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Saturday, 25 October 2014

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Community spirit lightens my mood on darkest days

It’s four in the afternoon, dark outside already and it has been raining all day.

My mood should be as dark as the weather, because I am sick of the thought that we are entering into winter without ever seeing summer.

But my mood is somewhat lightened by some of the stories I have covered as a reporter today.

These have included two diamond wedding anniversaries, the winner of a Christmas shop window competition, and a piece about a young Maryport lad who has been selected for the Marines.

I have also written stories about the Maryport Christmas lights switch-on last Sunday and the one in Aspatria this Sunday.

I have written a couple of charity articles about West Cumbrian people who’re getting off their bums to help others.

It makes me realise that life is about more than the weather and that there are people out there who are not just sitting staring out of rainy windows; they’re out there doing things and giving us hope.

Here are some of my hopes, in no particular order:

Anniversaries: On the last newspaper for which I worked the decision was made to stop reporting on golden wedding anniversaries. With life expectancy rising, being married for 50 years was no longer seen as newsworthy.

My old paper should go back to reporting these.

Marriage, when it even happens, has become a disposable event. Divorce is easier and life after divorce more possible for women, especially those who were often trapped in marriage by economic considerations.

Living for 70 or 80 or even 100 years is no longer such an achievement but living with someone for 50 years certainly is!

Christmas lights: As councils struggle to continue to provide necessary services, Christmas lights might be an obvious place to save money. Why have them in these economic times?

Most of the parish and town councils in our area can see that sometimes money is not wasted if it gives people a few moments of what they want rather than what they strictly need.

Maryport is at the forefront when it comes to Christmas festivals. The town’s lights are not the most expensive and, therefore, not the best looking in the area. They don’t invite big names to switch on the lights.

But where Maryport beats everyone else hands down lies in the fact that it offers families maximum entertainment for the least possible cost.

This isn’t just offering families the chance to watch.

Maryport; thanks to Maryport Festivals and the town council, gives hundreds of kids the chance to do something – to make and parade lanterns, to make Christmas cards, Christmas trees and generally do things for free.

I was impressed this year by the number of town councillors who turned out to help in whatever way they could.

Coun Gill Elliot became Mother Christmas and put so much effort into Santa’s Grotto. There was a charge for this but it barely met the cost of the gifts children got.

Coun Dawn Charlton spent hours painting the faces of well over 100 children.

There were several more councillors who were highly visible (literally, as they were wearing high-vis jackets).

These people don’t get paid for their work but they turned up anyway.

And, by the way, so did the two town clerks in Maryport, who were there from morning until night, and so were the traders and everyone else determined to make sure that Maryport children enjoyed the launch of the Christmas season.

Mayor Peter Kendall pointed out that in return we should think about shopping in our local area – and that applies to every town in West Cumbria. Think about what you can buy in your own town before you go anywhere else.

Aspatria is gearing up for its switch-on this Sunday and it is also going all out to make sure that local kids get maximum enjoyment from minimum expenditure.

Charity: Once again I have sumbitted stories in this edition about people who go out of their way to do things for others. I never cease to be amazed at how much is done for charity in West Cumbria, whether for high-profile causes like Children in Need or just to help a local kid or to thank someone for their help.

Young people: I haven’t left much room except to say “don’t despair”. We can say what we like about kids today, but nearly every week I covered stories about some wonderful youngsters.

Do you know what? Suddenly the weather doesn’t seem to matter any more!

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