its competitors. Packaging helps, and in some cases offers more that the product itself. I’m imagining bottles of perfume on a shelf as I write about that. With perfume and similar products packaging is allegedly adding value to the product. Given to you in a paper bag it loses its appeal.

It’s not just the customer that the producer has to please. In most cases it’s the retailer, who wants it to be easy to store, even easier to display, and eye-catching as well, all at a good price. After all they have persuaded the customer to choose goods from displays, and increasingly to pass their purchases through a self-service till, so they know we will put up with anything.

The cosmetics industry is probably the worst but all packaging costs money. It can be as high as 40-50%. It is often expensive to create. I’ve often torn through the packaging, and those acrylic bubble packs drive me crazy, only to find something inconsequential in my hand, the product, compared with the pile of wrappings I’m placing in the waste bin.

Real money is spent on graphic and structural design, the production and customer testing, and increasingly disposal is a factor. You even see adverts telling of improvements to packet design, telling us all how there is to be gained from making that purchase..

Not sure I feel sorry for the package designers. I know they have to worry about environmental disposal, about copyright, trademarks and patents but very little of what they do helps me, as the consumer. Yet I’m the person made to pay.

We pay twice. Once when we buy the packaged product, and again when our rubbish is collected. Apart from an occasional newspaper my reusable bin is full of packaging or flyers advertising products, all packaged, that I should purchase.

In some places people are fighting back. Outside some supermarkets in Germany waste bins encourage customers to dispose of unnecessary packaging as they load their cars, or fill shopping bags. A comfortable feeling but the real value comes from going to your local butcher, baker, fishmonger or greengrocer, choosing what you want, and avoiding all the polystyrene and plastic.

Try to avoid packaging wherever you can. Leave it in shops. Complain when it’s too hard to break open and generally be curmudgeonly.

It’s your money, after all.

I’ll probably be in that soup queue soon, living on a state pension is getting very hard, and nothing is getting cheaper. Probably because the cost of packaging has risen.

Medicine

Sunday mornings always seem to provide some space for reflection. The pace of life slows down, even though time still keeps going, and for many it will soon be Monday morning again.

It can seem as if that preciousness we call life has been subsumed by work and responsibility. I recall a lecturer describing life for a tribe in Southern Africa. A tight-knit community they had everything they needed. There was plenty to eat, growing locally, the climate was perfect, there was no need for conflict, and all the tasks needed to make life comfortable were completed in about thirty minutes each day. For the rest of the time they were free of all responsibilities. Rites of passage became very important. There was something to celebrate every day. Your birthday, a wedding, a funeral, the building of a new house, the birth of a baby. All life was celebrated in some way. There was still time to sit and talk.

We have made progress from that tribal state. So how do we measure progress? Child mortality has, for some of us, been reduced. The population pyramid has changed. There is not the huge bulge at the start of lives, with just a few reaching old age. That’s often misconstrued. Some people have always lived for a long time. One of my ancestors was born in 1000 AD and lived for 88 years. Infant mortality has always pulled down the average.

Modern science has brought more comfort, with public health bringing the greatest benefit. Clean water and breathable air together with waste disposal systems. Investment in such arenas always brings good results. Medicine has moved on, although a clinician who had spent his working life in hospitals recently suggested to me that 90% of deaths in hospital were caused by treatment rather than malady.There’s no immediate way for me to substantiate that claim but it does lead on to a bigger question.

Medical treatments now rely upon technology and drugs. Both those industrial arms have a rationale, a reason for being, that has little to do with the Hippocratic oath, it is about profit. There’s a simple process, it seems to me, at work. The patient has a problem. Extensive tests, using expensive equipment, reveal the cause. There is a drug to deal with the problem. It may or may not work. Invariably it will have some side effects. The answer is to administer more drugs.

As we get older more treatment is administered, note I am not suggesting that the treatment is always required to alleviate the original symptoms. They say that 95% of the cost of treatment is incurred during the last six months of life. If that is true why do we bother? That’s not as awful as it seems but if the patient will soon die shouldn’t we be concentrating upon palliative care, making sure they remain comfortable, at peace, and ready for death? Instead patients become test-beds for drug companies and medical practitioners. Medical treatment has always been something of a gamble. It either works or not. The doctors can always rely upon the laws of chance. It did work, or there was nothing more to be done. In any case we are all going to die.

That’s enough of a culture shock for one morning. Obama Care is a worthy cause, and we should question the real motives of its opponents. Yet, at the same time we need to look at the structure of our societies and remember that two billion, 2,000,000,000 people will awake today not knowing if they will find food. That is a disgrace.

