Richard Pierce

Richard Pierce – author, poet, painter


Campaign Trail – Day 7

All appears quiet in the village, battle-axes being sharpened in secret, no doubt. Friday dawns grey and glum here in the the place even district politicians seem to think is in the middle of nowhere, surprised as they were when we were fighting to save the library at how far they had to travel and how winding the roads and lanes are that lead to the crossroads that are the centre of Stradbroke. It has a right to be in the middle of nowhere, the church firmly planted at the top of what is possibly one of only a very few inclines in Suffolk, and the skies huge above and around.

The morning I spent in a primary school in Bury St. Edmunds, observing a workshop being given by a national children’s charity, a workshop on recognising the first signs of physical, domestic and sexual abuse, part of a nation-wide programme aimed at preventing the sexual abuse of children, workshops being given, typically, to Years 5 and 6. One of the biggest surprises was how open some of the children were with revealing what went on behind the closed doors of their family homes. Some theatres of fear are almost impossible to contemplate in their awfulness, and those of us lucky enough to have complete lives should be grateful for that, and strive not to break others’ lives even more, but to mend them.

The sun of Bury St. Edmunds faded behind me when I made my way eastwards again, and by the time I’d emerged from the gridlock that was early-afternoon Diss, it had completely disappeared, replaced by that horrible damp cold that insinuates itself into every breath, every step, every movement. I was glad to be able to hide behind my desk again and deal with other aspects of my day job at one remove. But, alas, the respite didn’t last for long because that one remove, the internet, once again, slowed to the incredible crawl that BT appears to reserve for rural communities it deems to be in the middle of nowhere and which, by dint of being perceived to be in the middle of nowhere, have no right to fibre-optic communications, in fact have no communications rights at all, unless those rights accrue by coincidence or accident.

That’s one thing the Parish Council should be putting its full weight behind, forcing the government and BT to speed up delivery of fibre-optics into Stradbroke, rather than supporting half-baked ideas of exploding the population of Stradbroke into the unmanageable and condemning the broadband contention rate to sink into a Hades-like abyss from which it has little or no chance of ever being resurrected. It’s important to point out that it’s not just middle-aged codgers like me who want (and need) fast broadband. The village needs it to keep hold of its young people, to make it easier for those young people to stay here, to persuade their employers to let them work from home. It would also encourage more businesses to actually settle in the countryside rather than finding themselves drawn to the nearest large conurbation which the government and BT sees as deserving of a fit-for-purpose communications infrastructure.

And that’s why we need more young people involved in the parish council, and more people to come to parish council meetings, to put pressure on the council to actually do something practical rather than tinkering with this and that, or discussing dog droppings, or playing war games. In the interests of positive campaigning, I’ll not make that list any longer.

The internet is not a plaything for the middle classes. It is not a mechanism purely intended for social media or playing games. It is a vital part of everyday life, business life, and for a village like Stradbroke to have insufficient bandwidth is not an insignificant little issue. It has everything to do with keeping the village alive, making it thrive, making it attractive to young people, building it back up from the ground.

Promoted by Richard Pierce-Saunderson of Spring Cottage, Church Street, Stradbroke, Suffolk, IP21 5HT.

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