Sunday, 5 June 2022

THERE BUT FOR THE GRACE OF GOD

 

They say that there are only two things that are certain in life; death and taxes.  

Well, most of us, although law abiding people, spend much of our time trying to see how we can avoid paying tax. 

However, death is unavoidable and will come to us all eventually.  

I seem to be attending funerals at the rate of one a week at the moment. Some deaths were not entirely unexpected; the person concerned might have been suffering from long-standing health conditions, and their family and loved ones had experienced first-hand their painful decline and eventual demise. What is shocking though are those sudden and unexpected deaths; here today gone tomorrow. 

It is as if they have just popped out to do a bit of shopping and disappeared off the face of the earth; nothing can prepare us for such an eventuality. 

On a personal level, I have always gone by the maxim ‘live each day as if it is your last’.  

The recent loss of several friends, including one with whom I had enjoyed a long weekend in France just days ago, has given me pause for thought, and made me more determined than ever to do enjoy the here and now. None of us know when or where we might breathe our last breath, and I want to squeeze out every last gasp. 

Although the pandemic has made us all much more aware of the importance of regular contact with loved ones, I am going to make a more conscious effort to ensure that at the last point of contact with friends and family they know that I love them and value them.  

Just in case. 

Thursday, 19 May 2022

Summer Celebrations

 

As the summer gets underway, and despite the doom and gloom of the economy, we have lots to celebrate, both nationally and locally. 

Many of our local villages and towns are gearing themselves up for a host of celebrations to mark the Queen’s Platinum Jubilee, with the added bonus that we get an extra-long bank holiday from Thursday 2nd to Sunday 5th June.  

It looks like we are in for a fun-packed weekend. 

Chard Town Council has been working together with local schools, to organise a torch-lit parade, Thursday, June 2, along with a lantern-making workshop in the Guildhall, Fore Street that morning.  

The torch-lit parade will culminate with the lighting of the Beacon on Crowshute Link at 9.45pm. 

On Friday June 3 there is a special Civic Parade and Service of Thanksgiving take place at St. Mary’s Church. In the evening there will be a show, “Queen of the Commonwealth”, taking place at 7pm at the Guildhall. 

On Saturday June 4, Freedom Leisure will have activities taking place, in addition to a show at the Beacon, headlined with Bristol based band Goodnight Lois. 

On Sunday, June 5 Holyrood Street will be transformed to a street party with entertainment for families, a brass band and food outlets. 

Over in Crewkerne there will be a ‘Jubilee in the Park’ celebration at Henhayes Recreation Ground on Friday 3rd June, 2-5pm. 

Meanwhile, just down the road in Ilminster there will be ‘The Party on the Rec’ from 20am – 5pm, organised by the Rotary Club of Ilminster, with live music, food, ice cream, a bar, games, and a dog show, all for free! 

Keep your eyes peeled for events in your own community. 

This is not all that we are good at though. Recently asked to be one of the judges for the Town Crier competition held in Ilminster, and ably organised once again by Town Crier Andrew Fox and his wife Julie, I was reminded of the many wonderful quirky traditions for which we should be famously proud. With Town Criers descending on the town from cross the country it was fun to see traffic stopped in its tracks to view this wonderful spectacle as entrants were put through their paces; and creating a right old racket! What was particularly heartening was to see that the younger generation are getting in on the act and that local lass, Sophy, from Chard, was the clear winner in the junior competition. 

Here's a bit of history for you.  

Historically town criers, or Bellmen, were the original newsmen and were particularly important when most of the population was illiterate.  

The first town criers were the Spartan Runners in the early Greek Empire. With the advent of the Roman Conquest the role became a position of the court, formalised after the Norman Conquest in 1066. 

Town criers were protected by law; “Don’t shoot the messenger” was a very real command as anything done to a town crier was deemed to be done to the King and a treasonable offence. People of standing in the community were chosen as they had to be able to write and read official proclamations. Often, they were a husband-and-wife team with the wife ringing the large hand bell whilst her husband shouted out the proclamation, usually at the door of the local inn, before nailing it to the doorpost. The tradition has resulted in the expression “posting a notice” and the naming of newspapers as “The Post”. 

