Wednesday, 31 March 2010

VIEW PROFILE: Marianna Browning

If you can’t stand the heat get in the kitchen

Marianna Browning is living proof that the old adage “If you can’t stand the heat, get out of the kitchen” is not true. After 12 hectic years as an events organiser in the big smoke of London, Marianna decided she couldn’t stand the heat any longer and made the move to Bridport. Far from staying out of the kitchen Marianna set up her business “Scoff” and now provides cakes for all manner of events. Here she tells TOM GLOVER her story.

Having finally had enough of conferences, promotions and product launches Marianna decided to change her lifestyle with a move to the West Dorset coast.

Despite enjoying her time in London it soon became apparent to Marianna that her new lifestyle wouldn’t work with her city career.

“As an events organiser work was very stressful because you have to rely on so many other people to pull everything together,” she said.

“I loved it and I miss it occasionally but I don’t miss the lifestyle. I don’t think you could be that hectic and do that sort of work and still live in Bridport because this place sort of encourages you to chill a little bit.”

In search of a new career that she could fit in around raising her two young girls Marianna decided upon “Scoff”, a business that daughters May and Daisy definitely approve of.

Marianna said: “The best part of my job is the flexibility, I get to be a mum as much as I want to be. It’s massively flexible which is the nirvana of work that everybody strives for.

“The kids are so over excited everyday because there are cakes all over the place, which they are not allowed to eat.

“At the moment the girls just want to eat it, they don’t actually understand the concept of actually making something with ingredients and then getting an end product. It’s more about how much they can get into their mouth.”

Although her girls are much more interested in eating cakes rather than baking them, for the time being, she is very keen that they develop a good foundation in cooking.

“I remember cooking with my mum. She was at home everyday and she cooked and cooked and cooked. That was my memory of her, putting family meals on the table. She didn’t bake a great deal but cooking was huge and we learnt to cook meals for ourselves at a very young age, certainly much younger than health and safety would feel was appropriate,” she joked.

“Whether my girls show an interest or an aptitude I don’t know, but even as a basic skill, cooking is something I think they should have.

“I do think in this day and age being able to make a nutritious meal is one of the basic core skills everybody should have and unfortunately not everybody does have it. At least if my children have it I’ll feel I’ve achieved something.

“I don’t buy any pre packed food. In the main it is things I’ve made from scratch, it’s healthier, it has less salt, less fat, it tastes twice as good and it means they know what real food tastes like. If they’re very good they might get a cupcake when they come home from school.”

Having decided upon her business Marianna soon found her first, and most loyal client, Steve Attrill of The Hive Beach Café in Burton Bradstock.

Eighteen-months down the line Marianna still provides cakes to the café and her popularity has seen her build up a list of private clients.

“The business is developing slowly and we need to keep it under control because I don’t want to put in so much time that I don’t have time for my children,” she said.

“It’s work and a hobby all rolled into one and it is something that when the girls are older I can step up, which I quite intend to do and use the foundation I have got to make a proper business out of it.”

Marianna is currently in the process of moving house from which she hopes to offer cookery courses in the future. When her children are a bit older Marianna hopes to start running small cookery courses offering casual chefs advice on cooking for children, low fat food and food for entertaining among other topics.

At first adapting to country life was a little difficult for Marianna but she is now more than happy to be living life on Bridport time.

“It took some adjustment but in a really nice way. It was a nice lesson to learn that life doesn’t have to be lived at that sort of pace, with your blinkers on. You can actually stop and enjoy it and make a life for yourself and that is what it’s all about,” she said.

“I don’t miss city life at all, I haven’t been back since and I have no intention of going back. I’d rather go to the beach than go to London.

“I’m really glad I had that time because it’s made me appreciate what I have here and I think I might have been restless not knowing what else was available so I think it all happened at the right time.”

A childhood spent cooking with her mum in the kitchen almost definitely laid the foundations for Marianna’s career, but that is a nostalgic memory that she would like to keep in the past.

Her mum still lives in Kent but with a flat in Bridport where she may one day move to cast an eye over her daughter’s work.

“I think she is raising her eyebrows in astonishment that I can make a living out of cooking cakes, she thinks it is just utterly bizarre that it is something that someone can make a living out of and fairly bizarre that I would want to do it,” she said.

“Luckily for me she is not as sprightly as she was 10-years-ago so she won’t be taking over in the kitchen but she might come and knit in the corner and offer me advice.

“I think she’d like to be involved but probably just coming in and having a taste and then taking cakes out to the girls and pretending she made them.”


