Wednesday, 2 July 2014

Remembering all of those who lost their lives in conflict

WEYMOUTH and Portland’s recent Armed Forces weekend, forming part of commemorations for the 70th anniversary of D-Day and the centenary of the outbreak of World War I, was a huge success.

Uniforms were everywhere, displays and exhibitions entertained crowds in glorious weather and the air was full of nostalgia.

Two tiny incidents stick in my mind. One involved an elderly gentleman on the Esplanade who was keen to get a picture of the parade “because years ago I marched down there”.

The other was two children’s interpretation of all the warlike things around them, but it didn’t involve one kid brandishing a rifle pretending to shoot another kid with a pistol.
Instead Darth Vader was using his light sabre to bash the living daylights out of Spiderman!

Times move on, I suppose, but it was lovely to see the amount of real and facsimile documents which were available to help give the event realism and atmosphere.
People could see ration cards, colourful advertising posters for recruitment to the Women’s Land Army and read details about what to do if they came across an anti-personnel bomb.

The entire event was so broad that it really did have something for everyone from a chance to sample wartime bread pudding and potato scones on Portland to engineers laying out pyrotechnics beneath the sands of Weymouth beach.

The sad thing is that the veterans of World War I are all gone and the ranks of those who fought in World War II are thinning fast because, if you were 16 on the last day of conflict, you’d now be 85.

I talked with many veterans about the friends they had lost in recent years and what the future might hold for them and commemorations like this and they all seemed to feel that the baton of tribute would be passed on to veterans of the Korean War, the Falklands and Iraq.

It underlined that there will always be conflict somewhere involving military personnel from this country who, as they grow old, will be veterans that crowds will respect and cheer many years ahead to remember all those who gave their lives for their country and for freedom down the centuries.

Enjoy two hours parking for the price of three!

IF anyone needed any confirmation that Weymouth and Portland often has trouble with its finances then look no further than Portland Bill car park.

A local couple decided to enjoy a trip out to the Bill for the first time in ages and took some friends along with them for the ride.

They parked up near the lighthouse and bought a parking ticket for two hours for which they paid £1.50.

Sadly, when it was too late to cash in on the opportunity, they realised that the charge for one hour was only 50 pence and that they could have saved themselves 50 pence simply by going back as the first ticket expired and buying themselves another one hour ticket.

Not unnaturally, this caused a certain amount of consternation in official circles when I asked why the Bill had such apparently confusing rates of charges. It is being checked and if I get a response from the council I’ll let you know.

Gulls invading the home

GULLS are renowned for decorating cars with their droppings but one man found out they are just as adept at fouling living room carpets.

His family had gone shopping and left him alone in the house working away at his computer.

After a while he heard noises coming from downstairs, went to investigate and found they’d left the kitchen door open.

The tapping noise he had heard persisted, but he was able to track it down to the living room where he discovered a large seagull.

It was pecking at the French doors, asking to be let out, having by then done a fair amount of poop on the carpet.

The bird wasn’t frightened and the man was able to lean over him, unlock the door and free the bird.

However, he may find himself on the receiving end of pecking of different sort after he scraped up the pooh solids on the carpet but made a decision to leave his wife “to take responsibility for shamPOOing and hOOvering”.

She may laugh at his little joke… but I wouldn’t put money on it!

Last stop… Blackpool?

WEYMOUTH, this is Weymouth. The train now arriving at Platform 2… appears to be a bit off track.

So might the announcer at Weymouth Railway Station have billed the arrival of one train recently which caused confusion among every passenger who saw it.

Did its engine cab board detail familiar destinations such as Waterloo, Bournemouth or Bristol. No it did not.

Instead people were left scratching their heads at a sign which read: “Blackpool Pleasure Beach”!

Apparently rolling stock can be brought in from anywhere although whether this sign indicated an engine far from home or an engine driver who should be locked up in a home remains to be seen.

Art, manufacturing and science - the legacy of Belmont

An artist’s impression of Belmont

PROTECTIVELY wrapped, Belmont, at the corner of Cobb Road and Pound Street in Lyme Regis, is preparing for a future as interesting as its past.

