Wednesday, 16 December 2009

VIEW PROFILE: 'Ilminster is a wonderful place' - Alastair Wallace

THIS week View reporter MARION DRAPER talks to Ilminster Rector ALASTAIR WALLACE about his time at St Mary’s Church and his love of the town

The Reverend Prebendary Alastair Wallace, who became Rector of St Mary’s Church in Ilminster in 1999, was brought up in Sutton Coldfield, near Birmingham.

He has been married to wife Judy for 38 years and they have three children; the eldest of whom is now a Curate in Trull.
Reverend Wallace trained for the ministry at Trinity College, Bristol.

After ordination in 1975, he served his curacy at St Leonard's, Exeter, and then spent a time as Chaplain of a theological college in Cambridge.

From 1983 to 1996 he was Rector of St Michael with St Paul, Bath, a city-centre church which is part of the Bath Abbey Group.

During that time he was Rural Dean of Bath for six years and taught Church History on a part-time basis at Trinity College, Bristol.

In 1996 he moved to Wells Cathedral as Sub-Dean and Assistant Diocesan Missioner, developing a program of day study courses on basic Christian themes under the heading 'Know Your Faith' before coming to Ilminster.

Geography may have ‘missed him out,’ as he put it, but his real passion was history which he read at university and is still his first love.

He undertook research into the history of the Diocese of Exeter in the late seventeenth century. It also led him into his ministry:

“ I had no thoughts of being ordained until my second year of university.

“It was the conviction that Christianity is true as a faith, not just as a set of ideals that are attractive.

“The life, death and resurrection of Jesus are true, historical facts and the true historical side has always fascinated me.

“There is historical evidence for the resurrection which could seem barmy on the face of it but there is evidence for it having actually happened.

“I am particularly interested in the 17th century when many of the communities were so isolated and then they went into the civil war and the aftermath of that, particularly the effect on the church.

“We have been called a Christian country but the Christian church grew up in a multi-faith society and we are now in a multi-faith society.

“After uni I did a year as a porter in Fulham Hospital which was very useful experience, I was moving everything from oxygen bottles to bodies for the morgue and was seeing people in need all the time, especially on the specialist cancer ward where a lot of the patients were young mums. It was really heart-wrenching.

“When I am writing a sermon, I think around a subject and what is relevant to the people that will be there.

“If I feel there are important issues I have to make it palatable. For instance on Remembrance Sunday, I am aware there will be a lot of young people there and you have got to avoid being party political.

“I have no typical day. We have prayers of one kind or another at 9:30 most days and on Mondays I meet with the other clergy.

“There are fixed items such as meetings and school assemblies and home groups of bible studies but most of the work is unpredictable.

“There are around 50 funerals a year, a dozen weddings - which involve several meetings with the couple - and we have about 30 plus baptisms.

“Then there are the personal visits; the longer you work in a place the more people get to know you, they have to learn to trust you and when you first move to a new place it can take two or three years before people feel they can unload their troubles.

“It is an important part of the work to have a listening ear and a shoulder to cry on, sometimes if there is a real problem we can refer someone to a professional for help.

“The training within the church is a lot better now than it used to be and there are a lot of opportunities for in-service training.

“The old idea that the vicar was a ‘Jack of all trades’ is thankfully long gone.

“I remember the first funeral I went to as a curate, the vicar passed it over to me; I had had one lecture on funerals.

“Normally you would have pastoral contact with the family beforehand, but that was an exception.

“During my time in the church a lot has changed. The church used to say be ordained then spend 40 years in a parish, then it moved to getting some life experience first.

“There is a lot of merit in that and there are a lot more older people coming into the ministry with a huge amount of life experience.

“When I was training, there were some nurses who had come back from Africa. Writing essays was no problem for me; they couldn’t write an essay but had a great deal of pastoral experience.

“You are always on the job. Even if you have a day off and are round and about people know who you are; you can’t turn people down if they need help so you have to live with it and manage it.

“There is a lot more lay leadership now and the vicar is not expected to do everything in the church, but I don’t think I would like the pattern you get in some American churches where they keep office hours.

