Wednesday, 10 December 2014

BID badly bothered

WEYMOUTH Business Infighting District (BID) has recently been going through some acrimonious times.

Anyone at its recent annual meeting was left in no doubt that there was ‘trouble at t’mill’ with the BID’s leading violinists getting a lot of ‘oompah’ from the rank and file wind section.

Each side loudly proclaimed that it was only interested in what was best for Weymouth yet both succeeded in portraying what was worst for Weymouth, namely a clear impression of stark divisions within the business community.

Equally clear was that both sides have some good ideas but have gone about the whole process of trying to put things right in the most damaging way they possibly could.

The BID board’s record for communication with its levy members has been, how shall I put it, ‘sparse’ and members were right to berate directors about it.

But both joint chairmen have resigned and there is a feeling among other directors that they are being pilloried for trying to do their best for the business community.

Against that is many levy payers’ feeling that they have been ‘short changed’ by BID benefits they feel don’t stack up to what they have had to pay.

At the moment there appears to be a lull – at least until any threats materialise of calling an extraordinary general meeting in the New Year.

If that does happen then more directors who have put a lot of work into the BID might be ousted to be replaced by... whom?

Someone has to run the BID unless opponents are so hacked off they want the whole thing wound up.

And if levy payers do want the BID to continue, then who is going literally to step up to the Board?

One of the comments made at the annual meeting didn’t get much air time and it was this.
Dorchester was widely praised for its very successful BID, yet it had the sort of bitter start very similar to what Weymouth is experiencing.

The thrust of the comment was that there were teething problems but things got better. 

Perhaps all those involved might take notice of that.

Happier ignorant

NOTHING is certain except death and taxes, said Benjamin Franklin, but government capacity to rub salt in that open taxation wound comes close to being a third certainty.

All of us are getting a natty little document through our letterboxes explaining what the tax money we have to pay is being spent on.

This is either bravery on the government’s part or rank stupidity... My vote goes for stupidity.

Bad enough that we should have money taken away from us for some less than popular purposes but far worse, for the government, to spell out what that money is being splurged on.

I now know that two percent of my tax is being thrown at overseas aid and that oh so deserving UK contribution to the EU budget.

That alone was enough to get blood pressure rising and it was stoked by another revelation that 2.1 percent of my tax money is being spent on... ‘government administration’! Not the sharpest knife in the block at the best of times.

The final bitter pill to swallow came with the news that a monumental seven percent – or roughly £1 in every £14 of my taxation money is being spent on... paying off the interest on the national debt!

Given politicians’ abject incompetence when it comes to almost any form of finance then I’d like to add a suggestion for the fourth certainty in life, namely that it will get worse before it gets better and it might not even be that good!

Don’t mess about with our traditions!

IS nothing sufficiently sacred about Christmas that it can’t be changed by some ‘progressive’ person looking to make a modern point?

I speak of the news that modern nativity plays are being ‘tweaked’ to include a few famous personas... such as Wayne Rooney!

Now the last time I looked, Rooney may be a saint to United fans but he has been guilty of some very un-saintly behaviour in the past.

However, it is the season of good will to all men, so how might a modern nativity play be rewritten to include him?

Well Bethlehem is out for a start. I suppose the star descending in the east over Old Trafford might catch on, perhaps swapping the inn for no room in the Stretford End.

And for three kings we might have worshippers in the stable adopting a 4-3-3 formation with Joseph and Mary written out in favour of Van Gaal and Giggs although Giggsie would have to be in drag.

That leaves Wayne to play baby Jesus which, with his wispy hair, shouldn’t be too much of a problem while in place of gold, frankincense and myrrh we could have a new five-year contract at £300,000+ a week and three A-boards to display sponsors names.

Yes, I think the idea is beginning to grow on me. After all, so many of the true values of Christmas have been dumped, why not this one?

That just leaves the three shepherds to sort out, unless Lineker, Shearer and Savage? While the role of God should be easy to fill. Just quietly slip Sepp Blatter a few quid and problem solved!

Personally I think the original nativity concept is the only one which matters.

60 SECOND INTERVIEW: Tracey West & Teresa Fowler

THIS week’s joint 60 Second interviewees are Tracey West and Teresa Fowler, from Uplyme and Lyme Regis respectively. Tracey, who previously worked in the care industry, and Teresa, a florist who will be marking the 18th anniversary of her well-established Lyme business House of Flowers this month, have recently paired up to launch Feel Fabulous, a new beauty business offering a vast range of treatments.

HOW did you both get into beautician work?
Teresa:  I have always loved everything “nails” and always done my own and friends and family, so thought I would train professionally (we both have). I love the fact that the design aspect and trends with nails keeps changing, similar to with flowers, so I can be creative with them and try new ideas. We work as a team together but separately.
Tracey: I have always worked in the care environment and beauty is something I've always wanted to do. It gives me great satisfaction. I also sell Tropic Skin Care products and offer mobile treatments too. We do pamper parties together which is good fun. 

