Mayor’s Diary - Cllr Celia Wride

 

On the 19th May 2018, Celia was elected the 645th Mayor of the City of Wells, and at the Mayor-making Ceremony her daughter Sarah was appointed the Mayoress.

Celia has chosen to support two very worthy local charities this year: the St. John Ambulance, Wells and the Lawrence Centre, a day-care facility for the elderly. She is organising charity events throughout this year – and hopes to see as many members of the community there as possible!
In her acceptance speech, Celia promised to do her utmost to meet the responsibilities of so important a civic office and to take advantage of every opportunity this Mayoral year to promote this beautiful city, in which we are fortunate enough to live and work, and to which we welcome thousands of visitors each year.

The 645th Mayor of Wells’ Diary – issue 24

At midday on Thursday, Sarah and I sat down to the Macmillan Cancer Support Luncheon at The Swan Hotel. The Garden Room was packed – you could not have squeezed in another soul! When my husband was taken ill with Non-Hodgkin’s Lymphoma in 1998/9, Macmillan weren’t quite so present as they are now, but I was fortunate to have the Police network around me, which helped tremendously. Macmillan is trying to ensure that no one diagnosed with cancer, their friends and family, go without support, advice and practical assistance – but some still do. More counsellors, nurses, support-groups, and grants are needed! There is always a need for events like this to help raise awareness and funds. I am reliably informed that this delicious luncheon (I still think of that rum and raisin cheese-cake!) and its awe-inspiring raffle (the list of prizes took up four pages of A4!) raised in excess of £3,500!! In fact, Mark Tobin, the Master of Ceremonies, and his committee have recently been recognised for fund-raising more than any other area-group in the country! Isn’t that fantastic? Thank you so much for inviting us – keep up the good work!

On Friday evening, I joined in the Air Cadets reunion at their Webbs Close base. Here, I got to see at first hand the excellent piece of flight simulation equipment that Cllr. John North, my predecessor, helped to buy – I then proceeded to crash the ‘airplane’ on its way to landing at Bristol Airport! I enjoyed a proper-sized cuppa and looked at photographs taken over the years (picking out a very fresh-faced 13-year-old Cllr. Colin Price straight away!).

The next day, you might have spotted Sarah and I cutting the ribbon to open Roly’s Fudge Pantry in the Market Place. Sarah and Steve, best of luck to you! We could watch fudge being made for hours – and the assortment that you kindly gave us was delicious, thank you (and gone in seconds - come on waistline, you can do it!).

That afternoon, we welcomed the Leprosy Mission, to St. Thomas’ Church Hall. As I said in my introduction, my knowledge of leprosy derives from Sunday School, Ben-Hur, or, sadly, TV comedy sketches – it was an eye-opener to be able to hear the history of lovely Zimbabwean couple, Dan and Babs Izzlett, who had been diagnosed with and cured from the disease. Leprosy is still a stigma-disease that affects too many people, but it can be treated successfully. It was hard to hear of this and other case-histories – but easy to see what a difference the Leprosy Mission is making across the world. Thank you, Trevor Grant, for patiently explaining to two novices exactly what the disease was and how it can be contracted – Sarah and I both wish you and your team every success in the future.

This week we marked one hundred years since the signing of the Armistice that ended World War One. Sarah and I felt privileged that we were invited to participate in eight commemorations.

At 11am on Friday, all pupils at The Blue School assembled on the playing field in the pouring rain to impeccably observe a minutes silence. My thanks go to the Headmaster, Mark Woodlock, for inviting myself, Derek Cooper and Dr. Peter Fordham of Wells Royal British Legion, to share in this ‘school’ moment. What a moving spectacle!

Later that day, at St. Cuthbert’s Parish Church, St. Cuthbert’s School children sang wartime songs, including the first verse of ‘Silent Night’ in German, at their Remembrance Service. They presented a specially-written drama about the excitement of going to war, going on an adventure, only to be faced with so much injury and death. Thank you, Helen Mullinger, the Headmistress, all of the teachers and staff, for including me. Didn’t they do well?!

On Saturday morning, the market-shoppers all stopped to listen when the Town Crier, Len Sweales, read out a poem about World War One; it was penned by Feral, who sells the Big Issue on Wells High Street, usually outside of the National Westminster Bank. Such beautiful lines – Feral, you are clearly very gifted, thank you for sharing them with us.

Two events recognised the over eight thousand Somerset servicemen, or those who served in a Somerset regiment, killed in this conflict.

The ‘Somerset Remembers’ service, organised by the Somerset Lieutenancy, was held at Wells Cathedral on Tuesday evening. This was, for me, incredibly moving and interesting. The order of service was followed by pages of painstaking research about wartime Somerset – the songs and hymns, especially the Vicar’s Choral rendition of ‘Oh, we’m come up from Somerset’, and detailed narration by Tom Mayberry brought history to life. You really felt what it may have been like when the Pals Battalions knew that the war would not be over by Christmas. Peter Snow’s address described his Grandfather General Thomas Snow’s involvement – it was almost like listening to family secrets. (I did have to smile, though, when I saw one of the younger choirboys sing the last bar of a beautiful piece of music and then wipe his nose on his sleeve!)

At 6pm on Saturday, wrapped up and armed with umbrellas, Sarah and myself joined one hundred others at the Bishop’s Palace for a special floodlit preview of the Somerset Poppies installation, created by Coxley teacher, Dan Vidler. The field of poppies, each hand-made by Primary School children in Wells and surrounding villages to represent a fallen Somerset Tommy, was mesmerising. Wow. Local school choirs serenaded us with war-time favourites as we supped on strong Gunpowder tea (tea and rum), once served to the troops, and Siobhan Gibson handed out copies of Wells Bookworms’ brilliant Wells Remembers collection. The installation will be on display until the 25th of November – but are also available to buy, proceeds will go to Wells R.B.L. and S.S.A.F.A., the armed forces charity. Dan, I hope that you were proud – I certainly was. It was also lovely – and not surprising – to hear how highly your class thinks of you. One young lady from the choir quickly pinpointed ‘Mr. Vidler’s Tales of Wisdom’ as her favourite part of each day. Well done! If I may, I also wanted to say to Dave Banwell, what a lovely way to remember your father.

Sunday’s schedule was, of course, almost identical in villages, towns, and cities across the country. At 6am, the time when the Armistice was actually signed, a Lone Piper played ‘Battle’s Over’ before the gates of every cathedral – in Wells the rain stopped just for that short space of time. We were surprised and delighted to see over one hundred people there (even if it took us a few looks to recognise familiar faces in the dark!). Wells was honoured to welcome the Vice Lord Lieutenant, Brigadier David Godsal to represent Her Majesty, Queen Elizabeth, to our Remembrance Service at St. Cuthbert’s Church. The wreath-laying took place at 11am and, one of the proudest moments in my Mayoral year, I took the salute in the March Past Parade. My sincere thanks go to everybody who has been involved with planning this event over the last several months – and to Antonia Gwynne for ‘keeping her head’ on the day! At 7.05pm another very special thing happened. Len recited a ‘cry’ written by the Pageant Master and read simultaneously by fellow Town Criers all over the world. Len’s small audience in the Market Place bristled with pride. What a fitting end to the day.

Celia

The 645th Mayor of Wells’ Diary – issue 23

This was not an action-packed week – well, it was, but not in a good way! I was unfortunately struck down by gastroenteritis and had to miss three events. (I have, however, lost seven pounds in a matter of days – so, swings and roundabouts!)

Sarah and I were due to attend the City of Wells Almshouses’ World War One Commemoration Evening, of songs and readings from the era, at the Chapel on Saturday. I had chosen to read Charlotte Mew’s ‘May 1915’ and ‘Here dead lie we because we did not choose’ by A. E. Housman, but I understand that Andrew Fawcett kindly stepped into the breach and did a magnificent job. Thank you, Andrew! There was a collection for the Royal British Legion and the Chapel Renovation Fund. (This building really is one of central -Wells’ ‘hidden gems’ - if anyone out there would like to help preserve it for future generations to enjoy please do get in touch!) Well done to the residents, who decorated the Chapel beautifully, and Nick Wilson, Chris Vigar, and Andrew for organising such a successful evening – my spies tell me that there was standing room only!

My malady also kept us from a quiz at The Venue later that evening. Dave and Nathan, I will get to you at some point!! Cllr. Tony Robbins tells me that it too was a great success. (There seems to be too much success going on without me being anywhere near - which is worrying!)

The Masonic Armistice Service of Remembrance, to commemorate Freemasons who lost their lives or were injured during the Great War, took place at Wells Cathedral on Sunday. I sent my apologies to Roger Allen, Provincial Grand Secretary for Somerset; in his reply, Roger described the laying of crosses for the fallen as a particularly poignant moment in the service. I was gladdened to read that as many as 453 people were able to pay their respects.

I had to leave Chairing the Full Council on Thursday in the Deputy Mayor, Cllr. John Osman’s capable hands – sadly this meant that I was unable to welcome new councillors Caroline McKinnell and Philip Welch to our ranks in person. I wish you both all the very best for the next six months and possibly beyond.

This seems like the perfect opportunity to encourage people to stand for election in May, for any party. Wells City Council, as you may or may not know, is a Parish Council and, as such, ‘not political at all’, as Cllr. Maureen Brandon will tell you. It’s just made up of people who want to help their local community, in whichever way they can. Many councillors work full-time – it’s not as big a time commitment as you might assume. If you are tempted, please come along to a few of our regular meetings or get in touch with me to see what happens!

One last thing! You’re not going to get away that easily …I’ve yet to peddle the Mayor’s Charities Grand Christmas Draw tickets, available from the Town Hall (or me) now! For as little as £1, you too can be in with a chance to win a £50 Cornish Seasalt voucher, full body massage from In Harmony, John Lewis Beauty Advent Calendar, and a magnum of one of the world’s best Proseccos! Now come on, what’s not to like?

The 645th Mayor of Wells’ Diary – issue 22

Last Sunday, Catriona Lawder and I judged the ‘non-alcoholic beverage stalls’ (stop laughing all of you!) at Wells Food Festival. There were some delicious chai drinks on offer, but for us the winner was Henny & Joe’s, a Bath-based company started by Lottie and her fiancé in 2013. I managed to catch the tail-end of a debate about local food, organised by Paddy O’Hagan, and chaired by Andy Webb, I only wish that I had been able to hear more – and, yes, I have asked for the Ballroom door to be oiled! Sadly, the weather couldn’t have been much worse, but what a marvellous turn-out! Sarah joined me to have a look around before we headed to the Sauerkrautathon Guinness World Record attempt. I helped (or was helped by) two very nice young lads to pummel the air out of the mix in a large vat! Thank you, Jo Webster – what an event! The same applies to Simon Lawder, Judith O’Hagan, and everyone involved in organising the day – what a great way to celebrate all that is good about our local food and drink! Why couldn’t it be over the whole weekend?

We later joined Somerset dignitaries at the Cathedral’s Harvest Thanksgiving Service, attended by the Somerset Federation of Young Farmers’ Clubs, Wells Cathedral School, and representatives from rural life across the county. The Reverend Ben Flenley, Associate Vicar and Rural Dean, who hailed from a benefice in the Quantocks, gave one of the most amusing and informative addresses I have heard. A very uplifting evening.

Thursday was an unusually busy day. At 10am I cut not ribbon but baling twine to open Mike Phelps’ new Hand Carwash and Valeting Service at Palace Farm. There is so much room here for customers to leave their vehicles, big or small, to be cleaned, inside and out, whilst they wander off and shop in town to their heart’s content! Good luck to Mike, his family, and all of the staff with this new venture! I really should bring my daughter’s car, which looks like it’s used to transport sheep, down for a deluxe valet as soon as possible. As a matter of local interest, Mike will be opening the Palace Fields Car Park on Remembrance Sunday for those who wish to attend the Service and Parade.

I went from Palace Fields straight to the Mondyes Court Coffee Morning, organised by Pat Robinson, a former Mayor of the City, in aid of Save the Children. Not only was my mug of tea excellent, I bought several strips of (losing!) raffle tickets, three lavender bags, some red ribbon, and a pot of pansies! It’s an expensive business this being Mayor malarkey! Thank you, Pat, and all of the volunteers, one of whom has been organising events like this for over 50 years, for putting in so much hard work.

