Thursday, 31 May 2012

Just put it all in the bin!

DOG owners are ruining a picturesque walking and cycling route in Weymouth by carelessly slinging bags of mess into trees by the Rodwell Trail.

Their actions are nonsensical since if a dog owner can be bothered to pick up and bag their pet’s waste, why can’t they be bothered to put it in a bin?

It is possible that some of these bags may be acts of vandalism, but the Friends of Rodwell Trail tell me that the problem is too widespread for that to be the sole cause.

Up to 50 bags have been spotted in trees along the trail and each one clearly will take a bit of shifting to remove never mind the distasteful image it gives for everyone using the route.

I’m sure hard working supporters or council staff will eventually deal with the bags, but it isn’t something they should have to do.

A campaign has just successfully seen an £800,000 pedestrian and cycle bridge built over Newstead Road to remove a bottleneck for people using the trail so they don’t have to come down an embankment, negotiate a busy road and slog up the other embankment to get back on the trail.

The bridge has improved users’ enjoyment of the trail no end, but until the dog waste bag problem is dealt with then that enjoyment will be tainted.

. . . put this in the bin as well

THERE’S gold in them thar’ bills if you walk around almost any street in Weymouth town centre.

A recent documentary highlighted the problem of people spitting out their chewing gum and just leaving the wad to be trodden underfoot into a hard unsightly mass.

Unpleasant but hardly a bank busting problem you might think. Well think again.

The documentary worked out that once those responsible for street maintenance had paid for highly specialised steam cleaning equipment and the services of operatives to use it then the average cost of power steaming away just one blob of gum was about 50 pence.

So how serious is the problem in Weymouth? It didn’t take long to find out.

A simple walk to sample a few points up St Thomas Street and down St Mary Street with a couple of detours in to side streets revealed that if all the discarded gum I saw was cleaned off at the cash rate claimed by experts then the overall bill would run to more than £20,000!

What I found particularly bewildering were gum blobs near rubbish bins as if the chewer had suddenly become so exhausted that putting their gum in the bin was beyond them.

The sheer scale of gum discards has left Weymouth town centre streets looking like they’ve had an attack of leprosy with whitish blotches almost everywhere you look.

I’m sure we won’t reach a situation where gum wardens are sent out on patrol but some action needs to be taken because we can’t afford to carry on footing any level of bill which is so preventable.

What did you say?

WEYMOUTH and Portland’s annual Mayor Making ceremony at Weymouth Pavilion unfortunately included several farcical moments thanks to a shaky sound system.

All too often people spoke and part or all of what they were saying was completely inaudible to hundreds of watching guests.

The new Mayor Margaret Leicester told me she often couldn’t hear what councillors in front of her were saying while one councillor told me that not be able to hear what some of their colleagues were saying was actually a plus!

One comment everyone heard came from Mrs Leicester who detailed a school visit made while she was Deputy Mayor.

Apparently one precocious pupil was so taken with her gold chain of office that he asked her: “Can I have a look at your bling misses?

Make way for the King of Weymouth

CHILDREN are a constant source of joy and humour no matter where you are as outgoing Weymouth and Portland Mayor Graham Winter recently found out.

He had donned his spectacular gold chain to carry out official mayoral duties during a visit to Weymouth’s twin town of Holzwickede in Germany.

His hosts were suitably diligent in making sure he was able to visit plenty of places, one of which turned out to be a primary school.

All the youngsters there were left in awe when they met this imposing stranger covered in gold and they were a bit tongue tied to start out with.

Then one of the braver boys spoke out and shouted to his friends: “Look! The King of Weymouth!”

Mr Winter said later: “It was amazing. That’s the first time I’ve been mistaken for royalty!”

Wednesday, 30 May 2012

Getting set for busiest summer yet

ANOTHER year has flown by and summer is here again. The peak season is already in full swing in Lyme Regis – and not just weather wise. 

At the beginning of May the popular Fossil Festival and launch of the Jurassic Coast Earth Festival, which will continue through to September, kicked off what is set to be our busiest and best summer ever.

