Thursday, 27 February 2020

Why I support a Town Council for Bexhill (Be careful what you wish for)


You may be wondering why, a Town Council supporter such as myself, has chosen to use the phrase ‘Be careful what you wish for' as part of the title for my latest blog. This phrase has been quoted more than once by the anti-town council, Conservative  ex leader of the RDC and more recently in the anonymously authored centre page spread of ‘The Bexhill Voice’ booklet.     
The reason for my choice of phrase is simple…it is good advice. When it comes to changing the way our lovely town is governed, we need to reflect very carefully on whether Bexhill would really benefit. 
 


Let’s have a quick look at the history…..
In 1902 King Edward VII awarded Bexhill a royal charter to become Bexhill Borough Council, but, for some reason, the council was lost in 1974. Bexhill, Battle and Rye were merged along with the 29 parish councils to become the mostly rural Rother District Council. Rye kept its own town council, Battle kept its own council, but Bexhill was simply subsumed into Rother and lost its individual voice. The result was that the majority of councillors elected to Rother (whatever their politics) did not represent Bexhill wards.
In 2017, following a massive campaign by a group called Democracy 4 Bexhill, a petition forced the then Rother Council to hold a consultation about creating a town council for Bexhill. Bearing in mind that most local consultations attract at most a few hundred replies, the response was massive. Over 9000 residents participated, and 93% of respondents expressed their desire for a Town Council for Bexhill. In a stunning act of ignoring residents’ views, the then ruling Conservative group on Rother Council ignored the people and rejected the result. Unsurprisingly, the residents of Bexhill felt disenfranchised. This decision lost the Conservatives their council majority in the next local election.  
So we now have a different council with sufficient Councillors who listen to the residents and can initiate a change of governance for Bexhill. We are being given a second chance... a second consultation, a final opportunity to give us democratic parity with Battle and Rye. Bexhill could soon have a greater say in its own future.
But beware, the anti-town council group are still active and protesting loudly. They will try to scaremonger residents into rejecting change. Do not allow yourselves to be frightened into saying 'no'. Be careful what you wish for. If we don’t achieve a town council this time, another consultation is unlikely to happen again soon. In four years’ time we could find ourselves back in the bad old days when the council ruled, but didn’t listen. If we select 'no' to a Town Council for Bexhill, then we will continue to find ourselves in the hands of some Councillors who do not fully understand our town’s needs, because they were elected to represent one or more of the many out lying villages in Rother….delightful, but not Bexhill.  



I find it difficult to understand the reasoning of those in the current local Tory group, who seem to be so against a town council for Bexhill, especially as the national Tory party is in favour of localism. I can’t help but wonder why someone elected to Brede or, say Sedlescombe, would want involvement in every last decision about the development of Bexhill. It seems to be connected to power and budgets, but it still feels slightly mysterious.
So let’s look at one of the worries which continue to be inflated by the no campaign, which is of course the cost.
We don’t know yet for what a Town Council would ultimately be responsible, but we do know that if they get ‘above’ themselves and put up our tax to an unaffordable rate or do not visibly and significantly enhance our town and deliver much needed extra services, we will vote them out. They will soon be replaced. And our initial votes are likely to be cast in favour of candidates who state that keeping costs down are a priority. These councillors will be local people who we will meet in town regularly. There will be no hiding away. We really can hold them to account.
The illustrative initial costs in the RDC leaflet are given as aprox £22-00 per year for a band D property. According to my research, this will reduce to £17-11 for band B and £14-67 for a band A, If you are entitled to further reductions then this will drop further, so a band A council tax payer could be paying as little extra as £2.93 per annum. Some Councillors are saying with careful budgeting, it could be even lower. And with the prospect of potential initiatives such as more trees and planted areas in our streets, better seating, toilets and communal family areas, community fridges, greater access to grants and investment and increased tourism bringing more employment and prosperity to the whole of Bexhill, the advantages are obvious. By demonstrating a listening approach, Bexhill-centred enthusiasm and a good dollop of creativity and vision, a Town Council could transform all areas of our town.

The latest consultation is a ‘last chance’ lifeline for Bexhill. Please don’t ignore this vital and historic opportunity. Be careful what you wish for. I urge you to say yes to a Town Council for Bexhill.  

This blog post is the personal view of Bexhill resident, Claire Baldry. It is not linked to any political party or campaign group.   


Monday, 21 October 2019

BFOR: Newsletter Five A New Beginning



Books For Older Readers: Newsletter Five
A New Beginning

Because we never stop reading.........

