Air Ambulance, Canals Trust, Farmers’ Markets

One of the challenging aspects of going into politics is the tendency to become obsessed with problems. Almost by definition, the issues that reach the political stratosphere are the nastiest, knottiest ones that have defied resolution elsewhere.

So, for a breath of fresh air, this week I’m going to focus on three good news stories, rays of sunshine piercing the political gloom.

Great Western Air Ambulance Charity

If someone you love was having a heart attack, wouldn’t you want them to get medical attention sooner rather than later? If you’d just been in a car crash, wouldn’t you be grateful to see a helicopter-borne doctor showing up? If you came across someone who had come off their motorbike, wouldn’t you want to know you could get timely help for them?

I was invited to come and meet the Great Western Air Ambulance Charity (GWAAC) team at their base near the junction of the M5 and the M4, within sight of the RAC tower. As soon as I walked in, the pride the team take in their work, their team spirit, and the sense of purpose were palpable.

It’s for those times when every moment could make the difference between life and death that the GWAAC exists. GWAAC is an independent charity, not part of the NHS, but coordinates with NHS services as emergency responders when every second counts.

But they do much more besides airborne emergency response. A key part of their work is first aid training, enabling people in the community to take action on the ground when even a helicopter traveling at 120 mph can’t get there soon enough.

They showed me how to use a defibrillator and administer CPR to a very poorly-looking inflatable dummy. The last time I did a first aid course was when I was preparing for the Atlantic in 2005, and the time before that was when I was working for my Queen’s Guide Award, so I was probably overdue for a refresher.

They run similar courses for schools, youth organisations and other groups, making sure that life-saving skills spread throughout the community. I’d like to thank the GWAA team for a most informative afternoon. I applaud you all for your fantastic work, in the air and in the community.

Cotswold Canals Trust

Yesterday I spent the afternoon with John Newton at the Cotswold Canals Trust Visitor Centre in Stroud, learning about the restoration of the two canals that link the Severn to the Thames Rivers. The Stroudwater Canal was constructed between 1775 and 1779, and linked Framilode on the River Severn with Wallbridge in Stroud. Work started on the Thames & Severn Canal in 1783 and it opened in 1789. Both canals were abandoned – Stroudwater in 1954 by Act of Parliament, and the last recorded traffic through the Thames & Severn in 1911.

Patiently, painstakingly, and cost-intensively, aided by an army of volunteers, the canals are now being restored, providing not just waterways for leisure cruisers, but also wildlife habitats for kingfishers, otters, and more, orchards of fruit trees, and opportunities for people to enjoy healthy walks along the towpath.

My first ever holiday, aged 6 months, was on a canal boat, and in 2007 I enjoyed another narrowboat holiday with my dear departed mother, so canals have a special place in my heart. I am proud to say I am now a paid-up member of the CCT, doing my little bit to support their work and preserve these important waterways for future generations to enjoy.

Cirencester Farmers’ Market

Last weekend I was at the farmers’ market in the shadow of Cirencester’s magnificent parish church. Cirencester Market is one of the oldest charter markets in the country, mentioned as early as 1086 in the Domesday Book. Its current version consists of around 30 stalls, on the second and fourth Saturdays of the month, selling a wide range of locally sourced products.

I enjoyed chatting with the Clara at Non Solo Pasta with her delicious homemade arancini, and with Sophie at Hailey Lamb and Wool, selling lamb’s meat alongside hand-spun and hand-dyed wool and woollen gloves. I couldn’t resist buying some whisky orange marmalade from Claire at Delicious Dauntsey, and apple cider vinegar from Richard’s Savarnake Juices stall.

I was very inspired by Richard’s origin story – that he was frustrated at the sight of so many apples going to waste in private gardens, so he decided to start a pressing service. He continues to use his business model to draw attention to how much food goes to waste, when it could be put to good use. We need more businesses like this!

My favourite thing about farmers’ markets is the opportunity to speak with the producers, to find out about their opportunities and their challenges, and to find out why they love doing what they do. When so many people seem jaded by the world of work, it’s lovely to meet people who are passionate about their work.

It also made me think about how we’ve lost something precious in the industrialisation of production – the direct connection between producers and consumers. Great for the consumer to find out exactly where their food is coming from, who produced it, and how it was produced. Great for producers to get immediate feedback on their produce, and to find out where it’s going – marmalade for a birthday gift, lamb for a family Sunday lunch, fingerless gloves to help keep a canvasser’s fingers from freezing off!

I hope these sunbeams of hope have cheered you up. There is lots that is good in this country, and I see part of the role of an MP as being to help spread the ideas that are working, cross-pollinating from one place to another. When it comes to conservation, charitable volunteering, medical care and cottage industries, we as a nation have much to be proud of. While there are many, many things problems that need to be solved, let’s make sure we remember to celebrate the good stuff!

Other News

A long but good read in the New Yorker – What Have Fourteen Years of Conservative Rule Done to Britain? (You get 3 articles for free before you run into the paywall.) “Living standards have fallen. The country is exhausted by constant drama. But the U.K. can’t move on from the Tories without facing up to the damage that has occurred.”

Spot the yellow hat at the Stop Lime Down protest – photo from the Daily Mail. Please sign up to the campaign website for updates.

Electoral Calculus has Lib Dems a whisker ahead in the South Cotswolds. I take polls with a very large grain of salt, but still, it’s encouraging news.

Campaign Notes

To keep up to date with me and my campaign, please follow me on Facebook. Or on LinkedIn, if that’s more your style.

We’re keen to welcome more campaigners to our team to help with deliveries and/or doorknocking. Please consider lending us an hour or two a month. Email my wonderful Campaign Organiser, Poppy Fair, for more details.

We are also looking for financial support. Every pound matters – even the price of a weekly latte would help. If you’re ready for positive change in the South Cotswolds, please put your money where your mouth is by hitting Reply to this email, and I’ll let you know how. Thank you! 🙏

Quote of the Week

“Protesting problems doesn’t really bring solutions. It just brings more problems. We reap what we sow. If we want to reap happiness, we must sow happiness. And that happiness inspires, strengthens others and builds bridges.”
― Elke Heinrich
Have a great week!

Photo by Stuart Madeley: Roz with Christian Wiggin at GWAA

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