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It's not all that easy finding new and innovative ways to stand out from the crowd. Sometimes, in private as much as in public life, you need to be able to do something which marks you as different, as original or as worth watching for the future. My future - as much as my present - is marked by my attempts to stand out from the mundane, to be different, to get myself noticed so that, when the time comes for voting next year - for example - people are going to recognise my name and remember the things that I have done in the last five years.
We have five newspapers in the region; two daily newspapers and three weekly. Last month I managed to appear in all of these papers in various functions - predominantly the Crime Prevention Council - twelve times. Getting a place in the papers is not an easy task. Each one covers a very big catchment area with a mass of people trying to get their particular interests covered within a small amount of available print space. We all need to think out new tricks - practically each month, if not every week - to ensure that the reports catch sight of us and report our activities. Yesterday, Father's Day in Germany, I managed it again by performing my Mr Different act.
Yesterday was the Bicycle Rally. Two thousand people on bicycles riding over a distance of 29 kilometres, visiting 12 different stations with quiz questions, information and exhibitions about the region. Each stop with something to drink or eat - or both - and each stop packed out with the people vying with one another to get to the front of a queue. The weather was excellent; not as hot as last year which made it much better for us all, but with plenty of fun and, occasionally, a cooling wind. The route was mainly on normal streets with only one short section over a gravel road and a few sections over inlaid stone roads (paved). For me, as Mr Different, absolutely perfect.
Mr Different walked the route.
To be perfectly honest, I walk the course every year. This year, however, it is more important that I get noticed by the press in order to keep a high profile for the public. I need to create the impression that I am involved in many aspects of local life and that I know my way around the region, its busnesses, its people, its streets and its history. Knowing all these things is not enough; I've spent the last few years learning more about the area than most of the people who have lived here all their lives (including those whose grandparents lived here) know. The important thing, as candidate for both town and regional councils in the community elections next year, is that even those people who don't know their own town, know me; know that I am active in the area; know that I have an interest in keeping the area prosperous and that interest is an active one, rather than an armchair one.
The 29 kilometres is easy. I used to run marathons and longer distances in my youth. I've put on a little bit of weight since those days (in all the right places, of course!) but I keep myself fit. I walk regularly, and would rather walk to wherever I am going - within reason - than take the car. Talking to people along the route is easy; including the 39 people who came out with the same old jokes about my lack of a bicycle as I get to hear every year (and who honestly believe that they are original and, which predominantly isn't the case, funny). Walking around the stations along the route and chatting to the people I know professionally and privately is also easy; greeting friends and business associates is a must in our society. Introducing my eldest daughter to those who matter is also a must - she rode her bicycle which we brought from her home to mine especially - as people expect a good councillor to have a family; a sign of full integration. My daughter rode with me this year - voluntarily, I might add, as she is also interested in many of the things that I do, even though she doesn't live here and isn't involved in any of them and is at that rebellious age (13) when nothing is interesting - mainly to stop other people riding into me. Last year a woman rode into me and damaged my elbow - how she couldn't see me is a puzzle I will never be able to unravel.
At the end of the day, as the prizes for the quiz winners were distributed (32 prizes in all, ranging from small gift vouchers of about five Euro up to a bicycle at 300 Euro), I had my interview with the local newspaper, free beers from bike riders who had seen me along the way and, of course for the still present public, a mention over the loud speaker system congratulating me in having completed the course again, and that faster than some of the riders.
The elections are in exactly one year's time. Now, what can I do next month to keep me in the public eye?