Thursday, 18 August 2011

Hospital Cup heroes every one

I HAVE written in this column and in many others over the years about the happy times I spent as a member of Axminster Football Club in the early 1970s.

Although I played most of my football with my home town club in Lyme Regis, and went on to serve the Seasiders as chairman for ten years, subsequently being elected a life member, I have always considered Axminster Town to be my second club.

I have remained on friendly terms with most of my former colleagues at Sector Lane over the years, despite the strong rivalry that exists between Lyme and Axminster.

And when I returned to these parts after working in London in the mid-1990s I was delighted to renew my acquaintances through the Axminster Hospital Cup, one of the most prestigious of local football cup competitions, first played for in 1930 when the late Percy Stuart donated a magnificent cup.

I am sad to say that I never won an Axminster Hospital Cup medal in my playing days with Lyme, although I did get a runners-up trophy in 1980, a final I remember well as I broke my ankle. I think it was against Beer.

The cup competition had been going through a few baron years and I was more than pleased to join the committee when I returned to the newspaper scene in East Devon to take over the running of Pulman’s Weekly News.

With one of my schoolboy idols, Martin Leach, chairing the committee, we were able to breath new life into the competition and once again funds started to flow for Axminster Hospital.
Committee meetings at Axminster Conservative Club were always enjoyable occasions and inevitably meant a late night.

These and other enjoyable memories were recalled on Saturday morning when the committee, now led with great enthusaism and pride by Pete Garner, invited me over to Axminster Hospital to witness the official opening of the new conservataory at the Day Room.

As well as supporting the hospital in many other ways over the years, with thousands of pounds being donated, the committee put aside a sum of money every year for the past 12 years to meet the £189,000 cost of the conservatory.

Life President Roy McLennan was given the honour of cutting the official tape, helped by new matron Liz Bradley, and the committee members, many who have given many years of service, lined up proudly to have their photo taken.

It’s incredible to think that it was 40 years ago that Les Bounds and I were dashing down the wing for the Tigers but the spirit that existed then is just as strong today.

The Axminster Hospital Cup Committee is made up of a few blokes who love the game of football and have put much back into the sport - to the great beneftit of Axminster Hospital and those who need its services. Heroes all of them.

WE had to move pretty smartish to get the A-level results from Colyton Grammar and Axe Valley Community College in this week’s issue.

They were released today (Thursday morning) just a few hours before we went to press. We’ve long expected fantastic results from Colyton Grammar and this year’s set of results was no exception. Standards at Axe Valley were also well above target and I understand there were good results also at Honiton Community College and Sidmouth College.

Well done to all those students who have worked so hard - and a word of praise also for the teachers.

Still no progress on town eyesore

THE disgrace that is Webster’s Garage in Axminster continues with, it would seem, little hope of this dreadful town centre eyesore being developed in the near future.

When I started writing this column I commented, perhaps a little foolhardily, that if Webster’s Garage was situated in the middle of Sidmouth, the seat of East Devon District Council, it would have been dealt with years ago and not allowed to fester on for 30 or more years.

As you can imagine, those comments did not go down very well at Knowle - but I stand by them. Successive town councils over the years have tried their best, as have Axminster Chamber of Commerce, to get some action. But in the current financial climate, is there a real hope that any progress will be made soon? I doubt it.

New town councillor Paul Hayward has demanded that special powers be used to made the crumbling site “safe, secure and visually acceptable”. His colleagues, taking the polite option, decided to seek EDDC’s view on using such legislation.

Three months later and there’s been no response. That’s an insult to Axminster.

Huge crowds and top atmosphere

THAT’S it – quick as a flash, Lyme’s main summertime events are over.

What a fantastic few weeks the town has had – packed beaches, great events and glorious weather (most of the time), all topped off with one of the best carnivals we’ve seen in recent years.

I didn’t get to see the carnival procession march by on Saturday night because I was in it, driving one of our View From Newspapers Smart Cars. As I drove into Broad Street I couldn’t quite believe the size of the crowd watching, and was stunned again as I turned on to Marine Parade, where another huge crowd was waiting – it made me quite nervous!

