Monday 30 May 2011

Glass full

The steady drizzle has fallen all Bank Holiday morning and does not give any hint of giving way. I haven’t quite recovered from a few days in which I allowed too many call centre conversations (for everything from a leaking toilet cistern to a misfunctioning Sky box), funerals, hospital call outs and weddings to crowd out even a Day Off. Now I open up my on-line banking to find that someone has repeatedly used my bank card number to lift £1200 or more from my account over the course of the last couple of weeks.

We have the rain we need, and it falls in the gentle persistent way which does most good. Help is usually available at the end of phone line. I have access to everything from a secure safe water supply to multiple forms of modern communication and media. I’m employed, and appear to be in demand to do worthwhile things. We saw these orchids in Roxton Wood when I did have Day Off last weekend. I’ve got the money I need, and someone is there to be helpful at my bank’s fraud department even on a Bank Holiday.

Tuesday 24 May 2011

Roxton Wood

We took part in a guided walk on Saturday. Without the guidance we would not have come across either this fox's den (we could see why it is called an 'earth') nor these newly planted oak trees (apparently the land owner is paid a grant for the first forty years but won't then be able to 'harvest' for more than a hundred years after that, which is why only major country estates can be expcted to go in for such things).

Saturday 21 May 2011

Churchyard workers

Lots of people, most of them welcome, have been working in St Nicolas’ churchyard.

The regular volunteer who quietly mows the new cremated remains area and around the main paths is much more appreciated than he realises. A new volunteer, who has come forward as a result of an advert we placed at Voluntary Action, has begun adding real value to this and earned the gratitude in particular of those who tend plots in the old cremated remains area. And over the last three days Community Pay Back have been in to make a splendid job of the annual mammoth cut back; this is perhaps a couple of weeks earlier than ideal as just some bluebells as the very last of the spring flowers had not quite died off and set seed, but the Bank Holiday weekend brides will be grateful we didn’t wait until early June as normal.

Meanwhile the top picture shows new kerbs and stones on a grave just two yards from the 2003 sign appealing to people not to make changes without permission and not to allow things like this to spoil the rural feel of this corner of Great Coates. What does one do (even assuming one can even trace the next-of-kin from a burial over twenty-five years ago)? End up on the front page of the local paper as the those who persecute the bereaved? Or let it go and risk others beginning to copy the idea and rapidly lose the whole character of this part of the churchyard?

And the bottom picture shows where a neighbour has removed his fence and come in to do this work layering our trees to develop a new hedge. It looks as if he’s done a really creative and attractive job; if he’d asked, I’m sure we would have welcomed his initiative. Does one do anything about this either (it certainly isn’t the sort of things anyone would consider doing in the garden of the person who lives next door without permission)? My naughty thought was we could write a letter thanking him for joining the small team of volunteers and giving him the next couple of jobs which need doing, but I don’t expect we’ll do that.

Wednesday 18 May 2011

Settling the margins

It intrigues me that the name Grimsby is unusual in being a name of Norse origin on the Trent and Humber bank. This doesn’t seem to surprise anyone else; it seems obvious that a natural port on the east coast might have such a name, and it is.

But just look at the sequence of names from Gainsborough (where the Trent was first bridged) to North Cotes (where the Humber gives way to the sea): Gainsborough, Morton, Stockwith, Susworth, Butterwick, Burringham, Gunness, Flixborough, Burton, Alkborough, Whitton, Winteringham, Ferriby, Barton, Barrow, Halton, Killingham, Immingham, Stallingborough, Healing, Coates, Coates, Grimsby, Clee, Humberston, Tetney, and Cotes. That is 23 English names as against 4 Norse names. (I’ve left out East Ferry, New Holland and Marshchapel which are modern names, and Goxhill which it is difficult to determine, and gone with the consensus that Killingham is the original form of Killingholme).

