Wednesday, 4 December 2013


TALK to almost anyone about walking in the Dorchester area and the name of Sue Blake will almost certainly be mentioned.

Sue has long been associated with not only the Ramblers but the West Line Rail Walks and the Strollers. She was a key player in setting up the Jubilee Trail across the county and has championed rights of access for walkers across Dorset.

But she might equally be mentioned for her work with the Access group, at the County Library, with Unison, as a member of the Friends of the West Station or the many years she and her late husband, Phil, spent working for the Methodist Church.

It is no surprise that earlier in the year she was awarded a British Empire Medal for her community involvement, especially for her passion of encouraging others to enjoy the countryside by walking, or walking through Dorchester with the Strollers as a means of getting some gentle exercise.

The list of organisations which Mrs Blake has been involved with seems almost endless – others of note include the Dorset Archaeological Committee and the Dorchester Area Partnership, membership secretary of the Colliton Club - not to mention a spell as parish clerk at Broadmayne and as an officer of the Dorset Branch of the Society of Local Councils Clerks.

She was born in a village outside Oxford where her passion for walking in the countryside was nurtured and came to Dorset in 1960 when her husband, then fiancée, was transferred from Harwell to Winfrith. 

Sue herself transferred to Dorset County Council. They both lived separately, in digs, until they married, moving into their home on the Manor Park estate in July 1961, where Sue still lives today.

WHAT did you think of Dorchester when you first arrived?
It was strange because we would walk down South Street and see the same people we used to see in Abingdon or other towns near Harwell, so many other people we used to know up there had been transferred to Winfrith at the time. Dorchester was then, and still is, a friendly town where people would readily stop and talk, but it was easier for us because of our involvement in the church. In those days there were few places to go in the evenings if you didn’t want to go to a pub so people often ended up at our home playing Monopoly or Whist. We tended to make our own entertainment.

WHEN did you renew your passion for walking?
We were too busy with the church and everything else for many years so there was no time for walking but in 1986 I spotted a programme of walks put up in the library by the Casterbridge Ramblers and persuaded a friend to come along with me. Within a year I was programmes secretary, which I did for 11 years, and also started leading walks on Saturdays or Sundays. I also joined the Ramblers in the late 80s and became area membership secretary and also publicity officer for Dorset. It was while I was on the Area Council we formed a sub-committee and organised the Jubilee Trail working together with all four groups to complete the 90 miles from Forde Abbey to Bockerley Dyke.

YOU are now more involved with The Strollers, the Dorchester group which encourages people to walk to keep fit. How did that come about?
I was looking for something to do when I retired in 2003 and said that I would lead a few walks but since then it’s grown and I seem to have taken on a range of other tasks as well, apart from co-ordinating all the walks.

APART from the walking what have you done, or do you do, to keep your mind active?
I’ve completed an Open University degree and studied law and economics at Weymouth College. I also like to try and complete a crossword every day and I like to read, mostly fairly light fiction. I’m a bit of a John Buchan buff and have even visited his grave. He was very similar to my father in law in many respects. I also like music and tend to have Classic FM on all day.

DOES TV or cinema interest you?
Yes, I’ve been to the cinema about five times in the last couple of weeks. I’ve recently seen Philomena, Saving Mr Banks, Last Chance and The Butler. I don’t seem to find time to watch TV when programmes are on but I like to record things which I am interested in. I quite like CSI.

AND if you were abandoned on a desert island and could choose someone to have with you, who would it be?
Someone with survival skills, like Bear Grylls; someone who would take charge like Margaret Thatcher who would also be interesting to talk to and possibly someone who has a wide knowledge of the natural work like Chris Packham. If I was on an island I would miss the British countryside, books and a radio and if I couldn’t take my iPad I would have to try and take some jigsaw puzzles and crosswords.

Watch where you are walking

CHRISTMAS is proving too much for some pedestrians who have not just grown careless in traffic but almost suicidal.

The problem revealed itself when one woman loaded with bags, festive wrapping paper peeping coyly out of one of them began to cross the road about 100 metres ahead of me.

She didn’t look left and she didn’t look right, just continued her slow plodding way right in front of my car which would have hit her had I not pulled up. Even when she reached the pavement there was no realisation of what she had done and she simply turned right up Commercial Road and carried on walking.

Some people, I thought, but over the next week I saw several other ludicrous traffic incidents either from my car or while I was a pedestrian myself.

A man carrying a large cardboard box but in such a way he couldn’t see the traffic he was stepping out in front of, two woman walking out into the road with their heads bent over a  package with a bow on it instead of with their eyes on the cars braking to avoid them and an elderly man with what looked like a large box of Christmas chocolates in his bag.