Although I didn’t get to see the procession in action, I got to see all the entries before starting in Holmbush Car Park. There was such a great atmosphere as everyone anxiously waited to get started, checked their costumes and the group entries practised their dance routines for the last time. A huge effort was put in by all!

After having so much fun in the car park, I was a little miffed I wouldn’t be walking in the procession along with my dad and sister Zoe, who handed out balloons to all the children on route.

Instead, I had chosen to drive because I had injured my leg rushing back and forth between the office and seafront to take photos over the past few weeks. But driving turned out to be just as much fun (and a lot less tiring!), as people waved and took photos of our novelty Smart Cars.

We had underestimated how many people would be watching the procession and ran out of balloons as we neared the end of the route. Sorry to any children who were disappointed.

Congratulations to Regatta and Carnival chairman Teresa Evemy, secretary Alan Vian for the huge effort he puts into the events, and all the hard-working committee for holding such a successful week of family fun.

There are still a few smaller summertime events coming up, but for now we can breath a sigh of relief, relax and watch as the town winds back down.

APOLOGIES to Lyme Regis Museum geologist Paddy Howe and marine biologist Chris Andrew.

I was supposed to join Paddy and Chris for one of their popular fossil walks on Saturday to write about in this column but, as previously mentioned, I injured my leg and was unable to go. I do hope to reschedule and take part in another walk soon.

The fossil walks are being held regularly throughout the year, even in the winter, and the cost includes free admission to the museum, where Mary Anning’s famous ichthyosaur is currently displayed.

For full details, dates and times visit or phone 01297 443370.

Relaxing by the sea after carnival

AS the town recovered from its biggest night of the year – carnival – I was able to spend some of Sunday watching Lyme Regis Gig Club’s annual regatta, down on the Cobb.

Only in its second year but another great summertime event, with nine teams from across the South West competing in Lyme Bay.

I don’t know much about sailing or rowing but whenever I watch such events I always wish I was more involved in it – it seems like such a waste not to be when we live in the perfect setting.

The Mayor, Councillor Sally Holman – a sailor herself – has always been keen to teach me more, ever since she strapped me into a lifejacket and sent me out to sea to cover the Musto Skiff National Championships when I was 17 and had just joined the View From. Sally was, of course, also watching the gig regatta and explained to me what was happening as Lyme competed in the men’s and women’s finals.

Unfortunately we didn’t win, but I thought the racing was brilliant, with very close and exciting finishes.

The gig club has to be commended on its success since only starting up a few years ago. It already has two gigs, a third on its way soon, and a strong membership. I must see the teams practising in the bay almost everyday – what a great and active club to be a part of.

Coca Cola car fix - must be the real thing!

A FRUSTRATED Weymouth driver was being driven to distraction because his car kept breaking down and no repair seemed to work.

He’d be bowling along without a care in the world when the engine would suddenly cut out. Experience showed that if he waited ten minutes and then fired the ignition up he was frequently able to start the car and go on his way, but an occasional problem became a regular one.

Several mechanics had a go at it without success because the car continued to die but then he had a stroke of luck... he broke down again.

The AA mechanic who arrived seemed no different from others who had had their heads under the bonnet, but this one not only had a shrewd guess at the problem but took highly unusual measures to deal with it.

Apparently the source of the difficulty was a mechanism to recycle engine gases and the mechanic suggested a way to deal with it which worked perfectly, is still working and which amazed and delighted the car owner.

So what was this high-tech state of the art mechanical knowledge which had saved the day?
Well, the mechanic found an empty Coca Cola can, cut a tin circle out of it, punched two holes into the circle and fitted it into the problem mechanism! It has worked perfectly since, so the Coca Cola disc must be the real thing!

IMAGE is everything in a tourist town such as Weymouth and one restaurant was clearly well aware of this when it put up a notice near its front door.

Nobody likes to face drifts of tobacco ash when they arrive for a meal so the notice asked if people would refrain from dumping their cigarette butts in the small front garden area.

A perfectly reasonable request and one that visitors and passers by seemed to be heeding when I saw the site because there were no obvious mounds of stubbed out filter tips detracting from the ambience.

Unfortunately the restaurant seemed to have a few other rubbish problems on its plate to worry about.

