I’m told that I should read the 18 January issue of Country Life for a more positive insight into the Chair of Natural England’s views (by one of his loyal staff).
Well I’m keen to have a look but it may take some time as Country Life doesn’t squeeze through my letterbox on a regular basis. Is this now NE’s preferred method of communicating with its stakeholders?
But I thought I should do some research and so I phoned Rushden library, as I was nearby, to ask if they had it. Well, what I actually did (warning – this is going to turn into a blog about Library Services in Northamptonshire for a while but we will get back to NE later) was type Rushden Library into Google on my phone and clicked on ‘call’ but I didn’t get Rushden Library, I got Northants County Council and a voice giving me a menu of options. And how depressing the options were, given that I imagine they are in order of priority coupled with frequency of use – you can see I didn’t get to ‘Libraries’ very quickly. Option 1 seemed to be about social services for children at risk, Option 2 was about care for adults, Option 3 was about registering births, marriages and deaths. Yes, all human life is here in Northamptonshire, from birth, through child abuse to marriage and death. I can’t remember what Option 4 was but I think there was one and I don’t think it was for me and so at Option 5 I got another list of options where Libraries were pretty high up the list so I got to talk to a person. The person was nice but seemed surprised at me speaking to her so I explained that lovely though she was I had wanted to talk to Rushden Library rather than have a list of all the social services available to me. She put me through to Rushden Library where a man spoke to me. Being in Rushden Library he was perfectly placed to tell me whether he was surrounded by copies of Country Life – and he wasn’t! They don’t stock it. Fair enough – nor do I. He said that Country Life sounded more like the thing that Higham Ferrers Library might stock which struck me as a very perceptive comment and a good hint so I thanked him.
For readers unfamiliar with the geography of this county of Northamptonshire then if you look on the map you’ll see that Higham Ferrers and Rushden are two ends of the same place! They run into each other. They abut. But they aren’t the same at all. How can we put this? Higham Ferrers sounds posher and is! Higham Ferrers is more Country Life and Rushden is more Viz. Higham Ferrers is more Telegraph and Rushden is more Sun. Higham Ferrers is more Coffee Barne cafe and Rushden is more Subway.
So it was a particularly good tip. And sitting as I was in the Coffee Barne cafe in Higham Ferrers it was a useful tip too. I looked up the Library in Higham Ferrers on my phone and kicked myself metaphorically for not thinking of it in the first place, but I have never been in it, although I have driven past hundreds of times. Finishing my coffee I walked through the churchyard which used to have Spotted Flycatchers in it every summer but hasn’t had them for years (but does sometimes have a Peregrine circling overhead these days) and I was talking to a librarian very soon. Higham Ferrers Library doesn’t stock Country Life either – so they aren’t quite as posh as they think they are, are they! Or not as posh as the man in the Rushden Library thinks they are!
So I asked whether the librarian could help me track down the 18 January issue of Country Life. She said she didn’t have a list of which libraries in Northamptonshire kept Country Life and I said I didn’t either, but out of the two of us who might have the better chance of finding out? I think I said that with a twinkle in my eye but she may not have been looking at me closely enough to see the twinkle.
Apparently, Country Life might be ordered by some Northamptonshire Libraries and then passed on to others after a few days so that each copy gets a higher readership. I suggested, with another unnoticed twinkle, that perhaps that is done to keep people like me guessing. The librarian took my details and promised to do her best for me – and that’s all one can ask for.
And she did! I soon got an email saying that there was a copy of 18 January Country Life in Brackley Library (that’s a long way away – c30 miles). Brackley is definitely Country Life country, it’s an awful lot posher than Rushden and quite a bit posher than Higham Ferrers. That prized copy of Country Life is heading to Higham Ferrers Library post haste and will arrive in a matter of ‘a week or so’.
I’m very grateful for everyone’s efforts for enabling me, in due course, to read Natural England’s communication with the people who pay for its work. NE’s words of wisdom may be passing by quite a few of us if they are spread through the pages of Country Life, but then again, I didn’t complain when Andrew Sells mentioned Inglorious in the pages of Country Life so one mustn’t moan, must one?
But I hope I have established my excuse for not being able to report on what NE says to us through the pages of Country Life and to reassure you that I look forward to doing so in due course.
On a personal level, Andrew Sells is perfectly pleasant, and good company. And it’s not an easy job being a chair of a government agency at the best of times and these are not the best of times. But he isn’t a nature conservationist and Natural England continues to decline dreadfully in ambition and achievement under his leadership. It is a mere shadow of its former self, and we never thought it was perfect in the past. Despite still having some very good staff, ‘the survivors’ as they are known, they are working in a failing organisation that has lost its way. That’s not all Andrew’s fault, it is largely the fault of the regime which he serves, and which chose him for his role.
And just because Andrew Sells gets paid nearly £62k pa for 113 working days a year that is no reason to criticise him.
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