Wednesday, 25 January 2012

I’m not the only one who cares

WHEN I took a stance against what I thought was a flagrant disregard of democracy in the Lyme Regis council chamber a couple of weeks ago, I must admit I wondered whether anyone else cared a flying fig.

You will recall that I declined to publish a statement issued by the council challenging comments that long-serving councillor Owen Lovell had made about the budget for the financial year. In a nutshell, Councillor Lovell, the most experienced council member, highlighted a number of costs which he thought could be trimmed to reduce the council precept.

No one challenged his argument – not the mayor, town clerk or chairman of the budget-setting committee, Mark Gage. And the budget was subsequently approved without debate with only councillors Lovell, Michaela Ellis and Ann Bradbury opposing.

A few days later I got a statement from the council challenging the view put forward by Councillor Lovell. It was an unprecedented move; in decades of covering Lyme council meetings I had never witnessed such a situation before, nor had any of the other long-serving councillors, past and present.

My only conclusion was the new council did not wish to enter into a debate on Councillor Lovell’s suggestions because they knew they would win the vote.

Usually, the town clerk would answer any counter arguments to the budget procedure. I have my own views why he did not do so but it would be inappropriate to express them here.

After deciding not to publish the statement, I informed the town clerk I would be happy to print it in full but only if it was read out in the democratic arena, i.e. the council chamber.

As I say, I wondered whether any one else cared a jot. So I have been amazed at the number of people, some of whom I’m only on nodding terms, have come up to me to say thanks for standing up for local democracy.

Last week’s View contained a letter from Lyme resident John Hounsell, a keen observer of council matters, supporting my stance and expressing his opinion that the new council was intent on getting its own way with little debate.

This has been dismissed by some as “just a letter from one of Pip Evans’ mates”. Not so. Whilst I respect Mr Hounsell’s views, we are not exactly busom pals; in fact, I have only ever had two or three conversations with him.

I appreciate my stance has made me about as popular as an Italian cruise line captain in the Lyme council chamber, but I think it’s important that when every proposition seems to go through on the nod ten votes to four, it’s important that someone is questioning the decision making process of our elected representatives. And it’s even more important that they defend those decisions.

THERE is never a good time to close a road from a traders’ viewpoint, but I suppose if it has to happen then closing Church Street, the main thoroughfare into the town centre, in January is as good a time as any.

Church Street is about half-way through an eight-week closure order for necessary repairs to be made to the Guildhall and a new roof put on The Hub youth club.

At least five other property owners in Church Street and Bridge Street have taken the opportunity to erect scaffolding and carry out repairs.

No one begrudges The Hub having a new roof, essential for getting the new club up and running, but the length of closure is causing real concern.

Trade is virtually non existent in the town centre and I heard this week, on good authority, that one shop took just £1.74 in a day with two staff on duty.

It’s good to see the Lyme Traders’ Organisation being reformed with local restaurateur Tony Colston at the helm, and well done to Rikey Austin for making this happen.

The LTO have already put pressure on Dorset County Council to improve signage at crucial points in and around the town to emphasise that Lyme is still open for business.

When this sort of thing happens it’s essential that the trading community has a strong voice and I’m sure LTO under new and enthusiastic leadership will achieve a great deal in the future for the trading community.


EVENT of the week as far as Lyme Regis is concerned took place 4,000 miles from these shores.

There were scenes of real joy in Barbados when “The Spirit of Corinth” crossed the finishing line in the Altantic Challenge with the Lyme crew securing sixth place and having written themselves into the Guinness Book of Records as the oldest crew ever to row across the Atlantic.

When they finally made it into Barbados harbour - the finishing line was another six gruelling miles from shore - they were greeted by family members and a few other locals who were holidaying in the West Indies.

Tears and much laughter, no doubt, and no one who knows the four rowers - Chris Walters, Elliott Dale, Tony Short and Brian Fletcher - were surprised that they made straight for the nearest bar for a cold beer and steak meal.

How good that steak must have tasted after 48 days on sea rations.

Whilst all this was going on in Barbados, a group of wellwishers had gathered at the Cobb to mark this wonderful achievement, organised by Geoff Baker and Jill Newton.

The celebrations will, of course, continue when the intrepid four return home over the next couple of weeks and witness how proud the whole town is of their adventure on the high seas.


POSTMAN by day and comedian by night, Tom Glover, has just started his second year in stand up comedy.

The former View from Bridport reporter joined the Royal Mail in December in a bid to find a day job that fitted in around his comedy exploits.

Gigging since 2010, Tom has appeared at venues from Manchester to Brighton and closer to home is the resident compere of the Bridport Arts Centre's Comedy Cafe.

Tom, 24, has also recently launched his own business The Comedy Circus, running one-off comedy nights in venues across the west country.