“I do get a day off a week and love reading, and Judy and I enjoy walking when we can.

“Ilminster is a wonderful place and there is a lot of good feeling towards the church.

“Unfortunately many places see it as irrelevant, even a threat.

“Sometimes I feel like a big kid at Christmas. I get a real lump in my throat on Christmas Eve when we have the Nativity play, and with the candlelight there is something that appeals on a deep level emotionally to many people who may not usually come to church.

“I think people do find God at different stages in their lives and I don’t think it helps to say more bums on seats.

“We need to say are we presenting the Christian faith in a way relevant to everyday life.”

60 SECOND INTERVIEW: Tracey Haughton

TRACEY Haughton was born in Devon and lived on a farm for the early part of her life. She is a single mum to three children Andrew, Jackie and Chris.

When Tracey left school she went to collage and worked with horses for eight years, which was a very happy time in her life.

Tracey has lived in Chard most of her life and loves the fact that when she walks down the street, she passes so many people she knows.

Tracey has always been a country girl through and through and appreciates the surroundings of the area.

Tracey fell ill with bi-polar disorder five-years-ago and it has been an emotional rollercoaster for herself and her family.

The good news is that Tracey has been able to maintain a good sense of well being for the last two years. She has been a member of Chard intentional peer group for a year and a half and has gained many benefits from it.

Tracey is now studying at college in holistic massage and will start training in the New Year and hopefully a new job in April.

WHY are you doing a charity sky dive?

My friend Shelly and I thought it would be a great idea to do the jump for charities we have personally received support from. Mine is for CIPS and Shelly’s is for SCBU. I’m not the best when it comes to heights so it definitely has the fear and the ‘do it anyway’ factor. I am hoping to do the jump at the airfield that my grandfather was based in World War II. I hold so many happy memories of the area, and so to see it from a birds-eye view will be breath taking. That is if I have my eyes open during the 15,000ft descent.

CAN you explain what Chard Intentional Peer Group do?

It is a mutual group for people who have had personal experience of mental health. We meet once a week to give each other support, with the intent to move forward and towards the things we value in life as individuals, whatever that may be. We hold courses, training and projects within the community to gain new skills, confidence and create a better sense of well-being. It also has a social element, which is great as many people experiencing mental health have difficulties with isolation.

WHY have the group decided to write a book?

The group have been having an on going creative writing course, which has been uplifting and inspiring for me personally. We all felt it would be great to raise funds for the project and have had backing from the NLDC grant and recently from the primary care trust. We are writing about our own individual experiences to help our personal journeys of recovery and to give others hope and knowledge that they are not alone. Also to challenge beliefs and break barriers surrounding mental health issues. With a positive approach to maintaining well being.

HOW important is it to talk to someone if you are feeling down?

I think it’s vital to have someone to talk to when experiencing difficult times, in an environment which feels safe. To be able to talk to people who have similar shared experiences is a big benefit. My mum used to say ‘a problem shared is a problem halved’. Although talking to someone when you are suffering with extreme depression, may not take all the feelings away, it helps to see things in a different light. It helps reduce the isolation of feelings and helps gain a more positive outlook on life.

WHAT makes you happy?

Spending time with my three children Andrew, Jackie and Christopher and people I love and care about. Music and dancing, which I do most days, a walk by the sea, camping with my children and friends, inspirational people, the hippy side of me, most things creative and a decent cup of tea.

WHAT is your new years resolution?

I would like to be driving by the end of the summer and just to cut down on the less healthy things in my life.

WHAT do you want for Christmas?

I would like for everyone to be happy and to have a good time. I am hoping Santa brings me a new toaster, mine has a mind of its own at breakfast time and either chucks it out still looking like bread, or evokes a dance with coats when the smoke alarm goes off. Mornings are not the same without my daily intake of marmite.

WHO would be your three dream guests over for Christmas dinner?

Annie Lennox because she’s been an inspiration through out my life, it would be great to congratulate her in person for the life time achievement award. My second would be Whoopi Goldberg, such a talented lady, whose made me shed a few tears and given me hours and hours of laughter. The third would be pink, she’s brilliant and doesn’t care and is not afraid to be different from what is expected of her. She is so passionate about what she believes in.