Belmont is architecturally important for its origins as a Georgian maritime villa, most notably its embellishments in Coade stone - the durable, finely-detailed, ceramic artificial stone used by leading architects of the day for ornaments, statues and decoration. 

For 50 years, Eleanor Coade, the remarkable businesswoman who developed the Coade stone process, owned and ran its Lambeth manufactory. Given Belmont by her uncle in 1784, soon after its completion, she kept it until she died in 1821. With its Coade stone urns, friezes, quoins and heads, Belmont was a dazzling advertisement for her products. 

Except for Neptune above the front door, all the decorative heads are of women, which may tell us something else about Eleanor Coade’s progressive qualities.

Dr Richard Bangay, local GP, geologist, botanist and astronomer, bought the house in 1883, extending it greatly - including the octagonal observatory tower which still stands, the winding gear that rotates its roof intact. 

Belmont’s last owner was author John Fowles, who lived and wrote there from 1968 until his death in 2005. He described Eleanor Coade as “that very rare thing, both an artist and a successful early woman industrialist”. On moving in, he observed “a kind of female feel” to Belmont, and “almost a gratitude that something is going to happen after its ten empty years”. 

Near the end of his life, hoping that Belmont’s history would be preserved and that it might also be an inspirational residence for young writers, Fowles approached The Landmark Trust for help. With a generous bequest from a Dorset resident, it bought the house in 2007.

The Trust rescues important historic houses, covering upkeep and running costs through holiday letting. Belmont was a challenge. Could sufficient restoration funds be found before the building deteriorated beyond recovery? Was there time to research Belmont’s structural history, and for the complex planning procedures required? Should the house revert to its original Georgian or later Victorian form? How should the trust represent the different histories of Coade, Bangay and Fowles?

Belmont’s Grade II* listing reflects the importance of the Coade stone fa├žade and the associations with Eleanor Coade; only remnants of the Victorian extensions remained, the rest having been removed in the 1960s. So architectural integrity led the trust to restore the elegant clarity that Eleanor Coade knew, removing what remained of the Victorian additions but keeping Bangay’s unusual observatory tower. 

With the original window arrangements on the south and east reinstated, John Fowles’ writing room on the first floor overlooking the Cobb, with a library of his books, will be the centrepiece of the house.          

Being guided around by project manager Carole Paton and site manager Stuart Leavy was a revelation. Work began in October last year. With much of the roof at risk, the blue lias masonry fracturing in many places, the rear wall in danger of collapse, the front leaning badly at the top, and many of the Coade stone features threatened by decay of their iron fixings, it wasn’t a moment too soon.

Following good conservation practice - minimising intervention, retaining original features wherever possible, using authentic materials for necessary replacement - the external walls are secured and the strengthened roof re-slated. From expert scrutiny of structural clues, the original room layout is returning.  

Where the Coade stone has already been cleaned and repaired, its intricate patterns and detailed clarity are wondrous. Meticulous care is evident throughout the restoration. 

Historical accuracy, appropriate materials, specialists working with traditional craft skills, time and quality: these explain the £1.8million price tag, raised from over a thousand individuals and a number of charitable grant-making trusts.

By the autumn of 2015, Lyme Regis will once again see a delightful Georgian villa, its lime-based rendering washed the original delicate pink and its Coade stone crisp and fresh; John Fowles’ spirit in the writing-room; the garden back to its small 18th century domesticity with woodland running down to Lister Gardens; the house and observatory visible again from the Cobb.

A single let for up to eight people, Belmont will also be used for two intensive free weeks each year by MA students from the University of East Anglia’s renowned Creative Writing School. On occasional weekends the house will be open, free of charge, to the public. At these times Bangay’s observatory will be accessible, too, so we can see the mechanical renovation of its revolving roof, being carried out this autumn by four volunteers from the local U3A SciTech group.