He at least had some of his wits about him and waved a walking stick at cars to encourage traffic to stop as he stepped slowly across the road… less than 30 metres from a pedestrian crossing.

Do Christmas pedestrians have some sort operation to remove their sanity? I’ve kept the best one for last.

A mother quite rightly reprimanded her young daughter who she’d grabbed just as she was about to run out into the road… but as she bent over to deliver the reprimand into her daughter’s ear they had already started to cross the road right in front of a van which they’d missed seeing. Sort of spoilt the safety message a bit!

Waking up to a frosty message in the morning

WALK outside on many mornings now and chances are that your car will be covered with ice.

This tells you it is winter, not because it is freezing cold but because of all the messages scratched into icy car windows by children on their way to school.

You get the usual smiley faces, smiley snowmen, smiley Father Christmases and even the occasional mutant reindeer with certain bodily parts given greater care and attention than others!

Then you get the “fun” messages which really aren’t that much fun at all which means, with due apologies to Shakespeare, “now is the winter of our discontent”.

I really don’t want to know the likes of “Sandra snogs Rob”, that “Carmel is a bitch” and definitely not that “Max has a big one”.

There is no real malice involved but, as an early morning welcome, it put drivers off their breakfast and really only leaves them with one option. To turn on the heater and see all the messages dribble.

Going above and beyond

NEVER have doctors and health staff been under such pressure as they are now, but many still go considerably further than the extra mile to help patients.

A Weymouth woman had a medical query but was told the doctor concerned was away on holiday.

She had resigned herself to having to deal with an unfamiliar figure, so she was understandably delighted when her usual doctor took the trouble to answer her query by email… even though he was on the other side of the world in the wilds of Tasmania!

He had apparently been monitoring his calls and had taken the trouble to seek out a spot from which he was able to send emails via his phone so this patient’s query could be answered.

She was extremely impressed and felt that her care really mattered to the doctor in question who had really put himself out to help her.

Trip down the mines

A WEYMOUTH man recalled the time he accompanied work colleagues on a special adventure trip down a coal mine in the Midlands.

Down and down they went and there was a certain amount of excitement when they reached the bottom and got out of the cage, surrounded by working lights and the sight of bright white lime scattered on the ground to help neutralise waste.

There was much chatter as the group made its way along a shaft led by a knowledgeable guide.

Then one of the women in the group asked the guide a question, saying: “What is all this white stuff on the ground?”

In a deadpan voice he replied: “That’s frost. It was very cold down here last night.”

There is no record of how long her colleagues managed to stifle their laughter.

Wednesday, 20 November 2013


SANDY West, 64, is the community life champion at Asda supermarket in Weymouth. She was born and went to school in Plymouth before moving to Liverpool when her father came out of the Royal Navy. She worked as a proof reader for the Liverpool Jewish Gazette which she said “being from a Welsh Catholic-Liverpool Irish Prody family was a bit of an odd job!” Sandy married in the same Liverpool registry office as Beatle John Lennon and moved to Portland on her wedding day, July 29th, 1967.  She has now lived on the island for 46 years and is a borough councillor and former town mayor of Portland. She has worked at Asda, Weymouth, for 14 years.

WHY do you live on Portland?
Because Portland is the most beautiful place with a great community and community spirit. I also feel proud that it is the base for the Weymouth and Portland National Sailing Academy because I am very keen on sailing.

WHERE do you go for your holidays?
I holiday in this country, Birmingham, Liverpool, Plymouth or I just take day trips from Portland because there is so much to see round here. I love walking and the sculpture park.

WHAT is your favourite time of the year?
Autumn because it is a mellow time. Colours are constantly changing and it is a lovely time before winter sets in.

WHAT is your favourite film?
Gone With The Wind. I have seen it 124 times and love it. If not that then All Quiet on the Western Front, the original black and white one, not the remakes.

WHAT is the scariest thing that has ever happened to you?
When I was younger my oldest brother locked me in a cupboard at night and told my mum and dad that I had gone to bed. I was terrified because then I was frightened of the dark.

IF YOU could live your life again what would you be?
I would be an army nurse. That was one of my ambitions, but I got married instead.

WHICH three people would you invite to your dream dinner party?
Nelson Mandela because I was inspired by his fight for freedom, the Dalai Lama because I like the warm feeling and peacefulness of Buddhism and Dawn French because she is a Plymouth girl and very funny.

WHAT would you do if you won the Lottery?
I would give some to charity, some to my family and then I would go mental and just buy a shoe shop and spend all day trying them on because I love shoes. Then I’d give them to charity when I got fed up with them.

WHAT do you hope the future holds?
I would like to see world peace and I would also hope that I am able to carry on having as much fun as I do now.