But my day was not yet over. At 6pm Sarah and I attended the launch party of the Wells Literature Festival at Cedars Hall. We mingled with the festival Chairman, Richard Manning, its trustees and supporters, and enjoyed wine and delicious canapes. The festival will run from the 19th to the 27th October and is chock-full of interesting authors and writers, amongst them Alan Titchmarsh, Max Hastings, and John Preston author of the recently televised A Very English Scandal (brilliant, but - spoiler alert! - I felt so sorry for the dog!). Its profits always go towards local educational projects. Break a leg to everyone!

On Saturday I joined the Southover Brownie and Rainbow Packs at the Methodist Church. The girls were working towards their World War One Challenge Badge; we made poppy biscuits, red felt poppies for a church display, a poppy whirly-gig, and heard from a lovely lady who had discovered her grandfather’s service photographs, medals, and documents amongst her family’s belongings. I was fascinated! Thank you all, especially Lucy and Cheryl Norton, for making me so welcome! Those ANZAC biscuits were divine. Note to self: really must dust off those old Weight Watchers books.

That same evening Sarah and I were invited to the Tortoise and Hare (and Snail) Awards Presentation evening at The Britannia Inn. The run organisers, Wells Classic Motorcycle Club, rather mysteriously instructed us to arrive at 8.30pm sharp, and not before! This was because it quickly followed the A.G.M. – we watched from the margins as all of the neatly arranged tables were pushed aside to make way for drinks, a buffet, and space for me to present cups to the competitors and a cheque for £4,500 to the Air Ambulance. I am reliably informed that since Chris Weeks has been at the helm (er, handlebars), the Club has raised over £21,000 – which is breath-taking!

The next day, while a lovely lamb leg roasted in the oven, our first roast dinner for some time, I visited the Wells Contemporary Art Exhibition at the Bishop’s Palace which severe tooth pain and an emergency dental appointment had kept me from last week. It was very therapeutic to walk quietly around the many interesting exhibits. My favourite? Boreal Abyss – I liked the smallness, colours, and feel.

Just two quick Mayor’s Charities updates before I leave you…

Saturday morning found me plying wares in the Market Place. Jeff Body, of Shepton Mallet Sheep fame, has kindly made me some beautiful stone swans as garden ornaments and candle-holders, painted, and plain white, black, or gold, to sell. I might have strong-armed a few friends into making a purchase, but for two good causes! Happily, I almost sold out, but fret not, more are on their way!

I’m delighted to report that the Mayor’s Grand Christmas Draw tickets are now on sale! You can buy them, together with Jeff’s swans, at the Town Hall. Win a state-of-the-art Canon Digital Camera, an overnight stay in The Swan Hotel’s Cathedral Suite, a Waitrose Luxury Hamper, and, as they say, SO MUCH MORE! Go on, only £1 per ticket…

Celia

The 645th Mayor of Wells’ Diary – issue 21

Sarah and I were guests at the Wells Railway Fraternity’s 50th Anniversary Dinner at The Swan Hotel on Tuesday. In my speech I challenged the expert audience to a few questions about Bristol Zoo – but they knew all about the three elephants walked down Whiteladies Road, from the Zoo to Clifton Down Station, to be weighed during the 1950s and stole the wind from my sails! Luckily, I also had Aunty Penny’s Box Brownie snaps of the first diesel train at Stapleton Road Station up my sleeve! Colin Boocock then talked us through his and Mary’s recent journey across Europe, from Austria to Moldova, by train. Usually, when people show me their holiday photographs, I smile politely, but, really, switch off. Tonight, I was fully engaged. Colin’s gentle narration made it feel like we were there. Thank you, Chris Challis, Colin Price, and Andrew Tucker for being such wonderful hosts. I was particularly proud to present a cheque to David Maidment, founder of the charity, ‘Railway Children’ – bravo, all of you!

On Wednesday evening we visited the ‘Creative Minds’ Heads Up Art Exhibition, also at The Swan Hotel. The work on display was not only varied and impressive, but beautifully presented. I purchased a ‘forest baby’ face. I collect interesting faces – they hang on the wall facing my kitchen window (which, when the room is unlit and there’s a full moon out, can look a little sinister!). Thank you, Bridget Harvey, for inviting us – well done to you and all of the Heads Up volunteers who worked so hard to organise this event!

Thursday saw us in Belgium – I jest, but sometimes my life feels a little like those 1970s whirlwind coach holidays! Today I did two things. I nipped into the Museum to support Andrew Fawcett, Chair of the Board of Trustees, as he showed students from St. Cuthbert’s Junior School its amazing World War One exhibition and immersive ‘trench experience’, about the lives of Wells men and women at home and on the front. I was very calm when I spoke to the children, but might have lost my cool when asked to do a short off-the-cuff interview for BBC Points West. Hopefully I acquitted myself without too many mistakes! (Is it wrong to hope that they won’t show it?)

That evening, Sarah and I joined representatives from towns and parishes across Somerset at Taunton Rugby Football Ground for the County Council’s annual Awards Ceremony. The Chairman, Cllr. Nigel Taylor, a fellow caver, became emotional when he recognised the exemplary valour of four young cavers from Somerset, Chris Jewel, Connor Roe, John Volanthen, and Josh Bratchley, part of the team that recued the junior football team from the Tham Luang Nang Non cave system in July. This was followed by over thirty Chairman’s Awards for Community Service. It’s staggering what people have been able to achieve! The range of projects! From the literal and metaphorical drivers behind Stogursey’s volunteer-run alternative to public transport, the Stagecoach, to Ed Pratt, a 29-year-old Taunton man who unicycled around the world, totally independently of support crews (but, I assume, with very roomy panniers) to raise over £300,000. I am thrilled that our very own Derek Cooper’s voluntary work for the Chamber of Commerce, Arthritis Care, Wells Carnival, and the Royal British Legion was also celebrated. His was an award well deserved and long overdue! I don’t think that Nigel – or any of us - could have been prouder of Somerset than we were tonight.

Unfortunately, due to a few health setbacks (not serious) Sarah and I had to send our apologies to organisers of the Wells Contemporary Art Exhibition at the Bishop’s Palace on Friday evening, but we know that it went brilliantly! We are hoping to take up Paddy O’Hagen’s kind offer of a guided tour in the coming week, incognito.

Before I leave you, I just wanted to add that the Mayor’s Grand Christmas Draw tickets will soon be available. I will oh-so-casually remind you of the many stunning prizes on offer in future diaries…

Celia

The 645th Mayor of Wells’ Diary – issue 20

Gosh, another busy week!

On Wednesday evening, Sarah and I attended the Annual Moat Boat Race Awards Presentation, organised by the Wells’ Lions Club and Air Cadets, at The Swan Hotel. The fantastic array of trophies and shields were given out by myself, Paul Clegg, President of Wells’ Lions, commanding-officer Flight Lieutenant John Blackburn, excellent commentator Allan Trinder, and event-sponsors, including the Wells Journal, Sun Chemical, The Swan Hotel, and Bowley’s Garage. (I must declare an interest with Bowley’s Garage, Jason is my first port of call for all car queries! Especially now that I’ve joined the Yeovil Car Club!) The 1955 (City of Wells) Air Cadet Squadron clocked up too many to count - or carry, they hoarded this treasure behind the stage until it was time to go! There was a slight undercurrent of bitterness… an all-female boat had been pipped to the post by Sun Chemical and Nathan Rowe’s Team. I just had to show sisterly solidarity! Len Sweales’ extraordinary contribution was also recognised. It was great to re-live the races – and personally confirm that ‘Nimbus 2000’ lived to row another day! Thank you so much for inviting us – long may the Moat Boat Race continue!

Thursday evening found me at the annual St. John Ambulance Awards Ceremony, held in the Town Hall, shrieking for “Bertie the Badger!” with Wells’ Badger Sett. Unfortunately, Bertie didn’t make his appearance… we tried again… and again. Still no show. I felt like I was auditioning for the Little Theatre’s Christmas pantomime (I am available, by the way). Phew! Bertie finally emerged from the Mayor’s Parlour and Sarah escorted him to the stage. I loved this event last October – so much so that I chose St. John Ambulance to be one of the Mayor’s Charities this year. (Thank you Lynne Alton and Alex Fowler for all of your help!)
Everyone involved is so hard-working – and lovely. Badgers and cadets achieved certificates in not only in First Aid, but I.T., the environment (including, I’m happy to report, litter-picking), even walking! There were young people I can remember from last year – Cameron, Curtis, Polly, and John – and many new names. Well done everyone!

Now, Friday was my 66th birthday. I know it’s unbelievable, I don’t look a day over 42! Part of Sarah’s present was a place on the S.S.L.’s willow-weaving course here in Wells. I have always admired the willow sculptures alongside the Portway in Bristol, the M5, and, nearer to home, in one garden in Rodney Stoke – this was my big chance to have a go! I enjoy making things; I once learnt how to dry-stone wall at Portland Prison (I was not an inmate, nor were they exploring non-cement options for keeping prisoners in!). Sarah and I were one basket in and preparing to try our hands at wicker bunting (I’m obsessed!) when we broke off to formally open the brand spanking new Shepton Vets surgery, offering 24/7 service and ample parking, at the Cathedral Park. I was going to be there come rain, shine, or willow-weaving – my lovely lad, Bert, is a patient of Greg Elliott-Moustache at the Shepton Mallett surgery, the whole team is brilliant. Unfortunately, the rain did come – but they were all still smiling, face-painting, and saying hello to visitors. Martin Law, I wish you every success with the surgery and thank-you for making Sarah, Bert, and I so welcome before we dashed back to the Portway. (By the end of the day, we had two baskets, bunting, a fat-ball bird-feeder, and a far too large Christmas wreath to our names. I would recommend this course to anyone!)

On Sunday you might have spotted me dressed up in all my finery at the first of two ‘Wake up Wells!’ project events, conceived to open a new community forum for talking about local issues, putting together our vision for Wells’ future, and, ultimately, changing the way that different people and agencies work together. At this conference, held at the Town Hall, organised brilliantly by Emma Lefevre and Kirstie Harris, we were treated to presentations by Naomi Griffith, of Watchet’s Onion Collective, which supports community development projects, Dr. John Davies, Dean of Wells Cathedral, and, a personal highlight, Richard Walker, the charismatic Joint Managing Director of Iceland. Iceland, his family’s firm, is a market leader in food and the environment – it takes the first giant leap, and most supermarkets follow swiftly after. Richard announced his intention to drop 5p carrier bags by the end of the year and make all products sold at Iceland plastic free by 2023. The hint was made, several times, that the vacant premises in the High Street might be suitable for a frozen food outlet, but we will have to wait and see if our entreaties bear (frozen) fruit! Lots of interesting ideas came from the ‘workshops’, so watch this space! The second event, an epic ‘Fresher’s Fair’ of all special interest groups in the city, will take place on the 26th January 2019 in the Cathedral Nave.

Celia

The 645th Mayor of Wells’ Diary – issue 19

First and foremost, I am delighted to report that my Big Quiz raised £1632.78 for St. John Ambulance and the Lawrence Centre! Thank you so much, again, to everyone who helped and came along!

On Wednesday I attended the first joint A.G.M. and Annual Member’s Meeting of the Somerset Partnership N.H.S. Foundation Trust and the Taunton and Somerset N.H.S. Foundation Trust at Taunton’s beautiful Racecourse Conference Centre. Quite a mouthful! It was fascinating to discuss improving existing and introducing new services across the county in the next 30-70 years. Gone are the days when you had to be half dying before Mum would ‘bother’ the doctor; there were no appointments, we would just turn up at the surgery and wait our turn. I would read the Beezer, Mum would peruse the waiting room copy of the Woman’s Own. With me, it was always tonsillitis until I had the culprits removed at 21! I asked about the impact of more housing developments and people living longer (she says, leaping towards wood!); how will both Trusts support the Wells Health Centre and City Practice if more patients are unable to attend surgeries in person and need to be seen in their own homes? This was my own G.P.’s main concern. The panel reassured the audience that this scenario has been foreseen and is being planned for. Happily, at this week’s full Council, Michael Bainbridge, Head of Primary Care at the Somerset Clinical Commissioning Group, was able to give a highly informative presentation about these and other challenges Wells now faces. The group’s priority was to address the shortage of skilled nursing staff, especially Nurse Practitioners; Michael was keen to employ paramedics and train them to prescribe. They were also looking at extending the existing surgeries onto a second floor. Unfortunately, we were caught in the aftermath of the awful accident at Walton on our way home from Taunton; in our wisdom, we turned onto a side-road and ended up returning to Wells via Langport to avoid traffic (as you do). Langport, incidentally, very pretty…

On Thursday I welcomed a large audience to the Mendip Conference, organised by Visit Somerset’s John Burton and Andy Webb, of Visit Wells, at The Swan Hotel. We were there to explore ways in which the city and county can increase our visitor numbers, vital to local business. There were four highlights for me: Katrina McWhinnie, a leading Brexit Expert and Consultant, talked about how we can plan for Brexit. It was an eye-opener to realise quite how much we, and I mean every single person, may be affected. For example, will the same food supplies, everyday items, not to mention machinery and spare parts for cars and motor cycles, be as accessible when there are tariffs and delays crossing borders? We may hear the slogan ‘Buy British’, which I remember from the late 1960s. It might wake us up to only buying seasonal fruit and vegetables grown locally, freezing and preserving more fresh produce, or growing more of our own! John is working with Visit Devon to promote the whole of the South West in America, China, and Australia; we now have to look further afield than Europe, which, he quipped, may not ‘like’ us straight after the ‘divorce’! Rosie Martin, Chief Executive of the Bishop’s Palace, announced a Wells Heritage Partnership between the Palace, Cathedral, Museum, and, after its restoration, the Bishop’s Barn, to be up and running by the end of this year. Finally, Dave Crew, of Weston College, stunned me with an amazing fact. Did you know that £1.28 billion was made available for apprenticeships nationwide in April this year, but has so far not being taken up by employers? Apprentices do not have to be 16-24; what a fantastic way to expand or for existing staff-members to add extra strings to their bow! I certainly came away feeling more positive about what the future holds.

