Thursday, 30 January 2014

Town rises to the occasion once again

LYME Regis never needs an excuse to let its hair down and the coming year will be no exception with new festivals and attractions being announced almost weekly.

This week we report on attempts to stage a “Jaunt With Jane” weekend to bring to the town Jane Austen afficianados in a bid to ultimately compete with Bath’s annual homage paid to the author who fell in love with Lyme.

One of the highlights in 2014, however, will not be a celebration but a commemoration as the initial plans for “D-Day+70 - The Lyme Regis Salute” are announced. The town council, with deputy town clerk Mark Tredwin taking the lead, has set up a special committee to commemorate the 70th anniversary of D-Day - the biggest invasion force the world had ever seen - with Royal British Legion vice-chairman and events organiser David Manners in the chair. 

Our town played its part in the run-up to D-Day - June 6th 1944 - by playing host to the 16th Infantry Regiment of the 1st US Infantry Division, who were based in Lyme prior to the invasion.

An estimated 200 men of that regiment lost their lives in the subsequent conflict and it is only fitting that those young men who made the supreme scarifice to liberate Europe, who lived among the people of Lyme, will be foremost in the commemoration programme.

The week following the D-Day commemorations will see members of Lyme Regis Football Club travelling to their twin club Creully in Normandy which was liberated by the Royal Dragoon Guards on D-Day plus one. I hope to be among them.

We were fortunate to have been in Creully for the 60th anniversary of D-Day when we met up with members of the Royal Dragoon Guards Regimental Association. We gave a commitment to always place a wreath on their memorial when we visited the village and we have done so ever since.

Royal British Legion member David Humphry has carried out extensive research on how and when those men of Lyme whose names appear on our War Memorial lost their lives.  

A number of them fell and are buried near Creully and it will be our intention to visit each of their graves to lay a remembrance cross on behalf of the Lyme branch of the Royal British Legion.

David Manners and his committee are to be congratulated on their efforts and I am sure the town,  as always, will turn out in force to support the commemoration of such an important part of our history

YOU had to be quick off the mark when tickets went on sale to see A-list comedian Alan Carr appear at the Marine Theatre.

Tickets for his stand-up show on March 7th went on sale for Theatre Friends on Wednesday of last week, followed by general sale the following morning. They all went in ten minutes flat - the quickest any show at the Marine has sold out.

I even heard that some people were offering to become Theatre Friends for the £15  fee so that they could take advantage of the priority booking system.

One person, apparently, managed to get two £13 tickets and then put them up for sale for £50 each, causing a furious row on social networking sites.

Under normal circumstances such a popular act as Alan Carr would not appear in a 200-seat theatre. But some comedians like to try out their material before a tour of the main venues - so I imagine this was one such case.

In recent years we have seen Michael McIntyre and Jo Brand, who both attract sell-out tours at the big theatres, appearing at the Marine.

Of course, they follow in the footsteps of some big names from the past. During the war, Hollywood star Mickey Rooney appeared on the Marine stage to entertain the American GIs stationed in the town before D-Day.


LAST week I wrote about the View’s accounts manager Anita Routley’s highly inventive fundraising event for our adopted charity - Water Survival Box.

This week we are publishing a four-page supplement on her attempt to visit all 270 underground stations in London in 48 hours in all our 15 local newspapers in West Dorset, East Devon and South Somerset, which have a combined distribution of more than 42,000 copies a week.

Anita is attempting to get all 270 tube stations sponsored for £5 and, at the time of writing, she is up to 185 thanks to the generous support of our advertisers.

Anita will be attempting her underground challenge on the weekend of February 14th/16th and, if by then she manages to get all 270 stations sponsored, she will have raised £1,350 for our Water Survival Box appeal. I will be at the finish to welcome her off that last train with a big hug!

We have committed to raising £10,000 for this Rotary-backed charity over the next two years and, thanks to Anita’s efforts and other generous donations, we have already topped the £3,000 mark, enabling us to hand over our first cheque to the charity at Monday’s soup and ploughman’s lunch, organised by the Rotary Club of Lyme Regis, which raised a further £1,000 for the cause.

