A short selection of news stories I’ve written for newspapers…
News (Birmingham News)
LOCAL backbench MP Roger Godsiff has hit out at city councillors, saying they can’t do their jobs.
Mr Godsiff (Lab, Sparkbrook and Small Heath) launched a scathing attack as he spoke about wanting people to view him as a ‘conviction politician’ like Gordon Brown.
He said: “I deal with a vast number of cases that quite frankly should be dealt with by local councillors. But the local councillors aren’t terribly good at doing their job.”
He said the pressure that the position brings was the worst part of his job and blamed local councillors for his hefty workload.
The straight-talking 61-year-old MP has served in his constituency since 1997 and is married with two children. He lives in a suburban house in Sheldon and also owns a home in London where he commutes to Westminster by car each week.
“I hope I would be seen as a conviction politician,” he said, “I believe in social justice, I believe in supporting a party that I believe is the best vehicle for equality of opportunity and equally of prosperity within this community.”
His constituents go to his constituency meetings with an array of problems that Mr Godsiff says he handles with a candid honesty.
“I do believe in telling people the blunt truth,” he said, “and I always believe it’s better, certainly in dealing with my constituents, if I tell them the blunt truth. They might not like it, but I don’t want them to be under any misapprehension.”
Born and schooled in London he worked in banking for five years and then for the trade union APEX before becoming a councillor with Lewisham council. He then became a mayor.
Asked about the best part of his job he said: “I probably get the most satisfaction when I get a letter from somebody saying you helped me with that and I really do appreciate it. The letter that comes in actually saying that does make you feel what you do is worthwhile and you’ve made a difference, so you do get a personal satisfaction out of it.”
He maintains that being a politician is an enormous privilege, especially in such a multi-cultural area where he deals with all kinds of problems such as housing and education.
Review (Birmingham News)
AS an alternative to Halloween parties, St Martin’s in the Bullring hosted a poetry party on October 31st.
The evening of performance poetry and music took place in the church’s arts café and was attended by author and poet Adrian Plass, Steve ‘PolarBear’ Camden and Birmingham’s poet laureate Charlie Jordan.
It was an intimate gathering of about 25 people, huddled around tables on which candles burned. New poets were also given an opportunity to shine as they performed their poetry to the small crowd. The poems ranged in theme from the gritty and raw to more light-hearted offerings on subjects such as football and cricket.
Adrian Plass, author of over 20 books, performed a series of his own poetry, much of which was drawn from his experiences of church life.
The author, aged 59, said: “One of the things that makes me write poems is that every now and then a feeling comes and you just want to preserve it. Some of the most effective things are the simplest. You write things and for some reason they touch people.”
For those interested in all things poetic, the event was a lively and atmospheric departure from the usual Halloween celebrations.
The evening was part of St Martin’s arts ‘poetic license’ festival. The church continues to host a series of art workshops and poetry parties.
News (Birmingham News)
YOU may expect to see spirits of a different kind if you are brave enough to visit Birmingham’s oldest pub one night.
The Old Crown in Deritend is said to be haunted by at least three ghosts and the landlord has even called in psychics to verify the sightings.
Landlord Anthony Hickey said: “The psychics thought there was definitely something here. They could see that there were people here who had died in the cellar at some stage.”
The pub dates from the end of the fifteenth century and its cellar may have been used during the civil war as a place to tend to casualties.
Many of the pubs’ staff and customers have had strange experiences there. Mr Hickey said: “The chef came in one morning and was opening up when he saw a lady sitting at the well, dressed in an old white dress. He said he turned and looked and she just walked straight through a wall.”
The well is believed to be 1000 years old and has been left intact in a covered passage between the bar and the restaurant.
The landlord’s nephew also had a ghostly encounter when he went down to the cellar and said he saw a man sitting on a barrel dressed in old-fashioned boots, a sword and a ruffled collar. His nephew was so frightened by the apparition that he refused to enter the cellar again.
But despite all these strange occurrences Mr Hickey refuses to have the ghosts exorcised or to believe they are malevolent. He said: “The previous owners had some sort of ceremony. Whether it was an exorcism or not, I don’t know, but I certainly wouldn’t have one at the moment. The psychics say there is something here but that itwouldn’t harm anyone. It’s friendly.”
News (Joy Magazine)
NEEDY children in the driest part of Africa are being helped after Tearfund supporters raised enough cash to launch an emergency feeding programme to tackle malnutrition.
Tearfund began the operation to provide powdered food for 4,500 children in the drought-stricken Marsabit District of northern Kenya when supporters responded to an appeal in July and donated about £1.5m.
The charity found 28% of under fives in the area were malnourished and 3.5% were severely malnourished – below 70% of their normal body weight.
Project director Catherine Olouch said prompt action is the only thing which will stop matters worsening. “If the situation is not arrested at the moment, we could have a crisis on our hands.”
Children were registered for a three-month supply of the powdered food supplement, Unimix. A logistician, nurse, nutritionist and health educator form part of the operation which involves seven feeding stations in and around Maikona.
There has been no rain in the region for three years although some areas have ground water supplies.