We’ve lost a lot that was good

Cllr Chris Ash
Cllr Chris Ash
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Well, here we are half way through January already, the evening light is now hanging around just a little longer. I may be unusual but I always feel a little better when Christmas is out of the way and we are past midwinter, writes Mayor of Peterborough Cllr Chris Ash.

I hope you all had a good break. You can tell Christmas is done – Easter eggs are now in the shops. With shops open on Boxing Day I guess for some it was an extremely short break.

My Christmas Day was spent with others at the hospital, Salvation Army and a quick visit to the Helping Hands team at St Mary’s Church. It is heartwarming to know that there are many people out there providing a little comfort to those in greater need.

For many, the Christmas break was all too short, if they got one. Our appreciation must go to those who worked over the holidays.

I do miss the small traditional shops. In our city centre they are a rarity. We seem to lack the small traditional butcher, baker or grocer. In other towns they still seem to hang on. Does that say something about how Peterborough has evolved, or the nature of retailing?

I think where our leaders and planners went wrong was to sweep away as much as they could, clearing everything in their path and not understanding what held the life of everyday people together. I think there was a failure to understand people’s needs, and in sweeping away everything we lost a lot of what we was good and could have been worked on to make even better.

We used to look forward to having fresh local produce come into the shops - we looked forward to new potatoes, the first of the strawberries, fresh runner beans and the first of the local tomatoes, which we ate as you would any piece of fruit.

Burgers were rissoles and made in the local butchers along with the sausages, and the lads that worked there showed us how to disembowel a chicken – access from the flat next door to the garden was through the butchers’ prepping area!

By the way, if you are wondering, I did not grow up in an idyllic village but grew up on a busy shopping street in North London and my parents secured a large flat above the grocer’s shop where my mum worked. Those days most families rented, few had telephones and even fewer had cars.

But, is today’s all-year-round-supply good for the planet? Is it good to have stuff transported thousands of miles? Lettuce grown in Spain, or beans from Senegal? More often than not grown and harvested using cheap labour in areas more suited to other crops, where the land could probably be put to better use to benefit local people.

I reckon local produced stuff picked when it’s fresh and ripe tastes far better.

Pre-EU days I don’t recall talk of perceived shortages due to labour issues - okay we did import items from Commonwealth countries, but we also had a lot of home grown stuff. So perhaps with the food shortages forecast by the post Brexit pundits we need to be out digging!

I write after Tuesday’s vote in the Commons, but ahead of the vote of ‘no confidence’.

And so what of Brexit?

To Brexit or not to Brexit - that is the question:

Whether itis nobler in the mind to suffer

The slings and arrows of outrageous Boris

Or to take arms against a sea of troubles

And by opposing, end them.

Devoutly to be wished. To die, to sleep--

To sleep--perchance to dream: aye, there’s the rub,

That makes calamity of a deal or no deal .

For who would bear the whips and scorns of the party

The pangs of despised policy , the law’s delay,

The insolence of office, and the vote of no confidence puzzles the will.