Wednesday, 28 January 2015

Spell it like you say it?

GOOD mawning children, wat a nice day and I hope yuu are reddy faw yaw spelling test.

We will get reddy with a few words to warm up with witch I hope you egrii will help.
There will be some nyuu words to widen yaw vijen but others will be the seym ones we have praktised.

All joking aside, it does take a bit of getting used to doesn’t it, but my rough attempt at phonetic spelling might soon be quite a serious part of school life in the Weymouth and Portland area if a national campaign to introduce phonetic spelling continues to gain ground.

I don’t agree with it because I feel it will debase our language but I’m not a teacher, I don’t have the task of educating children and some of those who do feel simplifying the way we spell would be a help.

Quite whether changing “exit” to “egzit” or “relation” to “rileyshen” is the way to go is still open to debate but it is being considered whether you like... sorry, “layk” it or not to “kwowt” some of the suggestions.

Hopefully it will never see widespread use but I flag it up because these things have a habit of creeping up and suddenly being there. So keep your ayes open.

Looking forward to some wassail jam

I THOUGHT you’d all like a bit of up to date news that the fruit harvest in Preston is now safe.

Yes, yes, I know wassailing is hardly fresh news because it’s been about since the Middle Ages, but it has been revived in Preston to ward off evil spirits such as developers from a piece of land recently planted as an orchard.

The idea is that you sing, dance, drink mulled wine, cider and fruit juice and sort of... wassail, blessing the fruit trees for a good harvest.

I’m all in favour of looking after anything which might produce  a decent jam or preferably cider.

And if making a bit of noise is part of that then I’m sure it is a lot more socially acceptable than drunks reeling home at 2.00am while treating the street to a chorus of My Bonnie Lies Over The Ocean only using some less than bonny football chant words instead.

Wassail comes from an ancient Anglo Saxon phrase meaning “good health” and wassail was originally a drink made from mulled ale, curdled cream, roasted apples, eggs, cloves, ginger, nutmeg and sugar. Not sure about the curdled cream but the rest sounds OK.

It is an interesting example of how a suburban community can bring the countryside and its traditions closer to home and have fun at the same time.

Tough trading times persist

QUITE what Weymouth’s main shopping streets will look like by Easter is anybody’s guess but the talk on the streets is that some businesses may find it tough to survive.

Organisations such as Weymouth Business Improvement District are doing their best to attract more people into the town, but if there is nothing there to hold them then they’ll be leaving almost as fast as they arrived.

Much emphasis has been placed on higher footfall and more events and attractions to boost the town’s economy yet you can’t have shoppers without shops and there is a growing feeling that enterprises are being squeezed harder or actually forced to move or shut down altogether because their rent has been sharply increased.

At least four enterprises have talked to me about that so it is not an isolated occurrence.

The BID is already into its second year of five, council cutbacks and partnership savings continue and the era of austerity shows no sign of cutting anyone a bit of slack.

So it will be interesting to see how the shopping streets manage to fare over the next three months before the first “green shoots” of the new summer season start to appear.

Not so affectionate workplace nicknames

A WEYMOUTH man has contacted me about a few nicknames for people he has come across which, I’m sure, strike a chord with the rest of us.

That annoying man at work who always answers a direct question with:  “I’ll get back to you”? The Boomerang Kid.

The person who lets everyone down at the last minute? The Parachute.

Someone who constantly says: “Let me put you in the picture”? Rembrandt.

That person who washes his hands of any problems that crop up? Soapy.

Someone who always seems to be off work sick? The Yeti... because there are many unconfirmed sightings but no-one can prove he actually exists.

Finally – and perhaps my favourite – The Hostage. Why so called? Because every time you go to him for help he says: “Sorry, my hands are tied.”


BEAUTY therapist and former nurse, Janis Meeks, brought her Anti-Ageing Clinic to Axminster 15 years ago and now offers the best treatments available today with an associate doctor from the Knightsbridge clinic in London. Here she talks about how the treatments can benefit her clients...