The confusing world of local politics

WHAT an interesting if confusing place the world of local politics is.

Two recent decisions saw chalets and other facilities at Greenhill, Weymouth, potentially prepared for having their leases put out on the open market as the council seeks to make savings while Weymouth Angling Society was only granted a three-year lease for its Commercial Road building despite extensive lobbying for a ten-year lease.

Now our councillors have an increasingly tough row to hoe because of Government cutbacks which have effectively seen the budget they manage shrivel from £13 million to about £9 million.

They must use that to somehow conjure up essential services and keep as many residents happy as possible, not an easy task and I have some sympathy with their dilemma.

However – and there always is an “however” – the two debates brought into focus the fact that sometimes it is possible to miss seeing the wood for the trees.

The chalets actually made money for years, so where has that gone and are there any unfortunate parallels between how the council used that cash and how it used the harbour cash….and we all know what happened with the harbour wall suddenly needing massive repairs.

The chalet scenario embraces the wider stumbling block that the council just can’t afford much needed repairs and is testing the market to see if a way forward can be found, something which didn’t cut much ice with the chalet owners.

Both they and the angling fraternity were bitterly critical of how the council interpreted “consultation” to the obvious embarrassment of our elected members, one of whom at least had the courage to publicly describe it as “an almighty cock-up”.

The anglers were not just angry but confused as well after having heard the council’s management committee say their new lease had to be three years to safeguard possible future development plans for that section of the harbourside.

Members told the anglers that three years was plenty because if no redevelopment emerged during that time then the three year lease could simply be extended.

All this is perfectly accurate but it seemed to gloss over the critical point made by the society that their operation to attract world class events to Weymouth frequently works as much as eight years ahead which was why they appealed for a ten-year lease.

A three-year restriction means they face an uphill if not impossible task to compete for such championships with rival venues which brings me to the single most important comment made in both debates.

No wonder councillors didn’t feel much like looking ten years ahead when vice-chairman Councillor Peter Chapman bravely refused to dodge talking about a dodgy future and warned that in ten years time there might not be a Weymouth and Portland authority because it could well have merged with another council.

He hammered that point home by highlighting another nasty reality that if it was hard now to convince Weymouth and Portland colleagues of the need for a ten-year lease then how much harder might it be a decade ahead with a merged council seeing local members trying to convince colleagues from as far away as Stuminster Newton that such a lease was justified.

His comments merely underline something I and many others have felt for a long time, namely that the Weymouth and Portland dog is increasingly being wagged by a West Dorset tail in Dorchester with the recent shared working between borough and district to jointly save money leading to that process being dominated by senior staff from West Dorset.

Only in local politics could a council in a town with 19,000 people seemingly hold the whip hand over another council looking after a town of more than 52,000 and an island with another 12,000.

It defies logic yet whoever said local or any form of politics was about logic.

Quiet please!

IN today’s modern world the chance for a bit of peace and quiet is becoming increasingly rare.

So I’m bound to applaud South West Trains for setting aside one carriage on the Weymouth-Waterloo train where the use of mobile phones is banned and those with music appliances are asked to have consideration for fellow passengers and keep noise levels right down.

Unfortunately this great idea is being torpedoed by selfish travellers who either can’t read signs in the carriage or – more likely – only care about themselves and can’t be bothered to toe the line.

I selected a “quiet” carriageway precisely because I wanted to be able to read my book without noisy distraction.

What I got over the next three hours was up to a dozen people regaling the entire carriage with their conquests from the night before, who they were going to meet when they got off the train and, most incredible of all, useless conversation about how they were actually on a train!

Worst of all, they were actually gabbling away while sat underneath clearly displayed signs banning the use of mobile phones in this carriage.

So I would advise SWT that an occasional brief announcement, perhaps when pulling away from a train station, ramming home the message about “quiet please in quiet carriages” would be very helpful to those of us longing for a bit of peace.

Stan - the council comeback kid!

AS comebacks go, it might not rank alongside Frank Sinatra or Muhammad Ali. But to make a return to the town council at the age of 79, having been voted off at the last election, is quite an achievement.

Stan Williams, who first won a seat on the old Borough Council in the late 1960s, campaigning for a one-way traffic system for Lyme, was triumphant in last week’s by-election, called to fill the vacancy left by a disallusioned Jill Newton.

Stan topped the poll with 321 votes in a rather dismal but not unexpected turn-out of 26 per cent.

So few people turned out because the majority have no real interest in local government,  and many have been put off offering their services by the crass behaviour of so many of our current elected members. They give an already much aligned institution a bad name.

Stan beat Woodroffe School teacher Seoras Strain (236 votes) into second place, followed by local author David Ruffle (144) and Jeff Scowen, who glories in the moniker of DJ Mad Jeff (88 votes).

