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.

Drivers still putting lives at risk

THEY know it’s illegal, they know it can cause accidents or even kill people but drivers continue to use hand-held mobile phones while travelling at speed.

Two incidents recently underlined the stupidity of this to me.

The first on a motorway saw the driver in the lane next to us holding the wheel with his left hand while talking into a phone he held in his right hand. His mind was clearly on the call because his car drifted over towards us and if I hadn’t swerved into a fortunately empty outside lane he’d have hit us.

The second incident in Weymouth was at half the speed but involved twice the size of vehicle, a large van driven by a man who felt driving while phoning was perfectly acceptable even if he was crowding other road users.

Tragically there have already been several recorded incidents this year where people have died because of the selfish criminality of some driver lacking the intelligence to either drive or make a phone call but not do both at the same time while moving.

Hopefully police arrest a few more of them to drive home a message which should be self-evident.

Here’s to another 30 years of wedded bliss

WELL, another landmark has passed in my life, our pearl wedding anniversary celebrating thirty years of married life together.

Breakfast television started the year we tied the knot in 1983 and it doesn’t seem possible that three decades have passed since then.

Weymouth didn’t show itself in the best light when I first visited the town on a rain-swept blustery day in 1980 and I certainly wouldn’t have believed then that barely three years later I’d be married and setting up home.

But our anniversary pales into insignificance when compared to my parents who were married for nearly 70 years and others who crop up from time to time for being married even longer.

If I find it difficult to look back and realize just how much has happened in 30 years then imagine trying to do the same for more than twice that period, say back to when the Second World War was still being fought.

As a journalist I have lost count of the number of golden and diamond wedding couples I have interviewed and almost all of them will say at some stage that the secret to a long and happy married life is “give and take”.

I’d agree with that. You are bound to have disagreements but so often they tend to be about trivial things.

So with 30 years on the clock I’m now getting ready for our ruby, golden and diamond anniversaries.

What’s that dear? Can I empty the compost bin? In a minute dear, just doing a bit of writing. All right! I’ll do it now! Best wishes to all celebrating an anniversary

What will they think of next?

No sooner do I get used to digital television and peering at my hand control to work out what number I’ve got to key in for what channel than I’m told the whole thing is “strictly yesterday darling”.

On the horizon to replace it is apparently a new generation of televisions geared to your eye movement.

These systems read your eye movement to change channels for you without the viewer having to so much as lift a finger.

They also execute a whole range of other functions although whether anyone with a chronic eye twitch or just withdrawal symptoms from the night before can rely on equally impressive service has yet to be revealed.

I suppose that before we’ve come to terms with that advance it will be overtaken by media which works on thought waves. 

Coming to a sitting room wall near you!

Are you local?

THEY’D read about the Weymouth pub being a haven for real ale and were determined to try it.

So they made their plans and one day pitched up at the doors of this pub, being suitably impressed with its décor, with the range of real ales on offer and with the impressive atmosphere and cleanliness of the place.

But they were left somewhat startled when, with no order being made, the barmaid smiled and promptly poured them two pints of cider which they hadn’t asked for and didn’t want.

Could this be some sort of quaint local custom they hadn’t come across before?

No, this was a simple case of mistaken identity with the barmaid pouring two pints for a couple of regulars who apparently looked quite like the bemused visitors.

No record exists of what the visitors then went on to order by way of real ales while the regulars are apparently keeping a low profile in case they get charged with impersonating a valued customer!