Last week Tom appeared on BBC One's Winter Wipeout, crashing out in the first round.

The next BAC Comedy Cafe is this Friday, January 27th at 8pm.

DID you enjoy your TV debut on Winter Wipeout?
It wasn't too cringeworthy, they could have made me look a lot worse. I was gutted to miss out on the second round by seven seconds though, and also I couldn't believe they didn’t show me pole dancing with Amanda Byram acting as a makeshift pole, I think that would have made a few guys jealous.

HOW did you end up getting into stand up comedy?
I’d always wanted to do it but never had the confidence. The problem is, unlike most art forms, the only way to do it is in front of an audience and there is only so much you can do to prepare. I did a few local am dram shows to get some stage confidence, booked a gig and then started writing material and practising it in front of the mirror at home.

WHAT was that first gig like?
Terrifying. I was on last in the line-up so spent two hours listening to the crowd getting more and more nervous. The actual performance was a bit of a blur but I got some laughs and it was enough for me to want to try it again. It was only a five minute set, which seems like nothing now, but at the time it seemed like forever.

HOW did your job at the View from Bridport help you with your act?
It really helped my writing skills. Writing news stories is similar to writing jokes, you want to get to the point in as few words as possible. Some of my experiences also appear in my act from time to time as well.

WHAT kind of gigs have you been involved in and where have you been performing?
Every gig is different but more often than not I’ll be on in the middle sandwiched between the pros. I’ve gigged to two or three hundred in theatres but also to eight other comedians in a leisure centre function room.

WHAT have been your best and worst moments on the stand up circuit?
I used to be really worried about being heckled but actually it’s much worse when people just aren’t paying attention. That happens from time to time, and it’s horrible, but there is not a lot you can do about it. My best moment was performing to a crowd of 200 in Sturminster Newton. I did a set full of material about the West Country and they loved it. Afterwards people were coming up to me, shaking my hand and telling me how much they enjoyed it. Those gigs are great because you're buzzing for hours afterwards.

WHEN is the next BAC comedy cafe and what is it all about?
I set up the Comedy Cafe to give new acts a place to come and perform. For amateur stand up there is nowhere to perform between Exeter and Bournemouth so there was a gap in the market. Each month we have five new acts and a professional headliner. Entry is only £5 so it’s good value for money and you get to see some great new talent. Our next show is on January 27th and my favourite headliner on the circuit, Wes Packer, will be performing.

WHAT advice would you give to anyone who would like to have a go at stand up?
Just book an open spot and then worry about it afterwards. Once you’re on stage just be confident and make sure you know what you're going to say, have material prepared. At the end of the day it’s only five minutes of your life and whatever happens you probably won’t die, not literally anyway.

WHICH three famous people would you like to have round for dinner?
I would have Morrissey, the lead singer of The Smiths. He is the greatest songwriter of all time and such an intriguing character. The other two people I’d have are Frank Skinner and Russell Brand, they’re my two favourite comedians and were both an inspiration to me to start comedy.

Thursday, 19 January 2012

By royal appointment

WHEN Harry Dutfield passed through Axminster on a train in the 1930s and wondered whatever happened to Axminster Carpets, little could he have imagined that one day his ambitions to revive the town’s carpet-making tradition would receive royal patronage and approval.

The news this week that Axminster Carpets had been granted a Royal Warrant is good news indeed - not just for the carpet factory but for the town of Axminster.

Harry Dutfield, who started weaving carpets in the attic of his Kidderminster home after leaving school, founded Axminster Carpets Ltd in 1937, following the tradition set by Thomas Whitty in the 18th century. The company was founded with the support and goodwill of some local businessmen and a capital of £15,000.

Carpets woven by Axminster’s early weavers still adorn some of this country’s finest houses and Harry Dutfield went on to put Axminster on the world map with the “Axminster from Axminster” slogan always being considered a marketing gem.

A royal warrant is the ultimate recognition of quality and comes at a time when Axminster Carpets, like so many other businesses, are having to adjust to the ravages of these difficult trading days.

Harry Dutfield died in 1991, having achieved legendary status in his adopted town. He had handed on the baton to his son Simon, who continued to develop the family firm and now Harry’s grandson, Josh, a young man with a very shrewd head on his shoulders, is responsible for the day-to-day running of the business.

Over the years the Axminster factory has made carpets for palaces, castles and country houses, just as Thomas Whitty had done back in the 18th century. After fire ravaged Windsor Castle, new carpets came from Axminster. They can be seen too in Osborne House, Queen Victoria and Prince Albert’s family home, and the Royal Albert Hall.

In receiving the honour Axminster Carpets joins a very exclusive club, membership of which includes some of the top trading names in this country.