The votes were counted when the polls closed at the Woodmead Halls and the result announced to a handful of interested people shortly before midnight. 

Four other councillors - deputy mayor Anita Williams, Daryl Turner, Lucy Campbell and Rikey Austin - turned up to see who would be joining them on the council benches, accompanied by Lucy’s mum and dad, who always show a great interest in their daughter’s work on the town council. 

I was there more out of duty than interest and two other keen council observers, former mayor Ken Dibben and Derek Hallett, were also present.

All the councillors joined Stan, Seoras and Jeff at the bar for a drink after the result was declared, which was nice to see. 

I was surprised that four candidates put themselves forward for a by-election and Stan’s three opponents all worked hard to get their message across to the electorate. “Mad Jeff” was even delivering election leaflets in the early hours of the morning on election day.

And top marks go to Seoras for having the nerve to knock on a few doors in town to introduce himself, which rarely happens in town council elections.

I believe it is quite possible that at least seven of the current 14 town councillors may not seek re-election at the next full contest in May 2015 and I hope that all three put themselves forward again.

So what can we expect with Stan back on the council? He never really went away after losing his seat, turning up at most meetings and having his say during the public forum session, sometimes to the obvious annoyance of some councillors.

After hearing that he was back on the council, one of my mates told me I must be rubbing my hands in glee as this newspaper would never want for another front page story.

He takes his seat at tonight’s full council meeting and it will be interesting to see where he sits. Will he return to the Aldermanic Bench, next to the mayor and traditionally reserved for the longest serving councillors, or will he find a place in the pit, an apt name for it these days?

I TOOK a bit of stick after last week’s column, especialy on Facebook, for alluding to my do-it-yourself efforts as part of the Event Of The Week section in this column. It wasn’t my intention to do so, although I admit it did read like that. It was the joy of getting away from what has seemed like months of painting ceilings and the like to attend a really enjoyable social occasion at the golf club that I was highlighting as my Event Of The Week. As a regular reader of this column told me, I really must get out more!

THERE’S much comment in the town over the council’s generous decision to give £150,000 to ensure that Lyme’s long-awaited skatepark is delivered.

I have been asked by the Mayor, Sally Holman, to point out that the council decision was to sanction UP to £150,000 for the project, and not necessarily £150,000.

Whichever way you look at it, however, it’s the biggest single donation to a community project in the council’s history and will ensure that the town’s skateboarding fraternity will get their facilities without further undue delay.

The council’s ability to offer such a large sum has been brought about by adopting a blue-sky approach to the reserves held for a rainy day (applauded by this column) and the fact that Lyme has enjoyed a bumper summer season which has produced more revenue than expected from its various undertakings.

The council has also earmarked £60,000 for the replacement of the church railings and committed significfant expenditure to the Monmouth Beach area.

One question I’ve been asked several times recently: “Does this mean there is now enough money in the kitty to complete the skatepark?”

I am told that this may not be the case.  At one time it was thought the skatepark would cost up to £150,000 but I hear it could be more - and that’s why the splendid Cheryl Reynolds is continuing her fundraising to ensure that the money will be there when needed. 

Wednesday, 16 October 2013

Handbags in the Guildhall

I MISSED the shenanigans in the council chamber last week. I very rarely attend these days, leaving the coverage to Francesca, except when I think there might be an interesting or fiery debate. 

Also, I’m not impressed with the behaviour with some of our councillors, mentioned in this column on numerous occasions,  and I don’t want to listen to so much spite and back-stabbing. 

I’m not influenced by my own time in the council chamber but by the early years I spent covering council meetings as a reporter, when the standard of debate was of a much higher level intellectually.

But it seems I missed a corker. A number of eye witnesses were shocked by what they saw and heard during the break, tempers boiled over and at least one of those I spoke to thought that blows might have been struck.

But as we say in football, it was probably no more than “handbags”.

Had a punch or two been thrown (and let me emphasise this was not the case), it would not have been the first time.

I can remember former councillors Jack Nutall and Victor Homyer, who disliked each other with a passion, swapping blows outside the Guildhall on an election night.
There are clearly some members on our council who have a distinct disliking for each other and that is not likely to change.

We can only hope they are able to put their personal feelings to one side and get on with running the town. There is nothing anyone can do about such crass behaviour until the next election - but that’s not until 2015.

At least one councillor is blaming me for the altercation because I revealed in this column Mark Gage’s description of himself on his Twitter feed as “hating Tories and royalists”. 

I suspect that was put up as a bit of fun, but in a town like Lyme that could be offensive to a huge number of people and is hardly likely to win any votes.

