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Afternoon talk and tea at the Marlborough area Alzheimer’s Café

In Holland in 1997, Dr Bére Miesen, a clinical psychologist specialising in old age, opened the first Alzheimer’s Café.  Now similar cafés are opening across Europe and the Marlborough area café meets once a month in East Grafton.
Dr Miesen had noticed that talking about the various stages of memory loss and dementia was often taboo – even between sufferers and their carers.  Introducing the cafés with their informal atmosphere, encouraged people to share their experiences and emotions.
The independent Alzheimer’s Support charity covers north Wiltshire and the Kennet area.  It runs day clubs, a free counselling service, carers’ support groups, has a trained support worker for home visits and to relieve carers, organises weekly ‘singing for the brain’ sessions at Lockeridge (as well as at Bradford on Avon and Rowde) - and the monthly cafés.
The Marlborough area café for sufferers, family members and carers, ran for a year at the Castle and Ball in the High Street. But after a year it outgrew the space available there, and moved in March to East Grafton’s wonderfully refurbished Coronation Hall. 
The cafés are funded by Wiltshire Council and run by Alzheimer’s Support as part of the county’s implementation of the national dementia strategy.  It is supported by local NHS doctors.
June’s session was attended by about thirty people who heard a talk by Paul Batson, a drama therapist from the Avon and Wiltshire Mental Health Partnership’s Victoria Centre.  He is a great believer in the value of life story boards and books.
These are a simple way to record - through photos, documents and text - the lives of people affected by memory loss. The boards are especially useful in helping practitioners and staff at homes realise they are dealing with a person rather than just a file card – with someone who’s had a unique life rather than just a medical condition.
As Paul put it, they help “Professionals see the person beyond the illness and knowing something about the person helps build a relationship with them.”  They can prevent the feeling that everyone, from the clinician to the cleaner, is “Not looking at me – but is merely seeing a patient.”
Patients have had lives worth celebrating and need to maintain their dignity when old age brings serious problems.
He passed some examples of life books and boards round the café tables, and related telling anecdotes about the way they work.  They can also jog sufferers’ memories about their own past lives and their extended families. 
And did the café succeed in getting people to talk about their conditions?  There was certainly a lot of good chatter going on in the Coronation Hall as sufferers and their partners and carers met up again and tucked into tea, sandwiches, cakes – and fruit.
There are about 700,000 people in the United Kingdom affected by some form of dementia and the figure is expected to double over the next thirty years.
Alzheimer’s Support is calling on Wiltshire GPs and consultants to do more for sufferers after research showed that NHS Wiltshire is one of the worst in the country for diagnosing the condition.  A survey by the Alzheimer’s Society found just less than a third of dementia sufferers are told what is wrong with them – putting Wiltshire eight from bottom out of 169 primary care trusts.
Alzheimer’s Support has had its grant from Wiltshire Council for its core costs cut by ten per cent for this year.  But Council funding of breaks for carers, and for specific projects such as the singing and café sessions, has been maintained.
However, the group is always looking for extra funds so they can reach more and more sufferers in the Marlborough area – and can also give respite to their carers.  
In the meantime, they are looking for volunteers to help behind the scenes with the cafés – setting up tables, arranging transport and washing up.  If you could help do contact the café organiser, Stephany Bardzil:  This email address is being protected from spambots. You need JavaScript enabled to view it.">This email address is being protected from spambots. You need JavaScript enabled to view it.

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Mavis Cheek brings Marlborough’s land of the living dead into loving life

“Land of the living dead” is how one historian has brilliantly described the soft chalk hills that surround Marlborough with their prehistoric sites where early man settled and prospered.

Now Mavis Cheek has brought them alive with a remarkable new novel, unlike any of her previous 14 that have so entertained an admiring audience with their wit, humour and wondrous sophisticated sex.

From her home in Aldbourne, she has populated the landscape with a story filled with vitality and colourful characters about the symbols of love and enduring love itself – old and new.

