Saturday, 23 June 2012

Mental illness, Charlie Waller Trust and Van Gogh

This is a beautiful tribute.  Do take a few minutes to enjoy some of Van Gogh's inspirational paintings accompanied by Don McLean's song Vincent.

Sadly mental health is still taboo unlike other serious illnesses, even though it is all too common.  Around the world like Van Gogh people suffering from depression take their own life.  

Here in Reading the Charlie Waller Trust was set up in memory of Charlie with whom my brothers went to school and remained friends.  Charlie committed suicide in his thirties whilst suffering from depression .  His family set up the Trust in his memory to raise awareness of depression and of the symptoms of depression; to reduce the stigma attached to seeking help; and to ensure help is available when needed.

If you or someone you know needs help, do visit the Trust's site 

Wednesday, 13 June 2012

Hose pipe ban to be lifted - too late for Labour Cllr

Thames Water is lifting the hose pipe ban tomorrow, 14 June.  It must have been difficult for water companies to justify maintaining the ban for so long in what is commonly accepted as the wettest drought ever.  However it was important for water reserves to be replenished to adequate levels to ensure supplies through the summer and autumn.

The timing of Thames Water's adverts in today's local Midweek Chronicle and Reading Post is off, but such is life.

The following article in today's Reading Post needs no comment from me.  Click on it for a larger copy.

Tuesday, 12 June 2012

Put your unfinished tins of paint to good use!

An innovative new scheme offering hugely discounted paint to people keen to tackle a DIY project at home or to revamp local community buildings will launch later this month. 

'Community RePaint' is being run in partnership between the Joint Waste Disposal Board for the re3 councils (Bracknell Forest, Reading and Wokingham) and Green Machine Enterprise - a community interest company established by Bracknell Forest Council to give opportunities for employment and voluntary work for disabled and disadvantaged people.

The initiative, which is the first in the central Berkshire area, is part of 'Community RePaint' which is a national scheme sponsored by Dulux since 1993. Residents from Reading can take their unwanted pots of paint to Smallmead Household Waste Recycling Centre, Island Road, Reading.

The paint is collected by Green Machine staff and taken to their unit nearby where it is sorted, consolidated and made available for sale at around £1 per litre. Local people or companies can buy all kinds of non-hazardous paint from the Green Machine and use it either for their own decorating jobs around the home or for local community projects.

This is a great initiative: freeing up useful storage space, consolidating remnants and putting them to good use thereby reducing the environmental hazard of throwing away unused paint.

Information will be available at Greenmachine Tel: 0844 800 5362, or you can visit Community RePaint

Thursday, 7 June 2012

Lime Trees testing visibility

Upper Warren Avenue
One of the most beautiful roads in Mapledurham Ward (where I live & now represent) is Upper Warren Avenue. 

At this time of year the lime trees' fresh new leaves make it a treat to walk along, especially on a sunny day like yesterday.

However one annual problem is the sprouting of shoots at the bottom of the trunks which makes visibility around the trees difficult.  I've spoken with the Parks Department and believe the shoots will be cut off tomorrow to maintain the lovely avenue and reduce the risk of accidents.

Update:  Due to strong winds bringing down trees around the town, the pruning didn't happen yesterday.  I've been informed that once fallen trees and branches have been dealt with RBC will be prioritising main routes, but Upper Warren Avenue will be tackled within 2 weeks.

Further update:  The pruning has been completed

Flags Flying for the Queen

Over the weekend I took photos of homes decorated for  the Queen's Diamond Jubilee in my area.

On Monday afternoon Fernbrook Road, where I live, had a street party and although the rain held off it was cold so we all layered up!  We are lucky in that there is a large, grassed turning circle the far end - perfect for street parties - so the road doesn't have to be closed.

The turnout was excellent. Everyone brought along food, drinks and chairs. Even some teenagers joined in for a little.  The younger children had a brilliant time racing round the circle on scooters and bouncing around on a pogo stick.  It was great to get to know neighbours better and meet others for the first time.

Tuesday, 5 June 2012

Google Maps update

I was pleased to receive an email response from Google Maps this week.  I wrote to them a few months ago pointing out vehicles can no longer drive along the entire length of Gravel Hill as it was closed permanently a couple of years ago.  Their email confirmed they've updated their records accordingly.

My and other residents' concern was that vehicles, especially emergency ones, could be delayed by following Google Maps' incorrect instruction to drive along Gravel Hill to get between Kidmore Road and Emmer Green only to be confronted by bollards blocking their route.

Another concern was lorries unsuitable for this narrow country road coming from Emmer Green were being caught out, then finding it difficult to turn around at the bollards near the old farmhouse and sometimes damaging the fencing or grass banks.

I hope this correction will be beneficial.

Saturday, 2 June 2012

Nigel Kennedy Captivates Reading

Portrait from the brochure
Last night Nigel Kennedy and the Royal Philharmonic Orchestra's Diamond Celebration Gala did the Hexagon, Reading proud.  Playing to a packed auditorium Nigel entertained with his jokes, singing [oh yes!], sheer exuberance and of course his virtuosic violin performance.

In tatty jeans, t-shirt, his trade-mark spiky hair and 3-day stubble, I spotted Nigel taking his Bulldog for a walk before the gig - apparently when in the UK Nigel takes his dog everywhere. Meantime in the Mayor's garden the VIPs sipped Pimms and ate canapés. I was lucky to be the Mayor, Jenny Rynn's, consort for the evening and amongst others we said hello to Sir John Madejski.

