Saturday, 11 April 2015

Taking a stand (in the place where you live…)

Stand in the place where you live
Now face North
Think about direction
Wonder why you haven’t before
Now stand in the place where you work
Now face West
Think about the place where you live
Wonder why you haven’t before

If you are confused, check with the sun
Carry a compass to help you along
Your feet are going to be on the ground
Your head is there to move you around

Stand in the place where you live
Now face North
Think about direction
Wonder why you haven’t before
Now stand in the place where you work
Now face West
Think about the place where you live
Wonder why you haven’t before

Your feet are going to be on the ground
Your head is there to move you around
If wishes were trees, the trees would be falling
Listen to reason, season is calling

Stand in the place where you live
Now face North
Think about direction
Wonder why you haven’t before
Now stand in the place where you work
Now face West
Think about the place where you live
Wonder why you haven’t before

If wishes were trees, the trees would be falling
Listen to reason, reason is calling
Your feet are going to be on the ground
Your head is there to move you around

So Stand
Now face North
Think about direction, wonder why you haven’t before
Now stand
Now face West
Think about the place where you live
Wonder why you haven’t before

Stand in the place where you live
Now face North
Think about direction
Wonder why you haven’t before
Now stand in the place where you work
Now face West
Think about the place where you live
Wonder why you haven’t before

Stand in the place where you are
Now face North
Stand in the place where you are
Now face West
Your feet are going to be on the ground
Stand in the place where you are
Your head is there to move you around, so stand
– R.E.M.: Stand

I was originally going to use this song to headline a completely different post: but, even though Michael Stipe claims he “wrote the most inane lyrics that [he] could possibly write”, I believe that such innate simplicity (and from a naturally-gifted poet) contains some back-to-basics lessons for those misguided souls who seem to believe that each subsequent, more complex, less transparent, draft of the Neighbourhood Plan (and, my goodness, we’re only on the second one – so all I am saying is give the village a chance to get their heads around things…!) is worthy of submission to the authorities.

One of the problems in such prematurity, to me, appears to be a misunderstanding – either deliberately; or because of a too-deep involvement in, or love of, the technicalities that seem to swamp the current version – of the document’s original aims and objectives. Instead of asking the residents – and of a place that, along with its housing, has “developed on a slow, small-scale, organic development basis” – what they want; the authors have, instead, turned the whole thing on its head, and said we can only have what they seem capable of producing. That is – and forgive me for lapsing into the management consultant speak which peppers the current draft of the Plan – they are driven by their competences; not the wants and needs of their target audience (and employers, let us not forget) – i.e. us.

For a document whose second sentence begins “Investment and change in the years ahead will only be worthwhile if they are what the community wants”, this would be laughable, were it not for the fact that, firstly, we are assigning the future management of our village to a tiny proportion of its population, without any real checks and balances; and, secondly, the further the Plan’s creators move away in words, numbers, figures, tables, maps and technicalities from that phrase, the further they (literally) move away from this (increasingly) obvious lip service.

This is why, although the word “vision” makes around forty appearances in the main document (although that includes contents and summaries), no actual vision really becomes, ahem, visible – and what hints there are of such come across as being contradicted by the summary document that (supposedly) sits alongside it. It’s almost as if you can hear the authors panicking, deep, somewhere, in a candlelit garret, late one night – obviously in response to Keith Risk’s extremely salient question “Where is the vision?” (tabled in the appendices) – but not actually understanding it – all suddenly scrabbling around, trying to insert as many mentions of the dreaded word: like an infinite number of caged monkeys trying to produce Hamlet’s famous soliloquy.


The answer, of course, to Keith’s query, is “out there”; and, as I am sure I have said before, not in the answers to some bureaucratic questionnaire-led exercise. Only from talking to people… Actually, scrub that: Only from listening to people – and every single one of us – will you find it. (I apologize for repeating myself: but, sometimes, that’s what it takes.)

Stand in the place where you live
Now face North
Think about direction
Wonder why you haven’t before
Now stand in the place where you work
Now face West
Think about the place where you live
Wonder why you haven’t before

If you are confused, check with the sun
Carry a compass to help you along
Your feet are going to be on the ground
Your head is there to move you around

Stand in the place where you live
Now face North
Think about direction
Wonder why you haven’t before
Now stand in the place where you work
Now face West
Think about the place where you live
Wonder why you haven’t before

Your feet are going to be on the ground
Your head is there to move you around
If wishes were trees, the trees would be falling
Listen to reason, season is calling

So, a little bit of free advice – not that I feel I am being listened to by those who should be taking it… – lift your head up from your papers: and see what the village really needs: not what you can provide. Ask not what you can do for your village; ask what your village wants from you.

And a plea to the village. Monday evening’s Parish Council meeting will not only be the last one for some very longstanding and dutiful members; but my gut tells me that a currently extremely vague tabled request from a resident may actually be used to try again to get the current poor, rough draft submitted to the powers that be – riding roughshod over what the village and its residents truly stand for.

If this is what you want: fine. But I struggle to believe that those hundreds who turned out in the pouring rain in Kineton, last January, to fight off Gladman – or in the freezing cold in the Village Hall at Keith Risk’s behest – really want “the place where they live” run by closeted pen-pushers.

We need vision and selflessness to succeed as a village; we need soul; we need reason, thought, and thoughtful, listening people: people who care. But, most of all, we all need to be in this together.

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