Monday 11 October 2010

Anglo-French Walks

There have been no posts for the past few days as I have been walking in the Forest of Dean. The occasion was the valedictory ramble of Anglo-French Walks, a group formed by John Winter, then an "early retired" teacher of French, nearly 30 years ago, to enable English speakers wishing to improve their French and French speakers who largely seem to have no need to improve their English but are willing to put up with us, to walk together, practise our languages and generally enjoy each other's company. There have in the past been some 15 or so walks a year, each of a week's duration, held in both Britain and France, all organised and mostly led by John. Each walk usually attracted half a dozen or so of each "language."

Now John is within a few days of his 80th birthday and no longer sure he will be fit enough to lead another year's worth of walks. So for the last "official" walk, in the Forest of Dean, friends organised a "secret" augmentation when some 50 of us joined the dozen or so there for the whole week for the final day's ramble. and a farewell and thank-you dinner.

However, AFW II way arise from the ashes as some members are hoping to organise a "do-it yourself" programme on the internet. An example of the Big Society in action?


  1. Couldn't agree more! Are you in favour of the notion of the Big Society - some see it as a cover for the cuts but there's also an idealogical element too - is that something you buy in to?

  2. Welcome back, Chris. Yes, Liberals are in favour of the big society, though we used to call it by the more specific if less catch title of participatory democracy.

    (PS I posted this cement yesterday but it seems to have got lost in the ether.)

  3. Thanks; I've just completed a house move so the last month or so has been a little frenetic and mostly Internetless!

    I think the "Big Society" is a very big target for politicians opposed to the current government to fire at; but dismissing, devaluing or deriding it fails to acknowledge that over the last decade and a half (primarily of New Labour) we have seen the worst of both worlds - a largely selfish, individualistic society of people who have no concept of civic duty and responsibility, and an all-smothering state that is happy to keep them dependent, so much the better to bribe a vote out of them and thus never be seriously challenged by any real community activism.

    Glad to see we're both in agreement on it! The big question of the Big Society I suppose is how best to foster it - I'm glad it's finally being trumpeted as a concept loudly from the bully pulpit of government, but we need to see real work to effect it.

  4. It will best be fostered if the government takes an enabling role (especially in providing the money) rather than simply hands over the functions to charities.

  5. Hasn't the folly of entrusting everything to government been very acutely highlighted over the last period of Labour rule, though? We now have a huge 'underclass' entirely dependent upon, and expectant of, handouts provided by working section of society; such entitlement has replaced any sense of pride, aspiration or achievement more commonly felt by the traditional British working class.

    I completely agree with you that government must be an enable, a facilitator - but not a one-stop shop for all services, all things to all people and all powerful. Too much of that leads to the laissez-faire dependency we've seen, and stifles the innovation and ingenuity one finds in more bottom-up solutions.

    I agree also that government will have to provide funds too. In ordinary circumstances I would hope that the transitioning of government-provided services to more independent and voluntary bodies would be gradually phased-in; as it is, the economic circumstances and the government's handling of them seem to be leaning more to pushing us out of the nest and off the branch. I sincerely hope some thought is given to providing at least a minimal fiscal safety net in this regard.