My staff are getting up to all sorts of other crazy fundraising ideas, including a sponsored sky dive by one of our sales girls, Jenna Wellman.

Me? I’m already in training for a sponsored origami session - and I’m pleased to hear that my life-long pal Dave Reed will be joining me. If he thinks he’s up to it!

60 SECOND INTERVIEW: Audrey Vivian

RETIRED English teacher Audrey Vivian moved to Lyme Regis from Somerset with her husband, the Reverend Keith Vivian, a former headmaster, in the 1980s, having previously visited the town regularly for holidays. The couple immediately threw themselves into community life and Audrey has since been involved with a huge number of local organisations, most notably as a former chairman of the governors of St Michael’s Primary School and member of the Parochial Church Council. Her latest role is chairman of the Lyme Regis & District Food Bank. Audrey and Keith have been married for more than 60 years and have two children – a son who is a lawyer and a daughter who is a doctor – and five grandchildren.

WHY did you move to Lyme Regis?
We bought a flat in Broad Street and came here on holidays. We got to know a lot of people, both locals and visitors, through having a beach hut on the seafront. Our children came down for holidays, it was the best beach nearby and the family liked it.  When Keith retired, we bought our house is Sidmouth Road.

TELL us about the Lyme Regis and District Food Bank?
The food bank was set up last year by LymeForward as an emergency provider of food for people in difficulties of all ages and in all different kinds of circumstances. We’re very lucky to have it under the umbrella of LymeForward because it means we already have a base, which is not something every organisation has. We also have lots of willing volunteers and varying expertise which we can use in the food bank. It is well supported by the town council, as well as the medical centre, schools and churches, which can refer people to the bank. We are trying to pull all the relevant services together to do something really, really good. I think we’re starting to get rid of some of the misconceptions about it – it’s not just about people on benefits but it can help people in all kinds of situations, including those who have just returned from hospital and have no way of going food shopping. I think the need for food parcels is getting greater, but that may just be because they didn’t know about us before. We are always looking for volunteers and hope to offer simple cookery lessons in the future to make sure people have the knowledge needed to cook for themselves.

WHAT do you like about Lyme Regis?
That an ordinary person like myself is able to make a difference. It’s not a closed shop, you can do the things you like because there’s so much going on. You can make a difference in Lyme – we have always supported everything and our children have to.

WHAT do you think is missing from the town?
It’s very difficult to shop cheaply in Lyme. You have to be able to get out of Lyme to get to the big supermarkets and sometimes there is a lack of public transport – that’s why it’s important for our bus services to continue.

WHAT local organisations are you a member of?
As well as the governors of St Michael’s and the Parochial Church Council, the main thing I support is Action Medical Research for Children. I attend a book club, ladies lunch club, Keith is a member of Rotary and I was on the Inner Wheel when we had one, I was a trustee of the Town Mill for 13 years, I’m a member of the Lyme Regis Society, Lyme Regis Development Trust and the U3A, and I volunteer in the Jubilee Pavilion.

DURING you work with varying organisations, what achievements are you most proud of?
The two things I am most proud of in Lyme is my work with Lyme Regis Development Trust to set up a SureStart children’s centre in King’s Way and being nominated as an Honoured Citizen as part of the diamond jubilee celebrations – I was really touched by that.

To volunteer with the Lyme Regis and District Food Bank or 
for more information contact LymeForward on 01297 444387

Beginning the long journey to recovery 

A CUP of cold vegetable soup so disgusting that you wouldn’t grout tiles with it has snapped up the title of being the worst hospital food I have ever tasted.

Thirteen days in Wexham Park Hospital, Slough, recovering from a major cancer operation to remove my prostate meant little things like food quality became very important, so getting awful gloop like that became an angry chat topic among patients.

Things like a cheese and pickle sandwich and a creamy yoghurt were perfectly acceptable because you can’t do much damage to items like that, but any food where a bit of flair was required proved a challenge too far for those shipping meals in to Wexham.

As a captive patient it is amazing what sticks in your mind, so here are a few snippets.

Nurses who couldn’t do enough for you despite working 15-hour shifts, frightening lapses in documentation where morning doctors might take you off one drug only for you to be offered it again that night as if nothing had happened and the spirit of the blitz which shone through all patients on my ward as we helped look after each other’s needs whenever we could.

