It sounds really easy: “Write 500 or so words every week about any subject you like and make sure we have it by 12.00pm every Tuesday.”
That was the remit I was given by the then editor of the Hartlepool Mail when I was first asked to write a column many years ago.
Subsequent editors have kept the remit pretty much the same and I am extremely grateful to have had the opportunity to write a regular column in the Mail for such a long time.
It has given me the chance to communicate with readers on a regular basis, to explain about issues from my own point of view, to let off a bit of steam from time to time and particularly to be able to promote some of the great things that happen in Hartlepool.
I have a few confessions though. It is not as easy to come up with a different subject and make it interesting each week as it may seem. I have been lucky in that there is usually always something happening of note in Hartlepool and circumstance has provided me with loads of subject matter.
It is also very challenging to write about council decisions and policies in a way which is easy to understand and relevant to the reader.
Local government finance in particular is a very dull and complex subject (sorry to the chief finance officer) and it has been very hard to try and make that interesting and understandable.
There have been times when I’ve had writer’s block or at least that’s my excuse, and not been able to come up with a subject at all.
At times like this, I almost always draw upon my “reserve bank” and that usually means a column about Hartlepool United. Even that has been tough to do this season as it would have only turned into a frustrated rant about how badly we were playing.
Hitting the lunchtime deadline every Tuesday has also been a bit of a challenge at times. On a good week, I sometimes get about an hour between 11am and 12pm to squeeze it in but that is not very often that case. I usually end up having to do a couple of paragraphs between meetings throughout the day.
I’ve lost count of the number of times I get a phone call from the sub-editors chasing my piece. I am really sorry guys for my tardiness now and again and thank you for your patience in putting up with me.
I must confess there has been many a time when I’ve completely forgotten about it and that phone call has actually jogged my memory.
You would think that after all this time, it would almost be an automatic reflex to write the column every Tuesday but even now it sometimes slips my mind.
There has been the odd week that my column hasn’t appeared and this has usually been because of my complete memory failure that I’ve just mentioned or there has been a couple of times more recently when I’ve typed the whole thing on my iPad, pressed the wrong button and it’s just disappeared. A few choice expletives inevitably followed the couple of times that has happened.
For the most part however, I’ve enjoyed the challenge of writing this column and hope that readers have found it of some interest over the years.
With this being my final column as Mayor, I’d like to take the opportunity to thank everyone at the Hartlepool Mail for allowing me put pen to paper over the years.
I’d also like to thank everyone who has taken the time to offer me feedback on my column, both good and bad. It has been valuable and at the very least, has shown me that at least a few people bother to read it.
Finally, I would like to thank everyone in Hartlepool for the support they have given me over my eleven years in office. Not one person alive would have believed that I would still be here eleven years after first getting elected dressed in a monkey suit back in 2002.
The character, community spirit and sheer sincerity of the people of Hartlepool has continued to give me the strength and determination to make this town a greater place.
We are a good people. We are a great town.
All I can say is that I have been extremely honoured, privileged and proud to serve as your elected Mayor for eleven years.
I will walk away with my head held high and a memory bank full of fantastic memories.
I’m very much looking forward to starting a new chapter of my life and rising to the challenges that will present themselves.
The council will also begin a new chapter and I wish everyone whom I’m leaving behind, all the very best for the tough times ahead.
Thank you Hartlepool and goodbye!