The stable block, entered from Pound Street, will become an interpretation centre, open several afternoons a week through the summer season, celebrating the lives of Eleanor Coade, Richard Bangay and John Fowles.

Belmont’s three important owners - combining science, the arts, manufacture and commerce, and reflecting the “enlightenment” values from which the house originated - will continue to infuse its spirit. 

I finished my visit knowing that it is possible, given sufficient determination, energy and care, to rescue a significant historic building in Lyme while respecting its architectural, cultural and human history. 

Conservation work in progress


HAVING been brought up and lived in North London for just over 60 years, Irene Roper moved to Lyme Regis after bringing her grandson for a holiday in Charmouth, which she remembered from childhood visits, and after her son started teaching in the area. She moved to the area with Dave, her partner of 30 years, who has sadly since developed dementia and now requires full-time care. Irene has since spent a lot of time raising awareness for dementia and is thankful for the support of her three sons and seven grandchildren. She is also heavily involved with the Lyme Regis and Charmouth RNLI Guild, organisers of the annual Lifeboat Week, and below talks about this year’s events.

WHAT did you do before retirement?
My career was spent working with young children and their families. I originally trained as a nursery nurse and went on to become a midwife. I then worked in various children’s nurseries and pre-school playgroups before joining my local authority social services, supporting families in need. Eventually, I trained as an early years care and education tutor and taught at a local college before retiring in 2002. I still do some work setting and marking exam papers.

HOW did you get involved with the RNLI Guild?
Even before I moved to Lyme I was introduced to Jan Dover, who had lived in the same area of North London as me, and she asked if I would like to help during Lifeboat Week. I had always been interested in the work of the RNLI and was happy to join in. The rest, as they say, is history and on moving to Lyme was quickly invited to join the guild committee and become a volunteer at the lifeboat shop.

WHAT is your role within the guild?
I am now vice-chairman of the guild and my main role is to co-ordinate and organise Lifeboat Week. This starts in October/November every year and ends with the publication of the programme at the end of June, so I will have a couple of months break after each Lifeboat Week and then start all over again for next year! I am also very involved with the team that run the shop. Unfortunately, our volunteer manager recently retired but a dedicated group are keeping it going and if there is anyone out there who would like to take on the manager’s role we would love to hear from you. I also love working with all the committee members and crew whose dedication and support is constant. I certainly couldn’t do it without them. 

WHY is it important to support the RNLI?
The RNLI is a completely voluntary service with the aim to save lives at sea. It is so much a part of Lyme and other coastal towns and we continually have people coming into the shop who tell us how they have been helped by the various crews around the country. It really is like being part of a large family, some of whom regularly respond to a “shout” to help people in trouble. They need our constant support as without them and the RNLI lifeguards, the town would be a less safe place for everyone to enjoy.

WHAT do you enjoy about Lifeboat Week?
Lifeboat Week is the highlight of our year and also our main fundraising event. Although it is very hard work, it is my favourite event of the year and I particularly enjoy the bathtub race and looking at the children’s pavement art. As well as raising money, I have a chance to meet hundreds of visitors who come especially for Lifeboat Week and, along with all our hard working volunteers, can raise awareness of the work of the RNLI. I will admit to moments of panic but it usually all goes according to plan. One of my favourite moments was talking to a young boy who was with his family registering for the crab fishing competition. He was one of the last to register and, on handing him ticket number 88, he promptly burst into tears. When asked what was wrong he said “I won’t be able to catch 88 crabs!” All was quickly explained and off he went, one happy child with his line and bucket.

WHAT do you think the highlights will be this year?
I’m sure that weather permitting the RAF Falcons and the Red Arrows will put on their usual magnificent displays. However, the return of the tug o’ war between the lifeboat crew and the coastguards across the harbour entrance is always a great sight and members of the crew sitting in stocks while having wet sponges thrown at them should prove great fun!

ARE there any new events this year?
This year sees the introduction of some new events including fossil polishing arranged by the museum, the Chesil Flying Club will be flying illuminated model planes and there will be a performance by The Luggers, a local group of ukulele players who are quickly becoming a popular attraction at lots of venues.

