Wednesday, 29 May 2013

No thank you, I’m on a diet

NEVER in the field of human dieting combat has so much liberty been taken by so few to so little effect.

The women in question both tipped the scales at in excess of 20 stone – that’s nearly 130kg – but both were under 30 years... and both were hungry.

We’re told that obesity is one of the single biggest threats facing the NHS and, from what I saw that day, they may be right.

There was an almost desperate discussion of the menu before one left to put their order in at the bar, returning to join her companion in a tense wait for their plates to arrive.

When they did they were piled high with fried food which they gobbled – that is the right word – so quickly that the meal was swiftly reduced to dirty smears on two very big plates.

Perhaps a little sad yet these were actions both women had a perfect right to pursue, but it was the punch line which caught my attention because the final thing they each ordered to go with their meal was... a diet coke!

I have to ask, what was the point? The damage had been done and saving a few dozen calories on their soft drink would not offset the thousands they’d just eaten.

And they’re not alone. I love duck, belly pork, chocolate mousse and home-made apple pie with lashings of cream, it makes me gain weight and I accept that, but I do try to control how often I enjoy such food and I don’t make a habit of such largesse because it’s a treat. 

Make such meals available every day and the attraction wanes and the waistline waxes.

The problem for the NHS isn’t now but in the future when people who don’t watch their weight will almost certainly develop health problems related to that weight gain at huge cost to all our pockets.

Ice cream with a side order of sand 

DENTISTS are entering their busy period of the year in Weymouth as they repair mouthfuls of cavities and chipped teeth.

The damage has been self-inflicted by the early rush of unknowing tourists and unwise residents keen to pretend that the famous English summer is upon us.

So they promenade on the Esplanade, wrapped up warm so they can enjoy their ice-cream or sit down on a bench to consume their sandwiches.

The fact that they regularly get facefulls of sand is just shrugged off until the grinding of teeth on rock eventually yields its inevitable harvest, a visit to the dentist.

Once there the sufferer’s cavities are unbelievably filled with a derivative of the same quick-setting cement which is currently plugging the ferry terminal’s ailing harbour wall although I’m sure this cement hasn’t fallen off the back of  a lorry as a job lot for surgeries.

Anyone who has ever enjoyed an ice or a snack on the seafront should know full well that wind-blown sand often comes as part of the menu. If they didn’t then their gap-toothed grin shows that they do now!

Not worth the risk

WELL hacked off is probably a good way to describe the dog doing its best to sink its teeth into a pedestrian who had paused by the open window of a car.

The dog inside had clearly been given a chance to breath, but it was also taking its defensive duties very seriously indeed.

Every time the man tried to make friends with coaxing noises the dog just bared its teeth all the more and prepared to repel boarders.

It was a loud way of drawing attention to the fact that many dogs will die in coming months, shut inside baking vehicles by owners who couldn’t be bothered to take them away with them.

The RSPCA points out that if its just 22 Centigrade outside then it can still be 47C inside a car and, under the Animal Welfare Act, owners have a legal duty to care for their animal and could be prosecuted if they put it at risk.

So be sensible and either take the dog with you or, in the first place, leave it at home. It’s not worth the risk.

You never know when you might need RNLI

WE’RE well into the fundraising season and a recent plant sale was Weymouth RNLI’s biggest fundraiser of the year.

Dismal weather failed to keep supporters away and the event at Friar Waddon Farm was packed, a worthy – though less dangerous – match for all the times Weymouth’s lifeboats go out in something more challenging than a flat calm.

They are kept going by voluntary contributions and Weymouth is one of the best supported in the country as well as being one of the busiest stations.

You might bear that in mind when you’re tramping a shoreline, taking your boat engine cover off for that first putter of the summer or splashing about in the water as a swimmer, windsurfer or canoeist. 

You never know when you might get a life-saving return on those coins you put into an RNLI collecting box.

Voice of some of the people - not all

I AM the voice of the people. I do not have an opinion but I have been told to take a strong stance on this.

So said Councillor Rikey Austin during yet another emotive debate on the future of the Three Cups at last week’s council meeting.

Err? I don’t think so. “Voice of some of the people” would have been a more appropriate and realistic stance. No one doubts Rikey’s sincerity and passion in representing the views of those who desperately want the Cups returned to its former use as an hotel.