What she has cleverly done is to marry up, literally, a new version of Dorset’s famed Cerne Abbas Giant, the carved in  hillside fertility symbol, with the Lovers of Valdaro, the pair of young male and female skeletons locked in an eternal embrace, which were discovered in a Neolithic tomb in Italy four years ago.

And she has woven that into the lives and loves of the fictional village of Lufferton Boney, with arrival of red-haired archaeologist Molly Bonner – dressed in long, leather, black and shiny boots and a daringly short muslin, pink and frothy skirt – to investigate  The Lovers of Pound Hill.

“Wiltshire is certainly full of ancient places, ancient honourings and ancient atmosphere,” Mavis explains. “If you are going to use a county in which to express fictional ideas about the past and the present, then Wiltshire is just about the perfect place.”

Her own interest in archaeology, partly sparked back into life by the work her daughter Bella has been doing at the Jurassic Museum, in Purbeck, inspired her latest fictional fantasy.

“We used to watch Time Team avidly, though the Jurassic is way before the time I’m writing about, when creatures rather than man walked or swam,” she says.

“I can’t remember when I put the two ideas together – the Lovers of Valdaro and the naughty old Cerne Abbas Giant. It just happened. I used to have a cottage near Bridport in Dorset and Cerne Abbas was one of the places we visited. You could climb all over him – and I mean all over.”

“It seemed a neat device to re-invent the Giant as The Gnome and relocate the lovers from Italy here to Wiltshire. I really do not know how it happened – no notes or build up to it at all. I just began and stopped when it ended.”

As she tells readers in a note in The Lovers of Pound Hill: “I was playing around with these ideas and the way we feel we are so sophisticated and advanced in our ways now compared to the superstitions and rituals of the past, and thinking that for all their being thousands of years old, those rituals and superstitions seemed to be very powerful and exact and full of meaning.”

And it all has a modern message for today’s troubled society.

“My lovers of Valdaro are clearly in an embrace that’s as recognisable today as it was then – it’s loving, between a man and a woman in their prime, and refutes those ideas much beloved by the Flintstones about stone age man hitting his woman with a club by way of foreplay,” she says.

“Tenderness was as much a part of a relationship then as now. What ancient people new and respected and understood was the natural world – something that we seem to have managed to neglect and lose sight of over the years.”

“They understood it ad used it but did not over exploit it. We can’t say we have the same sensitivities.”

For someone from a cosmopolitan London background, a broken early marriage and a career in the art world, Mavis has surprised many by taking off for country life, initially renting a cottage in Ramsbury in 2003.

But it has paid off in distinct ways and style, in particular her creation of the Marlborough Literary Festival last year, which reappears again in September with another array of acclaimed writers for whom literary matters.

Yet, while organising these new events, she has herself delved into archaeological digs, to help provide the authentic background for her new novel. She discovered farmer Martin Green, winner of the Pitt-Rivers award for independent archaeology, who let her loose to dig on his land in Cranborne Chase, in Dorset.

“He was really helpful, a mine of information,” she recalls. “You can go on his farm if you contact him. He will give you a tour. And the book he wrote is great, too.”

“Years ago I did a dig at Winchester Cathedral which was absolutely riveting. Ancient bones and artefacts that you are the first person either to see or touch for hundreds or thousands of years simply take my breath away.”

It is undoubtedly a novel she enjoyed writing, the more so because of its slightly absurd, heightened reality and humorous quality involving so many characters.

“It’s also a book that has almost nothing of me in it, nothing t all auto-biographical, which is something of a freedom after some of my previous novels,” she insists.

“Basically, the message is that love will always triumph over lust, decadence and trash of celebrity culture – or at least in a Cheek novel it will.”

The Lovers of Pound Hill by Mavis Cheek, published by Hutchinson at £12.99.


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Aldbourne Band bring a Gallic 'Vive La France' to The Theatre on The Hill

Friends of Aldbourne Band came up trumps on Saturday when a brand new soprano cornet was presented to the Band out of funds they raised this year.

