Issue Number Fifty Seven - March & April 2021
News in this edition... • Katharine House say Thank You! • Our Beautiful Borough Story • The Arts Society in Stafford • Bradley Village News • Six pence a week rise for Council tax • Beatle Mania - A letter from Lennon’s Aunt Mimi goes to auction • South African strain of Covid identified in the Borough • National trust Talk online
Spring is on its way, and where flowers bloom, so does hope Welcome to the March and April edition of My Village Voice. It’s been a tough few months, Lockdown 3 has tested the patience and resilience of us all, that said, the ongoing vaccine roll-out gives us a ray of light, at the end of this long dark tunnel. The Prime Minister announcing the roadmap out of lockdown on Monday February 22nd has promised a little optimism, and dare I say it, maybe an end to all restrictions. Spring is on it’s way, after Summer it’s my favourite month, for where flowers bloom, so does hope, and that’s something all of us could do with right now. I’ve never really been one for new-age positive thinking, but have to admit that positivity breeds positivity, and conversely, negativity breeds negativity, that’s why we have to try to remain as chipper as possible, be more half glass full, it’s the only way to stay sane throughout this pandemic, trust me! We all long to see our family and friends again, to go to a movie or a football match, the gym or a swim, get our hair cut or nails done, one by one these activities will become something we can enjoy once again. Patience is key. Perhaps once ‘normal life’ returns we won’t take things for granted so much, instead we will see each day as a new opportunity, we shall feel good to be alive, and feel free from the constraints of a lockdown. Like you, I long for long lazy days on a hot beach somewhere, where the only decision I have to make for the day is which flip flops to wear, and which restaurant to eat at that night. I keep telling myself, “It won’t be long now”, it seems to keep me going. I guess what I’m trying to say is hang on in there. We are all feeling the weight of this pandemic massively, and that’s without any external pressures many of us may also be facing. One quote that comes to my daily thoughts is “Every situation in life is temporary. So, when life is good, make sure you enjoy and receive it fully. And when life is not so good, remember that it will not last forever and better days are on the way.” Roll on those better days... Until next time, stay safe, stay kind. Dan Mitchell 25/02/21
GETTING IN TOUCH And in pictures... • Youngsters in peak form scale new heights • It’s never too late to start Zooming • New cycling facilities on Cannock Chase • New local fishing club launched • Stafford’s Old Market Square and Surrounds Part 1 – The Square by Nick Lakin Once you’ve read your copy of My Village Voice recycle it by giving it to a friend!
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Katharine House say Thank You! Thanks to you our care continues Katharine House Hospice is able to continue to offer services thanks to the kindness and generosity of local people who have supported our emergency appeal. We are incredibly grateful for the overwhelming response of our local community at our time of need. Our appeal has raised £734,183 with some funds still to come in, we are humbled by this response and this vital support is ensuring we can continue to support patients and their families. The response to our emergency campaign has meant we can continue to deliver our care whilst we wait for our shops to reopen, and our fundraising events programme to recommence. We would like to pay tribute to everyone who has supported us and continues to do so. From children to businesses, families and community group, our local caring community has rallied around us. People have foregone Christmas presents to make a donation, they’ve walked, ran and climbed – they’ve gamed, crafted, sewed and baked. Our landlords have supported us by reducing our rent on closed shops – local businesses have held staff days to raise funds, sold fish and chips and sent
donations rather than gifts and cards for colleagues. Local groups have provided PPE and materials for our shops and care teams. We have received wonderful support from grant givers. For each and every one of our wonderful local supporters we would like to say a heart-felt thank you – as your hospice we could not continue without your support. As members of our community you have clearly shown your passion for our cause and your commitment to the ongoing provision of hospice care. Your response has exceeded our wildest expectations and our staff and volunteers are so very grateful. Your support will have a major impact on the care that local families receive. Once again we would like to thank members of our local community who
have done and continue to do all you can to raise vital funds to help maintain our services. Katharine House Hospice provides free care and support for adults and their families who are coping with progressive illness across Mid-Staffordshire. It relies upon the kindness of the local community to help generate over 75% of the funds needed to run its vital range of services.
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Youngsters in peak form scale new heights A virtual climb of the highest mountains in England, Scotland and Wales was taken on board by pupils and their teacher to boost their physical and mental wellbeing while raising hundreds of pounds for charity. Scafell Pike, Ben Nevis and Snowdon may be out of bounds for the Stafford Grammar youngsters but that did not stop them rising to the task of walking, jogging and cycling the 37km distance equivalent to the iconic National Three Peaks Challenge - all within their local area. The group of 12 and 13-year-olds each chalked up the miles over several weeks, raising more than £200 for Katharine House cancer care charity. The sponsored venture was part of the Staffordshire and Stoke School Games virtual events initiative aimed at encouraging children to keep active. While the 3064 metres ascent of the three mountains would amount to a 23-mile hike, pupils went the extra distance by increasing their target to 26 miles. Using apps, smart phones and watches they were able to keep a tally of how far they travelled. “Challenges like these really help with having that sense of purpose which unites us. I love the idea that it inspires students to be active and I see the benefits, which are not just physical but mental ones too,” said teacher Carly Slater, who also put her best foot forward to join in the endeavour. “At SGS we’re continuing to provide a full, live curriculum which is brilliant, but this means students are spending a lot of their time looking at a screen, so the focus of this challenge was to get them active and away from their laptops,” added Carly. To donate directly to the Katharine House Hospice charity, visit www.khhospice.org.uk
• Honor Sutton (13) boosted her mileage tally with walks in the countryside.
• 12-year-old Dan Horne took his dog, George, on evening strolls.
• Nathan D'Almeida (12) used pedal power to clock up the miles.
It’s never too late to start Zooming Christine Conlin discovers how local people are making the switch to videoconferencing If you haven’t heard of Zoom* yet, your learning curve starts here! Since the start of the pandemic, this videoconferencing app has become a vital lifeline for seeing and speaking to people via a screen whether they’re family and friends or members of their clubs and social groups. Back in April, initial security concerns over intruders gaining access to online meetings were swiftly overcome by Zoom’s Californian-based software engineers and in November 2020, a peak of 1.7 million people were using Zoom in the UK. Zoom’s free version allows for meetings of up to 40 minutes. (The Pro version costing £15/month offers unlimited time and breakout rooms.) But while downloading Zoom looks easy, getting audio and video working on your device can often prove a hurdle. And for some, this sudden switch to virtual communication simply seems too daunting. But step forward local Zoom pioneer Patrick Imrie of Stone U3A. Very soon after the start of lockdown one, Patrick was enabling around 20 U3A members to make the switch to Zoom. Says Patrick, “My ‘Reading Shakespeare’ class was able to continue online within a fortnight of the March lockdown.” He achieved this firstly by encouraging and helping members to install Zoom and holding individual ‘test’ sessions so they could get used to connecting via audio and video. “With some, I had to phone them at the same time until we had established a Zoom connection.” • Once hesitant about Zoom, Bel Crawford now feels more But Patrick’s support went further. comfortable about using this app. As some members’ devices lacked cameras or microphones, he begged setting, “Thinking about what painting you’re going to and borrowed spare devices from other members and introduce keeps you on your toes mentally. You can’t just sit the U3A itself. He installed Zoom on them, before taking back any more!” them round to people’s homes.“During the first lockdown, Zoom brings other benefits, Patrick reckons. Having even home deliveries were difficult,” Patrick remembers. made Zoom classes part of their routine, people are also But for folks still struggling with their loaned devices, developing the confidence to link up virtually with Patrick provided yet another level of help. “If they family and friends. couldn’t get the sound or the video to work, I’d re-collect the But videoconferencing has its drawbacks, too. “Zoom is device, switch on the microphone and camera and ensure it no substitute for ‘live’ social interactions,” Patrick admits. In was working with Zoom. I sometimes parked in people’s face-to-face situations, we are used to ‘speaking over’ other driveways, re-set up devices and tested two-way people or adding short interjections which is fairly communication using people’s wi-fi systems before disastrous on Zoom. I’ve even known people leave Zoom handing them over again.” meetings (non-U3A) because it was difficult to hear other Patrick also runs an Art Appreciation Class whose people. I’ve occasionally resorted to adding in a jokey short members Carol Kitchen and Leigh Morton are keen to ‘training session’ to encourage people to take turns in express their gratitude. Says Carol, “Mindful of people speaking and to use the mute button.” living alone, since April, Patrick has put on extra And not all Patrick’s group members have ‘re-surfaced’ coffee-break sessions three times a week where one of us on Zoom.“Confidence has been a major handicap for a few introduces a painting for the group to discuss.” Says Leigh, people who haven’t ever taken part. One or two joined who now finds it easier to speak up in an online initially but then dropped out because they found online breakout room online than in a physical whole-group communication a bit stressful ” he reflects.
