17 February 2024

Well, that must go down as probably the most surreal week of my term as Mayor yet!

My calendar over last week was the fullest it’s been so far this year, with four separate events/appointments as Mayor of our fine town to attend.

The week started on Tuesday, which was Shrove Tuesday, Pancake Day, with the traditional Trowbridge Pancake Day races scheduled to take place on Fore Street. It was a bit of a shame that the beautifully sunny and bright day that we’d all experienced on Monday did not repeat itself on Tuesday, but we had plenty of people turn up and multiple teams competing at flipping rubber pancakes in old frying pans whilst walking (no running allowed, health and safety, you know) over a course along Fore Street.

Our venerable Town Crier, Trevor Heeks, was on hand to officiate by starting the races, my Mayoral Cadet, Sgt. Rose Church, was there to make sure I behaved; and TTC Officers from Active Trowbridge and the Information Team were there to act as stewards, marshals, and general dogsbodies (tasks they all took very seriously and performed very well). We had teams ready to compete, ranging from the very young from Bumpers Nursery at Baloo’s to the still very young at heart from Goodson Lodge Care Home.

All in all, it was a very good-spirited and fun morning, despite the almost constant drizzle that we had to endure. The younger contestants’ races were run (well, walked) in a very sportsmanlike way, and I even saw one small toddler stop and wait for his fellow contestants to catch up so that they could all cross the finish line as a group.

But it wasn’t just a day for our smaller residents; we had teams from Tesco and Valeroso Lounge competing. We even had a team enter from local builders Stone Developments (who are currently very busy with several projects transforming our town centre). These “adult” races were a bit more robustly competitive, but there were lots of laughs, a bit of friendly barging, and a significant amount of very good-natured banter!

Regardless of whether the contestants taking part were young or old, winners’ medals were awarded and certificates were handed out for every race, and the many happy people who just came along to watch and enjoy the good-natured atmosphere were treated to a morning of Trowbridge at its best—a community that can play together and laugh together.

The finale of the morning’s activities and entertainment took place when a chair was placed in the middle of Fore Street. Shortly after that, a very nice chap by the name (I think) of Ibrahim from Head Zone Barbersits arrived to perform what can only be described as a semi-removal of my beard. I’ve had this beard for over twenty years, but its removal was done painlessly and without anaesthesia. The only casualties were mine by then, rather rain-soaked mayoral robes and chains, which were soon covered in beard hairs that took days to brush off!

The point of this exercise was to raise money for and awareness of my two chosen charities for this year, Stepping Stones and Trowbridge Future. The bucket was passed around and money was willingly donated, so I’ve got to say a massive “thank you” to everyone who contributed financially to both my public discomfort and my chosen charities coffers!

I’ve also got to say thank you to the Wiltshire Times, who published a very positive report on our morning’s fun and even included a link to a Just Giving page for my Mayor’s Charity Appeal.

If you’d like to donate to my Charity Appeal, you can do so by following the Just Giving link below or by coming in to the Civic Centre and donating in person at one of the collection points available.

https://www.justgiving.com/crowdfunding/trowbridgetowncouncil-mayoralcharities23-24?utm_term=yKegN2VVr

***

After it was all over, and in hindsight against what probably should have been my better judgement, I came up with the (daft) idea that if I HAD to have half a beard for the next ten days or so, it may as well be dyed bright purple!

So that’s what I did. I went onto a well-known internet shopping site and ordered some purple hair dye for next-day delivery.

I was assured in no uncertain terms that this was only a temporary dye, but we shall have to wait for a week or so to see whether that was true or not!

***

On Wednesday morning, I had my regular meeting with Aby, our Information Team manager. For the last couple of weeks now, I’ve been trying to use this blog to throw out “teasers” for the Mayor’s Civic Service in March, and this week is no exception.

This week, I’m going to let slip a bit more about what we’ve got planned for your entertainment and enjoyment outside the main hall. I’ve already said that the whole theme for the evening is “The Golden Age of British Cinema”, well we’re decorating the whole of the Usher’s Suite in the style of a 1920s/30s era bar/club, and it’s not just after dinner that there’ll be live music in the “Usher’s Club”, There’ll be live entertainment in there before dinner as well, and throughout the evening, a selection of really rather tempting cocktails will be available from our specially set up Usher’s Cocktail Bar.

