Long live our LOCAL Queen

North Devon Gazette

It was my very great pleasure to speak with the Queen last Monday. She was well, and in good spirits having just won a bar of Twix at a function she had attended. Moreover, I am pleased to report that she will once again be gracing our town this coming June. Â

I refer, of course, to Queen Victoria, played by Ilfracombe’s Rita Clews, and 2022 will be the fortieth year of her ‘reign’. Loyal husband Frank dutifully played Prince Albert prior to taking on the role of Victoria’s son, Arthur, Duke of Connaught. Rita is central to Victorian Week, and she’s ready to return after two cancelled seasons. Â

Businesses dependent on tourism welcome this major date in Ilfracombe’s calendar, for it is certain to rejuvenate the town’s summer season. Taking place between June 11th-19th, the event promises this year to be a little different. Â

Special themed days are planned featuring Bathing Belles and the Pearlies, and are sure to add to the fun this grand annual festival brings. Where else in the UK would you see top-hatted and bustled townsfolk promenading in their glorious period dress? Â

The pandemic led to a catastrophic fall in holidaymakers, but those disastrously low numbers will surely be reversed as Covid retreats, and mercifully, the conflict in Europe hopefully subsides.  Â

It is important that Ilfracombe continues to celebrate its Victorian heritage. Our architectural character is largely preserved, and it is difficult to imagine how shoehorning modern development into its infrastructure would not adversely affect its overall appearance. Â

Residential and even commercial properties boast elaborate ceilings and ornate plasterwork. You won’t find such elegance and grandeur incorporated into the fabric of those flatpack Legolands that are popping up everywhere: soulless, prefabricated, shoebox estates without even a corner shop. Â

Compare the emerging HS2 terminal with Paddington’s Gothic splendour. Consider Basildon, Harlow and Milton Keynes, and despair. That Victorian pioneering spirit created the industrial revolution from which sprang our railways, shipping, commerce, medicine, communications and the formation of a global sphere of influence unprecedented in history. Why should we hide our light under a bushel by apologising for the achievements of recent generations whose innovatory genius still benefits us? Â

Whatever their failings, and there were many, the Britain they forged has not morphed into a feared and loathed state that refuses to honour its obligations. In contrast, France and Belgium abandoned their colonies; the legacy is an awkward, discordant relationship with former subjects, unlike the British Empire, which transformed itself into a benign and encompassing Commonwealth. Â

It remains the largest and most widespread post-imperial movement in history, even welcoming Mozambique and Rwanda, both formerly French dependencies. For all its faults, Britain remains the first choice for those seeking safety and security. Would any refugee in their right mind head for sanctuary in Russia or China?Â

We are encouraged to plant more trees to help mop up the excess CO2 that mankind’s activity produces. The compound is essential to plant life, it being elemental to photosynthesis and respiration.

It’s a by-product, too, of brewing, my own contribution to climate change being the two fermentation bins under my stairs, one of ‘Geordie bitter’ and the other, Cabernet Sauvignon. Â

Both glug away around the clock, emitting C02 through air-locks but the effect on global warming is negligible. Back to trees, though, and councils should beware of plans by entrepreneurs feigning virtuous, though bogus, green credentials to plant many thousands of acres of timber in fields once dedicated to agriculture or grazing. Â

We need that land for cereals and pasture, not the greenwashing activities of wealthy individuals whose ulterior motive is less about tackling carbon levels, but instead linked to substantial tax advantages connected to instant forests. Â

Now, with supplies of grain and fertiliser in jeopardy, we must preserve and expand our rural food sources. Ukraine’s invasion is a red-light warning that self-sufficiency in food and fuel must be our goal, or else we risk becoming a third-world vassal state. And forget dewy-eyed rewilding romanticism. We are facing a frack or freeze future.Â