Susan's Musings

Just Thinking Out Loud

Walking on Sunshine

I’m normally a happy, positive, smiling person, but on Thursday I received a phone call which made me feel as if I was actually walking on sunshine. I tried to contain my excitement, but all my efforts were futile. So if you were in Central Milton Keynes on Thursday and happened to come across a lady all suited up, jiggling along as she walked with headphones in – I confess, that was probably me. Since I don’t have any teenage children to have been embarrassed by my behaviour, I think I may have got away with such behaviour.

Although the teenagers of the world are more likely to be embarrassed for me than by me, I have questioned myself as to whether my euphoria may have been a bit extreme. After all, I’ve asked myself, what will happen if my new source of excitement is withdrawn? Will I suddenly go to the opposite extreme and become a melancholic nightmare.

On reflection I have, however, concluded that I should continue to at least try and walk on sunshine, but moderate my behaviour – in public. The reality is there is always something to be happy and excited about – after all even on a dull, rainy day, the sun does still shine. I know this for a fact based on the experience of sitting in a conservatory on a cold winter’s day. So sometimes it may be harder to find the sun, but it’s always there. Even if you don’t have a conservatory and can’t locate the sun anywhere else, as sure as there is day and night the sun will shine again.

Susan Popoola

Copyright 2009 This document is the specific intellectual property of Susan Popoola. Content may not be reused or reproduced without the specific permission of the owner or a reference to the source. Opinions may be generated from content obtained from other sources and such content is referenced as appropriate.

Welcome to Milton Keynes

Never be afraid to try something new.

Remember, amateurs built the ark,

Professionals built the Titanic.

Anon

Milton Keynes is synonymous with roundabouts and concrete cows. However if, after 40 years as a new town and centuries of prior existence (as a number of different small towns and villages), this was all that Milton Keynes had to offer, Milton Keynes would not be such a diverse place with people from all backgrounds, colours and creeds and an ever-growing population.

It would also not be deemed England’s most successful new town and a showcase city visited by people from across the world who want to understand how to develop a successful new town, which is earmarked for growth into one of England’s ten largest cities by 2030.[i]

I’m possibly not the most knowledgeable person on Milton Keynes as I’ve only been here for five years, but the more I learn about it, the more passionate and in love with it I become and the more I come to believe that there is a need for greater awareness of what Milton Keynes is really about for the people outside of the town, some of whom will never ever visit, but carry an often very strong opinion of the place. Of equal importance, I believe it is necessary for those of us who live and work in Milton Keynes to be more aware of the diversity it offers.

Recognising the limits of my experience and knowledge of Milton Keynes, I have taken the time to visit different parts and speak to different people who I know have a much clearer, in-depth knowledge than I do on specific areas.

Having done all of this, I am very conscious that I only just touch the tip of the iceberg as there is so much more that I have consciously or subconsciously omitted or am possibly unaware of. For this reason, I hope that what I have put together will inspire you to investigate and find out more. You can find a number of links on the Leverage Points website.[ii]

As with everything in life there are negative things about Milton Keynes as well as the many positives. I have chosen to focus more on the positives: the possibilities and opportunities to overcome the negatives. I’m in no way deluded, but I don’t believe it is constructive to focus on the things that have been tried that have not worked or the mistakes that have been made along the way, unless there is a direct lesson to be learnt from doing so.

It is therefore not a contradiction that on occasion I have been compelled to mention some of the ‘mistakes’ that have been made in order to explain some of the current circumstances and, I hope, to provide some suggestions on how to avoid them and to move forward into the ultimate future for Milton Keynes.

I also hope that, through this book, people outside of Milton Keynes will come to understand that while we love our roundabouts and concrete cows, there is so much more to be said of this vibrant town.


[i] Invest Milton Keynes Facts & Figures 2008 Basic Presentation

[ii] Leverage Points – www.leveragepoints.org

Copyright 2008 Extract from Touching The Heart of Milton Keynes: A Social Perspective

This document is the specific intellectual property of Susan Popoola. Content may not be reused or reproduced without the specific permission of the owner or a reference to the source. Opinions may be generated from content obtained from other sources and such content is referenced as appropriate.

Beyond The Enigma

Without mysteries, life would be very dull indeed.

What would be left to strive for if everything were known?