Empty cans and bottles peeped out of undergrowth, polystyrene platters complete with half-eaten food jumbled their disorder and the entire ensemble was fetchingly decorated with an array of plastic forks and other fast food detritus.

The result meant that anyone attracted by the absence of discarded cigarette butts would have run screaming into the night at the sight of everything else dumped in the garden.

This was a shame because the restaurant concerned has a good reputation... which is more than can be said for people leaving their unwanted calling cards as they pass it by in the street.

Are holidaymakers flashing the cash?

BANKS and building societies are under siege from holidaymakers keen to flash their cash.

There may be economic gloom almost everywhere you look but it doesn’t seem to be affecting tourists packing out Weymouth town centre.

One hole-in-the-wall completely ran out of cash at 11am, other financial institutions ran out of £20 notes and you can barely get a £5 note they are so scarce.

One business told me that £10 and £20 notes are being tendered so frequently that the afternoon before their busiest trading day staff have to go to the bank and book up to £200 in £5 notes just so they’ll be able to offer change to customers.

And judging by the amount of time I had to queue to get money out of my bank I think it will take until the end of the summer holidays in a fortnight’s time before we see cash demand slacken off.

Pricey park and ride

WEYMOUTH’S new park and ride has opened and the ticket machines are really confusing people.

Drivers are quite rightly asking why the fee asked for Dorchester park and ride is £1.50 yet the fee for Weymouth’s is £3.50.

Could it be some sort of Olympic stealth tax, yet another council scheme to generate cash for its ailing coffers or perhaps Weymouth is just more upmarket and more expensive than Dorchester.

So I contacted council officers to try and find out why and the answer I was given was this.
Weymouth is more expensive than Dorchester because the county town’s park and ride system only operates on five days per week whereas Weymouth park and ride operates every day of the week. The fee also reflects the fact that Weymouth’s park and ride operates longer each day than Dorchester’s does.

Now you know and it will be interesting to see how successful the Weymouth site is, not now but after the Olympics.

60 SECOND INTERVIEW: Chris Clipson

COUNCILLOR Chris Clipson moved from South Somerset to Lyme Regis five years ago, saying he had found a “vibrant community”. A retired art teacher, Chris trained at Camberwell School of Art in London and Leeds University, and taught in Yorkshire, Doncaster and for 23 years at Stoke-sub-Hamdon in Somerset. In the May 2011 local elections, Chris was elected to Lyme Regis Town Council and is a big supporter of the town’s new Hub youth club. He is currently recovering from a busy week, as a member of the Lyme Regis Regatta and Carnival Committee, which is celebrating great success with their annual summer events. Chris is married to artist Camille and has two grown-up children.

WHY did you join Lyme Regis Regatta and Carnival Committee?
Having moved here I looked carefully at the various societies and eventually decided to join the regatta and Carnival Committee, as their needs seemed greatest, and still do!

WHAT is your favourite Regatta and Carnival Week event and why?
My favourite carnival activity so far has been the Walk Of Light torchlight procession because it’s a great coming together of a holiday community.

WHAT do you like about living in Lyme Regis?
I love Lyme Regis because of its people. There are many different characters here and everyone is very friendly towards each other, creating a comfortable atmosphere.

WHAT would you change about the town if you could?
I would like Lyme to constantly review its holiday face at the same time as working to support all those who live here, young and old.

WHY did you decide to run for town council?
I decided to become a town councillor to move agendas forward. I am amazed at the length of time it takes to improve anything, and I remain determined to speed up process so that we, as a town, can move forward.

WHAT are your other personal interests?
I still remain involved in my art activities. I am very interested in seaside architecture, beach hut history and the restoration of my Austin A35 van!

ARE you involved with any other local organisations?
I am a volunteer miller at the Town Mill and I am a member of Lyme Regis Gig Club. I hope to help in the construction of the club’s new gig, which will be called “Tempest”.

WHERE is your ideal holiday destination?
Having spent some summers in France, I now prefer closer destinations and my favourite is the West Wight, an Area of Outstanding Natural Beauty on the Isle of Wight.

WHAT would you do if you won the Lottery?
If I won the Lottery, I would support my family's interests and would also wish to give encouragement to local good causes.

