My trip to 10 Downing Street by Society chairman Phillip Gould-Bourn
As all the Civic Society committee members do everything on a voluntary basis, it is extremely rewarding when people express their appreciation for the work we do and what we have achieved.
As such, it was a great honour for myself, as chairman, along with long-time Honorary Secretary, Helen Moorhouse, to receive invitations recently to visit 10 Downing Street and meet the Prime Minister and other community volunteers from across the country. Our visit was arranged by Mary Robinson, the Conservative party parliamentary candidate for Cheadle, and it was made clear it was as a reward to the huge amount of important work the Society has done in Cheadle over the past 50 years.
Helen and myself got the train down to London from Stockport station and we arrived at Euston right on time. We then hailed a taxi and I couldn't resist saying to the cabbie the immortal words: "10 Downing Street, please".
Once we arrived, we headed for the security entrance which is at the junction of Downing Street and Whitehall. It was here we had to show our credentials and then pass thorough the airport style security facilities before making our way to the famous number 10 Downing Street door. The door itself is very impressive, with everything from the knocker to the number 10, all highly polished. We were told there are actually two identical doors, so when one is removed to be cleaned or maintained, the other one replaces it straight away.
Once inside the great home, we were taken up the famous staircase which has the pictures of all the past prime ministers on the wall and we were taken into a vast reception area which overlooked the private gardens at the back. We then spent time chatting with one of the Prime Minister's aides while enjoying a variety of drinks and canapés. Suddenly, David Cameron appeared and approached us. He shook our hands and asked who we were and what the Society did. I explained our aims and achievements as much as I could, and although he listened intently, it is hard to know how much he actually took in.
Afterwards, I remember thinking how he had only travelled back from Washington DC for high-level talks with President Obama a day or so earlier and may have had other important matters on his mind, like the future of the world! But equally, I felt doubly honoured that I had just shaken hands with someone who had recently shaken hands with the President of the USA.
Mr Cameron then moved off to speak to other volunteers before giving a speech about how the government was trying to promote greater involvement by local groups and give them more responsibility. After that, Mary Robinson managed to get us access into Mrs Thatcher's former private study, which was also highly impressive.
We then shared a taxi back to Euston with two volunteers from another group from the Stockport area and I got home soon after 11.
On reflection, I was grateful I had been given an opportunity to spread the good name of the Society and everything we have achieved to the most important politician in the country. I would like to think that the next time Mr Cameron hears the name Cheadle, he will think of the Cheadle Civic Society and will recall that this is one group that really does make a difference within its community.
It was a truly fascinating day where I had not only visited one of the most famous homes in the world, but felt I had done something really interesting.