BRIDPORT town councillor Keith Day, 64, developed his interest in local politics after retiring from a career in commercial aviation and then the NHS.

Originally from Bristol, Councillor Day visited Bridport regularly for almost 20 years before eventually making the move with his wife 10-years-ago. He was followed shortly by his mother who he persuaded to join him on the coast.

Having retired, Councillor Day now fills his time as an advisor at Bridport Citizens’ Advice Bureau and as chairman of Bridport Conservatives, but he still finds time to walk his dogs.

Councillor Day was elected onto the town council in April last year following a local by-election.

YOU were elected as a town councillor a year ago, are you finding it rewarding?
Yes, but it is also so frustrating. There are so many things that I would like done to improve our town, but cannot because of the limitations of the powers of the town council. The council is so dominated by Lib Dems that little can be achieved without their agreement. However, I think that I have learned a lot from being a councillor and hope to use that knowledge in the future. The best thing about being a councillor is helping people and serving my fellow citizens. I would strongly recommend public service to anyone who wants to make a contribution to their community.

WHAT are the most important issues affecting Bridport at the moment?
Employment, education, housing and poverty. They are all linked in a vicious circle. Low expectations and achievement in education can result in poor job prospects, insecure employment and low income. This can lead on to acceptance of low quality housing and poverty in financial and attainment terms. I would like to see Bridport advertised as a place that welcomes new business, as well as making it more attractive to tourists. An improvement in employment prospects is the quickest and most effective way of breaking the cycle and helping everyone in this town.

ARE you still pleased you supported the new Lidl supermarket?
Yes, I am. I still believe there will be an overall beneficial effect for the people of Bridport. However, I do not like the ugly Travis Perkins building that is currently under construction, but I was unable to influence that proposal. I have to add that I am less sympathetic to the Spar shop opening in East Street. This shop will have a much more far-reaching impact on the town and the market than Lidl.

WHY did you choose the Conservative party?
All politics are compromises. All the main parties have some good ideas and I have some sympathy with the UKIP attitude to Europe and immigration. However, overall I believe the Conservatives have a good balance and the right ideas to get us out of the current mess.

WHERE do you see yourself in five years time?
I hope to be still living in and enjoying our unique town. I would like to continue as an advisor at Bridport Citizens’ Advice Bureau and if I still have the energy, I may consider standing as a district councillor. I want to avoid spreading myself so thinly that I cannot do everything well.

WHERE do you see Bridport in five years time?
I would like to see a thriving town, with high employment, decent affordable housing, but still retaining its unique and special character. It should be a town that is attractive to all ages and tastes. I would like to see improved approaches to the town; including the roundabouts (Yeovil does it well). A re-developed South West Quadrant that retains the ‘artisan’s area’ and incorporates it into a proper and sustainable plan, encouraging visitors to explore the town. I would also like to see the railway restored and operating. At West Bay, I would like to see some in-character buildings – not those awful flats. An end to the anti-social behaviour of some young motorists that causes annoyance to visitors and residents, together with a 20mph speed limit. I would like to see the Esplanade made more appealing with raised flower beds and The Mount made into a garden.

What was the last book you read, film you watched and CD you listened to?
Book: 'Break No Bones' by Kathy Reichs - a novel based on forensics; Film: 'In The Loop' - a political satire; CD - 'The Platinum Collection' by Jerry Lee Lewis, but only in my car - when I am alone.

WHO would be your three dream guests at a dinner party and why?
Abraham, Jesus and Mohammed. I am most certainly not a religious person but I would like them to tell me the real truth about their lives, and deaths, and ask them to explain why the religions they founded, apparently based on acceptance and forgiveness, have caused so much loss of life and conflict. Getting the correct food for them at a dinner party could be tricky though. Could I also have Barbara Woodhouse to show me how to make our two Yorkies come back every time they are called, please?

WEYMOUTH MATTERS with Harry Walton

Respect is a two-way street

THIS column has commented before on use of the f-word in public places within hearing of children and families, but an incident in St Mary Street, Weymouth, took this annoyance to new heights.

A group of teenagers, shouting loudly, leaping about and shrieking so that everyone would pay them attention, was striding up the street waving balloons from a shop promotion.

Nothing wrong with that, but the teenagers weren’t interested in the shop promotion but more in what the balloons contained.

The gas used to inflate the balloons had a “Mickey Mouse” distorting effect on the teenagers’ voices and wasn’t it fun to use the f-word bellowed out in a loud squeaky voice. Well, no, it wasn’t much fun at all to those forced to listen to their swearing.