That is not a view I share and I believe there is a significant group in the town who think likewise, so I think it’s a slight exaggeration to claim to be “the voice of the people”.

Rikey has not wavered in her determination to save the Three Cups and, along with others, is to be congratulated for organising protests that eventually brought owners Palmers to the negotiating table after the building had laid derelict for two decades and more.

But it’s stretching the point to incredulity to maintain that she does not have an opinion and is only passing on the views of the townspeople.

Later in the meeting her opinion manifested itself into an impassioned plea for the Three Cups to be saved and returned to hotel status.

She was also the co-author, with Lucy Campbell, of a well thought out report which went before the council and was approved in part.

So Rikey clearly does have an opinion and has been vociferous in  expressing it since the Cups issue has been to the fore, which is her right and which her supporters expect.

The town is pretty well split on whether they want the Cups to be an hotel again or whether they would like to see Palmers given the go ahead for their current plans. 

At one time there was talk of having a town referendum, as happened with the Marine Theatre a few years ago, but that would be expensive and the result would not be binding because the town council does not own the building.

Even if 99 per cent of Lyme’s population voted in favour of the Three Cups being turned back into an hotel, it would still not happen.

Palmers dismissed that possibility some time ago because it would be financially unviable to do so. They have come up with another scheme which will see the frontage of the building protected with a mixture of apartments, houses, holiday lets, retail and a high class restaurant likely to attract celebrity ownership because of the glorious views over Lyme Bay.

Their amended plans along these lines go on view to the public on June 13th.

I believe the council should have waited to see what amendments have been made to their original plans before discussing the report from Councillors Austin and Campbell and after final plans have gone before the town planning committee.

We were left with the bizarre position where some councillors declined to vote for fear of pre-determination and others did not.

Those who did not vote were clearly against some of the proposals but had they done so, the motions would have been defeated. 

So we end up with a position that some decisions on this important issue have been passed by a minority of councillors.

The difficult question of predetermination should have been sorted at officer level before the meeting and the councillors advised accordingly.

The main resolution agreed by all councillors was that the Three Cups be brought back into productive use without further undue delay.  The whole town agrees with that.

Judge this man by his 19 years in office

I WAS both saddened and disappointed to hear that Mallory Hayter had stood down as chairman of Charmouth Parish Council after holding the position for a record 19 years.  It would have been fitting had he continued to complete his 20th year.

Councillor Hayter decided not to seek election at the council’s annual meeting last week following the furore that surrounded the appointment of his son-in-law to works manager which led to the resignation of six councillors and much criticism aimed at the chair. District councillor Jane Bremner has now taken on the role.

The village will now go to the polls on June 11th when eight candidates, including two who resigned - Jane Morrow and Andy Peters - to fill the six vacancies. At a stormy annual parish meeting back in March Councillor Hayter strongly defended his position and advised any parishioners who thought the law had been broken, or the council’s code of conduct breached, to contact the police or West Dorset District Council. To my knowledge, no action is being taken by either authority, which tells its own story.

I don’t intend to get embroiled in the rumpus which has divided the village but what I do know from years of covering Charmouth Parish Council in the past is that Mallory Hayter has acted in an extemporary manner during his years in the chair, always putting Charmouth to the fore.

I have covered council meetings from the smallest Devon village to Tower Hamlets in London when the BNP were on the march and I have never come across a fairer chairman than Councillor Hayter.

I have no doubt that Jane Bremner, an excellent district councillor, will carry out her duties as the new parish chairman with dignity and efficiency,  but we should not dismiss the many years of dedicated service that Mallory Hayter has given to Charmouth.

It is unlikely that his feat of occupying the chair for 19 years will ever be surpassed. His record should be judged on those 19 years, and not tinged by an unfortunate squabble.

Councillor Hayter will continue as a councillor, which is a good thing because his experience would be sorely missed had he decided to stand down completely.

60 SECOND INTERVIEW: Chris Boothroyd

UPLYME resident Chris Boothroyd is originally from Worcestershire but a career in teaching, as well as self-employment in education and commercial website design and management, took him around the UK and to New York. He moved to the area in 1998 to build a home to share with his elderly parents, and has since thrown himself into community life in Lyme Regis, as a member of many local organisations and most notably through his involvement with the recently refurbished Marine Parade shelters, where he now leads volunteers in the Jubilee Pavilion information and welcome point. He has been married to Ann for 49 years and they have two sons living in the North West and two granddaughters. 