WHAT are your best and worst Christmas presents?

My best Christmas present was when I got my first real guitar. I say real because for a long while before I had to take a toy one to guitar practice. The worst present I ever had would be the last I received from my dad, as Christmas will not be the same without him, would have been great to have a lot more.

WHO would be your phone a friend on who wants to be a millionaire?

I suppose it would depend on the question. Anything scientific it would be my oldest son who has an amazing brain when it comes to that sort of thing. For most other categories it would be my friend Ann who is one of the most knowledgeable and wisest people I have ever met.

WHO are your favourite fictional family?

My favourite fictional families would be all the ones from Enid Blyton’s books, such as ‘the enchanted tree’ ‘far away farm secret seven ‘and the famous five’. I always had my head in one of her books as they were full of adventure and magical places, and I now collect early additions.

VIEW PROFILE: From the front line to fighting fit - Chris Horsfield

THIS week Tom glover talks to former Royal Marine CHRIS HORSFIELD about his career in the Marines and as a physical training instructor.

FROM his teenage years, as part of Exeter City Football Club, to jungle training in Borneo, and from team building with the World Cup winning England Rugby squad, to putting 130 people a week through their paces in his spinning classes, Chris Horsfield has always had a passion for training and for being part of a team.

Chris left the Royal Marines last month after 22-years service. He may not have had the football career he dreamed of as a teenager, but he did at least have a career of two halves serving 11-years on the front line before taking up a role as a Physical Training Instructor in 1998.

Influenced by his grandfather, who rose through the ranks to Major in the Army, Chris decided on his career path early on.

He said: “I thought if I couldn’t be a professional footballer I would go and join the Royal Marines, which would give me that team ethic and a challenging physical way of life. I joined up when I was 17-years-old. I wasn’t particularly big or strong but I think what drove me through was my mental attitude, I was quite determined.”

Chris attended a three-day Potential Royal Marines Course with school friend Lee Taylor and both passed with flying colours.

“Out of our batch of 27 we came first and second. We were very proud to do that when we were so young,” he said.

Despite suffering a blood infection, Chris got through the arduous 32-week training in one hit.
After passing out he went straight into soldiering, serving in the most difficult conditions and in some highly dangerous situations.

He operated and trained in Norway, Borneo, Northern Ireland and South Africa at times in the most severe arctic, desert and jungle conditions. It was during his time in Belfast that Chris received a special commendation after leading a re-supply operation, a highlight of his early career.

After marrying Miranda in 1996, Chris began to look for a new challenge that would bring him closer to home. This was to be the second half of his career.

He said: “When I got married I started to think, hang on a minute, I can pass on some of my experience by training recruits. I was a corporal by now and showing leadership potential, so I was selected to go to Lympstone and went onto a training team.

“Once I sampled getting on a training team my sporting attributes and physical ability started to come to the surface and thought actually this is really appealing and positive.”

Due to the competition to be a Royal Marine PTI Chris missed out on his first attempt to land the job. He wasn’t deterred and went straight back in at the next opportunity, this time landing the role. Chris later took the opportunity to specialise as a Remedial Instructor, this rehabilitation role entailed helping injured recruits and Marines get back to duties. A role in which he remained until his retirement.

“At the moment with the amount of injured servicemen and women coming back from Iraq and Afghanistan, remedial instructors often end up spending many hours with personnel with life changing injuries that include, amputees, double amputees or even triple amputees,” said Chris.
“It’s incredibly rewarding. I like helping people to achieve what they want or need to achieve, whether it’s training for their green beret and improving fitness, or whether its getting someone back walking with an injured limb. There are some very brave young men and women, doing a difficult job.”

A highlight of Chris’ PTI career was working with the World Cup England rugby team of 2007.
Manager at the time, Brian Ashton brought his squad of 50 down to the Royal Marines base in Poole where Chris was one of ten staff chosen to organise the “Champions Challenge”, a team building exercise to aid squad selection.

Chris said: “The aim was to get his squad of 50 down to 35 before they went out to Portugal to do strength and conditioning training.