Students at Weymouth College have launched a campaign called Respect to highlight their wish for people to show each other respect in the community.

It is an excellent campaign but what a pity it might be undermined by incidents such as the balloons since the street was packed with people, many of whom had children, and they couldn’t get out of the way of the noisy group quick enough. Not much respect there.

A shimmering creation that Gok Wan would be proud of ... pity it cost an arm and a leg!

MUMS and Dads are already booking their places in care homes for mentally scarred parents as we career merrily towards the Prom season.

The overall cost for these silken shenannigans makes the row over Government debt look almost penny-pinching.

Now I’m sure every daughter and son taking part is well worth the money spent on them but adults have launched the sort of prom organisational exercise not seen since planning for the D-Day landings.

Sadly there doesn’t seem to be much equivalent teenage effort being devoted to looking after the shattered remains of parents once all the preening is over.

I’ve already warned my daughter that she’s mowing lawns and washing the car for the rest of the summer. Yeah... like that’s going to happen!

Aren’t they aware of the stress Dads suffer having to drive daughters on 117 trips to select a dress? I had suggested putting a piece of tinsel on her blazer and leaving it at that, but I withdrew the idea when the atmosphere got a touch frosty.

So we are, after a long struggle, now the proud possessors of a shimmering creation that Gok Wan wouldn’t turn his nose up. I just wish he’d been there to pay for it.

He wouldn’t have been quite so bouncy after that!

Why I’m steering clear of Norway

LONG live enjoying a quiet pint at the end of the day... but not if you live in Norway.

A Weymouth man had to travel there for work and, naturally, his company paid for him to travel over. It was just as well because a few simple socialising and shopping experiences left him facing these costs.

At Oslo airport a single scotch to recover from his travels cost a hefty £5.50.

If he wasn’t already in shock from that then he was the following night when the price of a pint cost him £10.

Fortunately his hosts picked up the bill the next night at an ordinary shopping mall restaurant... because the price of a tiny 330ml of ordinary lager equated to £15 a pint!

In a free moment he browsed shops and recoiled in horror from the price of a pair of jeans, which would have set him back a mind-boggling £100.

But if anyone needed a guide on saving for a holiday in Norway then they should take heed of this.

It was cheaper for this man’s company to fly him home for a couple of days and then go to all the expense of flying him back there than it was to simply let him remain in the country and pay his expenses.

And my wife wonders why I’m against going to Norway!

Double trouble

A TROUBLE shared is a trouble halved goes the saying, but two women out shopping in Weymouth might not agree.

They had clearly bought quite a lot and were chatting and taking their ease at a bus stop with their bags piled about them.

All seemed well with the world until their bus arrived and they broke off talking to pick up their bags. Then there was chaos.

By mistake they each picked up a bag handle belonging to the other and goods cascaded on to the pavement as carriers tore apart.

People tried to help as items rolled down the pavement but the damage had been done and even collecting everything didn’t solve the problem of where to put it.

Eventually the women were forced to miss their bus while one looked after the battered shopping and the other went in search of bags to put it in. I suppose you’d call it a “double wrecker” problem!

LYME MATTERS with Philip Evans

Why locals do it best

THE one gathering any mayor dreads chairing is the annual town meeting.

I can’t remember how it happened but I ended up chairing two town meetings when I occupied the mayoral chair in the 1980s.

If my memory serves me right, one was really controversial and the other was a bit of a damp squib.

I suspect our current mayor, Michaela Ellis, was a little apprenhensive chairing Friday’s meeting, especially after the mauling she had the previous week when Daryl Turner returned to the town council chamber.

But she handled matters well and although the meeting went on for nearly three hours it was not particularly controversial.

One of the main issues raised was the unkempt streets of Lyme Regis.

Nothing much goes unnoticed by Ken Gollop and he wrote to the meeting drawing attention to a few grotspots that have been left unattended for many months.

There was also criticism of the effectiveness of the mechanical street sweeper as well as complaints about the noise it makes on its early-morning route around the Lyme roads.

District councillor Daryl Turner always makes sure he is well prepared for such meetings and did his best to defend the district council’s performance.

In the old borough council days the streets were swept by local chaps who had a pride in the job they were doing for their home town. No one is suggesting that we should go back to those days (actually some are) but someone driving a mechanical sweeper which often breaks down is not really going to have too much pride in the effectiveness of his work.

