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Visting Marlborough 252x140

Residential Care Worker - Esland Group, Devizes


  Residential Care Worker    About The Esland Group With 35+ years of residential childcare experience between the two legacy organisations, Esland has over 20 residential children’s homes and one school, our portfolio is spread across the Midlands, Hertfordshire, Northamptonshire, Wiltshire, Kent & London regions of England.At Esland, we have a clear mission of...

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Chilvester Financial sign up as long term sponsor for Marlborough Rugby as Elisi Vunipola joins as Head Coach


   Marlborough Rugby Football Club have just announced two very important signings:   firstly, Elis Vunipola, former Tonga international fly half, and uncle of England internationals Billy and Mako joins as Head Coach, and secondly, Chilvester Financial commit to a long-term five year sponsorship deal which will provide funding to support...

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Wiltshire Museum's new gallery space to attract exhibitions from national museums


  The Wiltshire Museum in Devizes is creating a new Special Exhibition gallery that will be suitable to take exhibits from national museums.

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Refurbishment of Marlborough Youth Centre wins £10,000 Area Board Grant


  Marlborough Town Council's decision to turn the deserted building that once housed Wiltshire Council's Development Centre for Young People into a working Community and Youth Centre, got a boost from the Marlborough Area Board with a £10,000 grant towards refurbishment.

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Marlborough Golf Club Junior Captain hands £850 cheque to St Mary’s Under Fives


Alex Jewell chose St Mary’s Under Fives as his Junior Captain’s charity for his year in office.

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Brimslade air crash - a tribute to one of those who tragically died


  The wife of one of the men who tragically died in a light aircraft crash near Marlborough has asked Wiltshire Police to release the following tribute. Kirsty Boazman said: “In the early evening of Thursday 13 July my precious and outrageously talented husband, Paul Gunnell (PG to most),...

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Brennan winner at Hills Wiltshire Professionals’ Golf Championship


Nick Brennan of Tony Valentine Golf Centre was the winner of the 37th Hills Wiltshire Professionals’ Golf Championship held at Marlborough Golf Club on Thursday, July 6. Brennan scored an overall three under par. Despite a forecast of heavy rain and thunderstorms, perfect conditions prevailed throughout the day and 19...

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Marlborough networkers can discover how to prevent paper panic


Paper panic and how to prevent it is the topic of conversation at the next Marlborough Chamber of Commerce business breakfast. Guest speaker Sammy Ryan will explain how her company, Strictly Organised, helps clients get to grips with piles of paperwork.The event takes place at Marlborough Golf Club from 7.30am on...

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Big crowds at Marden Open Day as time runs out for archaeologists working on the Cat's Brain long barrow


  Six hundred and seventy-three people went to Marden for the Open Day on Saturday (July 15) to see Reading University's final explorations there - and to see the major discovery of a long barrow at nearby Cat's Brain.

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Marlborough Golf Club Seniors Open attracts record entry


Marlborough Golf Club has hosted its annual Dick Lovett BMW Seniors Open - with a record 139 golfers taking part.

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A minute’s silence at Sunday’s communities market in tribute to late town clerk Derek Wolfe

Derek WolfeDerek WolfeTribute to Derek Wolfe, Marlborough’s late town clerk, is to be paid at Sunday’s communities market in the High Street when stallholders and visitors will be asked to stand for a minute’s silence. 

As it is to be a Harvest Festival Market, the event will take place following the civic harvest festival service at St Mary’s, which will be attended by Marlborough’s Mayor, Edwina Fogg, and town councillors. 

At the close of the 10am service, the mayor and councillors, joined by the Rector, Canon Andrew Studdert-Kennedy, and Mr Wolfe’s widow, Lynette, will walk in procession to the High Street.   There the Town Crier will ring in the minute’s silence, to be be followed by a blessing on the market and all those involved.

“Derek was a director of the communities market and someone who was incredible supportive of the whole ethos of what we are doing,” market organiser Ellie Gill told Marlborough News Online.

“He was a great help to us and his presence is going to be sadly missed.”

The market will start earlier than the normal 11am start because the Mop Fair will have been operating in the High Street the night before.

Stallholders in the covered town hall section are expected to be operating by 8am.

