Wednesday, 13 May 2015

Do something, DCC!

AND the Lord said “Let there be traffic lights” and lo, there were traffic lights, and great was the woe of the people of Weymouth.

This woe reached its latest peak over the May bank holiday when queues of biblical proportions built up in the town.

Traffic jams from the town centre right back to the Southill roundabout and beyond, the seafront gridlocked as far as you could see and Westwey Road just a metal snake of vehicles.

So I’m sure you’ll all be delighted to hear one good piece of news... namely that Dorset County Council doesn’t plan on doing anything because accident figures are apparently OK for such junctions.

Thank God for that. I feel better already, but just one small query over council complacency.
Have they actually considered that it is almost impossible to have an accident if you aren’t moving?!

My view is that, having spent millions putting in a nice shiny new high-tec traffic light system, DCC is highly unlikely to admit there is anything wrong with it.

It is the old, old story. People close to and experiencing a problem are largely ignored by those for whom the same problem is safely away from their own doorsteps.

DCC has to pay lip service to complaints and it has done so, but actually doing something about the congestion?

Reaction could be summed up as: “We’ll look into it immediately and form a sub-committee. Yes, a sub-committee. That’s what’s needed. But it mustn’t have the power to make a decision because all refusals to do anything must come from the main authority.”

Meanwhile the rest of us face ridiculous journeys where travelling round Weymouth is easy until you hit the town centre which is just a total “no go” area.

And don’t forget. This was just one bank holiday. When the summer season kicks off we can expect such chaos almost every day. 

Good job DCC’s in Dorchester isn’t it! 

Plus ça change, plus c’est la même chose

WELL, all the election huff and puff is over and we now have Richard Drax back as our MP.

As that famous rock band The Who said: “Meet the new boss, same as the old boss”  but at least the all-party snowstorm of election leaflets will now stop.

Mr Drax has proved to be an energetic MP and, while I could go on to highlight how an effective politician is a rarity, this joke sent in to me by a reader does it far better.

While stitching a cut on the hand of a 75-year-old farmer, the doctor struck up a conversation with the old man.

Eventually the topic got around to politicians and their role as our leaders and the old farmer said: “Well, as I see it, most politicians are Post Tortoises.”

Not being familiar with the term, the doctor asked him what a “post tortoise”' was.

The old farmer said, "When you're driving down a country road and you come across a fence post with a tortoise balanced on top, that's a post tortoise."

The old farmer saw the puzzled look on the doctor's face so he continued to explain. “You know he didn't get up there by himself, he doesn't belong up there, he doesn't know what to do while he's up there, he's elevated beyond his ability to function and you just wonder what kind of dumb arse put him up there to begin with."

Enjoy the next five years!

What’s in a vowel? Pass the spanners!

EVERY now and again you come across a tale which is so funny it is a little gem.

I’ll spare his blushes as he’s already had a load of stick for this, but a well known member of Rotary was in a hurry to get an envelope in the post.

Fortunately he saw a post box in the heart of Weymouth, in St Mary Street and gratefully popped his envelope through the slot only to recoil in horror when he realised that what he had thought said ‘LETTER’ actually said ‘LITTER’!

The problem was that he could see his envelope in the rubbish bin but he couldn’t reach it.

Luckily some workmen arriving at a nearby site had a set of spanners that they agreed to loan him.

The relieved Rotarian then used them to dismantle the litter bin, extract his envelope and then bolt the litter bin back together again.

Gleeful colleagues, who spent most of the day ragging him for the incident, could only saythe incident had their ‘stamp’ of approval!

Sex stops council meeting

IT was a serious debate. Well it was meant to be a serious debate, but how can you concentrate on the nuances of argument when a couple are having rampant sex nearby?

OK, the bonking couple in question were only seagulls, but they were making so much noise that they drowned out the arguments during an important council committee in Weymouth.

The room was stuffy, some of the windows were open and seagull love was blasting through at full volume.

Very distracting stuff, but I suppose the seagulls weren’t best pleased to have to go through their mating ritual against a backdrop of droning humans just a few yards from their perch.