I started the Wells Dementia Alliance Walk on Sunday morning. Now before you all stand agog at my athleticism, I started it by cutting the ribbon and sending about sixty gallant souls (and their dogs) off on a 3.5-5 kilometre tour of Wells. Arnold Wills welcomed everyone, the brilliant Len Sweales gave a rallying ‘Cry’ (pausing mid-verse to revel in his ‘alliance’/’science’ rhyme!), leaving me just time enough to yell take care, enjoy it, and break a leg (but not literally!) before the clock struck 10am. The walkers ended up at The Swan Hotel, where they were treated to a cuppa and cake ‘revive’. Well done! I know that many of you were joining in to support or remember someone special. Thank you, Arnold, Tom Ronan, and Jenny Atkins for organising this event and inviting us – we will wear our lovely forget-me-not badges, hand-made by Heads Up Somerset, with pride.

Later that afternoon, I attended the Chapel of the Holy Trinity and St. Mark with allotment holders, staff and volunteer gardeners at the Bishop’s Palace and their families for a Harvest Celebration. What a beautiful setting! This, I am embarrassed to say, was my first visit to the chapel. The service was led by the Bishop’s Chaplain, the Reverend Canon Dr. Graham Dodds, we sang hymns I can remember from my early school days, that I have always loved, and admired the produce on display, all of which The Connect Centre should now have distributed to the local people who need it most. Afterwards the congregation walked across to the allotments, where Kath Bryant plied us with tea, cakes, and the odd sandwich. I am not surprised that there is a waiting list for a plot here – but I think that an allotment anywhere within the City is a valuable asset at the moment. Thank you, Shirley Garner, for your kind invitation and guided tour.

This was a full day for me, in-between events I cut the grass and generally put my garden to bed for the Winter. It’s not just dressing up and wearing a very important chain, you know – I have home jobs to do too!

Celia

The 645th Mayor of Wells’ Diary – issue 18

On Thursday Sarah and I attended the Wells in Bloom Awards Presentation evening held at the Town Hall. It was a full house! Sarah, keen, but anxious to confirm that no public speaking would be required of her, presented the highest award to the Stepping Stones Play Group, the Explorers Nursery came a close second, and Chewton Mendip Primary School with the Parkes Trophy. Croscombe Primary School won the David Nasmyth Memorial Cup for the best vegetable garden for the second year running, awarded by David’s wife, Virginia. I’m crossing my fingers that more schools will become involved in future. I presented trophies to Wells’ businesses – the champions were The Globe Inn, Britannia Inn, and Rock House Dental Practice – and the allotment and garden entries. It was lovely to be allowed to be nosy and look at photographs of other people’s back gardens. Yours are both excellent, Richard Leworthy and Adrian Guise! I spoke to Mr. Lippiatt, who had planted over a thousand daffodils on his allotment, which I thought was a fantastic endowment to future allotment holders. I could mention name after name of winners of beautiful patios and gardens and displays, but I should probably stop there. As Mr. Grace would say “you all did very well”. I stole this opportunity to make a Mayoral Award to Jenny Jones, who is retiring as the Schools’ Competition Secretary after seventeen years loyal voluntary service. I know at first hand how invaluable a member of the Wells in Bloom family she is – happy retirement, Jenny, but please don’t put away your trowel quite yet! I would also like to welcome John Beauchamp to the organising committee and thank him, Andy Allen, and Colin Price for their stirring speeches and rallying the volunteers and sponsors for the year ahead. Many thanks also to you, Tina Blackwill, for making such a beautiful (and VERY popular) under-the-sea-themed cake – we were all eyeing it up in the front row!

Saturday was a bit hectic. It started leisurely enough with my usual six or seven mugs of tea, a spot of breakfast …then Sarah and I realised the time and quickly rushed off to Axbridge for the town’s annual Blackberry Carnival and Fair. Once we had painstakingly worked out a route to avoid road-closures, we joined other local mayors and chairs (‘the chain-gang’!) for a lovely light lunch before I donned my robes and we processed through the streets behind the Wellington Majorettes as part of the carnival. Unfortunately, as you no doubt remember, it was pouring with rain; Barbara Wells, the Mayor of Axbridge, gave us all permission to watch the floats go by from the Town Hall doorway instead, but we were having none of it! I smiled and waved manically, hopefully I didn’t frighten too many children! We walked as far as Axbridge Court Care Home; some residents came out onto the patio to talk with us, meet the Carnival Queen, and see the Majorettes in action. A tiny little girl, in her smart lavender-coloured uniform, didn’t have a set of pom-poms; one was soon thrust into her hand, but then she seemed confused as to what to do with it. She was adorable! After all the floats turned around (we had visions of tractors doing seventeen-point-turns!), we retraced our steps at the tail-end of the procession. I did have a chuckle as we were all behind a float filled with pretty young ladies ‘Walking’ – well, dancing – ‘like Egyptians’; even in the cold and wet, two still found the need to touch up their lipstick and check their hair in shop windows each time we paused. I would highly recommend this event to anyone. Floats ranged in theme from Charlie and the Chocolate Factory to Bugsy Malone, and the rain dampened no spirits! I did not go on any of the fair rides, but was tempted by a few of the stalls… Thank you, Barbara, for inviting us.

But our day was not over yet… Sarah and I dashed back home, let Bertie out, quick-changed into more casual apparel, and drove to the Town Hall to prepare for the evening’s Mayor’s Big Quiz. I’m thrilled to say that we had twenty-four teams! Our quizmaster, Dave Clarke, and his band of helpers, Nathan Rowe, Clive Townsend, and Denise Hardwill, were on top of their game! As Roy Mackenzie said to Sarah as he was leaving, ‘it was very well organised’. (In the beginning we had a slight scare …there were definitely twenty-four tables, but we were one answer-sheet short. Perry Mason’s ‘Case of the Disappearing Team’ was soon solved, however!). At the nail-biting finish, the plucky losers were the Soapy Dogs, awarded a rather large (but sadly not Cinderella-sized) pumpkin bearing a very glum expression, and Alex’s Angels were the victors; they each received a bottle of wine. I passed among the tables forcing raffle tickets on one and all – thank you to everyone who gave us prizes, especially Bev Searle, who hand-made a beautiful fruit basket, Alison Gibson, for your bag of goodies, and Kevin Westwood, who kindly donated our star prize, an Amazon Fire Tablet. I have so many more thank yous to write! To the Town Hall staff for helping with ticket and answer-sheet printing, setting up the room, and being so, so calm in the face of my ever-increasing panic that no-one would come! To the St. John Ambulance players who entertained everybody before the start of the quiz proper with some lovely music. To Maggie Charlesworth, of the Lawrence Centre, and Lynne Alton, Ian, Jane, and the many cadets, who represented St. John Ambulance, for all of your help. To Sebastian Johns for folding all of the raffle tickets. We started with a well-stocked bar – it’s amazing how much better one’s brain works with a little liquid refreshment. Well done Sarah and Jane for running it. I think – hope! - that it was a very enjoyable evening. We haven’t quite worked out how much we raised for the Mayor’s Charities – I will give you the final figure next week. Hopefully we will be able to hold another quiz next year. We can call it ‘The Mayor’s Second Big Quiz’ – now that’s what I call a snappy title! (Or ‘Quiz Takes Two’ shouts my daughter from the study!)

Sunday saw us finishing clearing up the ballroom in the morning before heading off to Priddy Church for the Civic Service of Councillor Nigel Taylor, Chairman of Somerset County Council. I have known Nigel since I was nineteen; he was a ‘callow youth’ admired by all the Woman Police Officers at the Central Police Station in Bristol and remains one of life’s true gentlemen. Strangely enough, Sarah and I were seated next to a Deputy Lord Lieutenant, Steve Pilkington, the former Chief Constable, who used to sign my Christmas Card that I received as a Police Widow. (He assured us that the qualifications for Deputy Lord Lieutenancy were athleticism, good looks, not having a full head of hair, and knowing all verses of the National Anthem by heart). The Reverend Prebendary Paula Hollingsworth led the service with responses and prayers taken from the Iona Community Worship Book. Paula’s address was brilliant, in which she described early-morning swimming at Wells Leisure Centre, and spotting a father learning to swim with his daughter, before all of the dignitaries wandered over to the village hall to enjoy a delicious afternoon tea. I must admit that I left very full of scones and shortbread, went home, and fell fast asleep on the sofa. The need to air-brush all future photographs is growing more urgent!

Celia

The 645th Mayor of Wells’ Diary – issue 17

On Thursday morning, when Sarah picked up our dog from the kennel, I attended the Founder’s Service at the City of Wells Almshouses. It was led by Dean John Davies of Wells Cathedral and Reverend Sam Denyer of St. Cuthbert’s Church. Sam’s description of the chapel as a “house of pleasure” elicited a few chuckles, but he quickly explained his meaning - it was a pleasing place to sit in peace and quiet to think and pray. Following some tea and a piece of shortbread (or three), I returned home to an excited Bert, who almost threw himself at our front door to meet me (and, more importantly, to receive chews)!

Sarah had to rush off to see her D.Phil. supervisors in York after we returned from Bad Durkheim, so on Friday I went alone to the Victoria Hall at Crewkerne to see the town’s United Dramatic and Operatic Society production of ‘Monty Python’s Spamalot’. Boy did Sarah miss a treat! I was a keen watcher of Monty Python in my youth – and it all came flooding back… the Gate Guards’ banter (“you’ve got two empty halves of coconut and your bangin’ ‘em together. Where’d you get the coconut?”), the Black Knight who loses all of his limbs in a sword fight (“tis but a scratch!”), the Knights who say “Ni”, mollified only by shrubbery! Patsy, played by Shaun Driver, was absolutely hysterical. My thanks go to Kathy Head, the Worshipful Mayor of Crewkerne, for her very kind invitation – and congratulations to the entire company. I was mesmerised by your singing, dancing, joking, and near-acrobatic moves!

On Sunday morning myself, Nick Hooper, the Deputy Lord Lieutenant of Somerset, our M. P., James Heappey, and other guests commemorated the Royal Air Force’s victory in the Battle of Britain. From early July 1940, the Luftwaffe were attacking shipping and ports, then airfields and radar installations, but after the 7th of September, London itself was attacked. Although hindsight tells us that this was a tactical mistake, at the time the situation looked grave. On Sunday the 15th of September came what the then Prime Minister Sir Winston Churchill called “one of the most decisive battles of the war” and with it the Luftwaffen’s greatest defeat. He spoke those immortal words, “never in the field of human conflict was so much owed by so many to so few” – to this day it makes the hairs on the back of my neck stand on end. The Battle of Britain Sunday Service is always held at St. Cuthbert’s Church on the Sunday closest to this date. On this occasion retired Flying Officer Paul Branson, now the Chairman of the Mid-Somerset R.A.F.A., gave a truly moving personal account. He was seven years old in 1939 and experienced air-raids when his family lived in Greenwich; he vividly remembered being evacuated with his younger brother to Kent and then to Cornwall and how much they worried about their parents, left behind. His ability to speak so directly to the Air Cadets sitting in the congregation was impressive - I only wish I had that skill. The Chaplain to the Branch, Reverend Lyn Morris, gave a wonderful sermon telling the audience how the R.A.F. came to be formed with the help of Lord Trenchard, who was not academically gifted, but, with perseverance, became the ‘founder of the R.A.F.’. Wreaths were laid at the War Memorial and a period of silence was impeccably observed.