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Another blow for Marlborough College in students’ Puffin safety crossing row

Councillor Richard PittsCouncillor Richard PittsMarlborough College received another slap in the face from town councillors on Monday when a planning application for new gates to be erected in the College’s listed boundary wall in Bridewell Street was rejected. 

Members of the planning committee, who had voted unanimously in August against the College’s plans for a new Puffin crossing at the spot, again turned it down. 

But Councillor Richard Pitts declared that students didn’t use the two existing Pelican crossings, which made another crossing and the new gates unnecessary.

The College’s aim was to provide a safer crossing into the College for students due to occupy its new female hostel in the former Ivy House Hotel, the second application providing attractive new gates for students on the narrow pavement edge.

Committee vice-chairman Councillor Gordon Francis suggested that the new crossing was also for the use of students crossing from the College’s School of Art.

“Nevertheless, this is for a change in their listed boundary wall. This is all subjective and entirely dependant on whether approval is given for the new crossing.”

“There are some photographs of the wall which show that there are two different courses of bricks at the place where they want to put this gate.  That’s what makes it somewhat ugly.”

It will be up to Wiltshire Council to decide the fate of both applications, but Councillor Peggy Dow, who is one of Marlborough’s two county councillors, also objected.

“We haven’t got many walls now that are still listed,” she protested.  “We seem to be losing them all the time.  The wall will lose its attraction.  Personally I’m against this.”

Councillor Pitts agreed.

“The point is that they don’t use the crossings that they have already,” he said.  “There was a point the other day where the kids were running across the road.  There is no reason to have this crossing.  So therefore there is no reason to knock a hole in this wall.”

Councillor Stewart Dobson followed suit.

“I think we should stick to our guns and say there should be no crossing at all,” he said.  “We should go back to our old argument that they have two crossings already in the vicinity.  They are perfectly adequate.”

Councillor Francis pointed out that the application was about a listed wall, not the new crossing.

And Councillor Pitts retorted: “I am happy to propose we should reject this and turn to next business. It is unnecessary damage to a currently listed wall.”

The committee agreed.

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Community Giveaway celebrates Marlborough good causes

Robert Fraser, the  Mayor of Marlborough Edwina Fogg, and Hugh Fraser present a winner's cheque to Marilyn Mason and the children of the Phoenix Brass Band training sectionRobert Fraser, the Mayor of Marlborough Edwina Fogg, and Hugh Fraser present a winner's cheque to Marilyn Mason and the children of the Phoenix Brass Band training sectionMarlborough's grassroots community organisations and good causes were celebrated and rewarded at a special event thrown by new convenience store Budgens of Marlborough on Thursday, September 27.

The store's Community Giveaway saw £3,000 given away on the night with a further £3,000 to follow when the £2m shop, Subway food outlet, car wash and petrol forecourt open on October 18.

Nineteen community organisations competed for a share of the jackpot, with the final nine – chosen by the public on the store's Facebook page – battling it out during the final at Theatre on the Hill, St John's School.

The final decision was left to the public using Wiltshire Council's voting handsets, with the process managed by community area manager Andrew Jack.

Phoenix Brass Band, Savernake Forest Scout Group and Wiltshire Air Ambulance walked away with cheques for £1,000 each after pitching their organisation to the voting audience.

18-year-old Rebekah Tew, one of the success stories of Splitz, which works with children aged 11-17 who have witnessed or been exposed to domestic abuse18-year-old Rebekah Tew, one of the success stories of Splitz, which works with children aged 11-17 who have witnessed or been exposed to domestic abuseAll of the finalists, who included Carer Support Wiltshire, Marlborough Communities Market, St John's School, We Love Marlborough, Marlborough Brandt Group, and Splitz will get a share of £3,000 through an in-store customer token scheme.

The event, which was free to attend, also gave members of the public the opportunity to meet directors and staff involved with the new Budgens store, look over the plans, and sample some of the wares.

And members of the audience were so moved by one of the presentations that the charity was handed a cash donation by a member of the public straight after the event.