HOW did you become involved with the Marine Parade Shelters and Jubilee Pavilion?
By accident! In 2006 I joined the group that helped Lyme Regis Town Council by running the first public consultation on restoring the shelters. Much public engagement, tortuous planning, arduous fundraising and seven years later, it’s still part of my life, now leading the volunteers who staff the Jubilee Pavilion during the season.

WHAT do volunteers in the pavilion do?
We’re a small part of Lyme’s effort to welcome visitors and to help them make the most of their time here. Like everyone involved with the town’s tourism, we want people to return - and to spread the word about how good a place it is, which should encourage a steady flow of new as well as repeat visitors. So we engage people in conversation, provide answers and information, and encourage them to explore (and spend money in!) the nooks and crannies of the town that they might not otherwise find. What we do supports the Tourist Information Centre - we work closely with the professional staff there.

WHAT do you enjoy about working in the Jubilee Pavilion?
It’s a pleasure meeting visitors who are nearly always very positive about Lyme, often comparing it favourably with larger and more high-profile holiday spots. And it’s an equal pleasure co-ordinating the team of over 50 volunteers. They share a love of Lyme and the wish to promote it positively; they’re a cheerful and co-operative bunch who make it easy to keep things running (relatively) smoothly.

HOW would you encourage more volunteers to come forward?
Word-of-mouth is pretty effective - most of the new helpers this season were recruited by existing volunteers. It would be good to have a wider age-range - probably many volunteer-dependent organisations in Lyme would echo that. What I’d love to see here is plenty of senior school students, and people not much older, involved as welcoming “ambassadors” for their town. It’s something we’re trying to work on in the context of the Jubilee Pavilion.

ARE you a member of any other local organisations?
Ann and I are members of Lyme’s Amnesty International group. We’re active with letter-writing and campaigning in support of people around the world who are unjustly imprisoned, and frequently mistreated, because they’ve voiced ideals and beliefs contrary to the wishes of those in power. For several years I was a miller and trustee for the Town Mill, leading its educational work. Creaking bones have brought my milling to an end, but I remain an enthusiast. The Mill is a great place, with so much going on that appeals to many different tastes, literally as well as metaphorically. We’re also members of The Lyme Regis Society, the local U3A, and the Friends of the Museum - splendid organisations that each do a lot for the community and bring fascinating activities and speakers to the town. Turn Lyme Green and Lyme Regis Development Trust are other organisations that we enjoy supporting. Being retired in Lyme is a full-time job!

WHAT do you like about living in Lyme Regis?
What more could you ask for? A perfect balance of harbour and town, wedded to the sea and to entrancing countryside; a small but amazingly energetic and creative community; friendly residents and delighted visitors; a place that looks forward while preserving its inherited values. Importantly, in our experience, “incomers” can quickly be made welcome and to feel part of the place - something that’s often not the case in small towns.

WHAT would you add to or change about the town if you could?
An aerial railway from Holmbush down to the harbour! Seriously, though, there’s plenty of good work going on in an effort to make Lyme an even more pleasant place to live and work, despite those real challenges - shortage of affordable homes, narrow streets, restricted parking and so on - that we all know about. We’d all gain if more responsibility and authority over purely Lyme matters could come back from the district to the town council. And when the town council loosens up, becomes less formal and bureaucratic, more responsive and less inward-looking, more cohesive and focused, that will be even better. (None of those improvements, incidentally, will be one jot assisted merely by the superficial creation of a chairman of the council separate from the mayor.) 

WHICH three guests would you invite to your dream dinner party?
Richard Feynman, the most stimulating natural scientist of the last century; William Shakespeare, the sharpest observer of human nature, ever; and Michael Gove, though I wouldn’t in advance tell the first two about the third! Then I’d try to get Dick and Bill to persuade Michael that education is about learning to do, to notice, to think and to judge - abilities that form the basis of knowledge and understanding. I fear that Michael wouldn’t grasp this, and it might turn into a nightmare dinner, but worth a try.

WHAT three items would you like with you on a deserted island?
Michael Gove, the National Curriculum, and Ofsted - then I’d swim off and leave them there.