Announcements are always preceded by the traditional “Oyez! Oyez! Oyez!” (which is “listen” in French) and conclude with “God save the Queen”. 

Another truly British tradition that livens up many a town and village throughout the summer months is that of Morris dancing, a form of English folk dance usually accompanied by music. It is based on rhythmic stepping and the execution of choreographed figures by a group of dancers, usually wearing bell pads on their shins. Implements such as sticks, swords and handkerchiefs may also be wielded by the dancers. 

The earliest known and surviving English written mention of Morris dance is dated to 1448 and records the payment of seven shillings to Morris dancers by the Goldsmiths’ Company in London.  

While the earliest records invariably mention “Morys” in a court setting, and a little later in the Lord Mayors’ Processions in London, it had adopted the nature of a folk dance performed in the parishes by the mid-17th century. 

Along with cheese rolling, cream teas, Guy Fawkes’s Night, a good old Sunday roast and our ability to queue, these are things that never fail to bring a smile to my face and makes me truly proud to be British.  

This summer there is plenty to keep us occupied without breaking the bank. 

Monday, 9 May 2022

THE MAGIC OF MONTENEGRO


My recent trip to the Balkan states of Croatia, Bosnia-Hercegovina and Montenegro had been planned long before the situation in the Ukraine began to dominate our media. I had been apprehensive that a combination of Covid travel restrictions, and fears of an escalation of the war, would mean the trip would be cancelled, but thankfully not.

From previous experience I know that travelling to war-torn areas of the world can reap many benefits; the absence of hordes of tourists, greater value for money, and the fact that the native population are so grateful to have visitors they welcome you with open arms.

With its unspoiled sandy beaches, historic architecture and awe-inspiring scenery, Montenegro is a much sought-after travel destination.

Where others may focus their travels on specific aspects of a country, its history, nature, wildlife etc., my focus is always on food and wine.

This was an organised tour (the subject of another article) and during our first week as much as visits to UNESCO World Heritage Sites were worthwhile, changing hotels every night made is more difficult to get to grips with an area. Thankfully during our second we week we were able to stay put in one place, in Bečići, just outside the popular holiday town of Budva (which must be a nightmare in the summer months), giving me the opportunity to explore the Montenegrin vineyard region in some depth.

Whilst in many countries it can be advantageous to take part in an organised tour, this was not all necessary in Montenegro, where the crime rate is very low, and outside of peak holiday times getting out and about is hassle-free.

I would advise against booking one of the many organised ‘wine tours’ available. Starting at around €50 per person they do not offer good value for money. The road network, and signage, is good, car hire is inexpensive at €22 per day, including insurance, and driving is stress free. Many of the vineyards are one-man bands and whilst there are advantages to having a guide, especially as many vineyard owners do not speak English, they are always welcoming, and most are willing to provide tastings free of charge. Do be aware that some wineries are open by reservation only.

Many Montenegrin vineyards are located in the southern and coastal regions of the country, around beautiful Lake Skadar, also renowned for its trout, carp and eel, all of which I was able to sample at bargain basement prices.

Montenegro’s mild climate ensures excellent conditions for wine production, with wines made from a wide range of grape varieties including native varieties such as Krstač and Vranac, as well as Cabernet Sauvignon, Sangiovese and Chardonnay, amongst others.

Also, not to be missed is the hillside village of Njeguši on the slopes of Mount Lovćen, with a population of just 35, and where they produce superb Proscuitto (pršut), good enough to rival that produced in Parma, Italy. The particular flavour and aroma of pršut is the result of the mixture of sea and mountain air and the beech wood burned during the lengthy drying process, which can take up to two years to complete. Also worth looking out for, is the fresh local cheese and intensely perfumed honey. Production of these local delicacies is largely a cottage industry, where tastings and sales are conducted from the kitchen of someone’s home.

