Action on Blake’s cottage at last!

Yesterday I had a welcome message from a reporter who is currently writing an article on Blake’s Cottage for the Sunday Times. He told me that English Heritage will be coming down to Felpham to take a look at Blake’s Cottage next month and will presumably meet one or all three of the triumvirate at the same time. When I contacted English Heritage some weeks ago and discovered that the cottage was not on their Historical Buildings at risk register and that they hadn’t had any communication about it from the Blake Cottage Trust, my heart sank. But now – hooray -English Heritage have contacted the BCT themselves and things are moving and the plea in our Product Recall poster is finally being answered.

Now is obviously the time for me to gather up all the signed petition forms from Felpham cafes, pubs and shops and put them together with the signatures I’ve collected online and present the whole thing at the same time to whoever it is turns up to meet with the representatives from English Heritage.

I’ve been in a care home, being looked after for the last fortnight, but I shall be back home and in action on Friday.

If you haven’t signed the petition yet and would like to, could you please either hunt a copy down in Felpham or sign on the internet, the more voices that are raised now, the better.

http://you.38degrees.org.uk/petitions/save-blake-s-cottage

I will keep you up to date, as and when I hear more. Bring us our bows of burning gold.

This entry was posted on November 30, 2016. 4 Comments

Room for improvement

I think I might have left myself some room for improvement! Just over two weeks ago I had a slight argument with the pavement and as is the way on these occasions, the pavement won. I was left with a fractured wrist and an injured hand, which is making my life a trifle complicated at the moment. But I have to say I’ve learnt a lot from the experience and the things I’ve learnt have all been positive and kind.

I’d no sooner hit the pavement then I was surrounded by young people all offering their help. A couple of them had just come back from a holiday in Bournemouth and were off to have a cup of coffee in the local cafe when they saw me fall. Within seconds they had wrapped me up in their coats, because I was shivering, even though it must have left them very cold as there was a sharp wind blowing and, after a while, another lovely girl arrived with a cushion for me to put my head on and a blanket to wrap round the pile of coats and an older man had already rung for an ambulance and was checking how I was to report back to them. They were a circle of kindness. I only wish I’d had my mobile in my hands and could have taken a photograph of them. But I do know who they are because we got talking when we were waiting for the ambulance to arrive and I discovered to my absolute delight that the young man had been taught by my son in the local comprehensive and had been very fond of him, and there was also a young woman on her own who sent me an email the next day to find out how I was. So even though the fall was, shall we say a bit painful, it had made me new friends.

When I got back from the hospital, where I was kindly and professionally treated, it didn’t take me long to discover that life was altogether too painful at home. You’d never believe how difficult it is to fill a kettle or take off a jersey when you’ve only got three fingers that work adequately. The kettle weighs at least a hundredweight and the jersey kept getting stuck on plasters and splints, and rapidly became something of a comedy turn as you can imagine. I’m glad that wasn’t photographed. Although there were times when I was rivalling Charlie Chaplin for contortions and odd dances.

Now, having seen a bit of sense, I have gone to a local care home which is absolutely excellent, as well as being easy on the eye as you can see.

And I’ve made a lot more friends and found a lot of people to admire. The staff are splendid, every bit as kind as the strangers who cared for me in the street and the hospital. They always manage to be there when I need them most and they’re always smiling, which makes a lot of difference to somebody feeling incapacitated. And, this being a small world, one of them turned out to be an ex pupil of mine and another an ex pupil of my sons, which is oddly but splendidly comforting.

But it isn’t just the staff. There are lots of characters to admire in this place, a man called John who can’t hear at all but comes around the restaurant at the end of the evening meal and smiles at us all and says goodnight, my three companions at the dining table who have a lot to contend with and are patient and kind. Maybe it’s because we’re all in the same boat but there’s a lot of sympathy and understanding among the people here. In all sorts of ways we try to help one another. They’re very good examples to the rest of us.

Hooray for the human spirit in adversity!