WHAT made you decide to go into business together as Feel Fabulous?
We started training at the same time a couple of years ago without knowing it, it was quite funny when we mentioned it to each other! We were already friends and this was just the right thing to do. We both provide different treatments and believe in natural and kind products and together we are Feel Fabulous. We both thought it was a great name for nail and beauty and Tasmin. Teresa’s daughter, made us the logo.

WHAT treatments do you offer?
Well, that's a very long list but most popular are the massages, facials, threading, waxing, spray tans, lash and brow tints, lash lift and lash extensions, nail extensions and enhancements, the long-lasting gel polish, nail art, parafin manicures and pedicures!  A full list of treatments as well as loyalty cards and gift vouchers are available at House of Flowers in Broad Street. Skin and nail health is something that needs to be maintained and we give you all the advise tips and info you need .

WHAT’S been the reaction of customers so far?
It's been great! They love coming here, they say it's "handy"! The reaction has been very positive and supportive and they love that we are doing it. We are becoming popular with both locals and visitors, and people are taking the time to leave great reviews so we are very grateful.

HOW does Feel Fabulous tie in with Teresa's existing business at House of Flowers?
Teresa:  Perfectly! I have a nail bar in the shop and it's a lovely setting to sit and have your nails done surrounded by the scent and vibrancy of the flowers.  Both nails and flowers are both very creative professions and the two go together "hand in hand"! I get inspiration from floral designs and have had some lovely feedback. I keep up to date with all the latest trends with both. It's house of flowers 18th anniversary this month, I can't believe I set it up 18 years ago!
Tracey: It's a convenient drop-in place to make appointments and pick up a price list. I also sell Tropic Skin Care which you can order and collect from there, or you order via our Facebook page “Feel Fabulous”.

DO you have any plans to expand further?
Yes, there’s much more in the pipeline.  We are always adding new treatments, you can never stop learning, especially as it's a forever-changing service.
Tracey: I’ve just started offering lash extensions.
Teresa: I can convert your ordinary nail polish into a gel. We have both have regular clients and acquiring a good reputation is what we are concentrating on.  We do have access to beauty rooms locally but also offer mobile services.  We are both fully qualified and insured.

HAVE you any special offers in the run up to Christmas?
We both have had special offers on already and always probably will.   
Teresa: I have been offering the paraffin mani and pedi as it's ideal for this time of year. It's good for dry skin, stiff joints, soothing pain from arthritis, improves circulation, cleansing relaxing and stimulating. In fact, I did this on a recent pamper evening and sent everyone to sleep! 
Tracey:  I have been offering spray tans and lash extensions They make such a difference and ideal for all the Christmas parties. Christmas bookings are already getting busy but we will both be doing some January special offers too so if you're stuck for a present a voucher would be a good idea! We have offers displayed in the shop and on our Facebook page where we regularly run competitions and display photos of our work.

WHAT are your personal interests?
Teresa: I love spending time with family which means regular weekends in London to see my daughter who is at uni studying graphic design and my son is doing an apprenticeship as a joiner, they are both very creative.  I regularly visit relatives and love walking my dog Poppy, there's so many different walks here.
Tracey: I have two young boys that keep me active, Charlie attends Mrs Ethelston's and William is waiting to start pre-school. I enjoy running, spinning and socialising with friends! 

WHAT do you like about living in Uplyme and Lyme Regis?
For a small town we've got it all, including a cinema and great local shops! We must all continue to support everything we've got.  We don't like the empty houses as it's not good for the economy so rent them out and get them lived in! We love the summers and swimming in the sea, the sandy beaches, lovely walks and we also like the winters here! It’s such a great place to live. 

Tuesday, 9 December 2014

Community spirit shines in Axminster

MANY of our readers in Axminster would have been thrilled to read last week that the town’s Flamingo Pool won its bid for a share of the Big Lottery Fund’s ‘People’s Millions’ to go towards their aqua gym project.

But what we didn’t know at the time was how many telephone votes the Axminster project actually received.

Flamingo Pool manager Steve Buxton called Pulman’s View last week to tell us that out of the 114 local community projects up for the People’s Millions vote across the country - the aqua gym finished in third place overall! The project pulled in a staggering 13,781 votes. 

The gym was up against a project to create a sensory garden at a nursing home specialising in dementia near Truro, which managed just 2,511 votes in comparison.

It just goes to show what the local community can do when it pulls together, which I’m sure will boost the hopes of those campaigning to save key servicces in our area, whether it be libraries or in-patient beds at our local hospitals.

And, making a good news story even better, the sensory garden project in Cornwall didn’t miss out - the Mountford Makeover was given its £50,000 as a bonus award.                 

