The Same Old ‘New & Improved’
Address before the opening of a meeting of the newly elected Felixstowe Town Council
Wednesday 15 May 2019
There was a time, when I was much much younger and had no idea what cynicism meant, that I used to be excited about new things.
New toys to play with, new clothes to wear, new places to visit, new experiences to enjoy and new friends to make. Nowadays, when I am presented with something ‘new’ especially if it purports to be ‘new & improved’ I am a little more cautious and, having been taken for a fool more than once, a little less joyful.
Many of us here will know that feeling of disappointment when, promised something new to find that what ‘new’ means is more packaging and wrapping paper and less of the goodies to which you were looking forward.
Selection Boxes used to have more bars of chocolate in them; the Quality Street tin was a proper tin (not a plastic tub) and was full to the brim; and (my most personal devastation), Wagon Wheels. No longer large enough to fit on to a Conestoga carrying a family of homesteaders across the Plains of America now they would have a hard job propelling my sister’s dolls pram!
And it’s not only the magical world of childhood, that some of us will feel we have been cheated out of.
In our common life, and especially in government there seems to be a habit of proclaiming ‘New Initiatives’ for everything from all sides and shades of opinion. Of course the idea of a ‘new’ initiative is an oxymoron – it’s either an initiative or the regulations – but in our desire to not be stuck in an endless cycle of ‘same old, same old’ we re-brand policies in the hope that saying it is different will somehow make it different.
How are we, as people of good heart committed to serving our community, going to cope with the challenges of the present when all we have to offer are ‘new initiatives’ signalling that we will now have to do more with less.
Like the tin of Quality Street, we expect to be given something that will help us make our lives fuller and richer and more joyful only to find what we have to work with is half-empty and mostly made up of wrapping paper.
And this is done in a climate where public representatives are damned if they do and damned if they don’t. Public servants are vilified on social media and in public by those whose expertise is in protest without participation, complaint without action, and the exercising of rights without accepting responsibilities.
This is about more than party politics. It does not matter whether you prefer to wear Red or Orange, Green, Blue or Purple. It matters that everyone in this chamber is here because they have chosen to, imitating the Babe of Bethlehem, give part of their life away so that others may prosper.
Joe Cox, a much missed and lamented servant of our nation had this to say: ‘We are far more united, and have far more things in common, than that which divides us’.
In the far too short time that I have lived in Felixstowe all I have seen amongst this Council, though there are things which may at times challenge and divide you, is a unity of purpose.
You are united in your desire to serve our community.
You are united in your decision to do this without honour or reward.
You are united in your commitment to each other as members of one Council even if of different party political persuasions.
This is no sinecure you have undertaken, this doing more with less and being questioned at every turn. You will need much strength in the year ahead, especially in the coming months. You have my support and you have the prayers of our parish.
But you may need a little more than ‘thoughts and prayers’ to help you cope.
When a former Poet Laureate visited our town he saw through the seaside show of life, the bandstands and cake shops and The Spa Pavilion and called us to a place of rest:
Thou knowest my down sitting and mine uprising
Here where the white light burns with steady glow
Safe from the vain world’s silly sympathising,
Safe with the love I was born to know,
Safe from the surging of the lonely sea
My heart finds rest, my heart finds rest in Thee.
Nowadays not everyone finds their rest inside the ‘red brick twilight of St John’s’, though please do feel free to wander in any day between 9am and 5pm, however all of us still need a place of rest.
In the year ahead may each of us gathered here, amongst all the busy-ness which comes with giving your life away to serve our community, find a place of rest and peace. a place of quiet where we can hear the wind whispering the words, ‘All shall be well, and all manner of things shall be well’ (Julian of Norwich)
God give you peace my sisters and brothers.