Herald Column: May 2nd

What seemed like the whole of the Sussex farming community turned up on a lovely spring afternoon in a lovely part of the South Downs for the funeral of the doyen of the Coombes farming family Mary Passmore. Just as happened over a decade ago at the funeral of her husband Dick, the huge congregation sat in the sunshine in the field surrounding the beautiful but woefully tiny 11th century church listening to the proceedings through loudspeakers.

Mary who has just died at the grand old age of 98 and ¾ was usually to be found in the kitchen of the farmhouse serving up tea and cakes to all-comers and I can attest on numerous occasions there was always a warm welcome. As Father Roger said, having been brought out of retirement to take the service, hers was a ‘wonderful ministry of hospitality’ and so much else besides. Her wonderfully calming and down to earth reassuring manner was summed up on the service sheet with one of her quotes ‘Don’t worry we will just add custard.’ Mary will be greatly missed.

At the end of a fairly uneventful week back after the truncated Easter recess when we debated the more mundane aspects of post Brexit arrangements such as VAT levels on tour operators and regulations for seed potatoes I took part in an important debate on school funding. As with previous debates on the subject it was well supported on all sides and you can see a full version of my comments on why we desperately need urgently to finish the job of reforming the funding formula for West Sussex Schools.

On Friday after a crowded surgery I joined the Chairman of Adur Council and other councillors for the dedication of the new mobile treatment centre generously donated to the Southwick branch of St John Ambulance by the Grand Lodge of Mark Master Masons. This is a state-of-the-art vehicle and due to go straight into service at the London Marathon that weekend. Southwick is one of the larger branches of St John Ambulance in the area and I always amazed at the range of the events that their highly trained volunteers attend and for which we are all very grateful.

Back in Southwick on Sunday for the Adur Valley Scout parade for St Georges Day there was an impressive turnout of local beavers, cubs and scouts respite the decidedly gloomier and colder weather than for the previous Easter weekend. We have a new troop in Sompting now ably assisted by Sompting councillor Paul Mansfield who has invested in one of the traditional wide-brimmed Baden Powell hats that my late Father wore when he represented Shoreham scouts at the World Scout jamboree in Austria in 1951. Very fashionable!