There was the keen interest shown when a patient tensely unable to go to the loo finally succeeded, the support we gave to seriously ill new arrivals, the banter about one patient trying to get his bets down for that day’s racing and the exchange of squash between patients to make our lives a little more enjoyable.

Getting fresh sheets every morning was bliss while the first time you could actually get out of bed and sit in the chair next to it felt like you’d conquered the world.

And that outside world became a nebulous, hazily-remembered thing because your world was now telescoped into a bed area and friendship with the other three men on your ward section.

You got to know nurses on first name terms, you learned which ones genuinely cared and which ones would always try and make you that little bit more comfortable.

There was always gallows humour but with people dying within yards of you it wasn’t surprising and the jokes made were often aimed at yourself, a sort of challenge to the Gods to do any worse to you than they already had.

Bandages were viewed warily because, when they came off, so did large amount of hair on stomach, legs and arms. It hurt worse than the wounds!

Rays of sunshine included surprise visits to my bedside by nurses up at Wexham from West Dorset, needles being removed from my body when I’d thought they’d almost taken root and the stimulation of short walks down the corridor past the women’s ward to keep leg muscles in tone. Honestly! It was purely to keep my legs in shape.

Staff rejoiced in your little recovery victories, sympathised when there were setbacks and were always there to answer a question unimportant to anyone but you.

Slowly you start to see light at the end of the tunnel and talk shifts from the next scan to check on your progress to what you’ll need to do to get ready to leave hospital.

Just voicing the possibility of leaving was a thrill while to slowly see departure take focus produced a very strong emotional reaction matched only by the morning you have to make a decision on what shirt to wear because you’re leaving that day.

Then there are the bags. Those you came with containing your clothing and those you are given to go away with containing a bewildering array of documents and medical accessories all needed to aid your recovery at home.

Then finally staff call for a porter with a wheelchair to take you to the exit and your first sight of the outside world for two weeks.

Gone is the constant ward temperature of 73F and in its place is a raw wind with clouds scudding overhead and the rich and heady scent of fresh air.

Even on the short wheel to the car there is fearful hesitancy that somehow someone will call you back, but it doesn’t happen and the car pulls away into the real world leaving behind pain, astringent smells and a very special little community of dependants.

A few hours later and we crest the Ridgeway overlooking Weymouth. Now it truly feels as if I’m coming home, that I’m back with my family and that perhaps there really may be hope for the future.

It is still too early to tell, but I’ll never forget the support I got at Wexham from nurses and the support I got from hundreds of people throughout the Weymouth and Portland area. It meant a lot to me then and it still means a lot to me now.

Keep your diaries free for a party night in a couple of months time!

Wednesday, 22 January 2014

Nature always wins in the end

IT is amazing how topography can mock human efforts.

It matters not how developers lay out their schemes and build their roads because nature will always find a way to do what it wants.

Two roads in question — Dorchester Road and Quibo Lane – reveal this perfectly since both have been around for a long time….and so have the leaks seeping through their surfaces.

The first is - or was - the major route in to Weymouth, yet you only have to drive down it to see water pushing its way up through pavements and road surfaces to pour away down the gutter.

There is a similar problem in Quibo Lane where its lower end is constantly wet from leaks pushing through the road surface, both roads posing quite a hazard when sub-zero temperatures turn water in to ice.

It begs the question, why build roads over areas where springs are known or there is the likelihood of problems with water drainage?

Well the answer has probably gone to the grave with those who first build these roads more than 75 years ago, but the situation is not confined to being an ancient problem, particularly with the modern pressures to build more and more homes.

It will be interesting to see what happens on areas such as Markham and Little Francis in Weymouth if developers win permission to build hundreds of new homes there because such sites are known watercourse and spring areas.

I’m sure any planning permission will include drainage conditions. It is merely whether the land will play the game the way humans want it to.

Bureaucracy is alive and well and not just in Weymouth 

THIS gem has been sent to me by a friend keen to sound a warning that official lunacy and petty-fogging bureaucracy is alive and well not just in Weymouth and Portland but on a national scale.