Once everyone was seated inside the theatre, Jenny gave an introductory speech.  Next the audience rose for the RPO playing God Save the Queen. Under Andrew Litton's baton the RPO's first-half performance, Tchaikovsky's Pathétique Symphony No 6 was a delight.  Some people couldn't restrain themselves from applauding the uproarious Allegro Molto Vivace before the exquisite, painful beauty of the last movement, the Adagio Lamentoso.

After tea or coffee and more canapés in the VIP garden, we went back to our balcony seats. Nigel & Andrew Litton came onto the stage together, Nigel having changed into black trousers, white shirt & a baggy waistcoat covered by a 3/4 length sleeved black jacket bearing an emblem on the right hand upper arm.

In his traditional way Nigel got the audience all laughing. He told us he'd bumped into a wife and her “huge geezer” husband earlier who were celebrating their wedding anniversary at the event. The couple turned out to be on the front row so after putting his knuckles against the huge geezer’s and kissing the woman's hand, Nigel played "Here comes the bride" but then mischievously he turned it into a dirge!

Nigel gave a bit of background to the Concerto, jokingly saying he'd written an amazingly erudite programme note about Frit Kreisler's cadenza.  However Nigel announced he'd changed his mind - wasn't playing Kreisler's after all but instead was going to "try my hand at my own bit of shit!"

Following banter with Andrew Litton - they were school mates at what Nigel calls the Julliard School of Boredom - silence fell, for Brahms' Violin Concerto in D major. Unlike most soloists, Nigel not only stood well back from the front of the stage but he faced the orchestra - not the audience - whilst waiting for his cue.

His happy chappy, laid-back persona vanished as he put the bow to his strings. He exuded confidence taking instant control and literally stamping his own mark on the flamboyant, dynamic entrance. It was a sheer delight witnessing the contrast from the grand, majestic opening to the delicate, lyrical tune on his violin then intertwining momentarily with the flute, then soaring to the rafters.

Nigel’s absolute love for the music and mastery of his craft, his connection with Andrew and the RPO was blatant to see and hear.  A highly physical performance with both Nigel and Andrew’s bodies caught up.  At times Nigel’s legs going rigid, stamping to his playing; Andrew actually jumping into the air with the baton!  This wasn’t mere showmanship as I was told they’d fully immersed themselves in the same way during the afternoon rehearsal.

A fabulous end to a wonderful evening

Andrew disappeared for the encore leaving Nigel conducting with his violin.  He joked around with the RPO members before teasing them with some deliberate false starts.  They played a lively Hungarian gypsy dance piece which suited the night to perfection.  Nigel had duets with the leader, and also the lead cellist, before which he even sang accompanied by the RPO.  He had everybody transfixed, it was magical!

If you’ve never seen Nigel perform live, GO!  Nigel's non-conformist antics and zany behaviour are well-known having put off some snooty classical music aficionados; however even they cannot deny his awesome ability.  He is irrepressible; his energetic, masterful and unique style has to be witnessed to be fully appreciated.  His facial expressions melt your heart; his boyish pleasure whilst performing is quite irresistible.  It is an unbelievable experience, and not to be missed.

As you may have guessed I’m in awe of him and was terribly excited to see him.  The night was topped off by being introduced to him, together with Jenny and Sir John backstage afterwards.  Jenny & I stayed for a glass of champagne and were privileged to get to see more of what he’s like.  He has a cheeky sense of humour, says what he thinks, is perfectly charming even though his language is famously fruity!  He was humble and unbelievably appreciative of the praise given.  He spent time encouraging a teenage girl who has reached Grade 8 level in just 3 years, arranging to listen to her play when she next comes to him performing. 

We met his manager, Terri Robson, who was very friendly and patient and also Elizabeth Forbes, one of his 5 sisters.  Elizabeth was charming and very friendly.  Although she said she used to play the piano and flute, she now is the RPO’s Concerts Director.  They enabled me to have my photo with Nigel and also to get his signature.

Post concert wearing his beloved Aston Villa shirt
Truly Nigel is a role model, a man who has blown away the conservative straight-jacket and old-fustiness surrounding classical music and transformed it into being accessible to the masses.  He isn't into computers and only has a basic mobile phone.  It is difficult to remember that someone so youthful and full of the joys of life - he is quite some party animal - is now in his mid-fifties.  Long may he inspire and entertain us!

Eat Reading!

People tucking into Cuttlefish
Friday lunchtime my friend Alison Swaddle and I supported the start of this year's "Eat Reading" sampling different foods - and wines - from a range of participating restaurants including Jamie's Italian, Tampopo and Stewed!

With a plate of melt in the mouth stew

We watched Alan from Stewed! prepare a Cuttlefish (which despite its name is a molusc).  

Cuttlefish have a sack of ink which they use to help evade their predators such as dolphins, seals and sharks .  I'd never tasted one before and was surprised by its silky texture.  It did look fiddly to prepare but we enjoyed eating it.
Perks of holding the plate!

As well as trying the Cuttlefish we sampled Alan's delicious melt in the mouth beef stew.  Stewed! has a kiosk at Reading Station and if you'd like more information about how Alan started out do read the website

I paid £4 for a little lunch box of goodies including Parma ham, a slice of cheese, grissini and a special bread from Jamie Oliver's stand which was a breath of Italy.

I couldn't resist Reading College's blackcurrant pudding which was excellent value for only £1.

If you are in Reading on Saturday, "Eat Reading" continues in Broad Street and Market Place.  Newly elected Mayor of Reading Jenny Rynn will be going.  Further details are here