Wednesday, 5 December 2012

Palaces, snakes, tigers, oh, and a small earthquake!

FIRST my glass of orange juice began to slop from side to side, then the chairs, tables and walls began to tremble and finally the whole hotel shook as an earthquake rocked my holiday in Thailand.

I just froze but thankfully the quake, which measured 6.7 on the Richter scale and killed more than 20 people in nearby Burma, had weakened to a 3.0 by the time it reached me.

It was a truly scary moment in a holiday laced with incident and excitement from palaces, snakes and long tailed boat rides in Bangkok to tigers, microlighting and hill tribes in Chiang Mai and shows and beautiful gardens in Pattaya.

Heathrow’s horror charge of £7.25 for a sausage sandwich was soon a distant memory and a tiring double flight via Hong Kong was eased by a delicious meal of shrimp at the famous Cabbages and Condoms restaurant in Bangkok on my first night.

Our first full day was packed with fearful fascination at the threat of a King Cobra striking out during a visit to the Red Cross Centre, wonder at the grandeur and majesty of the Grand Palace toured in pantaloons to cover our shorts and disbelief at the fearsome humidity. We had to refuel with beer at the Rosabieng restaurant where we also enjoyed a delicious dish of deep fried duck followed by mango ice-cream.

Next day we visited the Ancient City, a site covered in replicas of palaces, temples and other buildings from all over Thailand, and I was treated to the slightly surreal sight of a man selling honeycombs slung on strings from the crossbar of his bicycle!

A hilarious session on gin and tonics in a bar near our hotel that night was followed by a slightly fragile trip the next day to the famous Damnoen Saduak floating market complete with long tailed boat trip. Nothing like a roaring car engine two feet from your ear to clear a hangover!

We took things a little easier that night, but nearly met a fate worse than death while having one last drink in a bar. A few sips into our stay we became aware that nearly half the women could do with a shave and we carefully drank up, made our excuses and left with our backs firmly to the wall!

A few visits to local markets and it was time to fly north to the jungles and mountains of Chiang Mai where we’d hired a guide, Paul Collins of Best Tuk Tuk Tours who was outstanding and made our holiday. His encyclopaedic knowledge took us to places no coach load of tourists will ever see and all in his charming three-wheeled tuk tuk, a character vehicle if ever there was one.

Our hotel, the Centara Duangtawan, was excellent despite the earthquake and our wonderful stay in the area included visits to the stunning Doi Suthep temple, a variety of craft centres from silk and wood to laquer and umbrellas, an elephant camp, Tiger Kingdom where we sat quietly with some of these magnificent creatures and a visit to a hill tribe including the famous long-necked Karen women. We even had a nine-dish lunch by an idyllic reservoir.

It was just one delight after another and discovering the Lemongrass restaurant barely 200 metres from our hotel was heaven, some of the best food I have eaten at ridiculously low prices, less than £24 for two of us including drinks.

I rounded my Chiang Mai stay off with a bit of pure indulgence. I went microlighting 1,000ft over the countryside just after dawn, crossing paddy fields, cruising above temples, forest and jungle and rounding it all off by crossing a huge dam wall and heading out over the water, king of all I surveyed. I won’t forget that trip for a long time.

The next day we flew back to Bangkok and hopped a taxi down to Pattaya and the little Seaside Guesthouse which was neat, clean and just what we wanted.

We visited giant Buddha figures, the magnificent all-wood Sanctuary of Truth building, Underwater World and an old favourite of mine, Nong Nooch botanical gardens which were stunning.

The humidity was crippling and towards the end of our stay the weather turned with three colossal thunderstorms in a single afternoon and another gigantic storm the next day which sank parts of central Pattaya under four feet of floodwater in barely an hour.

Nighttime included the neon delights of Pattaya’s famous Walking Street, relaxing at the Beer Garden 100 metres out to sea and enjoying a very good rock band at the Classroom bar at the top of our road. We also enjoyed a visit to the famous Tiffany’s transvestite show which was very slick and professional.

All too soon it was time to fly home, but I will be back and some wonderful photographic memories will keep me going until then.

Meeting a long-necked woman from the Karen hill tribe

Town pulls together for magical night

THERE’s a real feel good factor about this week’s column. 

I even have a kind word for the council (see below) probably because attending the Buddy Holly night at the Marine Theatre put me a good mood for the week.