Spreading the Lyme message far and wide

I RECENTLY wrote about the formation of the Lyme Regis Business Group after attending a committee meeting and commented on how much they had achieved in a relatively short time.

Evidence this week of their first major project in the publication of what is to become a regular newsletter to be sent out to potential visitors, appropriate titled “Love Lyme”.
The newsletter has been supervised by LRBG chairman Tony Colston and his wife Stephanie, and as someone who has spent his whole working life launching new publications of one sort or another, I have to say I’m mightily impressed.

“Love Lyme” has been sent to local businesses to distribute via email to their customers and so will get an extensive distribution.  It is hoped to build up a database in time of those who visit Lyme regularly, or are planning to do so, and a couple of thousand hard copies will be printed to be given away in local shops and cafes, etc.

The first issue of “Love Lyme” contains five good reasons to visit our town with the following being highlighted - the World Heritage site, excellent shops, outstanding food, a family friendly beach and lots to do.

Forthcoming events are also highlighted, including the appearance by cricket commentator and raconteur Henry Blofeld at the Marine Theatre on October 31st, the forthcoming walking festival (November 2nd to 10th), fireworks on The Cobb (November 2nd), the switch-on of Lyme’s Christmas lights (November 30th) and The Great Christmas Pudding Race (December 7th).

The newsletter also features three local traders (as will happen in each edition) - Jon Gleeson of Ammonite Fine Foods in Broad Street, Teresa Fowler of House of Flowers in Broad Street and Richard Surtees of the Town Mill Brewery.

There is also a feature on two families who have been visiting Lyme for 25 years.

I’m sure there will be no problem in finding enough material to interest those who “Love Lyme” and I wish the venture every success.

A good lesson for the town council here - it is possible to achieve something if you actually get on with it and not just talk about it!

I WENT back to school this week - St Michael’s Primary to be precise - to enjoy lunch with the children from the new healthy autumn menu now on offer. It was delicious. good value and certainly much more tasty than I remember when I was at school.

I never had school dinners until I went to Lyme Regis Grammar, later to become The Woodroffe. It was a long time ago.

At the Grammar School there was a system referred to as “trollies” when you had to take your turn serving your fellow students. 

Girls served the boys and boys served the girls.  The food was collected from the bottom corridor canteen and delivered on trollies to the main hall. Being a shy and retiring type, I hated serving the girls.  We also had to take it in turns to serve the staff, which I disliked even more.

I have distinct memories of swinging the trolly through the hall doors only to see the pudding - some sort of sponge with a jam topping - flying onto the floor, followed by my frantic efforts to scrape it all up and serve it as if nothing had happened. The girls were not amused.

I loathed sitting down to school dinners. We all had set tables with a senior pupil responsible for handing out the food. 

First formers sat at the bottom and invariably got a raw deal, literally. If I remember correctly, Harry Larcombe was the head of my table and just for the fun of it he would often smother our main course in salt before passing it down the table.

It wasn’t funny at the time but we often laughed about it in later life.

Lunch at the primary school last week was a pleasant occasion, polite company and lovely food. 

My, how times have changed!

A tale of spinal taps and tan trousers

LYING on an operating theatre table brings home to you just how potentially fragile life can be.

I’d had two biopsies before but this third one was a bit special, a unique and highly specific procedure called a template biopsy which has only recently been invented in London. Dorset County Hospital in Dorchester is the only place in Dorset where it is available.

In the run up to admission you develop a sort of automatic shield to protect yourself from well wishers who say things such as: “I’m sure it’s nothing.” What can they possibly know about it? That person fills packing cases for a living and probably thinks the Lancet is a sports car!

People mean well, but I’m a firm believer in not tempting fate and too much bonhomie and optimism seemed to me to be just asking for it.

So I tried to approach this operation to tell me yes-you-have-cancer no-you-don’t with a neutral even slightly pessimistic attitude since it prepared me for the worst. If I get an all-clear I certainly won’t mind having erred on the gloomy side.

Right from my first step inside DCH I received nothing but interest, care and concern with particular praise going to the anaesthetist.

When a man loses his trousers he can feel vulnerable, but DCH probably has a corridor named after me somewhere I’ve been in there so many times, so I was stripped, gowned and reading a book by the time the “gas passer” arrived.

I’d been told all sorts of useful information in advance from bringing slippers and a dressing gown to ensuring I knew what drugs I was on, had arranged an adult to be with me for 24 hours after the operation and the fact that my operation would be under general anaesthetic.

So I was slightly taken aback when the anaesthetist told me I had two options, agree to a general or go for a series of spinal injections and a bit of sleepy juice.  He explained that recovery was much faster with the spinal approach and would be easier on my throat which wouldn’t need a tube, so that’s what I agreed to.