It was quickly followed by another successful weekend when our friends from Royal Navy warship HMS Edinburgh and the Silver Explorer cruise ship came to visit. What a great weekend and certainly still talk of the town, particularly at this week’s Mayor Making ceremony when many of the speeches paid tribute to the special weekend.

Then, of course, the jazz festival  - this year the Jazz, Blues & Beer Festival held a month earlier than usual – really got summer off to a colourful start. Regular readers of this column will know that the festival’s Umbrella Parade is one of my favourite events of the year, and this one was no exception in the scorching sunshine. 

The parade was led by our new town crier Alan Vian, quick to get into the upbeat spirit of the procession.

I am actually writing my first column of the season while soaking up the sunshine in my garden, as I’ve been enjoying a rare four days off work. I thought I better get in a quick break before things really get underway this weekend with a packed programme of celebrations for the Queen’s Diamond Jubilee.

Of course, the celebrations really started with our visit from the Navy when the seafront pavilion was re-named the Jubilee Pavilion, and hopefully this weekend’s event will be just as successful.

Not only will I be covering as many of the Lyme events as possible for this paper and our special Diamond Jubilee souvenir edition, which will be on sale next week, I am also helping organise them and covering the celebrations in neighbouring Charmouth and across the border in Colyton! I’m not quite sure how I’m going to fit it all in but it’s definitely going to be a weekend to remember, for me and the whole town!

Over the past few months, the View From Lyme Regis has given a lot of coverage to the upcoming jubilee celebrations and rightly so, I think, as this is a one-off celebration for the whole community.

Here’s a few events that shouldn’t be missed:

Saturday, June 2nd – the Civic Parade will start at 11am from Holmbush Car Park and will include the Mayor of Lyme Regis, Councillor Sally Holman, and her civic party, the Chelsea Pensioners, Lyme’s recently-named Honoured Citizens and many local organisations. All are invited to take part.

Sunday, June 3rd – The BIG Sunday Lunch will be at the Woodmead Halls, at 1pm, with limited tickets for the two-course traditional roast beef lunch still available by calling Philip Evans on 01297 446155. This will be followed by the screening of the River Thames Jubilee Pageant on a big screen.

Monday, June 4th – The 1950s Tea Party at 3pm on Marine Parade is being organised by the U3A and will include music from the Arcadia Jazz Band plus a Scone Bake-Off for all local chefs and food establishments to take part in. Wear red, white and blue or your best 1950s outfit.

Also on Monday don’t miss the Torchlight Procession at 9pm, which will be led from two starting points, down Broad Street and along Anning Road, to meet on Marine Parade. This will be followed by the lighting of the Jubilee Beacon on the North Wall.

Tuesday, June 5th – This day will really be one for the children, with a fancy dress competition on Marine Parade at 11am. Overall winners will be crowned King and Queen and invited to open the Jubilee Street Party in King’s Way at 3pm. 

Don’t miss the Jubilee Games (for all ages) on the beach at 5pm and celebrate the end of a great weekend with the Jubilee Finale open air dance on Marine Parade from 8pm.

Lyme’s planned celebrations are some of the most extensive in the South West and new programmes with details of all events are available this week and over the weekend from local outlets for just 50 pence.

During my week off, I was lucky enough to visit the Royal Hospital Chelsea in London with my dad. Unlike most we weren’t there to see the flower show but to meet one of two Chelsea Pensioners who will be arriving in Lyme this Friday. Stan Constable was enlisted at 19 and served in Belgium and France before being taken a prisoner of war for five years in Prussia. 

We’re told he is now a very busy man with more appointments than the Queen! But he seemed to be really looking forward to his trip to Lyme and hopes to take part in as much as possible. Keep an eye out for them, they’re hard to miss!

Beyond this weekend there’s plenty more to look forward to, including the arrival of the Olympic Torch in July, followed by Lifeboat Week – set to be a particularly spectacular week - Regatta and Carnival Week in August and the unique Candles on the Cobb.