Two summers ago the district council made a big pig’s ear of keeping the Marine Parade toilets clean.

You could apply the same agrument here. Contract cleaners are never going to do the job with the same enthusaism and care as a local.

Last summer the town council took over the cleaning of the Marine Parade toilets and made a much better job of it.

This should tell us something.

We have every right to expect clean streets and public toilets as a minimum service for our costly council tax.

It’s all down to management and will someone sat 24 miles away at a desk in Dorchester really be able to ensure the work is carried out well and to an acceptable standard?

There is much talk about Lyme Town Council seeking “quality status” and being in a position to take on additional responsibilities.

It seems to me there are some local tasks that need to be handled by local people. It’s our town and we all want to see it sparkling clean.

Over the years there are many areas in Lyme that have been totally neglected. The banks of the River Lym are most often in a disgraceful state.

On my early morning walks I am always impressed with the resources the district council put into keeping the Cobb area litter free.

Not all areas of Lyme get the same attention and it’s time they did.

Or let the town council do the job.

Have your say on new council offices

MARCUS Dixon opens up an interesting debate in this week’s Lyme Letters over West Dorset District Council’s intention to spend £10.7 million on new offices in Dorchester.

Marcus does so as a concerned individual and not in his capacity as chief executive of Lyme Regis Development Trust.

The proposed new offices will form part of the Charles Street development, which will also include underground parking, shops and offices.

The district council says its present offices in High West Street, Dorchester, are unsuitable and expensive to run and the new building will save up to £160,000 a year.

The project has become a real hot potato in Dorchester where at a public meeting last week opposition was unanimous.

District council leader Robert Gould refused to attend this meeting, as did chief executive David Clarke. They claim that the opposition to the scheme is politically motivated by the Lib Dems.

Marcus maintains it would be foolhardy to spend such a large amount of money when further down the line Dorset could end up with a unitary authority and shared offices.

The people of Dorchester are so incensed by the proposal that they have called for a parish poll which is costing £5,000-£6,000.

But this is not just a Dorchester issue. The offices will be financed by all council taxpayers, including those in Lyme Regis.

The matter was raised at Friday’s annual town meeting by Lym Close resident Mrs E. Wood, enquiring whether our town council had made any comments on the new offices.

Town clerk Mike Lewis replied that a planning application would be made next month and this would provide the opportunity for public comment.

I understand there will also be a public meeting on the issue in Bridport on April 19th, organised by the Lib Dems.

The people of Lyme should also have the chance to have their say.

Council meetings have just got interesting again

IT is rumoured that as many as seven town councillors - half the elected number - are considering standing down at next May’s local elections. Until last week, that is.

I understand that at least two councillors are reconsidering their position after the return to the council chamber by Daryl Turner.

Councillor Turner took no prisoners in his statement on why he had decided to seek election to the town council again after stating three years ago that he did not think it was possible to serve two authorities (he’s also a member of West Dorset District Council).

His statement made uncomfortable listening for his fellow town councillors and some were visibly shocked by the verocity of his comments.

I am reliably informed that some of the more experienced councillors who were planning to stand down feel that Councillor Turner may go unchallenged if there is an influx of new, inexperienced members and may go for another four-year term.

There was also some concern felt that Councillor Turner is part of a a group of people seeking election on a reform platform.

Such groups have secured places on the council in the past but not always with success.

As one councillor e-mailed this week: “It looks like council meetings have just got interesting again.”

Wednesday, 24 March 2010

VIEW PROFILE: Hilary Kenway

The highs and lows of life as an opera star

THIS week PAUL CROMPTON talks to The Beaminster Singers’ musical director HILARY KENWAY about the highs and lows of being an internationally renowed opera singer and her life teaching others to sing,

“YOU become so self-fascinated; you become a monster,” said Hillary Kenway of her life as an internationally renowned Opera singer.

Sat on endless flights, getting screamed at by “extremely” camp Italians and forcing herself to become an egocentric, were just segments in the first part of the Soprano’s life.

The second, less glamorous for sure, but no-less fulfilling, saw her move back to Beaminster via London and Yeovil where she had forged a career as an English teacher, to amalgamate both careers and become a vocal coach and Musical Director of Beaminster Singers.

“We’ve done so well in the last five years we are now the preferred choir in Milton Abbey for weddings,” Hilary said. “We sung there once and now we keep going back over there. And it’s not even in our area. I’m very proud of the choir and what they have achieved.”

The Singers, or Community Coral Society, come together once a week to rehearse for a number of big concerts with a professional orchestra each year.

