Unless you’ve been living under a rock, you’ll probably realise by now that Brownhills is the subject of some media controversy at the moment – a story emerging here via the Express & Star and syndicated out to the wider daily papers has caused outrage and recrimination.
Is it the fact that we have a derelict shopping centre in the middle of town, that nobody seems to care about, or know what to do with? No.
Is it about the withdrawal of community access to facilities the public raised cash to pay for? Er, don’t think so.
Is it perhaps over the potholed and dangerous state of the High Street and Miner Island? Doesn’t appear to be, no.
Is it about a string of Christmas lights on a tree on that traffic island, which weren’t quite as glitzy as people would have liked? Could well be…
I’m not going to bang on about this too much – the situation is already ridiculous enough. Our Local Committee – the apparent champions of our town – were justified to grumble that the lights they paid for, for whatever reason, weren’t re-strung from the trees on the central island in Brownhills at Christmas, 2013. Instead, we got some presumably less glitzy, bargain basement ones. But they were there, and we had new ones hanging from the lampposts, like most other district centres in the borough that year.
That the committee didn’t apparently chase the issue of the lost lights up before the same thing happened again in 2014 is a bit of a mystery to me. They all seem to be people with time on their hands. They like a good campaign, especially if there’s a cuppa involved somewhere, and the chance to have a good moan. I’d have thought pursuing this would have been fairly high up Brownhills Local Committee’s agenda.
Because let’s face it, Ravens Court or other pressing local issues doesn’t seem to be.
However, the whole thing seems to have fallen by the wayside, and after some to-ing and fro-ing this Christmas, in which we suffered the gross indignity of the same inferior set of lights being strung from the same tree, the Town Centre Partnership, Committee and Council seems to have finally got things sorted and secured a new set of lights.
Sadly, not in time for last Christmas. Children were distraught, mice threw themselves upon traps and angels wept quietly into their pints of mild in The Shoulder.
For some unknown reason I’ve yet to get to the bottom of, Walsall Council offered to install the new set of lights this week. Whether that was to actually switch on, or just to get an early march on next year’s yuletide rush is anybody’s guess. The affront this offer has caused – clearly far worse than cancelling Christmas itself – has driven the good people of the committee to go to the press and complain.
They are complaining because we now have a new set of Christmas lights, in plenty of time for next year – which may be turned on now as a peace offering and called ‘Winter lights’. This will give the Committee a free 11 months or so to find other stuff to fret about. It’s all win.
Nobody has covered themselves with glory here. The council clearly can’t find it’s arse with both hands and others clearly lack a sense of perspective.
The press, being what it is, has angled this as some attempt to rebrand Christmas, a la ‘Winterval’. I have seen social media posts and below-the-line comments claiming this is an attempt to appease all manner of religious and non-religious killjoys. A couple of inky nationals are claiming we had no Christmas lights at all. One has photographed the same set of lights we had all Christmas – which change colour – from two different aspects and claimed they were different sets, before and after. One middle brow – or should that be unibrow – tabloid even claimed the Bible prescribe we take down decorations on Twelfth Night, a remarkable assertion soon corrected.
Also out in heavy force has been the traditional Brownhillian inferiority complex ‘Other centres get better lights’ is the cry – well, yes and no. To the best of my knowledge, we all have similar lamp-post lights, and ours look like mint cornettos. Any trees that are present elsewhere are usually donated – Walsall Wood’s is generously paid for by the ward Councillors; Pelsall’s live tree was funded by appeal. Even the Walsall town centre tree is sponsored.
I must admit that in times of austerity and wider cuts, I’m not hugely moved by civic Christmas lights at all. I just can’t get excited about them. I much prefer the wonderful job done by the Brownhills in Bloom crew.
So, well done, Brownhills Local Committee. Of all the issues in the one-horse town, the one you actually get worked into a lather about, and get national attention for is a set of bloody fairy lights. Top jolly.
In all of this, nobody seems to have noticed that the tree in question is not at all Christmas tree shaped, and is wholly inappropriate for the task anyway.
I’ve known about this situation for a couple of weeks. People have moaned quite a bit about the lacklustre Christmas lights on the island. It’s been irritating me so much that I’ve mailed Brian Stringer – one of the few on the Committee who seems to have a sense of proportion – if he’d make the proposal to the Committee on my and the blog’s behalf to investigate getting a Douglas Fir or similar live tree to plant on the island. I’m personally prepared to make a healthy donation to this, or fund it outright – so that we have a decent Christmas tree in years to come.
Let me just make this clear. A couple of weeks ago, I made the offer to fund, or substantially fund a live Christmas tree for Brownhills miner island. I am happy to put my money where my mouth is.
This would mean we’d have something worthy of hanging a decent set of lights off, which we now apparently have.
Of course, few will be able to appreciate the lights or tree, because we’re all too bloody busy trying to avoid the potholes in the island…
You couldn’t make shit like this up.