Wednesday, 24 April 2013

Is there anybody there?

A SPECTRAL reaction has hit Weymouth and Portland council’s decision to sell off its own offices on North Quay to save money.

A recent meeting in Number One committee room came in for some ghostly comment which bore a striking relation to some of the debates that room has seen in recent decades.

The first anyone knew anything was wrong came when the pneumatic doors opened... and no-one came in to the room.

Gaping doors matched gaping jaws, nothing clear cut emerging from either, and a short while later the doors closed by themselves.

When later in the meeting the doors again opened by themselves there were a few nervous titters with darting glances to ensure others had seen the phenomena and that it wasn’t the first indication that some member was going off their rocker.

Attempts to force them closed didn’t achieve much, again like some council debates, and it finally appeared that a glitch which had dogged the door mechanism before might be back.

Whatever the reason, it was nice to see a civic version of an old pub from the village where I used to live as a child.

Some centuries ago a weary traveller stopped at the pub seeking food and shelter but, despite much knocking and shouting, he couldn’t find anybody there. Ever since then the pub has been called the Nobody Inn.

The grim reality of having no money

BELT tightening has become a grim fact of modern economic times, but just recently even that is being taken to extremes.

Being around town a lot I have increasingly noticed a very strange set of circumstances over the last two months that started out as a single incident but, as I write, has now happened three times in the last week alone.

It seems that poor smokers are now so desperate that they are almost patrolling the streets in search of large dogends.

I watched one man pick up three separate discards in quick succession, earlier I saw a young man also pick up a dogend while women are not excluded because I’ve seen them do the same thing as well.

Many years ago I used to be a smoker but prices have vastly increased since those days, so I took a glance at Tesco’s website to update myself and I was stunned to be shown that a modern 20-pack of Benson & Hedges Gold costs £7.97. No wonder people are going round picking up dogends!

Each cigarette costs 40 pence, so I suppose half a dozen decent sized discards and you’ve got to have picked up £1 worth of tobacco.

Another sign of the times is money dropped in the street. It doesn’t stay there long.
I’ve seen pensioners pounce on a coin they’ve spotted on the pavement while the smiles on children’s faces when they’ve found a coin could have lit the street up.

Maybe I’ve come to this scenario late because I haven’t really been aware of either type of incident until recent months. Brings home to you just how hard lives are becoming.

Tomato memories

GARDENERS everywhere are in the throws of planting seeds and visiting garden centres to buy what flowers and vegetable seedlings they may want for the coming summer months.

Going to an expert site is sometimes handy because you can see the plants you want in an advanced state of growth without having to wonder if your own efforts will prove good enough for purpose, but years ago there was another way of doing this for one particular fruit.

Several tomato seeds on my kitchen windowsill have produced some nice seedlings, but you didn’t have to bother doing that when tons of Channel Island tomatoes used to be landed on Weymouth Quay.

There were inevitably a few squashed ones and a recent conversation I had with a man who remembered such cargoes revealed that sturdy tomato seeds used to spring up into seedlings along the quay railway lines, providing an easy source of plants for people’s gardens.

Such major tomato cargo deliveries are long gone but the railway lines are still there while an area which was the tomato cargo stage used to have its own little railway line to carry boxes of tomatoes.

Sorry, Bobby!

A COMEDY of errors recently occurred on Weymouth seafront when a resident couldn’t believe who was walking along towards him.

The familiar face struck a chord and he immediately realised it was “that comic off the TV” as he struggled to put a name to a face.

The comic realised his celebrity status had been spotted and with a smile he gave the resident a firm handshake.

The starstruck resident finally recovered and said: “Les Dennis. Love your work. Nice to meet you.”

Not to be outdone, the comic replied that it was nice to meet the resident, too, before continuing hurriedly with his walk.

In the resident’s own words: “Just a tad too late to correct myself, I belatedly realised that the person I had just met was actually Bobby Davro! Oh well, I expect they get used to that sort of thing.”

Anita succeeds in keeping her Dad in check

THE job the Mayor - any mayor - dreads most is chairing the annual town meeting, now referred to as the annual meeting of electors.

It’s the one opportunity that residents have  to make life awkward for councillors by asking a few difficult questions. 