Wednesday, 22 May 2013

60 SECOND INTERVIEW: Peter Porteous

PETER Porteous is originally from Dorset but has become a familiar face in Axminster through his involvement with Axminster Job Club. A few years ago, Peter and his wife Prue came here from North Somerset with some of their family. He enjoys country activities and a fine Otter Ale with friends. 

TELL us a bit about yourself.
I  was one of five children and brought up on a smallholding in Dorset. I went to school near Reading where anyone from the West Country was called ‘farmer’. This particular ‘farmer’ joined the Royal Navy, serving in coastal fishery protection vessels and in frigates, transferring to the RN Reserve, as a Minesweeper ‘Jim’ and a patrol craft skipper teaching coastal navigation out of Bristol. I was an HR Manager in BAE Space Division, Filton, and then set up my own technical recruitment and training business.  In 2003 I was called back to Service, took the moths out of my uniform and worked on defence matters relating to people and equipment across the three Services.

HOW did you get into running Axminster Job Club?
In 2009 there was a notice on a pew in our church about Axminster Churches Together wanting to start a job club. It was looking for volunteers so I went along to see what was going on and found myself with the job of job club officer. Although it means getting involved with virtually everything with the club, we are all volunteers operating under our chairman, Liz Lynn, who should take the credit for starting this. 

WHAT made you interested?
When I was at BAE, if work dried up after a satellite was completed for launch, then staff were laid off. It was crazy really but that is what happened, so we put together a job-search training package to help them find work until we took them on again. The Axminster Job Club operates with that package but brought up to date. Also, I knew what losing your job was like because I had previously been made redundant from Plessey in Poole when our children were very young.  

WHAT experience can you bring?
It is about communicating with people and to understand their hopes and fears which we all share. It has also been very encouraging to see some of our visitors themselves volunteering their own services to help others. That is what does it for me. Talking of the volunteers generally, it is really amazing what skill and resourcefulness there is in Axminster, ordinary people we see in the street have something precious to offer.  

WHAT does the job club offer people?
It has become an essential drop-in point if you are looking for work. It offers general ‘soft skill’ support in CV writing, getting going in the market and interviews and there is also the ‘internet-cafĂ©’ part of it. The Axminster Carpets redundancies really made us focus on our core business and we became a networking centre for various training agencies and the Government Job Centre. The Job Club is currently working alongside providers of training in English, Maths, IT and is networked with other organisations as well such as ARC and CAB.

TELL us about the job fair on May 30th.
The idea has been in the back of people’s minds and it was just going to happen when the town council offered the Guildhall for free. Backing has come in a big way from ‘Pulman’s View From Axminster’. The Job Centre in Honiton is dedicating a lot of time bringing in as many employers as they can. At the moment all is going according to plan. It will be a great all-day event and we hope to have job-related things happening such as training course ‘tasters’, a CV clinic and employer-led sessions which we will publicise in the press when we know more.

WHAT do you enjoy most about the job club?
It’s the people we meet and helping them to help themselves. At some level, people tend to know what they want but sometimes need assistance in getting there. It is about keeping people on the ‘front foot’, introducing a degree of realism and offering practical support. 
As volunteers we don’t have all the answers but it can be very rewarding getting someone through a tough situation like job loss.

If £500 could be spent on the local area, what would you like to see improved?
I would give it to a voluntary organisation in Axminster that offers adventurous training for young people. What we need are imaginative volunteer organisations to set up and run active youth groups in the town. The local youth centre is run by the county council and minimally funded. Such organisations are inherently ‘risk-adverse’ in organising much more than kick-about football. Charitable trusts exist out there which offer young people the opportunity to go away for a week and do something challenging like sailing or climbing at minimal cost. A viable model would be for voluntary youth organisations to be assisted by the relevant local authority with the offer of conducting risk assessments on proposed adventurous training plans. But no direct funding please.

Guildhall or the Marine - no contest really!

THERE were two very different events taking place in Lyme Regis last Thursday evening, just 30 metres away from each other.

In the Guildhall the ancient mayor-making ceremony, which has changed very little over the years, was taking place as Sally Holman was installed, somewhat controversially,  for a third year of her second term of office as our First Citizen. 

Just across the way, in the Marine Theatre, Lyme Regis Operatic Society, one of the town’s oldest organisations, were presenting their 78th annual production, “Calamity Jane”.

I chose to attend the latter but don’t read anything into that. I was NOT boycotting the mayor-making, from which 50 per cent of councillors were absent, all for genuine reasons I am sure.