The warrant granted by the Queen should also be seen as a tribute to the hundreds of designers and weavers who down the years have consistently produced carpets of such high quality.

Carpet making in the 21st century is a very different business to that in the Thomas Whitty days. But quality is not a passing fad - it’s the thread that links Whitty’s pioneering methods with today’s digital processes.

Good news in business is a rare occurence at present - so let’s all raise a glass to Harry Dutfield whose foresight nearly 80 years ago has finally got the royal seal of approval.

I AM reliably informed that great progress has been achieved in recent months in the establishing of a heritage centre in the fomer Thomas Whitty carpet factory in Silver Street, which later was used as a drill hall.

An announcement will soon be made which will lead to the culmination of many years work to create, under one roof, a centre that represents the complete history of the town.

There have been many setbacks along the way but to bring such a project to fruition in the current economic climate is a fantastic achievement.

A happy band of panto players

PANTO SEASON WEEK TWO: In recent years Axminster Drama Club has emerged as one of the area’s most ambitious and talented stage groups, always challenging themselves.

And one of the most refreshing things about this society is their success in bringing through young performers.

This is much in evidence with the staging of their annual pantomime, Aladdin, at Axminster Guildhall this week.

I saw part of the production at the dress rehearsal on Tuesday evening and attended the full performance to do a review for next week’s Weekender last night (Thursday).

I don’t what to pre-empt my review, but from taking a few photographs of the first half for this week’s paper it seems that the panto has all the hallmarks of another typically successful Axminster show, with superb staging.

I was particularly pleased to see Eleanor Waterhouse, from Rousdon, taking the leading role. I know Ellie from the Lyme’s Got Talent shows which I have organised over the past two years. She has a beautiful voice and it is good to see her extending herself into an acting role.

In attending the dress rehearsal it was quite noticeable too that the club has brought together a happy and enthusiastic band of performers who really enjoy themselves.

Wednesday, 18 January 2012

The View from the top!

FEW people get a chance to see Weymouth from on high, so The View had no hesitation in snapping up a bird’s eye view of the town.

Merlin Entertainments held an official ground-breaking event for its giant new viewing tower being built near the Pavilion and there was an enthusiastic jumble of press and guests keen for a crane to hoist them aloft in a cage for a taste of the views the tower would eventually offer.

However, chilly conditions and a stiff breeze turned a simple lift into something of a Bear Grylls survival exercise.

Pinched faces, stamping feet and shivering became the norm as a long wait developed to get clearance to go aloft in the tricky conditions, a delay which even included the crane driver’s credentials being checked. Very reassuring!

By the time three frozen Olympic sailing girls went up in the first hoist with tower boss Craig Dunkerley – who is terrified of heights – the rest of us were focussing on something far more important, namely who got to stand in the lee of the crane where there was a bit of shelter if not warmth.

By the time my turn came to go up everyone was hallucinating about hot coffee although I was still aware enough of my surroundings to notice the deep grooves in the cage railings caused by Craig digging his fingernails in for dear life.

Aloft the views were quite spectacular, more so since conditions meant the crane could only hoist us about 130ft, well short of the tower’s eventual height of 174ft, so the views from that will be even better.

Movement to get those views had to carefully orchestrated as everyone was wearing a safety harness and any careless wandering about snarled eight people up in a tangle of ropes.
Back on the ground people stumbled off in search of hot drinks and food, finding it difficult to equate the bitter conditions with the sunshine likely to greet the tower’s first users this summer - maybe.

Newspapers - the new personal accessory

IT is strictly a matter of personal choice which national newspaper a person reads, but some of the choices can be bizarre.

For instance, there is the famous comedy definition of who reads what paper with lines such as: “The Daily Mirror is read by people who think they run the country ...”

But a stroll through Weymouth town centre recently revealed that some people may buy a national newspaper for reasons other than views on how the country is being run.

The person in question was a young woman with friends who was cradling in her arms a large national edition of a broadsheet.

No crime there, even a few plaudits for one so young being found with a heavyweight newspaper instead of gum and an MP3 player.

However, I was forced to temper my opinions as she brightly exchanged chit-chat with her friends and said: “I look really intelligent carrying this!”

I doubt she’d actually bought the paper just to achieve that effect, but it just goes to show that you can never really make snap judgements about people. That reminds me, I must collect my copy of Home Brewers’ Monthly.

Know your birds!

RSPB staff at Weymouth Wetlands are calling on people to take part in the world’s largest wildlife survey when the Big Garden Birdwatch is held at the end of January.

Last year more than 11,000 people took part across the county to help build up a snapshot of what’s happening to some favourite birds particularly in light of recent hard winters.