Later that afternoon Sarah and I went to the Massed Bands Day at the Wells Recreation Ground Bandstand, which was organised by Wells City Band, but featured sets by many local brass and silver bands. After losing on the tombola, we sat down, tea and delicious flapjack homemade by Nancy Dodd and her team from Arthritis Care in hand, to some brilliant music. I must mention twelve-year-old Aidan Johnson, the youngest member of the Midsomer Norton and Radstock Silver Band, already a Grade 8 cornet player, whose rendition of the solo in ‘The Lazy Trumpeter’ was breath-taking. The ‘hootenanny’ at the end, when all of the bands joined together for one last piece, was joyous! It was glorious to see so many people sitting in the open, on benches, camping chairs, and blankets, just listening – everyone I spoke to was sorry that the bandstand wasn’t used more regularly, as in previous Summers, and signed a petition to change this next year. I couldn’t agree more. Thank you, Jane Hill, Nick Poole, and Sue for making us so welcome. Now, I was not going to include this, but Derek Cooper cruelly took photographic evidence! Unable to resist the smell from The Pizza Rocket, we succumbed to a pepperoni pizza (each) …but don’t judge us, we hadn’t had any lunch!

Celia

The 645th Mayor of Wells’ Diary – issue 16

Last Wednesday, I welcomed Worcester Civic Society to the city on behalf of their Wells’ counterparts; we shared a cuppa and chat in St. Cuthbert’s Church before they set out on their tour. Thank you, Chris Winter, for inviting me. One member was eager to let us know that apparently Wells and Leicester are the two favourite destinations of coach drivers – our facilities are second to none (except possibly Leicester’s!) – which brings me to another piece of heartening news: on 20 August Wells was voted the ninth most popular city in Britain in a YouGov survey. We were pipped to the post by Bath, Salisbury, and Truro in the South West, but we trounced the likes of London, Oxford, Liverpool, and Bristol! Well done us!

The next day, myself, Sarah, and ten members of Wells Twinning Association visited our twin town, Bad Dürkheim, in Germany’s Rhineland-Palatinate, for the opening of their annual ten-day Wurstmarkt (‘Sausage Market’), the biggest wine festival in the world. Now, I think that the Charter Fair is quite busy, but this festival attracts over thirty-times the population of Bad Dürkheim (sixty-times Wells’)! It was amazing to see so many people, so many games, stalls, and death-defying rides (wine-tasting on a Ferris Wheel, anyone?), and so many sugar-coated nuts and magenbrot! We took our civic duty especially seriously when it came to macadamia nuts and gingerbread, less so when it came to the giant slingshot ride!

We attended the traditional brass-band concert before processing, with delegations from other twin towns, Paray-le-Monial and Kluczbork, and Bad Berka and Kempten within Germany, through the streets and fairground (miles!) to the opening ceremony in front of the Salt-works. Here the councillors (well, at least one …but I’d prefer to think the WHOLE council!) enacted a play describing disputes between the Bishop and ruling nobleman which was eventually peacefully settled and led to the first festival 602 years ago. Then the Bürgermeister, Christoph Glogger, who attended our carnival with his family back in November, Malu Dreyer, first female Minister-President of the Rhineland-Palatinate, and the ‘Wine Princesses’ of surrounding villages broke open the first wine barrel… after cannon-fire, the Wurstmarkt was declared open! We made our way back to a marquee for bratwurst, sauerkraut, bottomless glasses of delicious Riesling (I was pleased to see copious amounts of sparkling water too!), and entertainment. Sarah had to hold me back from tripping the light fantastic with the Polish delegation!

Next day we took an open-topped bus to the Weilberg Roman Villa and Winery, which had recently been discovered and partially restored in the vineyards above Bad Dürkheim, originally one of many along the Wine Road. The Romans introduced vines to quench the thirst of soldiers billeted to the Palatinate - and avoid importing it from home. Later Rose Holdsworth pointed out that something that looked like a small pack of paracetamol, which was attached to the vine at intervals of four or five feet - to prevent ‘quaffers’ from getting headaches, she quipped, and for a moment I believed, until Peter, our trusty interpreter, explained that it repelled butterflies. En route, Peter told us of the house in nearby Kallstadt that belonged to Donald Trump’s grandfather. It was now up for sale, but they can’t find a buyer - the entire village is worried that the President himself, who has already donated money to the village church, might swoop in with an offer!

Now this is where I get a little emotional. I have been so proud to wear my Mayoral Chain over the past few months, but that afternoon, when I walked up the steps to the Banqueting Hall in the Kurpark Hotel, in a dark blue dress to show off the recently restored and cleaned chain in all its glory, felt particularly special. Christoph, Sarah and I were the only ones wearing chains of office. I was very aware that Brexit was the focus of many speeches, particularly that of Daniel Gordat, one of Paray’s eight Maires-Adjoints, whose address I followed. I think that I shocked many in the audience by making my speech in German, unlike the French and Polish delegates. I was told that this was the first time that a representative from Wells had done this, and the attitude towards us changed palpably. I can only thank Vivi Taylor for helping to make this possible - my senior school German could only get me so far!! Sarah and I then handed out gifts to the other twin towns. I had chosen beautiful framed ceramic tiles made by Philippa Threlfall of the Black Dog Gallery; we wrapped them in brown paper and ribbon using the original Mayor’s Seal, which used to dangle from the Mayoral Chain, but is nowadays kept in the strong room at the Town Hall. It took us a little while (and some burns) to master the art – but we got there, and they looked brilliant!

On our final day, we made our way onto the Michaelsberg, original site of the festival; at St. Michael’s Chapel, to which Wells donated a section of its Cathedral twenty-eight years ago, all of the delegates drank wine, ate pretzels, and said our goodbyes.

Thank you Christoph and Vera for letting us have this wunderbar experience – thank you also to Dawn and Dave Payne, and Richard Hibbard from the Wells Twinning Association, and Dirk, Peter, Uli and Jutta from the Bad Dürkheim Twinning Association for your support.

Celia

The 645th Mayor of Wells’ Diary – issue 15

At 12.15pm prompt on Bank Holiday Monday, Sarah and I reported, as instructed, to the communications centre of the Annual Moat Boat Race. We had been teased mercilessly (naming no names, Tessa!) that we might be press-ganged onto a raft at the last minute… so we were slightly nervous, but thankfully our services were not required. I say “we”, don’t tell Sarah, but I would have nominated her at the drop of a hat! Instead, we were warmly welcomed by Paul Clegg, President of Wells’ Lions, and did a spot of judging. After much umm-ing and aah-ing, the prize for the best fancy dress in the junior class went to the ‘Guardians of the Galaxy’, whose costumes were true to the film characters, especially Groot (even if they were officially listed, rather more sinisterly, as ‘Destroyers of the Galaxy’!). The Crewkerne Lions’ homage to Harry Potter, ‘Nimbus 2000’, won in the adult class. It might have been tense watching these four oarsmen clamber onto their raft in full Hogwarts uniform – but what stamina they showed during the race! No wonder we bumped into their leader (Dumbledore?) at the Lions’ Tea Tent for sustenance! Now, there may be cries of favouritism here, I do love Mark Tobin to bits, but the best overall boat, without a doubt, was The Swan Hotel’s ‘Six in a Bed’.

We had the best view in the house. Some teams, like the Farrington Young Farmers, really went for it. There did even seem to be a little skulduggery during one race… a boat got perilously close to the wall. Others took a less competitive – in the Crewkerne Lions’ case a more survivalist – approach; in our excellent commentator, Allan Trinder’s words, the Bishop’s Palace team, who casually talked to spectators as they paddled by, were just enjoying a relaxing afternoon on the moat. Well done to everyone who took part, including your support crews, for putting in so much effort – and, of course, to Wells’ Lions and the Air Cadets, who organise this event each year to fund local good causes. Thank you for making this Bank Holiday so special. I can assure you that as long as I am Mayor there will not be a Councillor Raft competing, I have to think of my hair! But, I might just push for it to happen next year with the new incumbent…

I suspect that you’ll already know what I am going to write about next – the Litter Pick Weekend (or, our ‘Summer Spruce’ of the city)! We collected a lot of rubbish again this time. It still shocks me that people can cavalierly shove cans, cartons, and fast-food packaging, out of their car and van windows. This is where we live, work, and play, even if that does sound a little Mars Bar advert-ish. You should never mess on your own doorstep, or anyone else’s for that matter! A big thank you to everyone who joined in, the volunteers I know well and newcomers, especially Clare and Maurizio, for bringing along your boys, but also to Maurice Day. When I went into the Shepton Mallet NHS Treatment Centre to have my knee replacements, I was given a picker-upper to use during my convalescence. Last week during a check-up I asked whether patients returned these to the hospital when no longer needed, and, to my surprise, I was told to contact Maurice, who, for years, has used them to litter-pick during the Carnival. Great minds! He kindly donated his stash so that we could start our own.

In an earlier diary-entry I told you about the new Motiview exercise bike and video equipment, designed to help improve physical and cognitive abilities, being trialled at Fletcher House. On Monday, Trudy Bower invited me back to see the start of the Senior Motiview Championships, which involves competitors from residential homes not only in the South West and London, but across seven countries. It was great fun! I was trying to rest for a busy week ahead, so I didn’t take to the pedals myself – but I was very surprised that Cllr. Colin Price, almost a professional cyclist, who owns Lycra and everything, didn’t seize his opportunity. He was too busy chatting to the residents! Everyone had a lovely afternoon. I have only one grumble – where were those delicious pork pies that I remember so well?! …but the ham and cheese pastries were extremely tasty too.

Please do try to come to my quiz on the 22nd September – I would love to see you! You’ll all fit in, I promise!

Celia

The 645th Mayor of Wells’ Diary – issue 14

Late Tuesday evening Sarah and I entered a sports arena packed with excited spectators, all waiting for the Grand Final to begin. Brian Nicholas and Michael Church, the competitors, wandered amongst their supporters, eyes focused, stretching, occasionally sipping… a hush fell as Dave Carey, President of the Wells and District Darts League, called for order. They got into position - and ‘game on’! It was the best of seven legs (I tried and failed to explain the rules of darts to my daughter). We had the best seats in The Venue, a complimentary glass of wine from Tony Robbins, which I want noted, and were rapt. No wonder Stephen Fry likes darts so much. They were so quick and accurate! The Scorer was so good at maths! Brian was victorious – but warmly shook hands with Mike before claiming his trophy. I had the pleasure of presenting all prizes at the end (and discovering that darts players have incredibly firm hand-shakes) - well done everyone! Dave, thank you for being a wonderful host, sorry that we chatted you out of having your chips!

On Thursday, I lead my fellow councillors in full ceremonial procession, with black arm-bands and rosettes, the maces tied with black ribbon, to St. Joseph and St. Theresa Church, where we attended the Requiem Mass for Danny Unwin. I think that he would have smiled at the pageantry! The church was filled to the gunwales, standing room only. Father Philip made the congregation feel welcome and uplifted – it was a beautiful ceremony. Danny’s children, Tim, Karen and Becky, told us some family secrets which were funny, touching, and just so their Dad. Afterwards we followed the cortège to the Town Hall for, in Danny’s words, the ‘Bun Fight’. We miss you Danny – you are a great loss not only to Christine and your family, but to the City.

Two shameless adverts before I leave you…

I hope you’ve not lost that litter-picking feeling?! This Friday, Saturday, and Sunday we’ll be at it again! I will be at the Town Hall from 8.30am each morning to give out equipment before tackling Wookey Hole Road. Not only is litter unsightly, creatures can ingest or get caught in it, and, ultimately, left in the gutter, road, or any grassy area, it will end up down the drain and in the sea. (A pet hate of mine is plastic confetti – it’s in the cobbles around the Town Hall, on the Cathedral Green, in front of The Swan Hotel …everywhere! Who invented it?! Just throw birdseed!) We’re always looking for new volunteers – come and help us!

My Big Quiz Night, in aid of St. John Ambulance and the Lawrence Centre, will take place at the Town Hall on the 22nd of September at 7.30pm. £5 per head – teams of maximum 6 -tickets are available at the Town Hall now - be there or be square!