 

Action for Happiness: http://www.actionforhappiness.org

Sold! to the Foreigner

In general, the art of government  consists of taking as much money as  possible from one  party of the citizens to give to the other. Voltaire (1764)

At least Voltaire could identify who were ‘the other’. That’s no longer so easy. The last decades it has seemed as if we are being made to pay for the misdeeds of earlier generations. Anything we once owned, and took for granted, is now in the hands of faceless entities, most of whom owe no allegiance to this country apart from ensuring money can be screwed from its inhabitants.

It’s easy to blame politicians, so I will. Their egos have prevented progress. Perhaps it’s because time now moves much faster we no longer properly consider the future or any long-term consequences. Politicians are elected for a limited term of office, spending even less time in any positions of power. Self-preservation leads to a fire-brigade style of government, as the press reveal and revel in any weaknesses, the politicians respond rapidly, often providing temporary patches that they hope will allow enough time for the next disaster to take over the headlines.

A leading retailer recently said, after his company were found to be selling horsemeat in their beefburgers, ‘that was yesterday’s headlines, there will something else to shout about tomorrow’. He was so right. We lurch, in the name of the free press, from one problem to the next. Watch the TV news, listen to the radio, read the newspapers and they are full of conflicts and disasters. It’s always likely to be the case. The public wants blood and thunder. The crowd that watched the gory scenes in a Roman amphitheatre are still with us. Terror movies, death and destruction, pain and suffering are now enjoyable subjects for the viewer. How does the Great British Bake Off get such a large audience?

It’s unlikely that we are capable of changing our psyche. People are violent. We are selfish aggressive killers. Just look at our environment, particularly our Environment Minister who is both stupid and blood-thirsty and, it would seem, bewitched by the agro-chemical industry.

Religions appear to encourage peace and goodwill, until their history is examined. Plots, wars, murders, intrigue and deceit seem to be at their core. Really they are about power and control. Not much hope to be gained from our religious leaders, although there are signs that the present Archbishop of Canterbury is atoning for his sins, acquired whilst working for the oil industry.

There’s talk of taking a long-term view, considering our Unborn. That talk is offered as support for allowing French and Chinese interests to control our nuclear power industry for the next century. Apart from the geopolitical implications how can a country that designed the first nuclear reactors possibly allow the Old Enemy (France) and China (with whom we’ve had a few disagreements, let alone wars, in the past) take control.

There are many objections to such a decision. Why aren’t the British people up in arms at the very idea? Have we all become passive wimps? Do we no longer have any national pride? I’d go on to ask if there are any English with guts left.

Beyond the passion, which is not there, let’s consider the economics and the politics. When will politicians wake up to the reality that selling our assets to foreigners is bad for this country. The first suggestion is that the new project will create jobs. You could ask for whom. It’s estimated that a third of the workforce for the Olympics came from elsewhere – going home afterwards with our money in their pockets. A new branch of a franchised restaurant chain opened in my town recently. The franchise holder was heard to say that he would not employ English people because, ‘they are fat and ugly’. He has kept his word.

Jobs are just part of the picture. Jobs make wage-slaves. Jobs force people to keep working because they allow the State to extract taxes. That’s become so bad that we have Working Tax Credits – if employers don’t want to pay a decent wage then the government (yes, that’s the tax-payer) will make up the difference.

Inward investment is as mythical a resolution as competition. I’ll talk about the latter some other time, suffice it to say that it has destroyed small businesses in this country.

Clearly I could go on righting the world, but you’ve had enough for one day.

Come back again soon. I’ll be in a better mood.

 

Ray Evans

For those we loved, the loveliest and the best; that from this vintage, rolling time hath prest; Have drunk their cup a round or two before – and one, by one crept silently to rest! Omar Khayam

It’s not easy to describe feelings for a friend I’ve known for six decades. It’s not that we lived in each other’s pockets but it did become clear that we were always there for each other.

Ray Evans lived in Chelmondiston, a small Suffolk village overlooking the River Orwell, a few miles downstream from Ipswich. Down the hill from the village was Pin Mill, little more than a pub, the Butt and Oyster, a collection of small cottages, and a sailing club.

My uncle and aunt, Denis and Betty Tricker, and their daughter Jennifer, moved there in the 1960s. Denis had owned a number of wool shops, most notably one in The Walk, Ipswich. As that trade declined they moved from Ipswich to Chelmo, as it was affectionately known.

Denis was an enthusiastic sailor. At one time I think he owned about five craft, and soon became friends with a young lad from the village, Ray Evans. They sailed together and as Ray trained as a boat-builder he became even more useful, a repairer as well as crew! Ray quickly became part of the family, and Jenny and Ray were soon a couple.

