THE GREAT BT SCANDAL: Tuesday afternoon last week (June 30th) at about 2.00 pm, a lorry managed to snag a telephone line (not a power line as previously reported) on the London Road just north of the crossing. This took out the telephone and internet connections to all the properties on Eatenden Lane, Solomon’s Lane and an estimated third or so of Hoath Hill. At the time of typing this (first thing in the morning on Tuesday, July 7th), the situation is unresolved which is a complete and utter scandal.
Various people managed to contact BT via mobiles or work phones and received mixed messages. It should be fixed by the end of the week. (It wasn’t.) It should be fixed by Tuesday (i.e. a whole week later…). Then it should be fixed by Wednesday (…and counting). Some one would call Jim back with an answer on Wednesday. (Still counting.) Above all, there was a very explicit response to Ian Smith that BT were waiting on permission from Highways to close or partly close the A2100 so they could replace the telegraph pole and cables.
Our doughty Parish Clerk, Irene, therefore contacted County Councillor Kathryn Field on Friday evening asking for her help. Kathryn pitched in to the Assistant Director of ESCC, Karl Taylor, asking “when these residents would be restored to the 21st century?” And on Monday morning, at 8.30, I phoned Highways and, in Graeme Lake’s absence, spoke to Bernie Gorringe who promised to look into it and get back to me.
To be clear, at this point, we were on the brink of having had a good half of the centre of the village cut off from phone, email and internet for a whole week. They are all “residents” but that bland word includes kids trying to complete homework projects, folk trying to file PAYE (try explaining that to HMRC!) parish councillors who couldn’t keep business on the move (at least two immediately became incommunicado), elderly and vulnerable people for whom their phone line could be — quite literally — a life line, and people running businesses from home. I could go on but I’ll just settle for someone who explained that as a graphic designer they were dependent on an internet connection. To which BT responded by asking whether they were registered for business rates. No? In that case, they couldn’t be prioritised. (I’d like to ask why businesses should ever be priorities over any of our “lifeline” neighbours…)
Then, on Monday morning, I got a response from Bernie at Highways. BT had made no contact whatsoever to them for a permit for road closure. And Kathryn received an equally aggrieved reply from Karl Taylor saying: “We have no knowledge of this work and have not received a permit application from BT.” He went on to point out that given the loss of service, BT could have proceeded and notified Highways afterwards.
So BT gave at least four answers to the same question: three were inexcusable and one seems to have been a lie. At this point I asked our Clerk, Irene, to help. She drew all the usual blanks but escalated the whole debacle until she ended up emailing the CEO of BT, Gavin Patterson who, although in America at the time, responded very quickly and obviously put a rocket up the whole disaster as there are distinct signs of movement.
I’d love to give a happy answer to this episode but that just isn’t possible: once it’s taken a week to solve a basic problem like this, it’s too late. An absolute disgrace.
DEEP BREATH: When you get something like BT’s utter inefficiency and complete disregard for basic responsibilities to the people and businesses involved, you look for some compensating factor to restore your faith in proper people. And we got it this week from Bunk Hardy. What a tonic. Bunk now lives in Hastings but he reads the Village Voice, not least because his son, Mark, was born and still lives in the village. Bunk picked up on something we wrote a couple of weeks ago about the old Tudor Sow Track for transporting sows of iron from Penhurst (Panningridge) Furnace to Salehurst (Robertsbridge Forge). Bunk worked on what was then know as Salehurst Fruit Farm (the site of the old iron works, now Salehurst Park Farm) and had so much fascinating information. I went beating on that farm last season so was able to follow him round the area as he spoke about different things. I hadn’t realised that the old pond bay — that is the old furnace dam — was still there until the 1970s. Does anyone have any pictures of it tucked away? Or any recollections?
I don’t think there’s anything that makes writing this column more rewarding than when we hear from some of the many older folk from in and around Mountfield (and Brightling) who have moved away or moved to new homes in Battle or Hastings. We had Bunk Hardy this week but in recent months, it’s been a pleasure to hear from John and Simon Breach, Tony Williams in Battle and John Brown up in Sherburn. If you’ve moved away, do get in touch. My gossip with Bunk was the best thing that happened in a bad week.
BREDE HIGH WOODS: There are a couple of interesting walks coming up. This Sunday, 12th July, landscape archæologist Vivienne Blandford will lead a walk through the woods in the morning and on Saturday 18th, consultant ecologist Patrick Roper will lead another. Like a few others in the village, I went on Patrick’s walk last year and thoroughly enjoyed it. To book, contact www.woodlandtrust.org.uk/get-involved/events/.
REMINDERS: Mountfield Horticultural Society’s Flower Show will take place on Saturday 25th July. Doors open at 2.30 with the prize-giving due to start at around 4.15. Schedules of all the classes are available from Celia Morris at 9, Hoath Hill (880458) or Sue Kennedy at 13, Eatenden Lane (880310). And on the same day, Mandy is holding her grand Strawberry Tea in aid of Breast Cancer Care at 2, Yew Tree Cottages.
MARRIAGE LINES: Jackie Spriggs writes: ‘Tis the season to don one’s best titfer and hie hence to a wedding! And I have performed at two on the last two Saturdays. First, on June 27th at Brightling for a very pretty wedding of a bride I used to teach back in the 80s, Caroline French, daughter of Chris and Chris French, to Robin Siggs. Caroline is a nanny, and the service commenced with her little charges singing ‘All things bright and beautiful’ and, as many of the congregation were connected to farming and country occupations, ‘We ploughs the fields and scatter’ was also very apt.
Following the recessional which started out as Mendelssohn’s Wedding March but quickly morphed into ‘When I’m Sixty-Four’ there was for me a speedy dash to Robertsbridge Community College for their Fête which also celebrated the 60th Anniversary of the opening of the then Robertsbridge County Secondary School. I managed to contact several original ‘ancients,’ one coming from Devon for the event, who had a tour of the school, viewed old records and photographs, and cut a cake celebrating the occasion. My immediate contemporaries then transferred to John’s Cross Inn for a very enjoyable dinner reminiscing on events in our time, the wonderful education we had, and what we managed to get away with! Our only disappointment was that more originals seemed to be unaware of the event.
And on July 4th, the Blessing of a marriage, this time at Mountfield. This time the bride was Sarah Burgess, the daughter of Gillian (née Webb, Mountfield born and raised) and Mark Trott, to Timothy “Tiff” Burgess. Following the Blessing there was the shortest of walks to the Village Hall for a lovely reception. And… another local wedding next Saturday!
MOUNTFIELD CLUB: The Club’s snooker team has done exceptionally well by reaching the Hurst Green and District summer snooker league quarter finals. Following a 5–0 win at Hawkhurst and a 3–2 home win over Etchingham, they take their place in a two-leg quarter final against Division 1 champions Battle.
The Club are looking to re-lay the cloth for the snooker table in time for the new winter league in September. The Club will be arranging some fund raising events to help cover the cost if any one would like to help or donate, please phone club captain Steve smith on 07720 298971. The Club is also in the throes of organising a car treasure hunt — more information to follow.
PARISH COUNCIL: The next Parish Council Meeting is at 7.30 on Tuesday 14th July in the Village Hall. There is a very full agenda including a proposal to brighten the village a bit with some spring bulbs around the place.
CONTACT: As ever, if you have anything for the Village Voice, we can be contacted on 880614 or via email@example.com.
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