Well I hope those pesky birds made the most of it because there will be no chance of them repeating their assignation next year because their perch will have been demolished for redevelopment... maybe!


DAVE Abbott was born in Swindon, moved to Weymouth in 1964 and went to school at Westhaven Junior School and Westham Secondary Modern School. He studied catering and was a chef for several years before going into retail including 19 years with the former Weymouth DIY shop Dodgsons. Currently he runs a beach kiosk.

WHY do you live in Weymouth?
Because I love the place and I couldn’t think of anywhere else I would rather live.

WHERE do you go for your holidays?
Normally in the UK. I love walking so it tends to be West Wales, the Lake District, Yorkshire and Cornwall, all over.

WHAT is your favourite time of the year?
Summer, because it always has happy people and lots of colour and vibrancy. The whole town comes alive.

WHAT is your favourite film?
Papillon because I have read the book, it is a true story and it was amazing acting by Steve McQueen.

WHAT is the scariest thing that has ever happened to you?
Getting knocked off my bike by a hit and run driver who didn’t stop. It smashed by helmet, cut my legs and shook me up for ages afterwards. Fortunately, a passing woman took the driver’s number and he got his cum-uppance later!

IF you could live your life again what would you be?
A professional cricketer. I love the game, I played it for most of my life at local level and I only gave up when my knees gave out.

WHICH three people would you invite to your dream dinner party?
Gary Sobers because he is a cricket legend and probably the greatest all rounder who has ever lived; Thomas Hardy because I enjoy reading his books and I would love to get an insight into the man; and Mark Knopfler of Dire Straits because I love his music and because he is a magician with lyrics.

WHAT would you do if you won the Lottery?
I would probably go to Australia for the culture, for the cricket and for the Outback, but I’d still want to come back to Weymouth.

WHAT do you hope the future holds?
Retirement. I want to work but my knees don’t!

Tuesday, 12 May 2015

No real threat to Tories

THE Tories retained control of East Devon District Council, albeit with a slightly reduced majority.

No surprises there then and we should congratulate all those who won a seat at last week’s election.

A majority reduced from 25 to 15 seats will make little or no difference to the running of East Devon but we should not underestimate the performance from the Independents who between them grabbed 16 seats.

Although they failed to unseat too many of the big hitters with leader Paul Diviani, deputy leader Andrew Moulding, chairman Graham Godbeer and planning chairman Helen Parr, all retaining their seats, the East Devon Alliance did win 10 places on the council, the most successful challenge by a rival party since the council came into being in 1974.  With the Lib Dems’ six seats, down from 10, the Tories are unlikely to get it all their own way - and that’s good for local democracy.

One unacceptable part of the local elections was the failure of EDDC to announce the results of the town and parish elections until mid-morning on Monday. All the votes were counted on Saturday but not posted on the EDDC website.

A number of candidates were up in arms over this, describing it as an affront to the parishes. I tend to agree.

Neil Parish and Hugo Swire, as expected, retained their parliamentary seats for the Conservatives, but a word of congratulations here  to Claire Wright, county councillor for Ottery St Mary, who polled more than 13,000 as an Independent without party machinery behind her.

I was personally disappointed that David Laws lost his Yeovil seat. I am not a Lib Dem but I thought he was a great constituency MP and always handled the press superbly.

Wednesday, 29 April 2015

60 SECOND INTERVIEW: Clare Davison

CLARE Davison has been principal at Kingston Maurward College for five years, coming to the role from the position of deputy. In total, she has been at the college for about 15 years. Prior to her arrival in Dorchester she led a management and professional studies department in a Bournemouth college after teaching jobs in schools. She comes originally from the Muscliff area of East Dorset which, as she says, was then a small village, before being swallowed up by the Poole-Bournemouth-Christchurch conurbation.

WHAT are some of your earliest memories from your childhood?
Probably of Throop Mill where we fished and swam. There is a picture of me at home at about the age of two at the mill. It’s a lovely place.  We also used to cycle around the area as a child, with a group of friends, although I have never let my daughter do that. 