Celia

The 645th Mayor of Wells’ Diary – issue 13

I start my diary this week with some dreadfully sad news, the death of my friend and fellow councillor, Danny Unwin. Just hours before, he had appeared behind my chair at the Twinning Association Annual Barbeque, pulled my chain, tousled my hair, and said something cheeky… Sarah and I were so shocked to hear the news. Danny was a lovely man – and he will be sorely missed.

Saturday found us on the Bishop’s Palace Green at the ‘Meet the Sikhs’ event organised by Wells Rotary Club and Khalsa Aid, a U.K.-based humanitarian aid organisation founded by Ravi Singh on the Sikh principles of selfless service and non-discrimination. Since 1999, it has initiated forty-five aid missions across twenty-five countries, to regions facing man-made conflicts or natural disasters, including the flooding of the Somerset Levels in 2014. Bob and Sharon Haigh explained that this event is a reflection of the great bond of friendship that now exists between Somerset and Khalsa Aid workers in Coventry and Slough. We really enjoyed ourselves - Sarah tried a beautiful pink turban (now sported by my phrenology head in the study!), I was almost first in the queue to dance to the Punjabi Dhol beats. I screwed a light-bulb with my left hand, patted the dog with my right, and raised my knees one at a time; yes, I did see my daughter guffawing out of the corner of my eye, but I chose to ignore that! Samosas, cakes, fruit, other delicacies abounded. I can only hope that we see Ravi and his team again next year!

Later that afternoon, we enjoyed a cream tea with residents and staff at the Abbeyfield House Garden Party – I say “we”, Sarah stuck to our diet and glowered righteously at me as I selected my scone! The ambience is relaxed and friendly, the extensive gardens beautiful – a serene retreat! It was lovely to see Dr. Peter Fordham, the President of the R.B.L., once again; I must thank him for his patience when I chuckled about the perils of getting out of the bath, only because I have problems decanting myself at times! (I’m afraid that I burst out laughing when Cllr. Tony Robbins described falling over in the High Street a month or so ago!)

I was invited to start the Yeovil Car Club Rally on Sunday morning, but I asked Pip Turner if we could participate too …and she said yes! So, we paid our entry frees, double-checked that the R.A.C. cover was valid (I feel as though, like B.B.C. presenters, I should add “other breakdown cover companies are available”!), put the car flag on, collected an instruction-pack, and I jumped into Sarah’s old(ish) V. W. Beetle as soon as I had waved the other entrants on their way. We were off! The route took us from the Cathedral Green, the fee for which was generously paid by the club’s sponsors, Best Western Hotels, to The Shrubbery Hotel at Ilminster. I had a bit of difficulty keeping up with the ‘tulip arrow’ diagrams (“you have one job, Mum – one!” rang in my ears…), we went off-piste to answer a call of nature at Somerton, and at one junction I did lose decorum and shout “it’s right! Go right!” out of the window to one open-top MG ahead of us… What a brilliant day out! Thank you Pip, Colin Gosney, Merv Dawe, Stan Morris, Alan Miller – and, yes, Alan, I have now joined the Club - his lovely wife, Sharon, and Graham Dewar. The carvery dinner at The Shrubbery was delicious – well done to Simon McBride and his staff for their excellent service. If anyone has an old or unusual car, I would highly recommend joining this club, it is chock full of such friendly people and interesting runs.

Now comes a short advertisement: the date, 22nd September; the time, 7.30pm; the reason, St. John Ambulance and the Lawrence Centre; what? THE MAYOR’S BIG QUIZ!! (Not, as I keep calling it, the far less complimentary ‘Big Mayor’s Quiz’!) Tickets (£5) are now available at the Town Hall Reception Desk, where lovely Sue, Sue, and Sandy will be pleased to help. Please come to support my charities and me – this will be our first charitable venture and I would like to see it do well!!

Celia

The 645th Mayor of Wells’ Diary – issue 12

Note to self: brevity is the word, not Grease! I will try to be as brief as I can …there’s just so much!

Wells Rotary Club have been fundraising for some time to install more public access defibrillators within the City. Bright and early on Monday morning, the President Elect, Richard Leworthy, and I officially opened the fourth Wells unit at the Bus Station. Others are located in the Town Hall (during office hours), Tinknells (24h), and Swan Hotel (24h). After we posed for photographs – I can only hope that Jason, Mark, and Andy reconsider their position on air-brushing …or I must start breathing in! - Kevin Westwood, the lovely Town Hall Manager, explained how to operate the defibrillator; there is a golden period of ten minutes in which life-saving aid can be given, similar to the golden hour after a heart attack. This is a marvellous project - thank you to Richard and everyone at the Rotary Club for all of your hard work!

For Tuesday Chair of Mendip District Council, Dick Skidmore, had kindly arranged a whistle-stop tour of the Shepton Mallet Treatment Centre and three local businesses for us, his Vice-Chair, and Mayors and Deputy-Mayors from Taunton, Street, Frome, and Bruton; or, in my daughter’s short-hand, ‘A Mayors’ Big Day Out’. My jaw dropped when Chester Barnes and Jen Lewis, who I had the pleasure of meeting at a Patients’ Forum earlier this year, told us that the Treatment Centre accepted patients from across the West Country and not only for joint replacements, but general and eye surgery, endoscopy, gynaecology, urology… the list goes on. I am delighted to report that a new M.R.I. Scanner is also coming soon (to a Treatment Centre near you)! Both of my knees were replaced here in 2016 and 2017 – my abiding memory of this time is the kindness and consideration of the staff and – I’m not going to lie! - the food, which was second to none. In fact, I’ve booked in for a new hip next year for the apple crumble alone! (Although touch wood that nothing does go wrong with my hip now!) From Shepton, we drove to meet Jon Thorner at his business complex in Pylle; he described how it has grown since his farm shop first opened in 1979 and his future collaboration with Hunt’s Foodservice. After a quick cuppa we were whisked off (pun intended) to Westcombe Dairy. The director, Tom Calver’s passion for cheddar-making was infectious; he walked us through the entire process, from how the cow is treated and what they eat, the use of fresh raw milk, to maturing the truckles in the new concrete ‘cave’ built into the adjacent hillside, at a set temperature and humidity, maintained by a system Tom designed himself. (The structure was built in France and apparently arrived in bits, like an Ikea flat-pack, so the plans were in French …thank goodness a colleague of Tom’s wife, a hairstylist from Bath, was fluent!) The Dairy’s ethic - every business decision hinges on one question “will this make the cheese better?” – and genuine care for its staff made me bristle with pride. Next door was our final destination, the brilliant smelling Wild Beer Company brewery. Andrew Cooper waxed lyrical about his unique and traditional product, aging in burgundy and sherry barrels around us, and exciting plans to expand onto a second site at the Bath and West Showground. The whole party were keen to sample some bottles of their P.O.G.O. (Pomegranate, Orange, Guava, and an extra ‘O’) beer with our delicious lunch at The Three Horseshoes at Batcombe! Thank you to Chester, Jen, Jon, Tom, Andrew, and Dick especially - what a lovely day!

On Wednesday morning I played host to Laura and her young son, Zaco, visitors from our Italian twin town, Fontanellato in the Mayor’s Parlour. After a tour of the Town Hall, I made them a cup of tea with quintessentially English Rich Tea biscuits …even if Zaco kept reaching for the amaretti! I must also take this opportunity to apologise for my error in an earlier diary entry. Although the Twinning Association lends a hand to set up the Romulus and Remus Italian Festival, this excellent charity fundraiser is actually organised by Tony D’Ovidio, Julie Bollinni, and Tony and Sandy Guidi.

Saturday was another busy day! I felt the rhythm in my charity bucket when I joined the fantastic Old Grey Dogs Jazz Band, and Maurice Day’s dulcet tones, outside of the Town Hall all morning; we raised the grand sum of £162.21p! Before I knew it, Sarah and I were heading inside to have a look around the Annual Model Railway Exhibition, with its organiser, Chris Challis. I suspected that ‘Railwells’ would be a very masculine world, geared to enthusiasts only, but not a bit! Two models – of Clutton Station, surrounding towns and fields, which took Tim Venton almost thirty years to create, and Knaresborough Station and viaduct (including an art gallery and miniature Picassos!) by Peter Goss – were worth the entry ticket alone! Everyone was extremely friendly, and I wholeheartedly include Cllr. Colin Price in this! We learnt a lot (Sarah to solder, even!). We also met David and Pat Maidment, who twenty years ago set up the charity ‘Railway Children’ to protect abused and exploited children found at railway stations in India, East Africa and here at home, particularly in Manchester. The charity is going from strength to strength – and bringing about real change in India. David’s story of his encounter with a young girl begging on a platform in India really upset us - please consider donating to this worthy cause. Many thanks, Chris, for inviting us – we thoroughly enjoyed ourselves and are off when the Mayoral year is over to visit Knaresborough (it looks beautiful!).

On Sunday, when it was raining stair-rods, we were understandably a little wary of attending a barbecue at the Wells Rugby Club …but the intrepid Twinning Association was not to be thwarted! Undercover, thankfully, Sarah and I were treated to some excellent singing by T. J. Solo, delicious comestibles, and not a raffle …we hooked ducks for prizes and guessed whether bottles contained tap water or wine instead! (Sarah won some wine, I wasn’t so lucky – but did snare a voucher for a slap-up takeaway dinner at the R&T Fish Bar later on!) The game-masters managed to raise £200! Well done!

Celia

The 645th Mayor of Wells’ Diary – issue 11

I was going to make the start of my adventures this week a little more exciting – bring in romantic scenarios or swashbuckling tales of daring-do - but no, I’m going to get straight down to business…

Firstly, I would like to thank someone – you know who you are! - for donating some excellent heavy-duty leather gloves to my continuing fight against litter. They will be so useful, even if they do look a little sinister in the front seat of my car at present. I hope that I have got you all wondering “who is this masked man?” (for all The Lone Ranger fans!) …but my lips are sealed.

On Wednesday the Town Crier, Len Sweales, and I welcomed volunteers completing their 3-4 week National Citizenship Service, a community-based work and social action programme, to the Market Place; they were there to busk for a very worthy charity, ‘In Charley’s Memory’, which supports young people’s mental health in memory of Charley Marks, an eighteen-year-old Somerset teenager, who tragically took his own life in 2014. They shook their buckets all afternoon (apparently you are not supposed to shake it but you can’t really help yourself!) – well done!

Thursday afternoon found Sarah and I at Fletcher House – and we each cycled to Cheddar. Well, according to the video playing we did – and sometimes at speed! Trudy Bower and all her lovely staff introduced us to some new Motiview exercise bike and video equipment, invented in Norway, and rolled-out for three months at residential homes nationwide, to hopefully help the fifty-seven residents gain greater physical and cognitive abilities. Two gentlemen gave it a go at the opening (with other residents at a neighbouring home, to which we were connected by Skype) – but hopefully they will be the first of many! I was exhausted after doing three kilometres and was glad of a cup of tea (leaving Sarah to mill between pedestrians in Covent Garden); I must take this opportunity to compliment the Chef, as the sausage rolls and pork pies in the buffet were to die for. Those pastries have already persuaded me exactly where I want to be in my dotage. Trudy will need to fundraise to keep this equipment after the trial-period – we may have to persuade Cllr. Roy Mackenzie to climb up Kilimanjaro to cover the costs which total around ten thousand pounds. All donations, however big or small, will be gratefully received!

On Friday I was a beaming proud parent at the launch of The Complete Works of Wells’ ‘Baker Bard’, William Catcott (1808-1870), edited by Sarah, Clare Blackmore, and his great, great nephew, the late Bill Allen, at the Wells and Mendip Museum. (What a wonderful venue for an event! We decorated the main room with bunting hand-made for my Mayor-making - each triangle individually stitched by me and Gail North!). This project, sponsored by Bob and Terri Burns, of Burns the Bread, has been a five-year labour of love for Clare, whose research uncovered 136 poems published in Morning Musings (1854) and journals across the South West (and in Worcester, apparently!). Over a hundred people came and the books flew off the, er, tables like hot cakes – I downed two sausage rolls, a cheese straw and two mini pasties, all baked by Bob, an absolute gentleman, and his lovely daughter. Thank you everyone for attending and making this evening so special. Even if you are not a poetry or social history buff, please help us to raise Catcott’s profile here in Wells. He might one day grace university and school syllabuses – and be to Wells what Coleridge became for Nether Stowey.

This week we attended the first three of many events that will mark the centenary of the First World War this year, all of which have been collated and will soon be listed on the Wells City Council website for everyone to see.