The initiative was well received by members of the public. Kate Major, a supporter of Phoenix Brass Band, said: “It was a fabulous evening; very enjoyable,” while Susan Dickins said: “It was an excellent evening. When I did finally get to sleep after all that excitement I woke up the following morning still smiling!”

Robert Fraser and Nick Fraser, of Fraser Retail Group, with Craig Adams (centre) of Box Steam breweryRobert Fraser and Nick Fraser, of Fraser Retail Group, with Craig Adams (centre) of Box Steam breweryDiane Barkham of Carer Support Wiltshire said: “A big thank you for giving us the opportunity to take part in such a great and generous initiative.

“It is because of kind businesses like yourselves that we are able to raise awareness as well as have the chance to try and gain a little extra funding which really makes a difference.”

Mark Wilson, of Budgens of Marlborough, told guests that Fraser Retail Group had been trying to move into Marlborough for over 10 years. And explaining the thinking behind the Community Giveaway, he said: “We are all about how we can work with the community and become part of the community and rather than just take, give a little back.

“It’s also about working with local suppliers in giving them an opportunity to bring their products to market where otherwise they would struggle and often struggle to even survive.”

The event was officially opened by the mayor of Marlborough, councillor Edwina Fogg, who praised Budgens of Marlborough for their community spirit and welcomed the creation of 50 new jobs in a tough economic climate.

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Overseas aid destroys the democracy of African countries claims award-winning author

Overseas aid to foreign countries, to which Prime Minister David Cameron has committed millions despite our economic troubles,  destroys their democracy rather than helping them. That was the unexpected message from award-winning journalist and novelist Aminatta Forna (pictured) when she spoke at one of the last events of Marlborough’s literary festival at the town hall on Sunday. 

She is the daughter of a Scottish mother and a Sierra Leone freedom fighter, who spent part of her childhood in Africa as well as in Zambia, Iran and Thailand,  and whose memoir, The Memory of Love, won last year’s Commonwealth Writer’s Best Book Award prize. 

And questioned about her attitude to the UK’s refusal to reduce international aid given our double-dip recession, she confessed that her disenchantment stemmed from the end of the 11-year civil war in Sierra Leone, when the Revolutionary United Front tried to overthrow the government of president Joseph Momoh. 

At first she welcomed the arrival of non-governmental organisations (NGOs) and agencies but then dramatically changed her mind when she saw what was happening in the country.

“I thought the arrival of the NGOs was the best thing that happened to us,” she said. “Then I got very disenchanted. I am not at all convinced of the efficacy of aid on the ground. But then I have a much bigger and much more troubling feeling about it, which is that I don’t think it is really meant to work.

“I don’t anyone in western governments care a damn about it. I think aid is really investment for business. Actually aid is completely tied to markets. It’s about opening markets and that’s what developing countries do in order to get the aid.”

And Aminatta then declared: “I think aid destroys democracy because our president in Sierra Leone -- and it is true of very many other countries -- is much more concerned about what the aid donors think than he is to what his electorate thinks.”

She complained that it was the electorate is to whom the president was answerable to, not the providers of aid.

“We here in Britain may think we stand for certain principles and it doesn’t really matter if he answers to us. He is going to be answering to China very shortly. But it undermines fundamental relations in a democracy where he is answerable to his people.

“It is that relationship between aid and trade that bothers me most. In any case, I don’t think much aid is effective, it’s not long term, it’s not thought out.

“Quite often we have discussions like this and people quite genuinely want to help and they become very upset thinking that the help they are giving doesn’t seem to be appreciated by this woman talking to you here on stage.”

There were exceptions, she admitted, and she said she could name one or two agencies who did good work. “But I say to young people, if you want to change the developing world, if you want to help the developing world, please go and lobby for fair trade terms,” Aminatta added.

“That is much more acceptable than spending a year working with an NGO. If you do want to do something, then please switch all your assets into emerging markets.”


 Aminatta Forna with Nick MauriceAminatta Forna with Nick Maurice

The need is to help people to help themselves

Support for Aminatta’s views came from Dr Nick Maurice, founder of Marlborough’s famed Brandt Group, which supports people in The Gambia to help themselves.

“She raised a vitally important issue namely the relationship between aid and development,” Dr Maurice told Marlborough News Online after hearing her speak.