Charles de Lint

Talking about the history of Milton Keynes brings me to what can be referred to as another myth. People generally believe that Milton Keynes is just a town based around a grid system – i.e. the roundabouts. This may be true of the newer, central parts. Most of the areas that existed prior to 1967 are, however, little towns in their own right just outside of the new town already mentioned. These towns, together with the gridded area, make up only 30% of Milton Keynes. Outside of the town there is a vast rural, or should I say, country, area, which makes up the rest of Milton Keynes. Although I had intended to explore all these areas when I first moved here, I am yet to do so, so although I’m aware that there is a vast richness within these areas with numerous stories of their own to be told, I intend to focus on the urban parts.

This takes us back to the grid system. Outside of Milton Keynes most people seem to be unaware that the much-mocked roundabouts form the basis of a grid system that enables people to rapidly move from one part of the city to the next.

For me it also means that it is difficult to get lost in Milton Keynes as the roads are marked with H’s and V’s: Horizontal and Vertical roads. It’s why, when my friends from London laugh about the roundabouts, I always passionately explain the grid system and tell people that all you need to do is follow your H’s and V’s.

At the centre of the grid system is Central Milton Keynes – otherwise referred to as The Centre. While there is a growing residential element to The Centre, it is very much the commercial centre of the town. It houses big businesses such as Argos Head Office, Volkswagen Group UK Ltd, Coca cola Enterprise Ltd and Abbey, down to medium-sized businesses and a multiplicity of small businesses. In total there are almost 10,000 businesses across the City[i] . It is also the retail centre of Milton Keynes – home to two major adjoining shopping centres – Midsummer Place and the mile-long Centre MK. In response to the question of what shops can be found in the shopping centre, the answer almost has to be “What shops cannot be found in the Centre?”

The Centre also houses the Church of Christ the Cornerstone. Built in 1992, it is the UK’s first ecumenical city centre church. It serves as the home church to Christians from the various denominations inclusive of Anglican. Baptist, Catholic, Methodist and United Reform. All these denominations are represented in the Church worship and ministry.

I cannot mention the Church of the Cornerstone without also mentioning the Peace Pagoda at Willen. Though not in the Centre, it is another first and a major religious symbol. Built in 1980 by monks and nuns of the Nipponzan Myohoji, it is the first Peace Pagoda to be built in the western hemisphere, and is understood to enshrine sacred relics of the Lord Buddha.

Outside of central Milton Keynes each square of the grid system encompasses a housing estate, industrial estate or combination of the two. There is a lot of greenery between the estates, with trees sheltering the houses from the main road.

This means that Milton Keynes is full of beautiful greenery, which is very well maintained by the Parks Trust. I have on many occasions gone walking and seen employees of the trust cleaning up the public areas or repairing property.

It is also home to a vast amount of wildlife, with woods and a number of parks.

Milton Keynes is also characterised by 13 lakes of varying sizes, each with its own unique features. The largest is Willen Lake, which is popular for watersports. Others include Caldecotte Lake, the Blue Lagoon at Bletchley, Furzton Lake, and the Tear Drop Lake.

I mention how easy it is to get from one area to the next. This is very true if you have a car. The grid system makes it a driver’s paradise as you can so easily get from one end of the city to the other within 10 to 15 minutes. If you don’t have a car it is a bit more complicated unless you cycle. There is a fair distance between locations. I used to go to a church which was a three-minute drive from my house, but about 20 minutes rapid walking. In a place like London where you have a good (though not always efficient) transport system it would be a non-issue but unfortunately, in Milton Keynes, if you don’t have a car and you don’t or can’t cycle you are reliant on public transport or taxis.

Sadly, the greatest weakness of Milton Keynes is our public transport system within the City as all we have is buses that do not run regularly. These shortfalls became apparent to me when, shortly after I moved here, I faced the unfortunate situation of having my car break down. With the dread of car repair bills hanging over my head, I wanted a way of moving around as cheaply as possible. I was disappointed to find that the buses only ran every half hour and left me with a 15-minute walk to get home. So I ended up travelling about by car. This was not cheap and with my impending car repair bill left me very squeamish.


[i] Invest Milton Keynes Facts & Figures 2008

Copyright 2008 Extract from Touching The Heart of Milton Keynes: A Social Perspective

This document is the specific intellectual property of Susan Popoola. Content may not be reused or reproduced without the specific permission of the owner or a reference to the source. Opinions may be generated from content obtained from other sources and such content is referenced as appropriate.

About The Author

Susan Popoola

Susan is a Human Resources Capital Optimisation Specialist specialising in areas inclusive of Talent Management with additional interest in a number of other areas inclusive of Education, Community and Social Justice.

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