Organisers are hoping for an even bigger survey this year and Weymouth Wetlands will be running a special free event on Saturday, January 28th from 10am-noon to help those new to birdwatching tell their dunnocks from their house sparrows.

Weymouth Wetlands information officer Luke Phillips said: “You don’t have to be a member of the RSPB to come along. You don’t even need binoculars or bird books because we’ll provide all the gear for you.

“Identifying and counting birds in your garden can be the start of a lifelong passion for wildlife, so people of all age groups and of course children are particularly welcome.

“As well as being a fun family activity, the Big Garden Birdwatch is also a very important conservation tool.

“It’s a great way for us to find out what’s happening to many different species of birds and it couldn’t be easier to get involved. All you have to do is look out at your garden, playground or local park for one hour on either Saturday, January 28th or Sunday, January 29th and note the different species of birds you see, record the highest number of each species you see at any one time and give us your results.

“And if you come along to our free event on Saturday from 10am to 12 noon you can be more certain of which birds you’re seeing.”

Special survey forms, complete with bird ID photos, will be available on the day.

There is another walk being held at Weymouth Wetlands the weekend before, on Saturday, January 21st from 2.30pm to 4.30pm to look for the elusive bittern and other herons.

Loving life on a beautiful day

DONKEYS are lovely creatures, but winter isn’t really their time.

So I can only guess at the pleasure several of Weymouth’s beach donkeys got when the ramp on their lorry dropped and they walked down on to the sands in brilliant Sunday sunshine.

It was difficult to imagine weather more inappropriate to winter because temperatures were high and there was almost no wind at all - so the donkeys took full advantage of it.

Staff kept hold of lead ropes but stepped briskly out of the way as donkey after donkey rolled over on to their backs and, with a wiggle of pure pleasure, proceeded to give their backs a good scrubbing on the sand.

Watching children loved it and more than one of them could be seen imitating the donkeys, rubbing their own backs against railings on the seafront.

The whole scene was one of those snapshot memories we are sometimes lucky enough to get.


IT WAS a chance glance at a website advertisement that led Ros Fry into a whole new career when she was least expecting it.

As Dorset Area Volunteer Manager for Cancer Research UK, Ros is currently responsible for looking after volunteers throughout the county and encouraging people to fundraise in whatever ways they can to help beat cancer.

With a background in Arts Marketing and Communications, Ros has found that her skills are very relevant to the work she now does for Cancer Research UK.

Ros is 52 and lives in Bridport with husband Chris, sons Matthew and Dominic, and Jack Russell terrier Lettie.

HOW did you end up getting the job?
Well, strangely enough I wasn’t really looking for a new job. I had never worked in a charity before. I’d worked all my life in the cultural sector, for museums and arts venues. Like a lot of people my friend got cancer and I’d been affected by that, so I was looking for information. The job just scrolled past me on a website and I thought, ‘Yeah, I could do that’, so I applied.

HOW has an arts background been of benefit to you in this job?
Working in the cultural sector was a lot about working with people, working out what motivates them and how to get the best out of them. That is exactly the same with the work I now do. People in the arts world are very passionate about what they do, so they will go the extra mile. They will work hard, not because they get good incomes, but because they are passionate. The same is true of fundraisers at Cancer Research UK. Also, the colleagues I work with are incredibly passionate and motivated people. It’s quite a change, a different world, but many of the things are the same.

WHAT kind of fundraising events have been going on in Dorset recently?
Well, some fundraisers are in groups that do regular events. There are 30 groups in Dorset that I regularly work with, so they may do the same things at certain times of the year. For instance, the Bridport group have a ‘Famous Curry Lunch’ every February, or they might do coffee mornings, or bingo or beetle drives as regular events. Then there are individual fundraisers who decide to do something as a challenge like cycling from John O’Groats to Lands End. I had a young man recently who got sponsored to shave off his dreadlocks.

HOW can people get involved with raising money for Cancer Research UK?
The best thing to do is look at the website and you can get a pamphlet that contains lots of ideas. Then I ring you up and help make it happen. Do something that you enjoy doing anyway and raise money from it. It’s fine if it’s only a small amount. If lots of people donate small amounts it adds up to making a huge difference. If you do just one meal this year where you ask friends to dress up and come to dinner and pay you money you could raise £100, and if everybody did that then it would be brilliant. Sponsored walks are always very successful, there’s one in Bournemouth and Poole every year that raises a lot. Also, the ‘Race for Life’ events are really popular and you get fit at the same time, there are races in Sherborne and Dorchester coming up this year. Fundraising galas and balls are good too as well as things that don’t cost too much to organise but are fun to do.

WHAT other interests do you have outside of work?
I play the ukulele, I play real tennis, I enjoy swimming and walking my dog Lettie, and I go to a book group which has been running for some time. It’s with a group of friends and we meet once a month. I like to read a lot.