You can beat a bit of rock 'n' roll to get the positive juices flowing.

Actually, it was a really good weekend with the town coming together on Saturday to get the Christmas festivities off to quite a magical start.

Regular readers in this column will recall last year that I got into deep hot water when I suggested that a couple of thousand quid from the district council had been wasted of trying to organise four late night shopping nights. 

My view was based entirely on what had happen before in Lyme. Things didn’t get any better when I asked freelance journalist Geoff Baker to take a stroll into town on one of those nights to give his own personal view. 

I remember Geoff phoning me as I was compering the Lyme’s Got Talent Christmas Concert to say that downtown he was about as popular as Helen Mills at a Beatles convention.

But this year I must say well done to the Lyme Traders’ Organisation, and in particular Bee Painton from the Serendip Bookshop,  who organised a number of festive events throughout the day on Saturday, prior to the lantern parade and switching on of the town Christmas illuminations by the Mayor, Councillor Sally Holman.

There was a real buzz about the town in the afternoon and whilst the crowds were not excessive it looked like the shops were doing better than usual.

We had Victorian carollers, a strolling band and a Santa’s Grotto and many of the traders served some festive cheer and goodies to add to the atmosphere.

Later in the afternoon the crowd exploded into hundreds, possibly thousands, for the lantern parade and switch-on, led by the Lyme firemen and the Majorettes in their Jubilee costumes.

Down on The Shambles around the tree the reformed Lyme Junior Band entertained with some carols and got a huge cheer from the crowd.

The lantern workshop at the Baptist Church was a hive of activity with around 70 youngsters taking part. 

When the workshop started about five years ago there were just a handful of participants but now they travel from as far afield as Tiverton to take part.

Despite the pressures on costs, I think the Christmas displays in Broad Street will maintain Lyme’s reputation of having the best Christmas lights in the area and, after a bit of a wobble, most shops in the main street have a Christmas tree above their premises - even Lloyds Bank!

Finally, thanks as always must go to Barbara Austin and her team for yet again raising the money to pay for the illuminations.

Running Lyme council is quite a business

THIS column is rarely slow in criticising our town council so it’s only fare that we should recognise a great deal of good work that goes on at the Guildhall. Well, it is Christmas. 

Last year I was highly critical of the lack of debate when the council’s annual budget was fixed. This year it’s been a very different story and town clerk Mike Lewis, having produced his last budget before retiring, and strategy and policy committee chairman Mark Gage, are to be congratulated on how the budget for the next financial year was presented.

It was a minor inconvenience that they were unable to approve the budget, through no fault of their own, because they have to get special dispensation to vote on the matter because they are council taxpayers (how ridiculous), If they weren’t, they would not be serving on the council.

The budget was set out in a very readable fashion with explanatory notes which I think would have aided councillors greatly and provided much more detail than some of the other councils this newspaper group reports on.

When Mark Gage was elevated to the main chairmanship within days of winning a seat on the council, he committed himself to improving the council’s openness and financial efficiency.

This year’s budget procedure was certainly evidence of this.

Marine Theatre is really rockin’

IT’S really pleasing to see that things are going so well down at the Marine Theatre.

After so many years of struggling and financial worries, the old theatre is really rocking these days.

“Rocking” was certainly the only word appropriate on Sunday when the Marine played host to a Buddy Holly tribute band.

This was another sell-out event which is very often the case for the Marine these days. 

Comedian Jo Brand played to a full house recently and all tickets have been sold for Jeremy Hardy’s appearance on Saturday, December 15th.

As you might expect, Sunday’s audience was made up of those of us of a certain age. Jackie and I were accompanied by daughter Francesca and her boyfriend Rob, our entertainments editor, who brought the average age down to about 82!

But once a rocker always a rocker and despite the grey heads and expanding girths, there was some serious dancing going on in the isles.

The band, “Buddy Holly and the Cricketers”, were superb, covering all the great numbers from the golden era of rock’n roll from the 1950s.

The programme was made up of mostly of Holly hits with a bit of Elvis Presley. Chuck Berry, Johnny Cash, Everly Brothers and Jerry Lee Lewis.

The LymeArts Trust, under the enthusiastic stewardship of chairman David Edwards, and members of the Theatre Friends, are working really hard to maximise the theatre’s popularity and stabilise its future. 

More gigs like this and they are bound to succeed.