Breaking News

Here is the last BFOR newsletter which you will receive. This is not however sad news. The BFOR website is reinventing itself. We are giving ourselves a new name and magazine-style image, and have called ourselves ‘Autumn Chickens’. This is the link www.autumnchickens.com

The eight book shelves will all be migrated to the new site, and new features and articles will be added, .The ‘not for profit’ ethos of the site will continue, and our target audience is still forward thinking people (with an emphasis on books) in mid-life and beyond.  
The BFOR website has now had well over 30,000 hits. We hope the new site will do even better.

So what’s been happening on the BFOR site?

The BFOR website will stay live until March 2021 which will allow sufficient time to move all the pages to the new website. If you haven’t already seen it, have a look at the wonderful month long BLOGBLITZ posts which took place in August and provided much of the inspiration for the new website.

What Next?
We don’t want to lose our subscribers, but data laws prevent us from moving your subscription to the site without your permission. It just requires you to insert your email on the new form. We hope you will do this. And as a thank you, we will enter you into a prize draw with a chance of winning Jessica Norrie’s fabulous new book ‘The Magic Carpet’. Here is the link 


 We would like to thank all our followers and subscribers for their continued support.







Friday, 30 August 2019

BFOR:The Future


During the past few weeks the BFOR group has been running a Blog Blitz, with group members writing about issues concerning readers in mid-life and beyond. There have been 26 posts, including reviews, interviews, excerpts and articles. We even had our own cartoon. All the posts were brilliant. If you missed any of contributions, you will find the links here. The Blog Blitz was great fun to run, and I sincerely thank all contributors for their originality and professionalism. We have certainly raised the profile of the group, and I felt we achieved a renewed sense of purpose and community.

So what happens next?
I do actually have some news for everyone...

The software which I use for the BFOR website is very outdated, and will expire next year, so change is necessary. I have, for some time, been reflecting on the direction the website should take and have learned a lot more about the group and its members from reading the Blog Blitz contributions.

I have decided to integrate the BFOR book shelves into a new magazine style website with an updated modern look and the addition of relevant articles to the home page which will hopefully draw traffic to the site. The service will still be free. The title of the site will change, (top secret as yet) but the BFOR name will remain as part of the site menu, so direct links to the book shelves can still be posted by authors. I will also be asking for occasional articles from BFOR writer members, where they can, of course, include references to their books. I may also ask for permission to re-use some of the Blog Blitz posts.
I have started creating the new site, and would love to share my efforts so far with you, but am determined to wait until it is nearer completion. It won't be long now.  The old BFOR site will not disappear until I have contacted all the authors for permission to migrate the books shelves to the new site. Books on the current 'waiting list' will be put straight onto the new website.

If you would like to be part of this exciting initiative then please make sure you regularly visit our facebook group and follow our @older_readers twitter page. This is where more news will first be posted.


Claire Baldry is the creator of the website www.booksforolderreaders.co.uk and author of second chance love stories 'My Daughter's Wedding' and 'Different Genes'





Thursday, 15 August 2019

BFOR Blogblitz: Excerpt from 'My Daughter's Wedding'


As part of our BFOR Blogblitz I am delighted to share a short excerpt from my recently published novel 'My Daughter's Wedding'.
Here is an introduction to the book...

When ‘bride to be’ and single parent, Charlotte, discovers that her 61-year-old widowed mother is in a new relationship, she struggles to come to terms with it. “Why do you need to have a man, at your age?” Charlotte asks, “Can’t you just be a grandma?”
The growing tension between mother and daughter combined with preparations for the wedding impact on both family and friends. In this compelling and unashamedly romantic tale of finding love in later life, the experience of a young care-leaver who is tasked with making the wedding bouquet, is skilfully intertwined with the family’s – sometimes turbulent– preparations for a modern wedding.


It's always difficult to choose an excerpt from a book, without giving away too much of the plot, but I hope these next three paragraphs give a flavour of how the story focuses on the role of the older characters in the run up to a modern wedding. This is the part of the novel where family tensions begin to put the wedding at risk.
Angie is the mother of the bride, and Martin her new 'man'. Single parent, Charlotte, now the bride to be, is very unhappy that her mother is in a new relationship, not helped by the fact that her six-year old son, Joe, has grown very fond of his grandma's new boyfriend. The family are discussing who to invite to the wedding.

Charlotte changed the subject. “This is my invitation list, Mum. Have I missed anyone out?” She passed the handwritten paper to Angie, and Angie ran her eyes over the list. 
“What does it mean if someone is underlined?”
“They’re the people who will only be invited for the evening.”
Angie looked directly at her daughter. “I think you’ve underlined Martin’s name by mistake.”
“No, Mum, it’s not a mistake. I thought, as he’s not really family, it would be better if he just came in the evening, out of respect for Dad.” Martin was standing in the kitchen doorway, listening.
“And did you not consider my feelings, and Martin’s?” Angie’s face was growing red.
“I warned you not to do this, Charlotte,” interrupted Ollie. “You have to accept that people move on.”
“But I don’t want him at my wedding, taking Mum’s attention and pretending to be family. Joe’s even calling him ‘Grandpa’ now.” Charlotte was on a roll. “I can’t bear to think of him sleeping with Mum. It’s disgusting. Two old people having sex. If that man is at the wedding it will ruin my day,” Charlotte continued. Unable to stop herself, she addressed Martin. “You don’t mind, do you? After all, you haven’t known Mum long. It’s my wedding day, and you wouldn’t want to ignore my feelings.”

