Straight Talking with Ian Mean

Will the Pope’s Visit Open Up a Debate on Our Values?

Posted in Uncategorized by ianmean on September 19, 2010

Whether you are a Catholic or not, you cannot fail to have been impressed by the Pope’s visit which ended yesterday.

Whether you are even religious or not, you will have had to admit that despite the dark clouds which hung over the Catholic church before his visit due to sexual abuse by some priests, this was an amazing visit.

In Pope Benedict XV1, we had a man almost demonised by some segments of the media for membership of the Hitler youth movement just because he was German at a time when that tyrannical regime was all-powerful over young people.

But when he came here we saw and heard a man who spoke for a church, which whether you support Catholic beliefs or not, made so much common sense.

Have we ever really been treated to much so candour from a churchman in this country?

No, we haven’t and it is to his great credit that he flew out of Birmingham airport last night with the debate on values in society literally ringing in our ears.

Forget he was Catholic. The Pope’s messages were for us all here in Gloucestershire.

He confronted the scandal of the paedofile priests head- on when he met some of those who suffered at their evil hands. He expressed “deep sorrow and shame” for their vile acts.

He defended Christianity saying that we must preserve the right to celebrate Christmas. The Pope attacked the politically correct ideas that Christmas should not be celebrated here for fear of offending minorities.

Absolutely right.

And he said that Christians would not be silenced—forced to keep their beliefs to themselves.

When he visited an old people’s home run by the Little Sisters of The Poor in south east London, he gave another big message that is so pertinent to us in Gloucestershire with a growing population of old people—that the elderly must be respected.

As he said, we are blessed with our old people.

Hardly controversial messages. Just simple messages spoken with great candour.

These are the sort of accessible message that people want to hear, irrespective of whether you follow the Catholic faith or not.

For the hundreds of people from Gloucestershire, especially young people who went to see the Pope in London and Birmingham over the weekend, these are messages that will hopefully resonate with them for the rest of their lives.

Pope Benedict, like the legendary and much loved, ever smiling Pope John Paul, is a great communicator despite a welter of appalling, unwarranted press criticism before the visit.

That is what the Church of England in needs to do a great deal more—simply communicate better.

The pictures that appeared in our national newspapers on Saturday of the Pope with the Archbishop of Canterbury, Dr Rowan Williams, said it all.

The rift between the Catholic Church and the Church of England is narrowing. But our clergy of the Church of England must make bigger efforts to be more accessible to our people.

In Gloucestershire, we have been making the right steps but they are only the first steps.

In Michael Perham we have a Bishop who is very much a man of the people and our communities here in the county. He is a man of letters and writing but has realised that he needs to get among people and their communities to make a lasting difference.

We have a great Dean of our beautiful cathedral in Nicholas Bury. We saw just how good he is on Thursday evening when he gave a brilliant “peacemakers” sermon at the service we helped to organise with the county council to welcome the Allied Rapid Reaction Corps to the county.

Nick retires this month, and we need to ensure that we have another Christian leader like him who is not afraid to stand up and be counted.

The Pope’s visit and forthright comments serve to remind us that the Church of England must do far more to communicate.

Unless they do so, more churches will close.

But above all that are the moral values that the Pope has reminded us of over this weekend. They have nothing to do with any religion but everything to do with being good people.

http://www.thisisnorthcliffe.co.uk

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A Big Man with a Big Heart

Posted in Uncategorized by ianmean on July 4, 2010

Colin Gardner who died yesterday after a brave battle against a brain tumour was a big man with a big heart.

I first met him on my first day as The Citizen editor eight years ago. I had gone to the Spring Centre in Quedgeley and met Colin who was one of the children’s charity’s greatest supporters. He gave me a GloucesterCity tie that day which I still have.

Singlehandedly, he has raised well over £1 million for charities over the years and he has been an absolute giant in supporting local football—first with Gloucester City and latterly with Forest Green Rovers. He put his money where his mouth in with both of these teams and there has probably not been a more generous man to county football.

Colin’s wife, Clare, was always by his side at those charity events he loved and which were so successful and his MBE awarded for services to charity in 2006 could not have been more well deserved.