Wednesday, 21 November 2012

How much higher will the wall have to go?

RECENT harbourside flooding in Weymouth has refuelled debate on global warming and how the resort is going to cope with it.

Stacks of money has already been spent raising the height of existing harbour walls yet motorists were still faced with waves breaking into the multi-storey car park and along Custom House Quay.

What intrigues me is just how far the fortress mentality will have to go before it guarantees that areas most at risk from flooding are made permanently safe. The short answer to that would seem to be – never!

Experts were at some pains to point out that existing defences only failed because of an unusual combination of high tides getting backed up by winds from the wrong direction, but to me that smacks of the famous railway comment about delays caused by “leaves on the line”.

If other experts are right - and there do seem to be a lot of “experts” about – then it is possible that global warming could cause sea level rises of more than a metre this century, perhaps within the next 50 years.

So imagine traffic in 2062 turning off the King Street roundabout (yes, roundabouts will be back by then) and motoring down Commercial Road.

No one will be able to enjoy harbour views because by then the harbour wall will need to be four feet higher than it is now just to keep pace with rising tides, higher still if the Environment Agency wants to guard against any more “unusual combinations” of wind and tide.

But at least global warming will be good for some people because the council offices should have its own beach by then!

Discontent among the dog walkers?

SMALL dog owners have a bone to pick with the owners of larger animals who they claim are flouting park restrictions requiring dogs to be kept on a lead.

The park off Radipole Park Drive in Weymouth is heavily used by dog owners but not everyone is obeying the restriction and the first half a dozen large dogs I saw use the gardens were all off their leads.

This is apparently leading to conflict with the larger dogs roaming at will and often investigating smaller dogs they may come across to the annoyance of other owners who feel the larger animals should be under closer control to avoid trouble or even attacks.

The site, tucked away by Radipole Lake, is hardly one of the more prominent ones in town and this, perhaps, is causing some owners to think it doesn’t matter if they let their dog off the lead.

Judging by the reaction of small dog owners who talked to me, they are not flavour of the month but it will take breaches being reported to the council before anything can be flagged up for action.

A merry Christmas to you too . . .

PENSIONERS are standing up for themselves in the rush for Christmas.

No longer are senior citizens prepared to wait politely and quietly in Post Office queues. Instead there are mutterings of revolt.

One pensioner was at the back of a queue which only had about eight people in it, all waiting to be served at one of five customer points.

About five minutes later the same eight people – myself included – were still waiting to be served and we’d been joined in the queue by half a dozen other customers.

Still nothing happened as all five service points attempted to deal with their business, a growing delay which clearly irked the pensioner.

They said: “Blimey! I should have brought my lunch, perhaps tea as well!”

Still nothing happened, prompting the pensioner to angrily say: “Looks like I should have brought my bed too!”

Eventually whatever the bottleneck was cleared itself and we got served but, with barely a month to go now until Christmas, it shows that attitudes are hardening... as we enter the season of goodwill to all men!

60 SECOND INTERVIEW: Paula Douthett

PAULA Douthett was born in Wisconsin, USA, in 1932 before moving to New York City to study dance where she met her husband, Bill. The couple moved to Colorado to raise their two daughters before moving to England in 1975. A devout Christian, Paula has travelled the world encouraging worship through the art of dance. She and her husband now live part of the year in Lyme Regis and the rest in the US, having grandchildren in both countries.

WHAT influenced you to be a dancer?
I always felt I was meant to do something new in dance and movement. I just had no idea what it was. When I went to New York to study I was lucky enough to train with modern dance reformers who wanted to create a new form of dance. When I started the course it was like a spark, I just knew it’s what I had to do.

DID your parents approve of the profession?
When I came home from college and told my parents, my mother said: “I’m not surprised – you were dancing in the womb!” My mother was involved with the arts so it was no problem at all.

WHAT made you use dance more closely with the church?
After we got married we moved to Boulder, Colorado, to raise our daughters away from the rat race. We joined a Lutherian church there and the pastor visited us to ask what gifts we had to offer the church. I thought “Oh dear” and told him I was trained as a dancer. But the minister said “let’s see how we can use this” and invited me to dance at the front of the church. It was a tiny space and I was used to a stage! Finally, I prayed to Jesus to ask how I should do it and he showed me the way. Now I teach how to worship God through the dance.