WHO would be your three ideal dinner guests?
My three ideal dinner guests would be one who would be willing to shop for ingredients, one who would love to prepare, cook and serve the meal, and one who was not averse to washing up!

Friday, 12 August 2011

Echoing the sign of our times

I WAS spending a few days in France last week when I heard the news. Local photographer Richard Austin texted me to say the the Express & Echo, the Exeter-based evening paper that also covers East Devon, was to be closed as a daily paper in September and to be relaunched as a weekly.

Although not surprised, I was deeply saddened. The Echo was the first newspaper I worked on under dapper editor Cecil Hoare who always wore a pinstripe suit and a carnation in his buttonhole.

I clearly remember my interview. My dad and I travelled on the train (we did not have a car) from Lyme Regis to Exeter and then walked to the Echo offices in Sidwell Street.

My father, who wore his best suit (in fact, his only suit) was asked to wait in the Editor’s outer office while the interview took place. I was offered an apprenticeship as a trainee reporter for the sum of £12 10 shillings a week. When Cecil Hoare told my dad, he just said, “Thank you, Sir”.

Outside the offices, my dad, a man who rarely swore, turned to me and said: “Don’t you let me down you lucky little bugger.” I’ve tried not to.

The significance of that statement passed me by at the time. It was only at his funeral many years later that I learned from my mum that at the time dad was earning just £11 a week.

My first job on the Echo was as a junior reporter at the Honiton office, which was situated over Arthur Dimond’s newsagents shop in the High Street. To start with I used to travel to Honiton on the Puffin’ Billy from Lyme, changing trains at Axminster. On Fridays I had to go to Exeter College to qualify as a fully fledged reporter.

I went from paper boy to reporter in one fell swoop as I used to deliver the Echo in Lyme before getting the job. In fact, I did both jobs for three weeks until a replacement paper boy could be found.

I thought working for the Echo was the most exciting job in the world. On Saturdays I would be covering a rugby or soccer match for the pink “Football Express” edition that came out on Saturday evenings.

During the week I was attached to senior reporter David Haydon covering the Honiton and Axminster areas. In those days the Echo has a dedicated reporter in most East Devon towns: Frank Cole in Sidmouth, Bill King in Exmouth; David Haydon in Honiton. When David moved on to Pulman’s Weekly News (considered a better job in those days because they gave you a company car), I had to run the patch myself.

Exeter and East Devon deserves a daily paper - and the Echo was a great daily paper. But these are difficult times for the newspaper industry - the MOST difficult times - especially for the metropolitan dailies.

When owners Northcliffe decided to turn the Torbay Herald Express into a weekly with some success, the writing was always on the wall for the Echo. It was just a matter of time.

As a consequence of the decision, several journalists and photographers have lost their jobs.
Hopefully, the weekly Echo will be as big a success as its Torbay sister paper.

SADNESS, too, in Honiton this week over the closure of the Royal British Legion Club in Dowell Street, another victim of this wretched recession.

As a young reporter in Honiton I spent many happy hours in the Legion Club, covering many events and enjoying a drink in the bar after work.

Over the years I have also spoken at many dinners which were held at the Legion.
The club will leave a huge whole in the social life of Honiton.

They are all going a bit crazy in Beer

IT’S been Regatta Week in Beer - one of my all-time favourite events.

In recent years Jackie and I have always tried to get down to Beer on the main day - Thursday - but as this is now the production day for The Weekenders we are no longer able to do so.

For many years we drove over to Beer early and found ourself a good spot on the beach and then watched the day unfold. A picnic by the sea and then a couple of drinks at The Anchor before going home. Who could ask for anything more?

The locals all go a bit crazy during Regatta Week and it’s an event that draws old Beertonians back to the home village. Once a Beer boy, always a Beer boy and a part of Regatta Week is renewing old friendships and swapping stories about growing up in the prettiest village in East Devon.

Led by energetic chairman Kim Baulch, the Regatta has a very lively and hard working committee who manage to come up with a vibrant programme of events every year.

The organisation of Beer Regatta typifies the community spirit in the village - and one thing is for sure, there will undoubtedly be a few sore heads in Beer this morning!

Wednesday, 10 August 2011

Traffic system not as bad as we thought?