Last week’s meeting was no exception, although the attendance - around 20 - was disappointing. In fact, if you took out councillors’ partners and Woodmead Halls staff, probably only half a dozen or so were there out of genuine interest. 

You can draw one of two conclusions from the small numbers: either the electorate of Lyme are happy with the way the town is being run - or they couldn’t care less. I will leave you to make up your own mind.

I well remember the annual town meetings I chaired when I occupied the mayoral chair back in 1984.  In fact, I had to officiate at two such meetings as my predecessor John Broderick escaped chairing his own meeting (can’t remember the reason why) when I was his deputy, and, of course, I had my own meeting during my term of office. Both of them were difficult experiences, especially for one so young(!), with a number of contentious issues, the main one being the signing over of land at Monmouth Beach to West Dorset District Council, a subject that will soon be raising its head again with the expiry of the lease. 

Firebrand councillor Stan Williams was at his most belligerent and gave me a particular hard time. (Note to Mark Gage: I know what you’re going through!).

Stan is very much still in the news as far as council matters are concerned, although no longer a member, fighting his corner for the Woodmead Halls, where he is the chairman.

The current mayor, Sally Holman, managed to legitimately escape this year’s meeting because she was representing the town in Bermuda, so the chair was taken by her deputy, Anita Williams, coincidentally Stan Williams’ daughter.

I thought Anita did a really good job chairing the meeting, answering the various questions with candour and batting away a couple of  googlies that could have caused a few upsets.

With her father having served Lyme as a councillor for more than 40 years and her uncle, Pete Williams, having also done his bit, public service is very much a way of life for the Williams family. I thought Anita demonstrated that she would make an excellent First Citizen when her career allows her to take on the role. Her time will come. She even managed to keep her dad in check - which is more than I did!

The annual meeting of electors allows those who follow the affairs of the council closely (a declining number I’m afraid) to really  get to grips with council issues which never really seem to go away.

Ken Gollop, Nigel Ball and Derek Hallett did their best to install a bit of vim and vigour into the proceedings and among the old chestnuts aired were the church railings, heavy lorries, street cleaning and affordable homes. 

Ken livened things up a bit when he asked whether councillors supported the heritage and traditions of the town and Derek generated a bit of throat clearing from the top table when he posed the question: “Is there a morale problem among council staff?” following the recent departure of long-serving town clerk Mike Lewis, shortly to be followed by much respected administrative officer Vickie Stickler.

Ken also managed to get Mark Gage to confirm his view that he was in favour of separating the roles of mayor and council chairman, a subject that is likely to become a real hot potato in the coming months.

Mark made it clear he did not want to abolish the role of mayor but to allow the First Citizen to concentrate on the town’s ceremonial matters whilst a separate chairman was elected to oversee the smooth running of the administration.

Anita Williams made her views clear when she said she would have to be “dragged screaming” out the Guildhall if anyone tried to abolish the position of mayor.

All good stuff!

Don’t paint out the clock names

WHEN Mike Lewis made a very funny but emotional speech at the recent Civic Night, bidding farewell to Lyme Regis Town Council after more than 20 years service (13 of them as town clerk) he joked that it wouldn’t be long before the councillors removed his name from the Millennium Clock.

We all chuckled but inwardly thought: “They would never do that!”

Last week, at a meeting of the Town Management Committee, that’s exactly what our councillors considered doing. They did not actually go as far to agree to paint out the names of Mike Lewis and the mayor at the time, Owen Lovell, who has given 35 years service as a town and district councillor, including two terms as mayor, but they are thinking about it. The reason? Because, they say, spending what would be a relatively small amount of money on a pot of gold leaf paint, was a waste of money. 

The Millennium Clock was surrounded in controversy when the council decided to mark the millennium by its erection in the Cobb Gate car park. But whether they like it or not, the clock is now part of the town’s heritage. Recording the names of the council’s senior officer and mayor at important times in our history is an accepted part of local government.

Mike Lewis will see the funny side of this but I hope the council steps back from painting out his name and that of Owen Lovell.  

In my view it would be an unnecessary and disrespectful act and if the council really can’t afford it, I’m sure someone will come up with the cash.

It’s official! Spring is on the way ...

AFTER such a depressing and awful winter, I can assure you that spring is definitely on the way.

How? Because the first cuckoo was heard by horticuturalist Nigel Ball last week, a day earlier than last year.  And he’s an expert.

