Saturday, 26 March 2011

Never mind the fancy cakes - hear the anger!

Fancy cakes for Friends of
Gloucestershire Libraries -
or that's what the BBC think...
(1)  Oh dear. I thought this might be the case... Somewhere on the edge of Northleach Market Square lives a bloke who works nights. Who is not happy of a Saturday morning when my bell clangs and my bellow rattles the windows... I already leave the 'Shout' until late morning, on my own account; by lunchtime it's all gone quiet. What a dilemma...

(2)  In other news... Friends of Gloucestershire Libraries are marching through London as I type. The march is against all cuts: not exactly our message, but it's feet on the street that count now.

And yes, FoGL were in that twee little clip on BBC News At Ten (Friday 25 March). As you've read elsewhere, we support the continued provision of free libraries accessible to everyone. The group includes people from all walks of life - but sadly only those of us with time and energy to spare can get on telly. Those who are grafting to keep a roof over their heads have little chance to be seen or heard; as usual... So never mind the images of Cotswold cottages and fancy cake stands, hear our worry and anger..!

See my kitchen on tv as Northleach, nearby countryside and some of the FoGLs appeared in spring sunshine on BBC News At Ten...  The pro cuts person interviewed after us had a very scant, shivering group of supporters and felt obliged to try to look popular by set dressing with purple balloons. Smells of desperation to me, but then I would say that wouldn't I?!

Half the fun of being filmed was meeting the unexpectedly tasty Mark Easton, BBC home editor, who is decidedly more delicious in person than on screen.  I suspect he wanted to take the mickey out of us but couldn't quite do so, given our serious and deep concerns... See for yourself at Mark Easton's blog (click on this link).

A busy week, then, what with re-inventing my performance work, too!

Friday, 4 February 2011

Do They Think We're Stupid, or What?!

Perhaps this should go on the new crime map..? Probably Britain’s politest pressure group, the Friends of Gloucestershire Libraries have been elbowed out of their democratic rights by Gloucestershire County Council.

In what look like bizarre breaches of county Constitution, GCC only allowed a campaign representative to address the 2 February council cabinet meeting after councillors had voted. What’s more, GCC also appears to have held back documents relating to the debate - that should have been available for public scrutiny at least five days in advance.

FoGL didn’t see a word, as they prepared their submission to the debate. They were also bracing themselves for another torrent of whispering and sniggering from Conservative councillors, as meted out on 19 January to the last FoGL representative who dared to ask questions at Shire Hall.

Ordered to be quiet
A campaign supporter who observed the 2 February debate described how the FoGL representative ‘made a very eloquent and powerful speech, which drew spontaneous, loud and prolonged applause from we spectators.’ GCC Council Leader, Mark Hawthorne ordered visitors to be quiet with the words, "This is a public meeting". Back shot the answer: "We are the public".

While the irony apparently failed to register with Coun. Hawthorne, the debate observer noted that some of the councillors looked embarrassed.

Decisions announced before 'consultation' ends
So they should. In another twist of the rules, Gloucestershire County Council is trumpeting a ‘new package’ and ‘additional money’ for libraries – formally announcing on 31 January a done deal 48 hours before the formal debate in county cabinet. The decision has also been announced before the final four Library Drop-In Consultation days and before the county’s online consultation closes on 11 February.

I told myself I was too cynical in thinking the Library Consultation looked fake and fixed. With GCC smirking in its press release that that it has ‘listened to people’s comments’ it seems I wasn’t nearly cynical enough.

Council leaders leaped to brand FoGL a “vocal minority” when the group asked for an independent review of GCC’s destructive proposals. They dismiss FoGL as ‘middle class’. Obviously many councillors (dominated by good ol’ green welly Conservatives) are unable to grasp that some people can act altruistically, on behalf of others who are less able – or too ground down with work and financial worries – to speak up for themselves.

Bus services to be slashed, too
County cabinet members insist they must be ‘more concerned about maintaining the services for Children, Vulnerable Adults, Fire and Police and Highways than Libraries’. But they choose to ignore how concurrent plans to slash bus services – already notoriously poor in rural Gloucestershire – will cut off people’s access to libraries, doctors and hospitals; let alone social or community activities that make life worth living.