WHAT are your other personal interests?
When I have time I love to settle down with a good book and am a member of a reading group in Axminster. I enjoy knitting, swimming and writing (but not for publication) and I am also on the Uplyme WI Committee, writing the monthly meeting reports. It’s not all jam and “Jerusalem” and I have learnt so much from the various speakers.

WHAT do you like about Lyme Regis?
Lyme Regis is one of the friendliest and welcoming places I know. I have made so many friends since moving here. For such a small town, there are so many events and nearly all of them are run by volunteers. I am constantly amazed at the generosity of the people and particularly the support they give to the RNLI.

WHAT do you think it’s missing?
Apart from a couple of moving pavements to help get up the hills! I really would like to see the establishment of an exciting and challenging children’s adventure playground with dedicated areas for different age groups. We are frequently asked in the shop where is the nearest play area for children? If ever one were to be built I would love to get involved in the planning. 

Wednesday, 25 June 2014

A sad embarrassment for the council

MY first reaction to reading the weighty document which made up the adjudication by West Dorset’s monitoring officer after complaints about the behaviour of Lyme councillors was not one of shock or incredulity. I knew most of the gory details.

It was one of great sadness - sad that the situation had been allowed to go so far that a letter calling for police action actually ended up on the deputy chief constable’s desk. And a certain amount of embarrassment - embarrased that the council of which I was once mayor had to sink to this level. 

There is nothing that the current crop of councillors dislike more than 'yesterday’s men' like myself  saying: “It would never have happened in my day”. The fact is, however, that it would not have been allowed to get that far. Disputes between councillors and staff members are nothing new. Most mayors have had to deal with a few disputes during their term of office. 

I had one particularly difficult situation to deal with shortly after becoming mayor and the then town clerk, Philip Latham, insisted that I reprimanded the councillor concerned. I was just 34 at the time and I did not relish the situation. But we sorted the situation, the two indivuals shook hands and agreed to get on with the business in hand - running the town - without washing our dirty linen in public. But that was 30 years ago and these are very different days. Employees had very few rights at that time and never really wanted to rock the boat when it came to upsetting their boss. 

Since my days as mayor I have employed hundreds of people and that experience has taught me that you have to do it by the book. Seeking a solution behind closed doors is always the best way forward.

I have spoken to a number of former mayors and asked how they would have handled the current situation. They all say they would have attempted to solve the disputes in an adult fashion by getting the parties together behind closed doors rather than flinging claims and counter claims at each other.

The monitoring officer’s report makes disturbing reading whichever way you look at it, and it rather blows a hole in the rather smug view expressed by senior councillors at the annual town meeting when they pretended that everything was rosy in the town council camp and what a good job they were all doing. No wonder they had problems with their delivery.

The most distressing part of the whole debacle is that council staff have got embroiled in a public spat with their employers, leading to them calling for the resignation of councillors who have been voted in by the people. That has never happened in Lyme before.

One question many are asking is how much has all this cost? How much officer time has been spent on these silly disputes? How much has been spent on seeking legal advice?

At least the monitoring officer’s report has got the whole sorry saga out in the open. 

It’s time to draw a line and move on.

Stomper’s last walk through those red doors 

I’M a big admirer of the fire brigade. My father was a retained fireman in Lyme for 25 years and was devastated when he was forced to leave due to ill health at the age of 55. So much so, in fact, that he still went up to the Monday practice nights just to be around firemen and help sweep up.

His younger brother Reg, born in Lyme, was a full-time London firemen and I spent many summer holidays enjoying the excitement at Wimbledon fire station.

And my best mate for more years than I care to remember has been the incomparable John Stamp, who on Monday of this week bid an emotional farewell to the fire station in Charmouth where he has been station officer (watch commander in today’s parlance) for 30 years, having been a fireman for 38 years.
They gave him a touching farewell complete with Scottish piper as he walked out through those big red doors for the last time.