‘Summertime in Lyme’ book out now
Relive last summer with my colourful photo book - just £3.50

NOW you can relive summers past with my photographic book named after this column.

The ‘Summertime in Lyme’ book includes photos of all the main peak season events from 2011 and previous years, plus my favoruite landscape photos of the town, including the Jazz Festival, the opening of the Marine Parade shelters, Lifeboat Week and the Red Arrows, Regatta and Carnival Week and much more.

It makes a perfect coffee table book, gift or souvenir for visitors - and essential for anyone who enjoys Summertime in Lyme as much as me.

The book is now available for £3.50 in the Tourist Information Centre and Serendip Bookshop, and hopefully will be in further local outlets soon.

If you or your organisation has a summertime event you would like me to promote in the column, or perhaps a summer activity you want me to try out myself, get in touch on 01297 446154 or email

60 SECOND INTERVIEW: Adrian Clements

BERKSHIRE born Adrian Clements moved to Dorset three-years-ago. A life-long history fan, the 44-year-old father of four started running costumed guided history tours in 2011. Now living in Dorchester, he owns and runs West Dorset History Walks.

WHERE does your interest in history come from?
I have had an interest in history for as long as I can remember, British history in particular. Thirty years ago, I became involved in historical ‘re-enactment’ which really brought the past to life for me. Most historians have a favourite era and mine would have to be the 17th and 18th Centuries - Cavaliers and Roundheads, Highwaymen, Pirates and Smugglers.

WHAT made you run history tours?
After moving to Dorset, I began to fuel my passion for all things historical by researching as much as I could about the area. With so much turbulent history to draw upon in this part of the country, I felt a desire to share it with locals and visitors alike as part of a walking tour. That was how West Dorset History Walks came about.  

IS THE West Dorset area good for historical investigation?
Absolutely. So much has happened in Dorset over thousands of years - from the Roman Invasion to WWII. There really is so much history to choose from.  

DO YOU have a favourite historical spot or story?
I am very interested in the Monmouth Rebellion of 1685. Bridport was the scene of the first full-scale skirmish between the Duke’s rebels and the Dorset Militia. The Bull Hotel was the focus for much of the fighting, so I always enjoy stopping there and relating the story on the tours. 

BLOOD, guts and ghosts really seem to sell history. Was the past really so bloody and filled with superstition? 
Yes, the past really was very bloody and cruel. My Ghost Walk in Bridport is filled with gruesome and grisly facts, with the plague, hanging, drawing and quartering, etc. Most people really seem to enjoy being reviled. I think the Horrible Histories series for children has helped also. The kids seem to love it more than the adults.

A GREAT ghost story surely embellishes the truth by sprinkling a little magic - how hard is it to separate fact from fiction?
When researching a ghost story, you really do have to work hard to find out what really happened. It seems the facts change as the story is passed down through the generations. I prefer to use genuine accounts that have been authenticated and then tell the story in such a way that it leaves a lasting impression on the listener. Of course, the smugglers of the 18th century were well versed in making up all sorts of ghost stories connected with lonely roads and churchyards to keep the locals away from their illegal contraband!

HAVE you ever seen a ghost?
My wife and I did have some strange experiences in our previous house back in Berkshire. We used to both ‘see’ something dark and shapeless move around the house. I later found out the previous occupants had both died in the house so maybe they refused to leave! There is one particular spot on the ghost walk that is quite ‘eerie’ - several people on last year’s Hallowe’en walk were quite spooked by it.

HAS anyone ever chickened out on a tour?
Yes. The ghost walk runs for just over an hour, but recently a group of young girls backed out after just 20 minutes. I have also had several people change their minds at the start. It’s not that frightening - all you need is an open mind and a strong stomach. 

WHICH historical ghost would you least like to meet in a dark alley?
I think to come face to face with the apparition of a 17th century ‘plague doctor’ would be a terrifying experience. These nightmarish figures silently walked the streets with huge beak-like masks filled with herbs. They were prevalent all across Dorset, so there’s always that chance. 