Rural and urban poverty in Gloucestershire are already some of the worst in Britain. From where I stand, in the wilds of the Cotswolds - paying council tax through the nose for services being stripped away by the year - I’d say our council under the heel of our shiny new government is hellbent on making life unbearable.

And then government has the screaming cheek to start a national survey us on our state of happiness. ALL RIGHT – LET’S TELL ‘EM.

  • Some 10,600 people signed a petition - collected in December's snow - asking for less damaging cuts to library services. The petition continues: now up to more than 13,000 signatures today [4 Feb 2011]
  • Gloucestershire County Council's plans are in its Library Service Consultation - which is allegedly open until 11 February 2011, although they're making decisions NOW...  
  • Information on the campaign to save Gloucestershire Libraries from 69% cuts (26% in 2009 + 43% now proposed) is at the Friends of Gloucestershire Libraries website

Friday, 7 January 2011

Your library needs YOU

Thanks to everyone who signed the Friends of Gloucestershire Libraries petition as I lurked in the snow and ice over Christmas (!)

On 5 January I joined FoGL ( ( ) supporters to hand in to Shire Hall a 10,600 signature petition. It asks Gloucestershire County Council to review proposed 43% cuts to Gloucestershire libraries. GCC’s plan is based on an earlier ‘consultation’ with less than 1% of Gloucestershire people. Other county services will be cut by ‘only’ 28%.

Bourton on the Water library is the local library for everyone in Northleach and surrounding villages. It faces being reduced to a ‘Library Link’. It will have a tiny book stock, ‘self service’ lending, library staff on site for only three hours a week – and absolute dependence on a ‘partner’ and volunteers to keep the Library Link open at all.

Mobile and Homelink (housebound/care home) Services are to be axed.

Bourton has been my local library for 15 years. If it’s not available – and I fear GCC’s hidden plan is to close many libraries altogether, for ever – then for me it’s a 24 mile round trip (half a day on buses, and dangerous walking beside main roads) to Stow, Cirencester or Cheltenham.

We risk losing all those free or cheap library services, from DVD and games hire to magazines, children’s books and computer/internet access. Just when family budgets get so tight they squeak, we won’t be able to borrow books – just buy them....

•    Bourton Library serves surrounding communities where public transport doesn’t reach. Many of us already struggle to get to a library – what are we supposed to do without Mobile and Homelink services?

•    It’s nearly impossible to reach other libraries without a car, anyway. Lots of people around Northleach don’t have cars, or the internet, or cosy green wellie lifestyles. You just try waiting for and getting on a bus with toddlers in tow, or you’re elderly or disabled, or you’ve just got a bad back like I had all over Xmas! Nightmare!
     And even if you can drive, all the workaday and tourist traffic makes it hard to park anywhere near a main library. If you can afford the parking fees. You probably won’t be cycling the A429 Fosse Way, or the A40, much less your children… So: more driving. More wearing out of roads. More damage to our environment. Hmm…

•    If you work 9-5, could you get to a library between 9am-5pm or 10am-6pm? These are the weekday opening hours proposed for ALL Gloucestershire libraries. Or have you got time for a library visit 9am-1pm on your hectic Saturday mornings?

•    A ‘self service’ Library Link would be a high risk environment. Who will supervise safety? Who will supervise children? Who will prevent theft of stock including games and DVDs?

•    When Bourton library user numbers fall and security problems increase, probably within 2 years, I believe GCC will seize the chance to close Bourton Library for ever. 

•    Have you got the time or wealth to work unpaid? Librarians need many skills. Do you know stock management, the Dewey Decimal catalogue system, book search and ordering, and information technology? Are you excellent at customer care? Who will pay for volunteers’ training? Who will pay for volunteers’ CRB checks and how often will these be renewed?
-    By the way, GCC costings given to Parish Councils about taking on link/volunteer libraries are said to be incomplete or inaccurate.

•    Is it right for library staff to lose their jobs and then to be replaced by unpaid, unskilled volunteers?

While all county services must make savings, libraries cost only 1.46% of total GCC budget spending – yet are facing 2.3% of total cuts. This is unfair, too much and too fast.

What you can do

•    Sign the continuing petition either on paper or online at . This site updates almost daily about campaign actions and GCC responses. FoGL hopes to hold a Celebration of Libraries on Saturday 5 February.