On Thursday morning myself and Derek Cooper, of the Royal British Legion, went to the David Wilson Homes Site at Wookey Hole Road to be photographed not only with Jo and the Deputy Site Manager, but teacher and artist Dan Vidler. Dan is the man behind the Somerset Poppies Installation; local school children, aged between four and sixteen, will hand-make and plant in the Bishop’s Palace eight thousand poppies to represent every person from Somerset or its regiments who lost their life in the Great War. I can’t tell you how happy this initiative makes me – children must understand, insofar as we all can, what happened. I was born in 1952, we first had a television when I was about three or four. I can remember hating being forced to watch the Festival of Remembrance, straight after the guy-making, toffee apples, Catherine Wheels that did not spin, and burnt jacket potatoes of Bonfire Night (and fireworks had not been on sale since September!). Dad had fought in the First World War and was an A.R.P. Warden in the Second - he and Mum would go very quiet, we would never discuss it. I am embarrassed to say that I was a miserable, whinging little ‘moaning minnie’ (a very apt pun). David Wilson Homes, which named a road in Somerton after Harry Patch, has kindly donated £500 towards this project. Thank you to Jo and Tracey for all of their help in the early stages!

At 10am on Saturday, Len announced to the Market Place that Tim Bickerdike and Aaron Collett-Cooper were about to take part in the national Royal British Legion pilgrimage through the First World War battlefields and to the Menin Gate on behalf of Wells. Derek presented them with a wreath to lay at the monument. A very moving poem was read by Margaret Haslam, I said a few words, my Chaplain, the Reverend Sam Denyer, led a parting prayer – and the people around us stopped and observed a short silence.

Later that afternoon, Sarah and I attended an Evensong at the Cathedral to celebrate the beginning of 100 days of Prayer for Peace. On the 4th August 1918 King George V had called for a National Day of Prayer. 100 days later the Armistice was signed. Cathedrals and churches across the country will now mark 100 days of prayer for peace, reconciliation and hope leading up to Armistice Day on November 11th.

Celia

The 645th Mayor of Wells’ Diary – issue 10

Since becoming the Mayor of Wells, I have chaired, including the actual Mayor-making ceremony, four full Council meetings.

In June, Kirstie Harris gave an inspiring presentation about the ‘Wake up Wells!’ project, to open a new community forum for talking about local issues, putting together our vision for Wells’ future, and, ultimately, changing the way that different people and agencies work together, in the form of a conference (7 October 2018, Town Hall) and an epic (Freshers’) fair featuring all special interest groups in the city (26 January 2019, Cathedral Nave).

On Thursday evening, the Avon and Somerset Police Chief Constable, Andy Marsh, the Police and Crime Commissioner, Sue Mountstevens, together with Chief Inspector Sharon Bennett, explained future plans for the Police Service in general, and Wells in particular,
to the full Council.

Now, I joined the Police Cadets in 1969, and graduated into the Police Service two years later - to shamelessly steal Cllr. Tony Robbins’ excellent joke, I was heavily involved with drugs, prostitution, and murder in my youth! This was a time when there were no mobile telephones, no computers, and the most advanced piece of equipment introduced in the fight against crime was the Panda car! So, I came to this meeting with my ‘George Dixon’ eyes ready to be opened… and opened they were. The number and range of - often quite shocking - scenarios that the Police have to deal with is staggering. All three presenters maintained their fundamental belief that officers were doing the right thing and would not become down-hearted at the seemingly never-ending stream of problems and offences; they put me in no doubt that we are in safe hands.

Cllr. Richard Greenwell asked a very interesting question: would there be any need for front desk Police Stations in the future? The answer would appear to be “not necessarily”.
There is now no need for officers to return regularly to a Police Station to submit paperwork, etc. – it can be done remotely from laptops while they are in patrol cars, cafés, and parks, all the time visible and approachable in the community. So, in September if you see one of our officers sitting in a coffee shop typing on his or her computer, they are not playing games, writing novels, or pondering the difference between a flat white and a latte, they are doing their police paperwork and will welcome a chat! Don’t worry, all emergencies will be dealt with by the Response Unit based at Shepton Mallet.

These will, I hope, be the first of many presentations to the full Council during my year – all members of the public are very welcome to join us at any of these meetings!

I am very happy to conclude my diary with this news: we are now officially a – the first! - Plastic Free City!! Sarah and I joined Tom and Amanda Ronan, and Maggie Sutton, part of the Wells Plastic Free Team to open a viewing of the film, ‘A Plastic Ocean’, at the Town Hall on Monday evening. This should be made compulsory viewing for everyone. Almost seventy people, young and old, attended - the groundswell of public disquiet at the current state of affairs is growing. I remember recently being told by Robert Porch that almost every single tiny piece of plastic that is dropped on the ground, eventually ends up being washed down the street drains, into other watercourses, and, ultimately, out to sea. It isn’t just happening in far flung places – it is happening here too! Fear not, my rant is over – but, on a similar note, please don’t forget the next Litter Pick Weekend (31 August – 2 September). Help us do our bit to get those nasty, tiny bits of plastic and bag ‘em!!

Celia

 

The 645th Mayor of Wells’ Diary – issue 9

First and foremost, I must apologise to you all for going on so much in my diary last week. It was in danger of becoming the ‘Mayor’s Diary’ with a Wells Journal pull-out! I will try and be more concise this week!

The City of Wells Almshouses are the most beautiful historic buildings – thirty-two (soon to be thirty-three) affordable houses, a chapel, guildroom, and exquisite walled garden – on either side of Priest Row in the city-centre, endowed to Wells by Nicholas Bubwith, Bishop of Bath and Wells, in 1424 and 1436, his successors, and burgesses and aldermen of the city corporation. On Saturday, the current Trustees held one of several Open Days; not only did fellow trustee Andrew Fawcett present a more detailed history, there were jars of jam, delicious cakes, and ploughman’s lunches galore – they looked well worth a few pounds, in sterling and to the waistline! Sarah and I popped in to see how the day was going and to wish everyone involved good luck – and regretted that we had to dash away to honour a prior engagement. Well done everyone!

I was poised, chain-in-hand, all week whenever the phone rung or an email arrived, but - alas! - my schedule was otherwise empty, so I thought that I would tell you about the two Wells-based charities that I have chosen to support this year instead: St. John Ambulance and the Lawrence Centre. St. John Ambulance, based at Charter Way, not only respond to local emergency calls and deliver life-saving first aid until the ambulance arrives, but provide medical cover for local events and run fantastic youth and adult training programmes. From 37 Chamberlain Street, the Lawrence Centre offers a wide range of day-activities - from art and craft sessions to flexercise, from cooking to listening to visiting-speakers - for older people, some of whom suffer from memory loss or other health issues.

It is not complete altruism that has led me to these two very worthy causes. I really do need to see as many members of the community, young and old, trained in first aid as possible - just to ensure that if I should take a tumble whilst walking up the High Street someone will be readily on hand to render assistance until the ambulance eventually - three hours later - arrives. It would, equally, be lovely for me - in my dotage and, no, I’m not quite there yet - to discuss, at length, those topics that the young just don’t seem to understand. Rag, Tag and Bobtail, Billy Cotton, Z Cars, Alan Freeman and his ‘Pop Pickers’, and The Man from Uncle! Oh, to be able to speak to someone who agrees that the first series of Star Trek was the best (other than Sheldon from the Big Bang Theory) and that Eamon Andrews was a far better presenter of Crackerjack than Michael Aspel!

This is where you all come in… the Mayor’s Charities, Sarah, and I are throwing a Quiz Night at the Town Hall on the 22nd September to raise money. The excellent Dave Clarke will be our quiz-master, so the questions will be eminently answerable! (I have been to some quizzes where I think that even Einstein would struggle!) There will be a bar, nibbles, and – because I have yet to go to a local event that did not have a raffle – a well-stocked raffle. So, start revising everyone – I will expect to see all of you there! The Ballroom really is that big!!

Celia

The 645th Mayor of Wells’ Diary – issue 8

I was just about to write that it was a quieter week this week, but what was I thinking! It was no such thing.

On Thursday, Sarah and I attended the free W.O.W. Concert at Wells Cathedral – and the title just about sums it up! The start of the Wells Orchestral Weekend was brilliant! We were uplifted by the sheer talent on show. Violinissimo, a German string ensemble, were magical. (The next day I accosted one member, Thomas, while he was quaffing a can of coke outside of the Town Hall – he seemed a little taken aback by my enthusiasm, but very kindly offered to carry a heavy bag to my car and put all of his practice carrying a double bass to good use – I, of course, told him to rest before his next performance!) Tuba-player Andrew McDade and the National Schools Symphony Orchestra performed a specially commissioned concerto for the tuba and orchestra by Gareth Wood and Arthur Bliss’ ‘Things to Come Suite’ – they were a joy to listen to. I must say I do remember Jimmy Edwards, the comedian playing the tuba – again, yes, I am that old – he was an extremely accomplished player, but Andrew made it look so effortless! I feel as I watch all of these young people playing that I am witnessing history in the making - in the future they will be announced as leaders in the music world. I’ll be able to say, with Max Boyce (for all you true rugby fans), “I was there” at the beginning! I want to add a little note to Peter Bishop, who sidled up to me before this performance, and told me that he too lived in Eastville (how many of us are there around here?! I’m now expecting to see my entire primary school class around every corner!) and agreed with my preference for the number 4 bus. Quite right!

Friday evening saw us at Seager Hall listening to the Wells City Band Training Section and tucking in to supper (Sarah was very good and had a Greek salad, I was really debauched and had chicken and chips). Some adult and child beginners had only been playing for a month – they performed solos, duets, and prepared the ‘March’ and a processional dance called the ‘Pavane’ (demonstrated by glamourous assistants, Jane, Felicity, Briony and her unsuspecting son). We were so impressed! Tanya Climo, who leads this group, has been involved with the Wells City Band, on and off, for almost thirty years; she has had to adapt to different instruments during this time because she has faced challenges with her health. Tanya is enthusiastic, bubbly, funny, and very determined - and I was honoured to present her with a Mayoral Award for outstanding and ongoing service to Wells. She has helped youngsters and adults alike gain the confidence to play an instrument. You might well blow your flugelhorn, but not your own trumpet – so I’ll do it for you! Thank you, Tanya. If there is anyone out there who has always fancied learning to play a brass instrument – please get in touch with Wells City Band. This is, honestly, one of the most friendly and welcoming groups that I have had the pleasure to meet and one that I will hopefully be a part of from now on – Tanya and Briony even learned the clarinet so that they could know the pitfalls when they taught it to newcomers. Now, as Roy Castle would say, that’s “dedication”!

On Saturday, at 12.45pm prompt, Sarah and I sat down to a bowl of carrot and coriander soup and a soft roll (and, I must admit, a glass of wine) at the Connect Centre as part of the tenth SOUP event. All diners donate £5, the total sum is match-funded by a local business, this time Charlie Bigham kindly stepped into the breach, and this pot is divided between four local charities; representatives from each have just four minutes to make a pitch to the room (or, in Simon Lawder’s excellent phrase, they suffer the personal humiliation of being halted by the dreaded gong!), after which we anonymously vote a winner. Happily, nobody goes away empty-handed – today £350 was awarded to Caroline Saunders and Ann of the Somerset Levels Riding for the Disabled carriage-riding group, to help maintain their only pony, Millie, but Wells Swimming Club, Wells Community Chernobyl Link and the Wells and Mendip Museum each received £118. I am still amazed, as I go along this Mayoral road, by the number of local charities and worthy causes I had “never even y’eard of”, how many people volunteer their time, not to mention the comestibles donated by local businesses… Café 21, Waitrose, Sante, and Burns the Bread! This event, organised by the Wells Independents group, is so much more than a delicious lunch – the next one will take place on October the 27th, please consider coming along too! (Incidentally, Ross Young did manage to keep his pork scratching munching ‘sotto voce’ throughout!)

That evening we attended the new Wells Community Theatre’s open-air production of ‘Romeo and Juliet’, slap bang in front of the Cathedral. Now ‘Romeo and Juliet’ and ‘King Lear’ are the only two Shakespeare plays that Sarah and I have never seen performed live, so needless to say we were looking forward to it …and we were not disappointed! Julian Laws and Beth Millward, who took on the title roles, were wonderful – Romeo was dashing, Juliet feisty but vulnerable… the whole cast were on song, but for us Caroline Bruce’s Nurse, Finn Hazlewood as angry Tybalt, and Richard Crowe/Capulet’s mimicry of Juliet when she refuses to marry Paris were all stand-out performances. It did become clear as we approached the fourth act that we had been lulled into a false sense of security by the week’s tropical climate – I was taunted by far more organised ticket-holders, who suddenly whipped jumpers and coats and travel blankets out of bags, the same scoundrels who had thought to bring a full-blown picnic (no bitterness here!) – but this did nothing to dampen our enjoyment. Neil and Ros Johnson (and your children!), thank you so much for organising the whole Wells Theatre Festival weekend – your enthusiasm was truly infectious! I hope to see the W.C.T. treading the boards again soon - and that the theatre festival will return again next year! Well done!!