The fact is that as I rarely cover council meetings these days, I have not attended mayor-making for three years.

Over the years I have either proposed or responded to every speech at the reception which follows the installation of mayor, so I felt that it was an occasion which had had its fair share of my opinions. 

Daughter Francesca, who now covers 90 per cent of the council debates, replied to the toast to the press, proposed by new councillor Jill Newton, no stranger to the media world, and I understand both made a good job of it.  

I also felt it would be hypocritical in the extreme of me to have accepted an invitation to speak at mayor-making when a large section of the council (the majority in fact) are fairly ambivalent towards me because of the criticism aimed at them from time to time in this column.

That comes with the territory and I have no one to blame other than myself. 

There was much talk in the town before the mayor-making about a group of councillors, who did not support Sally Holman being given a third year in the mayoral chair, boycotting the occasion.

And whilst seven members of the council did not attend, five of those tendered their apologies due to illness and holidays. I do think it was a shame that the council’s two most influential and high profile councillors, Strategy and Policy Committee chairman Mark Gage and his vice-chairman Lucy Campbell, were not present at one of the highlights of the council calendar, without offering apologies, but I am sure they had their reasons.

In past years any animosity between members - and believe me it is not as bad now as it was when I first started covering the council in the late 1960s - has been put aside for the mayor-making ceremony. It’s all about honouring the position of mayor and not necessarily the person being installed.

Sally Holman agreed, somewhat reluctantly I have to say, to allow her name to go forward for a third year because there is such a split in the council ranks and she fully appreciated that some flak would come her way if successful.

Some council members believe that the split is in my imagination - but believe me it exists - and they know it.

Whilst it is customary for one person to be given a two-year term as mayor, there have been a number of examples in the past when councillors have served for three successive years.

Mark Gage has been open and honest in expressing his views at the last town meeting that he would prefer a system whereby the role of mayor and council chairman is separated. He believes it will improve the efficiency of the council, allowing the mayor to handle all the ceremonial duties whilst the chairman (or leader) can concentrate on running the day-to-day affairs of the council.

If Mark is re-elected as Strategy and Policy chairman this evening (and I hear there could well be a challenge), I expect him to put forward such a proposal before the end of the current council’s life span (2015).

The lack of half the council, I understand, had no real detrimental effect on the enjoyment of mayor-making and I hear the social gathering at the football club after the ceremony was a happy occasion.

Meanwhile, across the way, those attending the third night of “Calamity Jane”, virtually a sell-out audience, were praising the talent on the Marine Theatre stage.

I’ve been covering amateur drama and musical shows for not far off 50 years and was once told by a leading local performer that I did not know the difference between a conductor’s batten and an elephant’s backside (though he did not use the word backside!).

But I can say without fear of contradiction that “Calamity Jane” was one of the most entertaining amateur productions I have seen - and there were many in the Marine on Thursday night who agreed, if the response of the audience was any indication.

Mayor-making versus “Calamity Jane”? There was no contest.

Fresh thinking on traffic issue

AN interesting debate at the council’s Planning and Highway Committee last week on what to do about Lyme’s escalating traffic problems. Two buses getting stuck in Church Street is now almost a daily occurrence - it happened again yesterday (Tuesday). 

Newcomer Jill Newton did her best to inject some fresh thinking into this thorny problem. I have no idea whether her idea of a third set of traffic lights outside the London Inn working in tandem with those at Long Entry will work but the big challenge will be to get such a project on the county council’s priority funding list.

I can see that new county councillor Daryl Turner is going to get a real baptism of fire over this issue - but knowing Daryl he will be ready for the onslaught.

Terry O’Grady got it just about right when he said nothing will happen until someone is seriously hurt in Church Street and his idea of hatched yellow boxes is one also worth further consideration.

Whilst on the subject of the county council, congratulations to Daryl who at his first meeting at County Hall was elected chairman of the Licensing and Registration Committee and vice-chairman of Roads and Rights of Way Committee. Rarely has a newly-elected member been given such responsibility so early in his county career. 

Lyme should be mighty proud of him.

A deal too good to be true?

FORGIVE me for asking, but aren’t we supposed to be in the middle of one of the worst economic crises this country has ever seen?

Why, therefore, are a number of shops in Weymouth producing pricing offers which are patently not worth it?