WHY is dance so important for a person’s spiritual wellbeing?
It opens you. Like singing, movement is a language. It expresses things, the movements express the words. It has this amazing effect of opening a person’s emotions. It can help with grieving, depression and really can heal. In the secular world it is known as dance therapy.

WHAT is the most extraordinary place you have visited?
I visited Poland when it was behind the Iron Curtain. The people there were suffering terribly – no paper products and no soap products. Yet people had such faith and joy and this blew our minds. We brought them supplies on one visit and they thanked us by giving us food including a month’s worth of meat even though it was rationed. Their generosity and spirit was a great influence on me.

WHAT made you write an autobiography?
God told me to write it on my seventieth birthday. This was really tough for me – I thought “I’m a dancer, I use movements not words!” - but that was my calling so I knew I had to do it. I put it off for years until I got to 78 years old and I thought I’d better get on and do it! I visited a monastery in New Mexico where they held a writing weekend. I went on that and it really jumped-started my writing batteries. After that I wrote every day for two years until I finished it.

DO you miss writing the book now that it is finished?
I do, but I don’t want to write another book. I find it incredible that a dancer should be there at a book signing, but there I was. I am just so happy now to feel that I have fulfilled my purpose on Earth. I still dance every day and I look forward to dancing in heaven, dancing with the angels.

YOU have lived in many places – which of them do you consider home?
When I moved to England in 1975 I was very homesick – it is such a different culture. But the Lord taught me that your home is anywhere the Lord is and now I can be happy any place – even a nursing home would be fine and I could call it home.

Paula Douthett’s autobiography, An Extraordinary Life an Extraordinary God, is available from Good Books in Gundry Lane, Bridport

Wednesday, 14 November 2012

What price a flu jab?

ATISHOO! Atishoo! Agoosha! Sorry about that, but I seem to be going down with the flu.

Of course, if I’d been able to have a free flu jab as I’ve done for many years now I might have been spared soggy tissues and sleepless nights, but that is an option which was taken away from me this year by the Government under their latest round of cutbacks.

Only people over 65 years or those who have a serious medical condition can get a free jab now, my doctors’ surgery told me, while the rest of us have to shell out cash and pay to get a jab.

The small amount of money involved is not the issue with me. It is concern at yet another erosion of the struggling free NHS which seems increasingly difficult for ordinary people to benefit from.

Taking millions out of the flu jab equation seems to be yet another nail in the coffin for those who believe that the NHS is safe and well in the hands of politicians.

The joys of cross-channel cycling

HE has sneering superciliousness down almost to an art form yet an aloof cafe waiter could be among the first Frenchmen you meet if you become a European cyclist.

We are all being encouraged to sample three new cycleways - including the cross-Channel Petit Tour de Manche cycle route - Weymouth being at the centre of two of them.

So what might the budding bicyclette rider expect in La Belle France?

Well they do a nice line in garlic over there and a good bottle of plonk is an obvious attraction, but I’ve always felt claims that Frenchmen are the world’s greatest lovers to be a little too formidable.

Still, British men would clearly be at a disadvantage over there if their better half coyly suggested they go upstairs for a little canoodling after they’ve just pedalled 100km... and him with that dodgy saddle which had rubbed him raw as well. 

No wonder the first entry in the new French phrasebook for cyclists being drawn up by Weymouth tourist chiefs is: “Pas se soir Josephine!”

Still, look on the bright side. After Bradley Wiggins’ win in the Tour de France, any cyclist with sideburns has got to be good for a sloppy French kiss.

Locked on to my luggage

STANDING forlornly at a baggage claim in a foreign airport and slowly realising your suitcase has been lost in transit must be a nightmare for any traveller, but not any more.

New technology means holidaymakers can now receive a card to attach to their suitcase which enables luggage to be identified wherever it is without your name and address being displayed.

The traveller is also issued with a mastercard and all this enables authorities finding unclaimed baggage to contact the worried traveller, explain where their luggage is, identify where the traveller is and reunite them with their luggage in barely 12 hours at a time and place of their convenience.

I had all this technology put at my disposal during a recent holiday.

It was very reassuring to know that my underwear and special ale trail T-shirt were in safe hands should some baggage handler have had a funny five minutes and sent my suitcase soaring off to Ibiza while I was boarding a plane to Bangkok.

If a job’s worth doing . . .

IT was nearly lunchtime and a woman working in a Weymouth dry cleaners saw that one item waiting to be spruced up was a little boy’s suit.