The presentation took place at the Vive La France concert kindly supported by Clarke and Rodway, Aldbourne Post Office, Tesco and NFU Mutual.

Concert goers attending Viva La France, held at St Johns Theatre on the Hill, were treated to an airing of Benvenuto Cellini by Berlioz, which is to be performed by the  Band at the Spring Festival in Blackpool next weekend.

Other pieces included Softly Awakens my Heart with cornet soloist Richard Hughes and also a superb baritone duet by Lionel Barnes and Ed Latham for Deep Inside the Temple by Bizet. Lionel has been in the band for over 50 years and still enjoys every performance.

The exciting programme was matched by a varied and informative narrative from the Musical Director Dave Johnson.

He also informed the guests that he is doing well on his sponsored diet and will perform the ‘weigh-in’ at the Proms on the Green at 4pm on Sunday 7th August – all monies raised will go towards a new uniform for the Band as the current ones are over 20 years old.

The concert was brought to a rousing climax with a performance of the Finale from Saint-Saens Symphony no 3. 

The audience were then treated to an encore of  Jacques Offenbach's gallop infernal in Orpheus in the Underworld... popularly recognized as the ‘music for the French Can-Can’.

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MP faces tough questions

The debating chamber at the House of Commons is no bigger than a school hall, and 10 Downing Street has a door that swings open as if by magic – just like Hogwarts.

Secrets of life in government were revealed by Marlborough's MP, Claire Perry, when she faced some of the toughest questioning of her political career – from 70 primary school children.

During her hour-long visit to St Katharine's School, in the heart of the Savernake Forest, Ms Perry – who has three school-age children of her own – revealed to members of the school council that they had far more experience of democracy than she'd had at their age.

“You've already been elected to the council,” she said. “I wasn't elected for anything until I became an MP.”

During a question-and-answer session with the whole school, Ms Perry explained that her job was to represent her constituents, and to help make new laws and abolish old ones – like the red tape that dissuaded grownups from volunteering at schools.

She revealed that David Cameron is a very nice man who is kept awake at night by baby Flo; that when she attended a drinks party at Number 10 the Cameron children were running around in their pyjamas swiping sausage rolls; and that she has no idea exactly how many different laws there are, “probably hundreds of thousands”.

Later, the children demonstrated their knowledge of different laws before voting on one of their own.

Murder, keeping lions in your house, and driving too fast were all against the law, pupils concluded, although when one girl piped up “my mum drives too fast,” the MP was forced to concede that many mums and dads sometimes break the speed limit.

Pupils established that it was the law that they had to go to school from the age of six, but the MP was stumped when one child asked whether it was the law to do your homework.

“Glancing towards the teachers – most of whom were desperately trying to suppress giggles – for support, the MP explained: “No, it's not the law, but if you want to get the most of your schooling you should do your homework.”

Finally, it was time to vote. A motion – proposed by head teacher Sharon Cross – that children should eat five pieces of fruit a day was narrowly defeated after pupils were invited to shout aye or no.

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Royal Friday will be a day to help others at Kate’s old college

Marlborough College has dubbed it Royal Friday, the day when its students play their direct part in celebrating the wedding of former student Kate Middleton to the handsome heir to the throne.

It is deliberately building upon the remarkable success of last year’s Super Sunday, which raised more than £5,000 for charities through pupil-led initiatives and activities staged within the College.

Super Sunday, which was held in April 2010, was inspired by the memory of St John’s School educated College teacher Rupert Rosedale, 37, who was killed in an avalanche on Ben Nevis last New Year’s Eve.

The College thought it fitting to combine Marlborough’s charity event with the royal wedding, the funds this time being divided between the Kempson-Rosedale Trust, which supports enterprise projects at the College, El Roi, a primary school in Kenya, SKRUM, a charity aiding children in Swaziland, and another, Hope and Homes for Children, whose work is directed to Central and Eastern Europe, as well as parts of Africa.