Self-styled ‘hesitant’ Zoomer Bel Crawford well remembers the initial stress of making the switch. “My tech-savvy son lives a four-hour drive away, so could only help me remotely. There I was with the landline in one hand, mobile in the other, and my iPad balanced on a pile of books on the kitchen table.” “When my first attempt failed and I panicked, he was calmly trying to help me, Bel continues. “‘No, Mum, listen, I can’t see your screen. My computer does it different from yours, top left, not bottom right - will you just calm down and listen to me please!” Talk about role reversal, but I have to give it to him, he was much more patient with me than I ever was with his madcap antics when he was seven!” Bel’s persistence and her son’s patience paid off. “Now that I have written down my son’s instructions, step by detailed step, I can open a Zoom meeting, (as long as I can find that bit of paper). ‘How brave you are,’ say my friends, ‘how clever’. ‘It’s easy when you know how,’ I say.” Bel has now progressed to hosting Zoom meetings herself. “Being a host or hostess carries far more terrors than being a guest,” she realizes. “The host has the responsibility of sending out the invites, setting the right time and date, and keeping some kind of order when they all Zoom in at once and begin to chatter.” “Not to mention working out how to rescue those strays who somehow missed the mark on their Zoom path and are now lost in cyberspace, hanging on desperately to their smart phones, trying to re-enter and join the party. Juggling your landline, mobile and iPad simultaneously while to try to bring these lost souls back into orbit is nerve-wracking!” 80-something Roma Welch from Tittensor has enthusiastically rejoined her Bridge Club and reading group online, but insists she couldn’t manage Zoom without help from her 17-year old granddaughter Emma and family, who stayed with her throughout the worst of the second wave. But if you’re clever enough to play Bridge, surely Zoom’s a doddle? Says Roma: “I must admit to a lack of confidence with digital stuff. I can press a TV zapper all right, but get impatient about clicking with a mouse. I can click the Zoom link in the email invitation but still can’t get into Zoom from there.” Says Emma: “Grandma needs help to calm down and take a good look at the screen to spot what she needs to click to take her through the four or five screens to get to the Zoom meeting. Once she’s in, I’m showing her how to hover her mouse gently over the bottom of the Zoom screen to bring up the meeting buttons for turning on your microphone and camera. On the bottom right, there’s a big red button you click if you want to leave. I think she can do that now!” So what’s Patrick’s advice for Zoom novices? "Go for the free version initially. When your 40 minutes is up, you can all click on the original link to get back into the meeting again (this also works more than once.)" In Patrick’s experience, Zoom works best on desktops or laptops, even second hand ones. With tablets and phones, the connection can be slower and be prone to dropping out. On a laptop or desktop, you can see up to 100 people whereas the maximum on a tablet is nine and on a phone only four. But it all depends on what you want to use Zoom for. Staffordshire County Council’s Community Learning Service is now offering short courses for absolute beginners on the basic use of a computer or device, to access the internet and use email. The initial contact is by phone and email, so the tutor will talk you through the steps for getting onto Zoom, where the rest of the
• Making virtual communication a reality: local Zoom enabler Patrick Imrie tuition takes place. Follow-on courses are also available. There are 6-7 weekly sessions, with practice and homework tasks to complete in between. The fee is £50 per person, but the course is free if you are looking for work or receiving an income-related benefit. More information and an online booking form at https://www.staffordshire.gov.uk/Education/ Community-learning-service/Courses/ ICT-Courses/ICT.aspx or search for Staffordshire County Council/Community Learning Courses or phone01785 278770. *References to Zoom in this article do not imply a recommendation by My Village Voice. Other videoconferencing applications are also available.
• Zoom help from the younger generation: Roma Welch and granddaughter Emma.
Share in the “Our Beautiful Borough Story “ Nearly 250 of our High Street businesses are now engaged with the Our Beautiful Borough Campaign within weeks of its launch. The campaign went public in December 2020 and has already created a buzz around the three towns in the borough. Councillor Frances Beatty, Cabinet Member for Economic Development and Planning, said: “What a great start to the campaign with so many businesses involved and the community coming together during these difficult times “ The microsite https://www.our beautifulborough .co.uk/ lists a wide range of independent businesses inStafford, Stone and Eccleshall who have all had engagement with the initiative benefiting from free business support and advice, online marketing inclusion and social media connections. The scheme which is European Regional Development Fund (ERDF) funded is encouraging shoppers to browse the “Town Directories” on the microsite that are promoting local lockdown offerings online and keeping the high streets in touch with each other and their local communities. We now are asking everyone to share in the story of the OBB campaign for 2021 and as a community come together “All for One” to support local retailers. And already the feedback has been positive – but don’t take our word for it, here is what some of our businesses had to say: Ed Myhill Director of The Great British Experience Company from Stafford explains: “The Great British Experience Company was founded after an amazing season at Sandon with the Great British Drive In. During the Drive In, our proposal to become operators at Victoria Park and Alberts was awarded. Although things have been a struggle with the pandemic, we have loved our first few months serving this great local community. We live in Stafford and are proud to be working with great partners in the council at Alberts in Victoria Park. We believe our town has everything going for it and with initiatives like OBB we couldn’t be more excited about where things are heading. With just a quick look at https://www. ourbeautifulborough.co.uk/ you can see we are incredibly lucky to call this area home. Beth Ward owner Bethan Ward of Eccleshall describes
her business journey about continuing her excellent customer service online: “During the lockdowns I have emailed my customer base on a personal note to keep in touch and to try to keep spirits up and not let anyone feel alone. It soon became clear that my customers wanted more, and I was selling via post very soon. I grew our social media to try to reach more people and used our existing email data base to communicate. Throughout I have changed the use of eshots and social media to best suit the situations. I know I have not got it perfect, but the feedback has been very positive, both from the sales aspect but also the people who have contacted us, thanking us for that contact and support. The help that government and SBC has given has been brilliant and more than just the financial support the business advice and the OBB campaign have been a lifeline and vital in these difficult times in helping our businesses survive and support the faces behind the local high streets” Julie Gilly Director of Baystone Interiors Stone a new business opening soon: “Baystone Interiors have just taken over the lease at 13 Station Road, Stone, next to the police building. We have local knowledge of Stone and love the community feel. The location of this unit is perfect for us - not quite on the High Street, it gets the footfall and vehicular traffic but private and quiet enough to provide design consultations inhouse. Rather than a large kitchen showroom, we have opted for a more personal, "design studio" feel. We are about to commence the refurbishment of the unit over the next few weeks and, Covid permitting, hope to be able to open to officially open when the lockdown restrictions are lifted. However, we are open for business and are taking appointments for virtual design consultations. One of the reasons we have chosen Stone as our new location, is the fantastic community feel. We feel that the OBB campaign is a great way to assist businesses in these challenging times, with Covid safety & regulations advice and free, impartial knowledge and support to business owners. With their focus on encouraging people to shop safely when able to do so and to "shop local" where possible, hopefully, it won't be long until the community is thriving again.” The Borough Council was awarded £120,000 from the ERDF.