She was already busy and no one else could help so, when she reached her lunchtime, she decided to work through so the tiny suit could be cleaned in time for collection.

The material was quite dirty and she realised she would have to process it several times to ensure it was properly cleaned, but she didn’t mind losing her entire lunch hour because she reasoned that the suit had clearly been put in ahead of an important occasion and she didn’t want to let the little boy down.

Eventually the suit was beautifully cleaned but she then discovered a tear in the back seam of the suit. She asked colleagues’ advice about stitching it up, but it turned out to be beyond the outlet’s capacity to repair.

She was still quite proud of her efforts with the suit and she raised a smile when a man came to collect it, saying it was now completely clean, apologising for being unable to mend the tear.

The man replied: “It doesn’t matter. It’s only for my ventriloquist’s dummy.”

The woman’s partner told me later she was left speechless!

Halls kerfuffle was down to me!

THERE has been much talk in the town in recent weeks since this newspaper exclusively revealed plans for the possible redevelopment of the Woodmead Halls.

The story about how Lyme Regis Development Trust had drawn up plans for the possible moving of the county library and LymeNet to the Woodmead Halls site with the provision of a third hall and cafeteria has caused quite a stir and a good deal of comment from our readers.

It also upset a few councillors who claimed they knew nothing about the proposal, despite the fact that the council owned the land on which the extension, which would house the library, LymeNet, new hall and cafeteria, would be built in a £1 million-plus development. I have to put my hand up and say that was my fault. 

As acting secretary for the Woodmead Halls Management Committee I was privy to original discussions about the idea and had agreed with the development trust to release details about their proposals in the View from Lyme Regis on an agreed date.

However, I let my journalistic competitiveness get the better of me and published the story a week earlier than intended.

I informed town clerk Mike Lewis that I was intending to run the story and wanted to make sure all councillors had been informed, although I knew some had already been consulted on a private basis.

Emails were sent round to all councillors the day before the story was due to break but not all of them had seen them before the View hit the streets.

It’s difficult sometimes balancing my responsibility as an editor and playing an active role in community affairs and I have to admit that I used the information gained under trust to the advantage of this newspaper.

I usually manage to handle such situations satisfactorily but on this occasion I clearly did not.

Needless to say, some councillors and in particular the development trust officers were not best pleased that I went public with the story a week before intended.

I decided the only course of action was to stand down from the Woodmead Halls committee after a number of years so that my position was not compromised in the future. That decision itself caused a bit of a kerfuffle elsewhere, but that’s another story.

The plan has been further muddied by conflicting opinions over the future of the Lyme library, which survived the county cuts last year after a determined and well organised battle.

Those who were closest to the library situation are adamant that they believe the library could come under threat again in 2014. 

The county council deny this but have confirmed they are in talks with the development trust about a number of options, one of them being the possibility of relocating the library to the Woodmead Halls.

We have already published a few letters expressing concern about the library moving to a new location and a number of questions have been posed about the plans to develop the Woodmead Halls.

So I decided I would ask the development trust to answer some of these questions to set the record straight.

Consultant David Gale and trust chairman Wendy Davies responded immediately and their answers appear on page one and three of this week’s issue.

They make the point strongly that the plans are only an idea at this stage and will be the subject of a good deal more consultation before it becomes a firm community project.

They are also keen to stress that the possibility of the library and LymeNet moving to the Woodmead Halls should not be looked upon as a “tagged-on” extension to the halls but as an “integrated multi-use community centre to explore the sustainability of LymeNet and the library whilst potentially achieving the aspirations of the halls management committee”.

The Woodmead Halls committee, led by former councillor Stan Williams, has done a wonderful job over the years, turning it into one of the most well cared for community halls in Dorset and they have already got plans for their own modest extension to improve availability, now on the backburner whilst the wider scheme is discussed.

However, it has always looked like a shed on a car park and the designs that I have seen would certainly improve its image.

But a huge amount of voluntary work has gone into the Woodmead Halls over the last ten to 12 years and it is essential that in whatever development plans reach fruition the halls management committee retain control of the facility they have worked so hard to create.

I am sure the development trust recognise this and would want it no other way.


IT was great to see the Lyme Regis Junior Band out in front of the Remembrance Day Parade on Sunday. They have been sorely missed over the past couple of years.

