Tag Archives: Great Britain

Why is Chelmsford a Jubilee city?

I’m revising my views on Chelmsford and I shall write my updated thoughts on my other blog: Elspeth’s Naughty Guides: Travel and Heritage with wickedness.

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I do not wish to denigrate Chelmsford and the other places mentioned; rather, I just want fair praise and description and for the appropriate places to win the prize.

It seems a rather random way to get city status – to wait for a queenly anniversary. Cities used to be defined by having a cathedral. New cities in the 1800s were substantial in some way – the ones with weedy upgraded cathedrals had grown large with grand civic buildings and an obvious hub. But not later in the next century.

Grimy markety Lancaster got city status ahead of much larger towns in the titular county in the 1970s. Then Sunderland, who did not have a cinema till 2005, was appointed one – a poor shadow of nearby Newcastle who has righty been one since the 1880s and would have been reasonably called so since medieval times.

Much of the would be city list vying for the Diamond Jubilee honour are largely similar grubby towns (Milton Keynes, Corby, Middlesbrough, Reading) trying to perk themselves up and get attention. I noted Ipswich didn’t go for it this time. Although I have said in the past that Ipswich lacked the necessary dignity and distinction, I would gladly have seen it endowed with city status over those who did win.

Yes, neighbouring Essex too has always been without a city, even though it and Suffolk are old and historically among the most populous counties. Essex put in three bids for the Jubilee competition – Regency pleasure ground Southend with its new cultural pierhead attraction; Colchester, who has always been capital of Essex to me; and Chelmsford. I do not understand why Chelmsford ever got county town status: the drab market town turned City commuterville whose claim to long history was that the Romans passed by and dropped a few pots, whose cathedral is significant as a parish church, but who has little else is of interest save the Marconi radio factory and Shirehall.

I visited Colchester again this week and Chelmsford this time a year ago. I have only been to Chelmsford because of need, never pleasure. Each time, I walked by the river to fill time and because of nowhere else to go. It just feels like a suburb of London, perhaps having the attraction of greenery around it. The only thing over Colchester that Chelmsford has is that a theatre shows art house films sometimes. Yes I walked thoroughly; I went to to the far flung Museum along older Moulsham street (an attempt at independent shopping) and found the stone bridge, and I noted the regency Quaker Meeting House. And I still struggled to fill my day.

But Colchester was not a camp stop or staging post for the Romans; it was a large town, whose walls are still existing. It has several churches and two ruined priories. It has the largest castle the Normans built. It was home to Dutch refugees (these settlers had good taste in where they chose) whose homes still grace the town, in timber and bright colours.

In East magazine, a local shop manager was asked what he likes to do in Chelmsford. I noted that several answers were outside of the town – including his own home. I looked up Chelmsford and Colchester in the latest Pevsner guide. The late Sir Nik begins the Chelmsford entry with a derogatory sarcastic quote. He starts Colchester’s by saying it’s rightly the focal town of the shire. I’ve listed its assets in other articles. But I think that Firstsite gives a clear message: Colchester is not an ickle backwater. We are not part of London. We have a significant cultural venue; we take architectural risks and make sure all our treasures are not just in the past. Chelmsford has no new significant buildings, no castle, no Dutch quarter equivalent, and no vast proud town hall; no arts centre, no producing theatre, no Jumbo watertower (though it does have a viaduct), no town centre museums (Colchester has five, plus other galleries). Even if Colchester does not fully fill my criteria as a city, it is way above its neighbour which merely has the county council offices in them.

It seems that the title of city now actually gives little – no extra benefits or funding for the borough. I continue to see Chelmsford as a town and Colchester as Essex’s leading conurbation – a word which sums up its rival: just a clump of houses with a river through them and a mediocre shopping centre.

I must end with the MP of Milton Keynes’ words on hearing they had been unsuccessful. He claims they are a city anyway, no matter what Westminster says:

“…there’s a saying that if it looks like a duck and sounds like a duck it probably is a duck.”

True, you should hear my definition of a duck. It isn’t flattering!

See my next article sticking up for the 2nd Marconi factory

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On Being Liked, HM the Queen

Much of my Royal/national thoughts from last year’s wedding still stand:

http://elspeth-r.hubpages.com/hub/Why-the-Royal-wedding-was-astute

http://newsflavor.com/world/europe/the-royal-wedding/

I’d like to add a sense of pride* reading a newspaper I do not normally buy who wooed me by claiming they are “5p cheaper than the Mail and 10 times better” and their letters page with warmth for country and the remarkable lady that has remained our figurehead for 3 score.

Perhaps an icon of public restraint of emotion, it is easy to say we love the Queen in the same dutiful way she takes her role.

I have a book, by James Alison, called On Being Liked. It’s about God and I mentioned it in a recent post “Infinitely Beloved”. James says, God doesn’t like us in the dutiful way we may love a monarch – he likes us, for who we are. As much as the Queen’s true persona  is unknown I would like to say, for what I can tell of her, I like the Queen. And in a country of official free speech, I am not obliged to say so a la Orwell’s Big Brother. So I hope it means something that at the end of the Jubilee weekend, I choose to say that. I add with a sting that I’m aware of none who would greet any of the recent prime ministers in the same enthusiasm as our QE. And may she reign  long enough for me to meet her, and until we are ready for the next monarch.