IF YOU could go back in time what event would you most like to witness?
Being an English Civil War buff, the Battle of Naseby in June of 1645.

ANY reason why you might go down in history? 
I’d like to be remembered as ‘the man who gave the visitors to Bridport an unsettling holiday’.

Thursday, 24 May 2012

Watch out for the liquid drought

HOW fortunate for us that the Environment Agency has announced that Dorset has been removed from the country’s drought area.

Without their benevolence we might have missed the change because there have been so few signs of recent wet weather unless you count the spate of drownings and all the boats being built in people’s gardens.

In six weeks Weymouth and Portland went from temperatures up to 75F (that’s 24C in new money) with ground baked like iron to temperatures in the low 40s (7-8C) and ground transformed to the consistency of porridge.

Day after day people went round heads bowed under umbrellas, battered by downpours not seen since Noah was around packing them in two by two.

Rivers and streams flooded, homes and businesses were left underwater and sporting events were devastated by conditions which are only now showing signs we might get a bit of summer sunshine.

Incredibly this part of the country remained in the drought area despite the wettest April since records began in 1880 and it has only just been taken out of it.

So I urge you all to keep an eye on future Environment Agency bulletins so we are kept up to date with important conditions such as knowing that when it gets dark its nighttime. 

After all, we need the agency to broadcast the less obvious things in life.

...and mind that painting doesn’t fall on your head!

ART means different things to different people, but one Weymouth painter is having to cope with adverse criticism of his work from an unexpected quarter.

His large paintings are quite striking in their detail, subject and dramatic use of colour particularly gold, so it isn’t surprising that they can take thousands of hours to produce and are keenly sought after by buyers.

So when he began to add the final touches to his latest work and started to consider where the painting might initially hang he was startled to receive a comment that his choice was being questioned.

He’d never had a problem with his paintings before. Indeed there was competition to hang them rather than turn them away.

So who could it be that was suddenly not so sure about seeing them displayed.

Yes, you’ve guessed it... our old friends the Health and Safety Executive.

Regular readers of this column will have seen me highlight a few of H&E’s more aberrant decisions including a ban on pins to secure commemorative poppies, so you shouldn’t really be too surprised to hear that even art isn’t safe from H&E’s clutches.

Apparently the painter was informed that his regular choice of position above a staircase posed a safety hazard to people going up and down the stairs who might be hit on the head if the painting suddenly came loose or decided to leap off the wall.

Paintings have hung in this position for years without a problem, but the painter is now sadly being forced to seriously consider what he wants to do with his latest work.

Hopefully common sense will prevail although this is the Health and Safety Executive we are talking about.

Enough to blow your socks off!

ALL you cooks out there should take note of my mistake and treat certain types of chilli powder with the respect they deserve.

I ran out of chilli and went and bought some more at Helen’s Famous Wholefood Store, carelessly dismissing the “extra hot” part of the label on the jar.

That night’s evening meal was very nearly the last for my son and I as he knocked up a pasta dish with just a teaspoon of this new powder plus a few grains which had escaped my attempts to put it into my chilli jar.

The resultant meal was like eating a volcano!

I lost all feeling in my lips, my son began to melt with sweat streaming down his face and for a while I was convinced that my tongue had caught fire.

We will try the chilli again. Perhaps a quarter of a teaspoon might be safe. Take heed.

Monster raving loonies?

PEOPLE have become very suspicious of politicians in recent months.

Certainly the antics on Weymouth and Portland council over harbour walls, the Olympics and various developments have done nothing to dispel the impression of politicians who struggle to think ahead and who can’t or won’t listen.

But sometimes local councillors are not quite as easy to pidgeonhole as you might think. I was chatting away during the recent elections with one councillor able to enjoy proceedings because they weren’t up for re-election.

One line of conversation led to another and, with a sweep of their hand to where votes were being counted, the councillor revealed that they had once polled 24 votes... as a candidate for the Monster Raving Loony Party.