WHAT three good reads would you recommend this year?
For Christmas I asked for three great books. One is called ‘Vertigo’ by Winfried Sebald; it’s a kind of philosophical travelogue. Then there’s ‘The Emperor of all Maladies’ by Siddhartha Mukherjee which is basically a biography of cancer. My other choice is a book by Simon Garfield called ‘What’s My Type?’, which is all about fonts and typefaces. A lot of my work in the past has been about marketing and communications and the big challenge for Cancer Research UK is how do you communicate science and that’s why I asked for that book.

Wednesday, 11 January 2012


BRIDPORT artist Chris Day went to school in Exeter where he was inspired by his art teacher, Peter Thursby.

Then, 36 years later, Chris opened his own gallery, The Pierrepoint Gallery.

Chris’ interim years between school and the gallery were spent in the farming and the IT industries.

But, the arts remained an abiding interest and his business career allowed him to indulge in a small collection of paintings as well as sponsoring theatre and music.

Here Chris explains the connection between a notorious hangman and his business, his future plans for Pierrepoint gallery and his love of art.

WHERE did the name The Pierrepoint Gallery come from?
I was desperately trying to come up with a name that was a little bit different and yet had a link with Bridport. In a chance conversation with Fido May I asked him if he had any ideas. In a flash he said ‘Bridport, Rope, hangman’s noose, Pierrepoint the hangman used Bridport Rope, you hang paintings, call it The Pierrepoint Gallery’ and that was that, brilliant. Thank you, Fido.

SO WHY did you set it up?
A series of circumstances, not all good, lead me to Bridport. Lots of people find themselves living in Bridport and then wonder how it happened. It’s as though Bridport makes the decision for them. I had planned a gallery and framing business elsewhere. The right premises were for sale and here I am.

THIS is the gallery’s tenth year - what’s the key to your success?
Success is relative in the art business. As any artist will tell you. You have to love it first and I do. Perhaps my enthusiasm rubs off on people when they visit the gallery. I am convinced that it takes a long time to create a respected gallery. You just have to be there year in year out and have consistent quality. I absolutely depend on return customers and they in turn depend on me to be there and to be consistent. The gallery is a destination for many visitors to the town.

WHAT'S next for the gallery?
Well I am planning a number of events for this 10th year so keep an eye on Facebook. There will be exhibitions and special features for those gallery artists who have been with me since the beginning starting with John Walker exhibition at Easter as well as a couple of more recent introductions for example Daniel Glover and Philippa Goold. I shall also be publishing a catalogue with the gallery ‘Premier Selection’ of perhaps 25 paintings.

HAS Bridport changed much in the last 10 years?
It is quite extraordinary how much has changed in 10 years. It is an amazing town full of enterprising, kind and happy people. It was like that before I came here and is even more so now.

WHAT is your favourite spot in Dorset?
We are spoilt for choice in West Dorset in particular so I am going to cheat and name two places. In town it is South Street. It is such a pleasure and privilege to look at, live in and be part of. Where else in the world can you have such a choice – good eating, three bookshops, a cinema, Arts Centre, three galleries, several places to feed your spiritual needs – the list goes on. Incredible. Out of town then take me to Eggardon Hill. I can see the world from there, breathe freely, feel the history and get everything into perspective.

WHAT are your plans for the future?
Well the future started last year. The plans are to do more with the premises and phase one was the new tenant in the shop at the front. Rosie Shelton’s Bridport Yarn is a great success. Phase two and three go together. I want to turn another building into a bigger and better gallery and use the existing gallery space and courtyard as a cafe. These are quite profound changes, but I know that they will add a lot this end of South Street.

IF I could invite any three people for dinner who would they be?
Leonardo da Vinci, Picasso and David Hockney.

WHO is your favourite artist of all time?
Picasso. He broke the mould and changed himself and the world fundamentally – and I like his paintings.

Well, blow me down!

SO much for what balmy weather we’ve been having!

The huge storm that hit Weymouth a few days ago caused widespread minor damage, but it was the wind gusts which were impressive.

Blasts of 84mph-90mph at Portland Bill and other exposed neighbouring areas were among the strongest recorded in England and it was probably one of those which completely wrecked the entire fence at the bottom of my garden.

So what, you might say, but this was a fence held up by several three-inch by three-inch posts which were quite simply sheered off level with the ground.

Bearing in mind we’ve lived in this house for 20 years and never experienced damage like this before it was pretty impressive and it certainly took me totally by surprise.

I’d gone down the garden just to pick up a few items which had been blown about and I could see the elderly people’s bungalows appeared to have escaped unscathed... except I shouldn’t have been able to see them because they are normally obscured by my fence.

