Thursday, 17 February 2011

A Day in the (Cardigan) Life of Cllr Mark Cole

Today has been a really good day. One of those 'this is why I do this job' kind of days. There are days when it feels as if I'm banging my head against a brick wall - any elected representative will tell you that they all have them. If they don't, they're lying!

Well today has been one of those that re-inforces in me, the reason why I stood for Council 7 years ago, stood for re-election 3 years and will stand again for re-election again next year.

Yes for Wales
I'd planned to spend today delivering my quota of 'Yes for Wales' A5 flyers around my ward as promised. The referendum is in 14 days and postal ballots fall through letterboxes imminently so time was of the essence. As is my way with these things, having checked the weather forecast last night and found that today was due to be dry if cloudy whilst Friday was due to be wet, I decided that today would be the day when I would blitz my Cardigan Rhyd-Y-Fuwch council ward with this positive message. I therefore went to bed last night running through my head the best way of tackling the delivery of 500+ flyers that I was required to do. I've always done this. If I have a delivery to do, be it for a Focus or my Xmas flyer for example, I'll always plan the night before what I'll do and how depending on how much time I have and what other diary commitments I have to work around.

Well today, the only commitment I had in my diary was a mid-morning meeting at the CAB so I planned around that and took it from there. It does help that my ward is one of the smallest and most concentrated in Ceredigion. It has only around 650 houses in it and the majority are in Cardigan town centre itself. With this in mind, I felt that I could probably deliver the vast majority of it comfortably by 4pm.

7 hours of sunshine, smiles and delivering for Wales
I left the house this morning at 10.30am and set-off down my planned route of Aberystwyth Road, taking in Feidrhenffordd. I then cut inside and delivered Rhos-Y-Dre before delivering half of Maesyrhaf, zig-zagging across the road to deliver all of Napier Gardens and then Napier St. Whilst on Napier St, I bumped into Gary who won the Overall Champion Award in last year's Cardigan Town in Bloom. He totally deserved his achievement last year and he still couldn't believe it - so unassuming was he of his ability to turn a small area into a wonderful visual experience. As a Scot, he also had to bemoan his country's performance last Saturday - his Welsh partner however, rightly had no qualms at the result! It was already turning out to be a much more pleasant and sunnier day than I'd expected and I reached the CAB shortly afterwards at 11.30am. There I had, as Chair of the Trustee Board, a 45 minute meeting with our excellent Bureau Manager Buddig and we went over some paperwork dealing with the on-going merger process with Aberystwyth CAB to form a Ceredigion-wide service. There were a few items that I had to follow-up and promised to do so for her this evening.

Setting off, I delivered Williams Terrace where I bumped into Ben who is a real Cardigan character and who always keeps a watchful eye out for our Bureau for which we are grateful. He was on good form and asked about my nephew who was involved in a road accident on leaving school 2 weeks ago (and is thankfully fine). How had Ben become aware of this I don't know but such is the Cardigan way, word spreads around quickly enough! I then delivered Feidrfair and half of William St before stopping for lunch at 12.30pm at Cardi Cafe which has not long been taken over by budding young chef Matthew. I've often stopped there for a break, to have a snack and read the paper and that was just what was required today. An excellent large breakfast (don't tell Alyson!) whilst reading the weekly news in the Cambrian News and Carmarthen Journal was just what the doctor ordered and feeling refreshed, I set off at 1.30pm for an afternoon of delivery.

I began by finishing the second half of William St and bumped into Denise who had a concern about improvement works that the Council have been undertaking in the street and in Feidrfair. The improvement works, which have previously taken in North Road, have done a great deal of good in improving the look of the town but in this case, she had a legitimate grievance about the lack of pointing and of some works that had not been done. I promised to contact the Council for her this evening and to raise her concerns with the planning department who authorised the works.

Always Smiling
I then moved up town to deliver North Road when I heard a passing car beep its horn. It was Dai, the secretary of Cardigan Football Club giving a wave, and I waved back. I then completed the second half of Maesyrhaf before moving in to Bro Teifi estate and Heol Hafod. Whilst in Heol Hafod, I bumped into Dennis who was doing some gardening. I hadn't spoken to him in some time and before I knew it, I'd been on his door-step for some 30 minutes - the two of us putting the world to rights on local issues and on wider issues more generally. He spoke very kindly of me and said that we needed more people like me around - a very touching thing for him to say. Muriel was passing by at this time and I said a quick hello to her as she was leaving her house. On finishing Heol Hafod, I moved into the Bro Teifi estate proper and called in to see Ken who I've been helping recently with some casework. He's been having communication problems with the new housing association Tai Ceredigion and I chased them up for him. The good news was that his kitchen will now be re-fitted in its entirety with the work commencing in 11 days time. On leaving, he asked if I could drop a birthday card for him at his former neighbour's new house at the top end of the estate which of course was a pleasure to do on his behalf. I then called in with Chloe who I've also been helping of late with her housing problems and was pleased to hear that positive progress was being made with her case.