The incident in question involved a simple trip to a local post office where an attempt was made to send off various parcels for the festive season.

The poster in question was a bit taken aback to be faced by a steely-eyed employee who had no intention of touching the parcels, far less sending them on their way with a stamp of approval.

Oh no! He wanted to ask some serious and pertinent questions first under new rules which apparently ban certain substances such as nail varnish from parcels because they might explode in the hold of an aircraft!

So he refused to accept the parcels without knowing the contents… which was a bit of a problem for our poster as his wife had packed them and he had missed what went inside.

What to do, but the post office magnanimously allowed him to ring home and ask, much to the consternation of his wife who wanted to know if the post office thought he was a terrorist.

Fortunately few terrorists send parcels filled with soap and toiletries – which turned out to be the contents of the parcels – and after a mind numbing period of time while these mail items were checked, measured and stamped, they were allowed to go on their way.

The sender, too, went on his way, muttering about an “over bureaucratic Post Office which makes such silly rules”. 

Oh yes, Happy New Year!

We’re lucky it’s only raining!

ONE of the most staggering recent statistics has to be that 30,000 people died from the cold in this country last winter.

Weymouth and Portland has a very mild climate and so perhaps fares better than most areas of the country during winter, but the risk factor is still high enough for the authorities to pepper the populace with warnings about insulation, advice for pensioners on how to stay warm and encouragement for neighbours to keep an eye on vulnerable people living near them.

But it is difficult to maintain the illusion of winter in a place where I have only seen snow deeper than a couple if inches twice in the last 33 years.

Oh we’ve had some cold snaps but nothing like Eastern USA and Canada had to cope with less than three weeks ago when they were paralysed by two feet of snow and severe sub-zero temperatures.

Our speciality is rain and Weymouthians are more likely to get trenchfoot rather than frostbite. So as we moan about yet more rain, be grateful that winter rarely sinks its true fangs into us.

Scrap metal prices are sky high

NEW laws brought in locally are being hailed as a tighter control of scrap metal dealings.

Prices are sky high and thieves have apparently been stealing almost anything metal because of the high returns they get.

In our area this has included everything from copper piping to manhole covers, posing stunningly obvious dangers to any motorist unlucky enough to come driving along shortly after these criminals have struck.

By contrast, it brings into focus all those offers to haul your old banger away free of charge. 

No wife and mother-in-law jokes please!

No, I DON’T hate the town council!

WITH no football due to the weather and no engagements to cover for the View on Saturday (a very unusual occurrence), we decided to pop over to The Harbour Inn at Axmouth for a leisurely lunch.

Daughter Francesca and her boyfriend Rob Larcombe, who runs our production department, joined us. During the meal I could see that Francesca had picked up on a conversation at an adjoining table, as all good reporters should. Being a long-term tinnitus sufferer I only have 80 per cent hearing in one ear, one of the reasons why I rarely cover a public meeting these days, so I was oblivious to what was being said.

Francesca recognised one of the party on the adjoining table as a former school colleague but they clearly had no idea who we were. They were discussing Lyme Regis Town Council and commented on the arguments between councillors.

Then one of their party chipped in with: “I like that Philip Evans’ column. He’s very outspoken but he clearly hates the council.”

I thought, “Here we go, they're probably going to give me some stick”.  I’ve got used to it over the years but sometimes it can be embarrassing for my family. 

But on this occasion I got off lightly and both tables continued to enjoy an excellent lunch. It was a good example, however, of how concerned people are over the behaviour of certain councillors.

Over the Christmas period I caught up with a few old friends for a festive tipple or two and inevitably the conversation got round to this column’s relationship with our elected representatives.

I told them I was thinking of cutting the gang of five a bit of slack in the coming months but to a man they thought this would be a big mistake. “Who will challenge them?” they asked. 

In fact, one of my great friends whose family have strong connections with local government in the town, castigated me for being too fair. 

“The trouble is,” he opined, “you are too polite to them and always try to balance your criticism with something positive about them.”

We had to agree to disagree on this, not for the first time.

I have been conscious that my comments could well inflame some of the animosities that exist in the council chamber but I believe it is the role of any local newspaper worth its salt to hold elected representatives to account, especially when so much of the decision-making seems to happen behind closed doors. 