•    Tell your family, friends and neighbours about Bourton Library and about the threats to Gloucestershire libraries in general. Involve your sports or social club. Go to council meetings! Ask questions! Be fully informed by reading GCC’s Libraries Proposal at  or call 01452 425000 to get a copy posted to you.

•    Write, phone or email your objections as a Bourton library user to Bourton Parish Council, Council Offices, 8 Victoria Street, Bourton on the Water GL54 2BT. Email .  Tel 01451 820712 Tues, Weds, Thurs 12.30-3.30pm.

•    Contact your District Councillors at Cotswold District Council.
-    For Northleach with Eastington: Mark Tufnell. Tel 01285 623888. Email:  
-    For Bourton on the Water (contact as a Bourton library user) Sheila Jeffery: tel 01451 822548, email
-    For Bourton on the Water (contact as a Bourton library user) Len Wilkins: tel 01451 821063, email . Postal addresses on the CDC website . Or phone CDC on 01285 623000.

•    Contact your Gloucestershire County Councillor – Cllr. Fiona McKenzie (Conservative). Tel 01242 890451 . Email: . Postal address from  or phone Gloucestershire County Council 01452 425000.

•    Contact your MP: Geoffrey Clifton Brown. His constituency office address is Unit 1143 Regent Court, Gloucester Business Park, Hucclecote GL3 4AD.  Tel 01452 371630. Email: .

If Bourton on the Water reduces or loses its library service, life for people in Northleach and surrounding communities will be poorer. Your children’s life chances will be damaged. PLEASE – stand up for fairer cuts. Ask Bourton Parish Council NOT to take on the expensive liability of a Library Link.

“Our libraries didn’t even close during World War 2,” a Gloucestershire senior citizen said. Shall we now submit to government measures that not even the Nazis could force upon us?

More information at:

Friends of Gloucestershire Libraries   

About Chloƫ:

Monday, 3 January 2011

Ding Dong - it's 2011

"To the citizens of Northleach, and to our visitors from around the world, the Town Crier of Northleach wishes you all a healthy, happy New Year."

Thursday, 23 December 2010

Ding Dong Merrily

Er.. yes.. well – it’s a bit difficult with short legs. Walking through Cotswold snow, that is. [Think portly dachshund…] Let alone ringing my bell in Northleach Town Square. It’s that icy, I worry if I swing my arm to ringadingding, I’ll go base over apex! And we wouldn’t want to dent the Bell, or the Hat…

But I’m conscious of my duty and, if it’s not actually blizzarding on Christmas Eve or Christmas Day, then I’ll tramp down from the farm and make a few icicles quiver.

Probably followed by throat medicine at a hostelry or two?! Everyone is working so hard to keep things comfy and warm. At the Red Lion, they were already cheering things up with what looked like a proper Yule Log. And I hadn’t understood why the wine bar was looking so smart – eyecatching new white-on-blue sign, cool new tables and chairs. Turns out The Ox House is our good old wine shop/bar/coffee shop under new management. The connoisseur wine business Savage Selection continues in upstairs offices. Downstairs continues with cosy fireside, mellow wooden floor and twinkly ceiling. Quite apart from comfortable evenings of wine and natter, it is so civilized to be able to enjoy a snifter of something restorative along with good coffee!

Merry Christmas to one and all!

Tuesday, 26 October 2010

The Day of the Dinosaur (is over)

Last Saturday I didn't go out and shout. Partly because I've had a tickly throat and damp cold does not help - in the context of imminent Hallowe'en performances: 6 storytelling events [my main work] in the next 5 days.

Partly I was feeling just a teency bit discouraged. My fault.. mostly...

The preceding Saturday had been fine and I was in good voice. Visitors to church and museum wandered around the square enjoying it all.

I was sauntering about in the sunshine when I became aware of raised voices. A woman visitor had parked in probably not the most sensible spot near the Post Office. A man had emerged from a local hostelry and, looming over the lady, was haranguing her. It was startling. His voice was rich and cultured, he wore majestic corduroys. He had a quilted gilet, for goodness' sakes. His complaint was that his vintage landrover [with limited turning circle] was now blocked into its parking spot by the unfortunate positioning of the visitor's vehicle. His outburst continued, no foul language but notably rising in volume and venom. It included his opinion that "We don't want all you foreigners around here anyway."