James Coles

Wednesday, 3 December 2014

60 SECOND INTERVIEW: Sam Wilberforce

RETIRED physics teacher Sam Wilberforce first moved to the area in the mid-1990s with his wife of 36 years, Sarah, and has recently been appointed chairman of the Transition Town Bridport group.

Mr Wilberforce is currently studying for an MSc in the Green Economy at Bournemouth University and hopes to help the organisation to continue its work finding local solutions to global environmental and sustainability problems.

Both avid walkers and fans of the West Dorset countryside, Sam and Sarah have two grown-up children – one a teacher in Brighton and the other a singer and conductor in London and Manchester.

WHAT brought you to Bridport?
We came here about 20 years ago to stay with a friend in Loders, and fell in love with the place. We had a weekend cottage in Netherbury and then moved to the Bride Valley nine years ago.

WHAT do you like about the area?
I am a keen walker and the scenery here is fantastic. I can walk from my front door in any direction and experience a different scenery. I like the people around here too - there is a straightforwardness and unfussiness that I love. I like the lively arts scene and the varied culture of Bridport, and the small businesses and shops. We have resisted the sameness that you find in most towns in Britain.

IF you could improve one thing about the area, what would it be?
I would encourage less use of supermarkets, and do more to boost our great local shops. We also need more opportunities for young people to gain skills and work in Bridport, rather than moving elsewhere.

HOW did you first come to be involved with the TTB group?
I have been interested in the environment for most of my life, and became convinced that our climate is going to destroy the civilised world we know, with droughts in many parts of the world and intense weather events destabilising many countries. I ran an ecology club at my school, but became increasingly depressed that few of my colleagues, let alone pupils and their parents, saw this as a problem. The Transition Movement, which has grown up in thousands of locations around the world, sees things in a more positive light. What sort of future do we want, and how can we achieve it? 

CAN you explain what the Transition Town movement is and what the Bridport group does?
It is a local solution to a global problem – oil has peaked, and will become increasing expensive; gas will peak in perhaps 20 years, even if we go down the fracking route. And the remainder of the fuel – 60-80 per cent of known reserves – will have to be left in the ground if we are to avoid a 4°C rise in global temperature.  If we can regenerate local economies, grow our own food, teach our youngsters new skills, and become less reliant on imported goods, food and energy, then we will have a resilient and sustainable Bridport. I want to live in a town in 20 years where all generations and classes of people have a stake in the community.

WHAT achievements are you most proud of since joining the group?
Open Ecohomes was such a successful event that I am surprised nobody thought of doing it before. Bridport is packed with pioneers, and those who have changed their lives to live a sustainable future are models for all of us.  The different solutions to reducing energy and use of resources combine into a body of practical knowledge, which people are happy to share. 

ARE there any current projects you would like to tell us about?
Apart from the skills sharing and ‘draughtbusters’ projects we have launched, the food part of the HOME in Bridport outreach project is doing really well. We have put up a polytunnel at St Mary’s Primary School in Skilling, and built a cob pizza oven for parents and teachers at the school. We are employing gardeners for the school allotment, running cookery courses for young parents at the children’s centre, and teaching St Mary’s parents and their children to cook from scratch. The idea is to show people how to eat good food on a budget by cooking from raw ingredients, avoiding ready cooked meals from supermarkets, and also to learn to grow your own. 

WHAT simple changes can readers make to their lives to live more sustainably?
Turn down the heating, wear a vest in winter, buy local and invest in your local economy, don’t buy too many imported goods, grow your own food if you can.

DO you have any life lessons that you stick to?
I was brought up in a home with the strong presence of my great great great grandfather, William Wilberforce, the MP who worked with others to abolish the slave trade. If he was alive today, what would he consider the major moral issue? He would probably be working to stop modern day slavery, trafficking and child labour. But I think he would also be concerned with our disregard of the rights of future generations, and the harm we cause by our unsustainable way of life. People in Britain in the 18th century were not wicked people, but slavery was happening far away and didn’t seem to concern everyday life here. Yet we profited enormously from the plantations and the slave trade. Wilberforce faced arguments that the economy would collapse if we freed the slaves, and had to fight against people who justified slavery, people with a vested interest in the plantations. People who say that climate change is not real, or that we can’t prevent it are making the same sort of excuses that people said about slavery. We can tackle climate change if we use the next 20 years to build up a green economy and a sustainable infrastructure based on renewable energy and better efficiency. I believe my ancestor would be part of the fight to protect future generations.

Courtesy goes wrong on the bus

MANNERS should be a crucial and welcome part of our lives, but all too often they get people into trouble.

Drivers who force their way through by inconveniencing others, people who queue jump in shops, those who play loud music without thought for others are just a few examples of selfish behaviour we have probably all met at some time.

But you don’t expect to draw wrath down on you when you are actually trying to be polite, to be kind and to display good manners.

So it was with an elderly man who gave his seat up for a woman on a Weymouth bus.