“Aid suggests help for the helpless and, as an African, she rightly criticises this approach which takes no account of the extraordinary resourcefulness of African people. It suggests ‘hand outs’ rather than ‘hand ups’ – i.e starting from where people are and working with those that want to bring about change for the better.

“The word ‘development’  comes from the French ‘De-envelopper’ i.e. ‘to remove the envelope’, the envelope referring to the constraints of lack of literacy and education, lack of medical services, lack of access to business opportunities, and thus enabling people to reach their maximum potential.

“It means working with people rather than working for people."

Aminatta is right to be critical of some aid agencies who very often come with their own agendas and pre-conceived ideas of ‘what people need is....’.

“There is a fine African saying, ‘We are given two ears and only one mouth for a purpose, namely that we should listen more and we should speak less!"



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Comic novelist Michael Frayn reveals the art of making fun from mistaken identity

Michael FraynMichael FraynMistaken identity makes the world go round – creating the laughter so traditionally found in comedy and farce dating back to the Greek gods, who reinvented themselves in search of love. 

That was the delightful theme Michael Frayn, the prize-winning novelist, playwright and author of screenplays, as he retold the basic ideas behind his new comic novel called Skios, a totally fictional name for a Greek island he invented. 

Yet, to prove his point, he recalled at the Marlborough literary festival last night (Saturday) that admirers had come up to him on his promotional tours for the book to tell him they knew the island well. 

And that brought down the house at Marlborough town hall where a packed audience succumbed to his exceptional tales of true events that ought to make them wonder whether he was really Michael Frayn and not some commercial franchise aiming to dumbfound them.

He revealed how this was in fact the case with the pop star Little Richard -- and a major Moscow orchestra too -- who appeared in different places at the same time without their audiences being aware they were being cheated.

One man who protested vehemently at a Little Richard concert  some years ago was hauled off by security guards as if he were mental.  Yet 18 months later his claim was proved to be true, people always willing to hide their identities for nefarious purposes.

“How do you know I am Michael Frayn?”  he asked them.  “Who knows, some shaven haired security guards might come and haul me off at any moment.”

Indeed, he pointed out that the festival aide who had picked him up at Swindon railway station had never met him before, as was the case in Skios where his colourful hero, an ebullient Boris Johnson-type character, changes his identity without difficulty.

Having stupidly picked up the suitcase of an eminent scientist on the baggage carousel and seeing a young woman with a placard with the man’s name on it, one of half a dozen waiting to collect people, goes off with her, in more than one sense.

“Have you ever been tempted?”  asked Frayn.  “I confess I have always been tempted to go round and claim I am the name on the card because it would be so interesting to step into someone else’s life and see someone else’s world.”

“Those waiting at airports don’t know person they have been sent to pick or what they look like.  I wouldn’t do it because I’m far too timid.”

But he had a manic depressive friend who was a danger to himself because nobody knew what he might do next.

“He was walking along Fleet Street, he was a journalist, and saw in the slow-moving traffic a chauffeur-driven Rolls Royce with white ribbons on it,” Frayn recalled.  “What he wanted to do was to get into the car and tell the bride and groom the story of his life.”

“That’s what he did.  According to him it was a great success because he is such a charming fellow.  And no doubt somewhere today there is the bride thinking how much her life might have turned out very differently if she had gone off and married him.”

Indeed, he pointed out, the masked ball of the 18th century was a perfect ploy for people to have secret assignations thanks to being able to hide their true identity, providing endless possibilities for fun and frolics.

Fact or fiction, it didn’t matter, the laughter from 79-year-old Frayn’s delicious stories undoubtedly adding to the audience’s sheer enjoyment.

As he told them at the start, when he set out on his Skios travels he received an email from the Society of Authors telling him that he needed public liability insurance.

“People nowadays sue their doctors for miss-diagnosis, they sue the council for making them trip up over paving stones, they sue their lawyers for failing to collect damages,” he pointed out.

“But I am not at all clear what I can do to you which will be so awful that it will get you suing? The only thing I can think of is getting a writ from someone who says my beloved mother-in-law passed away following the event the other night because you bored her to death.”

That Michael Frayn failed gloriously to achieve.