John, “Stomper” to all and sundry, a proud old-school firefighter, is not a man who wears his heart on his sleeve, but he was visibly touched by the send-off, attended by Dorset Fire and Rescue Service’s top brass, including the chief, Darran Gunter, and Fire Authority chairman Rebecca Knox. 

Knowing John, he will find something else to do on a Monday night but he is sure to miss the firemen’s life. Charmouth and the Fire Brigade owe him a great deal. The Chief Officer told me that  his 30 years in charge of a station is unique and unlikely to be beaten.

Mum Sheila and wife Pat were present to see that final walk into civvy street, dead proud of him, as am I.  

As would have been his dad, Tom, one of Charmouth’s great characters.

MANY thanks to Mayor Sally Holman for staging a civic reception for Lyme Regis Football Club to mark our best season ever. As club president I was proud to see players representing all our teams process into the Guildhall - a first for many of them - smartly dressed in club ties and white shirts. I think Sally is at her best when surrounded by young people and they certainly respond to her enthusiasm for all things of a sporting nature. The players (on their very best behaviour) lined up on the Guildhall steps for a photo with the civic party and regaled the Mayor with a chorus of 'Sea, Sea, Seasiders!'

A Walton family holiday

ONLY on a quirky holiday to Crete could you find yourself sat under trees by a fountain chatting with two elderly sisters who turn out to be direct descendants of Buffalo Bill Cody!

But that’s what happened when I took my family on a fortnight’s holiday to the resort of Stalis as part of celebrations for my 60th birthday.

The sisters, Stalis regulars, proudly detailed their family connection to the famous Wild West legend over a beer or three at the lovely Amazones apartments where we stayed.

It was not the first offbeat moment we had starting with our arrival which saw us battle our way down to a local taverna in winds gusting to more than 50mph. Our meal was a bit surreal as we tried to time conversation between the whap-bang noises of canvas walls being sucked in and out by the gale.

Fortunately it was the worst weather we saw and long sunny days soon followed exploring the coast, mountains and plateau area near our resort.

There were the delights of rock cisterns, a 2,000-year-old tree and a church with a bell made from the recycled nose cone of a German bomb at Krasi or quaint churches, a ruined olive oil factory and top quality crafts at Mohos.

Both were reached using a contraption very similar to Weymouth’s seafront land train dubbed the Happy Train by its Cretan operators. Locals call it the Wally Wagon!

We tried to have one day doing something and one day relaxing, so other busy trips spaced out between siesta days included a stroll round the ruined Minoan palace at Malia, a fascinating tour of the open air museum at Lychnosta and a brilliant nine-hour jeep safari.

This last took us literally not just off the beaten track but off any kind of track at all as we followed breathtaking mountain path routes to see everything from Griffin vultures to ruined windmills and from ancient cave systems to a valley of goats.

Other days involved bus trips west to the neighbouring resort of Hersonisos or east to the chic resort of Agios Nikolaos with its central lake surrounded by restaurants.

And then there were the nights which provided superb meal after superb meal, all washed down with icy draughts of beer or devastating shots of Raki, a fiery spirit described by one jaundiced member of our party as being made from toe-nail clippings. You certainly didn’t get it on your clothes!

Appetites honed by fresh air and miles of walking were sated by mouth-watering lamb dishes such as kleftico or the stunning creation involved with a special mountain pork dish based on herbs with thick slices of potato packed in around it, the whole dish being gently cooked for four hours until it just melted in the mouth.

There were Greek salads with sharp feta cheese, famous traditional dishes such as moussaka, treats such as Greek yoghurt with rich thyme honey, grilled octopus, regional delicacies such as rabbit stew or an incredible array of fish dishes from red snapper and swordfish to Dorado, sardines and bass. The choice was endless.

One riotous Greek night at our favourite taverna, Hellas, saw all of us tuck in to mountain pork washed down on a wave of Raki to fuel a furious dance up and down the street led by the owner and backed by a top class bazouki player. And the reward for taking part? Everyone got a banana!

Shining throughout our holiday was the wonderful Greek hospitality I have come to treasure. If you dropped in at a restaurant to book a table for that night then there was no: “Thank you sir and we look forward to seeing you tonight.”