He was smiling as he rose and gestured for her to take his place, saying her need as a pregnant woman outweighed his need as an elderly person and, in any case, he was getting off in a few stops time.

The polite pensioner soon wished he could get off immediately as he was given a mouthful by the woman... who it turned out wasn’t pregnant just very obese! 

The joy of that bolshy bird, the robin

WINTER and Christmas mean different things to different people, but one of the iconic symbols of this period for me is the robin.

Its red breast, lovely song and cheerful perky movements all combine to lift spirits, but don’t be completely sucked in because the robin is one of the most aggressive members of the entire bird world for defending its territory.

That red breast is a warning to intruders that this spot is taken and, if they don’t take the hint, then fights can develop which have been known to be to the death.

Not quite so fluffy and cuddly now are they, but I still really enjoy their presence in our garden during the autumn where they forage over ground I have turned, during the winter when their antics brighten the day up and in the spring when their liquid song is a lovely herald for awakening life.

Spirit of Christmas presents

NOW you really do have problems! Only three more shopping weeks until Christmas!! There are still no general signs of panic, but a few shoppers are starting to develop a twitch if they have to walk past more than three festive windows.

Which gift do they choose? Will granddad really appreciate Gothic Ghoul’s new album Tales from the Mortuary and is buying mum an apron with ‘Your Place is Here’ emblazoned on it a hilarious gift idea or an invitation to “cook your own damn Christmas dinner!”

Christmas decorations have been out for weeks and they pose a real threat to shoppers as they try to weave their way through displays without snagging santas,  or shiny ornaments on their clothing. I’ve already seen one Christmas tree display demolished.

If you don’t like the Christmas rush then you’ve only got yourself to blame if you haven’t bought one or two presents during the year.

It really does take a bit of the sting out of the festive shopping fun such as having your foot trodden on in the chocolates section by overweight enthusiasts who shouldn’t be buying chocolate anyway. What do you mean, it’s a present. Who are you kidding?!

Finally there is the booze. A bottle of dry sherry for granny, some of that dark rum for Uncle George, some fancy cream liquer for Chelsea and a few cases of beer for Wayne. In your dreams.

If that’s all people bought things wouldn’t be too bad but I’ve seen families pushing not one but two trolleys loaded with alcohol which tipped the till at more than £400. Good God! You’d need a year to drink that lot by which time they’ll be doing it all again.

Do try and keep it simple. Buy only what you might need and, if you do over order, remember that my drinks cabinet door is always open to help you get rid of it. 

Just offering the true spirit of Christmas.

Driving me mad!

WHAT is it about people who own big cars that they seem to feel that normal parking courtesies don’t apply to them?

You can see it everywhere you go and one of its main hallmarks is that big car owners don’t think their parking through.

So when they approach parking in any walled or enclosed area they never reverse right to the back of their chosen space but stop short to avoid damaging the rear of their expensive vehicle.

But they completely miss, or choose to ignore the fact that this approach leaves the front two feet of their car sticking out into the danger area where other drivers come past.

So their efforts to protect against damage to the back of their car expose the front of the same vehicle to the danger of being clipped by passing traffic not to mention the inconvenience it causes to other drivers and the danger it poses to pedestrians who must walk into the line of passing traffic to get round the front of such vehicles.

I’ve just seen a Jaguar and a Volvo estate both parked within a few yards of each other and both with their front ends several feet out into the thoroughfare and it is pure selfishness, but since when have such people bothered about that?

Wednesday, 26 November 2014

60 SECOND INTERVIEW: Alison Theobald


ALSION Theobald is joint chairperson of the Weymouth Business Improvement District. She was born in Middlesex and has lived in Weymouth since 1988. She went to school at Budmouth and then Weymouth College before going to work in the financial sector where she is now a fully qualified independent financial advisor.

WHY do you live in Weymouth? 
Because it is a beautiful place and this is where my business is.

WHERE do you go for your holidays? 
Somewhere different every year. My motto is that you never visit the same place twice. For my last holiday I went to the Maldives.

WHAT is your favourite time of the year? 
Summer because the weather is lovely and Weymouth is a fantastic location to be near the sea where you can make the most of your surroundings.

WHAT is your favourite film? 
War Horse because it is a great story which covers all emotions.

WHAT is the scariest thing that has ever happened to you? 
Coming face to face with a snake in a zoo when I was a child. It was not in a display but hanging round a woman’s neck who was showing it off to visitors. It was just in my face when I came round a corner and I screamed and ran off.

IF YOU could live your life again what would you be? 
The same as I am now because I am so happy with a lovely business and a lovely family.

WHICH people would you invite to your dream dinner party? 
Marilyn Monroe, so I could see what she was really about, and Winston Churchill because I just think he would be incredibly interesting because of the circumstances he lived in and the decisions he had to make.

WHAT would you do if you won the Lottery? 
Pay all my friends and family’s mortgages off. There are no pockets in a shroud.