See Michael Frayn reveals hidden trauma - September 17

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Marlborough’s third literary festival kicks off without footballers and big boobs

Mavis Cheek Launches the festivalMavis Cheek Launches the festivalMarlborough’s latest literary festival was launched last night (Friday) with a reception at the town hall attended by Marlborough’s own celebrities – and a message from its chairman, the novelist Mavis Cheek. 

“Welcome to our third year,” she told Marlborough’s mayor, Edwina Fogg, and the guests. “The important thing about this festival is that it proves that you don’t have very large breasts or be a footballer to be a success as a literary festival.” 

“We only invite people who write books beautifully.  We only have real literature at our festival and it works every time.  We are living proof that literature soars.”

She revealed that the festival was born out of a meeting in a wine bar with former mayor Nick Fogg, creator of Marlborough’s international jazz festival.  She then went cap in hand to the Author’s Licensing and Collecting Society for support.

“And they immediately wrote me a cheque to start this festival,” said Mavis. “So I must continue to thank them because without them we would never have dared sail into the dark.”

She then went on to thank too the festival’s lead sponsors, Brewin Dolphin, and other sponsors Robert Hiscock, whose international company insures the festival, and the family of Marlborough’s own literary Nobel laureate William Golding, who have created a festival lecture in his name.

Sir John Sykes, a member of the Litfest committee, invited all the guests to toast the festival “and all who sail in her.”

Sir John went on to pay tribute to the leadership of Mavis, who chairs its committee. “Thank you Mavis for being inspirational in getting the third festival under way,” he declared.

Boker Prize winning novellist Howard JacobsonBoker Prize winning novellist Howard JacobsonMavis Cheek with Sir John SykesMavis Cheek with Sir John SykesPeter Davison, Marlborough's George Orwell guruPeter Davison, Marlborough's George Orwell guruEdwina Fogg in conversation with journalist Elinor GoodmanEdwina Fogg in conversation with journalist Elinor GoodmanRobert HiscoxRobert Hiscox

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Summer deluge hits an amazing new peak reports Marlborough weather station

The summer rainfall in Marlborough, as you might have expected, has hit a new peak, the highest since Eric Gilbert launched his weather station in 1984.

“ With a total of 328mm, it was 183 per cent of the long-term average, superseding the previous record of 305mm for the summer of 2007,” he told Marlborough News Online.

“The frequency of heavy rainfall is not surprising as with global temperatures rising the air can contain greater quantities of moisture and, I understand, that globally it now contains four per centmore than it did in the 1970’s.”

“Although the wettest months in Marlborough over a 28-year period are November, December and January respectively, the highest daily totals are in the summer when daily temperatures are much higher.”

“With a total of 108.8mm August 2012 was the fourth wettest with 171 per cent of the long-term average, this follows large totals in recent years with 104mm and 108mm in August 2008 and 2010 respectively.”

He added: “The highest daily totals have also occurred in recent years with 41.7mm in August 2012 and the 45.4mm in May 2007. The trend is upward for more modest falls of 10mm or greater by four a year since the 1980’s.

“Records were set in September when the barometric pressure dropped to a very low 984.4Mb and the diurnal maximum temperature (daily range between minimum and maximum) with a difference of 25.3 degrees centigrade."

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Council survey of all cafes and pubs goes ahead in planning battle against Caffe Nero

All the cafes, pubs and outlets providing beverages in Marlborough are to be asked to complete a questionnaire on how their business has been affected since the arrival of Caffe Nero five months ago. 

This is being done on the initiative of Councillor Margaret Rose (pictured), chair of the town council’s planning committee, who announced the mission at the committee’s meeting last night (Monday). 

“If this council doesn’t stand up for small businesses then it will be very remiss of us,” she told fellow councillors in seeking their support in joining her conducting the survey, details of which are now being prepared.

The survey results will provide the town council’s evidence when the belated public inquiry into Wiltshire Council’s refusal to grant retrospective planning consent to Caffe Nero, now likely to take place on January 6, is held.

As yet, the exact date and venue of the event has not been agreed by the Planning Inspectorate (based in Bristol), but October 29 has been fixed as the deadline for the appointed planning inspector to receive all objections and comments – in triplicate.