When shopping locally or eating out, except in larger hotels and restaurants in the main tourist areas, it is worth noting that this is largely a cash economy where credit cards are not usually accepted.

Widely considered Montenegro’s national drink, a good deal of the distilled spirit known as rakija is also produced. Said to be a restorative, instantly destroying bacteria, it gives relief to stomach and muscle pain, annihilating viruses and disinfects wounds. I am left wondering that whilst many of my fellow travellers seemed to be stricken with one ailment or another, it must be the quantity I imbibed that kept me in good health. It is considered obligatory when welcoming someone to your home to offer them a glass of this. Rakija, very similar to the Grappa popular in Italy, can be made out of almost any fruit and has an alcohol content ranging from 40% to 80%, or higher. Most households make their own, with that made from grapes (Loza) being the most popular.

Of the many vineyards along this route here are a few worth trying, and whose wines I enjoyed. The average price for their most recent vintages was in the region of €10 a bottle. For the smaller producers wine sales are on site only, and very few are available to buy in the UK at the moment, but then you would be missing out on a delightful travel experience!

 

Cemovsko Field

This is the largest vineyard on one site in Europe, stretching an impressive 2310 ha., owned by the Montenegrin company 13.Jul Plantaže and established in 1963. For me, small has always been beautiful. Very consumer focused, at this commercial operation they offer a variety of tastings and tours (€12 - €22). They seem to supply many of the hotels and restaurants with the mini 187ml. bottles of house wine on offer, where I would compare the quality with the standard offering of our local pubs; drinkable but unremarkable.

At the premium end of their offerings there are however several award-winning wines available at around £24 a bottle.

Plantaže Wines, Put Radomira Ivanovića, br.2, Podgorica, Montenegro. +38220658028

www.plantaze.com

 

Mola Family Vineyards

Situated in the Podgorica wine region this sizeable family-owned estate is situated in the picturesque village of Rogami. Just minutes away from the ruins of the Roman village Duklja, the mountainous setting makes for prime wine growing conditions, with the sun- drenched surroundings cultivating excellent grape crops. The Mola family produce a variety of wines including a merlot, a cabernet sauvignon, and a white and red blend.

Mola Family Vineyards, Podgorica, Montenegro. +38267867691

 

Radevic Estate

This small, family run vineyard lies just outside of Podgorica city is also in the village of Rogami. The Radevik family pride themselves on their ability to grow and produce original, quality wines using sustainable, organic farming techniques. The wines produced here include a blend of Vranac, Cabernet Sauvignon and Syrah. There is a comfortable guest house situated on the grounds of the estate, and watch out for their super-strength Rakiji.

Radevic Estate, Rogami-Piperi bb, Podgorica, Montenegro. +382-69-276-055

www.radevicestate.com

 

Vinarija Bogojević

This family-run vineyard boasts generations of wine-making experience. Their rustic, homely estate and flourishing vineyard produces a celebrated Bogdan wine, a dense, dark red with hints of vanilla, blueberry, and cassis. As well as wine, Vinarija Bogojević also produces grappa in both a traditional and herbal variety. With beautiful views over Skadar Lake, this vineyard provides its visitors with experiences to remember.

Vinarija Bogojević, Podgorica, Montenegro. +38267533001

www.bogojevic.me

 

Castel Savina

Castel Savina is situated in the historic region of Herceg-Novi, an area of historical significance in Montenegro featuring a beautiful monastery founded by the Duke of Saint Sava. With breath-taking views over the Bay of Kotor, Castel Savina’s luscious greenery and impressive surroundings provide an ideal backdrop for wine tasting. Producing a range which includes a Merlot, a Cabernet Sauvignon, a Grenache rosé and a Chardonnay, there is something for everyone here. The winemakers employ techniques perfected over years in the industry to produce excellent, first-rate products every time. Castel Savina is a family run venue, the only winery in the bay of Kotor and on the Montenegrin coast in general.

Tours by reservation only.