Now look at the sequence a single parish inland: Corringham, Pilham, Blyton, Laughton, Scotterthorpe, Messingham, Yaddlethorpe, Brumby, Frodingham, Crosby, Dragonby, Risby, Normanby, Thealby, Halton, Coleby, Winterton, Horkstow, Burnham, Thornton, Ulceby, Habrough, Brocklesby, Keelby, Aylesby, Laceby, Bradley, Scartho, Weelsby, Waltham, Holton, Waithe, Thorseby. The Norse names (17 of them here) now balance the English ones (16 here).

I haven’t found anyone who has noted or commented on this so have been wary of promoting a hypothesis on slender evidence and without scholarly corroboration. Nevertheless, I have wondered whether there is at least some pattern by which coastal settlements were established and named before Norse invaders arrived, and whether those Norsemen who pioneered new settlements had to do so on less promising ground inland of these settlements. The English population was low, and it would have been possible to concentrate it on prime sites such as those which gave access to water and trade. New settlers (whether or not they had taken over the existing prime sites) would have found unused land which would not have been the first choice of those already there.

It was only recently reading Michael Wood’s The Story of England (based on the village of Kibworth in Leicestershire) that I’ve returned to wonder about this again. He comes to the point when the Anglo-Saxon Chronicle records that the over wintering Great Army stopped supporting itself by pillaging and instead shared out land and began to plough (first in Northumbria in 876 and then in Mercia in 877):

The East Midlands, between Trent and Welland, the Lincolnshire Wolds and Leicester uplands, were divided up, and members of a Viking army settled and took land alongside the English landowners... The pattern of... names shows us what might have happened after the share-out of the land by the Great Army... From the first phase after 877 are hybrid names like Grimston which combine a Viking personal name with the English word ‘tun’ (village)... which suggests the appropriation of already existing English estates and settlements by warriors of the Danish army... Second-stage settlements - those of immigrants who perhaps came from England in the next two or three decades - are indicated by another layer of place names. To the north-east of Kibworth a cluster of names on poorer land contain the Viking word for farm, ‘by’... Galby issurrounded by villages which kept their English names... where evidently the local native farmers were not dislodged. The Vikings in Galby then had to be satisfied with poor mariginal land... Bushby as its name says, was a ‘farm in the scrubland’; Thurnby, ‘the farm on thorny land’; Rainsby... was ‘a borderland farm’.

The picture is a pillar piscina at Swallow which we saw at the weekend; is in Norman work which doesn’t fit very well with this post, but there it is.

Sunday 15 May 2011

Early grave marker

These grave markers are at Cabourne. The top one is pre-Conquest and the bottom one Victorian. We took the pictures yesterday when visiting three near by churches (the other two were at Nettleton and Swallow) each open as part of the annual West Lindsey Open Churches event and each with pre-Conquest tower arches and west doors, treasures under our noses that we hadn’t appreciated before. There does seem to be quite a cluster of these pre-Conquest towers on our door step with two even closer at hand at both Clee and Scartho on the edge of Grimsby, but I don't remember having come across such an early grave marker near by before.

Thursday 12 May 2011

The wrong issues?

Giving power to local communities results in visible environmental issues being tackled better but has less impact on the way less visible social issues are tackled. People like to influence things like ‘crime and grime’, and are able to express satisfaction when noticing that these things improve. People may simply be less aware (or even totally unaware) of, say, issues of abuse or health inequalities, and are much less likely either to campaign about them or be visibly effected by any improvements in them.

This was one of the things shared at the most recent Central Grimby Area Action Group which I’ve begun to attend on behalf of Freshney Forward. It comes from an analysis of the ‘path finder’ areas for the sort of ‘neighbourhood management’ in which our local authority is now engaged. I outlined the principles (and some of my reservations about this) on 10 January 2010: each Ward has a Councillor led open Forward group where local issues can be aired and, it is hoped, dealt with; each group of Wards has an Area Action Group attended by people senior enough in bodies like the local authority and the police to deal with the issues which haven’t been solved at Ward level and where a bigger policy-making picture can be formed.