Councillor Rose said that Caffe Nero, which has won 16 out of 17 planning appeals in towns across the country after it had opened for business without planning consent, would provide figures of how well it had done since arriving in Marlborough High Street in April.

“I would like to survey all the cafes to see how many of them have lost business,”  she pointed out.  “I believe Caffe Nero’s decision to cream off customers is detrimental to the town.”

Councillor Peggy Dow, also a Wiltshire councillor, interjected:  “That’s an excellent idea.”  And other councillors too gave their blessing to the survey – there are some 20 outlets in the town -- being carried out.

Councillor Rose added that Councillor Richard Gamble, vice-chairman of Wiltshire’s eastern area planning committee, would be presenting the case on “strong planning issues” as to why Caffe Nero should be denied retrospective consent.

“But as a council we must be concerned by the effect Caffe Nero’s decision has had on businesses,” said Councillor Rose. “If other councillors want to come round with me they can.”

“That will ensure that every café and bar is done.  It is the smaller cafes who are suffering . I want us to cover every outlet that sells beverages.  I thank you for your support.  I appreciate that.”

Anyone may submit their views in writing direct to The Planning Inspectorate, 3/26 Temple Quay House, 2 The Square, Temple Quay, Bristol, BS1 6PN, quoting the reference APP/Y3940/C/12/2183497 and E/2012/00077/ENF.

They have to be made in triplicate, any representations made after that deadline not normally being seen by the planning inspector will be returned.

Views expressed will be disclosed to Caffe Nero and are liable to be read out at the inquiry hearing.

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Lord Cardigan left without legal help as his solicitors withdraw from court case

Criminal charges against Lord Cardigan have been adjourned after Judge Euan Ambrose was told at Swindon Crown Court that he has parted company with his legal aid solicitors. 

He was due to enter pleas on charges of theft and criminal damage but Judge Ambrose adjourned the hearing until November 2 after learning his lawyers have withdrawn from the case.  This will give him time to find a new solicitor. 

Lord Cardigan, of Savernake Lodge, near Marlborough, also revealed that he had to go to America where his wife is due in court seeking custody of her son.

Appearing under the name David Brudenell-Bruce, the 59-year-old peer is accused of damaging a pheasant feeders and drinkers to the value of £66 between June 4 and June 29.

He is further accused of the theft of a battery and electrical power unit worth £80 on Saturday June 23 following  events alleged to have taken place on the Savernake Forest estate.

Marie-Claire Amuah, who had represented him when the case was before magistrates, told the judge on Monday that her instructing solicitors had decided to cease representing him that morning.

Cardigan told the court that he had “heard on the grapevine” that his solicitors, London based J.D. Spicer and Co, were going to cease to represent him.

"I didn't think today would be going ahead because I heard some time ago that they would be walking away from the case,” Lord Cardigan told the judge from the dock.

"I have heard from a mutual friend that they are pulling out -- not very professional.  indeed I was slightly surprised to see Miss Amuah here this morning."

He said he would seek new representation immediately as he was due to fly to Arizona next week as his wife, an American citizen, was due in court on a child custody case.  He hoped to be back in the last few days of the month.

Lord Cardigan was released on bail until November 2 on condition he does not have contact with five named people or go within 50 metres of their homes.

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Howard Jacobson warns Marlborough’s literary festival of a dire decline in reading

Howard JacobsonHoward JacobsonBooker prize-winning novelist Howard Jacobson, admired for his black comedy, was in dire mood about the state of literature when he launched Marlborough’s third literary festival at the town hall last night (Friday).  

While the packed house laughed and hooted, giggled and applauded the hilarious stories he told, especially his  encounters with his Jewish mother, 70-year-old Jacobson was in fearful mood about the decline in reading. 

And the rise of a generation of uninformed people, mainly critics and bloggers on the internet, who believed their opinions are as good as any others.  

“Through all the wonders of the internet and computers, one of the terrible things that has happened is that people have been empowered to believe that if they have an opinion they have a right to that opinion -- and that it’s a good as anybody else’s,” he protested.

“It isn’t.   It quite simply isn’t.”