Headmaster Nicholas Sampson explained: “We see the principle of service as being the link between these two events and, therefore, we are seeking to celebrate the College’s strong interest in, and connection to, the royal wedding through a series of enjoyable but valuable pupil-driven initiatives.

“It should be a great and memorable day”.

Lessons will cease mid morning and pupils will be free to watch the royal wedding on TV among their friends in their individual boarding houses.
Then they will be invited to a special Royal Lunch in the school’s dining hall, ahead of a rich and varied programme of fundraising in the afternoon.

Royal Friday has been led and organised by the College’s Charity Think Tank – a group of eight Upper Sixth students, who work together to co-ordinate and plan the College’s charity events.

The main focus of the day will be a Royal Fete within the College’s famous and picturesque Court, an event that will be opened by the College’s own Brass Quintet playing the national anthem.

There will be stalls in the marquee, live music, Morris dancers, personal caricatures and a penalty shoot-out competition, donated by Swindon Town FC, among other activities.

The events will not be open to members of the public but staff families and members of the wider Marlborough Town community, whom pupils have contact with through the College’s Social Service Programme, are being invited and encouraged to attend.

Around the College campus there will be cricket, croquet, football and volleyball tournaments, a triathlon, a climbing wall challenge and a film competition.

Royal Friday will be rounded off by a special “Illumination” performance in the evening, when pupils will showcase their own musical and dramatic talents on the stage of the Memorial Hall.

Ottilie Macpherson, head of the Charity Think Tank and an upper sixth form student, said: “Royal Friday will be a wonderful celebration and a great opportunity for everyone to get together on behalf of some really important causes.”

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Ten questions for the Chief Constable of Wiltshire.

Gerald Isaaman quizzes Brian Moore in an exclusive interview as he grapples with Government-imposed cuts of £15 million

Q: You have said nothing is sacrosanct in the cuts you are having to make over the next four years? Have you decided yet what the initial ones will be and when they will come into effect?

A: No one in Government, local police or the public has told me what to stop doing so we must try to do everything we’ve always done. Wiltshire Police must save up to £15 million by April 2014 and as part of this process the force is likely to lose up to 150 police officer posts and up to 200 police staff over this period of time.

Nothing is sacrosanct in the sense that to achieve what are significant savings, we are scrutinising and reviewing every area of our business to find efficiencies and identify new ways of working while remaining effective as a police force. However, I am committed to ensuring that Wiltshire Police will keep officers on the streets and protect frontline policing.

This includes, for example, making sure that people in the Marlborough area have the same number of beat officers in their neighbourhood as they do now – as with any other part of the county. Public safety, dealing with crime, anti-social behaviour and issues that concern you and particularly reducing violent crime will continue to remain top priorities for us as a force.

Q: Are you confident that front-line services will not be obviously affected and that residents in Marlborough and elsewhere will hardly notice any immediate changes to the number of bobbies and community police officers on the beat plus police response to emergency calls?

A: I am committed to maintaining frontline policing and I’ll demand of the force we maintain a good service. The approach we are taking in delivering our savings plans is to work from the ‘inside out’ so that we can maximise our savings in the first instance on areas that do not impact directly on the public.

Clearly where we introduce changes in the way we provide operational policing or non-urgent support services I will make sure these are clearly articulated and understood by the public. That isn’t to say there may be some changes in the way we organise our resources to provide a more accessible and flexible police service as we move forward in the future.

An example I’ve given is that if the force decides an officer needs to attend a call that has been made then any available officer may be sent even if they’re a specialist in their own area of expertise, such as a dog handler or armed response officer. By using new technology to best effect we can also keep police out on the streets for longer and know where our nearest officers are in relation to where their assistance is needed the most.

Q: The police cutbacks came as a shock to everyone following the general election, and the Wiltshire Police Authority had some 1,300 responses to its public consultation exercise. What did that tell you about their major concerns about their own lives and the loss of loyal staff?