 

This entry was posted on November 24, 2016. 9 Comments

Now I can show you what the cottage is like.

It’s taken a very long time and a lot of badgering to get this picture to put on my blog. It was taken by Roger Crocombe who is now the chairman of the Bognor Camera Club and has been commissioned’ (although not, please note, paid) by the triumvirate of the Blake Cottage Trust, to take pictures of the inside of the cottage to show the progress of its ‘regeneration’ .

This is the latest photograph of it’s regeneration. I think they’ve got the wrong word. The one you need gentlemen is de-generation.

When the BCT reported the commissioning of a photographer on their website, I got in touch with Mr Crocombe and asked if I could see the photographs. He allowed it, even coming round to my house to show them to me. But when I asked him if I could have copies of them to put up on this blog he recoiled in horror and said he couldn’t do it because Mr Johns (one of the triumvirate) had instructed him to pass all requests for photographs over to him. Later, when I had arranged this Saturday’s meeting in the memorial hall in Felpham and booked the hall and ordered up a set of posters, I asked Mr Crocombe again and again I was refused. Someone with a suspicious mind might well conclude from this that Mr Crocombe and the triumvirate do not want these pictures to be seen.

And now bless me, Tim Heath the chairman of the BCT has actually put a photograph up on the BCT website, so it is in the public domain and here it is and you can all see it. Incidentally, the one thing he didn’t confess to on these two latest blogs is the fact that the Blake Cottage Trust DO NOT HAVE ANY MONEY. Their finances haven’t grown in any way since they bought the cottage and were left with a mere £1,462 in the bank.

I daresay a lot of you reading this will be alarmed and appalled by that picture. If you are will you pass news of this blog on to as many friends as you can, and, if you live in the Felpham area, will you join me at the meeting.

 

 

Necessary facts and figures from a growling dog.

Good morning to all my followers. It’s that dreadful old political dog again and this time with facts and figures, all of them in the public domain, either on blog sites or in the local and national press or in a public
statement of accounts, so that you can check them all. (Incidentally, where you discover that articles in the local newspaper have been blocked, just get in touch with me. I have copies of the originals.) I’ve been asked for evidence to support what I said in my last blog, and quite right too. You need to know I’m not making it all up. So here goes.

1) For a start it must be established so that all of you know it that the Blake Cottage Trust does not own the cottage. It holds it in trust for the nation.

Blake Society website –

http://www.blakesociety.org/blakecottage

We are delighted to announce that on 21 September 2015, the sale of Blake’s Cottage was completed and the building was transferred into trust to be held for the nation in perpetuity.

The Guardian –

https://www.theguardian.com/culture/2015/sep/23/campaigners-buy-william-blakes-cottage-and-his-vegetable-patch

Blake’s house in Felpham, where he lived between 1800 and 1803 and penned the words to the hymn Jerusalem, has been bought for public use by the Blake Society.

2) The BCT has no money for repairs. Mr Johns admitted this to me on Monday 17th October. It is borne out by the current statement of accounts published by the charities commission. You will notice that after paying for the cottage the BCT had £1,462 in the bank.

The Blake Cottage Trust admitted it too:

http://www.blakecottage.org/wp-content/uploads/2016/09/Blake-Cottage-Trust-Report-and-Accounts-signed-2015.pdf

With considerable assistance from the Blake Society the trust succeeded in raising £479,419 which together with a loan of £19,250 was enough to purchase Blake’s Cottage and put it into trust for the nation. At the year end the Trust had cash in hand of £1,462. Fund raising activities are continuing in earnest to fund the restoration of the cottage, and to create a visitor/research/educational centre on the site.

There should be and was a report of this year’s accounts but they seem to have disappeared. Tim Heath’s brothers would certainly have seen it and might well have taken a copy. I will ask them.

3) Since the cottage was bought, there have been several reports in the local press about funds being sought and hoped for, this one in the Chichester Observer was blocked out almost immediately after I took a copy of it this morning. Well, well! But do notice, all of this was in June and nothing has been done since.