Castel Savina, Branka Ćopića 7d, Herceg Novi, Montenegro  +382 69 042022

www.castelsavina.me

 

Milović Winery

This substantial vineyard and olive plantation produces around 20,000 bottles of wine a year, and is nestled just outside of Ulcinj, the Southernmost town in Montenegro. A thriving seaside region famous for its unspoiled beaches, the area provides ideal conditions for growing grapes. Generating a number of Barrique-stored red wines, the traditional Vranacs here are rich and dark ruby coloured, combining a mixture of forest fruit, cranberry and vanilla flavours. Guests can also stay in the Milović Winery’s apartment complex, with its own tennis court and swimming pool overlooking the gorgeous Montenegrin wine country. Be sure to enjoy a glass in their rustic, cosy wine cellar.

Milović Winery, Briska Gora, Ulcinj, Montenegro. +38267350526

 

Winery Mašanović

Winery Mašanović is situated in the small town of Virpazar on Lake Skadar, the largest lake in the Balkan peninsula, and a vast national park that in 2011 was nominated as a UNESCO world heritage site. The beauty of the surroundings make this vineyard a stunning place to explore, and the mild climate and natural fertility of the soil make for robust and tasty wines with unique flavours. Established in 1969, this vineyard and winery grows six type of grapes and specialises in the traditional Montenegrin Vranec wine, a dark red variety with flavours of dark chocolate, fruit and burnt oak. Also produced here are a range of brandies, as well as cherry and walnut liqueurs made from organic fruits grown on the property.

This family-owned winery has the longest tradition in winemaking and wine growing in Montenegro and is known for its dry red wines which take on a deep dark red hue, with purple tones. Here I was able to sample many of their barrique aged wines.

KRIN barrique is their top level dry red wine, made from Vranac. On the palate the wine tastes like burnt oak (they use French barriques), with raspberry and cranberry fruit flavours.

DIONIS barrique – made by blending 3 grape varieties, Vranac, Marselan and Petit Verdot.

BUĆA barrique – made from a blend of 5 grape varieties, Vranac, Marselan, Petit Verdot, Cabernet Sauvignon and Sangiovese. This is produced in limited quantities of just 500 bottles, and is characterised by dark chocolate and cinnamon aromas which follow through on the palate.

TRE SORELLE barrique (semi-sweet) - the late harvesting of selected berries increases naturally the concentration of sugar in for this blend of Marselan, Sangiovese and Cabernet Sauvignon. Full bodied, round and complex with a rich fruity-creamy aftertaste and chocolate finish.

Winery Mašanović, Virpazar, Montenegro. ++382069063460

www. masanovic.blogspot.com

 

 

The Sjekloća Estate

This winery produces just a few thousand bottles of wine a year, giving it an air of exclusivity. Vineyard owner Milenko K. Sjekloća was born in Crmnica, the heart of Montenegrin wine country, and has a reputation for unbeatable wine knowledge. His expertise has enabled him to create truly original and innovative flavours of wine at his estate. The traditional Vranac wine here is aged for 12 months before bottling, and the cellar boasts a large number of vintage bottles varying in type and taste.

For €50 visitors can tour the vineyards and cellar with the expert guidance of the owner, taste t3 vintage wines and obtain wines not available of the open market.

The Sjekloća Estate, Milenko Sjekloća,Limljani bb, Virpazar, Montenegro.

+382020712 231

www.sjeklocavino.com

 

Rupice Winery

With a rich history dating back to the early 20th century, the wines of Rupice Winery have been internationally renowned since they were first sampled at the Balkan Wine Fair in London, back in 1907. Located in Rupice Komanske just west of Podgorica, the owners here produce premium quality wine and brandy with the help of the area’s microclimate.

Respecting the traditional methods implemented by the winery’s first owners, Rupice cultivates its grapes in limited quantities to prevent overproduction, and practices biodynamic farming methods. Their Di Vine branded red wine has a rich fruity aroma, cherry taste and velvety texture.

