I must explain right away, that I believe the scriptural account of the birth of Jesus Christ to be true. The 'glad tidings of great joy' sung of by the angels and witnessed by the shepherds, is one of the most important messages of hope and faith, ever revealed to man.
Yet, I am a retailer. My business is in dealing with gold, diamonds and precious things. At this time of year, my staff and I offer our products to our customers, all who hope to find the most lovely gift they can, to bring to their loved one.
The commercial nature of a retailing business at Christmas, conflicts somewhat with the spiritual nature of the season. I thank God for Christmas. The value of Christmas trading sets the scene for the coming years growth, securing jobs and funding new stock launches and growth in the Spring.
So, if I thank God for Christmas, why should I find some conflict in honouring and obeying the principles of his gospel ? Each year, I struggle to resolve the issue of whether to open my shop on Sundays, (knowing such days are an important trading day for those few Sundays in the run up to Christmas) or whether to remain closed.
I therefore exercise a small element of faith, and stay closed. Integrity must outweigh profit. Each year, I face up to the few customers who come to visit my shop on Sunday, and are upset to find me closed.....and tell me so.
One of my favourite childhood phrases (along with "Coming out to play" ?), is the one excitedly exclaimed (normally around 4am on Christmas morning), "He's Been", but the one that offers the most hope for the eternal nature of the worlds people is the phrase "He's Born".
Orchard Shopping Centre the most festive ever.....True !
So, despite the announcements of no festive lighting in the town centre, a councillor drums up support from the community and the phrase " Let there be light, and there was light" is reprised. I haven't decided whether it is a shame the lights are all the rather bland, modern white and virtually none twinkling variety, or whether, well, at least there are lights. One thing is certain , the festive lighting in the Orchard Shopping Centre is fantastic. Full of the traditional reds, green and golds. Tinsel covered swags , illumintions and fab gift wrapped parcels in exciting sizes, hanging from the ceilings. The tree is a work of art covered in coloured lighting and (once again) outshines the communal town tree in the Parade. The tree even attracted a choral group of Carol Singers.
The Orchard Shopping Centre certainly know how to put on an enticing display of festive decoration and with a host of other seasonal activities, it really is the towns number one shopping destination. And being largely undercover, we can happily sing " Let it Snow, Let it Snow, Let it Snow......." . Well, maybe in the New Year.anyway.
WHY NO FESTIVE CHRISTMAS LIGHTS in Taunton
Thereports of Graham Love (Taunton Town Centre Manager) suggesting local traders 'ditched' the renewing of the BID scheme, and therefore losing the funds for Christmas lights are misleading.
The Bid renewal process was not determined by the majority of the 'Yes' or 'No' votes. It allowed a handful of big businesses with higher rateable values to have more sway in the voting process. A handful of big businesses failed to support the scheme (due to the huge levy calculated as a percentage of their higher rateable values), making it an impossible task for the many more local and smaller businesses to accumulate enough 'Yes' votes.
Each vote was converted into 'points' equal to the voters business rateable values. Determining the outcome of all the votes, was then a matter of adding up the combined rateable values of the 'Yes' and 'No' votes. The fewer 'No' votes had a far higher combined rateable value than the many more 'Yes' votes.
The voting highlighted that the majority of traders were in favour of the BID. It is wrong to suggest local traders 'ditched' the BID. The BID was lost because a handful of large national multiple businesses failed to support it. The question to ask and then resolve is: Why did some (especially the larger) businesses abandon BID?
Taunton is no alone, the Exeter BID also failed. Their failure would have enabled a positive Taunton BID to achieve a huge competitive advantage.
Whilst the BID can no longer festively support the Taunton community, (and why should it? Festive lights were always the responsibility of TDBC), it is of far greater concern that our Council seek to follow suit. Is it just about the money?
I shouldn't have to remind the Council that town centre retailers provide a huge collective sum of rates revenues (calculated around 40% of their rents) and receive virtually nothing in return. We even have to pay extra for our bins to be collected. We also employ thousands of staff, collect £millions in VAT and pay £millions in taxes (if we remain profitable).
In return, we are unsupported at a time of year when Taunton could put on a show for its community. In competitive response to other towns nearby, do we really want Taunton to be dull in response to the certainty that Cribbs Causeway will be bright, festive and parking free?
What on earth are the decision makers thinking that really would make Taunton The first choice destination'? The questions have been asked forever, one would think the answers would have been understood by now. Maybe Councillors just don't get it. Maybe the retailers and entrepreneurs have the answers. Trouble is nobody listens to us (or if they do, they don't see the vision, they ignore us or blame a lack of funding).
Let us not say these are uncertain times. One thing that is certain, Orchard Shopping Centre will be vibrant, buoyant and festive the Christmas, even if the town centre is bland, dull and rain swept. It will also have the best tree.
