Geoffrey Shryhane’s Wigan World

Geoffrey Shryhane
Geoffrey Shryhane

NO don’t laugh. Please don’t laugh when I ask you if “Bobby Beacon” still goes into primary schools to give road traffic advice.

I suspect he doesn’t. And that begs the question – Who gives our little kiddies road safety lessons?

That said, I’d also like to know of the once popular Cycling Proficiency Test still operates? Other than in the tour de France, I don’t see cyclists of immature years collecting in school yards and with tyres pumped up, ready to take the peddling test.

But back to Bobby Beacon (as a kid, I thought he was Bobby Beetle) whose welcome arrival at the schools of old would mean “no sums and no chalking words on a scratchy old slates”.

Wigan World reader Irene Roberts from Abram has been talking about some warm memories of those good old days, and mentions the days when Bobby Beacon gave road safety talks.

She said: “He was a big kindly policeman with black hair and rosy cheeks and he would hang a sheet over the blackboard which showed a road scene.

“To this he attached a little character called Little Tommy, and demonstrated what would happen if careless Tommy didn’t follow his kerb drill. We all sat round and watched intently as he explained how it was vital to be extra careful when crossing the roads.”

As I recall, then officer used pieces of felt which stuck to the cloth over the blackboard.

All I could think was how lucky families were to own what I called a “motor car” as now one person in our street was blessed with four wheels.

TO prevent the possibility of further house building, Shevington Parish Council wisely brought up two plots of land.

Now decisions have are being made about use of the green-belt acres. It seems local folk are keen on football pitches AND allotments.

These will spring up near the new houses built by Orica on land once owned by ICI.

All seems well and good but, in my book, there’s a big BUT.

Allotments seem a good idea, but those I regularly pass on the London train always look totally scruffy and less than pleasing to the eye.

Am I right in thinking that should they come about, the Shevington allotments will be well managed and made to look acceptable?

Of course, one answer would be to build the Great Walls of Shevington around the 50+ allotments.

And always remember, Shevington, unlike Standish, is very fortunate indeed to have so much land for public use and the Parish Council must be praised for being ahead of the game in buying the unwanted Orica land.

The nationally-televised ITV programme “Don’t Blame the Council” was an eye-opener and a chin-dropper.

Did it confirm Wigan as the jewel in the crown of Greater Manchester? It certainly did not. Maybe it wasn’t meant to.

Who knows why the TV people chose Wigan? Did the TV people sniff out that our people – in this case council bin men – usually speak the truth? Even if that truth could work against them and make the town a nationwide laughing stock.

I suspect the answer is yes.

The hour-long show – or was it an exposé? – told how the council had been forced by the government to make £100m in cuts and change into a paying business.

For reasons better known to themselves, ITV filmed in just one part of Wigan – the Worsley Hall council estate. And they sought out neglected homes, piles of refuse outside backdoors and in gardens, mountains of litter on the streets.

The clips of dustmen play fighting – and snoozing – must have brought “tut-tuts” from all parts of the nation. But don’t forget, the lads were on their break time. Weren’t they?

Council executives were shown wrestling with the cuts, but in the end it was the bin men and fellow manual workers who stole the show. That’s if you consider it worth stealing in the first place.

The banter and camaraderie among the gentlemen who empty our bins was well worth watching. But clips of them snoozing and hanging about waiting to clock off left a negative impression.

As did council employees who turned up to present a resident with a prize ... only to fail when the voucher carrier failed to arrive as the clock ticked on.

The programme didn’t put the town in a good light. What they thought in Wilmslow and other posh places can only be imagined.

That said, the council was shown to be making progress with dealing with the cuts and everyone admires a trier.

My view – I’m amazed Wigan Council gave the go-ahead for the programme in the first place.

Surely they know that, by and large, the TV people simply feel the need to make the town and its people look shoddy.

It was ever thus.