This seemingly encouraged them to make a serious start in politics because they got hooked on the process and the ins and outs of the local council.

Judging by current times it could be argued that a great many of that person’s former political colleagues successfully made it on to the council!

Wednesday, 23 May 2012

A weekend we will never forget

IF you want to put on a show, call in the Royal Navy.

I’m not sure whether I have read that somewhere or just made it up, but if the weekend we have just experienced in Lyme Regis is anything to go by, it’s certainly true.

The visit of HMS Edinburgh to launch the celebrations in Lyme to mark the Queen’s Diamond Jubilee was hugely successful and all those involved in its planning should take a bow.

The weekend programme went without a hitch and Sunday’s naming of the Jubilee Pavilion was one of the most enjoyable events staged in the town for many years, made all the more memorable by the presence of a guard of honour from HMS Edinburgh and trumpeters from the Royal Marines at Lympstone.

As soon as the Royal Navy came to town they invited the press corps on board. I say “corps” but it actually turned out to be just me, Francesca and Nomad and Mary from Lyme TV. I can’t believe no other newspaper availed themselves of a once in 30 years opportunity.

I was able to interview the new captain of the type 42 destroyer, Commander Nick Borbone, an impressive young man clearly destined for higher things in the Senior Service, on the bridge. Francesca also interviewed one of the ratings who has family connections with the Broom family in Lyme Regis. 

We also spent an enjoyable hour in the Ward Room chatting to the young officers about their role at sea and on the ship. 

HMS Edinburgh is a bit of an old girl now, nearly 30 years old, and will be decommissioned when she completes a six-month tour of duty to the South Atlantic which starts in September.

And here’s an interesting Naval fact. The catering budget for the ship’s company is £2.47 per person per day for three cooked meals. For a police dog it’s £8.50!

I went back on board with Lyme’s good and the great (not including myself in that august group by the way, my presence being another press perk!) on Sunday evening when we were offered the very best of Royal Navy hospitality plus a guided tour around the ship.

Highlight of the evening was an inspiring and extremely funny speech by Commodore Jamie Miller CBE OBE,  the senior officer on board and one of the great characters of the Royal Navy. 

The evening ended in slight chaos for me. After several stiff Naval Bombay G and Ts I got separated from Jackie at the end of the evening and she had to wait for me on the Cobb in the freezing cold.  

I tried to get the vicar, the Reverend Jane Skinner, to come ashore with me to support my excuse for missing the boat but, wisely, she was having none of it. 

The only downside of the visit by HMS Edinburgh was a mix-up over young children going on board with the public visits but harbourmaster Grahame Forshaw, who did a superb job in co-ordinating the visit and had very little sleep last week, is arranging a treat for the disappointed kids.

HMS Edinburgh, of course, was not the only ship in town. The weekend coincided with the first visit by a cruise liner, the 6,000 tonne Silver Explorer, to Lyme.

A huge amount of work went into welcoming the 130 passengers ashore but some traders have expressed disappointment that they did not stay in town long enough to boost trade.

However, there have been some fantastic responses from the passengers about the friendliness of the townspeople, which augers well for future visits by the cruise ship company.

Don’t waste your vile bile on us....

IF the skateboard enthusaists who have set up their own “The Real View from Lyme Regis” site think that posting inaccurate, vile and libellous comments about this newspaper is doing their campaign for a skatepark in Lyme Regis any good, they should think again.

We have been castigated in a plethora of insulting comments after having had the temerity to publish a letter from one of our readers who is opposed to the skatepark plans in Charmouth Road. Comments about that person have also been highly insulting.

The skateboarders made the allegation that we have refused to print their letters in support of the skatepark. That’s a barefaced lie. We have only received two letters,  both of which we have printed.

And this week we give Councillor Lucy Campbell, the skateboarders’ champion who is working hard to deliver the facility, a half page editorial to answer the project’s critics.

The skateboarders would be better advised to spend their time fundraising for their long awaited and much overdue skateboard park rather than spreading their immature bile.

