By far the majority of our engagements are of course involved in us visiting groups, organisations and charities, but we do like to also act as host.
We are privileged to have as our ‘home’ for a year, a quite lovely mayor’s parlour that is situated on the eighth floor of the civic offices.
This offers wonderful views across Portchester and up to Portsdown Hill, way over to the Western Wards and Fawley beyond and spectacular views across to Portsmouth.
We have taken the opportunity to invite a number of groups and organisations to the parlour, to learn more about them and thank them for the work they undertake, over a cup of tea.
These have included The Solent Singers, Help in Bereavement group, The Gideons and given their centenary this year, the Women’s Institute. The Fareham town WI actually presented us with a wonderful and very large embroidery marking the organisation’s centenary that has been given pride of place on the wall of the entrance to the parlour.
One of the real delights has been the number of visits from junior schools, including St Jude’s, Sarisbury and Hook-with-Warsash. It is often, appropriately, the school council that visits and we take them into the council chamber, describing Fareham’s coat of arms along with the design and significance of the mace that precedes the mayor on civic occasions and council meetings.
One of the highlights is then to allow the children to vote for two of their number to act as mayor and deputy for the occasion.
The two selected are then fully dressed in the mayoral gowns and chains and sat on the raised dais in the council chamber. Their friends are then allowed to ask them for absolutely anything, as for this exercise, the mayor has totally unlimited powers.
Unsurprisingly perhaps, the questions always surround school – reducing the school day, eliminating homework, attending for just a couple of days a week. In fact they have even sought a reduction in teaching staff!
When Sarisbury Junior School visited we had the pretty unique situation of one of our granddaughters Katie-Grace being in their party.
We finish off their visit with drinks and biscuits in the parlour and we hope that these visits do teach the children a little about democracy and civic life. What we do know is that it is a real treat for us to return some of the hospitality given to ourselves.