He wowed the audience too talking about Zoo Time, his latest novel about the end of everything, which stemmed from a true story of a depressed author going into a bookshop and stealing his own novel.

He warned them:  “My comedy is very bleak, very black…I remember Ian McEwen once saying the comic author is wrestling you to the floor and tickling you.   I don’t.   I wrestle you to the floor and put a knife in your heart.”

Yet he insisted:  “It is the most terrific fun to feel we are at the end of everything.  I love the feeling that it’s over, it’s finished.  It gives me, for some reason, enormous joy.”

“In this room there is nothing wrong.  In this room the world is fine, beautiful, there is nothing to complain of.   But outside, elsewhere, things are quite dark.”

“Bookshops are closing.   Libraries are closing.   We do not know what will happen to the physical book from the threat of technology, the ebook.”

“I am not horrified of the ebook but I am no great fan of the ebook.  And I don’t know where it will leave us.”

One reason for the worrying decline in reading was poor teaching in schools, where pupils considered “bits of books”, not the whole structure.

“We should say we will not have our children taught like that,” he said.  “We should demand better teaching.  We should be altogether much more demanding.”

I owe so much to your Nobel laureate William Golding

Howard Jacobson, the first author to give a Golding lecture inMarlborough, offered his thanks and told the audience: “I am honoured to be the William Golding speaker. I owe him a great debt.

“First of all, I read him when I was a schoolboy. He was very important to me.  He was one of the writers who showed me how the novel is a serious thing, how absolutely crucial the novel is.

“The other thing I am grateful to William Golding is that without him I would have been the oldest person ever to have won the Booker Prize.  That’s not a distinction one wears lightly.  And I’m glad he’s still got that.

“It is a good thing that older people win prizes.  And I hope as the years go by many, many novelists older than Wm Golding will win the Booker.  You hear a lot about supporting the young.  Let’s support the old.”

He explores in Zoo Time confrontations with reading groups telling authors they can’t identify with their characters.

“I have had this said to me,” recalled Jacobson, who was interviewed on stage by Boyd Tonkin, literary editor of The Independent newspaper.  “Every writer living has had it said to them.”

“And when anybody says that you want to kill them.  You want to kill them because it is irrelevant whether you want to identify with someone in a novel. It can be wonderful.  There are wonderful reading experiences when you think I am Jane Eyre.”

“But you can’t demand that because books do something else.  You can’t demand that the characters in a novel be likeable.  That’s the other thing you get – I didn’t like the characters in your novels. So bloody what!”

“What’s so nice about the MacBeths, do you really want to spend an evening with King Lear, where did this idea come from the literature is the story of the people you most like living next door?”

“It’s part of what drives me round the bend.”

So did questions about who were the great novelists, people scoffing when he listed Jane Austen, Dickens, Dostoevsky and Tolstoy.

“There is a assumption abroad that the really good stuff isn’t fun, that there is a secret thing that we do at night that we put a torch under the covers and we read JK Rowling,” he declared. “Well, we don’t.

“The most entertaining book you will ever read is always the best book you will ever read.  I am committed to that.”

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Wiltshire’s NHS: new GP-led Commissioning Group faces old problem

From Monday (October 1) the new GP-led Wiltshire Clinical Commissioning Group (CCG) take over operational running of the county’s health services from NHS Wiltshire (the Primary care Trust or PCT.)  It’s one of the quirks of the coalition government’s restructuring of the NHS that statutory responsibility for the service remains with the PCT until the end of March 2013.

One of the major problems the CCG inherits is the seemingly unstoppable drain on the NHS budget for Wiltshire from delayed discharges from hospital – known as DTOCs (for delayed transfer of care.)

This is not only a local problem.  Here’s Katherine Murphy, head of the national Patients Association, getting to the heart of the matter: “At the moment, health and social care are not joined up, so people are left occupying beds in hospital when they could be treated in the community if the right services were provided there – domiciliary care, physiotherapy and so on. That would mean happier patients, less chance of people getting hospital-acquired infections and less cost for the NHS.”

NHS Wiltshire’s Chairman, Tony Barron, puts it simply: “DTOCs are the end product of an appalling pathway of care” – care is not being planned beyond hospital admission and treatment.  The trouble is, as Katherine Murphy underlined, it’s not ‘joined up’ - hospitals are in the hands of the NHS and social care is in the hands of Wiltshire Council.