We will soon be reporting the first mackerel of the season.

60 SECOND INTERVIEW: Jane Silver-Corren

JANE Silver-Corren was born in London, growing up in Roehampton before going to boarding school – an experience she disliked. A keen singer from an early age, Jane went on to become festivals co-ordinator in Hounslow, London before orchestrating the Chard Festival of Women in Music. Realising the multiple benefits of singing, Jane retrained as an occupational therapist specialising in music in therapy. Now living in Bridport, she set up Singing for the Brain and Rising Voices both using the power of singing to improve lives. She is currently Bridport’s Town Crier.

WHAT is Singing for the Brain?
About five years ago I heard how singing was being used to support people with dementia so I approached the local branch of The Alzheimers society to support me to train to run these groups. I trained in Bristol and shortly after set up three groups in Dorchester, Weymouth and Bridport that have now been going for four to five years.

WHAT is Rising Voices?
Rising Voices started at The Light House in Poole supported by the NHS in January. It is a singing group to support people living with cancer. We have started a small off shoot branch in Bridport that will meet on alternate Thursdays 3pm to 4pm in The Front Room in Downes Street, Bridport. 

WHAT makes singing so beneficial?
Much research has been done to show that singing has a positive effect on those coping with long-term illness. The groups are very friendly, supportive, stimulating and uplifting. It is also good exercise and good for your breathing.

WHAT if you can’t sing very well?
Anybody can enjoy singing. It doesn’t matter what you sound like. The more you do it, the easier it will become. In the groups the stronger singers support those who are less confident. It creates a good feeling of community.

WHAT styles of singing do you listen to?
I like all styles of music. I am particularly keen on world music as it is all so different and interesting. Classical music isn’t my favorite but I still enjoy some of it. I love music you can dance to. It’s fun to sing and dance at the same time and we do some of that in my singing groups. I am very keen on disco music but unfortunately we don’t do that much of it in the groups.

WHO are your favourite singers?
I really enjoy soulful voices, like George Benson and Stevie Wonder. Female voices, Oumou Sangare from Senegal is one of my favorites and Joni Mitchel. One of my favourite bands in Arrested Development - yes they are still going. Speech, their lead singer is really fantastic. I like really good rap and hip hop.

WHAT is so special about singing in a group?
Singing in a group rather than alone is great for harmonies, moral support and a sense of community.

WHO in the world would you most like to encourage to sing?
People who feel lonely and isolated. I would encourage them to join a group or just go a long and have a sing song anywhere - folk clubs, places of worship, etc. It really cheers you up. Maybe we should get a few politicians to have a sing song – it might lighten them up a bit. Nick Clegg, Ed Miliband and David Cameron in three part harmony, fab.

IS THERE a concert you have sung in that sticks out?
The best concert I have sung in was in St Catherine’s Chapel, Abbotsbury with Sammy Hurden’s singing group and musicians from the Bournemouth Symphony Orchestra singing songs about the Jurassic coast. Everything about it was fantastic. It was part of a series of concerts called Jurassic Journeys.

WHO would you most like to sing with - living or dead?
I’d like to have had a bit of a sing with my dad. He really liked certain songs, such as One Wheel on my Wagon, and I was Born Under a Wandering Star. But I don’t think we ever sung together. It’s a bit late now as he’s been dead for six years, so I’ll make the most of singing with other people in my family and friends instead. My mum knows loads of songs and when I’m stuck on a song I always ring her for help! I wouldn’t mind singing with The Wombles - maybe live at Glastonbury.

THE mic is yours. The band is ready. A hush descends. What’s the song you sing?
I’d sing the Labi Siffre song Something Inside So Strong as it’s such a brilliant song with a fantastic message. Or else a new song I’ve been teaching about a glow worm because it’s so silly and makes people laugh.

. . . AND who is in the front row of the audience?
Probably my dad because he’d enjoy it and be proud, and my partner and kids. And my parrot Ottie Lottie who died a couple of years ago, he’d be on someone’s shoulder, and Pretzel my dog of course.

What is the first song you learned to sing?
Probably Teddy Bears picnic, or The Changing Guards at Buckingham Palace. The first song I remember enjoying is Remember You’re A Womble. I still know it off by heart

Anyone wanting information about any of Jane’s singing groups can ring her on 07887 675161.