With numbers dwindling, the band, founded in 1980, nearly went out of existence. It would have been easy to have let that happen but leaders Julia Durrant and Joy Fowler had other ideas.

Julia, the daughter of the late Malcolm  Street, a town bandman and one of the founders behind the junior band, was an original member and has been connected with the group throughout.

With Joy and Lynn Wellman, assisted by tutor Dominic Kirtley, they have done a brilliantly in keeping the band together, retraining young musicians and kitting them out in smart new purple jackets.

Locals in the crowd on Sunday afternoon cheered and clapped them down Broad Street.  
It was the first time most of the band had marched and played at the same time (not an easy task for youngsters who are still learning to play their instruments) and they did marvellously well. 

It was obvious from the smiles on their faces when they were finally dismissed after playing the National Anthem at the end of the parade that they were really relieved. They should also be very proud.

We all love a parade in Lyme and having the Junior Band back out front will add greatly to town’s civic and community occasions.


PC Kirsti Ball is the latest addition to Lyme Regis Safer Neighbourhood Team, taking over from PC Richard Winward who is now Response Officer. Kirsti was born in Somerset and grew up in a hamlet near Horton and Broadway, Ilminster. She now lives in Chard and, before taking on the role in Lyme, worked in Bridport for five years as Response Officer. 

WHERE did you work before coming to Lyme Regis?
Before coming to Lyme Regis I worked in Bridport for five years as a response officer, so I already knew the area fairly well and always made an excuse to come over on patrol, and before that I worked in Poole for three years. Before joining the police I was a gym and fitness instructor in Taunton.

WHY did you decide to come to Lyme Regis?
I always loved Lyme Regis and came here regularly as a child with my family.  I can remember on one visit to Lyme, early on in my police career thinking to myself “wouldn’t it be wonderful to work in Lyme Regis, it would be the most amazing place to work”. Several years later here I am and loving it!

WHAT do you enjoy about working in the area?
I love working in Lyme and the surrounding area because the work is so varied and different. I start my working day having absolutely no idea what I will be dealing with. I am so fortunate to work and patrol in such a beautiful area, and I love meeting all the different people out in the community.

WHAT would you add to or change about the town if you could?
I don’t think there is much I would change about Lyme Regis, I think it is a fantastic place to live, work and visit. I would love to see more affordable housing, as I feel that local people who want to live in Lyme Regis and the surrounding area are being forced out of the town due to increasing housing prices.

WHY did you want to be a police officer?
When I left university after completing a degree in sports science I always thought that I wanted my career to develop in that field, but at the same time I always had a niggle in the back of my mind that I wanted to become a police officer. So much so that I went on a three-day residential course to the West Midlands Police to get a bit of an insight to what it was all about. I then applied to Avon and Somerset Police and didn’t get in, then applied again and still didn’t get in. I thought it wasn’t meant to be and so continued progressing my career in the health and fitness industry. All the time though, I still had it in the back of my mind that I wanted to be a police officer, so when Dorset Police were recruiting I applied again and got in third time lucky! I always say to other people that if it’s something they really want, then not to give up and keep trying.

WHAT is the main police concern in Lyme Regis and how are you tackling this?
At the moment we are concentrating on the “Fatal Four” - to reduce the number of people not wearing seatbelts, drink and drug driving, inappropriate speeding and using a mobile phone whilst driving. This is an ongoing successful campaign throughout Dorset but we still need to instill in people that there are “No Excuses”. 

WHAT are your personal interests?
I enjoy running and belong to Chard Roadrunners running club, where we run come rain or shine! I have run in several half marathons and enjoy keeping fit. I love baking and making cakes and take great pleasure in making different things to bring in for my colleagues to try out. I also enjoy travelling and have been fortunate enough to spend a lot of time travelling with my fiancé to some of the most wonderful places around the world, of which I feel so very, very lucky to have been able to have visited

WHICH three items would you want with you on a deserted island?
The three items I would take with me on a deserted island would be a Swiss Army Knife, so that I could build myself somewhere to live, a lifetime supply of water and a solar powered torch as I hate being alone in the dark!

WHICH three people would you invite to your dream dinner party?
The three people I would like to invite to a dinner party would be the 14th Dalai Lama – I think he would be such a fascinating man to speak to and having spent some time in Tibet, I would love to find out more about his views on the current situation and his beliefs. I would also like to invite Princess Diana, as I think she was an amazing woman with a brilliant sense of humour. The final person I would invite would be Miranda Hart, as I think she is hilarious and would bring some humour and madness to the dinner party!

