SIR PETER BOTTOMLEY: Who are neighbours?

The answers to a simple question are varied.

The Drumhead Service in Steyne Gardens on Sunday
The Drumhead Service in Steyne Gardens on Sunday

Around our Worthing home, the neighbours together open their gardens in association with the valued National Garden Scheme (NGS).

NGS supporters, with the help of their visitors, nationally have raised over £45million for nursing and caring charities since 1927.

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The West Sussex Guide for 1975 had a very short description of Sir Frederick Stern’s beautiful Highdown garden, started in 1910: “Famous garden in chalk-pit.”

Sir Peter Bottomley

I met him. Fred Stern had served as Master of the Drapers’ Company nearly 60 years before me. He retained his youthful enthusiasm all his life.

The Palatine School gardens, maintained by staff and pupils, may be the start for another person like him.

I recommend reading the book A Chalk Garden by F C Stern: it describes the creation of our national treasure.

Before visiting the Ambrose Place gardens on Sunday, Virginia and I attended the Drumhead Service at the Steyne.

We are grateful to the Lord Lieutenant, the High Sheriff, the mayor and many others for joining the veterans and the Combined Ex Services Association’s chaplain Rev David Farrant.

I thank Janet Goldsborough-Porter who, with the Salvation Army, Tom Wye and many others, made the service moving and worthwhile.

The admirable French paratroopers sang La Marseillaise. We hope they enjoyed the Pusser’s Navy Rum.

On the pier, memorial glass was unveiled by Lord Lieutenant Susan Pyper. One was for Worthing’s holder of the Victoria Cross. Two were for the RAF survivor who flew in the wartime Lancaster bomber before the Vulcan.

From one newspaper to another: congratulations to the Worthing Journal’s Paul Holden for the pier initiative.

Today, there will be a special service outside Worthing Town Hall at 5pm to commemorate the 1916 Battle of the Boar’s Head in Richebourg-l’Avoué, France.

22 Worthing men and boys were killed and they will be remembered during the service by name. Do come if you are free.

Later that night I plan to join the all-night vigil at Westminster Abbey by the grave of the Unknown Soldier.

The best known examples of neighbourliness include the Old Testament story of the Moabite Ruth coming back to look after Naomi, her widowed mother-in-law, and also Jesus’ story of the good Samaritan.

I would add the fabled Australian expression ‘mateship’. It described mutual help between the New Settlers; it was adopted by trade unionists and socialists as much as by more rightwing people; it reached its height during the trials of war.

The opportunity of contributing these articles includes the responsibility to stretch across the political spectrum and to recognise that on some issues, including the recent referendum, opinions are divided

We can unite in giving thanks that issues are settled by discussion, debate and decisions that involve pencils, secret ballots and fair public counting of votes by trusted local officials, watched by representatives of the campaigners.

On Monday, after the EU vote, I met impressive students at Durrington High School.

I thank them for their welcome, for their good questions and for their participation in an outstanding school.

With all the staff and with their parents, their achievements are great. Well done.

The best neighbours are beside us in college or school, alongside us at work, sharing our burdens and standing by us when we are feeling low.


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