WHAT do you hope the future holds? 
Health, wealth and happiness. Those are the three things that matter.

Seventies shenanigans on the quayside

IT’S amazing what can come to light with the passing of the years.

All quayside quips at the moment are about the impending sale and demolition of the council offices and what will be built in their place.

I’d venture to suggest that every resident in the entire town should keep a stern eye on what is being proposed so we don’t have a repeat of damage to the historical environment which cast such disgrace when the council offices were built in the 1970s.

Several of my readers have kindly provided me with even more information about the goings-on four decades ago when plans were submitted for the new council offices which involved swatting aside poorly maintained Tudor homes as if they were ramshackle chicken houses.

There was a public inquiry, an event particularly generated by two conservation minded architects, Eric Ricketts and Ernest Walmsley-Lewis.

They highlighted the obvious and grievous loss of historic buildings and the street plan, but there were also considerable doubts about the "real" intentions of the council. 

Apparently the inspector conducting the inquiry specifically asked the council's barrister: "Was there actually room for the council offices, the public library and the health centre and all the associated car parking on the site," which the council was suggesting?

He was assured that there was which is why there is a small car park either side of the main council offices block.

But you can look there until hell freezes over and you won’t find hide nor hair of either the health centre or the library, underlining the council’s unique skill in providing their own special interpretation of provision of public services which continues to this day.

Eric Ricketts and Ernest Walmsley-Lewis may have lost the war but they made sure they won a few battles, scouring the demolition of the area to make as many sketches, notes and measurements as they could in the very short time available.

Of special interest was the Tudor harbour master's house where Eric Ricketts bravely went as far as entering the house during demolition and removing the staircase balusters.

They proved to be almost the only items rescued and they now form the alter rail in St Anne's Church at Radipole.

My bride and I actually stood there in St Anne’s when we married there in 1983 but it is only very recently that I have been sent details about the altar rail and its connection with the old harbour master’s house.

It seems the rail will outlive the council offices and quite right too. There is more historical worth in them than the entire council offices put together.

Bird baiting

WELL seagulls have really gone and done it now!

Mind you, squawking through the two-minute silence at Remembrance services was always going to be unpopular.

The result has been a certain amount of public criticism sent to councillors with some fairly innovative suggestions on how the seagulls can be dealt with.

One of the more aggressive ideas was to bring along a hawk to scare them away from the service area near the cenotaph.

But, as one councillor pointed out, that might just swap the squawking of seagulls for the screeching of the hawk!

I like my suggestion a lot better. Wait until five minutes before the service starts and then scatter a couple of plates of chips on the Pavilion car park.

About ten seconds later you’ll have every seagull in the place squabbling over scraps and the service can go ahead in relative peace. 

Problem solved.

Should the Council take the lead to move drunks?

MANY congratulations to Weymouth Police for reducing the frequency of drunks slumped on the steps of the railway station.

They are hardly the first impression the town wants for visitors arriving here, but neither should they be the second impression for visitors walking into town along the seafront.

There were eight inebriates squabbling over whose turn it was with the cider bottle when I walked by the other day.

To be honest, if people want to get wrecked at 10.30am in the morning that’s their business provided it doesn’t impact on others, but when there are families about with children then neither the behaviour nor the language should be tolerated.

Certainly one mother being pestered by her daughter about what had happened was at her wits end to answer questions about why the men – and women – involved were slumped in the shelter or actually lying on the ground.

Fortunately her own daughter bailed her out by saying: “Are they tired?” to which mother gratefully replied: “I’m sure that’s it.”

Perhaps that explains the origin of the expression: “As tired as a newt!”

Whatever the reason, it may be time to consider more permanent measures to deal with these people since moving them on from the railway station merely seems to be switching the same problem to a different place.

Police are stretched enough as it is so this may be a social nettle that the council might have to take a lead in grasping, perhaps through a few more effective bylaws than those which are currently in place.

Can UKIP bring the party to East Devon?

I’VE OFTEN heard my boss remark in the build-up to a general election, that you “could tie a blue ribbon to a pig around here and it would get in”.

I’m sure a reader will correct me if I’m wrong, but I don’t think any MP other than a Conservative - regardless of constituency boundary and name changes over the years - has served our part of Devon since the party was founded in 1834.

With all respect to the two Conservative MPs that represent Pulman’s Country (Neil Parish for Tiverton & Honiton and Hugo Swire in the East Devon constituency), the editor is right - their seats are as safe as houses.

At least, that’s what I thought until the UKIP bandwagon continued it’s seemingly unstoppable roll by winning the Rochester & Strood by-election last Thursday.

Now, I know by-elections are very different beasts to general elections, with protest votes far more likely ­– especially when you’re safe in the knowledge that in less than six months time you’ll be able to recast your vote.

But Rochester & Strood was the second seat UKIP has won in six weeks, with Mark Reckless following Douglas Carswell’s victory in the Clacton by-election last month. 