Commonwealth Games creates catalyst for new cycling facilities on Cannock Chase Cannock Chase Forest was recently selected as one of the venues for the Birmingham 2022 Commonwealth Games. This created the opportunity for Forestry England to secure funding for some impressive new mountain biking facilities to help make this popular visitor destination a cycling ‘centre of excellence’ for the West Midlands. When not in the grips of a national lockdown situation, keen mountain bikers already flock to Cannock Chase Forest to ride the two red graded (difficult level) trails ‘Follow the Dog’ and ‘The Monkey Trail’. The forest is a popular spot for families too, with multi-use walking and cycling trails, a play area, GoApe and of course the popular Gruffalo (and friends!) trails. However, for a long time the site team have aspired to improve the cycling offer by adding in a purpose-built blue graded (moderate level) trail to bridge the gap between novice and skilled bike riders. The £900,000 funding, that has been secured from partners including Sport England, British Cycling and local councils, will do just that.
A new trail is being built aimed at intermediate-level cyclists, that will be used in part for the 2022 Commonwealth Games but will also remain as a legacy for visitors to Cannock Chase Forest to enjoy for years to come. The funding is also enabling the development of a ‘bike play trail’ aimed at inspiring the next generation of cross-country mountain bikers. This is being designed in partnership with British Cycling, and it is thought that if it is a success it is something that could be recreated at other sites around the country in the future. Cannock Chase Forest Centre Manager, Gary Kelsey, told My Village Voice: “I have been working at this special forest for 11 years, seven of those as the Trails and Facilities Ranger before becoming Forest Centre Manager. It has been an aspiration of mine, since we launched the Monkey Trail in 2010, to provide a trail that bridges the gap between straight wide forest roads and difficult single track cross country. We started planning this trail in 2015, carefully locating it to avoid sensitive wildlife and maximise trail flow; I am so excited that The Games has been the catalyst to make this happen.”
John Crabtree, Chairman of Birmingham 2022, said: “Cannock Chase Forest will be a stunning setting for the mountain bike events at the Commonwealth Games and using this venue ensures that world-class cycling will be staged in the region in the summer of 2022. “We’re incredibly excited about the development of the new trail; a planned project that has been accelerated thanks to the Games. Not only will it provide an even more impressive facility to showcase the mountain bike events on 3 August 2022, but its creation will also ensure local cyclists will have access to these enhanced facilities for years to come, delivering the perfect legacy from the Games.” The project also includes a number of engagement strands too – around helping to protect the Special Area of Conservation on the wider Cannock Chase, promoting cycling for all, working with partners to extend the legacy into under-represented parts of the community and becoming a cycling education hub and MTB Talent Development Centre.
The Arts Society in Stafford is one of the best kept secrets in town; but it shouldn’t be!
• Raphael,'The Miraculous Draught of Fishes', 1515-16, bodycolour over charcoal underdrawing on paper, mounted on canvas. On loan from HM Queen Elizabeth II; rcin 912944, © Victoria and Albert Museum, London The present chairman hadn’t heard about it until he was invited by a friend some years ago, now it has become a totally satisfying focus of his life. As for all new members arriving for the first time there is sheer amazement that so many people in the town came together monthly in the lovely Gatehouse theatre to engage in the intellectual and thought-provoking lectures on a wide range of arts related subjects. You never realise what there is to learn about our valuable heritage and culture until you hear one of these lectures. You become part of a wonderful Society of like-minded friends from the very moment you join. Our speakers are nationally accredited by the Arts Society and are of the highest standard possible. The relatively high cost of the speakers and our venue hire is covered within the relatively small annual membership fee, but it is our large membership that makes that possible. By any measure the value of Arts Society membership far outweighs that of many other clubs or societies around and is so rewarding too. We have worked hard to engage technology so that for the time being all our members can continue to enjoy these lectures beamed into their own homes, and the uptake has been very good. All our lectures are carefully selected to appeal to our wide audience, for example “Mona Lisa and Other Housewives” and “Healing Stitches”, the therapy of needlecraft in times of confinement.
They are booked 18 months ahead and all listed on our website. You don’t have to be a dedicated art lover to engage and derive huge pleasure from the lectures, little else will generate the same feeling of well-being and inspiration in these dark times that our lectures instil. The president and chairman came together ‘In Conversation’ at a December presentation demonstrating exactly how to source every fascinating aspect of the arts to bring them into our homes through these dark winter days of isolation, and it is eye-opening. An evening spent engaging with the arts is ‘worlds apart’ from routine television, so inspiring and uplifting. When conditions allow we will revert to our initiative where like-minded friends can join together for ‘Arts Evenings’. The joy of sharing the arts together in small groups is truly amazing. We are currently working with village and church magazines to touch people in lockdown so do think about it and give it a go. Whatever branch of the arts, paintings, music, ballet, opera you particularly enjoy this will uplift you in these dark times. As well as our first class lectures our energetic committee stages arts-based visits, study days and art flavoured social events; we engage the arts with young people in schools too. You are invited to join us, do come! You too could share in the joy of the arts this spring. Just visit https://theartssocietystafford.org.uk/ See you there..
• Photos from the past show the village spirit is set to return.
Bradley Village News By Rosie 2021 has not been the best of years for exciting happenings to report, in fact it has been almost impossible to find any news at all! However, the Rev. Cath Brumfitt, who last year was inaugurated as our Vicar (along with three other parishes), has managed to inspire the community into making life a little more interesting. First of her ideas was to “Heart-bomb” the villages which meant houseowners decorating their gates, doors and windows with love hearts to wish love and joy to all the people who saw them. They can still be seen around the villages, such as the example which decorates the church gates in Bradley One afternoon, a company called Project D set up shop in the Red Lion Pub car park. Freshly cooked doughnuts were available to buy. Needless to say they soon drew a crowd and obviously their wares sold like hot cakes! Rev. Cath had a novel idea for raising funds for Bradley Church – she and her husband David had potted daffodil bulbs for people to plant out in their gardens - a hopeful reminder that spring should soon be on its way. They set up their stall in Red Lion Pub carpark and their efforts raised a splendid £80 for the fund. We believe they are planning to pay another visit to the carpark in the not too distant future as David has had another money raising idea. We look forward to hearing about their next visit. On Shrove Tuesday, a virtual pancake party was held on zoom and those who took part were in a competition to see who could toss their pancake the most times. They tossed pancakes in their kitchens at home for all to see. The eventual winner tossed his pancake over 60 times without dropping it!
Now Bradley is looking forward to the summer. The local committee is already discussing the date for the 4 villages Fete which, Covid permitting, will be in June at Priory Farm, Bradley.
Six pence a week rise for Council tax
• Zach Thompson age 10 St John's Great Haywood
Parents praise Remote Learning from Academy The Painsley Catholic Academy is delighted to have received almost 1,000 positive parent testimonials for its remote learning provision across all 15 member schools. The two high schools and thirteen primary schools were amongst the small number of schools who were able to provide remote learning in the first lock down in March. Following the announcement of school closures this January, all the schools were up and running with their remote learning on the very next day. In a recent survey from all schools to parents, the combined results show that 88% of parents believe that their child has settled into a good remote learningm routine. 96% believe that their school has clearly explained how to access remote earning. 94% of parents feel that their school continues to have high expectations for the children during lockdown. 96% of parents believe that there is a good range of subjects being covered through remote learning. Five schools scored 100% with this, also. Finally, an impressive 84% would recommend their school’s remote learning to other parents. Chief Executive Office of the Painsley Catholic Academy, Mr Steve Bell commented: “We would also like to take this opportunity to thank our parents. They are the very people who are facilitating much of our remote learning, many of them working from home at the same time. Education has to be a partnership between school and parents, and since lockdown we have never seen that so clearly. Our parents are all doing a fantastic job and we are very grateful for their support.” Here are just a few of the comments received from parents with children at St John’s Catholic Primary School, Great Haywood "I would just like to thank the staff for how quickly they set up the home learning for the children and how easy it has been to do. It has made such a stressful time easier to deal with." "All the staff are doing a fantastic job, the teaching has gone above and beyond what I expected my child to receive and for that I am extremely grateful, it has made this lockdown so much easier compared to last lockdown and my child is much happier this time also. Thank you to each and every one of you that has made all this possible- you are stars :-)" "Thank you to all the staff for being there for both the children in school and at home doing remote learning."