A wonderful example was a national outlet offering one book for £4.99 “or two for £10”!

Do these people think so little of our mathematical prowess that they believe we can’t multiply £4.99 by two and come up with £9.98, thereby proving it is cheaper to buy the two books singly than together for £10?

It may only be two pence but the same casual approach exists in many places including one supermarket which clearly believes its customers can’t or won’t read the small print.

On the face of it their offer for a box containing a dozen tins of catfood seemed a good one... until you read the small print. Then you discovered that not only were you about to save on cash but on catfood as well because the tins in the box were 15 per cent smaller than those on the shelf!

Yes, it is hard times for shops and traders but treating customers as if they don’t have a brain isn’t helping their cause.

Road users beware... 
tourist season is upon us

WE appear to be on the brink of the tourist season if one recent driver using the King Street-Commercial Road lights in Weymouth is anything to go by.

Unable to make their mind up about which lane they wanted or should be in, they quite simply solved the problem by parking at 45 degrees across two lanes, partially blocking traffic trying to enter King Street and forcing those heading for Commercial Road to back off several yards to give them space to turn when the lights changed.

Other recent antics from visiting drivers were the couple on the seafront who dutifully stopped for pedestrian traffic lights... but then spread out a map to check where they were. 

It took several horn blows from fuming drivers behind them to get them to move on.

A couple of other incidents involved families in cars heading along by the side of Radipole Lake doing 30mph in a 50mph limit, cars backed up behind them while passengers excitedly pointed out the fact that they could see birds on the RSPB reserve!

These are only the advance guard. 

Within a few weeks we’ll be hip deep in such challenges, so now is a good time to work out which part of the country you’re going to on holiday so residents elsewhere can share the pain.

Will need to jump in the DeLorean to park outside house

NOT one person bothered to renew their resident’s parking permit for a densely populated area of Weymouth.

Properties there have no drives and certainly no front gardens large enough to be cleared for a parking space, so the council were probably mystified why residents were ignoring this lifeline chance for them to park on the road outside their homes.

The annual permit was pretty good value for money, it explained that the recipient would be given a scratchcard valid for use on a certain number of days and it explained how long the periods involved lasted for such as from April-July.

So why were so many residents not bothering to take up the renewal?

One resident provided the answer for me and said: “Only the council could ask us to renew our annual parking permits but send us out a form which was largely for 2012!”

I know council coffers are empty but surely to God they are not so desperate that they have to recycle old stationery?!

Parents can be such spoil sports

BOTH children were so excited that they were practically jumping up and down on the spot because they were on holiday, on a ship and its swimming pool had a wave machine!

The water rolled slowly and majestically in the pool and the children could hardly wait to get the go ahead from their parents to plunge in and enjoy it.

Strangely their parents from Weymouth were somewhat less keen. In fact they were completely, totally and utterly against the idea, not because they were spoilsports but because they feared for the children’s lives.

This was because the swimming pool didn’t have a wave machine, it was because the ship was out in the Bay of Biscay and it was because the weather was, shall we say, inclement!

The enticing waves in the swimming pool were being caused by the rolling of the ship in gale force conditions, but naturally all this was lost on the children who were still convinced they were being deprived of some good fun. 

Ah kids, don’t just you love ‘em?

Wednesday, 15 May 2013

A lot of votes wasted 

MUCH has been made in recent days about the county council election backlash against the Conservatives and Liberal Democrats, about the UK Independence Party’s stunning performance and about the resurgence of Labour in Weymouth and Portland.

But this backlash also has a different side to it as those attending the recent county election count in Weymouth Pavilion Ocean Room found out.

Council staff sorting through boxes of votes had to discard voting paper after voting paper and not all because of confused residents voting twice and other simple errors.

Observers felt that many spoiled papers were down to a wider backlash against all things political.

Papers had to be discarded for rants scrawled across them, for crosses put by all the candidates, for bitter remarks that the voter was voting for “none of the below” and many similar general protest reasons.

Two prime examples – one successfully making their point and the other failing miserably – involved a voting paper where the resident was clearly frustrated that their support for UKIP couldn’t translate into voting for them because the resident’s county division had no UKIP candidate... so they altered their voting form, created a new voting slot at the top of their form, marked it “UKIP” and then voted for them! It was rejected.