Many weekends I cycled from Colchester to spend time with Jenny and Ray. Among my many memories were sailing with Ray in a clinker-built GP 14 on the Orwell. We were indeed Swallows and Amazons. The river was quiet. Pin Mill a dozy place only disturbed when an acting dynasty arrived in force and brayed across the bar of the Butt and Oyster. It was a close-knit community, with Ray a respected member.

Jenny and Ray decided to marry, and lived on an old Thames sailing barge, on the shore of the Orwell. Ray worked at a succession of boat-builders, mainly at Woolverstone Marina, just upstream. I recall he moved from company to company seeking the best wages he could find. His daughter, Samantha, was born about the time I moved to London, where I married and started a family of my own. When we did meet I was always impressed by Ray’s determination to work, and make money. He bought and sold antiques, found whilst he drove around the area selling timber and was always helping local builders, often fitting roofs at the weekend, during his spare time.

As our children grew we would descend upon each other to share enjoyable weekends. Ray and Jenny had moved to Felixstowe, with Ray always busy restoring his own house or helping local builders in his spare time. He had moved from the boatyards to act as a  timber representative. He built an extensive list of clients, and was a successful salesman. It seemed sometimes that he was too successful, as he was expected to exceed his sales figures, month after month. He spent most of his working life in sales to the building trade. At the same time he continued sailing, they had a small yacht kept at Felixstowe Ferry for many years. Poor Ray spent so much time keeping money coming in there was too little time for his own pastimes.

Those were days in which a husband was bread-winner, with wife keeping home. Neither of our wives had full-time paid employment during our marriages. We both worked, probably to the detriment of our relationships. My marriage was the first to collapse, with Ray and Jenny hanging on for a few years more. I fled to Spain, nursing my wounds, and it was wonderful when Jenny and Ray spent time with me there. I lent them a mini-cooper during one stay, it was old but serviceable until the gear-stick came away in Ray’s hands!

A joy in simple pleasures and an accepting nature, that was Ray. He sailed, danced, enjoyed a pint in the pub, and adored his children. Sunday lunch was always a huge roast with Ray responsible for making Yorkshire pudding, which he did with great gusto, so much so it seemed that it appeared at every meal! At least it did when we arrived for a weekend.

Coming back from Spain I returned to Colchester. I joined a theatre group, CHAOTIC, Colchester Hospital Amateur Operatic Club. It was chaotic, and very amateur. Ray was at a loose end, so I persuaded him to come with me to the club. With some reluctance, he did. Almost immediately he met Sheila they fell in love, were soon married and started a blissful live together until Ray fell ill, at around the turn of the millennium. It was stress-related. His new manager, a young woman, was keen to make an impression. Ray, who was now covering much of southern England selling building blocks, was her best salesman, and her best prospect. She demanded better and more sales from him each month. It is my belief that the pressure she exerted became too much. Ray was never a person to say no. If he could do it, he would. It seemed he had reached his peak, and no longer wanted to fight for more sales. The pressure got to him, and he collapsed.

I felt great sympathy for him, because I also collapsed through stress. It was a sign of the times. Growth was paramount. Workers could do more for less. There were consequences.

Sheila was wonderful during the next decade. Ray’s condition never improved. It fluctuated as doctors advised different treatments but he never regained his former verve and enthusiasm. Yet Sheila remained by his side. She loved him, nurtured and supported him.

This can only scrape across the surface of my contact with Ray. He was a man I always admired. He was good company and a wonderful father to his children and their children.

He will be missed, but he leaves me with many special memories.

Jenny, my cousin, Ray’s wife responded, saying:

Our boat was a carvel built gunter rig and we had it first at Pin Mill out of the water where it nearly fell over on top of Ray and Samantha. Then we moved to Woodbridge it sat in the mud on the Deben at the end of Lime Kiln Road when it was still a rough track down to the river
Our holidays and weekends were spent on the Deben, we never went over the bar. We sailed, and didnt have an engine, we had no headroom and it was a bucket and chuck it. The river was very quiet in those days and we spent many hours sunbathing and relaxing
Samantha and Jeremy (Jenny and Ray’s children) used to row around the creeks in the dinghy.
I  did work all my married life but I didn’t have a career but I did have some rather mundane demeaning part-time jobs.
His best legacy are his two children and he adored Clara, Freddie and little Anna (grandchildren).
When I first met ray he had two good friends, one was disabled and couldn’t walk and they used to carry him everywhere, but i can’t remember their names.
They used to stay in Ray’s aunt’s caravan at Lowestoft.