Founded in 1997 so people could get together and sing big oratorios (Messiah, Elegy and the big requiems) they also tackle lighter material like operas and choruses.

Based in St Mary’s Church, people hoping to join the community group don’t have to pass an audition or interview to get in. In fact in the five years Hillary has been director there has only been one person who had to leave because they could not stay in tune.

Hillary’s stint at the Singers started when they found themselves short of a MD and knew she would have some time on her hands and was more than capable of doing it.

Brought up in Beaminster, she attended the old Alfred Cole Fox School. Although she admits to not winning any singing prizes – something she would more than make up for later– she did, however, receive certificates for annunciation and piano.

“That was a fantastic musical school at the time. For a comprehensive it was very musical school and I did three full-scale operas there before I left at 18-years-old. I’d already sung two major leads, Gluck’s “Orpheus” then Dido “Aeneas”; we were so lucky to put them on. It was amazing,” she said.

After school the multi-lingual –she speaks French, German and Italian - Hilary went to Birmingham University to read for an English and French degree, something which would later prove to be come in useful. However, whilst Hilary had her head in the books she continued to be “very, very involved” with the musical department.

Hillary said: “It was the first time they brought in the Handel Opera and the professor in the department of music was a Handel specialist and so I always sung in the chorus in the three years I was there.”

Then after graduating she joined the Royal College of Music for three years, where she performed total vocal music in small choir groups and learnt to become a soloist.

“It’s a very different skill,” she said. “Vocal projection is much, much bigger, you have to be able to project dramatically the voice as lead and gain more control, it’s much more skilful.

“In fact to be a soloist is not always the best thing to have in a choir. A choir which has a blatant soloist is not exactly a complimentary thing, it’s a different skill, you have to think much more egocentric as a soloist.”

Next the itinerant “Queen of the Night” or Coloratura - a type of operatic soprano who specializes in music distinguished by agile runs and leaps – found herself in Indianapolis courtesy of her then husband, who later fled America with Hilary as he draft dodged the call up for the Vietnam war.

The pair moved back to London, where her ex-husband worked in Selfridges’ tie department before gaining his music card. He moved to Birmingham to become a timpanist and Hilary took tentative steps into her first career, as a member of the BBC Singers, on her 27th birthday: August 1st, 1971.

Hilary said it was strange walking into the “ bowels of Broadcasting House” on her first day at the BBC because everybody else was happy and had been doing it for years. In her first week she learnt quickly and was just “given the music and got on with it”.

“It was actually quite challenging,” she said. “Because you know there are only 28 of us, we were a concert group in those days and had to sing the daily service. You had to be there to sing in the morning, but you only got a half hour rehearsal. We would maybe go for a coffee then head to All Saints Church next door and there you would be, stuck singing a song you’d only just rehearsed.”

It was during her two years there that she met many of the great conductors of the day. Conductors who have since become knights of the realm such as Sir Adrian Boult and Sir Colin Davis along with acclaimed French conductor Pierre Boulez.

But, as she points out, “It was really a brilliant training for a vocal career”. But after working five and six day weeks, which “felt like a life-time”, Hilary took her training and became a freelance singer. In the following years she performed as many oratorio recitals as she could, before entering international competitions.

However, competitions turned out to be just another learning curve.

“The first Mozart competition I entered I was there, I’d done the song in the finals and then the judges went off to debate,” she recalled with a grin.

“They came back to say what had happened and who had done what, when an extremely camp Italian judge came tearing out of the curtains towards me and said I had hadn’t won because I hadn’t sung enough Mozart. He was furious.”

Lessons learned the hard way, Hilary re-entered the next year with the right amount of Mozart and duly won.

But despite success Hilary found the life of a soloist dislikeable. A hatred of planes and the stress of having to be “egocentric”, and not being able to eat and drink when she wanted to, made the svelte soprano with her hair in a bun, realise she just wasn’t built to stay at the top of her career for long.

So, in her mid 30s, she moved onto her second career as a teacher, utilising the English degree gained years before at Birmingham University.

In London, newly single, needing to pay the mortgage and run a car, she continued into her second career, finally becoming head of English at a nautical school, all bell bottoms and sailors hats. All the time she kept her voice in tune by doing recitals, singing oratorios, but shunning her operatic past.

Then the draw of the West Country proved to much and she moved back. Taking a head of English post at Westfield Community School, Yeovil. But competition was still in her bones and she became the runner-up in the regional heats of the National Teaching Awards.