*Not to mislead readers, my usual view of that paper has returned for other behaviours. It was on this principle only

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W/E

I have just seen Madonna’s new film on Wallis Simpson and her lover, the King who abdicated. strangely, without knowing about this essay of Madonna’s, I researched the British Royals and watched another film on the couple last year. I also saw the King’s Speech again and Bertie and Elizabeth  – making four films on the subject. I still like the 2005 TV film Wallis and Edward, by a British writer, Sarah Williams, the best. Interestingly her and Madonna’s portrait often concur which suggests shared sources but also corroboration. Bringing a more recent woman in for us to relate and compare with gives a new angle, but not an entirely necessary one, as I didn’t relate to Abbie Cornish’s character, although I totally understand how a historical figure can mean much and be someone real and significant in one’s life. What lacked in the new film is that the royal romance is not fully established. The fulcrum of the tale is a love so powerful that the King would give up throne and country, and almost family, to be with her – and as Madonna makes clear – for which Wallis made her own sacrifices. But I didn’t get a sense of the importance of that love, especially in its beginnings, of the  from the film, not sufficiently that I believed in all the effects of the affair.

You can read my earlier article here

https://elspethr.wordpress.com/2011/05/31/wallis-and-edward/

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V for Vendetta

I watched this film as a political act at the weekend, not realising that Occupy protesters worldwide were wearing masks from the film.

I have always admired this film, not for its action sequences or because it’s cool, but because it has an important message of solidarity and hope to the people, and reminds governments that they are here to serve us, and that they will not last if they subjugate us and terrify us. The tag line is:
People should not be afraid of their governments
Governments should be afraid of their people

Believing that, I ironically felt fear to post this – hence the delay after Guy Fawkes night – because I do not feel free to express my views without reprisal. But that is not what this country is about or should be about.

Like the Occupy movement, I don’t believe in violence, at all (read my next post on poppies and war). Unlike V, I don’t want to harm even the people who have caused harm and who are the leaders (not that we in this country have any equivalent to Sutler et al anyway). Yet I hear that in America, police are searching homes for V masks; and that in London they forced a protester to demask. And I hate how the internet is at once a voice and also an easier way to have that voice traced and silenced.

My favourite moment of the film is when, having no response from their leaders, the army makes its own choice and decides to stand down. Note that the crowd does not prise the weapons from the military and use them, but peacefully walks past.

I was gutted to see the Houses of Parliament explode when I first watched this film as they are my favourite buildings in the world, and I love all they stand for about my country’s history. A corrupt inhabitant does not mean the building has to go. Since first seeing this, I have visited Scotland’s parliament (see http://hubpages.com/hub/Scottish-Parliament) and been very inspired by the ethos behind this national symbol.

It’s made me think what Westminster’s says: built in a style of a bombastic, violent war hungry king who treated women badly, at a time of colonising other countries, of imperialism, of business men becoming rich, of classism, whilst prisons, asylums and workhouses controlled and institutionalised the poor.
Or I can see that Tudor gothic as a symbol of times when women ruled: Anne Boleyn who I with others see as the woman behind England’s reformation, a step away from corruption and the courage to stand alone; Elizabeth I, who is credited with greater tolerance; and the next woman on the throne, Victoria, another popular and famous monarch, times of great achievement and moving forward, heralding new ages.

As those who believe that 2012 is a special year – other than the Olympics – count down to the dawning of the next new age, what symbol our parliament is for becomes important. I was pleased that V for Vendetta was shown on BBC2 on Saturday, [Britain’s oldest and official TV provider] although I noted one TV guide downplay it as ‘futuristic action fantasy’. My hope is that leaders will watch the film and think where they are taking their country, and before it reaches a V for Vendetta type dictator state, stop and change direction. When I first saw this film, I feared for the leadership and direction of my nation – and now with a new government, I still do. Recent world wide riots and overthrows make this film feel more relevant than ever.

Revolution begins in the heart: what did Wonder Woman do to change the world? (see my summer entry from the TV theme tune). And for that matter, Jesus.

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An Alternative Political System

Tomorrow we in Britain vote for whether to change how we vote. I argue that our system needs a radical shake up.

There should be no ruling party; all parliaments should be hung. Our three generations of current and suceeding monarchs appear more worthy rulers than many of the prime ministers in living memory; perhaps the Royal family should have more than a ceremonial role in our politics. I believe they are no more distanced from ordinary people than politicians are.

I would like to put an end to party politics and have more independent voices in our local councils and in Westminster’s seats.

The reason not everyone votes is not apathy but the feeling that no party represents their views, and that no party is really better or different. There is also the feeling that we’re not really being listened to, like the ‘opportunity to comment’ on the cuts.

Although AV seems quite laborious, I will be voting yes because we need a change. It’s to say ‘not happy with current system’ – but I wish there was a box to say ‘want something else – but neither of the above’. I wish we could say that with candidates too.

We should be able to say who we’d like locally and who we’d like to be in parliament, as separate votes.

I would like to see an end to wards and constituencies, and being tied to the person who is standing for that area. What if they are useless, or of very different views, or known to me? To then whom can I turn? I think we should be able to approach MPs on their interests and views, as we can with Lords and MEPs.

And I wish there was a box for ‘stop running our country like a hard headed business and return to the values that matter’.

I’d put an X there.

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