And they should also remember that the council taxpayers of Lyme Regis, having already paid a sizeable sum towards the project, will be contributing a further £75,000 over the next three years through funding from the town council to help toward the projected £100,000-£150,000 cost of the skatepark.

See you in the fall!

THIS is my last column for a few months - hurrah!  As usual, Lyme Matters is making way for Francesca’s Summertime in Lyme column next week and will not return until September.

When I announced this last year a number of readers thought I was taking three months off as well. So can I explain that I will be working as usual throughout the summer and with two columns a week to write for our other newspapers, I will be kept more than busy.

I hope you all have a lovely summer.

60 SECOND INTERVIEW: Tony Morraffa

CHEF Tony Morraffa has worked in catering for more than three decades and has run the Country Kitchen in Weymouth for the past two years. But it was his conversion of Bridport’s Café Royal into a 1950s themed diner that caught the public’s imagination. He has described refurbishing the building as “like opening a can of worms” but successfully reopened the iconic local landmark a month ago. Originally from Leicester, the 47-year-old has lived in Weymouth for 20 years and makes the hour-long round trip to Bridport daily to run his new venture.

WHEN did you start in the restaurant business?
I’ve been working in kitchens since I was 15-years-old. I started as a kitchen porter, which in those days was just a pot washer, and worked my way up. I trained as a chef when I was 18-years-old and since then I’ve cooked in pubs, hotels, restaurants, all kinds of places.

WHAT made you take on the Café Royal?
It’s always been a dream of mine to run a 50s style cafe. Then one day someone was selling some equipment at the Café Royal and I came down to have a look at it. After that I’ve always quite fancied having the place. The news of somebody leaving it gave me the idea of taking it on and doing something with it.

WHAT'S your fascination with the 1950s?
I have always had an interest in the period. The music, the style, it was just a way of life I suppose. It was something I didn’t experience first hand - I was born in the sixties - but my parents were very much into the music and the style sort of rubbed off on me if you like. I was always hearing Buddy Holly, The Big Bopper, The Everly Brothers, music like that.

HOW did you go about designing the interior of the café?
I had a rough idea of what I was going to do with the place before I started. I had photographs of American diners, things I had seen online. The old HMV record player on the counter I got from the attic in my mum’s house. The hubcaps you see on the wall, I’d already collected. I’ve been collecting them for years and I’ve got around 60 now. People come into the café to photograph them. My favourite is the Oldsmobile – it’s from the 50s and is the oldest one I have. A lot are American. The Chevrolet ones are from a vehicle I actually drove.

RUNNING two restaurants takes a lot of work. What motivates you?
I’ve just got the ambition and drive to expand and do that kind of thing. I’d like to do more. Obviously I’ve got to see how the Café Royal goes, but I’m confident it’s going to make money, so eventually when another premises comes up similar to this one, then who knows, I might look into it. It was a lot of work to refurbish this place but at the end of the day it’s what you put into something that gives you your returns back. The more you put in, the more you get back. 

EVER want a break?
Yeah, I need one. I work seven days a week. I haven’t had a holiday for four years. My last project, the Country Kitchen in Weymouth, took two years to get where it is today and now I’ve taken this on. I’m just a bit of a workaholic I suppose and I’m doing quite well to stay on my feet sometimes. I don’t really have any hobbies apart from cooking and music.

HOW important is music to you?
It’s very important. I’d like to turn the Café Royal into a bit of a music venue if I could. If there are people into music like rhythm & blues, rock n’ roll or any music from that era, I’d like to get them here. I’ve had a band play here already and it’s been really good. Also I’ve played guitar since I was 14, on and off. I’ve got an electric guitar, a nice old Fender Strat. I’ve thought about bringing it down and hanging it up somewhere but it’s quite expensive and I don’t really want it getting clattered.

WHAT do you like about living in the Dorset?
It’s the beautiful countryside. My mum’s lived in Portland for 25, 30 years, and I’ve been in Weymouth 20, so it’s my home now. I went back to Leicester not so long back and when I got off at the main bus station in the centre of town, it just didn’t seem like home at all any more. It was just a different place really.