And so, now aged 65, Hilary has finally managed to blend her two careers into one; teaching singing to everyone from 15 to 78-year-olds, something she finds both fascinating and stimulating.

“I think to watch people progress and sing things they didn’t possibly think they could sing. To say ‘yes you can develop your voice’ and through their voice see them gain confidence, and to watch them progress is fascinating,” she said.

“It’s a completely different satisfaction, teaching from singing. If singing yourself, you take a piece of music, that someone else composed, to an audience and give them a worthwhile experience that they enjoy. If you are teaching you enable someone to realise an ambition perhaps or help them gain a new skill.”

People will have the chance to hear Hillary perform at Beaminster Charter Fair Concert on May 1st and May 8th in Bungay, Suffolk singing Dido.

The Beaminster Singers will be performing J.S. Bach’s stunning oratorio St John’s Passion on March 27th with soloists Martin Hindmarsh and Timothy Dickinson, and a professional orchestra led by Louise Bevan.


PHILY Page has led a successful career in photography and TV production working on shows including BBC Wainwright’s Walks with Julia Bradbury and Cloud Spotting with Gavin Pretor-Pinney.

Philiy may be familiar to some for her appearance on the 2000 BBC island community survival programme Castaway alongside, now household name, Ben Fogle.

After leaving Castaway, Philiy became a professional photojournalist, travelling the world taking images for the national British press including The Guardian, The Times and Marie Claire.

Philiy now lives in Bridport with her husband Paul who runs the “Traditional and Green Construction” company.

This year Philiy has been one of the key players in setting up Bridport’s “From Page To Screen” Film Festival.

The festival runs from Saturday, April 3rd to Friday, April 9th and focuses on big screen adaptations of best selling books. Throughout the festival there will be screenings and talks from some of the industry’s top names at Bridport Arts Centre and The Electric Palace.

WHY were you keen to be involved with the From Page to Screen festival?
Film has always been a huge part of my life; it’s been my career and my hobby. Growing up, our house was always full of writers and artists as my mum used to work for the BBC as a literary agent so I was keen to be involved in the film festival. I also make short films myself.

WHAT was the inspiration behind the festival?
Bridport is already really famous for its Literary Prize and it was obvious for the film festival to develop out of the same stable. The actual inspiration for “From Page To Screen” came when we realised that around six out of ten BAFTA and Oscar winning films started life as a book but no one had cottoned on to doing a film festival just for book adaptations. I love this idea as book adaptations can be quite controversial: people who love books sometimes think that no film is ever as good as the written original whereas film lovers take the finished film on its merits (or not) without worrying too much how faithful it is to the book. It’s true that some adaptations are pure genius whilst others have been well and truly panned by the critics. But people should make up their own minds.

WHAT event at the festival are you most looking forward to?
We’ve got a great programme and we’re lucky to have some amazing speakers coming to explain the relationship between book and film. From Page To Screen is going to be great for Bridport; there’s something for all ages. I hope everyone will check out the programme and find something that appeals to them. I am most looking forward to Where the Wild Things Are. I can’t wait to dress up! I’m also really looking forward to seeing the Queen of Spades.

ARE there any books you would like to see adapted to the big screen?
Alice in Wonderland - again. I really love Tim Burton, he’s one of my heroes but this one didn’t live up to my hopes. Sorry.

WOULD you rather curl up with a book or stick on a DVD?
DVD. I watch a film every night.

WHAT did you gain from your experience on Castaway?
I learnt to cope with small politics and how to accept people for what they are. On the island, if you fell out with someone, you still had to have breakfast with them the next morning, so you learnt to make up. I made long term friendships there, including Ben Fogle; those friends are like family to me now.

WHAT was your fondest memory of life on the island?
I loved the long summer evenings and having parties outside. Also, my pet sheep, Scraggy. He was the reason I thought I could move to the countryside.

WAS this your closest brush with fame?
Well, no I’ve still got some famous friends in their professional fields. We’ve also got some big names at the festival including Lynn Barber and screenwriters Julian Kemp and Alan Cubitt. Also, Harriet Walter, Fiona Shaw who are very famous actresses are on the advisory panel.

DO you have any ambitions you’d still like to pursue?
I’d like to set up my own children’s clothing label. The company will be called Ginger Whiskers, in memory of my grandfather and will specialise in ready-to-wear clothes for kids.

WHO would be your three dream guests at a dinner party and why?
I’d have Tim Burton so I could pick his brain; Vivienne Westwood for her designs and Ray Mears who is my hero as I love camping and travelling to remote places.