Friday 17th June 2016 – Chichester Observer – http://www.chichester.co.uk/news/500k-plan-for-felpham-s-blake-s-cottage-1-7436133

Blake’s Cottage in Felpham is to be fully restored after a £500,000 investment was pledged this week.

Mr Johns said the trust hoped to have permission to carry out urgent repair work to the roof within days.

4) From time to time, the BCT website has got excited about their plans, but you will notice that they are no longer talking about holding the property in trust for the nation but about only allowing the public in on open days.

Blake Cottage Trust website-

The public will have 3 forms of access:  Firstly, People can visit the Cottage on open days. Secondly, invited guests can stay and sleep in the Cottage over a short weekend or a longer week.  And thirdly, they can elect to become Friends of the Cottage and thereby receive the gifts that will be made by the resident artists (writers, musicians, painters, printmakers, &c) who will find refuge or respite in the Cottage.

The new building will be multifunctional, having a secure space for small but important exhibitions, space for conferences, alternate space for a second residence, as well as office and administrative space.

http://www.blakecottage.org

I panned all these plans calling them ‘pie in the sky’ in article published by the Bognor Observer. But guess what! That’s been blacked out on the internet too. It makes this old dog smell a rat. Hence this poster cum ad. I hope it will appear in the local papers. I have already been told what it will cost but the local observer warned me that ‘we cant print situations that are libellous –  also we wont be able to print words of criticism or claims about the trust.’ Hence this blog.

Please spread the word about my meeting, especially if you live in Felpham and belong to the Felpham Village Preservation Society. The cottage needs your help.

If you haven’t already signed it please sign the petition and bring it to the attention of as many people as you can. I am beginning to feel I am being deliberately silenced. If I really were a dog I would be running about with that rat in my mouth worrying it to death. Take heart our William. We will look after your cottage.

https://you.38degrees.org.uk/petitions/save-blake-s-cottage

Beware of the dog!

This one is for twitter friends, Facebook friends, friends old and new, fans and followers and it’s a dire and dreadful warning. You must beware of me. Take heed. I am, it appears (shock horror) political!

I can hear you laughing. What on earth am I talking about? Well apparently it is a political action to stand up on my rather rickety 85 year old legs and organise a petition to ask that Blake’s – now decaying – cottage should be repaired. People in the village are being told not to join me or to sign my petition because it would be too political to do it. When that was first said to me, I have to say I laughed because it was so ridiculous. Now it is coming at me so often and it feels so deliberate, that I am beginning to think somebody out there wants me to keep quiet and go away. Well I’ve got news for you, whoever you are I’m not going to do either. But even as I write this I remember that one of the Big Blake Project members was required to promise the leader of the Arun District Council not to do or say anything publicly about Blake’s Cottage. And that gives me pause for thought.

So let me say here and now and very clearly that there is nothing in the least bit political about asking for the cottage where Blake lived and worked for three years to be repaired and opened to the public. It is the most historic house left standing in Felpham village and Blake was one of our foremost poets. We owe it to him to keep his cottage standing.

Therefore I’m using this blog to tell you that I am going to hold a meeting in Felpham Memorial Hall on Saturday 12th November at 7pm. Where I hope to show you recent photographs taken inside the cottage. I would like you to see for yourselves what a parlous state the place is in. Entrance to the meeting will be free, and I can guarantee that nobody will pass a begging bowl around. If you live in or near the village and care about Blake and his cottage, especially if you belong to the Felpham Village Conservation Society whose very reason for existence is their avowed aim to

I hope as many of you as possible will join me at the Felpham Memorial Hall and not feel that you have got to beware of this particular old dog.

On a personal note, I have to admit that I find this opposition disquieting as well as unnecessary but I’m taking comfort from a quotation by Winston Churchill. ‘You have enemies?’ he once said. ‘Good. That means you’ve stood up for something sometime in your life.’ 

