Archive for September, 2013

Is fracking undermining the roads of Lethmachen? Town concern over carbon footprint…










For those few not already familiar with local firebrand Gareth Diggle, may I direct you to the photograph on the front page of this weekend’s edition of The Lethmachen Echo. Mr Diggle stands defiantly in the foreground, with arms crossed and a surly expression, as a rather desolate suburban street tails away behind him. Look closely, and you can just discern the brooding outline of Lethmachen Hill rising in the distance. On a local level, the 38 year old has been notorious for some years now. A constant thorn in the side of Lethmachen Council, a voice on every parish committee, this self proclaimed ‘man of the people’ has inevitably become loved and loathed in equal measure. ‘I just tell things the way they are, and some people can’t handle that’ Gareth was quoted as stating recently ‘but I like to see things in the clear light of day. The trouble with some of these local authorities is just that. They have no authority; they are weak, ‘yes men’ basically. It’s up to someone like me to draw a line’. That Mr Diggle’s drilling firm has recently been contracted to lead on a controversial ‘fracking’ project on Lethmachen Hill has only added to his infamy. This low key pilot scheme commenced last month, and has already attracted the wrath of protestors.

However, perhaps surprisingly, it is not to address the fracking protests that Gareth Diggle has approached The Echo again. Instead the cover story focuses on another issue: the spreading problem of potholes appearing in local roads. The suburban estates built in the shadow of Lethmachen Hill have been particularly affected by this issue in recent weeks. Coincidentally (or maybe not) these streets are home to Mr Diggle and his family. In a situation that the Council insists has deteriorated ‘almost overnight’, the surfaces of Wessex Way, Mercia Avenue and Bernicia Drive have fallen into such a state of disrepair that vehicles have been severely damaged, pensioners have suffered dangerous falls and teenage skateboarders have been hospitalized. A contact from the Highways Agency, who wishes to remain anonymous, informed us ‘It really is a mystery. Nobody at The Council expected this sudden collapse. The roads in that district are regularly monitored and the last report granted a clean bill of health. Experts are urgently looking into the matter’. Unaccounted with even this cautious assurance, needless to say Mr Diggle has not been satisfied with the local authority’s response. Thus on Friday he demanded an interview with The Lethmachen Echo to air his grievances.

A number of our regular correspondents have already contacted us commenting on how little attention the local press has given to the fracking project on Lethmachen Hill. As this issue is of national concern and, if I may use the term, a ‘political hot potato’, you would have expected Echo journalists to have leapt at the chance to get their teeth into a real story. That the fracking appears to have been green lighted through a series of closed committees, meriting only the most fleeting references in the local press, has led many to suspect a cover up. Do local authorities fear that a public debate would result in bad press and protestors overwhelming our small town? In their defence, Lethmachen Council would no doubt claim that in fact they are pumping money and jobs into the area during a time of recession. Whatever the truth may be, The Echo seemed relieved to run with a main story covering potholes rather than fracking, offering Mr Diggle ample space to get his point across. ‘The first one I noticed about a week ago, just after dawn’ explained Gareth ‘I’ve been starting early since I’ve been working on the hill. There was what I can only describe as this huge crater at the top of the road. It actually looked like it was smoking. My first thought was that a gas pipe had been ruptured’. Although this fear proved unfounded, the potholes continued to spread. ‘Every morning there seemed to be one or two more, almost in a straight line, appearing deeper down the road. Yesterday I woke up to find one, gaping, right outside my front door. It was like a stunt on Top Gear, trying to get out of the drive. Clarkson would have had a right laugh! But seriously, it’s no laughing matter, when are the Council going to act?’

According to our anonymous source, an aerial surveillance was undertaken in order to assess the damage. Lethmachen Council, ever eager to cut back on expenses, commandeered a helicopter and pilot from a national news crew, here to cover the fracking story. ‘The national team said they had never seen anything like it’ reports our mole ‘But it was obvious the problem was getting worse. The pilot joked that the holes looked a bit like giant footprints, or animal tracks, advancing down the hill. Someone mentioned hooves.’ Typically given an easy ride by Echo journalists, Mr Diggle does field one difficult question, but is quick to dismiss allegations that the potholes could have in some way been caused by the fracking operation close by. ‘I don’t see any connection at all, we’ve not disturbed anything. That’s just make believe invented by the protestors, a fairytale’ he snorts ‘besides, the fracking site is on the other side of the hill, miles away’ (nb. for readers outside Lethmachen, the drilling site is situated amongst the woods on the western slopes of Lethmachen Hill, close to the Saxon Burial Mound known locally as The Green Hive). ‘If you want my opinion, I wouldn’t be surprised if it was the protestors who are responsible for the potholes, just to discredit the project’ continues Mr Diggle ‘Take one look, I certainly wouldn’t put vandalism past them. You can’t talk to them on any level; they don’t understand what it means for the local workforce. All on trust funds aren’t they? That’s the trouble with these protestors; they don’t live in the real world’.