Colin Gardner had a very successful security business which he sold and devoted the rest of his life to supporting local football and local charities. Gloucestershire will be all the poorer without this gentle giant with a heart of gold and so many friends.

RIP Colin.

Ian Mean

Editor

The Citizen

Our Grandsons Could Have Done Better Than That!

Posted in Uncategorized by ianmean on June 27, 2010

My wife hit the nail on the head straight after the dismal defeat to Germany,4-1.”Our grandsons could have done better than that”, she said.

Harry is eleven and Jake is nine.

And a better job for a fraction of the price!

This was an absolute shambles and we were lucky not to have lost 7-1.

Forget the Lampard England goal that was not allowed. We were humbled and looked like Sunday morning players with no system or technique. The same players who play brilliantly for their clubs in the Premier League every week and earn up to £100 000 a week in doing so.

We were absolutely hammered and if it wasn’t for goalkeeper David James it would have been an absolute rout.

Let’s think of our brave lads in Afghanistan laying down their lives for us on this sunny afternoon here in Gloucestershire. They are prepared to pay the ultimate price for our freedom. Our England footballers are supposed to be the ultimate in their profession but they didn’t show anything today that would make those brave lads in Afghanistan proud.

Welcome to the ARRC

Posted in Uncategorized by ianmean on June 23, 2010

The Citizen today gives a very warm Gloucestershire welcome to the first arrivals from Nato’s Allied Rapid Reaction Corps(ARRC).

The first families are already moving into to the old RAF Innsworth site, which has been appropriately renamed Imjin Barracks.

Imjin, of course, was one of the great battles fought by the Glorious Glosters which led to them being given the honour to wear their famous back badge.

When the RAF ceased their main operations, there was concern that the land might be gobbled up by housing. But the arrival of Nato’s “military brain” with 925 soldiers and 526 families ensured that the services’ heritage was continued.

Our reporter, Nadia Stone had actually lived at RAF Rheindalen, home of the Joint Headquarters of the Army and RAF near Monchengladbach where the Allied Rapid Reaction Corps are moving from over the next few months.

Today on page 25, Nadia writes poignantly about life in Germany, which throughout the Cold War was a huge strategic base for British servicemen and women—both Army and Air Force.

We need to ensure that the people of the communities in and around Innsworth, indeed the whole of the county, do their best to make the force and their families welcome.

As fifteen countries will be represented at Innsworth by the ARRC, the opportunity for cultural learning on both sides of the community is large.

We must also remember that the ARRC will provide a welcome boost to the local economy—with a £50 million capital investment at the barracks and a further £30 million in annual disposable incomes. There will also be additional employment opportunities for local people—up to 130 civilian jobs from chefs to clerical staff.

This county has a marvellous military heritage, based mainly on the brave exploits and service of the Glorious Glosters. It really is so fitting that the historic Battle of Imjin now takes on a title for a new force of military which still faces the same hazards of war in 2010.

Let’s all give the ARRC the welcome they deserve.

http://www.thisisnorthcliffe.co.uk

Any opinions expressed in this e-mail are those of the individual and not necessarily the company. This e-mail and any files transmitted with it are confidential and solely for the use of the intended recipient. If you are not the intended recipient or person responsible for delivering to the intended recipient, be advised that you have received this e-mail in error and that any use is strictly prohibited. If you have received this e-mail in error, advise the sender immediately by using the reply facility in your e-mail software.

Warning: Computer viruses may be transmitted or downloaded onto any computer system via e-mail communication. It is the recipient’s responsibility to take appropriate action to prevent computer viruses being transmitted In this way. Accordingly Northcliffe Media Ltd disclaim all responsibility which arises directly or indirectly from such transmission of computer viruses.

Northcliffe Media Ltd. Registered Office: Northcliffe Accounting Centre, PO Box 6795 St George Street, Leicester, LE1 1ZP, co no 272225, Registered in England and Wales, VAT no 243571174.