Rupice Winery,b13 Moskovska, Podgorica, Montenegro +38268313068

www.rupice.me/montenegro

 

Vinarija Buk

This private vineyard and winery lies in the village of Bukovik, also in the famous Crmnica wine growing region, with a total grapevine count of over 6000. The Vinarija Buk wines include a traditional Vranac, an enticing Marselan, and a medium-bodied French wine grape variety first developed by crossing a Cabernet Sauvignon with a black Grenache.

Vinarija Buk, Bukovik, Montenegro. +38267528853.

www.bukwinery.blogspot.com

 

With building work being carried out at some pace across Montenegro, due to inward investment taking advantage of the favourable tax system here, I fear for the future of the unspoilt areas of this beautiful country. My advice, visit as soon as you can before the high-rise hotels fully take hold.


Monday, 2 May 2022

Statement from Linda Vijeh - X MARKS THE BOX

With local elections just four days away, the results for Somerset could not be more significant as voters go to the polls to determine who will represent them as the county moves forward towards becoming a unitary authority.  

With national politics, and the misdemeanours of our parliamentary representatives, dominating the news in recent weeks it is natural for there to be a tendency towards this to impact on local decisions. In my view, this is a mistake.   

Although a highly respected South Somerset Conservative councillor for almost 20 years, I have never been in favour of voting along party lines. What should matter to us all is the suitability of individual candidates to accurately and honestly represent us; someone with integrity that you know can be trusted, even if you may not always agree with their views.   

Sadly, at all levels of government this is often in short supply. I raise this now, because in February of this year at SSDC’s full council meeting I was publicly subjected to an unprovoked attack on my personal integrity by fellow councillors, including Cllr. Seib, Cllr. Dance, Cllr. Clarke and Cllr. Soughton, along with several others. One after the other, in a pre-planned and concerted verbal assault, they sought to defame me, suggesting that my decision to stand down was in some way connected with dishonest behaviour. Such was the serious nature of their comments that I had no option but to take legal action. The consequence of this was that they have all agreed to issue corrective statements at the next full council meeting on 19th May, conveniently after the election.   

What is key to the situation is that the comments about me were made in response to a vote of no confidence in the leader of SSDC (brought forward by Cllr. Martin Wale as a result of the investigation into alleged corruption and fraud within SSDC), but completely unrelated to the issue in hand; the non-disclosure of information relating to claims of corruption and fraud. During the meeting this was never properly addressed as is evident from the video recording of the proceedings.   

In deciding who to vote for this week, I would urge local residents to question and challenge the honesty and reliability of those seeking to represent them.   

Just this week a colleague of the councillors involved approached me to say how sorry they were about the comments that were made by members of their own party, describing the behaviour of those mentioned as despicable. I could not agree more. 

In my experience several of those currently in positions of authority have selective memories.  


Monday, 28 March 2022

A DROP IN THE OCEAN - UNDERWATER WINERIES

 

From time to time, stories of the discovery, and recovery, of precious cargoes of wine, brandy and other vintage tipples hit the headlines, often resulting in them being sold off at auction for huge sums of money. This, despite the fact that in many cases what’s inside the bottle may well be undrinkable. One way of assessing its drinkability before shelling out a whole load of cash is to use a device produced by Coravin, which is capable of extracting wine without removing the cork.

As recently as 2019, an expedition organised by Cookson Adventures, with the aid of various maritime and archaeological entities, including maritime exploration company 10994 Ltd., was undertaken to salvage cargo from a British ship torpedoed off the coast of Cornwall in 1918. The ship in question was a British cargo ship sailing from Bordeaux to the UK with a cargo of wine when it was sunk by a German U-boat.

This resulting haul of several hundred bottles of wine, Champagne and spirits was worth millions of pounds.

Rich pickings indeed for the small number of niche companies that specialise in such recovery operations.

Such exciting discoveries are more frequent than you might think.

For those lucky enough to be able to afford to participate in such adventures, it is a once in a lifetime opportunity to experience first-hand discoveries of great historical significance.

Also in 2019, a team from specialist salvage company Ocean X recovered 900 bottles of booze that had been on board the Swedish ship S.S. Kyros, sunk by a German submarine in 1917 during World War I, on its way to deliver its cargo to Tzar Nicholas II, and now lying at the bottom of the Baltic Sea.