When I got down to see what had happened I was treated to a scene of smashed posts, fence panels torn apart by the ferocity of the wind with some main section actually torn in two and drifts of wood debris from the shattered fence.

I had to pay for someone with power equipment to come in, dig out the old fence post foundations, dig new ones and then concrete in new fence posts which were more than half as big again than the old ones.

The result means that my garden may blow away but not the new fence!

Take your rubbish home - I don’t want it in my garden!

YES, the New Year has started and already I’m being given some unwanted gifts from the last flickerings of the festering season.

Deposited in my front garden has been the remains of fun hats, several beer cans and one of those nice little party trumpets presumably discarded as the person staggered home from some booze-up and tired of blowing it to wake up sleeping householders.

There seems to be no end to the variety of rubbish that exhausted passers by dump when they feel they can no longer be bothered to carry it.

Hot off the litter presses came the latest arrival in my garden this morning which actually required a bit of thought to work out what it was.

The object turned out to be a piece of sealed inflatable packing, used to safeguard something valuable and which quite clearly belonged anywhere but in my flower border.

Perhaps an award should be set aside for the most annoying piece of rubbish to emerge during 2012 which can hopefully be presented by council enforcement staff along with an invitation to the local fines court.

Worrying times for High Street shops

EXPERTS say that Europe faces a grim descent into recession this year and you only need to stroll round Weymouth and Portland to see the economic gurus might be right.

There are now more than a dozen empty shops in Weymouth town centre with several more in key shopping areas on Portland.

The problem is that, if people are being increasingly careful about how they spend their money, then the incentive isn’t there for new businesses to open.

They have to make a profit to survive and if the customers aren’t there or are spending less then the attraction of a High Street slot doesn’t outweigh the risk of starting up.

Quite how this worrying trend can be reversed is one for the business boys, but it won’t do the town any good if it continues.

Olympic recuperation

IT is with deep sadness that I reveal there are less than 200 days before the start of the London 2012 Olympic Games.

For those of you locked in a silent monastery for the last three years, this event will include Weymouth and Portland staging the sailing events.

Much has been made of Olympic legacy but, as we enter the home straight for the event, the only true legacy I can see is the 1,000-bed care home being planned for the Nothe Gardens.

Once the Games are over this will be built to house and care for the many local officials reduced to sobbing uncontrollably at the demise of the only thing which gave their lives meaning.

There will be a special trauma unit for local ambassadors no longer able to say “Huan Ying!” or “welcome” to bemused local Chinese takeaway staff.

More senior staff bereft at losing daily summit meetings to discuss where they can park their Olympic bicycles will be eased back into real life in a special role play therapy area manned by local actors who will give them fixed penalty tickets for riding in a prohibited area along the seafront.

No expense has been spared in the battle to care for Olympic victims and I can only hope people realise the expense is well worthwhile when the council presents us with our post-Olympic council tax bills in 2013. Thank God we can’t be awarded the 2016 Olympics.

This is not the democratic way

THIS week I have taken the unusual step of refusing to publish a press release from Lyme Regis Town Council.

The Lyme council gets more comprehensive coverage of its deliberations than any other authority of its size I can think of and because of this they don’t send out too many press statements.

When they do, it is usually to promote a new initiative or event and the local newspapers invariably publish them.

On this occasion, however, I believe the content of the statement to be undemocratic. Following our front page story two weeks ago in which the council’s longest serving member, Owen Lovell, questioned the council’s budget for the 2012-2013, suggesting there was enough fat to be able to reduce the town council precept (the amount of money allocated from the council tax to balance the local budget) by ten per cent.

Councillor Lovell highlighted a number of possible savings, including councillors’ expenses, staff training and the mayor’s allowance.

He made his comments in the democratic arena - a meeting of the council open to public and press.

Councillor Owen’s comments won litle support (something the longer-serving councillors are having to get used to). Former mayor Michaela Ellis gave her backing, referring to what she considered was unneceesary expenditure in the appointment of a new works manager on a salary of £22,500.

In reporting this debate, the View made a couple of silly errors which we corrected in last week’s issue. In our defence, we did try to check the facts with the town clerk who was not available due to illness and we got swallowed up in the New Year deadlines.

I supported Councillor Lovell’s view in this column as I thought it would be good for the town council to be seen to be reducing their costs in these difficult economic times, with the district and county councils having been forced to by government.

The only response to Councillor Lovell’s comments came from the Mayor, Sally Holman, who said she was keen to make sure a sum for staff training was kept in the budget.

Neither the town clerk nor Councillor Mark Gage, who led the budget discussions as chairman of the Strategy and Policy Committee, challenged Councillor Lovell.

After the meeting, the council sent a press release to the View drawing attention to “errors and omissions” in our story.