A:  A number of general themes emerged from the public consultation carried out by the Wiltshire Police Authority. The authority is assessing the responses given by the public, but it was clear that people value their police service highly, they certainly want frontline policing maintained and they expect Wiltshire Police to be accessible and available.

As you would expect, the public want us to tackle crime, keep them safe and answer their emergency calls. People are also very positive about their neighbourhood policing teams.

Q: Did they include any good positive ideas that you have been able to make use of in coping with the demands you face?

A: People were given the opportunity to comment on their police service. A range of suggestions were put forward by the public through both the online survey and at community area board meetings that people attended.

I was surprised about how many people wanted more website access to the police and I’m keen to take that idea forward.

Q: People generally believe that police on the street is the biggest deterrent to crime. Yet the largest number of offences – domestic violence, computer fraud, drug preparation – take place indoors. How can you put that message over more effectively?

A: Wiltshire is one of the safest areas in the country in which to live and work, or visit. The volume of crime has fallen for the last five years and even now as we go into a period of change the force is performing particularly well, which is a credit to all the officers and staff who work for Wiltshire Police.

It is often the unseen crimes that we deal with that do not attract the public’s interest until the perpetrators are dealt with by the courts. Domestic violence is of particular concern to me and we will always deal with this vigorously – Wiltshire Police does not tolerate violent crime in this county.

It is often the case that the crimes that happen in public places are those that gain the highest profile. Wiltshire Police encourages people to come forward to report crimes and incidents so that we have an accurate picture to work on.

Q: There are also hidden activities that you undertake such as counter terrorism measures, intelligence operations on major crimes such as organised child abuse. Will these be deliberately protected from cutbacks?

A: Yes, we have established strong collaborative links across a range of specialist capabilities including working with other south west forces to tackle serious and organised crime. We have a formal arrangement with Avon & Somerset Constabulary to work together on major crime and Special Branch issues and as we move forward we will explore further opportunities both with partner agencies and other police forces, particularly when there is a clear business case to do so. Wiltshire Police is keen to provide services that are as integrated as possible with local authority, health and other community agencies and some of our staff are already working alongside other public sector partners.

However, we will implement some proposals independently to find the savings we need to make in the short term.

Q: What do you see as the most serious problems for the future, the more so when the number of courts is also being reduced and it is more difficult for justice to be seen to be done?

A: All agencies are having to find savings, including those in the justice system. My concern is around maintaining public safety and I am in regular conversation with other justice agencies to talk about how we can best serve the interests of victims and witnesses of crime, while continuing to effectively deal with those responsible for committing crime.

I am worried about the collective impact of cuts on public protection and that is why I am spending a lot of my time encouraging chief executives and leaders to share their plans so that we properly understand the risks. In many ways, we now have the best opportunity in a generation to work together.

Q: Marlborough Police Station was at one time under threat. It could be sold off to raise a substantial sum? Is this being considered again?

A: Wiltshire Police will need to look at which buildings and stations are needed for policing and which will be open to the public. A review of our estate will take place, but until that is done and our plans for how we will best use our operational resources are finalised, it would be premature to reach conclusions about the future of any particular building or station.

Q: What are the current serious and violent crime figures for Wiltshire and will they – and crime figures generally -- inevitably rise given that recession almost always results in an increase in offences, increasing unemployment being one factor?

A: Wiltshire has seen a year-on-year reduction in the total volume of crime over the last five years, despite the recession and the consequent impact this has had on people’s livelihoods. Of course there has been an effect on some crimes such as shoplifting, but the number of house burglaries has gone down, so generally the effect of the downturn has not been reflected in the overall crime rate and is not as significant in the county as it may have been elsewhere.

Our latest crime figures show that Wiltshire has had the lowest volume of violent crime in England for the last three reported months, between December 2010 and February this year – making this county the safest in England for crimes of violence.

Violent crime volume was lower in the last financial year than reported in the previous two years, and serious violent crime volume was lower in the last year (2010-11) than the previous year. Crime and economic theory suggest that some acquisitive crimes like theft might rise but that is easily offset by the improving in-built crime prevention measures in, for example, cars.

