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A poem on VJ day

Pic 3 Loyals officers, Keijo 1942Today is VJ Day (15th August), the day set aside to remember the cessation of hostilities in the Far East and the lives of those who fought and died in the conflict and those who sacrificed their freedom and very often their lives in the notorious POW camps in Singapore, Thailand, Korea, Japan and elsewhere where they endured almost unimaginable deprivation and hardship.

To mark the day I thought I would share a poem written by my dad in February 1943  while he was imprisoned – along with the other officers of his regiment – at Keijo in Korea, modern-day Seoul.

On waking late at night in prison

Faintly the dim green lights

Outline recumbent forms who vigils keep,

Like ancient stone-carved knights

In dusty crypts, muttering in their sleep.


“We are the living dead

Having no present tense, only a past,

Which is our daily bread,

Sustaining us as long as memories last.


“We are the seeing blind

Holding onto battered images in shaking palms,

Dark glass covers the mind,

The dog ‘Remembrance’ sits and begs for alms”.


Government announces measures to protect greenbelt…hmmm

Brandon_lewisHousing and Planning Minister Brandon Lewis has announced the availability of new funding to encourage councils to develop brownfield sites for new housing.

The government has set aside £200 million to help create 10 housing zones on brownfield land where it will be easier to build new homes quickly. The new zones, which will be outside London, should be large enough to deliver 750 to 2,000 properties.

Mr Lewis said housing zones will help councils boost housebuilding while making the best possible use of previously-developed land so the countryside is safeguarded.

Since 2010 the government has taken steps to ensure brownfield land and existing properties are prioritised for new housing development, including abolishing current regional strategies, which earmark green belt land for new development and selling enough publicly-owned surplus brownfield land for 100,000 new homes by 2015.

Mr Lewis said councils should now follow the government’s lead. Across the country there is enough brownfield land to deliver up to 200,000 new homes, and ministers expect to see planning permissions covering 90 per cent of this land to be in place by 2020.

Brandon Lewis said: “We need to build more homes in this country, but it’s also vital we protect the countryside that people rightly treasure. That’s why the government is offering councils a share of £200 million to prioritise development on brownfield land.

“The new dedicated housing zones will transform disused and derelict land, and ensure the new homes are built quickly in a process that is more straightforward for councils and builders.”

However, it remains to be seen whether this will be enough of an incentive to councils, like Peterborough, who are sitting on land in rural areas already earmarked for development or where the Homes and Communities Agency – Peterborough again – hold rural land that appears ripe for development.

Mr Lewis was quick to respond to criticism from the national press that the government had in fact increased the amount of residential development in the greenbelt.

He said: “This government has been very clear that Green Belt protection continues, and the most recent official statistics show that the level of Green Belt development is at its lowest rate since modern records began in 1989.  We have fortified the Green Belt by abolishing the last government’s top-down Regional Strategies, selling our surplus brownfield land for redevelopment, and introducing more flexible planning rights so empty and underused buildings can be brought back into productive use.

“Local plans are now at the heart of the planning system, so councils decide where development should go. There is enough brownfield land to deliver up to 200,000 new homes, and councils should be using their powers and the support that’s available from the government to prioritise development on these sites, and defend our valuable countryside against urban sprawl.”

I’m not sure this will be the case in areas like Peterborough where it makes commercial sense for the HCA to sell its land holdings to developers and where council leaders would like their egos massaged by pushing through development in areas long-coveted by the self-serving and the greedy.

Selznick and Scorcese: The Invention of Hugo Cabret in 3D shoots in Castor

Nene Valley Railway - Castor
Image via Wikipedia

Driving home last night a bright light suspended in the sky caught my attention. From the top of Love’s Hill it looked like a UFO hovering over Normangate field. Further investigation revealed that it was a large flood light illuminating a section of the Nene Valley Railway at the bottom of Station Road.  The railway and the trees and brush either side of the track were thrown into stark relief against the moonlit night.

Villagers out and about over the past few days have  spotted a film crew in the area. It turns out that they were setting up to film parts of Martin Scorcese’s new 3D adaptation of Brian Selznick‘s Hugo Cabret. That’s what the flood lights were for.

Rumours that Jude Law is in area have been rife.  Sorry to disappoint. According to a spokesman at Nene Valley Railway, the crew was only filming technical shots of moving locomotives and rolling stock for the movie. None of the film’s stars were involved in the shoot, he said. Two wagons from the railway have also been taken down to Shepperton Studios where they have been used in filming on set.

The movie should be something to look forward to. The screenplay is by John Logan – who wrote screenplays for films including Gladiator (2000), Sweeny Todd (2007), The Last Samurai (2003), Any Given Sunday (1999) and The Aviator (2004) and is producing the screenplay for Bond 23. It is adapted from the children’s story The Invention of Hugo Cabret by author and illustrator Brian Selznick. Directed by Martin Scorcese the film has a stellar English cast including Jude Law, Emily Mortimer, Ben Kingsley, Christopher Lee, Ray Winstone, Richard Griffiths and Sacha Baron-Cohen. It is due for release in December and with a production team and cast like that on board it can only be a hit. Surely.

Anyway, it’s just another moment of stardom on the silver screen for Castor. See the post Pierce Brosnan Drank in my Local from 26 June 2010.

‘Dogging’ developments

Local government in Peterborough
Image via Wikipedia


Peterborough City Council is digging into its coffers to provide road surface improvements for Splash Lane. According to natural networks project officer James Fisher the Council has received various complaints about the current state of the road surface down there. 

The Council plans to level the surface of the byway and tarmac it from the Woodlands entrance to the Nene Park Trust car park. Apparently, the Nene Park Trust has plans of its own to improve the surface of the car park – possibly tarmacing it, erecting a gate and height barrier and hedgerow management. 

A height barrier will be needed because the suggested improvements will make this an ideal location for travellers, who will not be able to access the Ferry Hill car park once a height barrier and gates are erected there, to pitch-up in their vans and turn it into the usual shit hole, which will cost the City Council even more cash to clean up when they are finally moved on. At least the travellers will keep the doggers away. 

Well known locally as a spot for dogging, a nice new surface on the car park will mean that exhibitionists won’t get their high heels and brothel creepers muddy. And neatly trimmed bushes will give voyeurs a better view. However, the Trust is monitoring the use of the car park and considering its long-term future. There are of course other people who use the car park – ramblers, anglers and so on and their wishes should be considered. 

This is a country by-way. The volume of traffic using it and consequently the number of complaints regarding the state of the road surface must be small. Save on our council tax by filling in the potholes and re-surfacing the lane with crushed stone – the suggested treatment for the lane beyond the car park – and ensure that it retains the character of a country lane not a city centre car park.