Tuesday, 22 May 2012

Just what Axminster needs

MAYOR Andrew Moulding got it just right when he described the launch of the Axminster Heritage Centre project as a “landmark” occasion.

I was disappointed not to have been able to attend the reception at the original Thomas Whitty carpet factory on Friday afternoon, having been involved in the early discussions on the project and having followed it closely ever since.

Unfortunately, I had to interview the captain of HMS Edinburgh which was on an official visit to Lyme Regis for the Queen’s Diamond Jubilee celebrations.

With 16 newspapers across three counties to keep an eye on, my time is a bit sparse at the moment.

But our Axminster reporter Anders Larsson was there and tells me the trustees and supporters at the reception were in a very upbeat mood about their plans to establish a heritage centre in the Silver Street building.

They deserve their moment of self congratulation. It has taken six long years to get the project to this exciting stage through the most turbulent financial climate for several decades.

I am sure that there were times when trustees' chairman and project leader Dr John Church and his colleagues thought it would never happen and may well have contemplated abandoning their plans.

But they stuck at it and the town of Axminster will benefit greatly when the centre is finally opened.

I think it is just what the town needs.

Axminster has a fine and colourful history but has never really been able to showcase its illustrious past. The heritage centre will do just that and will provide a focal point for many other activities.

Of course, there is still a long way to go to raise all the funds needed to convert the building into a modern exhibition area and then to sustain its ongoing success.

The building is now owned by Axminster Heritage Ltd, a major step forward, but the real work will soon begin to complete the £1.6 million conversion that will do justice to the complete history of Axminster, with the carpet industry as a focal point, housing also Axminster’s current museum, the Tourist Information Centre and providing a numer of other educational opportunities.

A project, indeed, of which the town can be justly proud and which will attract many visitors.

A fitting tribute to a Sector Lane legend

CONGRATULATIONS to the Axminster Hospital Cup Committee for their continued stalwart efforts to raise money for our local hospital.

Over the years the small group who make up the committee have raised thousands of pounds to improve the facilities and provide comfort for patients at the hospital.

This year’s final at the end of April was abandoned before the end of the game because of the weather conditions but replayed again on Saturday in lovely sunshine and with another big crowd.

The final was dedicated to the late Martin Leach who worked so hard for the committee over many years and was a bit of a sporting legend in and around Axminster. It was appropriate the the trophy was presented to the winners - Budleigh Salterton - by Eunice Beer, Martin’s auntie, who has also done much over the years to support the hospital. The two finals raised around £700, an excellent result.

I was given the privilege of choosing the man-of-the-match award and decided to give it to Seaton’s young defender Cameron Vere, who gave a good account of himself in both finals.

The final was the last competitive game to be played on Sector Lane before the bulldozers move in to start building 70 new homes on the football pitch. Axminster Town Football Club will decamp to Washbrook Meadows, the home of Ottery St Mary FC, for a year whilst their new £2million ground is built in Chard Road by developers Devonshire Homes.

The Axminster Hospital Cup is one of the most prestigious cup competitions in local football, the magnificent trophy having been donated in 1930 by the late Percy Stuart.

JUST 13 per cent of the electorate of Honiton bothered to turn out to answer the question: “Do the council tax payers wish the town council to proceed any further with the community centre project?”

For the second time there was an overwhelming majority (60 per cent) who answered with a resounding “No”. 

But the town council are not legally bound to adhere to the wishes of the majority in such a poll and whether it was a “Yes” or “No” they fully intended, before a vote was cast, to proceed with the controversial project.

Most people believe that Honiton needs a new community centre but the “No” brigade feel strongly that a less costly version should be pursued. 

They have failed to persuade the town council who will proceed to borrow £975,000 to fund the £1.8 million scheme. 

Parish polls are costly affairs but are not legally binding. Surely, a total waste of time and money?

Thursday, 17 May 2012

Tea and slippers for the birthday boy!