Residents will pay an extra six pence a week in tax to Stafford Borough Council from April. It will mean the average Band D property in the borough will pay around £3.12 a week in the next financial year for services such as the recycling and waste collection, street cleaning, maintaining parks and helping the homeless. The 1.9% rise in council tax was agreed by the council’s Cabinet at an evening meeting on Thursday, January 14th. The General Fund Revenue Budget and Capital Programme report set out how the response to the Covid-19 pandemic had hit the local authority’s income and also led to an increase in costs. For example the council scrapped car parking charges over several weeks during the original national lockdown; has continued to support its leisure partner with facilities forced to close due to Covid restrictions, and costs to help prevent people from becoming homeless and finding accommodation for rough sleepers had increased significantly. Councillor Mike Smith, Cabinet Member for Resources, said “that although the Government had supplied funding to local authorities in 2020-21 because of coronavirus – the indicative funding for 2021-22 had fallen significantly short of the deficit the council was likely to incur.” The council is the ‘collecting authority’ for the whole of Stafford Borough and the overall council tax bill to residents will include charges for Staffordshire County Council, the Police and Crime Commissioner, Fire authority, as well as any additions for areas with parish councils. The annual amount of council tax for a Band D property that will be paid to Stafford Borough Council is £162.30. The Cabinet report also noted that because of Covid-19 fewer new homes were built in the borough than had originally been projected – therefore less income to the council - and the authority would be giving more householders a discount on their council tax than previously. Councillor Smith continued: “Nobody welcomes an increase in their bill which is why we always try to keep any rise in council tax to a minimum - and for the forthcoming financial year this will mean an extra 6p a week for the average household. “This council has an excellent reputation for having well managed finances. This pandemic has seen other authorities teetering on the verge of bankruptcy – but despite the huge blow the virus has delivered to our finances, we have not found ourselves in that position.” He added: “We did not want our residents to face greater tax hikes when many have already been hit hard by the ongoing effects of this virus – but we also won’t be cutting the vital services or support to the community that the public rely on.” The full cabinet agenda and reports are available from the council’s website.
New local fishing club launched Billington General Anglers is a Staffordshire based pleasure fishing club, giving access to some of the county’s best canal fishing spots. Permits run from March 14th to March 15th annually. For more information go to
Waters available on the general ticket are as follows 1. Stone, Aston Lock (26) to Longmeadow Bridge (87) Trent & Mersey Canal 2. Burston, Bridge (87) to Bridge (86) Trent & Mersey Canal 3. Sandon, Bridge (83) to Bridge (86) Trent & Mersey Canal 4. Great Haywood, Bridge (74) Mill Lane to Bridge (73) Haywood Lock Trent & Mersey Canal 5. Acton Trussell, Bridge (93) to Acton Moat Bridge (92) Staffs & Worcester Canal 6. Gnosall, Cowley Tunnel to Bridge (35) A518 Shropshire Union Canal The general permit also acts as a waiting list for the main Billington Carp Syndicate Facebook Billington Carp Syndicate. E Permits can be purchased via the QR code (shown) or visit our Facebook page - Billington General Anglers. The cost to join is £30 a year under 16’s Free
Facebook - Billington General Anglers. To encourage families back into the outdoors this Summer they are offering under 16’s and Juniors FREE ANGLING when accompanied by an adult member.
Beatle mania: Letter from Lennon’s Aunt Mimi expected to bring in the bids at auction A reply from John Lennon’s Aunt Mimi to an adoring fan is set to go under the hammer as part of Wolverhampton auction house Cuttlestones’ Specialist Collectors Sale this month, and is expected to attract an international audience of bidders. Mary Elizabeth "Mimi" Smith raised her nephew at her home ‘The Mendips’ in Menlove Avenue, and it is from this address that the 1963 letter was issued. Sent to a Miss V Stoker of 54 Pirton Road, Hitchin, Herts it dates from the early days of the ‘Fab Four’, with the band already on its meteoric rise. The note reads: "Dear Vivienne Thanks for letter. There are two thousand requests, it’s impossible for me to grant one without the other. John saw my mail & nearly collapsed with fright, but sends love to you, Best Wishes Mimi Smith". The envelope had been stamped and addressed by the recipient and sent with her request for an autograph; postmark dated 10 Dec 1963. It has been consigned to auction by the original recipient who discovered the note during a lockdown clear out and recalls how, despite being disappointed that she didn’t receive the requested autograph, she treasured the “but sends love to you” and probably slept with it under her pillow. The letter has gone through several house moves with her over the last 57 years and is in excellent condition for its age. Rosie Blackburn, Cuttlestones’ resident expert on all things ephemera, says: “Aunt Mimi letters do come to market quite regularly as she was prolific not only in her correspondence with John
but in replying to his fan base. What sets this apart, however, is that most date from later in John’s career. This hails from a time when the final Beatles lineup had enjoyed their first hits and embarked on a busy touring schedule, just before they ‘broke America’, which makes it particularly interesting. The fact that it was sent from The Mendips is also in its favour, as much Aunt Mimi ephemera dates from after she moved to the bungalow John later bought her at The Sandbanks in Dorset. “These factors, alongside its provenance and condition, are likely to pique the interest of an already strong collectors’ community and we anticipate international interest – especially from China, Japan and the US. We expect this to achieve between £200 - £400, but it could well fetch more depending on the bidders. If anyone has any similar memorabilia – be it Beatles, Rolling Stones, David Bowie or other acts from the period – we’d be delighted to offer a valuation with a view to selling it alongside this piece in our 19th March auction.” The Aunt Mimi letter is set to sell during Cuttlestones online Specialist Collectors’ Sale on Friday 19th March 2021. All the sale room’s auctions are currently online only in response to COVID-19 guidelines, and online valuations are available by sending photographs via email to firstname.lastname@example.org or WhatsApp on 07949 603872. To find out more about buying and selling through Cuttlestones, head to www.cuttlestones.co.uk or call 01902 421985
First case of South African strain of Covid identified in Stafford Borough The first case of the South African variant of Covid-19, with no links to international travel, has been identified in Stafford Borough. The borough resident tested positive in January and the South African variant was picked up as part of routine laboratory screening. They have recovered and contact tracing has established that the resident had no known contact with people in their local area whilst infectious and no links to other areas where cases have been identified. Staffordshire County Council is already encouraging everyone who needs to be out and about during lockdown to get tested, but is now advising everyone in the Stafford borough area specifically to get tested in the next four weeks. This will help to check if there are more cases in the borough and help stop the spread of the variant. Dr Nic Coetzee, consultant in communicable diseasecontrol for Public Health England Midlands, said: “With new variants emerging all the time and spreading more rapidly, it is not surprising that a case of the South African variant has been found in Staffordshire. “While there is currently no evidence of the South African variant circulating in the community, we want to be proactive in testing people and stopping the spreading of infection. This is a timely reminder to everyone to continue to follow the rules, Stay at Home, and if they do have essential reasons to leave their home then get tested regularly.” Community testing for people without symptoms is available seven days a week in every borough and district, and the county council plans to offer additional testing capacity and screening for the variant in Stafford borough. Dr Richard Harling, the county council’s director of health and care said: “In Staffordshire we are asking everyone who has a legitimate reason for being out and about during lockdown, to make sure they get tested at least weekly at
one of our community testing centres for people without symptoms. “We know that one in three people who have the virus show no symptoms, and this will help us identify more people with Covid who should be isolating, which will help stop the spread of infection. “In the case of residents who test positive in Stafford borough, we will also check to see whether they have the South African variant.” Community Testing Centres are open seven days a week for people without symptoms. Walk-in testing without appointment is available on the day or people can book in advance at https://staffordshire.zipporah.co.uk /TrackAnd Trace/ People with symptoms should book a test at the National Beaconside Regiona Drive-Through Centre if available at www.nhs.uk/coronavirus
Oh Deere, stuck in the mud!