By contrast, another voter scrawled a single giant cross right over every candidate on his voting paper. On the face of it his vote was invalidated, but election rules are election rules and the intersection of their “cross” met in the middle of one candidate who was duly awarded that vote whether the resident had wanted it that way or not. Didn’t do the candidate any good. They still lost!

Whatever the discard reason, I reckon there were scores of wasted votes on the night.

Eternal pain awaits hackers... if only

MAY eternal toothache stab their every waking moment, may their hair drop out and may a place in Hell lined with cockroaches and the memoirs of Julian Clary be specially reserved for them.

I speak, of course, of the piece of offal from Turkey who hacked my email twice in one morning and used its information to send out 81 emails in my name.

A cold and detached response would be that my computer was only out of action for a few hours while an expert cleaned it and installed even more safeguards and a new password, but I don’t want to be cold and detached.

I want to hurt, I want to maim and rail and I want to make expansive arm gestures while calling on the Gods to supply all the hacker’s details to the Turkish Inland Revenue.

It would do no good but it would take away from me this furious frustration that I can’t get my hands round their neck.

My expert did mollify me a bit, saying he could solve any future hack just as easily, but that’s not the point.

It’s the gross invasion of privacy, the fact that for an entire morning loads of my contacts got emails which weren’t from me and the knowledge that, given enough effort and computer power, there is nothing anyone can really do to totally stop a hacker.

I’m now told there are many thousands like me both in this country and in New Zealand – including numerous computer users in Weymouth — whose BT-Yahoo connection has twice been victim of a hacking spike in the last two months from hackers in Turkey and Russia, so watch out.

Swans had better get to Weight Watchers

I HAVE come to the conclusion that swans are getting fatter in Weymouth.

It may just be an illusion but these gigantic birds do seem to be flying lower and lower.

Perhaps it’s the first flush of spring growth or perhaps particularly rich food offerings from pedestrians near Radipole Lake. Whatever the reason, swans seems to be having more and more trouble keeping themselves in the air.

The result is that a casual walk becomes a bit like a warfilm scene where the hero dives for cover from a fighter plane’s strafing run.

You can be going along enjoying a walk when a sort of laboured wheezing noise slowly gets closer and closer followed by one swan, sometimes several, flogging themselves through the air over your head.

One lot the other day came over me just above roof top level, necks straight out, straining to get through the air and creating quite a spectacular sight, but I really think they need to consider going to Weight Watchers.

Us humans are going to have to regulate how much food we offer them because many more beakfulls of rich weed or rich tea biscuits and swans will be down to pavement level with pedestrians hurling themselves to the ground to avoid white squadrons struggling to stay airborne.

And it has all just proved too much for one swan. Driving over the aply named Swannery Bridge I joined traffic which had to swerve round a huge bird which was waddling slowly along. At least it was in the inside lane, the right one for a left turn to get back to the lake.


COLIN Stone is a 49-year-old technical author specialising in aircraft maintenance and repair manuals. He is born and bred on Portland, married, and has four children and six grandchildren. His hobbies include swimming, snorkelling, spearfishing and keeping fit and he is a keen supporter of Arsenal FC who loves all sports.

WHY do you live on Portland?
I couldn’t imagine living anywhere else. The coastline is fantastic, islanders are great and Portland has a lovely community feeling even though there are not as many born and bred Portlanders here as there used to be.

WHERE do you go for your holidays?
We usually stay in the UK although we do go quite a bit to Tenerife. We also have a beach hut out at Portland Bill which we love going to.

WHAT is your favourite time of the year?
The summer, definitely the summer. It is all related to being outside. We like pop festivals, we have a camper van and love to go to events in it. If you could guarantee the sunshine I’d never leave Portland!

WHAT is your favourite film?
Probably Pulp Fiction. I like the Quentin Tarantino style and Pulp Fiction and the Kill Bill series are favourites of mine but I do like a good thriller, the Bond films, that sort of thing.

WHAT is the scariest thing that has ever happened to you?
The only thing I have ever felt that scared about it was like my stomach had dropped out was when I was on a beach on Tenerife and I lost sight of Shani. Someone had walked between me and where she was playing, suddenly I couldn’t see her and I panicked. It was only seconds but it has always stuck with me.

IF YOU could live your life again what would you be?
I would try to find a career with a much more outdoors emphasis, something where I could share my love of Portland such as a tour guide or teaching outdoor pursuits.