At the first Area Action Group I attended I was a little discouraged to discover that most of those there were Councillors and officials - only three of us where normal Forward members. I was also discouraged that at this particular meeting so much time was given to issues which professionals wanted communicated ‘down’ (e.g. helping promote breast screening - only 68% take up locally as against 75% nationally) that they never reached the bit of the agenda where the professionals were meant to hear what the Forward want to communicate to them - which is exactly the opposite of what I thought the meetings were for.

But the feed back from the ‘path finder’ areas at the second meeting I attended did make me think twice. It seems that the flow of information ‘down’ (i.e. agencies telling us what the situation is locally) may be more important than I’d thought when I champion the idea of the flow of information ‘up’ (i.e. elected Councillors and Forward groups presenting concerns raised by locals). There is a dilemma here which is, of course, the one which lies at the heart of issues of democracy and professional service.

The face is a photograph is left over from our visit to Marshchapel church before Easter.

Monday 9 May 2011

Election swing

All three sitting Councillors in the western part of Grimsby (two Liberal Democrat and one independent) have lost their places to Labour replacements. It is part of a swing which has made Labour the main party for the first time since the mammoth clear out following the Council’s major financial crisis eight years ago, and perhaps returns North East Lincolnshire to what outsiders might expect the ‘normal’ situation to be.

From a selfish local point of view, it is sad and a little disquieting to see people go with whom we had built a significant relationship and understanding. Dave Boylen in the Freshney Ward (covering half of this parish) understood and was encouraging about our plans for St Nicolas’. Les Bonner in the Yarborough Ward (covering the other half) had made a particular financial and personal commitment to the Littlecoates Community Centre. And Peter Barker in the West Marsh Ward (in our neighbouring parish) had been an independent Councillor for over thirty years and was an ally when Inspiring Communities was brought to the West Marsh Forward which he chaired.

But this parish has acquired two new Councillors of similar quality and with lots of experience. Ray Sutton (Freshney) has been a particular effective chair of the Forward group for the Park Ward in which he lives. Peter Wheatley (Yarborough), who took a Council seat by just sixteen votes, has many previous years experience on the local Council, and he now represents the Ward in which he lives. We will have to buckle down and begin building a new working relationship with them.

Meanwhile, I took this photograph at St Michael’s this morning at a grave in which we were about to bury the cremated remains of the 103 year old widow of the man for whom it was first dug forty-six years ago; the family found the combination of the tree and the sun quite as striking as I did, as well as the thought that she would have been five before building began on the major part of the church on which the grave looks and thus almost the last person left who would have been able to see the north wall of the old church instead.

Friday 6 May 2011

Distant Water

Grimsby’s prosperity was built on work undertaken over the most extended hours in the harshest of conditions. This is obvious to anyone who visits former fishing families at home or tours the National Fishing Heritage Museum on the docks. It was brought home to me yet again at the launch of a new book at the Museum yesterday evening.

I’m involved in the Board of Directors for CPO Media, which began its life as the Community Press Office publishing local community magazines which were supported by regeneration funding. It continues to engage with the regeneration agenda through everything from other community publications to training those otherwise NEET (young people ‘not in education, employment or training’).

Its first venture into recording oral history was the important Lottery funded The Women They Left Behind which told an essential but otherwise neglected part of the Grimsby story. Now its North Wall Publishing imprint has now brought out a companion volume Distant Water which puts historical research alongside accounts from nearly fifty fishermen illustrated mainly with pictures from an unused 1959 Sunday Pictorial archive.

It was quite an evening. I was arrested at the very beginning by a display about the sheer number of young orphans running away from ships into which they had been pressed as apprentices in the nineteenth century, and ended up hearing stories from one of the contributors about being boarded from a suspicious Russian naval vessel when off the north Russian coast; he was grateful that such stories and their context are not being lost, which is probably most of the point.