An Appointment with Disappointment
Address before the Making of Councillor Mark Jepson as Mayor of Felixstowe
Felixstowe Town Council – Wednesday 5 May 2021
God give you peace my sisters and brothers.
To prepare for tonight’s meeting I understand that our Mayor designate was seen taking a wander along the length of our wonderful promenade to gather his thoughts.
As he got to Cobbold’s Point he heard a plaintive cry for help coming from the pile of rocks recently rearranged at the behest of the District Council. Looking seaward he saw a beautiful mermaid whose nest had been disturbed by the JCBs with her fin trapped between two rocks. Without hesitation he removed his chain of office (carefully), as well as shoes and socks. Rolling up his trouser legs he gingerly paddled out into the cold waters of the North Sea to rescue the denizen of the deep from her distress. Once freed, with thankful tears in her eyes she turned to the Mayor and said:
‘I shall grant you three wishes.’
To which, after careful thought our Mayor responded, ‘I wish for a world without lawyers.’
The mermaid immediately responded, ‘Done, you have no more wishes!’
The Mayor, feeling somewhat pained and chiselled out of a fair reward for his good deed complained, ‘But you said three wishes?’
And the mermaid, swishing back her hair, flapping her tail, (splashing the Mayor in the process), shrugged her shoulders said, ‘Sue me!’ Then dived into the water and swam off towards Sealand!
As our nation seeks to return to ‘Business as Usual’ the great challenge that all who have been appointed to Public Office have to face will be how to manage disappointment. No matter how hard everyone in this Council Chamber, led by our re-newed Mayor, works every one of us will have to think about how we are going to handle our inevitable appointment with disappointment.
Like the story of the Mayor and the Mermaid we all hope that ‘Business as Usual’ means we will have our regular allocation of ‘three wishes’ as we look towards the National fiscus to provide all they normally do to help oil the wheels of our community.
The sad fact is that so much has been spent, and continues to be spent, to support people affected by Covid 19 and ensure that we are on the path to beating it completely, that our communal pantry is looking very bare indeed. We may have been hoping for ‘three wishes’ but we will be fortunate to receive even ‘one wish’.
How will we work in the year ahead?
What will we do when, even more than usual, people complain that the Council and Mayor are doing nothing? (When in fact everyone here is working as hard as they can to serve the Common Good!)
When will we return to ‘Business as Usual’ and move back into the familiar ways of being that have worked in the past and bring comfort for the present?
Change is always hard to face.
Enforced change is even worse.
This time of Covid has not only been one of compulsory change but also one of deep communal grief. Our whole nation (whether we have been personally touched by this virus or not) has gone through the familiar five stages of grief – Denial, Anger, Bargaining, Depression, and we hope Acceptance – as we journey towards ‘Business as Usual’.
The famous FA Cup Final hymn ‘Abide With Me’, sung originally at King George V’s request at the first final in 1927 (it was Queen Mary’s favourite hymn), teaches us how to cope with change.
Swift to its close ebbs out life’s little day
Earth’s joys grow dim, its glories pass away
Change and decay in all around I see
O Thou who changest not, abide with me
‘Change and decay in all around I see.’
One of the first steps in getting back to ‘Business as Usual’ is to realise that we will never get back to ‘Business as Usual’. To grow, to live, to take our very next breath is to change. Though we may hanker for familiar things to bring us comfort and a sense of being in charge of our own destiny, we know that the only place where things never change are in a cemetery.
If we are not careful we may be tempted to see this as a counsel of despair, rush to imitate Private James Frazer in Dad’s Army, and go around proclaiming, ‘We’re doomed, we’re all doomed I tell you!’ and either defend to the bitter end how things have always been done, or throw our hands in the air, give up, and leave everything for someone else to sort out.
Over this last year you Mr Mayor, with Madame Deputy Mayor and the Town Councillors, have shown that all of you are made of 24 carat gold as you have adapted to new technology for meetings – Handforth Parish Council should have come to Felixstowe for lessons on how to conduct business well!
Individual Councillors have continued to represent their Wards diligently and rolled up their sleeves to help wherever they can and the Town Hall team have kept things open as much as possible.
Because of your good work all around our Town there has been an unfailing air of good humour and, as the Afrikaner says ‘Saamtrek’ (pulling together) as the future beckons.
No, we will never return to ‘Business as Usual’ but we have learnt to get the business done in a new, often challenging, unusual manner.
Unless our mayor becomes expert in making mermaids stick to their word, the circumstances of Covid will mean that we may well have to cut short or defer our plans for capital projects for our community. There will be times of delay and disappointment ahead of us but that should not be synonymous with disaster and despair.
However sparse our resources we have to hand some that neither circumstance nor Covid can remove from us.
Like the sea that twice a day caresses our coast we will continue to cherish everyone who lives, works, and visits here.
Like the wind which rushes along the estuaries that enclose our town we will continue to bring new life and vigour to our community.
Like the sun which gently kisses our sandy beaches we will remain a place of refuge, respite, and recreation for people wearied by the rigours of life.
Like the good earth beneath us producing food and giving us a firm foundation we will remain a place of nurture for young and old, resident and holiday maker, seafarer and shopkeeper.
With the continued care and commitment of every Town Council and Staff member here, led by our Mayor and Deputy Mayor, Felixstowe will remain a place for a great day, indeed a great life, by the sea.
The future is not yet mapped out for us. We cannot be certain of every detail. We may need some guidance for the road ahead.
For that reason I want to end with the poem King George VI used in his broadcast to our nation on Christmas Day 1939. Another occasion when our Nation was facing a time of darkness and uncertainty.
I said to the man who stood at the gate of the year:
“Give me a light that I may tread safely into the unknown.”
And he replied:
“Go out into the darkness
and put your hand into the Hand of God.
That shall be to you better than light
and safer than a known way.”
So I went forth, and finding the Hand of God,
trod gladly into the night.
And He led me towards the hills
and the breaking of day in the lone East.
Suffolk is not famous for her hills but each day, for the whole of our beloved County, always dawns in the East where, shining as a light for all, lies Felixstowe. A haven of hope, a harbour of rest, and a home port for all those who seek re-creation and refreshment.
May each of you know God’s blessing as you lead our town out of the darkness of Covid towards the breaking of day in the East.
Entering a second consecutive term, the new Mayor of Felixstowe is Councillor Mark Jepson. His wife Julie Jepson is Mayoress
The Deputy Mayor is Councillor Sharon Harkin.
The Mayor’s chosen charities for the year are:
Find out more about the work of Felixstowe Town Council here.
Follow them on Twitter @felixstoweTC
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