***

When I got home on Wednesday after my meeting with Aby, my parcel of purple hair dye had been delivered. Now, not being an experienced practitioner in the finer nuances of hair dying, I didn’t really know what to do. The instructions were sufficiently vague, but it seemed that I had to mix two drops of the supplied purple dye with a good-sized dollop of hair conditioner before applying that mix to my hair. BUT, those were the quantities and concentrations needed to dye a full head of hair, NOT just a half-beard such as mine!

Anyway, mix it and apply it as I did. Some admittedly ended up in my beard, but the majority ended up all over my hands, the bathroom sink, and assorted towels that I found lying around. My wife was NOT happy, my beard was NOT purple (it ended up a light and delicate shade of lilac), and my confidence as a future hair stylist was shattered!

But at least it was a bit coloured. So I accepted the inevitable and assigned the hair dye to the back of the bathroom cupboard before going back to my chosen internet shopping site and looking for something that would provide better (and by better, I mean brighter and more vibrant) colourisation of my remaining facial hair.

That was “Plan B”.

***

Thursday…. ah, Thursday…. now this is where it really got weird!

At two o’clock on Thursday afternoon, I was scheduled to take part in the “investiture” of nine new British Citizens at County Hall. I’d realised earlier in the week that doing this with a lilac demi-beard was probably going to be… well, interesting. Not just for me, but probably for our new citizens as well. I also realised that the ability to poke a bit of fun at ourselves is a very positive thing and that I could use my slightly strange facial hair to highlight (oh, painful pun) the advantages of community engagement and the work of local councils.

Luckily, I’d already been through a number of these Citizenship Ceremonies with both the officiating registrar and the attending Deputy Lieutenant of Wiltshire, so I knew that they’d both be quite mellow with my unusual appearance. What I didn’t know (until the moment that I walked into the Weavers’ Room at County Hall) was that the room designated for the ceremony had been dressed in lilac drapes that perfectly matched my beard. This was admittedly a pure coincidence, but nevertheless,allowed me it was fortuitous and very apt.

I’d already decided to abandon my normal welcome address for our new citizens and instead explain why I had turned up sporting a lilac demi-beard. I explained about Tuesday’s “ceremonial shaving” and advocated for getting involved in local communities. It was great because it gave me the opportunity to inject a bit of humour into my speech. I think it went down well, I got a lot of smiles and a good round of applause anyway!

Both Hannah (the Registrar) and Stephanie (The Deputy Lieutenant) were grinning by the end of it, so I think my efforts gained the official seal of approval as well.

But it was all a bit weird!

***

My last activity last week was on Friday evening, when my wife and I attended the Trowbridge/Leer Twinning Association’s Annual Dinner. This wasn’t a formal “chains and all” evening, but rather an informal meal and chat with our local “twinners.” The venue was the Farmhouse Inn in Southwick which did us proud with a very good meal and a lovely space all to ourselves.

I am, by being Mayor, the Honorary President of all our town’s twinning associations, but my wife (whose mother was German) and I are also members of the Trowbridge Germany twinning group by choice, and it was very nice to be able to spend an evening with them just enjoying a good meal, good conversation, and an inappropriately (but hilariously) competitive quiz!

It was a lovely evening that we both really enjoyed, and it was a very satisfying way to round off my week.

The Trowbridge/Leer Twinning Association is a very active group that is always looking out for new members. If you’re interested in joining, the group is holding its Annual General Meeting on 22nd March at 7:00pm at the Lovemead Conservative Club and anyone interested is welcome to come along and meet us. If you can’t make it, just email leertrowbridgetwinning@gmail.com and the group’s secretary will get back to you.

After that…. I’m really looking forward to welcoming five guests from our twin town of Leer in Ostfriesland to my Civic Dinner the day after the Twinning Group’s AGM in March.

***

That’s it for now, so until next time….. keep safe and please, be kind to each other.

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