Martin picked up his car keys and walked towards Charlotte. “You have made your feelings very clear, Charlotte. Joe’s in the kitchen with a drink. Someone needs to keep an eye on him.”
Martin walked out of the flat, and slammed the door. 

No one moved or spoke until Angie finally stepped into the kitchen and sat with Joe. She heard Ollie raise his voice. “You’ve gone too far, this time, Charlotte. You’ve always been self-centred, but this wedding has turned you into a megalomaniac.” He walked into the kitchen and spoke gruffly to Joe, “Come on, Joe, we’re going, and leave that bloody stick behind!” Ollie grabbed Charlotte’s hand and pulled her out of the flat with Joe following.

To find out what happens next, you can order the printed book from most good bookshops including Amazon or download the ebook here for £2-48.  

As the person who set up BFOR, I do hope everyone is enjoying the variety of posts in our month long Blog Blitz which looks at various books and themes which might particularly appeal to readers in midlife and beyond. You will find the BFOR website here, and this is the link to our facebook group.

Wednesday, 14 August 2019

Before BFOR


As part of the month long Blog Blitz for the BFOR group, I am delighted to host this guest post from BFOR member, Beatrice Fishback.  It's great to hear her tell us how much at home she feels in our community of readers, writers and bloggers. Beatrice is originally from New York, but lived in the East Anglia area of the UK for over twenty years. She has travelled extensively in the United Kingdom and throughout Europe. She is the author of a wide variety of books including the Bethel Manor series, Dying to Eat at the Pub, and Loving Your Military Man by FamilyLife Publishing, plus four novellas. She and her husband have spoken to audiences worldwide and currently reside in North Carolina. Here is what she has to say about BFOR.



"Before BFOR (Books for Older Readers), I was a lonely swimmer in the massive sea of Facebook. Every time I opened the social site I was overwhelmed by the choices. So I would read posts from family members, stalked others I might have known from a lifetime ago, or scrolled through a billion ads to see if I needed to buy something—anything. Such a waste of time. Time when I could have written the next best seller or at least completed a chapter. I was in a quandary about which person, group or crowd to jump off the FB diving board and follow.

It seemed the best way to find a place was to look for like-minded writers. A cosy mystery group? Or historic romance supporters? There were some that offered tips on grammar and others that were made up of authors trying to sell their books. Each of these were fine. But none of them fit the bill.

To me, deciding what Facebook or Instagram or any other social site to hop on, was like choosing a friend. Someone who was interested and interesting.

But what was it about me that was unique, and who would really care? As a woman who didn’t start her writing endeavours until reaching my late fifties, I was that fish in the pond of uncertainties. It was like going to school for the first time as a teenager, trying to act cool and feeling the heat of anxiety. There were a few other things that were different about me, not just my age. Although I’m from New York originally, I spent twenty-years in England and my head and heart are split between the two. Would I find a group who would understand this idiosyncrasy? I also enjoy writing different genres. I have authored a variety of cosies, a historic romance series and was a hybrid author—having been traditionally and self-published.

Imagine my surprise when I came across BFOR. And to tell you the truth, I’m not even sure how it happened. What I will say is, finding a group that checks every box was kin to coming up for air in the deep end and finding the shore is only a few feet away. I’ve discovered how important it is to find the right fit with our Facebook group. Like finally meeting that best friend in school.

How about you? What have you done to find the right place on your social site? Or have you? Does BFOR sound appealing? Check it out. It’s only a swim-stroke away."

Below are links to where you can find out more about Beatrice and her writing. 



Sunday, 4 August 2019

BFOR BLOG BLITZ: How it all Began





This is me, Claire Baldry. I’m a retired headteacher and English advisor. I've published five small poetry books, one novella and two novels. I set up the BFOR facebook group and website in October 2017.


The trigger was a chance remark I made on a wonderful facebook group called ‘Book Connectors’. I can’t remember the exact wording, but I mentioned how publishers and agents seemed to place little importance on books with older characters or themes. The resulting discussion was long and passionate, and the response was massive. A very large number of writers and readers expressed their concern that they felt that later-life issues were not considered of value in the publishing world. So I set up a facebook group to focus on this issue and then a website where we could showcase books which fitted with the themes which we were beginning to develop. Here are the links:
Almost two years later, the facebook group is still growing, and we now get more than a thousand hits on the website every month.  

