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FRANK SOBEY: Time to bring on the clowns…

By Herald Express  |  Posted: September 06, 2012

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I HAD wanted to sleep on one morning last week, because the past week had been very hard going, but at around 5.30am my youngest was banging around sorting his surfing kit before heading off.

There was a good wave at Bantham and he with the local surfing posse was going to ride the early morning Atlantic swell.

The trouble for me these days is that once I am awake my mind starts to churn, which means finding sleep again is next to impossible.

Oh, I know most of the meditation methods for clearing the mind, but you have to want to clear your mind in the first place. So it's up and out of the pit for a little early morning dog walking.

Oldway Mansion is near my house, and I love the gardens and the house for that matter.

There is a little temptation to have a rant about what is happening there, but this is not the time or the place just now and, in any case, the decision has been made.

Ah yes, the decision. We'll come back to that political hot potato in a while.

The weather this summer has been pathetic, but that morning the sky over the sea was a cobalt blue and the sunrise breathtakingly beautiful. As I write I can still feel the tingle!

Behind me huge black clouds were massing over the hills surrounding Torbay and it seemed to me that the moment was almost metaphorical.

The precise moment in that quiet place somehow mirrored the social landscape in these troubled times and reminded me how often we lose sight of the good things because of the billowing bleak cloud of economic unrest.

This brings me neatly to our own South Devon social landscape and something which has troubled me for years.

There is, in my opinion, no place for party politics in a local council and yet it has become increasingly entangled in the tattered political tapestry. Of course, we all tend to be somewhat gregarious by nature and therefore being part of the gang is curiously attractive.

It therefore, by its very existence, makes it almost impossible to seek election as an independent because you simply don't have the electoral machinery to fight against hardened political foot soldiers.

Yet you will find the occasional independent councillor who has sufficient charisma to attract a following but all too often 'independents' are really hiding under the wing of a political party.

I'm not going to state the obvious here, but I am sure that many readers will have a wry smile at this point.

Sadly, once you have been locally branded with a political stamp there is a belligerent unwillingness by the 'gang' to listen to those not in the flock, and that is almost sinful because the voice of the community is marginalised.

Good people become excluded from the decision making process and in consequence we end up with too often a dog's dinner of an outcome. Just look around and pick out a few examples.

For those of you who have got this far I have something that I want to share. You will have become very aware, if you read the Herald Express, of the move to reduce parking charges and encourage folk to return to our beleaguered town centres.

To be quite honest this is a reaction to something that shouldn't have happened in the first place, which now has me jumping up and down with frustration.

Do look back and find my 'ranting' when the whole parking meter/car parking issue raised its ugly head.

You see it's not just about town centre parking charges it is about the whole community process, especially when it comes to planning and the proliferation of giant supermarkets sucking the life blood out of communities. Get hold of a copy of Robert Greenwald's DVD called Walmart and hang on to your seat.

So banging on about parking charges now is only part of the problem since the proverbial horse has already bolted.

You see there has to be something other than empty shops and the tattered remnants of a high street to pull people back to town.

I must admit when Gerry Cottle's Big Top Circus suddenly appeared on Paignton Green it seemed to me part of an answer since people came from miles around to see the clowns, which given what I've written is tempting the obvious political parallel.

The giant Riviera Wheel in Torquay is another honeypot and so whatever our political masters decide on parking policy there has to be something more.

Anyway, I'm still tingling from that sunrise and perhaps the tingle factor is what we all need just now.

Keep the smile!

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