TODAY is my birthday, a life which began just a few days after Roger Bannister ran the first sub-four-minute mile.

It seems like I have been running hard to keep up with life ever since with no fame or fortune, just an ordinary existence which has had some rich moments.

So what sticks in my mind as I look back nearly 40 years? (All right, all right! So I’m lying and I’ll never see 50 again. Give a birthday boy a break!).

To coin a famous phrase, I’ve seen things you people wouldn’t believe.

Thousands of illegal electricity lines snaking into a slum in Rio, streams like the silver veins of some giant leaf laid out on the ground beneath my parachute, 500,000 people packed into a single stretch of street in Istanbul and the glorious ruins of Machu Picchu viewed from a nearby mountain top I’d climbed.

I’ve drunk fruit schnapps in broad daylight on a glacier at 3am, relaxed with a gin and tonic in the ornate interior of an old Luftwaffe headquarters, sipped a beer from the safety of a tree platform above a crocodile-infested lake in Sri Lanka and enjoyed a glass of champagne 20ft under the streets of Weymouth surrounded by thousands of bottles of wine.

By day I’ve seen people mugged on the streets of New York and at night I once had my pocket picked by an elephant in Bangkok.

I’ve nearly drowned three times, been shot at in a city centre and was once chased for a quarter of a mile through Manchester by a man with a huge knife.

Two planes I’ve been on have been struck by lightning, a hotel I stayed in was badly damaged two weeks later by the terrible Boxing Day tsunami and I walked through Kings Cross and away to safety 30 seconds before the IRA bombed the station.

I’ve interviewed the famous from Prime Ministers to the Archbishop of Canterbury and people wealthy beyond belief in places ranging from mid-flight aircraft to 400ft under ground in a cave, from the crisp freezing air of the Arctic Circle to a steam room the size of a sofa in Jordan where the leaking boiler threatened to explode at any moment.

For all those unusual situations, there is no place like home and my celebrations today will probably involve a mug of tea while relaxing in the garden. The toast will be – growing old disgracefully!

Has the world really gone mad - or is it just me?

BRAVE police officers are risking their sanity to guard the Olympic torch as it passes round Dorset and the rest of the country.

Hang on a minute! Surely I’ve got that wrong because we are talking about a happy event with people lining the route and cheering the torch as it passes by?

But no, sadly, I’ve got it right because Olympic and security bosses feel that the perils of Portland Bill, the anguish of Avalanche Road, the fearsomeness of Fortuneswell, the rigours of Rodwell Road and the sheer trauma of Trinity Road could have a serious mental effect on the Boys in Blue.

Naturally they must receive every possible support for such an arduous task and it appears that now includes psychological counselling being made available for torch officers to help them “reintegrate” after the event. Is there no end to this lunacy?

I’ve seen police officers do fantastic jobs in the worst possible situations from consoling a mother who has just had her child killed in a road accident to comforting a badly injured pensioner attacked in their own home.

Those were mentally traumatic situations, not being in the middle of celebrations for the Olympic torch.

But it appears – as ever – that so called experts know better, perhaps in their unending attempt to get themselves awarded a gold medal for wasting money.

Even watches are a security risk!

A FUNNY thing happened to me while I was in prison on Portland for the official opening of a new relaxation area facility for older prisoners.

Members of the Press due to cover the event were waiting to be taken through security gates... and waiting and waiting and waiting.

In all it took nearly 40 minutes to be allowed in for which the Verne’s involvement with an Olympic security exercise in London and off Portland was to blame.

So as you can see we had plenty of time to read all the warning notices on various walls which essentially ranged from stern words on behaviour to a ban on hoodies or long cardigans with pockets, presumably to prevent any contraband being handed over at visiting time.

All well and good so far. Then we came to the notice which banned watches!

Apparently they might conceal weapons although you are hardly going to conceal knuckledusters or a blacksmith’s industrial file in a Casio. You’d need to bake a decent sized cake for that. Still, a sign of the security times I suppose.