The woman regarded him steadily, not retreating a step. She was slim, grey and soberly dressed. In a quiet transatlantic accent she said, "I was quite ready to move the car. I can see it's not in the best place. But if you speak to me like that, I'm not gonna move at all."

Oh, how I admired her nerve. She didn't need any help... But then Haranguing Man growled, "So you won't mind if I have to smash into your car when I want to drive out of here."

I straightened my tricorne, hummed a few notes of 'The Good, the Bad & the Ugly', and stepped between them.

"Sir, would you like to moderate your language?"

Haranguing Man glared at me. "What's it to do with you?! Who d'you think you are? Are you a special constable?!"

Oh dear. He was terribly cross. And very large. I had to bluff. I put on my stern teacher face and voice. With a face like mine, that's quite daunting.

"I'm the Town Crier and I have a civic duty!"

Haranguing Man rumbled on for a few more moments but he'd spent his energy, like a thunderstorm fading over the hills. It was not clear to me if he'd been quaffing.

Presently I was able to help the visitor lady secure a different, less stressful parking place in the square.  We chatted in the sunshine. I felt obliged to explain that she'd been unlucky to encounter one of the town's handful of surviving dinosaurs. She seemed happy to accept that Northleach is in fact a friendly, welcoming town.

Now let's put aside the Bertie Wooster banter... I was more shaken by that little incident than the visitor lady was. Yes, I chose to step in - but in a very small way I'm part of the public face of Northleach and I will not stand aside while a visitor (or anyone else) is spoken to in such an aggressive manner. I am not someone who stands aside.

I'm delighted to say I am not acquainted with Haranguing Man. I probably know where he drinks, and some of his friends. His out-of-control temper makes me wonder if his life is currently troubled...

But the thought of having to stand in the square last Saturday and endure stares, glares and deliberately half hushed jeers from the Saturday lunchtime redneck clique in a certain establishment... well, it put me right off my Shouting.

I'll get over it.

Wednesday, 29 September 2010

Chloƫ the Town Crier and the Blustery Day

It was what my favourite writer calls a lazy wind: it can’t be bothered going round you so it goes straight through you instead.  From the north.  I’ve been Town Crier for Northleach since 2004 (and grew up in Cambridge during the 1960s with no central heating) so I know how to wrap up warm.  It’s not all laid-down wine gums under that fancy grey coat, you know!

But young Callum, my new Junior Town Crier accomplice, was looking shivery in my sleeveless red velvet long waistcoat.  He was wearing a white school shirt, as instructed, but it was short sleeved.  Not that he said a word of complaint.  I just noticed his arms turning blue!

All dramatically different from Charter Fair Day last June, when Callum was recruited and I ditched my formal gear in favour of a Caribbean style loose tunic, in dayglow yellow – for sheer fear of fainting in the heat!  But I still wore the black tricorne.  Mind you, evidence suggests this is not a look to repeat in normal conditions...

Last Sunday 26 September, we were on duty for the first and hopefully annual Northleach School Fete.  Under lowering skies and a dreadful forecast.

The cold couldn’t dent Callum’s volume, however.  He has a clear voice and plenty of enthusiasm (and looks good in a pirate hat).  We did a Shout together in the Market Square at 2pm to pull in the punters.  Plenty of returnees from the morning’s NSPCC Car Boot Sale at Lodge Park NT.  Then we opened the Fete at 2.30pm.  Callum was word perfect.  (Thanks to mum Terri for the mini bell, too!)

All the fun of the fete was happening right across Northleach’s King George V Sports Field.  The aforementioned breeze might have assisted my astonishing effort at the Welly Wanging alley; either that or thinking about my unfinished tax return helped me hurl the wellyboot with unprecedented oomph.  Stomping about the field, coat billowing, I felt as if I were 10 years old again – but this time I was allowed to do what I wanted!  So I bought an armful of books, fished for plastic ducks, slurped tea and screamed encouragement at the hunky lads taking part in the Tug of War heats.

Ah, yes… A slight technical hitch… Apparently my wild bell dinging in joyous support of their manly efforts managed to put off one team so badly that they lost their bout. They thought the bell ringing meant they’d won.  And they stopped pulling – only to be yanked several yards down the field to startled defeat.  Gentlemen, I apologise.  In head hanging mortification.  And I promise I will never, ever ding my bell near a Tug of War team ever again.