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Local vicar offers his final thoughts from the pulpit….













We would like to join the many voices raised in fond farewell to Rev. Ben Thrace, vicar of Lethmachen Parish Church who has left us to head a new congregation on the south coast. Ben, the grandson of noted Children’s author Jonathan Thrace, gained the respect of many through building positive relations between various faith groups in the town. He attended many meetings and ceremonies organised by local pagan groups, as well as developing an innovative ‘shared space programme’ with our mosque. Ben also encouraged local ghost hunting groups to investigate St. Anthony’s churchyard – a rare privilege.

Last Sunday Ben gave his final sermon.  Enigmatic, brief and strange we thought it deserved a wider audience:

‘I turn to Luke 10:25-37:

And, behold, a certain lawyer stood up, and tempted him, saying, Master, what shall I do to inherit eternal life? He said unto him, What is written in the law? How readest thou? And he answering said, Thou shalt love the Lord thy God with all thy heart, and with all thy soul, and with all thy strength, and with all thy mind; and thy neighbour as thyself. And he said unto him, Thou hast answered right: this do, and thou shalt live. But he, willing to justify himself, said unto Jesus, And who is my neighbour? And Jesus answering said, A certain man went down from Jerusalem to Jericho, and fell among thieves, which stripped him of his raiment, and wounded him, and departed, leaving him half dead. And by chance there came down a certain priest that way: and when he saw him, he passed by on the other side. And likewise a Levite, when he was at the place, came and looked on him, and passed by on the other side. But a certain Samaritan, as he journeyed, came where he was: and when he saw him, he had compassion on him, and went to him, and bound up his wounds, pouring in oil and wine, and set him on his own beast, and brought him to an inn, and took care of him. And on the morrow when he departed, he took out two pence, and gave them to the host, and said unto him, Take care of him; and whatsoever thou spendest more, when I come again, I will repay thee. Which now of these three, thinkest thou, was neighbour unto him that fell among the thieves? And he said, He that shewed mercy on him. Then said Jesus unto him, Go, and do thou likewise.”

An apt text on my departure; Lethmachen has been, and will I hope remain, most neighbourly. I think, not without a touch of pride (for I know sin as much as any), of the bonds forged over the past five years with Pagan friends, and Muslim sisters and brothers. I recall the exceptional generosity of each and every one of you this harvest festival, of your visits conducted to the needy and oppressed, and all that we have achieved through our fundraising activities. It is neighbourly to care. A most generous parable, I’m sure you agree. Yet I cannot ever read those words without a touch of anxiety.  Ah – as if on cue; the evening is upon us. Oh – and now the night descends! Well, turn up the lights. All will be fine. It is, as I say, a most generous tale. There is joy in it, and comfort. But there is something else as well.

Question: “Who is my neighbour?”

What a question! In one sense, it is so self-evident, that we must credit our ‘certain lawyer’ with a rare imagination even to broach it. My neighbour is he who is beside me, here and now. That is it. But the question is put to one whose mind is a fire.

Question: “Who is my neighbour? Who rests against me at this moment? “

Answer: “One you have not yet met. One separate from you now.”

Compelling, is it not?  This, then, is the truth the parable holds: as you sit before me, another sits beside you. This fellow might be distant, and strange to you, but he is your neighbour. Impossible proximity! Your every step is haunted by one you have not yet met, and – “how readest thou?” –  it seems to me that your house – your very home – does not stand alone, nor is it bounded by one property or two, but is haunted by something on its border that, for some time to come, will go quite unrecognised, because it is not yet there. Who would of thought? Generosity brings with it an uncanny coming to light.  Again:

Question: “Who is my neighbour? Who is it that is all about me now?”

Answer: “A spectre, returned from the future”.

Oppressive thought. This weighs upon me, and I may only pray that when I am gone from here, the burden might lifted.’

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