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Adam Edwards: Power to the people

PUBLISHED: 12:44 22 August 2017 | UPDATED: 12:44 22 August 2017

Citizen Smith © Moviestore collection Ltd

Citizen Smith © Moviestore collection Ltd

© Moviestore collection Ltd

Counter Terrorism Policing was offering handbills to help defeat terrorism (‘a flyer is to be put on the village notice board’)

I like to think that I hold the lowliest public office in the United Kingdom. I am clerk to the Parish Meeting of a small Cotswold hamlet, an annual Meeting that has less power than a moped.

The assembly, which is not to be confused with the much grander Parish Council Meeting that is a grown-up tier of government whose powers are defined in law, exists solely to avoid our small populace being consumed and then bossed about by our dominant neighbouring parishes. The Chairman and I are the Meeting’s only officers and my post is so base that I don’t even have to disclose if I have a criminal record or not (possession of marijuana on Chatham High Street in August 1970, if anyone is interested).

If I am honest, I have occasionally wondered in the small hours if the Meeting’s only point is to amuse. The parish council meeting in The Vicar of Dibley is by comparison a grand parliamentary debate. The over-riding view of most attendees of the Meeting is to say as little as possible in order to finish in time for a midday Bloody Mary.

In recent years the main discussion topics under Any Other Business have been the rejection of a smiley face solar panel speed limit sign, investing in a pooper-scooper for the churchyard and raising volunteers to help with a pig roast to celebrate the Queen’s 90th birthday. Last year the main subject of the Meeting, which came in at under 12 minutes and was the shortest on record, was whether the annual gathering, which is always held at 11am on a Sunday morning, could be moved back by half an hour to avoid clashing with the omnibus edition of The Archers (it was during the traumatic Rob and Helen storyline).

This year the Meeting was at its parochial best. There were concerns about a plague of rabbits and how to get rid of them (‘a superior airgun with thermal imaging’), asking for volunteers to join in the neighbouring village litter-pick (‘it was hoped against hope that somebody would step forward’) and noting that Counter Terrorism Policing was offering handbills to help defeat terrorism (‘a flyer is to be put on the village notice board’).

And then there was the suggestion that the village, prompted by the Cotswold District Council, install a defibrillator in the disused red telephone box at the corner of the village green. A retired doctor who lives at the other end of the village made the point that if somebody was going to have a cardiac arrest outside the phone box, they would be ‘well dead’ by the time he got to them. He added that it needed three people for the defibrillator to be of any use: one to have the heart attack, one to massage the heart and one to get the defibrillator. And it was noted that the chance of anyone, let alone two or three people, wandering anywhere near the village telephone box on either a weekday or weekend was less likely than seeing Superman change in it.

The defibrillator is for most small communities about as useful as JumpSnap, a ropeless skipping rope that claims to come “with all the cardio benefits of a traditional rope without tripping”. In fact last year the highly respected New England Journal of Medicine reported that most home and small community consumers are unlikely to benefit from automated external defibrillators. An extensive study acknowledged that “The devices, that are marketed to provide life saving jolts of electricity, clearly saved lives in hospitals, emergency vehicles and in busy public settings like airports and casinos where trained employees are on duty” but that “Patients in homes and small communities equipped with the gear died at the same rate as those without it”.

This authoritative study was unknown to the denizens of my village at the annual Meeting, but it mattered not a jot. The Chairman, after listening to what the Doc had to say, said that while it seemed churlish to refuse the CDC’s offer to install such equipment it was not appropriate for our particular village. A vote was taken and it was agreed it was not needed.

Perhaps the village Meeting and my role as clerk are not so loopy after all. As I walked home I couldn’t help humming with, I admit a certain irony, the old John Lennon ditty “Power to the people, power to the people, right on”.

Want to hear more from Adam? Follow him on Twitter! @cotswoldhack

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