HOW did you become involved in the Anti-Ageing Clinic?
In 2000 a client in my beauty salon asked if I could recommend a doctor who did cosmetic fillers. I realised that there was nobody offering injectable fillers in this area and that a client would have to travel to a city in order to have the treatment. I did my research and spoke to a lot of people in the industry and one name seemed to be coming up - Dr Rita Rakus. I visited her Knightsbridge clinic and asked if she would be willing to travel to the West Country to treat my clients and, fortunately, she agreed. Over the years Dr Rakus' Knightsbridge clinic has become a world-renowned team of highly-skilled, highly-qualified and experienced doctors. Fifteen years later, at our Axminster clinic, we are privileged to have an associate doctor from the Knightsbridge clinic provide the best treatments on offer today.

WHAT did you train in, and where?
Originally I trained and practised as a nurse in Manchester and then moved to Somerset where I trained as a beauty therapist and built up a very successful beauty business.

WHY did you choose Axminster for your clinic?
I had successful beauty and skin care clinics in Somerset and Devon with many regular clients. So much so that when I moved to West Sussex in 2006, the demand for the clinic was still very high, so I decided to keep the clinic running. I then looked for somewhere central for my existing clients and the Axminster Chiropractic Care centre at Pam Cottey House was the perfect venue.

WHAT treatments do you offer?
Initially we offered fillers and muscle relaxants. We now have a wider range of treatments on offer including Pelleve, Sculptra and Dermaroller. We have also recently introduced Aqualyx, a treatment that dissolves fat deposits on the body.

ARE the treatments popular in the local area?
Our clinic has built up a good reputation with many of our clients attending due to recommendation. Clients appreciate being able to have the treatments locally at a clinic that has been established for over 15 years. 

HOW do treatments benefit your clients?
In an ideal world, we would all accept and embrace the ageing process. Unfortunately stress, ill health, neglect, sun damage and genetic disposition can leave us with the face we don’t deserve. Feeling unhappy with one’s looks doesn’t mean we are vain, if we are constantly being told we look tired, then psychologically we feel tired. Many women have reported, ‘a new confidence and better self image’ by lifting the tired look with a little help from our sympathetic and skilled doctor.

HOW long do the benefits of treatments last?
This depends on the client, but injectables can last anything from four months whereas Sculptra can last up to two years.

SOME women can feel concerned about getting treatments such as botox - is there anything to be worried about?
Muscle relaxants have been used safely for many years in both medical situations and in the cosmetic industry. As with any invasive procedure it is advisable to speak to a doctor first, which is why all potential  clients have a free, in-depth consultation with our doctor to ensure there are no contraindications to the treatment.

WHAT do you enjoy about the job?
The people. The clinic is very professional and I enjoy the lovely, friendly atmosphere. I enjoy meeting clients both regular and new and get great satisfaction hearing how the treatments have helped clients feel better about themselves. I strongly believe it is important that our clients get the most out of their treatments so we make every effort to provide the best possible support.

HOW can clients make an appointment for a free consultation?
You can phone me on the 01243 374111 or 07906 786 246.

Tuesday, 27 January 2015

THESE are challenging times for Axminster, and it is no wonder that an air of gloom has descended over the town yet again.

Having had to deal with the threat to the library and uncertainty over the future of the hospital, the town now learns that the long-awaited demolition of Webster’s Garage, an eyesore that has blighted the town for 30 years, is now not going to take place in a hurry.

It is a pity Property developers, Hallmark Estate (Devon Limited), had not come clean about their inability to fund the demolition costs to make way for a temporary car park, before the mural was taken down. 

Those of us who contributed generously to the painting of the mural in an attempt to tidy up the sight might have thought our money was being well spent after all. Now we are not sure.
Hallmark say they have already invested well over a million pounds in the site and we can only hope that their positive expectations that they will be successful on attracting grant aid will bear fruit - quickly.