Yes, both were Tory defectors with good reputations in their own backyards, but they still managed to sway the electorate from blue to purple.

Where as UKIP were very much once seen as a fringe party, only attracting any real attention in the build-up to the European Parliament elections - how many purple signs declaring support for UKIP did you see in Pulman’s Country last May? - next year they will have to be taken seriously and, yes, even treated with respect.

Now, with Messrs Parish and Swire both boasting majorities of 17 per cent, I don’t think either of them will be quite quaking in their boots - but no one will be able to take anything for granted next year. It really feels like anything could happen. 

The Rochester & Strood constituency was as low down on UKIP’s list of general election target seats as 271. 

To quote leader Nigel Farage: “If we win this, looking forward to next year’s general election, all bets are off and the whole thing is up in the air.”

Enough said.

Wednesday, 19 November 2014

A parade of maps and hats, trumpets and trades

LAST month I described how volunteers in past decades helped reinvigorate ‘Lyme’s shop window’ – its seafront. Let’s spot some examples of people freely giving time and talent to keep that seafront vibrant today.

At Cobb Gate, the Fossil Festival, of course. Growing from Marcus Dixon’s resourceful imagination, this education-fest draws huge numbers – the absorbed, excited faces of children busy with all the hands-on activities being the greatest of its many pleasures.

Organiser Kimberly Clarke reckons the festival relies on around twenty volunteers, whether in preparation or during the weekend, with help ranging from marketing to stewarding. If you haven’t yet dipped a toe in the volunteering waters, try taking the temperature with this admirable event.

Next May Day weekend (the tenth festival) the theme is ‘Mapping the Earth’, marking the 200th anniversary of the world’s first geological map, by William Smith. His background, qualities and experiences with the scientific establishment share much with his near-contemporary Mary Anning. She discovered her Ichthyosaur four years before Smith’s map appeared; he was finally recognised by the Geological Society, awarding him the first-ever Wollaston Medal, in 1831 – eight years after Mary found her Plesiosaur. Simon Winchester’s The Map That Changed The World tells his gritty story well.

Maps are wonderful things, fitting the pieces of reality (and ideas) together. GPS, Sat Nav, Facebook and Twitter focus minds on “Where I am, now”. The more important questions, “Where have we been?” and “Where might we go?” lose out. Maps, in their broadest sense, trace answers and illuminate the nature of such journeys. A contextless humanity without grip on time and space does not bear contemplating, morally or practically.

But let’s cheer up with the Lyme Regis Town Band, whose popular summer concerts in the Shelters’ Performance Area are quintessential Lyme: “We’re a concert band, not a contesting band,” as bookings secretary Val Mahoney puts it, firmly. “And it’s a special delight when small children dance spontaneously on the Parade around us.”

With around 25 volunteer members aged from 13 to 80 and from many walks of life, rehearsing two evenings a week and engaged for around fifty performances each year, this friendly band certainly keep busy. It sustains a mixed-age training band, too, tutored by members, which keeps the flow of musicians alive. The training band will have some numbers at the Town Band’s Christmas Concert on 12th December (8.00pm in Woodmead Halls) so you can hear the present and the future.

Above the Performance Area we might hear jollity and mirth from the Langmoor Room – the Red Hat Ladies getting together. Don’t think I’m stretching the definition of ‘volunteering’ here – “Why, they’re a social club, entertaining themselves!” True, in part. But they add to the gaiety, if not of nations, then of the town: without them, in their red hats and purple clothing, where would Broad Street processions be? (OK, still in Broad Street, but less fun.) Without taking themselves too seriously they contribute, like many other groups from Community Lunches to the U3A, to the important job of fostering the wellbeing of a significant section of Lyme’s residents.

Red Hat Ladies originated in California (where else?) in 1998, inspired by the opening of a Jenny Joseph poem:

When I am an old woman I shall wear purple
With a red hat that doesn't go and doesn't suit me.

The movement spread, bursting on Lyme Regis nine years ago “to keep ladies of a certain age young” as one expressed it. (The ‘certain age’ must be over fifty; the ‘keeping young’ is achieved by enjoying themselves and doing interesting things.) When the Lyme Bay Lovelies ‘chapter’ reached capacity, the Jurassic Gems formed a second, still growing. Each chapter has a monthly social event and regular outings, called ‘hoots’, the name telling us much about their spirited style. Why don’t Lyme Regis men do this sort of thing – could the Montagu Lodge join the Jazz Procession in canary yellow suits and pink berets?

Moving quickly on ... to the Jubilee Pavilion, where for a seven-month season over fifty volunteers welcome and advise those who’ve missed the Tourist Information Centre. The huge Jurassic Coast map on the back wall outside draws people magnetically, while inside are six different maps of Lyme and its neighbourhood. But it’s the conversations with volunteers (and re-direction to the TIC as necessary) that particularly help those from out of town to ‘map’ and plan a satisfying experience in Lyme Regis – conversations that are pleasurable for the volunteers, too.

