… Maria Bota, the Director, really pulled out the stops this year, and it showed. It’s almost perverse to pick out some highlights, because the overall quality was so high.
For me the best musical evening was the Birmingham Symphony Orchestra’s concert. OK, perhaps some people were dismissive of the programme as “populist”, but so what? Seeing Ravel’s Bolero performed live, and discovering how it set the pulse racing was tremendous. One downside was that, despite a standing ovation, the BSO didn’t give an encore. But you can understand why: how do you follow that?
The pick of the talks was the one given by Shirley Williams, in my book one of the two best prime ministers we never had (the other is Heseltine).
Not that everything she had to say went down all that well in Salisbury, especially not with the anti-Europeans, of whom we seem to have a plentiful supply. Asked about Anglo-US relations, her judgement was sobering.
“Our importance to the United States is our relationship with Europe,” she said, “We are seen as a bridge giving the Americans access to the EC. If ever Britain splits with Europe we shall thus become a bridge to nowhere, and our value (and hence our importance) to the United States will diminish greatly - and rapidly.”
But for me the real highlight was the Chinese cookery demonstration in Canon Mark Bonney’s kitchen at lunch-time on the second Sunday. Flautist Guo Yue, (who was here to give a concert at the Arts Centre) is also a very fine cook, and he shared with us his love of Beijing cuisine.
Being serenaded by a Chinese flute while waiting for the rice to cook was one of those experiences that somehow sums up the festival. And the food was great.
“When is a consultation not a consultation?...
…A bewildered county councillor asked me yesterday. He was talking about the process Wiltshire Council went through before deciding to mug us with higher charges.
“I can tell you what it isn’t,” I replied. “It isn’t consultation if you ask the opinion of people who themselves enjoy free parking. It isn’t consultation if you talk to businessmen who get their charges reimbursed in any way. It isn’t consultation talking to unelected and unrepresentative so-called Area Boards.
“Consultation is writing to the Journal and saying ‘We plan to more than double the cost of an hour’s parking in Salisbury. We wondered if any readers might have a view on this? And by the way, they might like to know we come up for re-election in two years’ time.’”
If it’s any comfort, it seems to me that the Great Leaders in Trowbridge are now getting the message. The sooner they realise how many people are boycotting the car parks, and how much income they’re losing, the sooner they’ll come to their senses.