It is fairly obvious that it will be a long time before the site will be developed as a shopping and town centre housing scheme - if indeed that plan is still on the cards - so the sooner the old garage is demolished and the area tidied up the better it will be for Axminster’s main shopping area.

* * *

FURTHER disparaging comments are heaped on the town in that the collapsed wall opposite the Guildhall, damaged by a falling tree in last year’s gale, has still not been repaired.

EDDC say they are waiting for funding for wider improvements but the work will start soon. Hurrah!

They point out that coastal damage caused in the storms has taken priority - and there was me thinking the inland towns paid the same council tax so should expect the same standard of service. Silly me!

But some good news to finish. Well done to Axminster Mayor Jeremy Walden for getting the forecourt to the town’s most important building looking like a proper Guildhall.

Wednesday, 21 January 2015

Council gets it right!

IT seems that the council feels the electric vehicle revolution is not for them at the moment.

You see, the authority has been sparking the idea of switching its fleet of cars to electric vehicles so it can make full use of solar power facilities at its Crookhill depot.

Councillors have now decided not to stick their fingers in the socket as it were because they fear it is “a bit of a shaky proposition to be first”.

They are worried that it might just be a ‘Save the Planet’ gimmick, that taking the plunge should only come when there is wider support for electric vehicles from the public and transport operators and that “the business case and timing is not right”.

This isn’t a case of dozens of future council vehicles driving through the borough trailing hundreds of miles of electric cable behind them. The principle is quite simple. You have an electric car, various charging points, and off you go on your journey.

The problem comes when the driver needs to put another ten pence in the meter... and that might happen an awful lot.

Clean energy is one thing but a report to council shows that such cars might have to be recharged after just 120 miles and that such recharging could take up to eight hours.

Just two or three trips across the Weymouth and Portland area can easily rack up 50-60 miles while a loop from the town centre to Easton on Portland, back to Chickerell and out to areas such as Littlemoor and Preston can be more than 25 miles on a single trip.

It means such cars being considered by the council might need a lengthy recharge after just part of a morning out and about making calls.

I’m a big fan of solar power but, in this instance and at this time and at current technology levels, I think the council has probably got it right.

Why are all the flowers here?

IF YOU can believe the experts then at this time of year there should be 20-30 species of plant in flower, but in 2015 they’ve recorded a staggering 368 in bloom.

That represents more than one in seven of all the flowering plants in this country and includes the likes of gorse which shouldn’t flower until April or May. I’ve got five plants in flower in my garden right now.

It lends weight that, even in mild areas such as ours, the effects of climate change are becoming more and more apparent.

The Met Office said 2014 was the warmest year on record. We’re having our fourth mild winter in a row and there just haven’t been the frosts to kill early flowers off.

The most common bloomers have been daisies and dandelions and climate experts are saying that human influence could contribute to temperature records being smashed, but there is a down side.

Dorset is famous for its carpets of spring flowers, but if we get very cold weather in February then plants in unseasonal flower might be badly hit.

Enjoy the winter splashes of colour everywhere but be prepared for a floral graveyard if winter hits back.

Widgets, grommets and doobries

IF YOU have widget A (i) and screw B in front of you, why can’t they be fitted into hole C as it says in the instructions?

The answer, of course, is that some of the chest of drawer parts you are trying to assemble seem to have found their way into the box from a train wreck.

I raise the horrors of flatpack furniture construction only because so many people have raised it with me recently as they battle to put together special Christmas purchases or that now thrice damned bargain you bought from the January sales.

To be quite honest, I don’t know what all the fuss is about. Instructions such as “Place the back ‘10’ into the rabbet of the top ‘1’ and the side ‘3’ and ‘4’. See fig. 11.1” couldn’t be clearer, could they?

The fact is that all flatpack manufacturers must produce a set of assembly instructions capable of being easily understood by three ordinary people. They’ve just chosen Einstein, Turing and Hornby (he invented meccano) as their three ordinary people. The rest of us have to play catch-up.