Celia

The 645th Mayor of Wells’ Diary – issue 7

On Wednesday at 1.30pm Wells Town Hall was invaded by the pupils of Walton Primary School. They entered tentatively at first, but soon found their voice when I took them on a ‘Grand Tour’ of the building, pointing out items that I thought might be of interest. The beautiful parlour, the ballroom and its painting of the Bishop of Bath and Wells with the huge black spot on his cheek, a piece of black silk believed to cover a war wound… but my efforts were completely overshadowed when Kevin Westwood, the Town Hall Manager, offered to show them the prison cells at the rear. There were oohs and aahs - especially when he revealed where the dogs were kept. However, I was not to be outdone! My offer of squash and biscuits trumped Kevin’s and back we trooped to the Mayor’s Parlour. Three packets of biscuits later, the children were gone and quiet reigned one more. Mrs. Pring, Mrs. Bennett and Lesley coped brilliantly with the class’s exuberance – they really were lovely, and if any more youngsters would like to see around the Town Hall please contact me, I am more than happy to help!

Early on Friday we attended Wells Cathedral School’s annual prizegiving and were royally entertained by the Cathedral Choristers and two fantastic spoof films: of Elizabeth Cairncross, retiring headmistress, dancing backwards down the staircase of Cedars House to ‘Jump’, like Hugh Grant in Love Actually, and this year’s Upper Sixth Leavers crammed onto a sofa and dancing in the fountain to the Friends theme song. Congratulations to all the prize winners! Sarah and I afterwards walked over to the Cathedral for the Leaver’s Service. The hymns were well-chosen (and, frankly, I’ve never heard such a loud rendition of ‘Bread of Heaven’…!) and the music was excellent. Even Louis, the Cathedral cat, scratching at the steps below the pulpit, was enjoying himself (until he was gently relocated mid-service in case he put the Dean off his stride!). My thanks go to the school for inviting us to join in so poignant a moment for Leavers and their families - I wish them all ‘bon chance’ in their future endeavours.

Today I also received some excellent news from Sue Newman at the Town Hall. Sue, for those of you who don’t know, is ‘in charge’ of me! She keeps my diary so that I know where I am and what I am doing every step of the way. In fact, after this year I am taking her home with me as she is so good at organising my Mayoral world – I might need her for general day-to-day matters! A donation of £100 has been received from a gentleman, who would prefer to remain anonymous, to put towards getting our own litter picking equipment – he is as obsessive about litter as me! Your kindness is hugely appreciated – thank you so much.

Now I usually take the phrase ‘it’s a small world’ with a pinch of salt – until Saturday. I volunteered to help collect donations to Marie Curie, the charity which cares for and supports the terminally ill and their families, at the entrance to Waitrose. I received a warm welcome from the Deputy Manager, Emily, who I hope survived her Race for Life in Bath on the following day in all this heat, before I was introduced to my co-collector… John, I discovered, lived only streets away from me in Eastville when we were children. He was, in fact, the John Winterson in my class at both primary and junior school. We even went to the same senior school, Merrywood Grammar, on the opposite side of Bristol! We chatted away for ages – sometimes completely oblivious to customers wishing to put their coins in our boxes! Apologies! It was just so nice to talk to someone about being a child in post-war Bristol, who understands what I’m ‘prattling’ on about! We waxed very lyrical about the number 4 bus, which reached Merrywood via the Old Market – much quicker than the city-centre-bound number 2. Happy days! (Another coincidence – guess who put a few bob in my collecting tin? None other than Mrs. Bennett – thank you!!)

Sunday saw Sarah, Bert, our dog, and I at the Wells Twinning Association’s Italian Festival. Due to a very sad bereavement, for which we held a minute’s silence, the festival could not be held at its usual venue, Beech Barrow Farm, but Mike Phelps kindly stepped in and allowed us to use a lovely spot at Palace Farm instead. This annual event originally raised funds to restore the Romulus and Remus statue, constructed by an Italian Prisoner of War, Gaetano Celestra, in 1945, which you might have spotted on the A39 into Wells at Pen Hill; it is now a celebration of the city’s Italian community and our connection with Fontanellato, a small town (smaller even than Wells), in the Emilia-Romagna region of northern Italy, and supports local charities. This year we (including Bert) even had the pleasure of meeting an official party from the Italian Embassy in London – all very nice young men (Italian, so what’s not to like!), one of whom actually kissed my hand (he kissed it! He did! No, really!). The sun shone brightly – and the lasagne and singing were absolutely marvellous! Wait for it… I even got up to dance with Len Sweales. We were a little hesitant at first, but we soon got into rhythm. Van Morrison’s ‘Brown Eyed Girl’ is one of my all-time favourite songs - so I let the chain swing and I jiggy jiggy’d, before I had to sit down because it was so hot! Thank you to the Association, especially Julie Bellini, Richard Hibberd, Dawn Payne, Bob Reynolds and Tony ‘you know who you are’ D’Ovidio for your hard-work. Yes, the marquee sheltering the excellent chefs did literally blow away – but the day was a triumph!

Celia

The 645th Mayor of Wells’ Diary – issue 6

I have it on good authority that H.R.H. Prince Philip, the Duke of Edinburgh, once said as an aside “when one is in my position, one never passes a toilet” – now, that may or may not be true, but on the morning of Friday the 29th of June, I formally opened facilities for visitors to Wells with more complex disabilities - they are unable to sit, stand or bear their weight independently - for whom our standard disabled toilets are not accessible. I am delighted that they have been named after Alison Douthwaite, who last year made a powerful presentation to Mendip District Council as part of the ‘Changing Places’ consortium, which has been promoting and advising on the development of these toilets since 2006. You will find them in the old Registry Office at the rear of Wells Town Hall; I know that the loss of this service was unpopular at first, but I can’t think of a better use for this empty space than an installation to help more people to enjoy our beautiful city. In fact, the only down side to this heart-warming news is that Frome, which became the first town in Mendip to achieve this excellent status in March, beat us to it! Harvey Siggs has confirmed that plans for ‘Changing Places’ toilets have now been submitted for the other sites across Mendip. Thank you, Alison - and yes, I am grateful that you did eat your fill of biscuits as I still have lots left! Special thanks must also go to Kevin Westwood, the Town Hall Manager, who worked tirelessly on this project, and Jeremy Brown, its builder, and electrician, Phil Allen, who had a few vexing problems to overcome. Don’t ask Jeremy about the floor or the toilet pipework – he may explode and we need him for the Christmas lights. Congratulations, everyone, for a job perfectly done!

That same evening, I hosted a debrief in the Mayor’s Parlour for all the gallant Litter Pick volunteers; we decided to have the next pick on the 1st, 2nd and 3rd of September. I had to repeat this a couple of times because Ross Young was making so much noise munching away at some pork scratchings that the audience couldn’t hear! If you would like to volunteer – please let me know, the more the merrier! At the moment, I go to idverde at Cranmore to collect and return what equipment there is available before and after each weekend clean-up – but I am trying to secure sponsorship so that we can buy our own litter-pickers, hoops to keep bags open, and high-vis vests with a motif on to show who we are, similar to those used by Wells in Bloom volunteers. (I can remember that when I was dead-heading in the High Street during my first year as part of Wells in Bloom, a visitor asked what I had done wrong – I answered I’m not doing community service for any crime – I’m a volunteer! They were shocked that I was happy to be up to my arms in soil and used dog ends dumped in the troughs. It is called civic pride!) Don’t worry I will keep at it!

I went to ‘A Summer Concert’ at St. Andrew’s Church in Cheddar on Saturday, fulfilling a long-standing promise to support Poppy McGhee. What an evening! I, not unlike many of you, I suspect, played the recorder as a child - simple tunes and Christmas carols, with a few dodgy notes along the way – but the Mendip Consort of Recorders were mesmerising! I didn’t know there were so many different recorders of all sizes – from small descant recorders (like mine) to the size of small lamp posts! I daydreamed that if I had kept up my playing from childhood I might have been part of this talented group, but in all honesty I would only have held them back! The Somernotes, a male vocal ensemble, were so entertaining – a keen fan of the Beach Boys, I had to join in to ‘Sloop John B’! (It was a good thing that Sarah wasn’t there – I can almost hear her saying “please don’t sing Mum – people will hear you!”) Mark Beardmore’s solo, ‘Bring Him Home’, was superb! Poppy was her usual brilliant self – she will be a famous star one day and we are all hearing her first …but I mustn’t praise too much or it will go to her head! I am so pleased that Mary L’Anson loaned Poppy her violin. I haven’t enjoyed a Saturday evening so much since my Mayor-making

Celia

The 645th Mayor of Wells’ Diary – issue 5

I can remember queueing to see Mary Poppins as an eleven-year-old at the Gaumont Cinema in Baldwin, Bristol (one for Derek Cooper - cinemas we have known!), so to be invited to Cedars Hall, and the best seats in the house, no less, to watch the Wells Cathedral Junior School production of Mary Poppins Junior was a delight! I must congratulate Delilah Harris Cobain and William Perring, who brought Mary and Bert to life, and every single pupil for such excellent performances! ‘Supercalifragilisticexpialidocious’ was, well, supercalifragilisticexpialidocious! (Sadly, I had to look up the spelling!) Thank you to the staff and volunteers who made it all happen – you must have been so proud on the night. I used to spend hours making angels and ugly-bug costumes – on one memorable occasion, even a U.F.O. from a hula-hoop and balloons – and shepherding performers at school plays past! I would just like to add a note to the director and set-designer, Neil Johnson, who is also organising the Wells Theatre Festival in July. ‘Break a leg’, Neil - I hope that it will be a great success!

Now I must say that I, unlike Bishop Peter, am positively perfect in every way. He admitted that he was not a gardener! On Thursday evening, Sarah and I attended the opening of the English Country Garden Festival at the Bishop’s Palace. We seized the opportunity to see the whole grounds, brilliantly landscaped and tended by James Cross and his host of volunteers, for the first time in a long while. To see the five (now actually quite large) cygnets fidgeting by their mother at such close quarters was a joy! Freddie Langdon-Daly, thank you so much for inviting us - the stall-holders were still setting up, but we could tell that visitors would have an excellent time during the festival!

Saturday morning saw me at the Somerset Convergence conference, organised by Stewart Crocker, in Wells Town Hall to encourage the great many agencies ‘out there’, many of which I had no idea even existed, to communicate and work together. The day was split between listening to a raft of passionate and stimulating speakers, particularly Peter Macfadyen from Frome Town Council, and team-work; my trusty team, Kirstie Harris, Ann Whalley, and I, opted to discuss communication and relaying and imparting ideas between groups, for example. It was a very thought-provoking event, which I would recommend to anyone.

On Sunday afternoon, Sarah and I attended an Evensong Service at the Cathedral to mark the 70th anniversary of the landing of M.V. Empire Windrush at Tilbury Dock. I can vividly recall when the first Jamaican family, Mr. and Mrs. Foster, and their son, Rendell, moved into the house opposite us in Foster Street, Eastville, when I was a little girl. They were so friendly and popular in the street. Rendell became my best friend; I used to hang around their kitchen as the cooking smells were marvellous …I can still see Mrs. Foster’s bowls of rice and beans - and hard scone-like cakes! But I never got the chance to stay for tea! Those were lovely, innocent days.

Celia

The 645th Mayor of Wells’ Diary – issue 4

The next house I buy I want designed, from top to bottom, by the Sixth Form students of the Blue School - and the next bustier and mini-skirt I wear, by the same crew. Sarah and I were staggered by the imagination and talent on display at the school’s annual exhibition of GCSE and A-Level coursework in Art and Design and Technology. Lucy Phillips would be at home submitting her work to the Hilliard Society! The pride of teachers Gerald Eyers and Gareth Luxton and headteacher Mark Woodlock was palpable. Please, if you didn’t have the opportunity to visit this time around, make a note in your diary for 2019.