WHERE is your ideal holiday destination?
I have been lucky enough to travel to many places around the world and I am not the sort of person who enjoys lying on a beach for two weeks. I love getting out and seeing all the sights. One place I haven’t been to and would love to visit is North America and Canada. I would love to hire a camper van with my fiancĂ© and spend time travelling around and experiencing such a diverse range of sights and experiences and stopping off at different places along the way.

Wednesday, 7 November 2012

Supermarket food for thought

SHOPPING just got more diverse after the latest round of permissions were granted for a new Sainsbury's supermarket on the New Look development in Weymouth.

But it won’t just be shoppers queueing for groceries because the new supermarket is barely 100 metres from an existing Morrisons supermarket and, if both are well patronised, then the volume of traffic in the area will skyrocket.

Turn off Manor Roundabout and drivers meet a set of traffic lights controlling the junction with Morrisons but just past that is a second set of traffic light which will control a minor junction to Sainsburys and New Look when the new supermarket is built. Shoppers’ main entrance will be from a spur off the new relief road.

Those second set of lights on Dorchester Road rarely delay traffic at the moment but that will not be the case once large volumes of shoppers start using the new store since some traffic is bound to enter via the Dorchester Road entrance.

There is even a third set of traffic lights just past that near Spa Road and, while it is for pedestrians, it will just add to the checks facing traffic on this route in the future, particularly if some shoppers are visiting the supermarket on foot.

All in all, the combination of increased road and pedestrian traffic in the area will certainly give residents living nearby some supermarket food for thought.

The times they are a changing . . .

TAKE a walk along Weymouth Esplanade and you can see how times have changed, but not all the indicators are in view.

Oh, it is easy to point to traffic, laser lights and new-look beach furniture and businesses but I’ve recently been told about a less obvious indicator.

It is the last set of wooden steps leading down to the sands from the Esplanade near the Pavilion.

Take a close look at them and you will see the risers actually go down into the sands.
Mildly interesting, I thought when told, imagining the years it must have taken for the level of the beach to slowly rise and cover the bottom steps... then I was hit with the punchline.

One of Weymouth’s senior figures told me that at the bottom of the steps under the sands there is a small landing-like area from which another set of steps goes even further down into the beach.

I’m told he remembered it that way as a boy when the bottom of the steps was at least 15 feet below its current level! 

Now that’s a hefty bit of beach reclamation and a sign of just how much and how subtly the face of the sands has changed over the decades.

Dinner for crows

WEYMOUTH Esplanade has been turned into a giant dining table.

You won’t find place mats, pepper, salt or a candelabra there but you will find copious evidence of the diners... which are crows foraging the seafront.

They have realised that the hard surface is ideal for smashing open shellfish by picking them up in their beaks, flying above the Esplanade and then dropping the shellfish to break them open.

I watched one group of crows do this time and time again with great success and it is clearly something they are doing on a regular basis as I counted more than 200 empty shells in an area near the Jubilee Clock.

I’ve also seen gulls use the same technique but these diners were crows who clearly relished the near-deserted area as an ideal and inventive chance to create a meal for themselves.

TIME goes by and people you once knew or worked with drift out of your life.

So the other day I was a bit startled to get an email with some good and bad news about two people I hadn’t had contact with for 25 years.

The first person is now working in China and was delighted to chat with me about old times and the people we’d both worked with back in the 1980s.

Unfortunately he also gave me news of what had happened to the second person I mentioned earlier who had apparently found life a bit too much to take and had committed suicide earlier this year.

The news was a bit of a shock balanced by my interest in renewing an old acquaintance and it just goes to show how times can change people, the one now enjoying a strong professional life and the other clearly affected by later events who felt that life was no longer worth living.

Sharp intake of breath

MUSIC is now threatening to cost some people their life.

Motorists negotiating Weymouth seafront the other day has to brake sharply when a man communing with his iPod crossed the road by stepping off the pavement first and only then looking to see if there was any traffic.

Of course, because of his head pieces and music he couldn’t hear cars nearby and this isn’t the first occasion pop fans have nearly paid with their lives for listening to their choice of music.

Sooner or later someone is going to be killed. It will probably take that before the problem is treated seriously.