Experience has shown that the easiest way to tackle assembly is to clear a room, lay all the pieces out on the floor first and consult the check list to work out which bits are missing.

A few insulting phone calls and it shouldn’t be more than six weeks before the missing parts are posted to you.

Next take an extremely close look at the screws. These are wilful fittings which often require not just different types of screwdriver but different sizes as well and you will always reach a critical assembly point to discover that the right screwdriver is still in a box inside the shed at the bottom of the garden.

Eventually, all challenges overcome, you can stand back and look at your completed piece of furniture... a mutant nightmare which belongs in the Tate Modern or one of the scenes from Transformers which was left on the cutting room floor to avoid upsetting children. 

Well done.


CATHY Harvey is the co-ordinator of Bridport’s Allington Hill Volunteer Group, affectionately known as the Allington ‘Hillbillies’, and has lived in the area for most of her life. She works in retail and is married to Jon, who worked as a member of the local police team before retiring. Cathy became involved in the ‘Hillbillies’ group soon after it was formed in 2011 and has been part of the committee ever since. Over the last four years, Cathy has worked tirelessly alongside a dedicated team of volunteers to improve the state of Allington Hill and Cooper’s Wood, two of Bridport’s best-loved green spaces.

HOW long have you lived in the area?
I have lived in the area for about 30 years, moving to North Allington 22 years ago. I’m happily married to Jon who was the local bobby until he retired. I’ve worked in retail all my working life - and I’m very much a people person, so it suits me down to the ground, except that I’m stuck indoors!

HOW did the ‘Hillbillies’ group get off the ground?
The Allington Hill Volunteer Group was started by the Woodland Trust in January 2011 with the first working party laying a hedge. The state of the hedge had bothered me for ages and I had moaned about it every time I walked past, so felt duty bound to go along. They held a meeting several months later and I offered to do a bi-monthly newsletter – I think I’m just about to send out number 26!  To raise funds for the hill we had to form a committee. Many were willing to sit on the committee but none would take on the role of chair. It seemed I had no choice and reluctantly took on the role. We have a great team, with a broad base of talents, including keeping me under control! I often get told to stop thinking. Since then, Allington Parish Council has taken over the lease on part of the area known as Cooper's Wood and Field. The community has really got involved in all the events that take place. They are often community-led and we involve local people whenever we can.

WHAT was it that drew you to the group?
There were two reasons why I joined the group. Except for the local shop, North Allington has no community facilities, such as a hall or school, that can bring people together. 
I was brought up in a small village and lived next to the village hall. One of my lasting memories was the year that we were snowed in and the village lost its electricity. My Dad visited everyone in the village and told them to go to the village hall where he had lit the log burner. They brought food with them and my Mum cooked a massive meal on our Rayburn. 
Everyone stayed warm and was well fed – it turned out to be quite a party too! I felt we needed a community focal point and this was it. Secondly, the Woodland Trust still used chemicals on the hill to control ragwort and nettles. We now do this by hand and work closely with the trust to make sure this is a chemical-free zone.

WHAT is the next event or project for the Allington Hillbillies?
Last year we applied for grants for the community area, Cooper’s Wood and Field. A First World War memorial bench is being made by Stan Toombs from solid oak, and this will be installed and trees planted nearby, supplied by the Woodland Trust. We also have grant money to improve the access to the hill for all the community. We are working every Sunday morning – weather permitting – to restore the boundary line in Cooper’s Field.

WHAT inspires you most?
I get my inspiration from my mum and dad. The older I get the more I realise how much they have shaped my life. I’m a farmer’s daughter, even though my dad gave it up in the 1970s. He was a traditional farmer and hated what we were doing to our countryside with all the pesticides and chemicals. He said we were killing the countryside. He has been proved right and I’m now trying to do my bit, in a very small way, to restore the damage. Another inspiration of mine, and someone who many people may remember, was Memeikia Jellicoe – an inspirational lady who I will never forget. She was a lovely lady who I started gardening for. She had taught in South Africa and traveled widely. She told me about her adventures and the people that she had met, and always said that language is no barrier. If you really want to do something, you will make it happen. 

