Visit to Reading Prison

Artangel have organised an open house of Reading prison with art installations. Although the art is few and far between being able to experience a prison so old that was in use until a few years ago is a rare opportunity to read the graffiti of prisoners and witness the inside of a prison. There were photos of inmates taken in the late nineteenth century when they were women, men and children as young as ten incarcerated together. I would have enjoyed a sign pointing out Oscar Wilde’s cell but the large number of visitors show the popularity of such a unique experience.

Travellers on Lytham Road car park

There are currently travellers in the car park on Lytham Road in Woodley. The car park is owned by Wokingham Borough Council and they have applied to Reading Crown Court for a court order for their removal. They are waiting on a court date and I have heard it may take two weeks for the Council and police to be able to move them on. Some residents have recommended height barriers as a possible deterrent. This was tried at a car park in Wokingham and unfortunately it was broken down by travellers when they wanted to move onto the site. There have been a number of incidents of travellers on sites in Woodley recently and any considerations to prevent this are taken on board.

My visit to Amsterdam

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I loved visiting Amsterdam. The people were friendly, everywhere felt very safe, clean and well-run. I was surprised by the number of British and American voices I heard everywhere too. When walking through the Vondelpark I thought I was in St James’ Park by the number of young people sitting in groups with English accents.

It is true the cycling network is one of the most advanced in the world. I did nearly get run over a number of times but it did strike me the sheer number of people on bikes. Most did not wear helmets, wore normal clothes and a lot had children with them. This was v different to the Lycra clad people with helmets and all the necessary equipment I’m used to seeing around Wokingham and London. Cyclists skipped red lights, took priority over pedestrians and largely had a relaxed yet very fast culture. I did feel very uneasy on the streets wherever I went in case a cyclist was going to hit me. The main problem with this in Amsterdam is that the pavements for pedestrians and cyclists are at the same level and colour. Along the canals the pavements are very narrow and often single file so you often have to step into the road and continually check if a bike is coming. I’m in a mixed mind about it. It would be great to decrease cars on roads and encourage cyclists but it does seem to add increased anxiety for pedestrians and cars.It’s not quite the cycling utopia the city is made out to be, apart from for the cyclists themselves. I’m sure London could learn a few lessons taking into account some improved tweaks.

The 4-5 story buildings impressed me too. They were beautiful. I did wonder why on Earth London hadn’t developed in the same way. In a time when London land is at a premium why haven’t we built up more? I don’t mean high-rise flats, I mean like the charming 4-5 stories which is the norm for Amsterdam. Walking along Brick Lane in London there were so many 1-2 story pubs and shops it did seem a shame they stopped there.

I’d thoroughly recommend a trip to the city.

The Waterside

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For those of you interested in the progress on The Thatchers, now to be called The Waterside, on Fairwater Drive their FB page gives good progress on the refurbishment: https://www.facebook.com/watersidewoodley/?fref=ts. It’s set to open around 17th November and I’m really looking forward to it opening its doors again!

Children in Care Celebration

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Last night I attended Wokingham Borough’s children in care and care leavers celebration event. It was fantastic to meet so many of the young people, their foster parents and the council staff who do such a brilliant job. There was food, entertainment, activities and prize giving. We councillors handed out prizes to the young people and I particularly enjoyed a chat with an independent visitor and a staff member who places them with children. An independent visitor is someone who acts like an aunt or uncle and meets up with a child in care at least once a month, taking them out for a coffee or fun activity and being a non-judgemental listening ear. This sounds like such a brilliant initiative and they need more volunteers! Any age, sex or ethnicity is welcome. The council staff were obviously proud and really happy for all the young people and this was lovely to see. They do a fantastic job and I am so glad I was invited to he event. Helene Raynsford, a gold medallist in rowing at the Beijing paralympics did an incredibly inspirational speech and I hope all the young people had a lot of fun.

Planting for the Future

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Today I joined fellow councillors and the local Rotary club to plant 2500 purple crocus bulbs in Woodford Park, Woodley. This will hopefully make the park look lovelier in the Spring but also supports the Rotary club’s End Polio campaign. Apparently Nigeria, Afghanistan and Pakistan still have cases of polio and I would love for the disease to be eradicated in my lifetime. Much progress has been made since the late 1980s and the purple crocuses planted all over the world by Rotary members and supporters is meant to encourage discussion of polio. They’re all purple because in developing countries people get a finger marked purple when they have been vaccinated. I also got to hear about all the brilliant things the local Rotary club does with charity fundraising and socialising. A fantastic organisation ding great things locally.