The Society will be 125 years old in 2019.
As we work towards a planned year of celebrations, this is very good time to decide who we are and what we exist for. We are, of course, a Society of like-minded people, who love our country, celebrate St. George’s Day and remember our history and traditions. But what does that mean?
What impact do we have on the country we love, how are we viewed by our fellow countrymen who presumably also love their country but don’t see the need to join us? Perhaps it is time to change. Not to throw the baby out with the bathwater, not to forget our core remit of celebrating and supporting our homeland, but to refocus on what matters in this country today. There is no escaping the fact that our membership is decreasing year on year and although we have a good solid core of members and continually attract new ones, we are not appealing to a younger generation or the mixed culture of this country today.
Part of that may be that we are too reticent – too English?– to stand up and say that we are proud of our country. Most people are proud of the country that they were born in, over the centuries many people have laid down their life, their health or their sanity to protect the country that they love, and we are no different. Although this country has not been occupied since the Battle of Hastings, and has seen no battles since the Civil War, we have not been afraid to go out and fight to protect our country, at the same time as protecting others. We have a history of inventors, artists, statesmen, explorers that cannot be beaten – and yet we are loathe to fly the English flag in case we are accused of being racist, we are shy of talking of our past achievements and heroes in case we are labelled as imperialists. We are not, in short, doing our country a service. And apologising about everything won’t get us anywhere either.
We need to look around us and re-focus on what our country needs from us. It is a very different country from the one that most of us were born into. We don’t have an Empire for instance, but we do have Brexit. And Brexit (how I hate that word) is a very mixed blessing – this could be a time to establish what our country is and what it means to all of us, or it may turn out to be the worst of all possible worlds, and it has already been a very good excuse for extremists to show their true colours.
Everything moves so fast nowadays, particularly technology, and trying to keep pace leaves one quite breathless. Our young people are moving fast too, holding down jobs, paying mortgages, raising children, at a much more frenetic pace than we did. We are not the only Society or organisation that suffers from lack of young blood and we have to accept that. But we can re-focus on what we can do for our country and how we can support all those who give so much to it, and who also love it. Our armed forces and armed forces charities, charities that support the homeless and disaffected, support mechanisms for young people who have lost their way, the police, our doctors and nurses. I could go on, but each of you will have a charity or cause that is close to your heart, your family or your business for some reason and you will understand what I mean. We are a Society with a big heart and a lot to give, its time we made that clear to everyone around us.
As important as our history is to us, its not the most important thing. The most important thing is to show how we can reach out to those around us and make a difference.
I was so sad to learn of the death of Cyril Horsford, the Society’s former Honorary Registrar. He was a lovely, charming and courteous man, with a wicked sense of humour and I was very privileged to know him.
Our President has written an appreciation of Cyril in the latest journal, but we do hope that, if his family allows, it might be possible to hold a thanksgiving service for his life in the months to come and to have the chance to share more memories of this unforgettable man.
I will record here my thanks and admiration to Liz and Chantzi (Jade) for organising and executing a seamless transfer from the office at Church Hill to a home office. Not only did they source storage, removal people, telephones, re-direction services and everything else that goes with moving an office, but they packed, unpacked, decided on priorities for storage, spent an enormous amount of their free time meeting the various contractors involved – and all this as the same time as ensuring that the office ran smoothly, the telephone and emails were answered and that the administrative face of the Society continued as normal. They are both absolutely amazing and we are very lucky to have them.
Friday, 9 March was Grandparents Day at St Ives School in Haslemere and also the day when the Head teacher, Kay Goldsworthy, received the school’s Affiliation Certificate. St Ives is the second school to have affiliated with the Society, and we are delighted to welcome them. It was a lovely afternoon, we were beautifully entertained by the children, who were all incredibly talented, and I very much look forward to seeing them all again soon. They are certainly planning to send representatives to the Cenotaph, as Camelsdale School have for the last two years, and I know they will enjoy the day as much as we do.
North Hants Branch
I am very sorry to advise that the North Hants branch has had to close, due, as is so often the case, to lack of members, most particularly those who will take on administrative roles. I’d like to take this moment to thank everyone involved with the branch very much for all they have done to support the Society over the year, and I wish them well for the future. I hope that branch members will remain with the Society, and consider joining another branch nearby.
Unfortunately, the General Data Protection Regulations Act is not going to go away – indeed, it comes into force on the 25 May this year – and the Society is working towards compliance, with the invaluable help and guidance of John Oakley.
Please read the letter that is inserted with the latest edition of the Journal, which gives you the facts and outlines your rights and our duties. It is important that you understand how this new regulation affects you.
It has long been the practice by many branches that their members are informed by newsletters or emails of forthcoming activities or events. Although members have been happy to receive these communications in the past, from May the GDPR classify these communications as unsolicited marketing and advertising and so it will no longer be an acceptable practice. To continue to receive publicising events in this way, each member has to be asked individually for their consent. This is referred to as an Opt-In process (i.e. you have to reply to an email or letter written specifically to obtain your consent). Verbal, general enquiry or Opt-out assumption is not permissible. As a result you will be receiving an email or letter from your branch asking for your opt-in consent. Once this is done and out of the way, we can hopefully carry on as normal.
The whole concept behind the Act is that your data is owned by you, and you have a right to know who has it and what they are going to do with it. That makes a lot of sense, it’s just a pity that the Act uses the such a large legal sledgehammer to crack a rather small nut.
I have mentioned previously the problems we have experienced with branches collecting Society membership fees from their members and not passing them on to the Society. I have also advised that we have had to make the decision to close a branch if they continue to withhold fees after a number of requests. City of Birmingham branch has now not paid any fees to the Society for three years, have not replied to any correspondence, and are now formally closed. I hope that members of that branch will remain with the Society and will contact our office to ensure that this happens. We are also very sorry to say goodbye to Sultanate of Oman branch, for the same reasons.
Prof. Stephen Hawking
I have just heard that Stephen Hawking has died and I am very sad. He was part of all our lives, an amazing man with a brilliant brain, a wonderful sense of humour and an incredible amount of courage. He was given two years to live when he was twenty-one, and he has just died at the age of seventy-six, an example to us all of what mind over matter can achieve. You don’t get the feeling that he ever felt sorry for himself either – as well as being a world famous physicist, he was also an actor, a raconteur (despite speaking through a computer since 1985) and a party animal. And a man with a way with words – I will leave you with these: “It would not be much of a universe if it wasn’t home to the people you love”.