The statement then went on to challenge the points made by Councillor Lovell. If the rest of the council were unhappy with Councillor Lovell’s statement, his comments should have been challenged in public at the meeting, either by the town clerk or the chairman of Strategy and Policy.

With the exception of a period when I worked in London I have covered the affairs of the former borough and current town councils for nearly 40 years. I cannot remember another occasion when a councillor’s comments in the council chamber were ignored and then challenged in a press statement.

I have spoken to a number of former councillors and to Councillor Lovell about this course of action. All of them agree that this is not the way local democracy works.

The fear here is that the new council know they have the majority and therefore do not believe it is essential such matters need discussion in public. If that is the case, it’s a very dangerous road to go down.

I have informed the town clerk that I will be happy to publish the full statement if it is read out at a council meeting which will allow the matter to be debated.

Councillor Lovell has now left for a long-planned three-month cruise around the world. Tucked into his pocket when he left was a statement which he prepared for publication had I decided to publish the council press release.

It was one of the most caustic responses I have seen so we may not have heard the last of this.

THE residents of Lyme Regis, quite rightly, are being asked whether they want the new-look Marine Parade Shelters renamed and if so to come up with suggestions.

The steering group organising the celebrations to mark the Queen’s Diamond Jubilee in June started the ball rolling by suggesting the central pavilion be named after Her Majesty.

In this week’s we print a form on page three asking for Lyme people to come up with some ideas. Hopefully, you will all participate.

An oarsome achievement!

I HAVE to admit that I have been totally obsessed with the progress of our Corinthian rowers currently on the last leg of their magnificent achievement in crossing the Atlantic.

Since the very first day in December when they set out on their epic 2,500 nautical-mile journey from the Canary Islands to the West Indies, I’ve hardly been able to go an hour or two without checking on their progress. First thing in the morning and last thing at night, and several times during the day, I log onto the Talisker Whisky Atlantic Challenge website to check on their progress.

The fact that the Spirit of Corinth led the field in the first couple of days made it all the more exciting. At the time of writing, the oarsome foursome are in seventh place out of a remaining field of 11 (six have dropped out) with just 687 miles left.

To put this in perspective, more people have been in space and climbed Everest than have rowed across the Atlantic and the fact the Corinthians have a combined age of 226, being the oldest team in the race, makes their feat so much more amazing.

A right royal welcome awaits Chris Walters, Elliott Dale, Tony Short and Brian Fletcher on their return later this month and I hope that in this Olympian year we will really roll out the red carpet for them when they arrive back on terra firma in Lyme.

Friday, 6 January 2012

Onto a hiding to nothing

THE people of Axminster were given their chance to comment on the future development of the town this week.

A public meeting was held for people to share their views on the new Local Plan for East Devon, which in effect is the planning blueprint for the district to the year 2026.

I know it sounds terribly boring but the contents of the draft plan which will soon be ratified by East Devon District Council will have great impact on the quality of life, especially those living in the main towns.

Consultation meetings are being held throughout the area with comments being required by the end of January.

The prepartion of the new development plan has not been a smooth journey for the district council, the original one being scrapped over administrative probems and the current plan doing the rounds is the product of the new district council elected last May and following months of work by the Local Plan Forum.

The Axminster public meeting on Wednesday was attended by about 60 residents, most of whom were strongly opposed to the level of housing development (about 1,200 new homes) included in the plan. This would see the population of the town nearly doubling in size to around 10,000.

The population of Axminster is around 5,800 so an attendance of 60 is hardly representative of the town.

The meeting was called by Axminster Town Council to be able to shape their own response to the Local Plan at next Monday’s monthly council meeting. They can do no more than give the public the opportunity to have their say but there’s little interest in local government these days.

As is usual at such gatherings, the town council took a bit of a kicking from one of two of the more vociferous council taxpayers. The council is on to a hiding-to-nothing on such matters; they don’t have the power to make the final decision but they get all the brickbats from unhappy townsfolk.

The vexed subjects of the north-south by-pass, deemed essential to solve Axminster’s traffic problems, and “mythical affordable housing” came in for a great deal of comment.

I thought deputy mayor Jeremy Walden did a good job in chairing a difficult meeting, adopting his usual honest and sympathetic manner.

And for me the star of the show was Millwey Rise resident Ian Hall who made an impassioned plea for the council to put the young people of Axminster first with regard to te provision of housing.

WITH the death of former publican and opera singer Craig Sullivan, another great character has departed this life.

Craig will be best remembered in this area as the former landlord of two of the locality’s most popular pubs - the Hunter’s Lodge Inn, near Axminster, and the White Hart at Colyford which he ran with wife Irene.