Wednesday, 17 April 2013

Wafting through the desert of Weymouth’s sandy streets

CAN you hear music from the world famous Lawrence of Arabia film? 

Well even if you can’t, you could have been forgiven for behaving like an extra amid sand dunes on the streets of Weymouth.

Recent windy conditions gave pedestrians a mouthful of sand to chew on and sent skeins of sand snaking all over the town’s streets.

Sand drifted so deep it swiftly built up drifts to submerge the Esplanade beach wall and send stinging particles to form mounds to swamp car parking spaces near Alexandra Gardens.

Large sections of the Esplanade were completely covered and there were banks of sands near Marks & Spencer and the Black Dog pub in St Mary Street where drinkers brave enough to enjoy a pint at outside tables found themselves needing Arab dress to protect themselves from wind-driven sand.

Delightful I’m sure but, when sand is being sought in the summer, let’s hope we don’t have to wipe rain off our faces... again.

Maggie’s mad idea for Portland

MEMORIES have been stirred by the death of former Prime Minister Margaret Thatcher.

She ended her life as Baroness Thatcher but it was as Secretary of State for Education in 1972 that she set hackles rising on Portland with a proposal to bus over every child at Royal Manor to a new site at the old Weymouth Grammar School, off Chickerell Road.

Mike Jewkes, a former Mayor of Weymouth and Portland, was chairman of Westham School Parent Teacher Association at the time.

He said: “The proposal, to bring the children over on a convoy of double decker buses, was ludicrous and a group was put together to go up to London to see Margaret Thatcher about it on what turned out to be the day of the Old Bailey IRA bombing.

“She listened to what we had to say but refused to change her mind.

“But it was later pointed out that military vehicle convoys of more than 16 vehicles needed outriders and the proposed convoy from Portland would take 25 double decker buses to carry the children which would be too expensive so the idea was dropped. It was a mad idea anyway.”

Missing out on the Easter message?

EASTER in Weymouth proved a peaceful time to remember Jesus Christ’s death at Calvary and his resurrection, a peaceful time for families and children to be together for the exchange of Easter eggs... and hand grenades!

In this country Easter is traditionally a time to reflect on Christ’s sacrifice for us all.

So it required a very swift mental adjustment when, in the heart of Weymouth and in the middle of the Easter period, two children began throwing hand grenades at each other.

I should at this point hastily qualify that statement by saying that the hand grenades in question were toys they had just bought and were gleefully trying out in the street.

Despite that, thoughts did have to be juggled to embrace death and destruction being acted out just a short distance from several churches and religious sites during one of the holiest periods of the year.

Children will be children and no blame should attach to them, but you have to wonder whether the local economic situation is so bad that shops must offer fake hand grenades for sale as part of their Easter sales drive.

Perhaps we can now all look forward to the Christmas period when children will be able to snap up a few traditional offerings such as toy flamethrowers and assault rifles or perhaps a nice tinsel-decked anti-personnel mine?

Will it every get any warmer?

MARCH is now firmly behind us and latest figures show temperatures were well below normal for this time of year.

It was true brass monkey weather, not that we needed a meteorologist to tell us that.

One step outside the front door and the words: “I say! It’s a trifle brisk today” tinkled to the ground, frozen solid as soon as they left people’s mouths.

Among incidents was one child gleefully rushing round clutching a sheet of ice from a public water trough and people retrieving underwear from the washing lines so stiff it would have brought tears to the eyes of the wearer.

Pedestrians wore every stitch of clothing they could cram on and exposed faces were bleached white by the cold, hardly surprising as the wind chill factor in Weymouth went down as low as -9.2C on one day.

Even now – barely nine weeks away from the longest day – there is still a lurking suspicion that the weather is going to spring something nasty on us.

Perhaps the first 70+ Fahrenheit day will finally convince us that warmer weather has arrived... but that looks a long way off yet.

It’s enough to make you weep!

THIS column is usually made up of a mix of nostalgia, comment (invariably on the council)  and tributes to those who loom large in our community.

I write it in the hour before we go to press late on a Tuesday afternoon, by which time I usually have a good idea what I’m going to say.

Finding something for 'Event of The Week' gets a little more difficult as time goes on, as I attend fewer events in Lyme as I am responsible for the editing and managing of 18 titles out of our Lyme Regis office.