“I had four days with all the England players and they were all top boys, it was great fun. As far as my career goes as a physical training instructor that was one of the best things without a doubt.

“Danny Cipriani impressed me the most. He was the one always looking at his watch asking what he could and couldn’t do to win. He was very inquisitive and stood out massively.

“Lewis Moody was an absolutely top bloke as well. He wears his heart on his sleeve with a happy go lucky attitude. He’s been plagued with a lot of injury recently but he is back to his best now.

“They didn’t retain the title that summer but they got to the final, which was a relief.”
Chris’s first encounter with spinning came after he used it as a rehabilitation tool while working as a remedial instructor.

For those not familiar with spinning, it is a form of cycling invented by a South African triathlete to allow him to train during the winter. The phenomenon came to England at the turn of the millennium and now classes up and down the country spin to music.

“A spinning bike is very basic and there are no kind of bells, whistles or lights. It needs to be that way so people who spin can work to their own level without looking at someone else’s monitor and realising how fast or hard they’re going. It’s a group activity where everyone is having a good time and working out together and that’s the beauty of it.

“People come for different reasons, so people can tick along and lose weight and work next to a athlete who is completely fit. I like to break down the barriers to exercise, which can allow people to exercise together; I have several families who come together,” he said.

Chris began to run spinning classes at work but after he was re-located he no longer had the space to run the lessons.

Chris decided to buy an MPV and 20 spinning bikes so that he could run the classes outside of work. He said: “I just invited a few friends round initially and said I’ll hire a hall and you can join me, see what you think because I was going to do it regardless.

“I started with three classes a week and more and more people started to come, so I started to charge £5 to cover the cost of the bikes and the hall.”

Interest in Chris’ classes continues to grow. So what had initially started off as a hobby, quickly turned into a business.

“I’m a mobile spinning unit now and I’m running seven classes a week between Charmouth and Seaton and we are getting sometimes over 130 people,” he said.

“I think its popularity grew through word of mouth. People who have done it before recognise how motivational, enjoyable and fun it is and they tell their friends,” he added.

Now Chris has more free time on his hands he is looking to the future and expanding his business.

He said: “More and more I’m getting calls from people with special clinical conditions which I am hoping to address in the New Year maybe with a class called ‘huffers and puffers’. That’s not meant in a derogatory manner, you can be a huffer and puffer at any age. Wth the increase of obesity, diabetes and heart disease, controlled exercise needs to be readily available to the local community. It’s someone who requires a lower exercise intensity and higher level of management.”

Chris makes a point of using local community halls for his classes and hopes that his mobile spinning unit will keep some rural communities together.

“Post offices are closing, pubs are closing and there is not much left in communities mostly they have halls,” he said. “If I hire them and provide an exercise class it will enable people to socialise and promote a healthy lifestyle.

“Cycling is thought of as a solo event but a lot of the visualisation and imagery that I use in the classes can be like the Tour de France. That’s a team event and its interesting that if you take people’s minds away from a village hall on a rainy November night and take them into the Alps as a cycling team it can be really enjoyable.”

A major part of any spinning class is the music. The music dictates the tempo of the class and can make or break a session.

“The music is a big part of it because people can lose themselves in the music,” he said. “You try and pick your music to suit all customers, but music is quite a personal thing. Often when I do the music for my classes I know one or two tunes I can really put my heart and soul into. I’m quite passionate as an instructor and I’m passionate about wanting people to have a really good workout and to enjoy themselves and get what they want from the class.”

Despite retiring from the Royal Marines Chris is still working on his own personal development and is halfway through a masters degree at Exeter University.

He said: “My quest for research and doing my job isn’t over. I’m not the finished article and I’m still learning but I just love training people. I’ve still got loads of enthusiasm for what I do.”

If you are interested in finding out more about Chris’ spinning classes then visit www.spinfit


AFTER a career spent touring the globe in her work as a physiotherapist Becky Loader moved to West Dorset eight-years-ago.

Becky now works out of her own clinic in Charmouth whilst also taking care of her three young children, Holly, 10, Emily, five, and Matthew, two.