WHAT a difference a few weeks make because attitudes seem to be changing towards Weymouth’s new traffic light system.

A short while ago the only award motorists wanted to hang round the neck of county council staff in charge of the scheme was a rope.

Now don’t get me wrong. It will still be a cold day in hell before County Hall gets offered the Freedom of the Borough, but it does appear that boiling anger has been reduced to a simmer.

A group of women chatting in a supermarket said they had been surprised at how easy it now was to use the previously notorious black spot of King Street and if it worked in the busy holiday season there might be hope for the rest of the year.

That’s as may be but, just as some people are starting to appreciate the new lights, there are an awful lot of others out there who remain to be convinced.

Using Chickerell Road into town is particularly frustrating. First there is a set of traffic lights at the railway bridge, nearby there is another set of traffic lights to control entry on to Boot Hill before there is a third set of traffic lights 50 metres on to control progress in different directions round the harbor.

It does work but I genuinely believe the old roundabout was faster and having no left turn into Chickerell Road as you come down Boot Hill is downright annoying.

Then there is the absence of a right turn at Jubilee Clock. What a lightbulb moment that must have been for the scheme!

It caught me out the first time and I had to drive right down to the Pier Bandstand before I could turn round and come back to go to the Pavilion.

As for those motorists who got it right, well the queues are still going on because you have to turn right, go along Commercial Road, turn left into Westham Road, left on to the Esplanade, right into a short holding lane and then right along the Esplanade to get to the Pavilion.

All this traffic inevitably clashes with everyone heading for a car park and shops so, yes, the system is slowly revealing its good points but as a social reformer once said: “Nothing is perfect. Life is messy.”

Staying calm behind the wheel

SCIENTISTS have now backed up something that every woman driver in Weymouth and Portland already knew... that they stay calmer than men in a traffic queue.

Evidence gleaned by testing saliva reveals that traffic queue stress levels in men are seven times higher than in women.

The first and most obvious point to make is that the scientists have clearly got it wrong.
Men are actually much calmer than women – OY, DOZY!! WHAT ARE YOU WAITING FOR? CHRISTMAS?

We don’t allow conditions to get to us – LOOK! I’VE BEEN WAITING HERE SO LONG I’VE GOT STUBBLE!


So, ladies, when you feel a bit flustered in a traffic queue, learn from the calm example set by us men AND BLOW YOUR HORN AT THE IDIOT IN FRONT!

Please drive carefully!

EVERYONE knows an area where they feel it might be a bit dodgy to live or walk through but one community actually has a sign warning visitors what to expect.

I suppose, given the nanny state we all now live in, that the community in question might feel that such a sign absolves them from any legal action which might be brought against them.

After all, in theory, visitors would only have themselves to blame if something happened to them because they went to an area they had been warned about.

The sign in question was quite specific and said -- “Please drive carefully rough village” which, to say the least, is pretty specific.

Unfortunately, of course, the rough characters this sign might be warning people about would seem to include vandals because the words had clearly been tampered with.

In reality they should have read “Please drive carefully through village”. I suppose visitors do at least know that the place does have one attraction... a village idiot!

HAS anyone seen the black sand on part of Weymouth’s beach? It’s just over by the Pavilion about a short donkey ride out near the harbor wall piling where it lies in a dark layer towards the low water mark.

The black sand was clearly attractive and I watched as a group of children used it to make some lovely sandcastles. The structures slowly emerged, taking on a sort of striped look as buckets of black sand they had spaded up were enthusiastically blended with golden sand from the main beach to form a variety of striking creations.

Their work was a picture... and so were the faces of their parents when they discovered what their offspring had been doing. Why were they so upset I hear you ask? Well, I’ll give you a clue.

The sandcastles were best enjoyed from an upwind position because of their rich and pungent aroma.

Bound to be a bit of fall out – or should I say outfall – from that!

Could there be a more bizarre event?

THERE are moments during the summer months when I can’t help but think my job is sometimes completely ridiculous.

One of those moments came on Monday evening, as I chased after Oompa Loompas, Smurfs and Batman and Robin, among others, being pushed in trolleys and prams along the seafront, desperate for a good photo.

It was, of course, the Wheeled Derby - one of Lyme’s most loved, traditional summertime events.