It hasn’t all been plain sailing. Despite acceptance of ‘chick-lit’ and YA in fiction in the publishing world, a proportion of readers and writers accused me, sometimes even abused me, for daring to suggest that some themes tended to appeal more to an older audience. Not wishing to appear ageist or in some way belittling the interests of readers, I grappled with the vocabulary. I couldn’t help but feel that we were victims of a Western Society which can be very negative about ageing. We often hide the idea of growing older in euphemisms such as ‘senior citizen’ or 'third age'. As a newly established group, we discussed this issue in depth.  We eventually moved away from defining a specific age group and settled for the idea of a variety of themes which tend to appeal to readers in mid-life and beyond. We didn’t want to tell people what to read, but rather to promote a wider choice. The website developed into pages of online bookshelves crammed full of books which fitted our themes. Wishing to promote the positive aspects of ageing, we kept the word ‘older’, decided to use it proudly, but added the strapline ‘Because we never stop Reading’.

We began to broaden our activities. We now send out occasional newsletters, organise giveaways, and have run a stall at a local Litfest’.


Many of our members continue to blog passionately about the cause and have taken up invitations to take part in interviews about BFOR including a great ALLII podcast. One of the highlights for me was my inclusion last year in an interview about books with older protagonists on BBC Radio London.
A large number of  authors now want their books to be included on the site, and the website is now so popular that I regularly have to close submissions in order to catch up. I am particularly proud of our ‘Book Club’ page where readers can download free book-club questions written by the authors. It also includes some group discounts for book clubs.

Do we have a future goal? Not a clearly defined one, though we are undoubtedly making progress. Other websites, bloggers and occasional publishers are starting to take an interest. It would be good to see more bookshops and online sellers taking note and beginning to signpost readers to books which might specifically appeal to readers in mid-life or beyond. It would be even better if more agents and publishers recognised the value of an older generation of readers who want to be taken seriously and spend their time and money on books with themes which appeal to them.  

What we have achieved already is an amazing community of readers, writers and bloggers (mostly aged over 40) with a common interest.  I feel proud and honoured to be a part of it. This month long Blog Blitz, which starts today is evidence of how far we have come. Please drop in and read the posts. I feel sure you won’t be disappointed.     
           
Likely themes within the books are second chances, late life career changes, adjusting to retirement, bereavement, love in later life, divorce, relationships with adult offspring and ageing parents, and stories with older characters whose age is in some way central to the plot. At least some of the content is likely to reflect the perspective of the more mature characters, albeit sometimes in a very subtle way.

Friday, 2 August 2019

The Lady Who Steals Sandwiches

We have almost reached the half-way point of the small blog tour for 'My Daughter’s Wedding'. So firstly can I send an enormous thank you to everyone who has, or will, make a contribution this week or soon after.
One of the things I really like about blog tours is that they are very flexible and still developing. There are no real rules. A blog tour can be any length, any frequency, include experienced or first-time book bloggers (they are all wonderful). So, as the organiser of my own little blog tour, I have dared to include a contribution from myself. I hope that someone out there finds it interesting.
I want to share a few thoughts about one particular aspect of the story-line in my latest book, namely the lady who steals sandwiches…….


Where did the idea come from?   
I belong to a small social group in my home town of Bexhill on Sea. We organise loads of different activities, but most Friday mornings we meet for a chat at a little cafĂ© on the seafront. Almost three years ago, I was sitting at one of these meet-ups, and, for some reason, we found ourselves sharing anecdotes about funerals. Someone in the group (I wish I could remember who) told me a true story about a lady in Bexhill who used to gate-crash funerals and sneak off  afterwards with a bag full of sandwiches. I was still editing  my first novel ‘Different Genes’ at the time, but I remember thinking that I would like to include this character in my next novel. I wondered who the lady was and why she chose to steal food on such occasions. Was her behaviour a compulsion? Was she hungry maybe? How old was she? What did she look like? And by the time I was editing the second novel ‘My Daughter’s Wedding’, this person had taken up a third of the book. Not wishing to give the story away, I can’t tell you much about her, but I can say that she was responsible for the three part structure of the book. It was the 'sandwich lady who allowed me to use the knowledge of children in care and social services which I had gained in my career as a primary headteacher.
Is this lady a credible character? Readers will have to decide for themselves, but I do believe that her words “It's being brought up in care. You're considered to be a responsibility, rather than a person” reflect many of the experiences of  the ‘looked after' children who I met over the years.

If you want to find out more, the novel is an easy read story of love in later life called 'My Daughter's Wedding', and the lady who steals sandwiches finds herself caught up in the plot.

Thank you to everyone who has taken an interest in my latest book. If you do decide to read it, I hope you will find yourselves wanting to turn the pages.  This is the link