The Taunton community will see (judge and vote) whether any proposed initiatives really do make Taunton a 'First choice destination' or whether those initiatives are simply a low budget offer on a cheap tasteless promotion. I say, if you are going to make an offer, make it a good one.
Taunton Town Centre Company or Deane Councillors say lets give the public free parking for three hours on three Saturdays. I say, lets make everyday in December free parking. They say, No festive lighting. I say lets at least have the same ones as last year. They say lets put a tree in the centre of town. I say Great, but lets have a decent tree not a threadbare one. They say, lets have a street fair for one day. I say let it last the month. They say, lets have five minutes of fireworks. I say, lets have choirs, minstrels, buskers, pipers, dancers, stilt walkers, human statues, nativities, artists, actors, chestnut sellers, rein-deers, hand bell ringers, tableaux, jugglers, town criers, street music, preachers, readings. The list is endless. And not just for one day, but for the whole of December. And competitions, tree decorating, carol writing, shop window displays, house illuminations.
And can you imagine every sales assistant in Taunton being dressed in Dickensian costume? Now that would be really festive.
Councillors say, let us punish you if your car parking ticket expires. I say, let me pay for my customers car parking. And if I am prepared to pay my customers for all day parking, then maybe all the retailers in the Orchard Shopping Centre will follow suit.
Councillors say there is a recession and they must tighten their belts. I say recession is self inflicted and tightening our belts is unproductive. Let us free ourselves of silly restraints, loosen our belts, roll up our sleeves and make our businesses the very best we can.
Another thing that is certain, individually we can make a difference and collectively Taunton would be fantastic.
FREE CAR PARKING in Taunton
So, Taunton gets free car parking for just three Saturdays in September from 3pm to 6pm. And the Town Centre Company thinks that is something to shout about and will bring additional trade into town. I hate mediocre freebies. If you want to make a SPLASH make a big one. Free car parking every Saturday........now that might make a difference, but might also make shoppers not shop on Fridays. So, how about free car parking for the whole of December? And if that makes the traders in Taunton rave over having had the best Christmas ever, isn't it worth a trial. Just think how it might speed up the economy. Sometimes it takes something SPECTACULAR and Taunton could be brave enough to start it.
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"If you haven't drowned, don't say you can't swim"
Solar Swimming Pool Heater
A beautiful day and I should have gone swimming, but decided to spend some time working on my pool. With my Ice Mile swim completed, the last thing I need right now is a freezing pool. 30 minute sessions don't cut the mustard when I need to build up to a ten hour swim inside the next ten weeks, to prepare for my English Channel swim "The Undone Way".
Thank You: N Vogel & Sons for sponsoring £300 towards the costs of my English Channel swim 'The Undone Way'
English Channel 'The Undone Way'
Today the new journey starts. The water is still freezing but will slowly climb in the coming weeks. The rate e of climb will largely determine the duration of the training swims . There will be one major difference......The cold....... Yes, the cold is different. No more intense pain and suffering to become hardened too. I could say, that part is already in the bag. But that would understate the case. I accept I no longer hurt as I get into freezing water, my body has acclimatised and the sea is now, nowhere near freezing. The temperature does not cause pain and therefore I am no longer forced to conclude a swim after thirty minutes. This is the new arena.
I am able to stay wet for an hour, and it is not pain but the ever invading creepng cold that brings an end to the increasing duration of each swim. The cold penetrates the pores and dilutes the resolve as it attacks the bones and core. Gradually forcing the resolve to give up or persuade itself there is always a few minures more that can be swam.
The weather too plays a part. The wind blows cold, the sky is overcast and grey, the choppy sea against the tide and wind spoil the easy flow of a gentle stroke. That is why it is called training and not play.
Warming up afterwards needs no defrosting, but still the shivering takes an hour and feeling cold seems permanent. I ry not to get warm quickly, the long term feeling cold is great training too. We ae still in the one hour sessions, and soon the hour building begins.
A few more swims and the hour becomes two, then four and by mid June a ten hour swim beckons. The immersion tmes alone make the training brutal, but I must remember to develop a lazy stroke that has pace . I must train a style that takes a micro rest between strokes. A time where the mind switches off and forgets about the many unswam hours still to swim. A rate of breathing that can maintain a high work load but never puff out. I must prepare for a swim that could take 24 hours and at the very least will take as long as I need it to take, time doesnt count.
Lovely front on the way to Weymouth
A cold and blustery day at Castle Cove
Ice Mile Swim now located under 'Previous Swims' tab
The Ice Mile was a true micro adventure and it feels strange to have relocated the journal of the swim under the 'Previous Swims' tab . However, my next swim is in September and will form the basis of this blog until then. Although, having said that, there are a few swims in between, all of which would otherwise have a journal to themselves.