Daughter Francesca covers most of the events in Lyme and in a few weeks time I will be handing over this page for the return of her popular “Summertime in Lyme” column. 
If nothing else, it gives the councillors a break from me for a few weeks.

There have only been a few occasions when I have got to 4pm on a Tuesday afternoon and I can’t think of a thing to write about. This happened a few weeks ago and I was scratching my head when someone in the office opined: “Are we ever going to get some spring weather?”

Suddenly I started thinking about springtime when I was a boy and Stuart Broom and I would cycle over to Wootton Fitzpaine to pick wild daffodils and sell them around the estate for sixpence a bunch. I went on to recall how our fathers spent every Sunday in the garden growing veg, picking fruit and rearing chickens to provide for their family.

As with all such memories, they were recalled through rose tinted glasses but they did strike a cord with many people who lived on the estate during their growing-up years.

One stopped me and said: “Your column made my cry. It took me back to my own childhood days. Such happy times in Anning Road.”

This column, of course, has reduced many to tears over the years, but for very different reasons!

Resorting to un-ashamed nostalgia when you can’t think of another subject is old trick for newspaper columnists. There’s always great interest when we publish old photos of Lyme people and the thirst for days gone by seem unquenchable, as demonstrated by Ken Gollop’s recent “Under Shady Tree” afternoon at the Woodmead Halls.

“Shady Tree” was a popular post-war meeting place for young people in Anning Road and over the years Ken has presented a number of what we used to call slide shows on various events and personalities in Lyme.

There is also a Facebook page dedicated to Lyme Regis Nostalgia - - which has unearthed some previously unseen and fascinating material and is hugely popular.

I’m not one for looking back but, of course, the older I get the more thankful I am that my life has been full of wonderful memories of life in this town. 

Dinner time with the Homyers....

I AM often called an old woman and recently I have attracted a few quizical looks from my staff as I have been thumbing through a copy of “Women’s Weekly”, dated October 1952. In those days you could buy a copy of one of the top selling women’s magazines for the princely sum of 3d (that’s threepence in old money).

I promised not to reveal the identity of the reader who thought I would be interested in seeing the magazine (he’s married to a councillor and lives in Woodmead Road!).

Obviously an avid reader himself, he drew my attention to an advertisement for Bisto featuring the Homyer fishing family of Lyme Regis. This was of particular interest to me as my grandmother was a Homyer.

The ad showed a picture (black and white of course) of Jack Homyer carrying a lobster pot on his shoulder with the caption: 

Fishing? It’s all long hours and hard going, says Mr J. Homyer of Lyme Regis who works 81 pots with his son. But good luck or bad, we’re always ready for a square meal at the end of our homeward run. 

The ad also shows a photo of Jack pouring out the gravy at a Homyer family table with son Victor (who went on to become mayor of Lyme), his wife and daughter, captioned as follows: 

“From six years old graddaughter to 60 years old, there’s no doubt about Bisto’s popularity in the Homyer’s. You’ve got to eat well when you work hard, says Mrs Homyer. That’s why I would not be without my Bisto. It makes the meal.”

The ad also included a voucher worth £1 which could be redeemed if a Bisto Kid called at your house and you showed them a tin of the gravy granules.

Ahh! Bisto! There’s always a tin in our house.


THINGS were a little fractious in the Evans household early on Friday morning. We had to get up early to put the bacon and sausages on to cook in the kitchen at the Baptist Church where we were holding the annual Big Breakfast in aid of Cancer Research UK.

Even before a cursory “good morning”, Mrs E commented: “You know, you don’t actually do much at the Big Breakfast do you? Just talk to people really.”

I protested that I was the official “meeter and greeter” and was there to see everything went smoothly. She was not impressed.

She was even less impressed a few hours later,  having sweated over a hot oven with my sister-in-law Christine who between them, committee members Joanna Hopkins and Anita Routley, prepared not far off 200 breakfasts. 

Brother John washed up for over five hours and daughter Francesca, Michaela Ellis and her mum, Gloria, helped with the waitressing and ran the raffle. Claire Denslow delivered the bacon and sausage butties in the View From Smart car. What a team!

I kept a low profile, although I was drafted into the kitchen on a few occasions to help out.