Almost before you could say Emergency Ward 10 a nurse fitted a needle in the back of my hand for medication, gave me a load of pills to take and pretty soon I was walking to the operating theatre.

There were none of those dramatic film scenes with sweating grim-faced staff pushing the patient’s trolley along chanting medical gobbledygook. I just strolled along by the nurse who chatted about what was going to happen. Before I knew it I was sat on the operating table.

I’d love to tell you what happened next but it all took place behind me as some sort of plastic spinal guide was pressed on to my back, the anaesthetist working his way down vertebra by vertebra.

Theatre staff were chatting away with me and I almost missed his warning that he was about to make the injections into my spine. I nearly missed them as well – no worse than a very mild nettle sting – and before I knew it that part was over.

Soon I was being asked to swing my legs up on to the operating table before I lost too much feeling and then I was given a couple of shots of liquid via the needle in my hand.

It didn’t knock me out because I just sort of chatted and drifted along. At some point everything faded away and before I knew it I was being told it was all over and I was on my way back to ward recovery. It was all about as terrifying as sitting in an armchair which I suppose is how a good hospital likes it to be.

Back on the ward we swiftly dealt with more important things. I’d had nothing to drink for more than six hours and nothing to eat for nearly 15 hours, so getting a cup of tea, cornflakes and toast and marmalade was a godsend.

But because I was, for some reason, a tad distracted that morning, wearing tan slacks was not the best idea.

Discharge from hospital came complete with various tablets, various instructions and a reassuring amount of advice on what symptoms to watch out for together with contact numbers to call if any of them surfaced.

So for all of you out there facing a visit to DCH for whatever reason you will be in great hands.

I get the biopsy results next week. Fingers crossed.

Fashion exchange

A FASHION exchange night is to be held at St Paul’s Church Hall in Abbotsbury Road, Weymouth, on Friday, November 1st at 6:45pm.

Susan Wray, one of the organisers of the event, says it works by someone bringing along a good quality outfit with a coat hanger or an ‘as new’ handbag. They will be given a token for each item.

They can then enjoy some time chatting over a drink and canapés served by one of the  handsome 007 gentlemen hosts before swapping their token for another item.

Tickets cost £5 in advance and £7.50 on the night and include a glass of bubbly, hand-made canapés and various stalls.

Tickets are available from St Paul’s Outreach Shop on Abbotsbury Road or by contacting Susan Wray on 07946 533293. 

Stroke support group

WEYMOUTH Stroke Support Group is holding a special horse racing evening at the Black Dog pub in Weymouth.

The event, which will take place on November 15th at 7:30pm, is being organised by Donna Thompson.

She said: “I am appealing for companies and individuals to donate prizes for a raffle and I need the prizes to reach me by no later than November 12th so I know exactly how many I have.

“Also if anyone wants to make donation, they can contact me.”

Anyone or any business able to help can contact Donna on 01305 779699 or 07565 175165 or email her at


KEITH Lander was born and educated in Nuneaton, Warwickshire, and has lived all over the UK and around the world following a career in the gas industry, running pipeline construction project at home and abroad. He and his wife, who have recently celebrated their fiftieth wedding anniversary, retired to Dorset 16 years ago and now live in Charmouth. They have two grown up daughters. Keith has recently taken on the chairmanship of Lyme Bay Photographic Club, based in Lyme Regis.

HOW did you first become involve with Lyme Bay Photographic Club?
I had served as a parish councillor in Charmouth which takes up an awful lot of one’s time. Having always been interested in photography and having time to fill I saw an article in View From Lyme Regis reporting on an earlier club meeting. The article ended with a contact telephone to call for information and advice on becoming a member; that was some three years ago. I have now been elected chairman in succession John Wallis, who has served the club brilliantly for the last eight years.

WHAT are you plans for the club as chairman?
I have no great plans to change the way the club functions. It has been in existence for over 40 years and as they say “if it isn’t broke don’t fix it”. What we do need, however, is more members, especially from the younger members of the community, and I shall be working hard to make this happen. The world of amateur photography is huge. It embraces all levels of ambition, from the would-be professional to the happy mobile telephone snapper.
Every photographer can benefit from being a member of a club and its activities.

WHAT activities does the club have lined up?
The club meets every second Friday from September to May with regular competitions within the club and against other neighbouring clubs. We invite numerous respected and elite photographers to our meetings, both to lecture and to judge our competitions. Forthcoming evenings will include a “Digital Boot Camp” where an expert will explain what all those little used bells and whistles on your digital camera actually do. We have two internal competitions in the coming weeks with a range of subjects.

HOW would you encourage others to get involved with the club?
All I can say is that almost everybody, since the introduction of digital cameras, is a photographer and if they would like to make more of their skills then come along and talk to us.