I then called into the Bro Teifi sheltered accommodation complex to deliver the 'Yes for Wales' flyers there too and to see the improvement works that have been on-going there in recent weeks. I must admit I was bowled over by the changes made. I had presumed that Tai Ceredigion were just going to give the communal room and warden's office a make-over but they have in fact knocked through walls and have extended the popular warden Louise's office to double its size which was much needed as it was previously little more than a box room. The communal room looked much lighter and more pleasant and they've done a good job fair play. Louise the warden is very well liked by the residents and quite rightly too - she's got a great personality and is a great help to the residents. She's also very kind and helpful to me as the local Councillor and today told me that children from the primary school (of which I'm a Governor) will be visiting the complex on St David's Day (March 1st) to sing Welsh songs for the residents and that I'd be more than welcoming to attend - it's now in the diary! On my walk around the building, I called in with Nikki who I've known for many years as she used to work on our family farm and was a popular addition to the team because of her spinning demonstrations. She's not long moved to Bro Teifi where her mother also lives and it was good to have a chat with her and I muchly appreciated the glass of squash that quenched my thirst in what was a surprisngly warm and spring-like afternoon.

On leaving the estate, I bumped into Michael who informed me that the broken street light which he had notified me of and which I reported to the Council last month had now been fixed - good news. He then told me of another street light which was now needing attention and he said that he'd call me this evening with the specific number for that lamp post so I can report it also. I then went to Brynhafod where I unintentionally bumped into Graham, one of my helpful Lib Dem deliverers who was visiting his mother. We had a chat and I informed him that the next delivery is ready for him so he'll collect his bundle from my house over the next few days - a happy coincidence! I was then called over by Dai who is one of the members of our successful Neighbourhood Watch scheme who wanted to check the date of our next meeting.

By this time it was 5.20pm and the sun was just setting. I finished my round for the day in Maeshenffordd where a resident was just getting out of a Robin's Taxi having done her shopping in Tesco. Her name escapes me but I know her face (I'm getting old) and she called me over and said how nice it was to see me and she asked after me and commended me for my work. Again, a nice gesture which wasn't necessary but which was nevertheless greatly appreciated. I finished by leafletting at 5.40pm (much later than expected!) having delivered over 500 flyers during the previous 7 or so hours.

I walked the short 10 or so minute walk back home here to Aneddfa and on seeing another Robin's Taxi drive past, saw another hand wave in my direction and so I again, happily waved back (I know the Robin's Taxis guys well enough!).

Proud to be a Councillor
It really has been a lovely day. With no evening meetings to worry about (the one I had, had been postponed yesterday), I was in no rush and could amble around at my pace, delivering the flyers through letterboxes whilst chatting to anyone who may be walking by or who may be at their door as I approached. It also gave me the opportunity to catch up with some casework cases and it was pleasing to note positive progress in a number of these.

(I should not that where I mentioned casework cases above, I have changed their names in italic to protect their identies as such specific casework is of course confidential).

It was also a beautiful day - much warmer and sunnier than I'd expected. It put a real spring (pun intended) in my step as it really felt, for the first time, as if winter may finally be on the way out. Finally, having the gestures of goodwill made me feel that my work over the years as a Councillor is appreciated by those I try my best to help and represent. That's what matters. If the goodwill wasn't there, I wouldn't be either.

Call me Mark
Over the past 7 years, I have come to know so many people in Cardigan and in my ward in particular and being a farmer's boy, I like talking to people on first name terms. I'm Mark and that's how I like to be referred too. If a resident prefers to call me Mr Cole or Cllr Cole then that's fine but given the choice I'll always say that it's Mark that is on my birth certificate. Probably 90% of those that I come across call me Mark and this more than anything pleases me greatly. I hope it shows that I'm seen as being an approachable, helpful and positive individual who can always be relied on to have a smile on his face.

It's a real pleasure and an honour to serve as a Councillor in Cardigan and it's days like today that re-emphasises the fact that deciding to put my name forward for election back in 2004 at the then age of 21 was one of the best decision I have ever made.

1 comment:

  1. I was always Andrew to everyone, when I was on the Council.

    I also called all the officers by their first name, without asking.

    We all knew there are boundaries, but at the end of the day, we are all on the same side, whether its Joe Public or the Council Officers - to get problems sorted.

    I used to tell people the word "Mr" was not on my birth certificate and referring to people by such titles is divisive. You get things done in life by everyone working together.

    I'm glad you eventually said you had given people different names, to protect their identity as even I was getting worried that it doesnt take 2 seconds for some people to identify a person even by a first name.

    I have my happy memories of my time on the Council and I had my people around the town who kept me informed and cheered me up with their messages of support.

    Its NOT a thankless task as some people think if you keep your ear to the ground and are always seen out and about in your ward and approachable. Everyone then knows you are human, like them and not someone up your own arse, corrupted by the power of office.