In Wiltshire the situation is bad and is draining money from a very stretched budget. The latest figures from NHS Wiltshire show that in the week to September 20 there were seventy-four patients in hospital beds who need not have been there – that was ten more than the previous week and sixty-four more than was planned and budgeted for.

Thirty-nine patients were waiting for care homes; nine for assessment as to where they ought to go; seven for a ‘care package’ to be arranged; six for transfer to non-acute hospitals; five were the subject of disputes; and three were waiting for their care home of choice. Over the week there were 414 lost bed says – up forty-four from the previous week – which equates to an extra cost against the PCT’s budget of £100,602 for the week.

They used to be called “bed blockers” – which seemed to imply that they wanted to be in the beds, when in reality it was the social care authorities keeping them there.  So they now called DTOCs – and during that week they were spread across the hospitals used by NHS Wiltshire: eighteen in community hospital beds; thirteen at Salisbury Foundation Trust; twenty-five at Bath’s RUH; twelve at Swindon’s GWH; and six in beds run by the mental health partnership.

It is the view in the PCT that “Wiltshire [Council] have not got the infrastructure in place” to cope with this problem. The Council have made changes and are still making changes - some of these were described recently to Marlborough News Online by the Council leader, Jane Scott.

And there are other changes in the pipeline such as increasing the Council’s teams working within the three acute hospitals (Bath, Salisbury and Swindon) so they can achieve faster assessment of patients’ needs as their treatment ends and they are ready to be discharged.

The PCT have over the past three years passed funding to Wiltshire Council aimed among other things at resolving the DTOC problem.  In 2010-2011 it was £1,420 million; in 2011-2012 it was £7,082 million (including a payment for winter pressures.)  This year it is £4,651 million so far with another £2,268 million in the budget which can be passed on as soon as agreement is reached on how it will be spent.

Some of the results can be seen.  In 2011-2012 the NHS money helped the Council provide 175 extra long-term care home places; more extensive care to support people at home; an extra five social workers in the acute hospitals; and support for a 24/7 telecare response service.

There is also the Council’s STARR scheme which finds short-term beds - on the one hand to prevent people going into hospital because they urgently need social care, and on the other hand to help people coming out of hospital.  This may become part of an urgent social care response service that could be better for patients and for the NHS budget.

Aditional information: Wiltshire Council runs twenty-two re-emablement beds which are at present in the STARR scheme - these will be increased to 'thirty plus'.

In June, Sue Geary, Wiltshire Council’s Head of Social Care Policy, confirmed to NHS Wiltshire that the Council had received extra funds due to the increase in patients being admitted to hospital.  She said there were enough beds available, but thought too many patients were being transferred to residential beds unnecessarily.

In July, Ms Geary admitted that much work still had to be done on the STARR scheme, and the CCG’s leader, Deborah Fielding, urged that the funds should be put to use by the Council ‘as a matter of urgency’.

It was suggested to the Council that they could use an empty ward at Salisbury Foundation Trust hospital as a temporary measure to take patients ready to be discharged. The PCT is firmly against this.  As Tony Barron put it: “I’m totally opposed to a bed-based solution – hospital is not the right place for people to be – to use that ugly word – warehoused.”  This suggestion was quickly turned down by Wiltshire Council.

The GPs and their CCG will have to take this problem on. And it is an enduring problem partly because there is no one solution – as the PCT was told last week: “It needs a multi-pronged approach and we have to keep working on every prong all the time.”

The GPs will find themselves in something of a quandary on this issue because they are both commissioners and providers of health care.  In the former role they have a budget to control and use as they think best. In the latter role they will be told by the executives in their CCG that they have to stop admitting people to hospital unnecessarily – people who when they are ready to be discharged have nowhere suitable to go.  

The transition from PCT to GP-led commissioning that is the foundation of the government’s restructuring of the NHS, has six months to run. As it continues the PCT’s risk register is showing a lot of red ink – and will do so until March 31, 2013.  The red ink that surrounds DTOCs may continue a lot longer.

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