There is no evidence to suggest violent crime will rise but there is some evidence that domestic violence can go up if more people lose their jobs. Public place alcohol-related crime can fall because people can’t afford to go to pubs.

Q: It will be sad for you to say farewell to long-serving officers and backroom staff as they leave. What is your message to them as to the future of the police force in Wiltshire?

A: Policing is a primarily people-driven service and around 80% of the Wiltshire Police budget is used to employ staff. There will be fewer police officer posts and police staff roles as the force finds the necessary savings – and of course this is sad for all concerned.

That said, officers and staff understand why the force has to make cuts and many have been supportive in offering suggestions and ideas on how to save money. The cost of policing in Wiltshire is already one of the lowest in the country and is below the national average for forces, but employees of Wiltshire Police are dedicated to providing a first rate service to the public.

Wiltshire Police has a proud pedigree as the oldest county force in the country and people can expect our tradition of upholding the law and maintaining public safety to continue into the future. Some forces are using regulations to enforce retirement after 30 years of service but Wiltshire is not, because we value experience.

We want the right blend of wisdom and youth and we even anticipate some limited recruitment this year as so many people are retiring in the face of a lot of uncertainty.

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They call it ‘localism’, but just how local is localism going to be?

In days gone by the word ‘local’ had either a positive meaning – as in ‘pub’ – or a negative meaning – as in the anaesthetic you’d rather not have. Now it’s become another ‘ism’.

Localism is the cornerstone of the coalition government’s decentralisation policies and it’s the name of a parliamentary Bill (all 400 and more pages of it) that’ll become law by the end of the year.

As with many ‘isms’, localism has been more rhetoric than reality, so it was to explain what the Localism Bill will mean for the Marlborough Community Area that two senior Wiltshire Council officers brought their road show to the Town Hall last week for a seminar chaired by councillor Nick Fogg.

Broadly speaking the Bill will bring new freedoms to local government, give local communities new powers and local people more of a say, and change the way new housing is planned.

Steve Milton, the council’s head of community governance, explained how the new policy would give communities the right to buy their local pub or shop if it closed and might become a private house. And a community will be able to take over some services – litter picking for instance – from the authority higher up the chain of command.

One example that has already happened is Pewsey taking over its car parks. But that was pretty simple because the parking was free. When Marlborough Council tries to take over the town’s paid-for parking from Wiltshire Council it will get very complex indeed. Unpicking the intricate web of unitary, town and parish councils is not a simple matter.

Wiltshire Council are taking this policy very seriously. Over the next four years they have committed £3.2 million more to the area boards, in addition to the £10 million already allocated. But the full details of how the policy will be implemented won’t be clear until the Bill becomes law.

Joan Davies, who chairs Savernake Parish Council, raised the vital matter of scale. How would Savernake with a population of about 200 spread over a wide area and without any village focus, manage to take part or afford to draw up its own neighbourhood plan?

Wiltshire Council’s Alistair Cunningham said there was no chance of redrawing parish boundaries, but parishes might be able to join into clusters. Quite how that could work financially, democratically or legally was not addressed.

One of the most contentious parts of localism will be changes to the planning laws. These were supposed to give the final say to local communities. But after the coalition government’s budget last month, a ministerial edict rules that the necessity for economic growth must trump local decisions on planning applications.

It looks as though the Treasury’s big stick is about to knock a hole through the Localism Bill.

After the meeting, Councillor Fogg told Marlborough News Online: “The Localism Bill is as much rhetoric as matter as far as I can deduce. What emerged from the meeting was that not all that much is going to change.”

“I don’t think it is going to make a lot of difference when it comes to local councils like Marlborough taking over pubs, shops, this kind of thing… .It is disappointing. There is a lot of rhetoric attached to this government, which I had high hopes for but they are slightly being dashed.

Watch this space as Marlborough News Online follows how our area fares under this new policy – and see whether Councillor Fogg’s judgment is right.

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