Saturday, 20 April 2013

CHICKENS COMING HOME TO ROOST. This strange phrase has always puzzled me. I have kept chickens on and off most of my adult life. Chickens are among the most loveable of birds, yet probably the most foolish. They possess no great beauty, no amazing powers of endurance and no science-defying navigational skills. They are usually breathtakingly stupid, petty, quarrelsome and insanitary. But we love them for their flesh and their eggs. Of course they come home to roost. If not, they will be eaten, nastily and in a bloodthirsty fashion by the fox.
Quite how the humble chicken and its nocturnal habits came to be a metaphor for human misdeeds returning to haunt the perpetrator is lost in the mists of time. Via the miracle of the internet I can tell you that Chaucer said, in The Parson's Tale,

"And ofte tyme swich cursynge wrongfully retorneth agayn to hym that curseth, as a bryd that retorneth agayn to his owene nest." 
(No, that's not a screenshot of your daughter's latest text message, neither is it a quote from Wisbech Immigration Issues Facebook page) In later years, the Ancient Mariner shoots an albatross, as you do, but finds that his deed comes back to haunt him.

"Ah! well a-day! what evil looks

Had I from old and young!

Instead of the cross, the Albatross

About my neck was hung."

"To-day we have naming of parts." Ermm, no, sorry. Today we have my visit to Wisbech Market. Or what is left of it. I drove to Somers Road car park, hoping to find the odd free bay. Instead, I saw a vast expanse of empty tarmac. I could actually have landed my luxurious private jet there, and not come near another vehicle. There was room for my six corporate stretch limousines to park end to end without causing an obstruction. I locked the car, and walked up into town. Thank God there was no wind, because the tumbleweed blowing in from the desert would have bowled me over. The Market Place was a retail Marie Celeste. There was the brave lady selling fruit and veg, the excellent Russell's Meat stall, and the rather random stall selling birdseed and reconstituted artificial dog bones. And Rout's Fish Stall. That oasis of good taste, good sense, good humour and bad gossip. Mrs Finnis had served about six people all day, and was at her wits' end. I bought fish from her, some lovely ham from Franks butchers, and fled to the deserted car park.

BUT THERE IS NOT A PROBLEM. Such accounts as this are regularly discredited. Certain of our elected (well, some of them) representatives claim that I am negative, destructive and "part of the problem". Their joy at the sheer vibrancy of Wisbech's central business district is unconfined; no positive outpouring of praise is too extreme, and no rose is too pink to tint their glasses. They throw out (or should that be 'up'?) exciting visions of late-night bistros, citizen street patrols and arts centres, a vibrant pavement culture - 'The Town That Never Sleeps'. But what do they actually do? They refuse to support the only independent initiative which seeks to question Fenland District Council's inertia over the derelict buildings which continue to blight Wisbech. They ridicule and mock efforts to try to restore our town's infrastructure. When challenged online, they behave like a shabby and sweaty tag-team of wrestlers, leaping in to defend each other when defeat looms. And when one of their number faces an electoral challenge, they stoop to underhand tricks, media manipulation and  a little economy with the verite. A bit obscure? OK. Telling huge porkies.

YOU MAY ARGUE that local politicians are not responsible for the retail malaise which afflicts so many High Streets up and down the country. Say that more powerful economic forces are at play, and that our town is just another victim of a global problem, and I will not argue with you. But tell me that the current crop of County Councillors (with one very notable exception - am I allowed to name Simon King? No? OK then, I won't). have engaged fully in community efforts to revitalise Wisbech, and have cast aside party politics in the best interests of Wisbech residents, and I will call you a fool and a knave. I would not be so presumptuous as to tell you who to vote for, but the last four years of inertia and complacency have taken their toll. IT IS TIME FOR A CHANGE!