Becky qualified as a physiotherapist at the Queen Elizabeth Hospital in Birmingham more than 20-years-ago. She has kept her work fresh by always looking for new challenges and has spent time working in London, Hong Kong and Australia.

Becky has spent a lot of her career specialising in sports injuries after completing a postgraduate degree in the field.

Becky now works with a range of patients at her clinic in Charmouth which re-opened last month. She took time out to speak about her career journey and her plans for Christmas day.

What do you like most about the area?

I love the way the children are being brought up and I think that was the main reason we moved here. It’s really safe and there’s loads to do. They’ve got the beach, the walks and the parks. It’s a very slow pace of life and so laid back. It’s great, very natural.

What made you choose a career in physiotherapy?

Biology was always my favourite subject at school and I wanted to combine that with working with people. A friend of mine had left school a couple of years earlier and was saying how much she was enjoying the training so I think it was a really nice combination for things I enjoy doing.

Who are the most high profile athletes you have worked with?

It would be the all England ladies Under 16 hockey team. I worked with them for a year as a physiotherapist, helping with the training, rehab and at pitch side and that was fantastic. We travelled to Spain, Germany and Lilleshall and Bisham Abbey and that was really interesting. In Hong Kong working in the sports clinic I used to treat people from the Western Samoa rugby team as well.

What is the best part of your job?

I think its making a difference. People can come to me in a lot of pain, or are off work or having their life affected in a number of ways and you can actually help to change that and I think that’s really nice to know.

Who would you recommend your service to?
Anyone who has been in pain for quite a while or whose activities are limited. Perhaps you are not able to work to your full capabilities or enjoy the sports you’d like to. It’s always better to treat things early on.

What has been your biggest achievement?

In my career I think it is probably working with the England hockey team but I think keeping the job fresh as well. I recently did an acupuncture course that I really loved and I like bringing all those things together. As you get older, the more experience you get, you can bring other things into it as well. There are always new techniques, approaches and methods of teaching to learn. Outside of my career it has to be my children. They are happy and confident children and that’s great.

Where do you see yourself in five years time?

It’s suiting me working here at the moment because the children are so small but I would love to work with other professionals in a bigger clinic. Just to work in a big multi-disciplinary clinic would be really good.

Who would be your three dream guests for a dinner party?

It would be Rick Stein to do the cooking, Ella Fitzgerald for the music and Colin Firth for everything else.

What is your favourite part of Christmas?

I absolutely love Christmas. I love the lights, candles and everyone coming together. We have got a big extended family. There will be 15 of us at Christmas eve and 12 on Christmas day. It’s just the fact that everyone comes together and we can catch up and all the children can play together.

What three things are on your Christmas list?

Well obviously peace, happiness and joy. I don’t really have a Christmas list, I think it would just be seeing the children happy and doing what they want to do. I just want everyone to enjoy there Christmas day together.

Describe your perfect Christmas day?

We get up really early in the morning and the children will open their stockings. They’ll bring all the presents onto the bed so we can unwrap everything together. We have a lazy breakfast and then go down to the beach for the Christmas day swim and my mum usually takes some champagne down to the beach. After that we all come back home and have a drink and unwrap presents. Then everybody cooks the Christmas lunch together while the children play and then after a long lunch we go for a walk and that will be the perfect Christmas day.

What are your New Year’s resolutions?

I want to get fitter and find time for more exercise. I want to go down to Bridport Leisure Centre gym, which is always busy after Christmas. Some friends of mine have started running so I might start with some fast walking because we have got some fantastic walks around here. I want to take up a new hobby as well. I’d like to try horse riding, I’d like to ride a motorbike and id like to go sailing. I want to do something with a bit of adrenalin.

LYME MATTERS with Philip Evans

Bill kissed all the ladies!

ON SATURDAY I attended my favourite local event - the annual Christmas lunch for the town’s senior citizens.

And before you say it, no I didn’t sit down with the other over 70s!

I don’t want to call them old folk because many of them are not - especially in frame of mind.

I always look forward to covering this event because it’s a chance to have a bit of fun and banter with people who are a generation or two older than me whom I grew up to respect and admire.