Instead you were warmly greeted, taken in and sat down for a chat while staff hurried to bring you chilled cherries and a glass of raki or fresh juice. By the time everyone had checked on each other’s health, commented on how hot it was and talked about what we’d all been doing then booking the table became almost incidental to relaxing among friends. I actually had to delay one booking while the chef brought out that night’s planned signature dish and asked me if I felt it needed a little more salt!

I took more than 500 photographs, bought everything from honey to tableware and from olive oil to a large ceramic lantern, made new acquaintances and was joyfully welcomed back to Stalis by old friends.

Five out of our seven-strong party had never been to Crete before. All of us vowed to come back again and toasted that sentiment in 25-year-old wine given us as a gift by our favourite taverna owner.

Everyone has holiday memories and this break to celebrate a landmark in my life gave me some wonderful sunny snapshots to fondly look back on when the rain is running down our windows and winter is snapping at our heels.


ORIGINALLY from a village in the Mendips, near Bristol, Andy Jones, 30, was recently attracted to Lyme Regis by the town’s world-renowned Boat Building Academy on Monmouth Beach, enrolling in a nine month course which covered a wide range of techniques. He previously worked for Babcock International in London, on behalf of the London Fire Brigade, covering the supply and maintenance of operational equipment, and he now hopes to put his new skills to use working with wood.

WHAT attracted you to the Boat Building Academy? 
Firstly to learn and new skills and gain a recognised qualification that will allow me to hopefully always find work anywhere in the world. Also to have a better understanding of boat building and working with wood and composites, and thirdly the location!

DID you have any previous experience in boat building? 
I have no previous experience, the course was totally new to me. I have been sailing before but was a rarity.

WHAT did your course entail? 
I enrolled up the full-time, nine-month boat building course, covering a wide range of areas. The main areas were lofting, key woodworking skills and joint understanding, boat construction methods, boat fit outs and rigging, painting and finishing, GRP and FRP methods, marine adhesive and methods for glueing up with the aid of vacuum pumps, to name a few.

WHAT did you hope to achieve from it? 
As boat building was new to me prior to the course starting, I hoped to understand all matters of boat building but also how to operate the machinery and tools in the workshop, which is a vital part of traditional and modern boat building. I have always wanted a hands-on skill and a skill that can be versatile and be used for all matters of woodwork, not just boat building.

WHAT did you enjoy about the course? 
To be honest, I have enjoyed the whole course and all areas covered. The course is laid out extremely well, I have enjoyed so much of it and the teachers make learning interesting and fun. I guess I enjoyed putting my new skills to the test when we advanced from the basic woodworking skills part of the course, onto the construction of the variety of boats built at the academy. The group breakfasts and lunches are pretty epic too!

WHAT do you plan to do after the course? 
I hope to take my new knowledge of boat building into a boat yard and expand with experience. Eventually I hope to start my own business but possibly not building boats, but most definitely working with wood. 

WHAT are your other personal interests? 
DJing and music production, stand-up paddle boarding, wood craft, going to the gym, martial arts, travelling, fishing and, of cours,e now sailing is a clear interest of late and I have done much of it since I moved to Lyme Regis.

WHAT do you like about Lyme Regis? 
It’s a friendly town with lots going on. I started stand-up paddle boarding just before the course and it’s fantastic to get out of the water of the Jurassic Coast. The academy is a stone’s throw from the water’s edge, which just makes it so much more of an attractive place to come and learn. I was living in London before the course started and my job was pretty full on, so moving down to Lyme was the ultimate de-stresser and I have always been made to feel welcome. The pubs are fun and the local ale from the brewery in Bridport goes down well.

IF you could own any kind of boat, what would it be and why? 
It would have to be a tall ship as I am fascinated by the history and the old maritime tales of pirates. I’ve always fancied setting sail and exploring the world, and what better way to do it than the way it always used to be done?