DO YOU have any ambitions in life?
My hope is that one day I will be able to afford to travel. Other cultures fascinate me. I have been to China and the raw culture there that has not been westernised or made a tourist attraction was so varied. They are desperately trying to hold on to the many varied cultures and religions within the country. I would also love to learn to play a musical instrument, but I can’t even clap to a rhythm. I often wish I could play the guitar, but it would be beyond me.

DO YOU take part in any other community organisations or groups? 
Unfortunately I find I just don’t have enough hours in the day!

Tuesday, 20 January 2015

The cost of three nurses?

WHEN I heard that the NHS Trust, so determined to close hospital beds in Axminster come what may, had gone back to the High Court to achieve that goal, the first thing I did was to instruct reporter Anders Larsson to ask how much the legal proceedings were costing.

We half expected the Northern Devon Healthcare Trust to come back saying that this was sensitive information they could not release.  Had that been the case, we would have used the Freedom of Information Act to find out how much they were spending on seeing through their plan to close in-patient beds in Axminster and move them to Seaton.

We were surprised therefore to get a prompt answer from chief executive Dr Alison Diamond confirming that they had allocated “precious NHS” resources - her words, not mine - to “defend themselves in cases like this” amounting to £75,000 to legally enable them to “maintain a safe service for patients”. 

Defend themselves from what?

We are talking about the temporary closure here for the winter months, not the long term plan to shut the beds  to save £500,000 and put a question mark over the future of Axminster Hospital. That decision will not be made until the extended period of consultation expires in February. There is great suspicion in and around Axminster that that decision has been made. 

So the NHS is expecting to spend £75,000 on justifying their temporary closure. I don’t know how much a nurse earns these days - but seventy five grand would probably cover the cost of three nurses, certainly one supervisor. 

Has the world gone crazy?

Every day we read that the NHS is virtually bankrupt, haemorrhaging money, and here we are spending £75,000 on legal advice on a temporary closure when Axminster League of Friends have offered £300,000 to keep the beds open. We all accept these are difficult days for the NHS and no one doubts the sincerity of health officials to do what is best for patients. 

But spending £75k on legal advice is a bitter pill to swallow in such circumstances.                                       

Wednesday, 14 January 2015

Let the workers get on with the job! 

A CENTURY ago, American diplomat Dwight Morrow advised his son: “The world is divided into people who do things and people who get the credit. Try, if you can, to belong to the first class. There’s far less competition.” 

Despite having namesakes now in Charmouth, Mr Morrow couldn’t have reached Lyme Regis, so well-supplied with his ‘first class’, such as all those volunteers peopling these columns last year. My explorations among some 30 varied groups – a fraction of the total – uncovered over 500 current volunteers, though many pop up in two, three, four or more places.

A gentle note to the admirably vigilant Geoffrey Mann, who understands that “the price of liberty is eternal vigilance”: not one of those is a loose cannon subverting democracy – each is accountable to some lawful, properly-governed body.

Could Morrow observe Britain today, he might re-phrase his premise: “The world is divided into people who do things and people who pass judgement.” 

Fewer and fewer people do creative, productive or useful work, while more and more tell them what to do and how to do it – or what they’ve done wrong and how they must change. 

Take just two examples. Education is inspected to death by Ofsted (so many of these parasites’ names – Ofqual, Ofwat, Ofcom, etc – echo Stalin’s USSR: Orgburo, Orgotdel, Partkom ...). 

Ofsted’s empire, exploding over two decades beyond schools, now includes children’s social care, childcare, fostering, adoption, teacher training, nursery education, further education colleges, adult education and training... meanwhile, the Care Quality Commission ranges over adult social care, nursing and care homes, community provision, home care, GPs, dentists, clinics and hospitals.   