Since the Shelters re-opened mid-season in 2011, nearly 85,000 people have tapped the volunteers’ friendly store of local knowledge; compliments about the town’s attractiveness abound in return. Such a free visitor service, supporting official provision, is rare along the coast. Users appreciate it, which can only add to Lyme’s welcoming reputation.

Last stop: the National Trust shop. Manager Gill Melly, three part-time and three casual staff work with around sixteen volunteers, most doing a weekly three-hour shift. A small professional staff supported by volunteers – the model we’ve met several times before – is an ideal combination.

The Trust benefits from a loyal, experienced team interested in the shop’s purpose and performance, and contributing to its development. Costs are reduced, enabling this popular shop to keep running. And a variety of enthusiastic residents with local knowledge are ambassadors for the town as well as for the Trust.

In turn, they enjoy a sociably interesting role in a beautiful spot, with the personal reward of helping a valued charity and our community. Under the ‘staff-with-volunteers’ model they train professionally on the job, learn the retail ropes, and come to understand the Trust nationally and locally – for all the profits from its Lyme shop support work within the Trust’s West Dorset area.

In a few hundred yards that’s quite a variety of volunteering – science and music, map-work and laughter, selling and guiding, one-off tasks and regular duties... and all with a sea-view.


STEVE Davies is the owner of Dinosaurland in Lyme Regis. He  went to school in Bristol and a teacher brought him to Lyme Regis on a geology field trip. He said: “On the beaches under Black Ven I found a large golden ammonite and this was a life changing moment. I couldn’t believe that something of such beauty could be found so easily. I knew in that instant that I would work with fossils. I was lucky enough to realise my dream and became a palaeontologist. I worked all around the world but kept coming back to Lyme whenever I had the chance. There is something really special about the beaches and fossils around Lyme. I finally got to come to live here in 1990.”

ARE you married and do you have children?
I have been married to the long suffering Jenny for 31 years.  As part of the wooing process, I brought her to Lyme Regis one winter. We stayed at the Bay Hotel looking out over the sea. I think it helped convince her that I was worth the trouble. We have three children - Chris is a doctor in Birmingham, Ben is a Project Manager in Nottingham and Mairi administers a language school in Seville.

HOW did you first become interested in geology/palaeontology? ?
I studied Geology at Oxford University and then Micropalaeontology at University College, London. I joined BP as a palaeontologist and travelled the world using fossils to help explore for oil and gas. Those were heady days. I got to work on the early discoveries in the North Sea and Arctic Alaska. I was in the first group of foreign experts sent to China in the days when the country was more like North Korea is today. It was all a big adventure. Eventually I became chief palaeontologist for BP looking after all their fossil interests. But one day I decided I had had enough of industry and resigned. I naturally headed back towards Lyme to consider a new direction.

WHEN did you take on Dinosaurland?
Dinosaurland Fossil Museum is housed in the former Congregational Church on Coombe Street. This is where Mary Anning was baptised and where she worshipped for most of her life. You couldn’t write a better script about where to house a fossil museum. I was able to buy the building in 1995. The initial collection consisted of a humble 113 fossils.

WHAT sets the museum apart from other attractions/what's unique about the museum?
Dinosaurland Fossil Museum is a traditional museum with more than 10,000 specimens on permanent display now. This abundance of specimens certainly sets the museum apart. There are more fossils on display here than in all the other museums in south west England put together. It is important that my visitors can see a wide range of material. They can read my discussions of what is on display. But ultimately they can muse over it themselves and come to their own conclusions.

DO you have any particularly special items on display?
All the fossils on display are particularly special to me. They are all individuals with their own specific characteristics. I find the humblest belemnite just as interesting as the grandest Ichthyosaur. Different visitors pick their own special specimens. I suppose the greatest response comes for a collection of 460 million year old trilobites from Russia with an extraordinary display of spines. But there is the male and female Jeholosaur dinosaurs from the feathered dinosaur quarry of China. Or the Diving Ichthyosaur where a dying creature managed to bury itself in the mud nose first with the rest of the body crumpled up on top. My younger visitors tell me that the 73kg lump of dinosaur dung is the best.

CAN you tell us about the latest additions to your collection?
I was pleased to get a piece of the Chelyabinsk meteorite. This is the meteorite that struck Russia recently, injuring thousands of people but being caught for the first time on film.
I am just finalising a display about Fossil Lake in Wyoming. This is where the millions of fossil fish on sale around the world come from. The display aims to show why the lake was so prolific and illustrate the less popular fossils from the lake, like the Palm Flower I am holding in the photograph.