This was the fifth Big Breakfast we had organised for Cancer Research and it turned out to be the best ever, raising nearly £1,200. You can’t beat a good fry-up!

So a huge thank you to all of you who gave your support and a special thank you to the Baptist Church who allow us to use their wonderful hall and are always very kind and helpful. 

60 SECOND INTERVIEW: Mareike Dadges

MAREIKE Dadges is a 24-year-old German university student, studying International Tourism Management and currently working as an intern with the Jurassic Coast World Heritage Site team and living in Dorchester. She is from a region called Schleswig Holstein in north Germany, which borders Denmark, and grew up on the coast of the Baltic Sea. 

WHY did you come to the UK?
I came to visit a friend in Devon about 2 years ago and ever since I keep coming back. This time I arrived in February to begin my work placement in March.

HOW long are you staying?
At the moment I'm living in Dorchester and will stay until summer. Afterwards I'm planning on going to Amsterdam to continue my studies in an exchange semester before heading back to Germany in winter. So I'll leave the UK in summer but I'm planning on coming back next year after finishing my degree to live and work here.  

TELL us about your course in International Tourism Management… 
It’s called international because we study English and Spanish and it is part of our curriculum to spend at least one semester abroad. In the tourism part we learn all sorts of things related to the tourism industry, about different destinations, how the government gets involved, socio-cultural effects of tourism and we discuss topics like trends in tourism, for example sustainable or eco-tourism. The management part covers, for example, the areas of business studies, finance and accounting, marketing and economics.  After the first year we were able to specialise in certain topics like hospitality or tour operators. I chose to focus on leisure, culture and event management as well as marketing.   

WHAT do you do as an intern with the Jurassic Coast team?
I'm doing various different things, like working on the social media appearance. I look at different ways how to use these communication platforms to increase the interest in the site and its geology. I'm also involved in the development of a new visitor information leaflet and I've been helping with the organisation of the schools day at Lyme Regis Fossil Festival. I'm really happy to be able to help at the festival as well. 

WHAT made you want to join the Jurassic Coast team?
Basically, two things lead to the decision to do my placement here. Firstly, I've visited Jurassic Coast last year and besides being really excited about finding an ammonite, I just absolutely loved the landscape and the area, so I decided I wanted to come back. Secondly, I thought it would be a good idea to do my placement in a heritage site because I'm interested in destination management and I've written an assignment about the use of the heritage status in tourism-destination marketing. So I decided it was time to compare this theoretical knowledge to “the real world”. And what makes the Jurassic Coast even more interesting compared to other sites is that it keeps changing due to erosion and I find that really exciting. 

WHAT do you like about living in this area?
I enjoy living close to the coast, every weekend I can go and explore a little bit more. There's so much to see and it's very different to the coast I grew up on.  

HOW does it differ from life in Germany?
It seems to me that people around here a little bit more relaxed. The supermarkets - they are massive - I often find myself spending too much time in there, getting lost and leaving with half of the things I wanted!

IS there anything you would add to or change about the local area if you could?
The weather! I think I might be a bit unlucky to be here this year, I keep hearing people saying “this time last year it was warm and sunny”. 

WHAT are your personal interests or hobbies?
Traveling (not a surprise). I like to explore new places and try local food or take a cookery class because I love to cook and bake. And I like water sports like scuba diving, swimming and kayaking.  

WHERE is your ideal holiday destination and why? 
That depends on the time of the year and what I want to do, I guess. Right now I would be very happy to go to a warm place with a sunny beach and a nice reef to snorkel along, because it's been a long and cold winter.   

Wednesday, 10 April 2013

Chancing your arm in the fast lane?

AN incident between King Street and the Swannery Bridge underlined the dangerous change in driver habits which has happened since Weymouth’s new traffic lights were unveiled.

Approaching the King Street lights from the seafront I found myself pulling up behind a giant lorry towing an empty flatbed trailer.

Drivers in more of a hurry than I was ignored the inside lane in favour of the outside one in the hope that when the lights changed they would be able to dart forward and avoid the slow-moving lorry.

Well the lights duly changed and I had to wait behind the lorry as it ground forward while cars in the outside lane showed off their Grand Prix starts and shot forward in front of the huge vehicle.

The first car made it easily and the second car just got through ahead but by this time the lorry was moving and 40ft of vehicle proved too much of a barrier for the third car which then tried to force its way between me and the rear of the lorry.