 

 

This entry was posted on October 25, 2016. 13 Comments

Blake’s Cottage – local action

‘The time has come (to quote the old slogan) for all good men (and women) to come to the aid of the party.’

We now know that the Blake Cottage Trust has no money to repair the cottage. We also know because it’s there on their website, that Tim Heath, who is the key member of the triumvirate and the chairman of the Blake Society, is still dreaming of pulling down half the cottage to erect his magnificent half a million pounds, ‘new multi functional building that will be an architectural jewel in its own right and will draw people to the village of Felpham just to see it.’  

 

He tells us quite a lot about this building on the BCT website

http://www.blakecottage.org on ‘The Cottage’ page.

He also says that he is going to allow ‘the public’ to have ‘three forms of access.’ 

1)  They can visit the cottage on open days.

2) Invited guests can sleep in the cottage over a short weekend or a longer week.

3) They can elect to become Friends of the Cottage and thereby receive the gifts that will be made by resident artists who will find refuge or respite in the Cottage.

He’s forgotten that he does not own the cottage, and never has, but ‘holds it in trust for the benefit of the nation’. 

It seems to me that his present position needs challenging. It is a folly to allow one man to treat this property as if it were his personal fiefdom and to talk about the people who live in our nation, for whom the building is actually held in trust, as if we were all mere plebs in his kingdom, who can be allowed into the cottage when he says so and rewarded with artistic efforts that we probably wouldn’t want in the least. I know if I’m going to buy a book of poetry or a painting I would examine it very closely beforehand and wouldn’t buy it unless it appealed to me strongly. I wouldn’t take rubbish as a gift!

So what now?

I’m going to organise another public meeting for anyone in the village who is concerned about the cottage and wants to see pictures that will show them exactly what state it’s in and hear the very latest on what is planned for it. Posters are being designed, I shall run advertisements in the local press and I’ve already sent out a general invitation to the Felpham Parish Council and the Felpham Village Preservation Society.

Bring me my spear, oh clouds unfold / Bring me my chariot of fire. As our dear Blake said.

 

 

 

 

This entry was posted on October 20, 2016. 7 Comments

The tyranny of the birds

My grand-daughter Charlotte, who is my PA and amanuensis, is a devoted bird watcher as I am, but my word don’t the birds in my garden know it! Beautiful they might be and often very tuneful but they’re a gang of feathered bullies and we live in thrall to their appetites. There is nothing to equal a squabble of starlings who are all convinced they are half starved and insist on another suet cake – now, this minute, or else! We are constantly rushing to the shops instead of getting on with our work on the latest novel, to replenish stocks and the minute they’re hung on the tree they all descend in a shrieking pack to push for the first mouthful. Sometimes they push so hard that they knock one another out of the trees. Nature’s clowns, our starlings.

The blackbirds are far more decorous, except when they’re fighting one another and that can get quite nasty. But they come to the bird table politely and stamp on the lawns to encourage the earthworms to emerge as delicately as if they were dancing. Great favourites of ours the blackbirds.

The goldfinches and blue tits have another technique for making us feel guilty at their deplenished state. They perch delicately on the bird tables, pick at the limited seeds that are all they’ve got left and gaze pathetically through the french windows, like starving orphans. So naturally we have to go rushing off to the shops again.

And then there are the pigeons, hordes and hordes of them. They look baffled when they perch on our slender lilacs and fruit trees in an attempt to get at the feeders because it always ends with them falling out of the trees. Then they’re reduced to lurking underneath the feeders in the vain hope that one of the smaller birds will spill some seed in their direction. Vain because although plenty of seed is spilt, the starlings have it in seconds. 

Our politest and shyest visitor is a green woodpecker who comes far too rarely to stab his long beak into the grass and look at us timidly. He makes no demands on us at all.

And of course there is always the robin, who is a family friend and knows it. All hail to all you ‘blithe spirits’. What would our garden be without you?

 

This entry was posted on October 13, 2016. 2 Comments