Battersea Park memorialI took my son along to the Act of Remembrance in Battersea Park this morning.

It might, at first sight, be a slightly odd thing to do. He has just turned one and I can’t claim he showed much awareness of the service – the passing ‘planes interested him far more. But I felt it was an important thing to do. Now, more than ever, we should observe these small acts that force us to stop and think.

This was the first Remembrance Day for which there were no veterans of the First World War alive in this country. Indeed, we will soon be in the situation in which the ‘war to end all wars’ will have moved out of living memory. Even for the Second World War a veteran will have to be in their eighties (or have enlisted illegally) to have seen active service.

For people born in my generation such wars are unimaginable, and our links to them fairly distant. While my mother was old enough to remember WWII most of my classmates’ parents were either born after the war or were too young to recall it. Growing up the Falklands Conflict happened at a time when I was young enough to see it as exciting, and would watch the news marvelling at the Harrier. Our first involvement in the Gulf came when I was a teenager, and while I could intellectually grasp the issues I fear I had neither the age or the life experience to fully understand what a war really entailed.

Even now, with our troops deployed in Iraq and Afghanistan, we perhaps allow distance and trivialities to crowd out what is happening and what our troops are facing on a daily basis.

We have, perhaps, become slightly arrogant. I think the UK, in particular, views relatively peaceful Western-style democracy as a stable end-point of a country’s development. In fact, it isn’t. History, both classical and modern is littered with examples of democracies failing or being overthrown, by internal and external forces, to be replaced by dictatorships and tyrannies.

If we value our freedoms and our liberty we must be vigilant and fight for them just as much now as our armed forces have done, almost continually, since the first Remembrance Day in 1919. As those terrible, all-encompassing, wars fade from living memory, those two minutes and everything they represent becomes all the more important.

We will remember them.

Fairy cake and a cup of teaIt seems to have been an oddly quiet week.

Regeneration and Community Safety OSC (well, cycling)
I posted about the meeting the following day, so will not repeat the points. Except, rather smugly, to point out that I cycled to the meeting. I’m rather pleased that I’ve been managing to keep the cycling up – and am finding it an interesting experiment.

Last Monday was the first time I saw some really bad driving. Hitherto I’ve found other road users considerate, much to my surprise. There had been a few annoyances, but nothing major. However on Monday I found myself braking as a car turned left right in front of me and being nudged into the back of the bus by someone who didn’t want to give me any room. Perhaps worst was the driver who ostentatiously pulled into the oncoming lane to pass while pointedly accelerating then swerving rapidly to avoid a head-on collision with cars coming the other way.

My other cycling experiences have all been positive, and I’m going to carry on, but a salutary lesson that it isn’t all good!

Oxford Circus and Balham
It’s mischief and a little childish. But I really enjoyed the whole Oxford Circus and Balham episode. I think what made it sweeter, however, was that Westminster responded. As far as I’m aware the conversation was a few people with Balham connections tweeting about the crossings there. I don’t think anyone was really seriously suggesting Balham and Oxford Circus were the same.

The episode got picked up in a few places. I know the Municipal Journal ran it. The Guardian’s Dave Hill mentioned it and I understand the Local Government Chronicle have also featured my apology blogpost.

Alertbox in Northcote Road
This morning saw a formal launch for AlertBox in Northcote Road. AlertBox is a remarkably simple system that connects retailers and allows them to alert each other to potential problems – for example if they spotted a shoplifter – and to call for help if needed.

The system already runs in Southfields and Tooting where many shopkeepers rave about it.

The installation in Northcote Road was funded by the council and Battersea Crime Prevention Panel, with the technical support coming from the Community Safety Division.

Weekend events
This weekend see two major events. The first is the Battersea Park fireworks on Saturday. The display has always been one of London’s best and I hope the weather holds out to make it another successful year.

The second are the Remembrance Day services on Sunday. The two ‘civic’ services are at St Mary’s in Battersea and St Mary’s Putney. But there are other services taking place across the borough.