To try to inject some balance into our coverage - and in a rare poacher turned gamekeeper moment - I offered the town council their own monthly column to use as they saw fit, to promote any initiatives which needed publicity, to profile staff and, if necessary, to counteract any criticism from this column. 

I thought it was a bit of a no brainer really but what do you know, they rejected the idea. I have now offered that column to Chris Boothroyd, who wrote two brilliant pieces for the View last year. He’s the man who virtually single-handedly raised £200,000 to equip the Jubilee Pavilion and co-ordinates the volunteers who man the information desk and was then treated appallingly by the council.

This column will be handed over to Chris once a month as from February. He has been given a free reign over content and he has agreed to donate his fee to Amnesty International.

So back to the claim that I “hate” the town council. This is not the case. Having been a councillor and former mayor, I appreciate just how much effort goes into running the town and, as I have said on several occasions in this column, they make more good decisions than bad and that is reflected in our coverage. 

However, the events of the past few months have seen the actions of a few councillors cross the Rubicon when it comes to acceptable behaviour. And they know it.

Lack of space and a desire not to gloat about the ills of others prevent me from listing them all. But I have covered Lyme council on and off for 40 years and more. Former journalist and councillor David Cozens got a longer stretch and we both agree that there has been a significant decline in the standard of debate and, more worryingly,  a complete absence of respect among of those with differing views.

But as one of the new councillors told me not long after being elected - “Pip, you have to remember you are yesterday’s man”. 

True enough.

REGULAR readers of this newspaper will be aware that our group of weekly titles in West Dorset, East Devon and South Somerset (15 in all) have adopted a charity for the next two years (see page 16).

Using our marketing power in distributing more than 42,000 papers every week, we are attempting to raise £10,000 for the Rotary-backed charity, Water Survival Box.

In recent week’s freelance journalist Geoff Baker has been featuring the work of the charity in some very hard-hitting articles and we have made a splendid start, having already raised £2,000 plus in two months.

Readers and local firms have already given generous support and my staff are planning a series of varied events over the next few weeks.

Next up is a very unusual fundraising idea cooked up by our accounts manager, Anita Routley, who’s always up for a challenge.

Over the weekend of February 15/16th Anita is attempting to visit every one of the 270 tube stations in London in 48 hours.

A special feature on Anita’s mission and other events that we will be involved in over the coming months, and how you can give your support, will appear in  next week’s View From.


MIKE Kelly, planning consultant, was born in Barnet and went to school in Muswell Hill. He worked in an insurance company but hated it and went to work at County Hall, London, before coming to Weymouth in 1977. He is president of Weymouth and Portland Access Group.

WHY do you live in Weymouth?
Because it is a wonderful place. When I retired from Weymouth & Portland Borough Council my wife and I thought about moving to Ross-on-Wye, but we discovered that Weymouth had too big a hold on us and we stayed.

WHERE do you go for your holidays?
The last one was in Scotland, but Portugal and Spain are our favourites because of the sun.

WHAT is your favourite time of the year?
Spring because the year is coming to life and everything is growing.

WHAT is your favourite film?
Far From the Madding Crowd. I knew one of the extras who appeared in several scenes and it is a film which has always fascinated me.

WHAT is the scariest thing that has ever happened to you?
In 1967 I was mountain climbing in Norway and I lost my grip on a rock face. I only saved myself by grabbing a sapling otherwise it would have been bad. It was an awful long way down.

IF YOU could live your life again what would you be?
I did used to wonder about teaching, but I am not sure that I could handle 30 children!

WHICH three people would you invite to your dream dinner party?
Mo Farah because his story from war-torn and poverty-stricken Somalia to run for us in the Olympic Games must be a remarkable one, Jo Brand because she is such a good comedienne and Ray Davies from The Kinks, because he went to the school next to mine and our pupils used to fight their pupils!

WHAT would you do if you won the Lottery?
Travel a lot more of the world and I would also help two brilliant schemes – The MEMO Project and Jurassica – which will put Portland firmly on the map.

WHAT do you hope the future holds?
I hope that I have good health and that Weymouth gets the appreciation it deserves.