WHAT was the last film you watched, CD you listened to and book you read?
The last film at the cinema was Alice in Wonderland; last CD was an obscure French band The Lovers and I’m currently reading Forgotten Fruits by Christopher Stocks, which is a great read all about the history of fruit and vegetables, including how the Spanish Inquisition is responsible for all our carrots being orange rather than red and white.

LYME MATTERS with Philip Evans

Daryl’s combative return

I EXPECTED the sparks to fly when Daryl Turner returned to the Lyme Regis Town Council chamber after a lapse of three years, but even an old cynic like me did not expect his new collegues to get such a battering.

At times they looked dumbfounded, such was the ferocity of his dissatisfaction.

There can be no doubt that his frustrations with the current administration have been slowly building over the past few years and were at boiling point.

He’s a stern looking bloke at the best of times. but on occasions he looked positively scary. I lost count of the number of times he got to his feet to raise an objection on a point or order.

At the end of the evening the Mayor, Michaela Ellis, looked a little shell shocked, especially as Councillor Turner was highly critical of the lines of communication between the town and district councillors.

After winning a seat on the district council, Daryl attended every full council meeting to report on district affairs, as does the county councillor, Colonel Geoffery Brierley.

In recent times, however, he stopped attending and we wondered why. He made it perfectly clear why in a statement at the beginning of the meeting.

He felt it was a pointless exercise as the lines of communication between him and the town council were so poor.

Apparently, Daryl kept in regular touch with former mayor Sally Holman by e-mail and telephone calls but said the curent mayor had not contacted him once.

Councillor Ellis reminded him that communication was a two-way street and he had not sent her one e-mail either.

Daryl has clearly worked hard over the past three years in building his local government knowledge. He’s attended no fewer than 47 training sessions for new councillors.

And it seemed to me that none of the town councillors really wanted to take him on. Some of the more experienced ones are likely to stand down at the next election but if they thought they were going to have a comfortable last 15 months, Daryl made it clear that is not going to be the case.

I felt a bit sorry for the Mayor and I thought some of her more senior members could have been more supportive.

Stan Williams, Owen Lovell and Ken Meech did defend their position to a degree but the cutting wit of years gone by was clearly in decline.

The first exocet Daryl fired was the suggestion that the the whole town should elect the mayor and not just the councillors.

It’s a nice thought but one that will never reach fruition without a change in legislation. Town clerk Mike Lewis told me later, after checking the situation, that it was not possible in small authorities like Lyme.

It’s not a policy I would advocate for two reasons. One - it would give the mayor even more power and two, it would be open to political manipulation. Daryl has always polled well in local elections but he had the support of the Lib Dems who are well organised at grassroots level.

He also suggested separating the roles of mayor and council chairman with the appointment of a leader.

No doubt I will be accused of harking back to the “good old days”, but again, I would oppose such a move strongly for a similar reason.

That would be the beginning of the end for an independent town council.

To dilute the duties of the mayor would ultimately lessen the historical significance of the role. Also, Lyme is a small town council and should not aspire to be anything but. To have a mayor and leader would be complete overkill.

I do accept, however, that every organisation has to respond to the times we are living in and I am not opposed to change in the council chamber.

In fact, some of the points raised by Daryl I would support. I have thought for a long time that too many decisions are made behind closed doors with matters being dealt with by various sub-committees and working parties which are not open to the press.

Daryl was highly critical of the town council and has committed himself to improving matters. I wish him luck.

However, there is also a fair amount of concern over how the district council operates and one wonders how much influence our two district councillors have in Dorchester.

I’ve had my moments in terms of being critical of our town councillors, but I also understand, having been the other side of the press bench, that most if not all have the best interests of the town at heart.

Daryl says that he will be part of a group putting up at the next election advocating reform. Hopefully that will ensure there will be an election.

There have been groups before who have put themselves forward campaigning on a single subject. They have not proved that effective in the past and usually fade away.

The group that Daryl refers to will, I understand, be campaigning for better facilities for the youth of Lyme.

That’s something which has my full support but a solution to this problem is not fully in the gift of the town council.

Daryl’s return was a combative performance, make no mistake. The message was definitely “I’m back and don’t you forget it”.

He ended his statement by saying that any conflicts in personalities and dislikes should be cast aside for the sake of the town. A good sentiment.

I wasn’t present but I’m told that if the tone of the conversation among councillors in the pub afterwards is any indcation, that may be a more difficult job than expected.