I held my place and was rewarded by a horn blast from the driver who then stuck her fingers up in a V-sign to which I responded in kind. We parted into different roads a few yards later, but that wasn’t the end of it.

So many drivers have talked to me about “fast getaway” incidents at these new junctions where a double lane entry is followed by a double lane exit merging into a single lane.

I began to wonder if perhaps I’d done something wrong and should have braked to allow that third car through even if it was trying to make progress at my expense, so I rang the police.

A senior officer didn’t just tell me that my actions were completely legal and wholly appropriate to the situation but he added that they, too, were worried at the change they had seen in drivers’ behaviour.

He said that drivers in the inside lane were entitled to their place and the onus of responsibility was with those drivers who had chosen the outside lane. They should only turn inside when it was safe to do so and had no right to a space ahead of those vehicles already in the inside lane.

The officer went even further and said police were concerned at the way the new traffic light system had generated a change in driver habits with revving engines, fast starts when lights changed and an almost “race” mentality between the two lanes of drivers pulling away, all of which officers felt was not helping safety.

So there you have it. Outside lane drivers can try their luck at saving a few seconds but, if they run out of space, it is their responsibility to only return to the inside lane when it is safe to do so.

The police guideline is very useful, so I would suggest that responsible drivers show courtesy and do make way for outside lane drivers provided they are not just trying to force their way in regardless at your expense. It is up to you.

Giant jigsaw is halfway there

MASTER jigsaw maker Dave Evans is halfway through his Weymouth attempt to set a new world record by making a 40,000-piece puzzle by hand.

His puzzle making is being streamed live all over the world and has attracted massive attention from America to Hong Kong.

Her Majesty the Queen will be the centrepiece of his enormous jigsaw which is using scenes from her Diamond Jubilee year. She has even given permission for the finished work to be displayed at her Sandringham country residence.

Dave said: “I hope the entire puzzle will be completed in about ten days time.”

He has been making jigsaws for nearly 50 years and hopes to complete his giant 33-image creation around April 21st which will be the Queen’s 86th birthday.

His jigsaw marathon, which is being sponsored by Axminster Tool Centre and Voltz energy drinks, meets all criteria for a world record attempt and, if he succeeds, Dave is hoping to have the new record ratified by Guinness.

The Queen is very interested in his project and is understood to be keen to try and do a copy of the puzzle herself, Buckingham Palace having contacted Dave to ask if the copy of the jigsaw he is doing for her could be supplied without a picture guide because Her Majesty likes a challenge!

Dave said: “Everything has been locally supplied and I am using 6mm birch plywood which is traditionally used for jigsaws because it doesn’t splinter and it gives a lovely silky finish to the pieces.

No shame for dirty dog owners

NOTHING infuriates a householder more than discovering some dog has dumped a pile of mess outside their front door and its owner has just walked off and left it.

It has happened to me, it has happened to my neighbours and it has happened outside the homes of many of my friends all over Weymouth and Portland.

Some angry homeowners put up signs, others try and catch dog owners red handed and give them a piece of their mind while others report incidents to the police, the council or take legal action themselves.

But none of them have quite such a tale to tell as one resident who time and again found dog mess dumped on the pavement right outside her home.

Nothing seemed to stop these dirty owners and she finally resorted to a very prominent and very public way of highlighting the problem and shaming dog owners into doing something.

She got hold of an old wooden toilet seat and left it outside her home with a message that if owners wouldn’t stop their pet leaving piles of mess could they at least make sure their dog used the toilet seat!

A response wasn’t long in coming. Someone stole the toilet seat. They stole the sign too.

Farewell to the Colonel

COLONEL Geoffrey Brierley is completing the last few weeks of a 12-year stint as county councillor for the Lyme Regis area.

So now would seem as good a time as any to pay tribute to his service to the Marshwood Vale (the name of his county council seat) and for all he has done for Lyme Regis during his time as our county councillor.

With a military background (he served in the Army for 35 years), Colonel Brierley became known for his no-nonsense, tell-it-as-it-is style of local government.

If you asked him a question and he didn’t know the answer, he wouldn’t skirt around the subject and prevaricate, as is the style of virtually every national politician these days. He would simply say: “I don’t know but I will find out.”