Wednesday, 15 January 2014

60 SECOND INTERVIEW: Julian Nangle

Julian Nangle is a publisher, poet and former bookshop owner with, at one time, five Words Etc shops in Dorset, including Dorchester and Bridport. Over the years he has published poetry anthologies, with some of the country’s best-known names on the pages of those books. He ventured into magazines and today still earns a living from the literary world, dealing in rare books, specialising in modern first editions. He is one of the founders of a group of poets which have recently started staging public events in Dorchester. The next gathering will be on Saturday, February 1st at 7:30pm in the King’s Arms, Dorchester when the theme for the evening will be “love.” The last meeting attracted around 50 people.

HOW did your love of books come about?
Largely from school where I was encouraged by one of the teachers, Harry Guest, who was a published poet, featuring in Penguin Modern Poets. He taught me English and French and was rather avant garde and quite an influence on me and other boys at school. I used to send some of my poems to my mother who was much impressed and showed them to a poet who she knew, Anthony Naumann. He took me under his wing and encouraged me. We would meet up and talk about poetry and what I had written. In many ways, became an alternative father and greatly influenced me.

HOW did you become involved with the book trade?
I think we all realised there was little hope of making a living out of writing poetry so my mother, thinking laterally, thought that if I couldn’t get into new books I could get into old books and found me a job in a bookshop. I went off to work in a posh bookshop just off Bond Street in London where we had no end of famous people coming in. I remember delivering books to Jean Shrimpton’s home and one day helping George Harrison who was looking for books on Art Deco. 

AND had you continued to write?
Yes, I had a collection of poems published and sold them to everyone I could think of at eight guineas a throw. I had a hundred copies printed and managed to sell all of them. The next year I published Words Etc which featured poets such as Brian Patten which did quite well.

AND when did your first bookshop come about?
In 1975 I moved from Godalming where I had been managing a bookshop for someone else and opened the first Words Etc in Islington. I was also still publishing other people’s works and did about 20 in all. Then I decided I wanted to do some poetry reading and managed to persuade the Arts Council to give me some funding and, somehow, managed to persuade some of the big names of the day to take part. I had a friend who seemed to know everyone who helped a great deal. It was quite a strange period. I remember interviewing Vikram Seth and thinking to myself at the time how bizarre it was. I was also publishing a sort of Private Eye for the book trade which was also good fun.

WHEN did you come to Dorset?
I was together with Anna by this time and we initially bought a house in Childe Okeford, moving in 1992 to Marnhull and then, in 1992, I opened the bookshop in Blandford and then in Dorchester in 1994. I realised I had rather cut myself off from the world so it was nice, when I got fed up of working alone, upstairs on the rare books, to be able to come down, have a coffee and talk to people.

WHAT were you first impressions of Dorchester?
It was rather run down at the time. Half of South Street seemed to be up for rent at that point, but there was a Blackwells bookshop a couple of doors down which I thought would be good for me and was a good sign that people were at least interested in books. Luckily it all went well and I was still doing the rare books and first editions which was some security.

AND were you made to feel welcome?
It was a bit slow at first, but Alistair Chisholm (town crier and local tour guide) was through the door almost as soon as we opened and got me involved with the local business community. He was trying to get the Business Improvement District set up at the time and got me involved, including writing down my thoughts about how the town could make the best of itself. I remember talking about how we needed a feelgood factor, having a future people could share, that sort of thing.

AND you also branched out into local publishing?
In about 2005 Alistair presented me with his suggestions for a series of Dorchester Walks. I think we managed to sell about 5,000 copies in all. There were also small publications on William Barnes and Thomas Hardy.

But the world changed and the likes of Amazon, must have affected your business?
It did, it’s been something I would have rather done without. We had five shops at one point – one in London and others in Blandford, Bridport, Weymouth and of course Dorchester. We sold them off one by one, the last, Dorchester in 2006, which in many ways came as a huge relief, but throughout the rare books have continued although that has also seen a decline and there are fewer collectors now than there were.

