I WAS at the Woodhorn Museum last week and as ever it was a great experience.
However, as I’d finished looking up what I wanted and having some time to spare I went to look at the records collection and discovered that they had in stock the class registers for Morpeth Road School between 1911 and 1965.
Now this was my old infant and junior school and I wanted to look at the names of all the people I was at school with, many of which I have forgotten.
After filling in the form I was informed that the 75-year rule applies and whilst I could look at those from 1935 and earlier the rest were protected to preserve the confidentiality of the individuals.
Amazing really, there is more information in the ‘phone book and much more on all of the social networking pages.
Whether al-Qaeda could benefit from knowing the identity of my friends from way over 40 years ago, or dubious loan companies exploit the fact I was absent during some days in the Sixties, is hard to figure out.
However, why list records in the catalogue if you cannot use them? I must add that the staff involved were both courteous and as mystified as I was regarding this rule.
It was a nice day and I decided to walk back to the town centre through the Queen Elizabeth II Park and could not help but notice that every single light on the path had been trashed, 30-plus standard lights totally vandalised.
On crossing the railway, I saw on the lamppost that dog fouling could be punished by a fine up to £1,000; a short walk up the road towards Ashington meant that I was forced to detour around thousands of pounds worth of uncollected fines in the first few hundred yards.
Then at the halfway point, opposite a wooden bench, was another notice informing me that this was an official public place and that anti-social behaviour and drinking in the street could attract a fine of £500.
More thousands of pounds worth of discarded bottles and cans were in the hedge along the road towards ASDA, along with more dog deposits.
Now three points: Firstly, what sort of town do the people who trash lights, let their (blameless) dogs foul the pavement and who feel the urge to drink in the streets want to live in? Secondly, what is the purpose of making by-laws, printing and mounting warnings, paid for through council tax, and then not enforcing them? Finally, given the low income levels endemic in the north east a £1,000 fine is just a nonsense.
You would have to be on £65k a year and enjoy almost unlimited expenses to be cavalier about this amount of money. Only two jobs like this exist locally and both are taken.
However, I’m sure Northumberland County Council could do with the money – and this was one street in Ashington. The streets of Blyth, Bedlington etc are no better.
Given the levels of muck and drink containers, why not employ a gang of suitable collectors to get the money and then reduce or even eliminate council tax in Northumberland?
Or would it be more sensible to have persistent offenders fined at a salutary rate and then made to clean up for a day or so?
As it is, at the moment there is no easy way to get to Woodhorn except by car, and what could be a pleasant walk to it is ruined by dog faeces, rubbish and vandalism.
This situation is neither unique to the towns in the area, nor is low level anti-social behaviour which so blights communities.
This situation might be solved by applying Robert Peel’s original intentions regarding policing, namely those in his nine principles dating from 1829 (easily found on Google etc).
The police will say they do have more important things to do, but all the evidence supports the concept that the suppression of low level crime leads to a rapid drop in more serious offences.
Peel also stressed that the public have a role to play.
The basic mission for which the police exist is to prevent crime and disorder and the test of police efficiency is the absence of crime and disorder, not the visible evidence of police action in dealing with it.
No one wants police state, no one really wants to ban dogs, and banning alcohol (or cigarettes for that matter) would lead to prohibition like problems.
We, Joe Public, have to help by supporting the police and not accepting the anti-social behaviour that makes life miserable.
I also note that I am echoing some of the recent comments in this newspaper made by G A Llewellyn-Jones, K Brown, Margaret Robson and R Bennett.