WHAT’S your favourite kind of photography and why?
I enjoy taking wildlife photographs, I believe in conservation and shooting with a camera never killed anything.

IS there anything specific that inspires your photography, and why?
My wife and I travel abroad a great deal and this gives lots of opportunities for photographing people and their cultures.

WHAT do you like about the local area?
If I look out of the front of my house I see a beautiful rural landscape, from the back I can see the sea. I am also told that Dorset is the only county that doesn’t have a motorway. What’s not to like?

WHAT would you do if you won the Lottery?
I would buy my Bentley and my Rolex watch and then I would give a goodly sum to my favourite cause, Jersey Zoo. I would then invest the rest as a family fortune for present and future generations.

WHAT is your ideal holiday destination and why?
It would have to be the Indian sub-continent. I find the people and culture fascinating.

WHICH three people would invite to dream dinner party, and why?
Bill and Hilary Clinton because they are so phenomenally talented and intriguing, and then perhaps Harold Macmillan who really did make you think you had never had it so good.

Wednesday, 9 October 2013

60 SECOND INTERVIEW: Jonny Gordon-Farleigh

DORCHESTER-born Jonny Gordon-Farleigh grew up in Dorset before establishing youth groups in East London and New York city. After graduating in English Literature and running a community food garden in the capital, he founded online magazine, STIR, which grew into a quarterly print magazine launched in April. The 29-year-old lives in Pymore, Bridport with his wife and two-year-old daughter.

WHAT is the premise behind your magazine STIR?
The principle behind STIR is that the majority of journalism does a really good job of presenting readers with the problems we face, but offers little in terms of alternatives to these problems. So instead of convincing our readers we are in a mess – which we already know – we promote the alternatives: The students who responded to their rent doubling in ten years by establishing the UK’s first student housing co-operative, or the consumers who rejected supermarkets’ treatment of producers by forming community farms, or those who decided to move their money into community banks and credit unions.

CAN communities effect change?
I would argue that the community is the only agency through which anything changes. We have to remember that social change only becomes recognised in legislation because there has already been decades of protest, campaigning and lobbying that makes it impossible to resist.

FAITH in politics, banking and the media has been rocked in recent years. Do you see STIR as being born of this disaffection?
Yes, definitely. But this disaffection does not have to result in apathy or demotivation. There has been a shift in energy away from electoral politics towards local initiatives. We can never feel as effective as when we are part of a co-operative which installs solar panels on the roof of a local brewery or which starts a community-supported agriculture scheme. So yes, the magazine is a direct response to these failures but at the same time it divests hope from representative politics and reinvests it into our communities. As June Jordan put it: “We are the ones we’ve been waiting for.”

HOW well does the STIR ethos fit in with a modern Dorset? Could it have existed here when you were growing up?
There have been organic farms and whole-food shops in Dorset since the early 1970s. At the same time there is a new urgency and impatience that comes from a very visible lack of political will to seriously deal with the financial crisis and climate change. The emergence of the Transition Network in 2006 has had a very positive effect in linking up activities that are trying to transform the environment, our food and energy systems, and a economy based on reckless growth. There have, of course, always been people in Dorset trying to address these problems but the difference now is that these attempts are part of a bigger project. I’m really excited by the reception the magazine has already received at local events such as The Sea Needs Our Say in Bridport a few weeks ago.

WHAT made you produce a print version of your online magazine?
Our original intention was always to publish in print but because of the cheap accessibility of online platforms we started there. This gave us nearly two years of experience and we published nine bi-monthly issues online. The launch of the quarterly magazine came as a response to the success of a crowd-funding campaign where we raised over £5,000 to publish a book of articles and interviews from the online magazine with newly commissioned artwork. We also wanted to publish longer articles unsuited to online reading, commission more original art which is impossible to appreciate on a screen, and reach a broader, offline community.  

WHAT can I do, tomorrow, to start to make a difference in my community?
Firstly, either join those active within your community or create a new one.  One good place to start would be your local transition initiative and I wouldn’t wait until tomorrow...

WHAT keeps you awake at night?
Thinking that I should be doing more.

AND what gets you up in the morning?
To check if anyone has bothered to reply to my emails and, if they have, the prospect of new collaborations with inspiring people.

A DOZEN words to make the world a better place?
Be the change you would like to see in the world (Gandhi).

STIR website:


Local Stockists: The Bookshop, Bridport; Fruits of the Earth, Bridport; Strummer Pink, Beaminster; Five Penny Farm; Bridport’s Saturday Farmers’ Market Stall

Focus on Burma at the Marine

THE resurgence of the Marine Theatre continues apace and - despite the worry of having to pay for a new roof at some time in the future - manages to provide a varied programme for most theatre tastes.