HAVE you always had an interest in the countryside?
Yes, I have always has an interest in large country houses of the sort this [Kingston Maurward] is, and I’ve had an interest in the countryside from my father who had a smallholding.

WHAT attracted you to Kingston Maurward?
It’s a very special place and unique in its ways. There are now only 14 land-based colleges. When I first came into the sector there were probably 40 or 50. I do feel passionately about Dorset hanging on to its land-based college because so many have gone, although a number have been merged with further education colleges, some successfully, some less so. Since I have been here were have diversified along with the industry. It now has new facilities for animal sciences, horticulture and we have just got some money for agritech, just to mention a few. We have needed to be outward facing and seek to grow year on year and are, of course, popular as a venue for weddings and conferences.

WHAT keeps you interested in your job?
The staff and students, who are fantastic, but of course this building and its grounds. I never tire of looking at the site and try and get out every day for a walk around and to chat to people. It’s a busy but exciting job and we continue to grow year on year and the college has seen more students opt to come here. 

WHAT sort of changes might yet be to come?
We have to constantly innovate and one of our priorities is to do more in Higher Education. We’ve done particularly well with apprentices – over 700 last year is significant for a relatively small college and of course with Dorset full of small and medium-sized business we have great links to hundreds of employers across the county, and beyond. Most of our students do go on and get jobs. We want to do more Higher Education and be in the forefront of making it possible for people to stay local.

DO you have a favourite area or department?
There hasn’t been a single day when I don’t drive into this beautiful campus and think “Gosh, I’m lucky to be working here”, and when you come in on a spring day and you see the lambs in the field and you look at the gardens with all the magnolias it’s hard not to like agriculture and horticulture. 

IF you went back to the classroom what would you teach?
I still do a bit of teaching but I would perhaps concentrate on English and maths, which is so important for everyone to have a good standard in. 

IN your spare time, if you have any, what do you like to do?
My husband and I like to cycle. On a good day we’ll get the bikes out and sometimes go fair distances. One of our favourite cycle trips is to go from Wimborne down to Poole on the old railway line and then over on the ferry and then on to Old Harry Rocks. It’s a view which is hard to beat. 

ANY hobbies a bit less physical?
Reading - I do like psychological thrillers. I don’t paint but I do like art and spend a fair amount of time browsing art galleries and looking at art. I’m a member of the Royal Academy and always go to the summer exhibition and am generally tempted by something. I love impressionist art. We’ve got a nice garden, but I can’t claim to have put it together, we inherited it when we bought the house. It’s now full of flowering cherries and magnolias and lots of shrubs, but we don’t have a lot of flowers.

HOW do you see the years ahead for you and Kingston Maurward?
I think we are well positioned to face the future and have the infrastructure and courses to ensure young people in Dorset have a real choice from us. You can never do these things quickly enough - I would like to see us being considered a world class institution and I like to think we keep in touch with what the sector needs and how its needs are changing so we can always deliver what is appropriate to the next generation. Our biggest challenges are financial – we need to maximise our commercial activity and we will have to continue to remain being very efficient in all that we do.

The Marine comes clean about its future 

AS we all know, rumours spread like wildfire in Lyme - and are very often wide of the mark. It’s much the same in any small community. 

The rumour mill in Lyme has been working overtime following a couple of cryptic Facebook postings and half a story in a rival newspaper concerning the future of the Marine Theatre. 

We knew about what was happening but against my better judgement decided to hang fire as the livelihood of some of the staff was possibly under threat. 

Once the story appeared in the Bridport & Lyme Regis News, people were talking about the 
Marine being “in financial trouble again”. 

The people of Lyme have every right to be concerned about the Marine when the town council generously provides £30,000 of funding every year. 

I am a big admirer of the Marine and those volunteers who work so hard to maintain it and keep it going. Without them, the place would have closed down years ago. 