No sooner had we arrived than it was time for me to be off to discuss the two fifteenth-century reredos, or altarpieces, in St. Cuthbert’s Church with Church Warden, Antonia Gwynn, ecclesiastical historian Professor Julia Barrow, and parishioners. The sculptures, broken into over 420 fragments during the Reformation, were used as rubble to fill their original niches in each transept and plastered over – they were rediscovered by church renovators in 1848, catalogued and digitised in 2016, and today we chewed over their future. How should the church restore and exhibit these treasures?

Now, the formidable Jane Hill of Wells City Band fame has never, in all the time that I have known her, been lost for words - but she was completely bamboozled by her surprise 70th birthday party on Friday evening! Jane was lured to a local hostelry for a quick celebratory drink between band rehearsals while her daughter, Tanya Climso, supervised the quick-change of Seager Hall into a concert- and party venue! I know that Jane was very moved. Thank you, Tanya, for inviting us. Many happy returns, Jane!

Saturday was a busy day for Sarah and I. In the morning I shook my donation bucket outside of the Town Hall with the excellent Old Grey Dogs Jazz Band - the odd tune interrupted by the crooning of Maurice Day! Together, we managed to raise nearly £229 for the two local charities that I have chosen to support this year: St. John Ambulance and the Lawrence Centre. (I even got a pound from Darren Pearson, the Police Beat Manager!!!)

The afternoon found Sarah and I heading the procession of dignitaries and almost 200 children up the High Street and onto Cathedral Green for the ‘Somerset Schools’ Folk Dance Festival’. It has been many years since I did some country dancing, but, first, my foot was tapping away, and then, when we were all called upon to take to the ‘floor’, I took my chance! With the help of ten-year-old Ruby Chapman from Holy Trinity School, Yeovil, I tripped the light fantastic to the last tune of the day! The weather held off and I swung and whooped like no tomorrow! After we said our goodbyes, Len Sweales led the processors back to the Town Hall for a welcome cup of tea and a scone or three.

I have a lot of thank yous to say. To the dancers – who were all brilliant! - and everyone who made the festival such a success! To Marian Cooper, Wendy Payne, and Dawn and Dave Payne for helping us to prepare and serve the afternoon tea. To Bob Payne, who stepped in as my Mace Bearer and did a tremendous job, even if at one point he forgot that he wasn’t walking his dog, Moss, and shot off up Sadler Street. To Waitrose for the kind donation of some ‘luvverley’ clotted cream and the Cheeseyard Café for the scones. Don’t worry there was no waste – Sarah and I took those comestibles that weren’t eaten to Fletcher House on Father’s Day. And, finally, to Evie Potts-Jones the Deputy Mayor of Yeovil, who did a sterling job of not allowing anybody (including Sarah and myself) to leave the Town Hall without making a donation to the Mayor’s Charities.

Sunday saw Sarah and myself having a day all to ourselves – I think that we were both asleep on the settee by six o’clock. It’s all that country dancing – exhausting to watch, let alone join in!

Celia

PS. Does anyone have any old circa 1918 photographs of buildings in the centre of Wells or of WW1 servicemen connected to any shops or businesses in Wells? If so could you please get in touch with me – we are working on a Remembrance Day project! Many thanks.

The 645th Mayor of Wells’ Diary – issue 3

Now I never thought that I would be a Page 3 girl – those of a certain age will know to what I refer – but to be a Page 2 girl was marvellous! Nearly there! This week has been a quieter time; the late Kenneth Williams’ phrase, “small but perfectly formed”, comes to mind when describing my diary entry this week (but how perfect is entirely in your hands!).

I went to the Bishop’s Palace for a Volunteers Afternoon Tea on Monday afternoon. Did you know that over 200 volunteers work at the Bishop’s Palace alone? I was amazed! And such a diverse and interesting group of people - some who had lived in Wells for many years, others who had only just settled here. In fact, I was so engrossed in conversation that I didn’t manage to snaffle a single sandwich until I was leaving. Thank you, Emma Lefevre and Siobhan Goodwin, for including me and opening my eyes to the huge volunteer force that we have in Wells.

On Saturday morning, bright and early, Sarah and I opened the new Seasalt Cornwall shop in the High Street. The first customer would win an £100 voucher and cut the ribbon; when we reached the store, who did we meet but Siobhan, who, we were reliably informed, had proudly erected her ‘deck-chair’ outside at 7.15 a.m., heedless of stares, and now rose to claim her reward! Well done to her, I say – no gritted teeth here, at all. We were strong-armed – yes, strong-armed – into drinking apple juice and eating fudge and purchasing three dresses and a jacket immediately …unfortunately Len Sweales caught us in the act!

The next day we drove to Glastonbury to celebrate Denise Abbot’s elevation to the Mayoralty – and the town’s long history and, to borrow her word, “wackiness”. We paraded behind the Town Band with all the Brownies, Cubs, Scouts, Sea Cadets, Badgers, Police Cadets, and even the Fire and Rescue Services (unless there was an incident that we didn’t know about…) – the Parade Sergeant Major had lungs on him that would have made Len very proud. It was wonderful, but especially lovely to see the Police Cadets - I was one once in the very distant past, when I was just sixteen …and yes, we did have electricity then, and no, we didn’t wear crinolines and long dresses! I’m not that old! We were also able to really see Glastonbury High Street (and some very reasonably priced geraniums in one of the shops!). The following buffet was, as Denise promised, “real nosh”.

I hope that you all enjoy this beautiful weather! I will leave you with advice that we did not take this weekend, resulting in some interesting chain-shaped sunburns... remember to apply sun-screen!

Celia

The 645th Mayor of Wells’ Diary – issue 2

Last weekend, as the Two Ronnies would have said, I had “a packed programme”!!

Friday saw me early at the Town Hall handing out equipment for the weekend litter pick to old and new volunteers …and feeling a little like a teacher doling out homework. The last one was, as you know, at the end of March - we were all hopeful that people might have taken more care to throw their rubbish away in between then and now. Off the gallant band went in search of dog ends, crisp packets and other detritus! (I followed suit on Monday).

I then rushed home, put on a clean frock, adjusted my chain, and dashed back to the Town Hall just in time to attend the Hilliard Society of Miniaturists’ annual awards ceremony. Now, Sarah and I have been to Moscow (I’m not name-dropping - it was just on my bucket list to see in my lifetime) and visited the Kremlin and its Faberge eggs; they were very impressive, but the miniatures on display at this exhibition, painted by some of the most accomplished miniaturists in the world, were breath-taking. I even treated myself to one of the pictures – naughty but nice! Thank you to Caroline Jones, Rosalind Pierson and Maggy Pickard, who was so patient with us when we bombarded her with all our questions, for making us so welcome. My best wishes for the future also go to the President Joyce Rowsell, who that afternoon retired after many years’ service to the society.

The following day, we attended the Mayor-Making in Bath. I felt like a film star as we – and over twenty mayors and mayoresses (collective noun, anyone?!) from nearby towns –processed through the streets to Bath Abbey, so many onlookers were taking photographs! As they say, we British do this kind of thing rather well! The incoming Mayor, Patrick Anketell-Jones’ theme for his year chimed with me: to halt the damage we are doing to our wildlife in its tracks. He spoke passionately about the flocks of swifts no longer visiting Lansdown every year – eighty, then twenty-five, now only eight. The return procession, I will admit, did go slightly awry – as we all bundled up the back-stairs of the Guildhall two-by-two in error!

Now, I had hoped to wave my chequered flag with swagger, not unlike grand prix starters, when I started the Tortoise and Hare Run early on Sunday morning… Unfortunately, fear that I would do permanent injury to a passing pedestrian or put the pole-end through the Crown Hotel’s window compelled me to take more care when I sent the competitors off! (I must add that Len Sweales warmed up the audience brilliantly despite the bells!) I was warmly welcomed by Dick Makin and Chris Weeks; they kindly explained this event’s name, one race is for fast motorcycles (“the hares”), two for slower bikes (“the tortoises and snails”) and were rightly proud that the Wells Classic Motorcycle Club had so far raised £17,000 for the Air Ambulance by running this event annually for eight years.

The smell of the Castrol R sent me back to the days when Steve, my late husband, and I entered various classic trials on our ‘outfit’. There was no bigger petrol head; Steve left me with seven motor bikes of various ages and four cars when he died. I can remember coming home from work one day to find a Honda 360 engine in my best meat tray on the kitchen table; on another occasion I discovered my lovely flan dish completely cracked because someone had put it on a hot stove filled with chain lube (in which I made a point of baking all future quiches – and Steve always complained there was a slight taste!!!) So, I felt right at home with oil drips and bikes not starting straightaway – and a keen empathy with the competitors and their support crews. I sauntered around the motorcycles as if I had never been away. It was lovely to see so many enthusiasts! Especially Gareth Davies on his NSU Quickly, which was Steve’s first moped, and my Mayor’s Choice, a Royal Enfield combination… Such comfort for the passenger! In my sidecarring days all sides were open to all the elements! My poor feet!

Sarah, who stepped in to hand out the remaining litter-picker-uppers at the Town Hall in the morning to volunteers, was able to join me at the prizegiving later that afternoon. Congratulations to all the winners and though there was a little pressure at the prizegiving at the Wells Football Club from Chris to “pick a pink, pick a pink” raffle ticket - the predominate colour being orange – I think that the day ended as it had begun, marvellously!

I drove around the city that evening to see what rubbish had been left at the designated drop-off points and take photographs; though we had picked up a fair few bags of rubbish over the weekend, I am happy to report that there were not nearly so many as before! Maybe the message is catching on! It is moments like this when you know it has all been worth it! Thank you so much to all the wonderful volunteers who helped over this weekend – and to the several ladies and gentlemen (innocent bystanders) who offered their assistance next time around. If anyone else wants to come along too - you know where I am!

Celia

The 645th Mayor of Wells’ Diary – issue 1

I was nervous. This was my first time out in public as the new Mayor - a very heavy responsibility …and an even heavier chain! I tried to calm myself that memorable Tuesday evening as I waited outside of the Town Hall. The Market Place was warm and quiet; people were enjoying wine and antipasti outside of Ask, ladies were crossing the square - yoga mats under-arm - chatting happily.

All of a sudden, noise hit my ears …and a mass of yellow and brown poured onto the pavement by The Crown! The Third Wells Brownie Unit had landed! I said hello to everyone, we posed for photographers, who guaranteed that we would look beautiful, and off we went – in search of litter. We all had gloves, shared litter pickers, and soon the Moat Walk and the Recreation Ground were as clean as a whistle! The girls had time for a well-deserved play on the swings before returning to the Methodist Church Hall.

My thanks go to Brown Owl, Lucy Norton, Tawny Owl, Karen Faulkes, and Young Leaders Olivias 1 and 2 (Olivia Wharton and Olivia Gould), and all of the pack for a lovely evening – and being such good sports and doing their bit to keep Wells clean! A special thanks to Cheryl Norton for walking with me and putting the world to rights – Cheryl gave me to impetus to move forward with litter-picking in Wells when I first became a councillor. The Brownies are always looking for helpers – please volunteer! Don’t forget (as if you could) that I am also organising a second litter-pick from the 1st, when I will be at the Town Hall handing out equipment from 8.30 until 10.30am, until the 3rd June - contact me at c.r.wride@googlemail.com if you would like to lend a hand.

The next day was equally exciting. Early in the morning I made a presentation on behalf of Wells City Council to the formidable Market Manager, Stuart Beeton. I was looking forward to doing battle with him in my efforts to reach the Town Hall in my car on market days, but selfishly he has decided to retire to spend more time with his grandchildren, holiday in Spain and laze about drinking fine Italian beer. (It will soon pall, Stuart – you can have too much of a good thing!) He received a card wishing him luck in the future signed by all the councillors and staff at the Town Hall and what appeared to be a year’s supply of his favourite ‘tipple’ Peroni Gold. He has served the City of Wells brilliantly for well over a decade and will be sorely missed.

On Sunday the weather held off, just, and I started the Fun Run - no, I wasn’t in it, I only started it! I had the use of a klaxon to sound at the start of each race, but it was a little temperamental in my hands. There I was, counting down from three, then pressing the button with increasing violence to absolutely no avail – the knowing 10-kilometre runners blithely running past anyway! But thankfully every competitor finished, there were no injuries – and the atmosphere was fantastic. I met so many new people – and friends who I had no idea were keen runners! I was particularly impressed and envious of the over 60s competitors. Hats off to all, the young and the not so young, who took part – and thank you to Julia Dukes for inviting me to exhaust myself watching all that activity.

Celia

 



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