BUT you decided to stay in Dorchester?
Yes, although we did moved to Chichester for two years where I again ended up running a bookshop for some of that time, until we decided to come back. There is something about Dorset and Dorchester. Our children have largely grown up here and we have good friends here. I also love the literary connections – Hardy, William Barnes, the Moule family and the Powys family and we also love the countryside and the coast.

Julian Nangle has just published Windfalls, a collection of 36 of his poems, which is available via post at £6, including postage, via 22 Frome Terrace, Dorchester, DT1 1JQ, or can be ordered at the Custard Hall shop in Antelope Walk, Dorchester.

Will the old Aldermanic bench survive?

WHEN I first started reporting in the mid-1960s the Guildhall in Lyme Regis not only provided a meeting place for the old Borough Council but also acted as the local magistrates’ court.

In those days, the mayor also acted as chairman of the bench and the last First Citizen to carry out these duties, I believe, was the late Alderman Douglas Fortnam.

The mayor presided over the court proceedings, handing out fines for minor offences, perched high on the Aldermanic bench from where the mayor stills presides over council meetings.

It has been customary down the years for the deputy mayor to sit on the right hand side of the mayor, with the longest serving councillor to the left.

It was interesting to note that when Stan Williams recently returned to the council chamber at the age of 79, he immediately took his seat next to the mayor, creating a few raised eyebrows. Councillor Williams, of course, served as a borough and town councillor for more than 40 years before he lost his seat at the last full election, returning after winning the recent by-election caused by the resignation of Jill Newton.  

Before his return, the vacant place on the Aldermanic bench was taken by the council’s other longest serving member, Owen Lovell.

I started thinking about the lay-out of the Guildhall after reading in the council minutes that consideration is being given to the reconfiguration of the meeting area.

A few councillors have been moaning about how uncomfortable the benches are and a surveyor’s report has been commissioned.

I suspect there are a few who sit in the chamber that think it a tad elitist for the mayor and senior councillors to sit above them and would prefer a seating arrangement where all members are on the same level, visually at least if not intellectually. 

The Guildhall, of course, is one of Lyme’s most historic buildings and from a planning viewpoint any internal changes will be a drawn out affair.

Of course, it may well be possible to keep the Aldermanic bench for historic purposes only and also reorganise the meeting area. 

In any changes that are planned the council should also make sure there is an adequate sound system so that the public can hear what they are saying, which is not always the case with the current lay-out.

I THINK most people in Lyme will agree that one of the greatest benefits of the coastal protection works in recent years has been the stabilising and enhancement of our public gardens. 

Lyme is indeed fortunate to have the Lister and Langmoor Gardens, a favourite with visitors who are able to escape from the hub-bub of the beach and spend some quiet time enjoying the magnificent views over Lyme Bay. Long may that be the case.

But moves are afoot to make some changes to the gardens with the town council considering a number of ideas.

They have already decided to close the putting green, a sedate attraction in the gardens for more than 60 years, in the light of falling revenues (around £1,500 only last year).  

There is talk of introducing some children’s play equipment and the possibility of a cafe and toilet which has been under consideration for a number of years.

Of course, the mini-golf is the big money spinner in the gardens, bringing in more than £60,000 every year with the outdoor table tennis tables contributing around £3,000.

A couple of years ago I wrote to the council, on behalf of Cancer Research UK and suggested that facilities for the French pastime of petanque (boules) could be accommodated at the back of the attendant’s hut. 

We offered to provide the materials, labour and equipment free of charge and suggested that the council share the proceeds of a 50-50 basis with Cancer Research, so giving our fundraising branch a regular income and also boosting the council’s takings as well as providing another attraction for the visitors. I got an acknowledgement but have heard nothing since. We live in hope. 

Whatever changes the council introduce, I hope they will protect the much lauded peaceful atmosphere that prevails in the gardens.

No, this doesn’t mean I’m retiring!

THANK you to all those who sent me messages of goodwill after I wrote last week about the excellent care I received on a recent visit to the Dorset County Hospital in Dorchester.

What was abundantly clear was that mine was not an isolated experience; many of you shared my view that we are extremely lucky to have a hospital on our doorstep with such high standards.

Others of you queried whether my visit to hospital might encourage me to retire. Sorry to disappoint you, the the treatment I received was long overdue and constituted no more than a 'minor procedure,' although I didn’t think that at the time.