Like many locals (oops, can I say that?), I have a soft spot for the Marine. It’s where me and my mates did most of our courting at a time when the theatre played host to some of the top music acts in the country - the Big Beat Nites of the 60s. 

Over the years I have compered many events from the Marine stage and have rarely missed a chance of extolling its virtues. 

I’ve also been impressed with how the Marine has attracted so many top names in recent times in a programme led by its two artistic directors, Tim Bell and Harry Long. 

Alas, Tim and Harry are off to pastures new in a few weeks. 

So what’s actually going on down at the Marine? Manager Nigel Day, sadly, has lost his job in a belt- tightening exercise that hopefully will prevent the trust going cap in hand to the council again. 

We put a number of questions to them this week, based on some of the rumours flying around and they were honest enough to reply in detail. That doesn’t always happen when we ask some difficult questions. 

Lyme branch of the Royal British Legion in good hands 

REGULAR readers of this column will know that I am a big supporter of the Royal British Legion, especially the Lyme Regis branch. 

Small in number, they punch far above their weight and do wonderful work in and around the town for ex-service personnel, as well as raising thousands every year for the Earl Haig Poppy Fund. 

Although I have never served in the Armed Forces there is some military history in my family with my grandfather, Alfred Evans, who lived in Silver Street, being a career soldier, serving with the British Army in the Boer War, in India and in the Second World War before becoming a policeman. 

My father was in a reserved occupation making Spitfires throughout the war and his two brothers saw action in El Alamein and Arnhem. 

I got to know about the work of the Legion by being asked to compere their Festival of Remembrance, which I did for 15 years. 

Although it is 70 years since the end of the last war, with our troops sta- tioned at every hot spot around the world the need of the Legion is as essential as ever. 

Non-serving personnel are now able to become full members of the Legion and on Saturday Jackie and I attended the Lyme branch’s annual dinner at the Golf Club, where it was 
good to see so many younger people present. 

Eventually, the Legion will be run by the young and it would seem that Lyme is well placed to maintain the branch’s fine record. 

As the years pass by, every year there are a few more familiar faces missing but in passing the baton they can rest assured that the Legion in Lyme is in good hands. 

"TELL me it’s not true" was the email message I received when a good acquaintance of mine, who serves on a neighbouring council, heard that Lyme Regis Town Council was planning to make an addition to its Diversity & Equality Policy to prevent staff and members being discriminated against because of their place of birth, i.e. not local. 

It was a parting gift from the Gang of Five at one of their last meetings and predictably was not supported by four of the old school. 

“Is it true or is it a joke,” he asked. “Tell me it was a joke, please!” 

In these politically correct days such polices are common place in public bodies and are no doubt necessary in these enlightened days. 

Stirred by Mark Gage’s absurd and slanderous “racism” accusation at the recent parish meeting, Rikey Austin took it further by saying that she felt some people could be discriminated against because they were not born locally. Rubbish. 

Lyme has a proud record of welcoming its incomers who, increasingly in recent years, have played a crucial part in the social and community life of our town. 

It’s one of those policies that will stir up more trouble than it’s worth 

Council dammed if they do, and damned if they don’t

WEYMOUTH and Portland’s sharp rise in car parking charges has come as no surprise.

Cutting charges was a nice idea but it has proved impossible to continue with the initiative because of the impact on council revenues.

So charges have had to rise, to the confusion of those visiting the borough, many of whom have been heard swearing blind that charges were lower the last time they were here.

Of course they’re right. Charges were lower the last time they were here, but a few blanched faces in various council committees at some pretty grim car park revenue figures was all it took to increase charges.

To be fair, the council is damned if it does and damned if it doesn’t.

Put up parking charges and there will be outrage at the way visitors are deterred by the high cost of parking in Weymouth and Portland.

But keep charges low and the authority finds itself with a big gap in revenue which has to be plugged in some way, often at the expense of cuts in other services which creates a different sort of public outrage that the council is cutting vital services.

It’s a tricky balancing act not least because Britannia Parking, which operates the town’s multi-storey car park, has decided against following the council’s lead and will be keeping its prices at their current level.