For those who have never seen this bizarre spectacle, you’ve been missing out. Pairs race from The Ship Inn in Coombe Street into town and along the seafront - one on some kind of wheels and one pushing - stopping at each pub on the way to drink half a pint - all in fancy dress.

It sounds even more ridiculous trying to describe it. I can’t help but wonder what visitors must think when they see two lads in just their pants whiz past them in a pram, pint in hand, while they take a quiet stroll along Marine Parade.

Along with Lifeboat Week’s Bathtub Race, the Wheeled Derby, which goes back to the 1960s when it was known as the Pram Derby and entrants dresed up as mother and baby, is one of my favourite annual events.

Both require me to dash along the seafront after participants, although I’m not really fit enough for it - Marine Parade seems so much longer when you’re running it!

During last year’s Wheeled Derby I was repeatedly hit with an inflatable mallet by two contestants dressed as pirates. They thought I was another entrant trying to ovetake them, despite me explaining “I’m press, I’m press!” as I ran after them.

This year there was no such attack, although I was, disappointingly, completely out-run by the Lyme Regis News’ photographer! Unlike the Bathtub Race, I have never taken part in the Wheeled Derby, as I’m not sure my beer-drinking skills are up for it.

My dad says you’re not a real Lyme Boy if you haven’t taken part (I did try to explain I was a Lyme Girl, not a boy!) and said he would love to take part again alongside me and my older sister, Zoe. I think we would have to start training now!

Congratulations to this year’s 32 participants for keeping the traditonal event alive, particularly winners Samuel Cooke (who has now won the race several times) and Adam Ding, and fancy dress winners Annette Denning and Kelly Quick, who were dressed as Oompa Loompas.

The derby has definitely been the highlight of Regatta and Carnival Week so far, with plenty more events scheduled for the coming five days.

What a shame the Walk of Light torchlight procession had to be cancelled on Sunday evening due to the high winds but please note the event has been rescheduled for tomorrow (Thursday) at 9pm, starting at the Langmoor Gardens entrance, with torches going on sale from 8.30pm.

As I write this on Tuesday morning, we in the office are preparing for Lyme’s Got Talent, organised by my dad on behalf on the Regatta and Carnival Committee. It’s going to be a sell-out show with what looks like another great line-up following on from last year’s success.

The View From staff are also looking forward to taking part in the Grand Carnival Procession on Saturday night. Look out for our Smart cars and vans as we’ll be handing out balloons to all the youngsters.

Last year I took part in Bridport Carnival but I don’t think I’ve been in the Lyme event since I was 15 - seven years ago - as a member of Lyme Regis Football Club’s ladies team, the Lazers.

We all dressed up as strawberries to promote our fundraising campaign to move the clubhouse to Strawberry Field, which as many will know did not go ahead, but we had great fun kicking footballs down the main street - although my control skills weren’t up to scratch.

That was the last time the football club entered the carnival, but this year the boys will be taking part in their new pink away kit - very manly!

The Regatta and Carnival Committee are expecting lots of entries in this year’s procession, and if you’re thinking of taking part I would definitely encourage you to do it.

Good luck to the Regatta and Carnival Committee for the remainder of their special week!

Summertime in Lyme won’t be the same without Phil

I WAS saddened this week to hear the news that town crier Phil Street will be leaving Lyme Regis next month to take up a promotion in France.

Not only is Phil town crier, but he is a popular local character, chairman of the Lyme Regis and St George’s Twinning Association, co-organiser of the spectacular Candles on the Cobb and a regular in local ameteur dramatic performances.

He has also helped in raising thousands for local and national charities over the years, particularly through acting as auctioneer at numerous harvest homes alongside deputy harbourmaster Mike Higgs.

I must bump into Phil almost every week, particularly during the summer, as he takes part in so many events that I cover for the View From Lyme Regis and he’s always willing to pose for a photo - summertime in Lyme just won’t be the same without him.

We at the View wish Phil the best of luck in his new position and home. I’m sure he will be greatly missed in the town.

I also hope that the traditional post of town crier continues in Lyme Regis. Phil has been a wonderful representative of the town and, hopefully, someone just as proud to do the job will step forward for the post.