Tuesday, 14 June 2011

Milton Keynes

This post's home is now Milton Keynes - though previously it was in Rugby (2007 to April 2009). As I mentioned yesterday it has also been written in the Palace of Westminster, Washington DC and various other places I have visited. Thanks to mobile technology some posts have even been written on a bus or train.

My home in Milton Keynes is in Britain's "New City". A little over 40 years ago the whole of this area was an obscure part of Buckinghamshire. There were four main towns - Wolverton, Stony Stratford, Bletchley and Newport Pagnell. Also there were a number of small, rural villages - of which one was called "Milton Keynes". I live in the parish of "Shenley Brook End" - once a village that was the wartime home of Alan Turing, the genius who was one of the codebreakers at Bletchley Park (which is very close to Bletchley Railway Station - a video of a visit former Congressman Bob Carr and I made to BP can be viewed here). My "estate" is called Furzton - but if the name conjures up images of dreary, uniform rows of terraced housing - you'd get a completely false idea. Like the rest of the grid area of Milton Keynes - the 'estates' have lots of variety and green areas. A particular attraction of Furzton is its lake. I walk round it most days. It is teeming with wildlife, particularly birds. Earlier this month I made this slideshow of my walk

The city has one large railway station - Milton Keynes Central - as well as smaller stations at Wolverton (which has just begun a major rebuilding) and Bletchley. A coachway close to the M1 Jnt 14 links MK to many cities across the UK.

The major employers in the city are listed here (note that Abbey National is now Santander). It is the home of the Open University - an incredible institution which has produced, and continues to provide first class opportunities for study. My parents both studied (at home in Walsall) through the OU, getting the chance for a degree which they were denied earlier in their lives. I grew up as a teenager in a study atmosphere where they followed their OU courses as I did my school studies. Both my wife and I are associate lecturers - and our daughter is about to start working at Walton Hall. As an academic I make extensive use of their online library - as well as frequently visiting the physical library. In line with their philosophy of being Open, many of their resources are available beyond the student community - much excellent material broadcast by the BBC is actually made with the OU - for example "Coast", and there is an extensive website called "Open Learn"

There is a lot more about the city at the MK Web site.

One word on terminology. Legal "city status" is granted by the Monarch by letters patent. (further details here). In that sense Milton Keynes is not a city. However, this represents a wholly outdated and inappropriate view of what makes a city. Milton Keynes is applying for "city status", an application that I think should be boycotted. Milton Keynes IS already a city - it is its citizens, the community who live in the area, who make it a city. It is not an "honour" to be granted by some un-elected individual who has her position not on merit or the free choice of her "subjects" (another term I have problems with - can I recommend Thomas Paine's excellent "Common Sense" on the absurdity of a hereditary Head of State).

So that's a little about the city in which I live - and one I am happy to remain in!