We must assume that the legions of inspectors required for all this comprise experienced, well-qualified leaders in their fields – how else could the system be credible? So let’s imagine these thousands of experts back actually doing the jobs – teaching, caring, doctoring – while leading by example from within and sharing the front-line challenges. 

What a boost to the quality of those public services! Imagine the money now spent on their office buildings, travel, accommodation, support staff and reports returning to the places of real work!

Inspection hasn’t improved quality

Our assumption may, though, be false. Evidence lies everywhere that ceaseless inspection, with its bureaucratically-defined ‘standards’ and jargon-stuffed robotic reports, hasn’t improved the quality of what is inspected. Perhaps the inspectors aren’t so brilliant? 

So, is it all wasted money but otherwise harmless – like the ‘Energy Performance’ inspector assessing our home, umbilically-attached to his government-provided computer programme, who reported our need for floor insulation? There’s 200mm of the stuff but, being under the floor, he couldn’t see it so wasn’t allowed to record it.

No, it’s far from harmless. Across swathes of public life, absurdly prescriptive guidelines from ivory-tower regulators, plus ‘compliance’ enforced by inspectors with checklists and clipboards, create a self-limiting cycle. Trapped in the middle are human beings with brains, skills and commitment. But those twin pressures attack their capacity to think for themselves, to act according to the challenges in front of them, to judge their effectiveness – in sum, to be responsible. Top-down diktats aim to turn thoughtful individuals into de-skilled automatons. Nit-picking inspections distort priorities; they create unwarranted stress, demoralisation, and sometimes minor fraud. 

This infantilising process is catastrophic: it undermines self-respect, self-reliant confidence, and trust. Then, as things increasingly go wrong, come the calls for enquiry. Could anyone count them now, or the variety of topics? Whether it’s over-running railtrack repairs, or the Iraq War (four enquiries, with the Chilcot report still unpublished), or phone-hacking or historic child abuse (enquiry into enquiries, there), dozens – no, hundreds – are running at huge cost in money and skilled people. The recommendation in so many of their reports for ‘co-ordinated multi-agency working’ becomes routine, as does the response that “lessons will be learned” – but aren’t.

Of course some are important, not least for those who have suffered – take Hillsborough. But how about fundamental thought to reducing failures in the first place? 

Which returns us to properly-educated, thoroughly-trained, intelligently-led, morally-secure, self-motivating people and teams working in a climate of trust, respect and approbation. And that means putting regulators and inspectors back to proper work, if capable, or into their little boxes.   

For local variants of the imbalance between those who do and those who talk, look to the NHS. The threat to Axminster Hospital’s in-patient beds has absorbed the attention of the Northern, Eastern and Western Devon Clinical Commissioning Group (22 board members) and its Eastern Locality (a 17-strong board), which together commission the North Devon Healthcare Trust (a board of 14) to run Axminster Hospital. Those three boards include 22 qualified medics, mostly doctors; why aren’t they treating patients instead of sitting in meetings? Three costly public consultations (one acknowledged as improperly-run) give no confidence that alternative public views are admitted. 

In Dorset, the CCG is paying management consultants McKinsey a reported £2.75million to review clinical services. Stop! That’s £2,750,000. Think! What could that do for real services here – more doctors, nurses, opening hours...? GP-led CCGs were introduced in the belief that local GPs would understand the clinical needs of patients in their own areas. If true, they don’t need McKinsey to tell them for £2.75million of our money. If not true, why have CCGs?    

Bossyboots in offices alienate volunteers, too. Those many locals whose efforts these columns recorded last year are committed, responsible and self-motivated. Like teachers, carers and medical staff, their motivation is precious. With volunteer work increasingly necessary for society to function, authorities from national government and its quangos to the humblest town council must support, not impede and discourage, voluntary effort.   

So set the workers free. This won’t eliminate failure, for “to err is human.” But smaller, localised problems, amenable to self-correction, are as nothing compared to the systemic disasters wrought by our present remorselessly negative, distrustful, culture.