WHERE’S your ideal holiday destination, and why? 
I am most definitely a beach bum so would probably say the Philippines. A dream job for me would be a restoration of a fishing boat on a secluded beach some where in the tropics. 

Wednesday, 18 June 2014

A total rethink is needed

WARNING after warning has gone unheeded and now the dangers predicted for Weymouth’s new traffic light system are starting to happen.

The town’s previous network of roundabouts did grind to a halt at peak summer periods but worked well enough for the rest of the year, yet authorities drunk on an Olympic cocktail of work they crowed was cramming 20 years of “improvements” into a single year ripped all the roundabouts out and put a widely hated traffic light system in its place.

So those same authorities shouldn’t be too surprised that drivers who dislike spending more than two entire days of their life each year stuck in their cars waiting for the new system’s lights to change are trying to cut down on that time.

The result is seeing thousands of drivers hurl their cars over the lights on yellow or even red, sometimes barely getting across before the next queue of drivers roars across the junction.

Police have already warned about the “racetrack” mentality the system is producing and it all came to a head with the first real burst of summer season traffic.

Drivers leaving town across the Swannery Bridge and waiting at the lights to cross over in to Abbotsbury Road found angry drivers coming down Weymouth Way were jumping the lights in a frustrated attempt to get in to Westwey Road.

But traffic was backed up from the Boot Hill-Asda lights so they suddenly found themselves forced to a halt in the middle of the Abbotsbury Road junction which meant waiting traffic couldn’t move an inch even when lights turned to green.

A few conciliatory waves and sheepish grins did little to cool tempers and the situation climaxed with blocked motorists actually having to drive towards Weymouth Way to inch their way round those cars blocking the way forward who had come on to the junction without first checking they could get off it.

If it sounds a bit snarled up then imagine what it was like being a driver in the middle of it!

Surely there must now be a total rethink on the system, a good start being to force the Brains Trust responsible for the lights system to actually spend a busy day experiencing it. 

They might then accept it isn’t working although I doubt it.

You need eyes in the back of your head

YOU really do have to have eyes in the back of your head in Weymouth recently to avoid ramming cyclists.

A journey along Abbotsbury Road saw motorists edge fearfully in to the side of the road until one cyclist had gone by and why not… he was riding at speed on just his back wheel, the front being deliberately reared up in true show-off style!

Then there was the excellent example set by one adult cyclist leading a boy cyclist who couldn’t have been more than ten years old the wrong way up a one way street in the town centre.

Add to this a scattering of cycling groups in all their colourful riding costumes festooned with various advertising messages, all bowling along riding two abreast, and you have a series of hazards enough to keep any car driver alert.

Fortunately very few cars are left now in the Weymouth area as they are mostly in garages having their springs repaired after negotiating recent roadworks at Greenhill and Preston Beach Road.

More than you think need help

THE work of the Salvation Army is legendary, but it also underlines just how important they are in Weymouth as a community lifeline.

The other day I was chatting with Salvation Army members and it emerged they cook and serve a regular Tuesday night hot meals to people living rough on the streets of Weymouth.

Commendable support for a few of society’s unfortunates, I hear you say, well there are a lot more “unfortunates” than you might think. I’m told that they recently served a staggering total of 73 such meals in just half an hour while 60 meals is common. That’s an awful lot of people living rough on the streets, a lot more than even I thought might be out there.

The Salvation Army’s only source of revenue to pay for all this is the generosity of its members, what they can raise from coffee mornings and some food generously chipped in by local supermarkets, so anything readers can do to help them with this work can be taken along to the regular Thursday morning coffee mornings in the Citadel at Westham Road.

EVERYONE is getting ready for the big veterans event in Weymouth and Portland this weekend. One of the main commemorations will be for the start of the First World War. My grandfather fought in that hell of mud, trench, shot and shell and walked away from it all at the end having survived relatively unscathed despite enjoying the horrors of the Somme and Passchendaele. The family tell me he never really talked about his experiences which are now marked by a small box of medals at the back of a drawer. I barely knew him but I shall be thinking of him during centenary events for the Great War.