Monday, 31 August 2009

Ready to set sail

Tomorrow I start the sailing course down on the Helford organised by the HRCST along with my girlfriend, Katy. I visited the charity a couple of weeks ago and said I wanted to return to run the course myself.

We are really looking forward to it. We have just got back from a few days break in North Wales near Snowdonia. While there we got in a bit of practice by trying our hand at wind surfing (in my case for the first time in over 20 years)on Lake Vyrnwy. A shaky start to say the least but I did make some progress, although I am not sure how much it will help me tomorrow!

It is also time to start planning the campaign for the next few months. We have had a busy time with the local elections and then the Camborne Town Council by -elections. It was great to see Stuart Odgers elected in Camborne South, he will make a fantastic councillor.

Realistically, we are now in the final 8 months before a General Election and the time will fly. We have made a strong start in the last 8 months but there is more to do. One of the things we need to do is work out what the main themes in the local campaign are likely to be. Cost of living? housing? social breakdown? economy? unemployment?

The issue of MPs expenses dominated the summer and has been getting less attention lately. But the local Lib Dem MP has just appointed a new Campaign Agent and he has apparently decided to re-ignite the issue and make attacks on other politician's expenses a central plank of her campaign. A curious decision given her own record.

Saturday, 15 August 2009

Camborne Town Council

Last night I went along to the boat party for Camborne Town Council. It was organised by the Mayor, Bill Jenkin, but it was a real cross party affair with many of the councillors present from all parties and others who have been involved in helping their work. There was a bit of drizzle but not enough to dampen spirits and we finished the evening by watching the fantastic fire work display to mark the end of Falmouth Week.

We have by-elections in Camborne next Thursday for the Town Council. Two Lib Dem councillors who were unsuccessful at the Council elections in June have now chucked the towel in and walked away from their responsibilities to the town causing costly by-elections. But it also provides an opportunity to get some fresh blood on the Town Council with fresh ideas. We have two great candidates in Stuart Odgers and Vince Young who both have deep roots in Camborne and have a love and commitment to the town. I have been helping them both this week and they are getting a good reception.

With the row over MP's expenses, it is easy for people to forget that town and parish councillors are not paid and receive no expenses. They give up their time for free and the reason they do it is for the town they care about. That counts for something and the candidates in this election, whatever party they are standing for, deserve a bit of respect for putting themselves forward.

Friday, 14 August 2009

Waste not, want not....

I was running a little late for my visit to the SOFA project off Dudnance Lane at Pool. Before leaving I snatched a look at their website and, from the photos, worked out that they were in one of the old units opposite the bridge that heads up to Piece near the leisure centre. Better get going. But on arrival it was clear they had moved so it was time to roam around some of the other units nearby until I found the right place.

The SOFA project is a charity that tries to kill two birds with one stone. They recycle bulky furniture and white goods to reduce the amount of waste we chuck into landfill and at the same time give furniture to people who are in need and trying to set up a new home. Daphne is the Chair of the charity and David is the manager. They are both fizzing with ideas when I meet them. They have recently relocated to a new unit that gives them much more space and far better facilities.

SOFA is a charity but also has a commercial arm to their operation. There is evidence that they have reduced the amount of bulky waste going to landfill where they have been used by up to 37 percent and they help 500 families a year to set up home.

We need more of this sort of solution but it requires some imagination. You need people who know what they are looking for to run the waste disposal operations of the council so that goods which have a value to someone else are recognised and salvaged in time.

Tuesday, 4 August 2009

Gaining confidence through sailing

John Green founded the Helford River Childrens Sailing Trust about ten years ago and could never have imagined how successful it would become.

I met John a few months ago and he told me about the work of this ground breaking charity which aims to build individual confidence in children by teaching them to sail on the Helford. There are now around 15 local primary schools involved and around 350 children a year go through training there. In total, the charity has benefited some 3500 children and the heartening thing is that some of the 150 or so volunteers helping now went through the programme themselves in the early years and so know the benefits and are doing their bit to put something back.

I met Alison Collins, the current director of the charity, at the Ferryboat Inn near Mawnan Smith. I wasn't sure whether we were going out on the river today or not so must have looked hopelessly ill-prepared to her when we first met! But I had boots and a jacket in the car and was soon ship shape and ready to jump in the boat to go out to see their training work.

They aim to have two volunteers for every six children in training. Today I met Sarah, Adrian, John and Lee who were supporting Ailsa, the head coach, who works on the scheme four days a week during the summer months. You could tell that there was a great chemistry between Ailsa and the children she was teaching to sail.

The significant thing about this project is that is focuses on developing the individual confidence of children and a lot of effort is made to make sure that the charity reaches children from disadvantaged backgrounds and that they are given the opportunity to take part. They never ever charge for their lessons.

The children are given their own boat and must make their own decisions. Early learners are required to sail a boat from the south bank of the Helford to the north bank on their own, keeping concentration and making their own decisions. If they get it wrong, they fall in the water. There is no one else in the boat to help them (although volunteers are nearby to advise and to help those who fall in).

I think developing individual confidence in children is vital. Sometimes people can over emphasise "team work" as an attribute in working life. It is, of course, important. But the truth is that individual ability and the confidence to exercise judgement is more important and it is best learnt young.

I never learnt to sail, despite being brought up in Cornwall. But I am told they have a course for adults in September so might just give it a go.

Sunday, 2 August 2009

Carnival time

Last night was Hayle Carnival. It has been a few years since I last attended. When I was younger we used to lend the farm lorry to be used in a “cowboys and indians” themed float which was organised every year by John Eddy and always went along to watch.

Although the weather has been unsettled in recent days, this year it stayed fine for the carnival. I knew quite a few of the local farmers driving the tractors that pulled the floats. Martin and Andrew Richards and Chris Eddy had all been called on to do their bit.

Probably the most energetic (and certainly the noisiest) float was the Hayle Rugby Club team who wore green and black wigs and danced to loud music - stopping at every pub to make an impact. Not far behind were the Hayle Samba team. There were a lot of entries. Several scout groups, many other community groups and charities and my old friends at Praze YFC who dressed up as nurses and pushed a giant cot through town in aid of the Precious Lives Appeal.

It is the time of year for outdoor events and this weekend there have been a lot of other celebrations. I enjoyed a cream tea at Penponds yesterday and today have spent the afternoon at the Redruth Fun Day in Victoria Park and later on at Portreath Harbour for their own celebrations. But at Portreath there was some concern that one of the lads taking part in a greasy pole competition had been banged on the head and had to be taken to hospital.