All set for the Easter bonnet parade

CONTESTANTS are being invited to enter the annual Easter Bonnet Parade to be held in the town next week.

Home-crafted bonnets will compete for cash prizes and Easter eggs before parading through the town led by the Lyme Junior Band and followed by the Lyme Majorettes, who will both then perform in Theatre Square.

Generous prizes have been sponsored by Staples Stores, The Rock Point Inn, Colin and Judith Pothecary, Chick Computers ofCombpyne and Pop Goes The Weasel.

There will be a cup for the winning bonnet sponsored by Tree Tops Residential Home. Residents and visitors are invited to attend or take part in the parade next Sunday, April 4th.

Judging will be held at the Baptist Church Hall from 2pm and the parade will start at 2:30pm.

WEYMOUTH MATTERS with Harry Walton

A broken leg waiting to happen

A WEYMOUTH street feature is so unwanted that it is literally bringing people down.

The hole several feet deep near the junction of St Mary Street and St Alban Street started life as roadworks, was demoted to a fenced off hazard and has now sunk to the level of “work in progress”.

It is crudely protected by a large piece of soggy cardboard over which a piece of fencing has been roughly laid but, as one passer by told me, “it is a broken leg waiting to happen”.

This is because there is a large gap in the middle of the piece of fencing and anyone treading on the apparently solid surface of the carboard could suddenly find themselves plunging through at least knee-deep.

The passer-by knew all about concealed hazards and regaled me with this yarn. He said a woman visited a building in the process of being converted and happened to walk along a darkened corridor and through a doorway only to find it was a lift shaft.

She fell screaming for 15 feet but was fortunately saved from serious injury because her fall was broken by sawdust and wood chippings that builders had stored at the bottom of the shaft. Unfortunately she was then injured by someone who heard her cries, rushed to help and fell down the same shaft on top of her!

Perhaps the authorities should deal with the hole before it creates its own accident yarn.

To Hampshire ... on foot via St Malo!

EVER been in a car having a row about wrong directions being given?

I have, so I was determined get a clear idea of the route before we set off when I received an invitation to a birthday party for a friend I started out in journalism with back in the 1970s.

He works for the Daily Mail and has written various books but he still prizes the quiet life in rural Hampshire where the party was staged at his home.

How to get there, I thought, so I switched my computer on and keyed in direction guidance to where he lived about 100 miles away.

Now I already knew roughly how to get there. It was something like M27 and up a bit. Google quickly confirmed this but a map window caught my eye which also offered directions for walking there!

Mildly amused, I clicked on it just to see what it would suggest and it produced the following. First catch a ferry from Weymouth to Guernsey, then catch a ferry to Portsmouth and walk in from there.

It got better. There was a second choice involving taking a ferry right over to St Malo in France and then one back to Portsmouth before walking in.

But the icing on this ocean wave direction cake came with a slice of helpful advice for your two ferry journeys.

It read: “Use caution on this route. May be missing sidewalks or pedestrian path.”

Hello Alan, how are you today?

AS a keen gardener I’m always pottering about doing this or that on my hallowed plot. One job which reared its head recently was hanging basket repair and I found that one of mine needed an entirely new lining.

So off I went to B&Q in Weymouth as I also needed other things not available at a garden centre, but once there I hit problems.

I searched and couldn’t find a basket liner for love nor money, so I asked for advice and a helpful member of staff paged a colleague to attend the garden section.

I waited and waited but no one came as I paced up and down in frustration.

Finally I became aware of someone behind me, swung round and began to curtly explain what I wanted only to trail away into an embarrassed silence.

A hasty glance round the immediate area revealed no one nearby for which I was mightily grateful….because I had just started a conversation with a large cardboard cut-out of television gardener Alan Titchmarsh! I felt like hanging myself not my baskets.

Some are more equal than others!

DRIVERS who flout parking laws and get a ticket have only themselves to blame for their stupidity but sometimes the penalty itself is stupid.

Take Lodmoor Country Park in Weymouth for instance where I found three consecutive identically sized spaces near the entrance.

I’d walked a good 20 yards past them before the bizarre range of financial warnings attached to each space registered with me.

The first had an official notice: “Please pay at meter at all times. Penalty £50.”

But in the next space was another official notice: “Please pay at meter at all times. Penalty £60.”

And just to round the confusion off, the next space over was for disabled badge holders complete with an official notice warning them that they must display a valid blue badge….or face a penalty of £70!

As George Orwell might have said: All parking spaces are penalised equally but some are penalised more equally than others.