ARE there any plans to develop the museum and its collections in the future?
In the short term, I am putting the finishing touches to a wonderful new Ichthyosaur that has come from Germany. The Ichthyosaurs in the museum come from various locations around the Jurassic Sea. They are all telling a slightly different story about what life was like in that sea. Longer term I expect to spend as much time as possible out on the beaches this winter collecting the new exhibits. The wonderful thing is that I have no idea what is waiting out there to be discovered.

WHAT are your personal interests/hobbies?
My all consuming interests are the fossils. I find that the more I work with them, the more interesting they become. 

WHAT do you like about the local area?
If you like fossils like me, then Lyme Regis must be close to paradise on Earth. But I love the narrow alleyways and mysterious hidden gardens of the Old Town around the museum. And I love the diversity of the countryside around Lyme. There is such a contrast between say the Undercliffs and Golden Cap yet all within relatively easy walking distance.

WHAT do you think it's missing?
The ‘official’ website for the town tells you that there is one museum in Lyme Regis but it is not my museum. The tourist information centre refuses to display my advertising leaflet. I do not want any help for my museum but it would be nice to see some sort of acknowledgement that I actually exist.

EU rules make problems for Santa

TODAY there are just five weeks to go until Christmas Eve, so you’d better get those presents ordered now.

Worryingly this warning has nothing to do with Christmas getting closer and closer, and everything to do with those nice regulators in the EU.

They have somehow decided to decree that lorry drivers now require a Certificate of Professional Competence.

You only have to go on a reasonably lengthy drive to realise that those behind the wheel of lorries that you meet are usually in their 40s and 50s and they’ve had enough practice.

This latest piece of cutting edge EU legislation is proving to be the straw that breaks the camel’s back because it is seeing drivers leave their profession in droves.

Too many regulations, too much red tape, too much paperwork. It all adds up, so lorry drivers are retiring early or taking up other professions and all that is creating a shortage of drivers to haul Christmas goods.

This in turn has created a battery of warnings for consumers not to leave their orders to the last minute or even the last month because they may not get what they want delivered in time for the festering season.

Leaving an extra letter for Santa and a carrot for Rudolph won’t solve this particular problem and it will be interesting to see how the big shopping chains, transport firms and supermarkets react. You have been warned.

We’ll keep right on remembering

THIS year more than almost any before there was an upwelling of public memory and connection for Remembrance Sunday.

It came in a year which marked the 100th anniversary of the start of WWI and the 70th anniversary of the D-Day landings, but it was more than that.

The whole commemoration of everything just seemed to strike a chord with everyone. The weather was fine, there were big crowds of young and old alike and there were cheers and applause for the veterans taking part in the service and big parade.

No veteran of the First World War, also known as the Great War, is still alive today and if the same passage into history follows with those who fought in the Second World War then all those service people will be gone by Remembrance Sunday 2039.

But the tradition of “lest we forget” will continue on because conflicts since have included Korea, the Falklands and Iraq and remembrance respects will continue to be paid even if the world can somehow gather all its countries into peace.

Sleep trashed

COMPLAINTS rumble on about the new rubbish collection measures in Weymouth and Portland, so here is another.

In our road we previously could set our clocks on a Friday to just after 7am when the rubbish lorry used to come down the road.

The new regime has seen our collection date change from Friday to Thursday, but it is the change in collection time which is starting to be a bit annoying.

Sometime after 7am didn’t bother me too much because I’m a morning person, but I’m not that much of a morning person to somehow welcome the new collection time which has consistently been about 6:05am-6:10am.

Now that is early and when you add to that the sounds of glass, tin and plastic waste cascading into hoppers there is precious little chance of going back to sleep after ten minutes of that.

My question is this. If our rubbish could be happily collected at about 7am why the need to wake people up at 6am.

I’m not complaining too loudly because any new system needs time to bed in, but if this unwelcome “dawn chorus” still continues in say six weeks time then I’ll be asking questions with slightly more of an edge. I’ll keep you all posted on how I get on.

Charity takes the mickey

WE all know that you get what you pay for, but this may no longer be so.

If figures available for a forthcoming London charity event at a top hotel are accurate then some of those attending from Weymouth may need smelling salts.

Naturally the service will be “absolutely top drawer” and I’m sure the chef masterminding the meal will have more stars than the Milky Way, but you reach a point where the basics have to be considered.

Those basics include a scallop on a lettuce leaf for the starter, a piece of cod of between two and four ounces enhanced by five or six artistically placed chips, and a dessert.

Now you might be prepared to pay £14-£15 for a meal of that nature in Weymouth, but this is London where everything is much more expensive, so adding a 50 percent increase to bring the bill up to £22 probably won’t surprise you.

What may surprise and, I venture to say, probably shock you is that the actual bill being charged for this meal is an appetite-losing £220 each! Still hungry?

Charity begins at home and if I was facing that sort of bill for that sort of meal then that is where I’d stay, spending the £20 on a decent meal out in Weymouth or Portland and buying a week’s holiday abroad with the £200 I’d saved.

Bet most of you would too!