Budget comment

Posted in Uncategorized by ianmean on June 23, 2010

The Bitter Medecine Must Be Made to Work

Let’s Keep Hoping

Posted in Uncategorized by ianmean on June 18, 2010

The boos said it all at the end of the match against Algeria.

True, England fans are so very loyal but even those who had travelled all the way to South Africa must have been disgusted with the pathetic performance of our team last night against Algeria. Even the commentators were reduced to trying to take solace in the fact that it was another draw after the previous no score game against the United States. And we have still got a chance of going further in the World Cup if we win against Slovenia next week.

This was arguably the worst performance we have seen since Capello’s arrival . Here were the country’s top footballers whose skills grace the premier league every week but were last night lost in the mists of pressure or too much control from Mr Capello whose inaudible English after the match did nothing to convince me that this was a team of players enjoying their game.

I am afraid I have never held high hopes of real progression in this World Cup in South Africa, and I am not disloyal. I feel that as a journalist I am almost duty bound to ensure that I encourage everyone to get behind the team with all the goodwill and happiness that can bring. But our expectations are rarely satisfied as we experienced against Algeria last night.

Still, there’s Slovenia next week. I still hope.

How many more of our brave young soldiers are going to have to die in Afghanistan?

Posted in Uncategorized by ianmean on June 10, 2010

Today’s front pages of the national press are filled with stories of gloom on public sector job losses and the possible effect on our pensions of the BP oil spill crisis. All quite selfish stories—how will we be affected by them?

Quite natural, of course. but where are the stories of our brave young men dying in Afghanistan? Laying down their lives so that the threat of terrorism here can at least be controlled.

I feel very strongly that we tend to undervalue the enormous sacrifice our soldiers make on our behalf, and we need constantly reminding of the fact.

A timely reminder for me came last night on the late BBC TV news when we were told of the death on Tuesday in Afghanistan of Lance Bombardier Mark Chandler who was 32 years old and came from Nailsworth.

And today we had tributes to this young man which were quite extraordinary in their praise for his bravery.

“Lance Bombardier Mark Chandler was in my eyes the perfect soldier”, said Captain Johnny Mercer of his regiment-the 3rd Regiment Royal Horse Artillery. “He was a selfless man who would just as readily volunteer to empty the bins as go out on a patrol to disrupt the insurgents and protect the people as on the day he was killed. He was the man that men aspire to be”.

What an amazing tribute to a young man who has paid the ultimate sacrifice.

And likewise from his parents, Mike and Ann and brother, Steve who said: ”A consumate soldier, a skier, a luger, an athlete and a lover of life. He will be sorely missed by his loving family and friends”.

Need I say more.

The death toll since operations in Afghanistan began in 2001 now stands at 294.

We simply cannot continue to see our young, brave men like Mark lay down their lives without a clear government strategy for getting out of Afghanistan. This is an unwinnable war and the sacrifice of young men like Mark Chandler must not be allowed to go on indefinitely.

Are we really going to get political honesty on cuts to the economy?

Posted in Uncategorized by ianmean on June 9, 2010

Lady Thatcher looked very frail on the steps of No 10 Downing Street-being steadied b y David Cameron, who is going to have to make far deeper cuts to our economy than the lady whose reputation was very much based on her reputation as the biggest political axeman(or woman) of all time.

And then we saw Lord Myners, who was recruited by Gordon Brown to get business support for Labour turning on the former Prime Minister in the Lords—saying that his mentor’s former government was irresponsible to spend more money than it received from taxation.

It’s all part of perhaps the biggest political softening-up process for many years . We are being primed for the June 22 Budget which threatens to change the lives of all of us for a very long time.

But despite the gloom and foreboding, I feel that we are at long last ready for some realism in politics.

Do you?

Argue about the longevity of the new coalition government as much as you like, but I really do believe that the British public are finally accepting that we need to radically restructure our economy if we are to avoid the lessons of the Greek tragedy.

But is the government really going to talk to us or listen to us about these impending cuts? Or is this part of the Conservative Big Society mantra that turns out to be a hollow promise?

I hope not. If this government does listen before they actually cut, it will be a welcome departure for our politicians. Isn’t that what we pay our MPs for? Don’t hold your breath but let’s hope.