People like Bill Reed, recently honoured by the Queen with the MBE for his services to the community.

Although getting in and out of the Alexandra Hotel is a bit of an ordeal these days, Bill and his like never allow their lack of mobility to get in the way of a very enjoyable afternoon.

I gave Bill a helping hand to his table and I swear he kissed every lady - on the way in and on the way out!

There are definite benefits in getting the MBE.

The annual Christmas Dinner for the over 70s has been a part of the festive celebrations in Lyme for several decades now. It gives the town the opportunity of showing its gratitude to those who have made Lyme what it is today.

Amazingly, one of the main organisers is former mayor and everyone’s favourite fundraiser Barbara Austin who should be sat down with the rest of the guests enjoying the traditional Christmas fayre.

She’s been playing a crucial role in the organising of this event for many years now - and we’ve told her she’s got to organise at least another 20 before she can join in with the rest of them.

Barbara is one of a small team of volunteers led by Owen Lovell who raise the funds and organise the day. They’ve got it down to a real art and everyone has a lovely time.

The youngsters in the town - Junior Band and primary school pupils - do their bit by entertaining the guests and the staff at the Alex do a marvellous job.

Thanks must also go to those who donate funds to help finance the lunch, including Gail Caddy at The Rock Point and the Regatta and Carnival Committee.

The Christmas Dinner committee hold several fundraising events during the year and are also one of the recipients of profits from the Lyme Regis Community Bingo sessions. This enables the committee to give everyone who attends a little Christmas gift.

They deserve it.

A year I want to forget

THIS is my last column of the year - a year I will be glad to put behind me.

I was dogged with ill health for a big part of 2009 but thank my blessings that I am well on the road to recovery and looking forward to the challenges of 2010.

It has also been the toughest year in my business life. In September 2008 View from Publishing, the limited company that runs this newspaper, was going great guns with advertising revenues up 33 per cent on the previous year.

We had a stable of community newspapers in 13 towns in West Dorset, East Devon and South Somerset and were planning further expansion in Dorset.

But then the credit crunch started to bite and with every local newspaper in the country suffering likewise, advertising revenues plummeted and I was forced to sell my East Devon papers to keep my talented and dedicated staff in work.

November and the early part of December are usually our best weeks of the year - but not in 2009. Hopefully, we will survive and enjoy better and less worrying times in 2010.

I’m handing next week’s column over to my daughter Francesca, who is back from university for Christmas, and I will be back in the New Year.

I would just like to say a heartfelt thanks to our readers and advertisers for their support and kindness over the past 12 months.

I hope you all have a very peaceful Christmas and that Lyme will continue to prosper in 2010.

WEYMOUTH MATTERS with Harry Walton

A chicane to rival the streets of Monte Carlo

WEYMOUTH has scooped the world with the creation of Formula 1’s first ever motor racing school for budding world champions.

The school, also known as the roadworks at the beginning of Chickerell Road, has been designed to challenge every facet of driving skill needed to take charge of a roaring engine on tracks from Silverstone to Sepang.

Like Formula 1, traffic only moves one way on the Chickerell Road track.

Bug-eyed trainees who negotiate the first few yards of this challenge find themselves swooping over a left to right road hump before plunging down to the first chicane which is narrow enough to make the Monte Carlo street circuit look like the M1.

A gut-wrenching tweak of the wheel and the by now white-faced newcomers have weaved through the hazard, dodged the pavement and shot forward into the next section.

Here they are hemmed in by barriers tighter than a coffin’s lid which allow no margin for error before whimpering drivers are spat into an even tighter chicane.

This hurls them towards the final section and salvation at the appropriately named Boot Hill end of the road where they have a chance to lever fingernails out of the wheel.

To be fair, the work on the road has to be done but in a few short weeks I’ve seen barriers hit, drivers fishtail all over the place as they approach the first section of roadworks and at least one pedestrian flatten themselves against a wall, convinced an oncoming car was going to mount the pavement.

Better traffic experts than me came up with this nightmare. Let’s hope we can all wake up soon and find it gone.

Self service library

PEOPLE from Tophill, Portland are the latest Dorset Library Service users to benefit from new self-service facilities being rolled out across the county.