The notes they give you on leaving hospital recommend four to six weeks off work. I was back at my desk the day after I came out (well I am not digging roads, am I?) and have managed to put in a full day’s work every day since.

So retirement is not an option. When it is, you’ll be the first to know.

RECENTLY in this column I mentioned that fantastic turn out at the switching on of Lyme’s Christmas lights, dedicated to the late Barbara Austin MBE. I mentioned that Barbara’s four sons were present but it was remiss of me not to have included daughter Jane. My sincere apologies.

New year, new you novelty wearing thin

EVERYONE has had a fortnight to try and stick with their New Year’s resolutions, so how many of you have stayed strong?

After the festive excesses there were armies of people brightly determined on January 1st to start a new regime of weight loss-keep fit-training programmes.

You must have seen them in the last fortnight. They’re the ones with the new tracksuit bottoms pounding the pavements, the “70 per cent off!” sales tag still attached to the waistband and fluttering bravely behind them.

They’re the ones you are meeting in cafes, ordering a diet cola to go with their breakfast fry-up. I’ve actually seen such people!

And they’re the ones you see being carted off to hospital after that unfortunate bike accident which occurred after a hill descent on their new Chris Froome 28-gear carbon fibre racing bicycle.

The bike was a Christmas gift from their wife-husband-partner, but it wasn’t lack of familiarity with their gleaming new machine which caused the crash. That came as the rider fumed and fiddled with the on-bike computer recording their heart beat, calorific loss and pulse.

Handily for the police, it also recorded his speed at 47mph in a 30mph limit (£60 fixed penalty) as he gave the bike computer one last disgusted cuff and looked up. By then it was too late to brake as he flashed across a roundabout and buried his front wheel in an invalid carriage.

So as you fight the flab, give up sugar in your tea or try to be more carbon neutral, remember this. The idea is to get to the end of the year, not crash and burn in the first month.

How time flies when you’re having fun!

IT is amazing how the passage of time can catch you out.

I was talking with a friend and the conversation meandered along through various members of our family until we got to his late father.

It was then that my friend observed his father had actually been born in 1929, the same year that Wild West legend Wyatt Earp died, he of Gunfight at the OK Corral fame.

We mused about what Earp must have felt, living in an era including the first flights and the first cars, and I happened to point out that 40 years could produce all kinds of change.

We then realised that 40 years on from Earp’s death and the birth of my friend’s father was 1969 when man first set foot on the Moon.

Warming to our task, we looked back four decades to the middle of Earp’s life in 1889 when the Wild West was very much reality… and found that huge change was apparent then as well because 1889 was the year that one of the world’s most iconic structures, the Eiffel Tower, was built.

And how did all this conversation start? Well we’d been remembering what dramatic changes we’d seen in Weymouth over the last 30-40 years and speculating on what changes the town might see over the next 40 years. Amazing how the passage of time can startle you when you actually sit down to consider it.

Everything rising but interest rates

GAS and electricity prices have gone up and now it seems to be the turn of council tax, held unchanged for several years in Weymouth and Portland but now heading for an increase.

Such power and tax rises have caused consternation among those whose job it is to safeguard the poor and vulnerable in our society, but I have yet to hear a single plea on behalf of those millions of us who have seen our savings butchered by years of cripplingly low interest rates.

Politicians and power companies seem to feel that our mattresses are supported by unlimited amounts of ready cash which can just be tapped whenever they feel like it.

But the harsh reality is that decades of careful saving to produce a nest egg for our old age have been addled by national and local decisions and policies which focus on grabbing cash from us without much thought about our futures.

The presumption seems to be that our masters can keep going to the well but I have news for them. It is starting to run dry.

If interest rates are not increased soon so that those with savings can use them to get the financial help they increasingly need then the wolf at the door is going to be inside homes and at our throats before you can say “MPs’ pay rise”.

And if an interest rate rise doesn’t happen, if the safety net we’ve built for the future continues to be eroded, then pretty soon those trumpeting about protecting the poor are going to have an even bigger task on their hands because more and more of us will be increasingly unable to support ourselves in old age because the measures we took to do so have been torpedoed.