...putting people before party

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Councillor Notes May 2013

Richard Bird

I have spoken to you before about my forebears coming from Great Cressingham just outside Swaffam and that I have traced my family back, so far, 7 generations. Most were either publicans or tea-totaling preachers, I bet Sundays were fun! However my generation, my brother and cousins were born in N.W. London, in my case Harrow, Middlesex, as a baby boomer born in 1946 I was subjected to conditions that were quite different from those of you that were born and brought up here in Norfolk. I can remember being in classes at school with up to 60 children in a class, my infant and junior school was called Colindale named after the farm that once had been there.

The school had been built to deal with 2 classes per year of about 30 youngsters each. As baby boomers there were 4 classes per year and already stated there were up to 60 children per class, so the school was asked to deal with about 4 times its pre-war capacity not 60 but 240 children per year. The not so bright kids like me were streamed as “C” and “D” and we were moved around to ‘alternative’ classroom facilities, normally these could be inadequate local Church halls or the like. So the day would commence with assembly and then we would be tied together with string for the journey to our satellite class rooms. At lunchtime and at the end of the day the same procedure, tied together with string and crocodiled back and forth to the main school.

So why were we tied together with string I hear you ask. Well in the winter months the smog was so dense that you could not see you hand in front of your face; we were tied together to avoid getting lost, something that had happened before the procedure had been introduced. Most children went to school with a torch or lamp.

One of my earliest recollections was the death of the old King, we had a T.V. and the programmes were off for the day to mourn his passing. Most of our entertainment was offered from our local cinemas and from our home in Colindale we could walk to about three. My Mum and Dad would take my brother and me to see things like All at Sea, St Trinians and many more about once a week, In the winter months we would prefer to walk because it could be quicker than driving in the smog and much safer. I do recall quite a few occasions when Mother would drive the car with the hinged front windscreen wide open for slightly improved vision while dad would lead the way torch in hand to get us home. I must say that cinemas were much lamented when they succumbed to the pressure of home entertainment in the form of T.V. and although programmes dramatically improved I believe one of the main reasons, certainly in London, was the smog inside, yes inside the cinemas. Having reached your chosen palace of entertainment, paid for your ticket, bought your sweet favourite, been shown to your seat, sometimes you couldn’t see the screen, the smog had filtered into the building and your choices were: do your best to see or ask for a refund and go home.

I think the mortality rates were so high due to respiratory illness that official figures were not kept or were accounted for in a creative way. I don’t remember and didn’t care much at the time, as a very young child, when the Clean Air Act came into law, but I do remember people complaining that “this new smokeless fuel” didn’t burn as well, didn’t give out any real heat, was expensive to buy etc etc.
We all took it that Greater London was filthy, always will be, always has been. I guess it took several years for those dangerous smogs to start disappearing but without the Clean Air Act where would we be now?

My Dad passed away aged 68 in 1974 he had suffered from emphysema, a lung ailment, that had become chronic and it brought on a heart attack from which he did not recover. He was an all things in moderation man, hardly ever smoked and an occasional drinker. Emphysema was regarded at that time as a miner’s disease. My Dad had never been near a mine. Some said as a greengrocer it was the dust off of the potatoes. Who knows, but I believe it was 40 years of going to Covent Garden at 4 am in the worst fogs and smogs the world was experiencing at the time, filling his lungs with toxic rubbish for years that finally finished him.

My first adult job at age 15 was in a builder’s merchants, Chas Bird and sons. (No relation) One of the wonder products of post war Britain was asbestos and part of my job was to handle, stack and cut with a hand saw the product to customers size and requirements, normally this was done by drawing in pencil the line and then carefully cutting down the line while breathing in and out with gusto to see the line and follow it. My bosses liked me, they didn’t want to hurt me; they certainly didn’t want to put my health at risk by exposing me to asbestosis. But they didn’t know there was a risk. Time moved on and the risk became more and more apparent until today we treat the stuff as a toxic poison.

Some of you will know my passion for classic cars. I have a pair now and they will probably see me out. In the past I collected Triumphs, both roadsters and saloons but when leadless fuel was introduced they became impractical. We forget so quickly that leadless fuel was introduced to cut down toxic emissions from cars because cars were poisoning our youngsters, especially where there was heavy traffic. It was expensive and difficult to change, but quiet rightly considered essential for the wellbeing of the nation’s health.

We are continually told that the demands for electricity are going up all the time and that we need renewable energy to fill the gap, at the same time the country is closing down solid fuel power plants because they are dirty and cannot be brought up to standard economically, my reading of that is that the filtering system would cost to much. Why?

This entire pre-amble is of course about the Incinerator my question is Why. Why, would we risk it? Would we take one step back? Have any amount of rubbish put into the atmosphere?

Now I have bared my soul and told you my thoughts about clean air. Perhaps it is emotional, perhaps it is not scientific, perhaps it is emotive, but you can see now why I have risked all my thoughts and political background to shout from the tallest tower to tell all who would listen, if not for yourselves then for future generations, don’t risk it, please don’t do it. DONT BRING AN INCINERATOR TO WEST NORFOLK.

I should like to tell you about the response I had to my question last month. If you remember I asked you if I should stand for the County Council Elections. I asked: do you want me to stand or not? Clearly the response was an overwhelming yes. I was stopped in the street and at school when dropping off the granddaughter; I was e-mailed, written to and telephoned by lots of people.

My belief has now changed from that of main party politics to the needs of local people; in other words one size does not fit all, and good ideas are not the exclusive domain of any one party.

Those of you that have received my brochure will have seen that I am standing as an Independent Candidate. A lot of very serious thought went into this decision as I have now resigned from the party I have supported for nearly 40 years; not a flippant course of action, but one agonised over and considered.

Well whatever happens, I should like to say here and now thank you. I feel truly humbled. Thank you for your confidence in me and for trusting me with your support and hopefully your vote.

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