Regular customers at these pubs will also recall his propensity to burst into operatic arias at the drop of a hat.

Australian-born Craig had a beautifiul tenor voice and came to England, via the opera houses of Italy, to appear at Covent Garden.

Craig, 77, collapsed and died at one of his favourite pubs in Lyme Regis, where he lived, on New Year’s Eve where no doubt his stentorian tones would have been well exercised at midnight.

His funeral will be held at Lyme Regis Parish Church at 12 noon on Tuesday, January 17th.

Let’s welcome the New Year in a positive mood . . .

PRESSURE on editorial space and the smaller Christmas and New Year issues means that this column has to take a back seat over the festive period.

I presume that you all had the Christmas you wanted and celebrated the New Year in appropriate fashion.

There is much doom and gloom over the current financial climate nationally and those in business are viewing the coming 12 months with some trepidation.

So I think some positive thinking is required as we move into 2012. Let’s all believe that it is going to be a good year.

We are fortunate in this part of the world that we enjoy superb community spirit in the towns and villages in which we live.

The Weekender policy, much to the amusement of other local newspapers, concentrates on covering as many community events as possible. It doesn’t make life easy for my reporters, I assure you, but the readers love it.

It does, amaze us, however, just how much effort goes in to the numerous community events that make up the rich pattern of life in East Devon. Long may that continue in 2012.

Happy New Year to you all!

Wednesday, 4 January 2012

My New Beer resolution

NOW is the beginning of all those lovely New Year resolutions which are made by millions of people but kept by a somewhat smaller number.

Among the ones I’ve heard of so far are fervent pledges to lose weight, drink less, give up smoking and even an honest declaration to try and be kinder to people that person didn’t like.

I don’t know what drives people to make these rash statements because no sooner have they done so than it all comes crashing in on their awareness that it’s going to be a tough row to hoe, maybe too tough for them and they start to bluster or look for excuses.

By then of course it’s too late, especially if they’ve been rash enough to make their pledge within hearing of a friend or family member who will be quick to remind them of the new leaf they’re supposed to be turning over.

No such problem for me. My New Year’s resolution was not to make any stupid New Year resolutions.... well maybe one.

I’ve decided to try and help as many people as possible to explore the world of beer. This, surely, is a noble task although for some strange reason my wife is very dubious about the actual merit of this particular resolution.

She feels I may already do quite a bit in that direction which hardly qualifies me to cite it as something new, but there are always new people to meet and I feel it is only fair that she at least give me a chance by allowing me a sort of test period in which to explore the boundaries of my resolution.

I think about a year should do it.

No fear about our Olympic safety

MILITARY security has been announced on a massive scale for the 2012 London Olympic and Paralympic Games.

Thousands of soldiers and a fearsome array of ground and air hardware are to be deployed to ensure everyone is protected from whatever they need protecting from.

Unfortunately times are hard, Weymouth and Portland’s sailing events are furthest away from the seat of power and have, therefore, suffered a teeny bit of scaling back in the grand scheme of things.

However, I can reveal that a crack team of police community support officers will be deployed on pedaloes should Al Qaeda launch any mid-race attack while any attempted atrocity on land will be firmly met by the same officers, this time mounted on beach donkeys.

Modern technology will also be deployed across Weymouth and Portland and, while funding cuts mean CCTV is likely to be inoperative during the Games, police do have several pairs of binoculars.

I’m told they intend to use these from the new viewing tower near the Pavilion to spot any threats providing the rotating gondola is pointing that way at that time.

So fear not. Lack of cash overshadowing Games – or LOCOG for short – won’t stop the people of Weymouth and Portland being protected from terrorism and, in any case, we can always stay at home and watch it on television.

Still nothing to declare?

PEOPLE occasionally get themselves into trouble for the weirdest of reasons.

One Weymouth enthusiast whose interest lay with model steam engines had some pretty chequered memories of a trip to Europe during which he returned with a mechanism beautifully mounted on a wooden board.

He knew exactly what it was, anticipated no trouble when he arrived back in this country and confidently strode through Customs... who promptly pulled him in with some very grim faces.

So what was the problem with what he’d brought back?

Well it emerged that the mechanism in question was actually a still!

Customs officials were not amused by the object and the steam enthusiast took a great deal longer to get through the green channel than he thought he would.

Stand off with a squirrel

MY son has been threatened - by a squirrel.

They seem to be very territorial at this time of year – squirrels not children – and he made the mistake of walking through an area where one was feeding.

The result was an indignant confrontation between man and beast, man doing his best to step round the problem but squirrel having none of it and confronting him at every turn.

The squirrel was quite aggressive, but longer legs eventually told in my son’s favour and he was able to make good his escape. He’ll have to start carrying a pine cone or two to bribe his way clear next time.