Long-time library supporter Hilda Swinnney along with regulars from the parent and toddler group were among the first to try the new user-friendly technology which provides customers with quick, easy and independent access to library stock including books and DVDs.

This frees staff from routine tasks, letting them spend more time helping readers with detailed or complex enquiries, providing a better service for everyone, said the Service.

Hilda said: “I feel very honoured to be asked to re-open the new look Tophill Library. I consider libraries to be the greatest single benefit for education for ordinary people.”

Quiet please!

PASSING years have seen films at the cinema change out of all recognition but one thing sadly
remains the same.

I speak of those annoying few whose appreciation of the main feature is seemingly incomplete without some noisy sweet wrappers or packets to rustle.

Tender love scenes from Brief Encounter to the Bridges Of Madison County don’t tug on more heartstrings if accompanied by some idiot sorting through their toffees.

Battle scenes from Ben Hur to Star Trek don’t thrill even more if accompanied by bath tub draining noises from someone finishing off their fizzy drink through a straw.

Most reputable cinemas have a warning policy for such offenders which I understand has been backed up on more than one occasion by people actually being asked to leave the cinema.

Good for them but such policy does need to be enforced because recent visits to local cinemas have provoked comments from several people about films being spoilt by customer background noise. Courtesy for fellow film fans costs nothing.

Don't do overboard this Christmas

PEOPLE are rapidly becoming full of the joys of the festive season, but some of them are having just a bit too merry a Christmas.

There can be few sadder sights than two drunken men dancing in the street when they can barely stand up never mind trip the light fantastic.

I’m sure it seemed like a good idea at the time, but this was a cold and dismal Saturday afternoon in St Thomas Street and the only people cheering them on were their mates who were scarcely Craig Revell Horwood.

Women are joining in as well and two lovelies wearing Santa hats literally fell out of one pub, entertaining afternoon passers-by with language which showed they were no herald angels.

There are still eight full days and nights to go just to get to the carnage which is Christmas Eve, so spare a thought for the police and ambulance crews.

We can walk away from people with a bit too much Christmas spirit on board. They have to deal with them.

All the fun of the fair

IT’S great to have friends and I certainly seemed to have more than most people at a recent Christmas fair in Weymouth.

People smiled at me, laughingly asked how I was getting on and generally exuded warmth and good humour. It was wonderful.

Then my daughter pointed out that the good humour might well owe something to the fact that I’d just spent the last 20 minutes walking round with a blob of butternut squash soup on the end of my nose!

Harry Walton can be contacted on 01305 787843 or email

Thursday, 10 December 2009


AT THE age of 24 Pamela Legg is the youngest of a group of Chard artists currently exhibiting at The Gallery café bar and bistro in Holyrood Street.

Originally from Yeovil she left school at 14 and took a correspondence diploma course in art from the London College and, together with tips from her father who paints for pleasure, she has developed her own style using a variety of media painting wildlife and cartoon style artwork.

Her love of animals led her to volunteer at the RSPCA shop which she now runs four days a week while continuing to pursue her love of art.

Pamela’s work has sold at other exhibitions she organised herself and can also be seen at The Secret Garden in Chard and Bilby’s in Crewkerne.

WHAT do you like about Chard?

It’s not too big to the point no one knows anyone. It reminds me of Dad’s Army where you walk down the street and you see local shopkeepers all the way along, everyone knows everyone. There are nice walks around the area, which is very scenic and inspirational and there are places like Forde Abbey close by.

WHAT do you like to paint and who are your influences?

Mainly wildlife subjects, especially exotic animals. I would love to go abroad on a painting safari. I have done some portraits and I like scenic work but I like cartoons as well. I went to Perry’s Cider at Dowlish Wake and drew the old cart there. I like the work of wildlife artist David Shepherd but I also like the masters such as Leonardo and the Pre-Raphaelites.
HOW do you like the gallery you are currently exhibiting in?

I think the exhibition is good, there is a nice selection of paintings and some sculpture too. I came to see the David Braxton exhibition they had here and think it’s a very relaxing place. It’s nice that they have a restaurant too because that brings in people who are not necessarily here to see the art.