Rolling Stones Set for No 1 and High Heels(men’s) are Back

Posted in Uncategorized by ianmean on May 22, 2010

The Rolling Stones are back(were they ever away?) at the very top of the album charts with their revamped version of one of their most famous albums-Exile on Main Street which was first released in 1972.

Being something of an old git, and a great Stones fan, I first started seeing them around 1964 at the Crawdaddy Club in Richmond. My opinion then, was as it is now, that they were the greatest rock band in the world.

As an 18 years old reporter on the South London Observer., I loved the music scene and would write pieces for the then Record Mirror and Melody Maker. I remember interviewing the Stones and admiring their Cuban heeled boots—hand made from the stage shoe makers, Anello and Davide in Charring Cross Road. The memory of those boots came back when I read today’s Times and saw an article saying that men’s heels were now becoming the height of fashion.

My Cuban heels, just ;like the Stones, cost £12 to make—my weekly wage was then £6.50.Later, as the fashion for them faded, I remember getting a saw and cutting the two inch heels down. I won’t be going in for the new man-heel but I will be listening to a lot more of the Stones. Unbeatable still.

Away for week now.

Our Great Young People

Posted in Uncategorized by ianmean on May 15, 2010

We must never give up on our young people. They really are our future and we must all recognize the fact that those good, honest, responsible young people far outnumber the minority of bad apples whose court appearances or anti-social exploits often make the pages of The Citizen.

Wherever possible, I try in The Citizen to use as many stories as possible involving young people—I like that title rather than youngsters—doing good things for their schools and their communities. We generally tag those stories: Responsible Young Citizens.

Last night, my wife Judy and I had the privilege, and I stress the privilege, to meet quite a few of those Responsible Young Citizens at a special awards ceremony The Citizen has promoted and developed at Gloucester City Council’s North Warehouse headquarters. It was quite a humbling occasion.

The background was that just under a year ago when the current, very energetic Mayor Chris Witts was talking to groups of young people, he became aware they were often critical of the bad press they received. I actually didn’t agree with Chris as far as The Citizen was concerned but I swallowed some pride and agreed that yes, often they did not receive the recognition they deserved, particularly in the national press where bad news about teenagers is often dominant.

My wife, Judy then came up with the idea that we should have an award for those young people in Gloucester—The Chris Witts Award for the Gloucester Young Person of the Year. That’s what happened last night at North Warehouse where, backed by the Tesco store at the Cattle Market (many thanks to Glynis Chambers the store’s community champion). Chris presented the first award which will then be carried on by other Mayors.

I go to a lot of these sort of events, particularly at the council headquarters. Some, frankly are rather formal. Last night was different. There were people there, especially families who had never been to a reception like that with all the civic silver laid out and being greeted as they came in by the Mayor and the city’s Sheriff and then signing the visitors’ book as they left.

Why was there such an atmosphere? The young people, of course. They looked so smart and they were so excited. I talked to one little lad who had received a commendation in the awards from Tesco and he said: ”It’s the best day of my life”. He was wearing a smart, cream suit and queuing up at the bar for a fruit cup wit his little girlfriend, who looked lovely.

One proud mum there was Yvonne Sadler, whose children—Shania,10 and Cody, 8 were nominated for looking after her when she became disabled from a fall. As Yvonne left, I said to her: “You must be proud of them”. She said: “I am proud of them every day of my life”. Great young people.

It also got me thinking. Most young people really are good but many of them often stand very little chance in their early life with a lack of parental guidance or support. Yes, bad parenting. Not so with these young people last night.

It was also heartening to see a group of Moslem women and their children at the event. So often at events like these our diverse community in the city is not properly represented. Great to have some lovely music from the young musicians at RibstonHallSchool which set the tone. I hope, that at the next awards, we can see many more schools entering their young students.

We will be featuring the winning young people in a special page in Monday’s Citizen and there will be more pictures in our Weekend section next Saturday.

All these young people last night were winners. Gloucester needs to be proud of them all—like their parents.

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