Archive for April, 2010

Being rude about the Pope

April 30, 2010

Until I was 22 I lived in Northern Ireland, and it was almost obligatory there and then for protestant politicians to be critical (to put it it mildly) about the Pope. People here on the mainland got a glimpse of that sort of rhetoric when Ian Paisley heckled John Paul II in the European parliament in 1988. (The sort of stunt which was repeated by Nigel Farage’s attack on Herman Van Rompuy in February.)

Back in those days “Pope” was not a word used by most devout Catholics. “The Holy Father” was the term that was Politically Correct, before Political Correctness was invented.

Fast forward to 2010 and some wits in the Foreign Office circulating a spoof itinerary for Pope Benedict’s visit, involving him in events promoting things that were certain to be most repugnant to him. I could see the point that many of the Pope’s doctrinal pronouncements make a a great gulf between him and much of western society. They also make a gulf between his church and many other Christian churches. A background in Ireland makes one very sensitive to the pretensions of the Roman Catholic Church to speak for Christianity as a whole, as it often comes over as arrogant.

However, the job of the Foreign Office is to keep a channel of communication open, even when we don’t much like what we see at the other end. This means Politeness and Consideration (also PC) and this document falls well short of it. The Pope has a dual role – as a Head of State and as head of one christian denomination; as such he needs to be treated with respect. Circulating the spoof shows that the respect was lacking. Even if it was private, things can Come Out in our surveillance and freedom of information society. We all need to think about the things that amuse us, but could hurt others, then, from time to time “button our lip”. It wasn’t kind.


Easter Sunday

April 24, 2010

On Easter Sunday morning I went to church, like a lot of people do. But I went to church by tram, which means it clearly wasn’t in Harold Wood! Actually I went to church in Brno,where I was visiting family for a couple of days. The church was the Bethlehem Church of the Czech Brethern, who are a protestant denomination with Lutheran and Presbyterian/Reformed anticedents.

Thine be the Glory

What I want to talk about is the hymn which started and ended the service. In English it is called “Thine be the Glory”. When we sing it in church in England, the tune seems strangely familiar – it is from Handel’s oratorio “Judas Maccabeus”, and dates from the 1740s. The words of the hymn were written, in French, by a Swiss pastor in the 1890s. I got home on Easter Sunday evening to Harold Wood.
I was next able to go to my home church in Emerson Park two weeks later. There was a question of substituting one of the hymns on the order of service. The organist said “Please not ‘Thine be the Glory'” It had been sung both on Easter Sunday and the following Sunday!
I like the idea of singing that hymn a thousand miles away, at almost the same time as my home church was singing it. It is a metaphor for how European history and culture are intertwined, that I should be singing, in Czech, a hymn written in French, with a tune by a German long domiciled in England.

Harold Wood Hospital

April 24, 2010

As our Focus readers know, we have long opposed first the closure of the hospital and then subsequent proposals to overdevelop the site.

Harold Wood Hospital Closure announced.

When Labour Minister Frank Dobson first announced the closure of the hospital we collected and submitted a residents’ petition against it. We felt that that it was a great pity that a series of piecemeal short-term decisions had strangled proper progress of the hospital. The closure had wasted a lot of public money invested in the hospital over the years.

480 rejected than appealed. Council gives permission for 423.

During 2006, the year the hospital closed, it submitted an application for 480 dwellings on part of the site; this was turned down by the council and went to appeal. The hospital authority then sold the site to a developer.

Representatives of your FOCUS team attended the appeal in 2007 against these plans. They were withdrawn because outline plans for 423 dwellings on part of the site had already been approved by the council.

After this the unused part of the site became derelict and the Focus Team had cause to complain about vandalism and theft and this resulted in a little improvement in security.

2009 – Only LibDem Councillor Jonathan Coles speaks against over 800 dwellings

Cllr Jonathan Coles attended the planning meeting on 12th November 2009 and spoke against the proposals for 874 dwellings on the whole site including conversion of the Grange. The committee had a Conservative majority, but also included representatives of Residents’ groups and Labour. Jonathan urged the committee to reject the plans but sadly no councillor proposed a motion to do this. Eventually the committee decided to defer the decision, largely because they found the tower block was too tall and they felt that the proportion of flats to houses was too high. There were 5 other issues. This means that developer is expected to enter discussions with the council to address the seven points.

Councillor Jonathan Coles was the only councillor who spoke at the meeting who challenged the substance of the plan and the overall number of dwellings in it.

Where is Harold Wood?

April 18, 2010

Between Romford and Brentwood

In Greater London, United Kingdom, but in the eastern bit that was Essex until 1964. It is very close to Junction 28 of the M25 motorway. It is also about 3 miles (5km) from the larger centres of Romford (to the west), Hornchurch (to the south) Upminster (to the south-east) and Brentwood(to the east).

London Borough of Havering

The easternmost London Borough is Havering, which runs north from the Thames. Harold Wood Ward lies on the eastern boundary of Havering, and borders the Borough of Brentwood in the administrative County of Essex

Harold Wood railway station

People think of Harold Wood as the area around Harold Wood railway station. The station was opened in the 1860s and the King Harold pub in Station Road has 1868 in its gable. The station is  on the Liverpool St. line and on the proposed Crossrail route.

There are subtle distinctions in the “Harold” area.

Harold Hill

About a quarter of a mile north of the station is the A12 trunk road – the original Roman road from London to Colchester. The area north of the A12 was farmland until about 1950, where an industrial estate and a large London County Council housing estate were built there. This area is called Harold Hill.

Harold Park

If you go east along the railway line or the A12 from Harold Wood, after about a mile, you are in Harold Park. The original Harold Park, developed in the 1920s and 1930s, also extends slightly to the north of the A12.

On the edge of open country, south of the railway line and Harold Park lies Harold Court – a large house, now flats, which has been a hospital and a training college. It also gave its name to a primary school in Harold Wood.

East of Harold Park and north of the A12 lies Maylands, now a golf course. For brief period around 1930, it was an international airport.

Harold Wood Hospital

The biggest thing in Harold Wood, for about sixty years, was Harold Wood Hospital but it closed within the last few years. Most of the site is in the hands of developers. There is a lot of local concern and political activity about the way this development should go.

Harold Wood Ward

Harold Wood Ward, London Borough of Havering used to be bounded by the A12 and A127 trunk roads and the Greater London boundary (almost the same thing here as the M25 motorway). About ten years ago, boundary changes removed some areas to the south of the old ward, but north of the A127 (including Harold Wood Primary School) and added some areas in Harold Hill north of Harold Wood Station.