The team, used remote-controlled vehicles in order to retrieve the bottles as the depth, and  condition of the ship and the surroundings of the wreck made the scenario too dangerous even for trained deep divers.

Ocean X was also behind the recovery of the 300 year old “shipwreck wine” found in the North Sea. These surviving bottles of wine, auctioned by Christie’s, fetched thousands of pounds each. A single bottle of Veuve Clicquot found in the wreckage sold for almost £30,000.

Back to the 21st century.

In the deep, freezing cold, dark waters of the Baltic Sea and the North Sea, items are to all intents and purposes in cold storage. This has prompted some entrepreneurs to exploit the sea’s cool, dark environment and invest in underwater wineries as conditions in the sea are felt to mimic key ageing factors that impact on the wine.

In 2008, Emmanuel Poirmeur, of winery Egiategia, began submerging sparkling wines in France’s bay of Saint Jean de Luz, lured by what he described as the perfect conditions for secondary fermentation. The unpredictable nature of the process soon had him hooked. “If I put 20 wine tanks below the sea, all exactly the same, they’ll all come back different,” he said.

So, working with a small team, which included diver Borja Saracho, he gained permission to rent 500 square metres of seabed in the bay of Plentzia on Spain’s north coast and formed Crusoe Treasure. They sank specially designed structures capable of storing wine, which also acted as an artificial reef. Winemakers across the country soon joined in the experiment, sending bottles of wine for Saracho to plunge into the sea.

The results were astounding, and the development of the wines described as being very distinct from what would happen with the same grape on land.

Similar experiments have been carried out in other parts of the world, providing a cornerstone for what is now a niche and rapidly growing sector of the wine industry. Both in Europe and in the new world winemakers are utilising the power of underwater environments to shape their wines.

The logic behind the theory is that is that underwater conditions, such as constant temperature and the absence of light, mimic two of the vital ageing factors that contribute so much to the development of the wine.

The technique does come at a cost though. The logistics of submerging and retrieving wine, along with the increased risk of breakage and leaks can increase production costs by as much as 70%.

Among those turning to underwater ageing are some of the wine industry’s biggest players. Louis Roederer (of Cristal champagne fame), made headlines when it began using the waters off Mont Saint-Michel as an underwater cellar. Likewise, an experiment by Veuve Clicquot, saw them sinking a champagne-filled vault into the Baltic Sea.

As the sector grows, techniques are varying wildly. Some winemakers sink their wines in sealed amphorae, while others use custom-designed barrels or submersible cages laden with algae-encrusted bottles. Others have shunned marine environments and opted for water-filled tanks on land in shallower water, leaving the wine at the mercy of rising tides and partial exposure to air.

In 2019 the first-ever underwater wine congress was held in northern Spain, with the aim of ensuring a responsible approach to the marine environment, as concern about climate change increases, bringing with it a wider range of water temperatures and an increase in the number of violent weather patterns. At Crusoe Treasure, the underwater cellars are fitted with sensors, providing first-hand knowledge of how the environment is being transformed.

For wine lovers interested in experiencing these extraordinary wines go to

https://underwaterwine.com

Sea Soul No4, is a limited-edition offering from the winery (£58.50) raised to the surface after ageing underwater for six months. Made from 100% Syrah obtained from the vineyards of Álex Ascaso, who is passionate about environmental sustainability, respect for tradition and experimentation. The vineyards at Ayerbe, north of the Monegros and at the foot of the Loarre Mountains, are influenced by the warm southerly winds and in contrast to the northern cierzo from the mountains. A privileged environment where the grapes can mature expressing their full potential.

And where the human hand brings the result to a close.

Wednesday, 2 March 2022

Statement from Linda Vijeh following last night's SSDC full council meeting

 Following the outcome and statements made at last night’s South Somerset District Council meeting in relation to the motion of no confidence in the leadership of Cllr. Val Keitch, put forward by Cllr. Martin Wale, I feel that I must put the record straight. 