Thanks go to Alice Claire Hodgkins for sending in this picture of a sunken John Deere tractor, taken just outside of Derrington.
Colwich Parish in Bloom Hurrah January and February are over! March is with us and the nights are getting shorter, which means Spring is on its way. My special thanks go to all the friends who are picking up litter and it's lovely to see new "In Bloomers" who have joined us. A special thanks to Jim, Alex and Maxine for collecting rubbish on the A51, they have been thanked by Streetscene and arranged for their filled green bags to be collected on certain days. Other "In Bloomers" have been replenishing the planters we have throughout the Parish and on a recent visit to the wild flower meadow Hannah and 1 were happy to see signs of the species crocus we planted and the cyclamen corms have survived the bad weather, their flowers will be lovely later on. It is lovely to see the small yellow crocus in Bloom on the A51 entrance to Colwich. Some early Daffodil leaves are getting tall and we shall soon see their yellow trumpet flowers, telling us Spring is coming. If any readers to My Village Voice are new to the Parish, enjoy being out in the fresh air and would like to know more about us, do please contact Alan Doehren our Chairman, Secretary Jim Sarjant or me, we would be glad to hear from you. By Anne Clendon B. E. M. President, Colwich Parish in Bloom.
National trust Talk online While waiting for your train at your local station, have you ever wondered how far you could go? Without changing stations, and you must leave from the station you arrived at, where in the world would you finish up? Howard Nichols sets out to do just that, and guess where he finally finished up..... The Talk is entitled "The Longest Journey" and takes place on 16th March at 2.30pm, the Zoomed talk to be presented by the National Trust Staffordshire Centre. In order to join you will need to send an e-mail to email@example.com and you will receive an automatic reply giving joining instructions.
Shakespeare Festival postponed to 2022
Stafford And District Access Group - How It All Started
The annual Stafford Shakespeare Festival which was due to take place this summer has been postponed. Freedom Leisure and Stafford Borough Council took the decision to postpone the event because of the ongoing uncertainty surrounding the Covid-19 pandemic. Now the production of Romeo and Juliet will take place in 2022 – with all tickets purchased for the 2020 performance automatically transferred. The annual performance of the bard’s work is set against the backdrop of the listed Stafford Castle - which has dominated the skyline of the county town for more than 900 years. But with the Stafford Gatehouse Theatre remaining closed to comply with national lockdown restrictions, Freedom Leisure say planning for future events has been extremely difficult and the welfare of their staff, actors and audience has been paramount. Freedom Leisure runs the theatre, leisure centres as well as major events and sporting activities on behalf of the Borough Council. Councillor Carolyn Trowbridge, Cabinet Member for Leisure, said: “This was a very sad decision to take. Shakespeare at the Castle is one of the jewels in the crown of the cultural offering in our county. “But it is the right decision. We have seen how things change rapidly and with so much uncertainty still surrounding this virus it is right to postpone now. I hope those who have bought tickets understand why we have taken that decision and, when we are able to, I’d ask people to please return to the theatre and these events as they will need our support more than ever.” Work is currently underway to refurbish the Gatehouse, making it a safe and welcoming space for audiences and theatre family to return to. If you do have a ticket for a performance of Romeo and Juliet you do not need to contact the Gatehouse. Tickets will automatically be carried over to 2022 and people will be contacted with dates and show times when the Box Office team are back in the building.
The group was formed in September 1987 by Joyce Bridgwood (now Middle). Joyce met a lady who worked at Standing Conference of Voluntary Social Work Organisation in Staffordshire (SCVSWOS) and she invited Joyce to meet with her to help form an Access Group, "what is an Access Group”? asked Joyce, wanting to know what she was letting herself in for, well said the lady “I have heard you complaining about not being able to get in places with your wheelchair. like Shops, being able to get your hair done, go to the post office to fetch your own money and go to the pub with your friends, if we form this group it will change all that.” “GREAT” thought Joyce, it was just as if a fairy Godmother was going to come to Stafford and wave her magic wand and yes, all at once the ideal world would be before her. The big day came for that meeting to take place. The room was so tiny, just big enough to get the wheelchair in the lady from SCVSOS had to climb over Joyce in her wheelchair so that she could get in. Apologies were given to Joyce about the room, and was told that all the Offices were upstairs and there were no lifts in the building. The lady then explained that the sum of £25. had been given from SCVSOS to set up the group, once it was up and running it would then be independent and responsible for it's own affairs. So Joyce set about forming the group, she invited people from fifteen groups connected with disabilities to a meeting, on the evening five representatives turned up none had a disability. Joyce explained that there were only about ten places in town that wheelchair users and people with mobility difficulties could get in, and that things should be a lot better, the fun started when she took questions, and was asked things like: • Why do you want to go to the shops? People will always go for you. all you have to do is give them a list or tell them what you need. • It is much safer to let someone fetch your money for you; you might drop it on the way home. • Your Mum does your hair for you now, what is wrong with it; it always looks very nice whenever I see you. • Don't you think it is a bit dangerous wanting to go to the pub with friends, you never know what might happen? If you ask me your are much better inviting your friends round to a cup of coffee at home. • Where do you think all the MONEY is coming from to make all these changes, when really, is it worth it? Joyce left the meeting realising that it was going to be a much bigger job than she first thought, for it was very clear indeed that not only did access to buildings need changing, but so did other peoples attitudes, but she was not giving up. Over the next 12 weeks Joyce got The Spastics Society (now Scope) to work with her to do a survey of the town to see how many places were accessible, at the end it was found that 92% of buildings were NOT accessible. Joyce went to see if Stafford Borough Council could do anything for them, although they' were very understanding, they had no legislation to give them any power to make change, so The Spastics Society and SCVSWOS agreed to join, found an Access Officer 28 hours per week for one year. The Group was formed and Joyce was appointed Chairperson, with disability awareness days, attended by Councillors, MPs. and the Mayor of Stafford. Attitudes and the understanding of the needs of people with disabilities began to change. At the end of the year Stafford Borough Council agreed to provide a part-time Access Officer, with whom the group has built a very good working relationship. Joyce felt after that very first meeting, “If a job needs doing, it is worth doing well and nothing is impossible if your heart is in it”, and she knew hers certainly was.
Fantastic Fridays get a thumbs up from pupils
• Ready for lessons on jim-jams’ day at Stafford Prep are six-year-old Noah Boughey and Coppenhall’s Ethan Phan, aged five. Crazy hairstyles, party clothes and pyjamas make for a Friday treat to celebrate togetherness and raise a few smiles at a primary school during lockdown. A mood boosting end-of-week theme always wins the thumbs up from pupils at Stafford Prep who have jumped aboard to lend their support. Cost-free, easy ideas are chosen so that everybody can join in and parents are not burdened with stressful extra work. The inspiration came from nine-year-old Imogen Ashton who decided one day to put on her best bib and tucker for her online lessons. “I did it because we’re not getting the chance to dress up in nice clothes and go to parties. I thought if I don’t wear them soon, they won’t fit anymore. “Being at home all the time can get a bit boring, so Fridays are something we can all look forward to. It’s nice to think by doing it I’ve made everybody happy and it’s exciting waiting to see what the next theme will be too,” said Imogen. As the weekend looms large, youngsters who are working from home log-in for their school assembly to compare PJs, wacky hairdos or special outfits, while those in the classroom take part too. Head teacher Cheryl Martin said: “It was so lovely to see Imogen dressed up while she was working, so the following week the whole school followed suit. Friday assemblies are always full of smiles, waiting for the next person to pop up on the screen. It gives the children a purpose.” Meanwhile as even the youngest pupils embrace the daily live home-schooling programme, SPS staged an innovative virtual open evening with a spotlight on life in the reception class.