If this site’s all weather parking was popular before then it will be doubly popular now that it is cheaper to park there than in council car parks.

That will make revenue figures collated ahead of 2016-2017 council budget meetings even more interesting reading. 

Could we then see an even higher hike because the expected revenue from the current increase hasn’t materialised?

Politicians in denial

NATIONAL polls show the people of Weymouth and Portland are just like every other town in the country. They are fed up with politics!

Research has shown that there is widespread apathy about the forthcoming election and that has surprised and shocked the politicians so much that a drive has been launched to encourage people to be more enthusiastic about polling day on May 7th.

Quite why people’s disillusionment with government should be such a shock to those actually in government is beyond me.

After all, hard working people who have prudently saved all their lives are being rewarded by getting a good rate of interest on their savings, aren’t they?

Young people starting out on life’s highway can easily find a job or start buying their first home, can’t they?

And surely the NHS has never been in better shape, the national debt never so low and public optimism never higher?

Well the answer to all these questions is ‘Yes’... if you are a politician in government.

Sadly a new project by Specsavers only had funding for 650 pairs of rose-tinted spectacles, just enough to give one to every MP at Westminster.

The rest of us have to make do with seeing life how it really is and that’s enough to make anyone fed up with what has happened to this country.

A good summer in the offing?

COULD Weymouth and Portland be on the brink of a bumper summer season?

We won’t really know for sure until September but the early signs are very promising with a particularly good Easter.

The ‘No vacancies’ signs were out, beach traders told me that business had been very good and, on some days, almost impossible to keep pace with while most town centre traders were generally happy with what their tills were taking.

There can be no doubt that all this was due to getting mostly decent weather over this crucial early trading period.

But no-one will be tossing their cap in the air yet because Weymouth knows all too well that early sunshine can be followed by the disaster of a miserable summer.

Hopefully that won’t happen this season, as recent years have shown above average temperatures and there is nothing yet to show this trend won’t continue, so my umbrella is still tucked firmly away at the back of a cupboard... but I know where it is.

Ne’er-do-wells give bad impression

WEYMOUTH’S tucked away little areas are proving a haven for dodgy behaviour.

Teenage schoolchildren gathering for a crafty smoke in an Asda back street doorway, drunks gathering to swill cans in small parking areas behind the seafront and street people set up shop on out of the way bench areas near the harbour and Radipole Lake, it is all going on.

Such incidents are hardly likely to be a top priority for police, but they might be for the council’s tourism machine since these images are not the sort they want displayed as the vital summer season gathers pace and holidaymakers start to flood into town.

If the authorities want to do anything about these problems then the time to do so is now.

Tuesday, 28 April 2015

There was only one FR

LIKE many hundreds of others from the sporting community in East Devon and South Somerset, I was saddened to hear of the death of Frank Huddy - gentleman cricketer, wonderful musician and raconteur.

I first met Frank when he ran the Double H entertainment agency in Chard when I was Regatta & Carnival secretary in Lyme Regis. I booked the Tony Graham Combo, for which he was the front man, for numerous dances.

But I got to know Frank better through local cricketing circles. Known affectionately as FR (his Christian name initials) he was club captain at Chardstock for many seasons in days before league cricket ruined the local game and village cricket was much to the fore.

Fixtures between Uplyme and Chardstock were always competitive but ultra-friendly, especially after the games when we would repair to the The George in Chardstock or Talbot Arms in Uplyme to buy  jugs of beer for dropped catches and listen to Frank’s cricketing tales. Whatever happened to those days?

Frank had a way with words, both spoken and written, and helped to pen a charming history of Chardstock Cricket Club when they celebrated their 100th anniversary in 1987.

In later years meeting Frank at various sporting dinners and occasions was always an enjoyable experience. He was a lovely man and will be greatly missed.
  • IS anyone in Honiton interested in local government?  The last few months has been one of the most controversial periods in the town’s recent history with the argument raging over the Beehive community centre. You would have thought the annual parish meeting would have been packed out. But how many attended? ONE!