HOW does learning art by correspondence work?

Everyone is surprised when they find out I didn’t have to go to London. They sent me a folder of lessons and when I had done the work I sent it to the tutor who would record his comments and criticisms on tape. I can cope with criticism, my dad is my biggest critic. When I am doing my painting I get so involved so it is good to have a fresh eye.

HOW did you get involved in the RSPCA shop?

I started there as a volunteer when I was 18-years-old then a job became vacant and I took it. It takes a lot of time up and I asked to only work four days a week or I wouldn’t have time for painting, I just didn’t feel like it after a day at the shop.
IF you could meet anyone from history who would it be?

I would like to have met Leonardo or Michelangelo and see what they were really like in real life, rather than the portrayal you see on TV or read in a book.

DO you have any other hobbies?

I am also interested in music, that’s another field I would love to go into if my circumstances were different. I have never been taught but I would love to play the piano. I did a little guitar years ago but I never got very far.

WHAT type of music do you like?

I like classical piano but I also like rock music. No particular band really, like a lot of artists I just like music.

IF you won the lottery what would you do?

I’d probably faint! I would go on a holiday round the world. I have been to Rome and fell in love with Venice but I’d like to go to India and try to see some tigers, and China because I like oriental art, it’s so completely different to art here. And I’d like to go to America. I would want to look after my family too.

WHAT is next for Pamela?

I have applied to art college in Bournemouth to do cartooning and animation so I hope to be going down that line. If not I will do whatever job would allow me to continue painting.

WHO are your cartoon heroes?

I love the Looney Tunes. It’s what I grew up with, Bugs Bunny and Daffy Duck, it’s my sort of humour. I like Aardman animations too. I would love to work there. Through the Adult Learning I did a five week course on Wallace and Gromit style animation with plasticine. I made the models and took the digital images then they did all the computer work for me. I always look really closely at how they make Wallace and Gromit and can’t figure out how they do the raindrops falling on a character. I’d love to know how it’s done.

WHAT three things would you want on your desert island?

A lot of women say makeup and stuff but I would want pens and paper. I can’t have Ray Mears to show me how to survive so it would have to be his book and some posh chocolates, Thorntons are nice.

Wednesday, 9 December 2009


New session is largely a charade

BLACK Rod has issued his sonorous summons. The Queen has been, spoken and gone. Her speech has been debated. And the new Parliamentary session is well under way. Of course, this year it is largely a charade.

With an election likely to start not more than four months away, the chances that much of the legislative programme will become a statutory reality rather than a political debating-point are slim.

But, even in this strange after-life of the 2005 parliament, there are issues being discussed which will have profound impact in particular corners of our national life.

Example number one is the fate of micro-hydro schemes in our mill streams and rivers. Beneath the noise and clamour of the surface warfare, a little but crucial submarine battle is being fought.

The issue is whether conditions imposed by the Environment Agency on people who want to operate micro-hydro turbines will make it possible and attractive for such benign forms of electricity generation to be installed — or whether the licence conditions will make this form of generation economically unattractive (and indeed virtually impossible).

“What?” you may say, “we thought the Environment Agency would be gung ho to have carbon-free renewable energy of this sort installed up and down our river systems.” And so you might well have thought.

But it turns out that the Environment Agency is not really, or in any case, not completely an “environment” agency. It has thousands of people dealing with rivers and hundreds of people dealing with fish (very rightly) but it hasn’t yet quite caught up with the idea that we also place some environmental premium these days on renewable energy. So the battle continues.

Example two is completely different. This is a battle that is going on in a shaded area of the forest rather than under the waters. It is the battle of the herbalists.

For years, herbalists have learned how to provide safe herbal remedies on the basis of centuries of experience.

But the EU in its wisdom has now decided that only officially regulated practitioners may prescribe more than a tiny number of herbs that can be bought over the counter.

Because the system of regulation has always been operated by professional bodies rather than by statutory bodies, it doesn’t count for the purposes of the Directive — so the battle is now on, with the herbalists desperate to be officially regulated in order to survive. Strange old world, isn’t it?