How lucky are we, a town of 3,500 people, to have a theatre operational 12 months a year offering live entertainment?

In joint artistic directors Harry Long and Tim Bell, and enthusiastic manager Nigel Day, we have a threesome committed to positioning the theatre at the heart of the Lyme’s social and community life, backed by a dedicated band of volunteers led by trust chairman David Edwards.

I’m a big fan of the Marine, and rarely miss an opportunity to say so, but it amazes me how the venue has attracted such a long list of popular entertainers willing to appear in such a cosy theatre. And without fail, they all comment on the very special atmosphere at the Marine - despite the rain gushing through the roof.

So let me commend to you a very unusual event lined up for the theatre on Friday, October 18th. Supported and promoted by the Lyme Regis branch of Amenesty International, the theatre will play host to “The Burma Play”, presented by recognised fringe performers who form the Northern International Theatre, billed as “a comedy of terror, a humorous, politically-sharp two-hander with original live music”.

After the interval, the evening will feature a discussion on Burma where political prisoners, forced labour, ethnic and religious violence, displacement of people and child soldiers continues. The audience will be encouraged to participate in the discussion with Anna Roberts (Director of the Burma Campaign UK) and Kate Allen (Director of Amnesty International in the UK) also taking part.

I’m also informed that Peter Popham, a distinguished foreign affairs journalist on The Independent and author of “The Lady & The Peacock” about the life of Aung San Suu Kyi, who has brought great change to Burma, will be attending the discussion, making three very emiment guests who will undoubtedly ensure a highly stimulating debate.

All profits from the evening will be shared by The Burma Campaign and Amnesty International and I hope that Lyme Regis turns out in good numbers to support two such worthy causes.  

MANY moons ago I shared a beach hut on the seafront. It was back in the 1970s, I can’t remember what process we had to go through to get one, but I can remember it was one of those lovely long summers and we got full value for money.

It’s always been my intention to try to get another one - perhaps before hell freezes over and I become a granddad!

At that time in the 1970s I was a district reporter working for Pulman’s Weekly News. Lyme was part of my patch and I worked from home so I used to take my portable typewriter down to the beach hut and type up my copy. What a job!

There were far fewer beach huts in those days but they were always in great demand.
Since the remodelling of the main beach, the beach huts have become more popular than ever with the occupants able to take a shallow step onto the shingle where barbecues and family parties are now familiar sights. 

The allocation of the council owned beach huts has always been a difficult process and has caused many arguments over the years.

I sympathise with the town council on this one. It’s impossible to come up with a system that is fair to all.

So on Friday night we had the unusual situation where several people camped out under the Guildhall passage to ensure that they got a beach hut for next summer - such is the demand and popularity of having a permanent base on the seafront during the season.

I went down with my camera on Saturday morning just in time to catch Audrey Vivian,  emerging successfully from the council offices after what she desrcribed as “a convivial but sleepless” night and with a big grin on her face. 

For a moment I expected her to wave a piece of white paper and declare “peace in our time!”

I’ve finally taken the Facebook plunge

I’M at an age when I struggle to understand the attraction and importance of social media. 

I am told by the bright young things who work for me that it’s an essential form of communication in the current age and, from a  business point of view, can help to direct traffic to our website.

For that reason I have been breaking stories from Lyme Regis for some time (now over 2,000 tweets) but have refrained from tweeting personal views.

After steadfastly refusing to join Facebook, having been very critical of some of our councillors who get themselves embroiled in pointless arguments with the more vociferous electors of Lyme, I have finally taken the plunge. 

I always used the excuse that I wasn’t on Facebook because I did not want to know how few friends I had!

But I decided to join the Facebook revolution for two reasons only - to keep abreast of all that’s happening at Lyme Regis Football Club, after being elected as President, and to join the Lyme Regis Nostalgia site.

For clubs and organisations, the use of Facebook certainly saves a great deal of time in  getting out notices, etc, to the membership.

For months people have been telling me I ought to sign up to the nostalgia group where those with a real love for Lyme share their old photographs and past memories. 

And I’m glad I have. Within ten minutes of signing up I heard from an old school friend, Jim Strawbridge, who I have not seen for 40 years and more. I’ve even contrtibuted the odd post about the London Inn, fetching coke on a Saturday morning from the gas works when we were kids and memories of the skiffle group which included Neil Petterkin and David Cozens that played in the Marine Parade shelters.

I have no intention of joining the soapbox sites, on which from time to time I have been slaughtered, no matter how entertaining they are, or contributing snippets about my boring private life (that’s the bit about Facebook I don’t understand) - but I’m glad I’m finally wired up to the 21st century.