In responding to the motion, Cllr. Keitch stated that the offer of the position of CEO to Clare Pestell was withdrawn once the serious nature of the allegations made against her became known. 

This is not accurate. SSDC announced on 4th June 2021 that ‘Clare Pestell has decided that for personal reasons she will not now be taking up the position’. No mention was made in the communication to members of the offer being withdrawn by SSDC, as stated by Cllr. Keitch. The was also clarified with me during a virtual meeting between myself and the then CEO, Alex Parmley that same day. 

As late as 8th July, despite asking the question on a number of occasions, I had still not been able to find out why Clare Pestell had resigned.  

What does not seem to have been mentioned, is the fact that on at least one occasion the CEO had stayed and received hospitality at Clare Pestell’s vineyard, but did not declare this. 

Furthermore, after an Ilminster Town Council meeting at the end of last year I asked Cllr. Keitch outright ‘If there had not been a whistle blower, would we have discovered this?’ Her response was emphatic ‘Yes, we already had our suspicions.’ This is at odds with comments made by Cllr. Keitch at this week’s meeting. 

It has been suggested that initially it was felt that the anonymous letter may have been sent maliciously, but I can confirm that there had been many attempts, over a long period of time, to alert the CEO of concerns over corruption and fraud, none of which were heeded.   

During last night’s full council meeting my name was mentioned on a number of occasions, particularly in relation to the fact that some years ago, in 2013, I used the services of members of SSDC’s Street Scene to chop down trees at my property in France. I can confirm that the work carried out was done over a weekend, not in working time, by two members of staff, using private transport, and that no money changed hands. As mentioned by a fellow councillor, I have always been very open about this, given that I had nothing to hide and no wrong doing had taken place. 

During the investigation into Clare Pestell’s actions, and at the appeal hearing, when it became clear that members of the Street Scene team were under investigation, I immediately offered to declare my interest, and was told that it was not necessary to do so as the appeal hearing related just to Clare Pestell. 

Finally, it has been suggested that Cllr. Wale’s motion was brought about for political reasons given the upcoming by-election for my Neorche ward seat. This is not the case at all, rather it seems to me that the issue is being politicised by those SSDC councillors who refuse to acknowledge the failings of their own authority.  


Wednesday, 16 February 2022

To Vax or Not to Vax

Tennis star Novac Djokovic’s announcement this week clarifying his stance concerning the Covid vaccine, and his reasons for not wanting to have it, has caused some controversy. This is worth mentioning as he is seen as a role model for many people who may be hesitant to accept it. Had he explained this last month, when trying to get permission to stay in Australia, he might have saved us all a lot of airtime. 

Whilst I am not anti-vaccine, I do have some sympathy with him. To be honest, I am ambivalent.  

For the last two years we have all been living through unprecedented and turbulent times. The need for swift action has meant that the ability to devise a vaccine as a matter of urgency has rightly gained much acclaim and applause. However, as has often been the case in the past, such a rapid response can have its drawbacks. We are unlikely to see any potential long-term repercussions manifest themselves for some time. 

I was prompt in having my first two Astra-Zeneca jabs, thankfully without any side effects at all. However, this was not the case with the Moderna booster jab which knocked me for six, laying me low for days and with ongoing symptoms since then. I am not at all sure that I will now be so willing to have a further booster should it be offered. 

Fearful of catching Covid, largely due to long-term respiratory problems, I am all too aware that the only person who can protect my health is myself. Hence, I have been very cautious about where I go, and who I mix with. Apart from the period when we were in full lockdown, I have largely been able to go about my business and do test regularly. 

But, having said that, I firmly believe that all businesses, entertainment venues, health providers, employers and employees do have the right to be protected where possible. If this means that in some cases freedom of movement means agreeing to succumb to the Covid vaccine, then that has to be respected. Whilst Novac has every right to refuse the vaccine, he cannot expect to then be granted the same freedoms as those of us who are willing to take the risk of being vaccinated. Yes, there may be as yet unknown long-term consequences but to protect my health in the here and now, it is a risk I am willing to take.