Businesses thanked for their Covid response The vast majority of businesses in Stafford Borough that have been allowed to stay open during the third national lockdown have acted responsibly, a senior councillor has said. The number of complaints to Stafford Borough Council have been ‘few and far between’ since leisure and hospitality businesses, and non-essential shops, were forced to close because of lockdown restrictions. Councillor Jonathan Price made his comments following widespread publicity from across the country about businesses breaching or bending Covid rules. He said: “’Shop complies with Covid rules’ is never going to make a popular story in the newspapers, or headline post on social media, – but the reality is the vast majority of our local businesses have followed regulations and put in measures to abide by the government guidance. “We do receive complaints and when we investigate some are baseless, some have minor issues that need to be addressed to keep within the spirit of the law - but those deliberately breaking rules are very few and far between. “This is an extremely tough time for local businesses and as a council we want to work with them to ensure they can remain open if the law allows them to and that their workers, customers and clients are all as safe as they can be.” Councillor Price is the Cabinet Member for the Environment, as well as the Lead Member for the Borough Council on the Covid Outbreak Control Board, and part of his portfolio includes the local authority’s Environmental Health Team who are involved with leading the test and trace regime in the borough - as well as liaising with businesses to ensure up to date regulations are followed. Councils were given powers to issue prohibition notice to restrict owners from operating if they didn’t comply with the Covid-19 legislation. Councillor Price added: “What is often highlighted in the media is those that breach the guidelines – the pub that has had a lock-in for customers or the barber that remains open. So, I want to thank all those businesses in our borough who are doing what has been asked of them – and in doing so they are helping save lives and protecting the NHS. “Where required we have passed on advice and signposted owners and managers to government guidelines, so they are clear what their responsibilities are during this time.” The council has a webpage where businesses can find advice and financial support during Covid-19 www.staffordbc.gov.uk/business-support-coronavirus
End of 6 month MOT extension February 1st marked the end of the six-month MOT extension announced by the Prime Minister during the first lockdown. This, along with several new driving laws that come into force throughout 2021 could see drivers facing a hefty fine or points on their license if not careful. Car Insurance Expert at Confused.com Alex Kindred says: “The 6-month MOT exemption was a weight off drivers’ shoulders, particularly for those still relying on their car to carry out essential work or pick up essential items, but renewal cannot slip from driver's minds. "According to our research nearly one in ten (9%) of drivers told us that they don’t know when their MOT is due for renewal. The last date you could claim your extension was the 31st July 2020, so that ends today. If your extension is and you have not yet rearranged your MOT, you could face a fine.
Young Farmers Deep Secrets revealed!
Despite Lockdown3.0, Staffordshire County Federation of Young Farmers Clubs (SCFYFC) are still organising fun evenings to bring together their current members and stay in touch. To help the leaders of each club, the federation has joined forces, with each club taking a turn to host a “takeover” evening for everyone. Following the success of Chase YFC who took members around an Ice Cream Farm and Cheadle YFC who kept everyone fit with an online workout, it was the turn of Uttoxeter Young Farmers to host last week. The Club hosted a “Would I Lie to You” evening and saw over thirty members attending. It was held in keeping with format of the popular TV Show and hosted by Toby Hall, Club Chairman of Uttoxeter Young Farmers, who was sporting his favourite outrageous shirt which put a smile on everyone’s face. Toby’s fellow Club Officers, Kate Mollatt and Eddie Phillips both confessed to embarrassing secrets from their past. The determined Kate took five attempts to pass her driving test and Eddie revealed that he once sank his teeth into another child in a ball pool – thankfully he was much younger and did say that it was by accident! The next club to host an evening is Ashley Young Farmers Club who have a “Quick Fire Mash Up” night planned to bring current members of all ages together online. Ashley YFC have been very active throughout the pandemic with supporting their local community with shopping and prescription deliveries. They also raised over £1300 for Cardiac Risk in the Young (CRY) and themselves as a registered charity, back in December with their “Covid-19 Day’s of Christmas” campaign which included a raffle, duck race and quiz. Staffordshire YFC has members aged 10 – 26 years across ten clubs in Staffordshire. Club meeting nights usually run on a weekly basis, with a wide range of activities available for members of all ages including sports, public speaking, cinema and bowling trips, quizzes and farm walks. Although not all members are from an agricultural background, the clubs in Staffordshire are based in rural communities and provide the much needed social life, new skills and learning opportunities, for any young people, with an interest in rural life and activities. The Covid 19 situation has meant that Staffordshire YFC has had to adapt the youthwork service it provides to its members and clubs and so many are now embracing the new normal with zoom nights until restrictions ease. As Staffordshire YFC looks to the future, the federation hopes to be able to plan events for later in the year, including competitions, the Annual Rally and also be involved in the Staffordshire County Show. For any further information about Staffordshire YFC’s Clubs and County and how to become involved, please contact Julia Taylor, County Organiser on 07984 174557 or email firstname.lastname@example.org .