And he always gave it to you straight, even if it wasn’t what you wanted to hear.
Geoff will be remembered for ever more for being the county councillor who delivered a public footpath in Charmouth Road.  

The town council had been pushing for one for 50 years but in the end it was the pragmatic approach that Colonel Brierley adopted and his sheer refusal to take no for an answer that delivered the long-awaited path. 

The job of the county councillor is to put in regular appearances at all the parish and town council meetings in their patch and Colonel Brierley was a regular attender at Lyme council meetings, giving an update on county matters before the meetings proper got underway.

Invariably, these have been occasions to savour, especially on the press bench, as his reports were also filled with punchy retorts often tinged with humour.

He had many a battle with Derek Hallett, the town’s former dog warden, who was a regular attender at council meetings to raise matters in the public forum session.

They had a long battle over the yellow lines in Lyme Regis, or rather the lack of them.  

Rarely did a meeting pass without Mr Hallett raising the subject and throwing down the challenge to Colonel Brierley to get something done.

The Colonel never lost his temper, though it must have been a close thing at times. And although Mr Hallett might not have always been happy with the answer he got, he never lost respect for his adversary.

Well, let’s be honest, Colonel Brierley commanded 1 Para during the 1970s. Lyme council was never really going to trouble him.

There were many other issues that Colonel Brierley involved himself with in Lyme over the years. He fought tenaciously for the retention of our local library and is still working hard to find a solution to the traffic problems outside the Woodroffe School together with a host of matters that never make the local papers.  

Lyme goes to the polls on May 2nd to choose a successor to Colonel Brierley. 

Whoever wins that election has some big former Army-sized boots to fill.

The day I met Maggie Thatcher 

AS far as I know, Margaret Thatcher never visited Lyme Regis. As a true blue Tory stronghold, I suppose she would have been greeted with enthusiasm for back in those days, as one of the town’s few Labour supporters George Curtis would say: “Put a blue ribbon on a pig and they will vote for it around here.”

But Maggie did come to West Dorset after ousting Ted Heath as Leader of the Conservative Party and before she became Prime Minister.

Sir Jim Spicer (yet to be knighted) was the MP for West Dorset at the time and arranged a visit from the Iron Lady to Beaminster in February 1975 to make a key speech.

At the time I was working as chief reporter for the Bridport News, not hugely interested in politics, and sports editor Roger Bailey (an out and out Tory) and I were assigned to cover the visit.

Roger bought a new matching blue shirt and tie especially for the occasion. Maggie travelled down from London on the train and was greeted by Jim Spicer at Crewkerne station. 

We were introduced to Maggie on the platform and Roger was so overcome that he actually bowed when she shook his hand! I wasn’t so enamoured although she was far more glamorous than her television image.

If I remember correctly, a reception for party workers was held at Beaminster School  before she returned to London. I can’t remember what she spoke about so I Googled it and there it was in its entirety.

Even at such an early stage in her leadership, there were clear signs of “Thatcherism” to come. She promised to make “some dreams come true”.

She did that. But she also ruined a few and we should leave it to history to judge her.


WHEN I first started out as a reporter, many moons ago, dinner dances were all the rage. 

Virtually every organisation in town held one every year and I soon realised that a dinner jacket was an essential item for a reporter’s wardrobe. Ballroom dancing lessons were also on the agenda.

Most of these events in Lyme were held at the Royal Lion Hotel, run in those days by Bob Dunne and his wife before it was taken over by brewers Bass Charrington.

Virtually every Saturday night would see a dinner dance at the Lion and those I remember include functions such as Rotary President’s Night, Masonic Ladies Night, Sailing Club, Operatic Society, Skittles League, Football Club and Chamber of Trade dinners. 

A number of outside organisations also travelled into Lyme for their annual bash, such was the reputation at the Lion. Reporters were usually given two complimentary tickets but it would be necessary to take notes of all the speeches and write a lengthy report. As they say, there is no such thing as a free lunch - and never was.

Few organisations today hold such events and when they do the press is rarely, if ever, invited. And we certainly don't get free tickets.

I was reminded of such occasions on Saturday night when Jackie and I attended the first Royal British Legion dinner for more than 50 years. It was a low-key affair at the Golf Club, efficiently organised by David Humphrey, one of the younger Legion members, and I hope it becomes an annual event once again.