WHICH three people would you invite to your dream dinner party?
My first would be Bruce Willis because I quite fancy having a beer with him. Also it would be good to have a laugh with comedian Paul Whitehouse while, for female company, I would choose Kate Moss because she is an iconic figure who looks as good now as she did years ago.

WHAT would you do if you won the Lottery?
I would definitely stay on Portland but I would use my winnings to pay off whatever house we wanted on the island. I love cars but, if money were no object, I would love a completely restored old-style split-screen Volkswagen camper van. I might also buy a Ford Mustang because I like sports cars.

WHAT do you hope the future holds?
The main thing I want for the future is health, happiness and success for my family.

Wednesday, 8 May 2013

Dog ownership at its worst

WELL spring has sprung with leaves hanging from branches, flowers hanging from their stalks... and bags of dog mess hanging in undergrowth.

I don’t know whether it is the sudden flush of green in hedgerows which draws the eye to these prime examples of dog ownership at its worst.

Whatever the reason, it destroys some of the pleasure on the walk down Lorton Lane towards the nature reserve and there can be no excuses.

All the bags we saw hanging in brambles or scrub were less than 100 metres from a waste bin prominently signed as being suitable for bagged dog waste.

On the sunny day we were out (yes, there are still sunny days) we met or saw dozens of dogs and their owners, so the area is clearly a hotspot for walking pets.

Unfortunately it has also become a hotspot for those dog owners too exhausted to carry a small bag a short distance, people who feel that slinging it away somehow absolves them from responsibility.

What do they think happens next? Does the tooth fairy somehow come out as darkness falls and clean up after them? No, the bags will just stay there until they and complaints collect in such quantity that the council will be forced to act.

That leaves the rest of us forced to fume at the unsavoury antics of the few.

Pedestrians’ puddle problem

USING paviors to cover large sections of Weymouth town centre is a good idea up to a point.

For some time now pedestrians have walked on this new surface which does allow any utility work to be carried out by simply lifting a few blocks, doing the work and then relaying them which has to be better than unsightly patches all over the place.

However, there are drawbacks to paviors which are invisible for most of the time until it rains.

Then pedestrians have an almost impossible task picking their way through puddles in surface dips presumably caused by heavy vehicles forcing the paviors down.

The other weekend was a classic with heavy rain leading to puddles on almost every pavement right through the town centre.

It was impossible to walk in a straight line as pedestrians were forced to weave in and out of numerous pools of water.

The problem for the authorities is that unless they go out and mark the worst points when it’s wet then they can’t find them when it’s dry and they might be planning to deal with them.

It is certainly work which needs doing unless we are going to be granted a heatwave summer... and I wouldn’t bet on that.

Weymouth is still Weymouth

CONDOR is due to resume ferry sailings from Weymouth in July, so it will be interesting to see whether their request for council work to help smooth their flow of vehicles bears any fruit.

For those of you with memories long enough to recall when Condor last operated in town, the language of drivers snarled up on the seafront needed no interpretations, although I wasn’t aware Weymouth had so many people without fathers.

Since then a lot has happened with new harbour wall this, new harbour building that and new harbour facilities the other. What hasn’t changed is that Weymouth is still Weymouth.

That means the capacity to shoot itself in the foot can never be underestimated and you have to ask yourself the question, even if alterations are made to help ferry traffic, how is it going to cope with the town’s new traffic system?

Strangely enough, there may be fewer potential problems than might first appear because the King Street-Swannery lights heavily favour traffic travelling from the seafront.

So, shall we all hold our breath. Less than ten weeks until Condor sailings start and we find out if it’s unlock or gridlock.

Mysterious castle missing from map

A WEYMOUTH man went on holiday to Scotland and began to sample its spectacular walking and scenery.

He enjoyed a number of rewarding days but one of the highlights came when he walked over the brow of a hill to see the ruins of a castle stunningly laid out before him.

It took his breath away and, wondering what the castle was called, he consulted his large scale map.

Several minutes passed and he could neither find the name nor any indication on the map that a castle even existed there.

Confused, he asked his local companion about the ruin and, with a smile, was told to walk down the hill a bit.

When he’d done so he could finally see all the scaffolding. 

The castle had been constructed for a film and there was nothing behind the facade except metal poles and air!