20's plenty for Staffordshire
The recently formed Staffordshire branch of “20’s Plenty for Us” is concerned about speed and speeding in Staffordshire. We lobby for 20mph as normal where people live or mix with motor traffic. We ask for most 30 mph roads to go 20mph through signage and public engagement, not humps. 21 million people in the UK (1 in 3 people) live where 20mph is agreed as normal. We want this for Staffordshire’s streets. 20mph is safer, healthier and more sustainable than 30mph. 20% fewer casualties happen. Noise is almost halved. It brings life back to streets. It’s popular too with over 70% of people saying they want 20mph for their home street. Staffordshire County Council is responsible for speed limit schemes and Councillor Williams, the Cabinet member for Highways and Transport, supports lower speed limits and will consider 20mph requests from Towns/Parishes where they have local support and they can find local funding to pay for the scheme. “20’s plenty for Staffordshire” have already met with a number of towns and parishes across Staffordshire to provide them with information about the benefits, costs and design of 20mph schemes. We will soon be meeting with county councillors to seek their support. All are welcome to come join our enthusiastic “20’s plenty for Staffordshire” team to make 20mph happen where you are. For information about us email Staffordshire@ 20splentyforus.org.uk and also see www.20splenty.org. To join the “20’s plenty’s for us” campaign, joining is free, contact Anna Semlyen on 07572 120439 or email Anna.email@example.com
• MY VILLAGE VOICE HERITAGE
Stafford’s Old Market Square and Surrounds Part 1 – The Square by Nick Lakin
• Date 1957 - The Market Square was laid out with flower beds, trees and seating in 1953 to celebrate the coronation of Queen Elizabeth II. In 1992, as part of the pedestrianisation of the town centre, the bus shelter was removed and the square was paved. Photo courtesy of Staffordshire Past Track www.staffspasttrack.org.uk So, in the days of temperate weather (and, hopefully, with the we could catch either the S93 or S94 service, one of which town not resembling the masked ranks of Porton Down), took the Lichfield Road route, the other the Wolverhampton we Staffordians can meander around the town centre at Road one. Bus travel back then was usually very busy so the our chosen pace and direction. Pedestrianisation has trick for those going to the ‘end of the line’ was to keep a transformed the Market Square and Greengate Street. weather eye on Eastgate Street to see which one would This was not always the case, of course, as it was a totally arrive first and muscle into that queue as rapidly as different experience back when I was a kid. Perhaps the possible. For those travellers from north of the town, the expectation then was that the services a town centre offered stops were outside Burtons the Tailors on the corner of should be located in the centre and this was probably Crabbery and Gaolgate Streets. On the north side of the correct at the time given the lack of personal transport. Square, we had a couple of bright red telephone boxes as The façade of the Crown Court building remains as it was this, of course, was many years before the emergence of cell in the late 18th century albeit it is very much under-used phones. these days. A look further back than my childhood shows Anyway, where today we have children’s funfare rides, that the Jubilee Fountain, erected to celebrate Queen armed services recruitment vehicles and so forth, the Square Victoria’s golden jubilee, stood approximately in line with design was of a diametrically opposed nature then. Between the side of the Shire Hall adjacent to Eastgate Street. It was the bus stops and the Shire Hall was the Gents toilet demolished in the mid-1930s. In the 1950s, however, the amongst other things. This had been constructed as a architecture of the space between that building and where walk-down facility and it had thick, greenish glass tiles at the Boots the Chemists now stands, was of a very different side of the steps. Whilst it must have been attended nature. Boots has been there as long as I can remember regularly for servicing, there was a certain peculiar aroma albeit its next door neighbour was its greatest rival Timothy which usually emanated from it! Whites and Taylors ( that building now being joined both ...and, late on a Saturday afternoon, anyone waiting for a physically and financially with Boots). I was discussing this bus was regaled by an old chap with his bag over his article with my old friend from schoolboy days, John Young, shoulder, shouting what sounded to me like “Pink Panole”. and he recalled that chemist rivalry with a Ken Dodd one It took me quite a while to work out that what he was really liner which was “What a lovely day for walking into Boots and offering was the Express and Star Pink final, a summation of shouting Timothy Whites and Taylors” at the top of your the day’s Midlands senior football results. This was a big voice!). seller back in those days and it managed to combat the In the 50s, the main Midland Red bus stops for southward coming of new ways of receiving information on Wolves, the travel directly faced the Boots buildings and Midland Red Baggies and Stafford Rangers until the start of the had a building which housed lost luggage amongst other 2009/2010 season when it had to cease publication. functions. The buses themselves always arrived from So, putting aside the Gents toilets and Midland Red bus Eastgate Street although I knew where they parked as stops, the Square had its plus points as well with several Pitcher Bank ( named, apparently, from a previous porcelain flower beds and plenty of seating for those enduring a long market which took place there). Living in St Peters Gardens, wait – as it will be until Part 2 of this topic – perhaps.
Checking tyres during Lockdown will pay in the long run
Many vehicles will not have been used much since Christmas and those that have are likely to have only been used for short trips. Some drivers might put maintenance checks on hold, TyreSafe is advising drivers to check their vehicle’s tyres during Lockdown to potentially save themselves money in the long run and reduce the risk of a tyre-related incident when they do return to the roads. Most drivers are aware that as they drive, over time their tyres’ tread will wear down however they may ignore other important checks such as condition and air pressure if they aren’t regularly out on the road. In fact, a tyre is likely to harden and crack more quickly when it is left stationary than when it’s regularly used. If a tyre is left on a vehicle parked for any significant period of time, without the heat and movement from nominal use cracking could occur more quickly. To protect them from the environment, ideally tyres should be covered. While the effect of hardening usually takes months to have a noticeable impact on tyre condition, those who have had the same set fitted for some years should be aware of the potential for cracking to appear at any time. The weight of the vehicle resting on one section of the tyre also presents long-term problems. The tyre can become misshapen, which can create weak points internally. When used at higher speeds, these weak points create excessive heat and can lead to a catastrophic failure (or blowout) of the tyre. Vehicles should be moved regularly to ensure they do not rest on the same point. To reduce the risk of long-term damage caused by being out of use, a tyre’s air pressure should also be maintained at the vehicle manufacturer’s recommended settings. The correct air pressure (displayed as PSI or Bar) can be found in the owner’s manual, the fuel filler cap or door shut. An accurate pressure gauge should be used to check all tyres are properly inflated, including the spare wheel if your vehicle has one. When used on the roads, underinflated tyres cause the vehicle to use more fuel than is necessary. Not only that, but they will also wear quicker and be more vulnerable to damage. Stuart Jackson, TyreSafe chairman, said:“It’s easy to fall into the trap of ignoring maintenance checks when you’re not using your vehicle, but there are good reasons to keep up the routine. Most likely, using a vehicle with underinflated tyres will just add to your fuel bill and increase wear but there are instances when the outcome is far, far more severe. It’s imperative all vehicle owners continue to check their tyres throughout Lockdown – look after your tyres and they will look after you.”
Armed Forces Charity Welcomes Donation From Amazon Team
The Royal British Legion’s Battle Back Centre has received a £1,000 donation from the Amazon team in Rugeley. As the country’s leading Armed Forces charity, the Royal British Legion provides support to all serving and ex- service members of the British Armed Forces and their families and will be marking its 100th year in 2021. The charity’s Battle Back Centre, based in Shropshire, provides support to wounded, injured or sick serving personnel and veterans of the Armed Forces community through its multi-activity and wellbeing courses. Centred around adaptive sport and adventurous training activities, including wheelchair basketball, archery, mountain biking, climbing and caving, Battle Back helps those in recovery, in transition into civilian life, and veterans who may need help and support in their physical and mental wellbeing. As a signee of the Armed Forces Covenant, Amazon has joined a national pledge to ensure those who serve or have served, and their families, are treated fairly. In 2011, Amazon launched its Military Programme in the UK, offering veterans the opportunity to pursue exciting post-military careers. The Legion’s work is more vital than ever, and the donation will go towards supporting Battle Back attendees develop new skills, reconnect with those within the Armed Forces community and build confidence and motivation thanks to expert coaching and a focus on what can be achieved instead of what cannot. Speaking on the donation, Gary Norton, Site Leader at Amazon Rugeley, said: “We are proud to support The Royal British Legion’s Battle Back Centre. We would like to express our thanks to the charity for their on-going support to all the serving and ex-service men and women for their bravery and service.” Community donations are one of a number of ways in which Amazon is supporting communities across the UK during COVID-19. Amazon is providing disadvantaged students with online STEM courses as well as teaming up with charity partner Magic Breakfast and delivering over 2 million healthy breakfasts to families around the UK. For more information on how Amazon is supporting the UK during COVID-19, click here. For more information on the Royal British Legion and the Battle Back Centre please visit www.rbl.org.uk
March / April by Terry McCracklin
March 21- April 20 Everything seems somehow pale and grey - nothing exciting is happening in your life and what worries you more, you have no plans going forward. At least you have no financial worries and you and all around you appear to be in good health, barring the odd sniffle. The months running into Spring proper and Summer are a bit of an anti-climax after a vibrant end to 2020. Take the opportunity to gather yourself for what promises to be a fulfilling Summer in prospect.
(September 24 - October 23) 2021 seems to have a arrived with mixed blessings. You’ve certainly had to rely on friends and family in the last few weeks, but tell yourself that this is exactly what they are for. You wouldn’t have called on them if it hadn’t been the only way to cope - they know this and were only too happy to pitch in when called on. Now that the immediate mini crisis is over, you now really know who your friends really are that’s the blessing.
April 21- May 21 Christmas has brought a multiplicity of conunundrums for those of a bullish character - on the one hand you may well have had confirmation of a suspicion that has bugged you for years. On the other, you’ve discovered that your stand-offishness has meant you’ve potentially missed out on a possibly quintessential relationship that may have changed your life completely. Try not to judge people quite so quickly this year.
October 24 - November 22 You are slowly staring the long haul from hibernation that has been winter for you - particularly apt as “hiber” is Latin for Winter! Have a good stretch - ideally outdoors, and fully prepare yourself for a busy season ahead. You might feel you’ve missed out - but you haven’t really, you’ve just sat back and watched the world go by and there’s millions out there who would have liked to do just that!
May 22 - June 21 The last few months may well have been hectic, but they have also had a hidden cost that has only come to light. Whilst you have spent your time attending to the problems of those close to you, your own finances have taken a bit of a battering. So the time is now right to review four financial strategies and accept the limitations of a reduced access to capital. Not a problem if you don’t bury your head in the sand. Just be careful.
November 23 - December 21 You may well feel you’ve been dealt a tough hand in March. After a relatively laid back few months, you will find that you will have to put your foot down to the floor just to keep up with what’s expected of you. Don’t try to fight it - just accept you’ve had an easy ride and now it’s payback time. It’s what happens - you win some, you lose some and right now, you’re pedaling fast just to stay put. But as with everything in life, nothing lasts forever.
June 22 - July 22 All in all, most Cancerians are feeling pretty smug - self confident would be a kinder way of putting it. However, you are certainly feeling good about life and your part in it. Your relationships have never been more favourably aspected to the point where there may well be one special relationship that is dominating your waking thoughts - is romance really in the air? Trust your gut reactions and go with the flow - you are in a position of power just now.
December 22 - January 20 Who so beset him round with dismal stories, do but themselves confound - his strength the more is. Fortitude is a very underused word these days, but it means having the emotional and spiritual strength to overcome the vicissitudes that life invariably has to offer - and for most Capricorns, the lengthening of daylight is a welcome harbinger of warmer weather. The shorter the night, the happier you’ll be. 2020 was not a kind year on some levels you deserve better.
July 23 - Aug 22 Recent weeks have seen a decided upturn in your fortunes on every level. A little self assertion has gone a long, long way and being on the front foot means that it’s your plans that will dictate the progress of the next few months. Time to splash a little cash and give yourself and your partner a treat you feel you deserve.
August 23 -September 23 You are still prepossessed with what to do with your money. Certainly the UK Economy seems to indicate that cautious optimism is the way forward. Everything is telling you that bricks and mortar is the way forward. Fit and active? Prepared to clear up after tenants leave - and often redecorate ... hump beds and sofas up flights of stairs, collecting rents, arranging for plumbers and electricians? Property is fun, tangible and very rewarding - but remember, it’s hard work too!
January 21 - February 19 Poor Aquarians! You tend to bounce off spears and dodge arrows, but for some months, your shine has lost its intensity and your normal get up and go appears to have got up and gone. Conserve whatever you have left in the tank and wait for the merry go round to come back round and jump aboard. But until then, you’ll just have to accept that life, like investments can go down as well as up. Don’t worry the up is on its way
February 20 - March 20 It’s time to get serious. New Year’s Resolutions are all well and good, but the crossroads dead ahead will have ramifications for the rest of the year and beyond. As long as you remember there’s no right decision. Whatever you choose is the path you’ll follow. You won’t wonder if you got it right or wrong - life isn’t that simple. Whatever path you choose is your journey. There’s but one thing you need to remember - you really do have to make a conscious decision. You can’t stand still or go back - you must choose.
Councillor urges Landlords to make sure their house is in order Landlords in Stafford Borough are being warned to make sure their house is in order to avoid being hit in the pocket following two recent cases. Stafford Borough Council has issued the call after two landlords were ordered to pay a total of more than £6,000 this month (January) in separate incidents. Councillor Jeremy Pert, Cabinet Member for Communities and Health, urged people who rent out their homes to tenants to work with the local authority to avoid falling foul of the law. In the first case a 67 year old, Stafford man was given a conditional discharge and told to pay the council £1,310.40 by magistrates after admitting unlawfully evicting a tenant from their home in the town. And a man from Eccleshall was ordered to pay the council £5,000 by a tribunal who found the house he rented out in Stafford was left in a poor condition. Council Housing Standards inspectors found the premises, which had a number of tenants, was in a poor state of repair. Councillor Pert said: “Everyone deserves to live in a safe and secure home and we will not hesitate to take action against any landlord that flouts the law. “This is not a concern with the vast majority of landlords in the borough and we recognise the difficulties the last twelve months in particular has placed on some of them, but equally it is vital that all tenants are treated fairly, legally and so that they can rent a safe place to call home.” He added: “Fortunately our private rented sector is well maintained and we are always happy to work with landlords to offer advice on their responsibilities. But I would urge tenants with concerns about the safety of their home to get in contact with us. “ In most circumstances tenancies can only be ended by a court. If tenants are worried about an unlawful eviction they should contact firstname.lastname@example.org or 01785 619000. Landlords and tenants can find out more from www.staffordbc.gov.uk/rented-property-conditionsand- management
Don’t Worry! Possibly the most overused and misplaced piece of advice dished out by well meaning friends to folk is ‘don’t worry’. To worry about things is natural, to be worried/ concerned about your health or somebody else’s, your job, family and a whole host of other things that may well be on your mind. Some people feel that they have so much to care about that they tell anybody who will listen - but because of this they are not a problem when it comes to their emotional health. It is those who do not share their worries, keep them to themselves who can find themselves in a dark place. When told not to worry the word ALONE should be added. Don’t worry alone. It can be very hard to talk about your worries but by sharing the worry you may find a possible way that you had initially missed. Samaritans offer the space in a very safe, confidential environment for you to share whatever worries you are experiencing and at a time that suits you to talk. Samaritans free phone 116123 is open all hours and the support will be there for you without judgement. Alan Alecock Outreach coordinator Stafford Samaritans
Calling All Writers Page Turner Awards is inviting creative writers to join their community of writers and get involved in the Page Turner Awards 2021. The Page Turner Awards is an inclusive writing and book awards with one goal – to change the lives of as many writers as possible. Page Turner Awards passionately believes that talented writers can be from any background, age, race, religion, or interest. Members of the creative writing community contain talented writers and undiscovered literary gems. Whether you have a memoir, a gasp-inducing thriller or the next big-thing comedy screenplay, Page Turner Awards can’t wait to pass your story to their panel of influential literary judges and publishers. If you've already written a manuscript or published a book and would like to reach a wider audience, you may want to enter for the possibility of winning a publishing deal or an audiobook production. The inaugural Page Turner Awards ceremony, held online in October 2020, was a huge success - both on the night with writers winning high-value prizes, and in terms of how many lives it changed. The Page Turner Awards Fiction Writing Award 2020 winner Mark Stibbe, from Kent in England, has some words of advice: "I recommend all writers, especially aspiring writers, enter writing contests. I’m so glad I entered! Winning the Page Turner Fiction Writing Award and receiving a literary agent to represent me…wow!" Agent Yasmin Kane was immediately hooked on Stibbe’s story, A Book In Time, and anticipates a bright publishing career ahead for the novelist. The Page Turner Awards gives writers and authors the chance to enter unpublished or published fiction and non-fiction books, to be read by a carefully curated judging panel made up of influential players in the publishing industry. Prizes span everything from mentorships to audiobook production and publishing packages. Screenwriters may also get their film script optioned. Founder of Page Turner Awards and award-winning novelist, Paula Wynne said: “There are writers from all walks of life, from manual labourers to academics, all with stories to tell, and most of them heart-warming and moving. We’re proud that our awards celebrate excellent writing and helps writers and authors to get their stories discovered.” There is no doubt that members of the creative writing community, with their unique life experiences and creative mindsets, also have some excellent and fascinating stories to share, and we would love to read them." During the pandemic writers have been spending more time creating the stories they always dreamed they would tell. Page Turner Awards ran a survey of their writers and surprise findings showed that 61% of writers are able to write more since the pandemic started. Submissions for 2021 are now open. Find out more about The Page Turner https://pageturnerawards.com
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