Wednesday, 26 March 2014

Rinky Tinks we loved you!

THE demise of any  business is hugely stressful and often has a lasting effect, very often on employees fearing for their jobs and certainly on the bosses who may well have invested all they possess in the venture.

No one in their right mind goes into business thinking they are going to fail. But failure can be fatal to their future lives.

I talk from experience here. With the local newspaper industry ravaged by the recession, my wife and I went through countless sleepless nights to keep the View from in business. 

As the town’s biggest private enterprise employer, with more than 30 young people working for us, our main priority was to keep them in jobs.

The strain had a big impact on our health and certainly on our bank balance.

I clearly remember siting at my desk one New Year’s Eve wondering what to do next. But we struggled through and we eventually managed to offload the business (and much of the worry) to a private investor and then to the biggest publisher of independent jobs in the UK. 

It’s no longer our business and sometimes that hurts but we are as committed as ever. 

Like many in Lyme, I was saddened to hear that the Rinky Tinks ice-cream parlour on the seafront had been closed down by their landlord, Lyme Regis Town Council.

It would be unwise and unhelpful to comment on circumstances of this unfortunate situation.

But there can be no denying that Rinky Tinks made a big impact on the seafront and owners Lucinda and Peter Cliff threw themselves into the spirit of Lyme, supporting the carnival and other local events. They will certainly be missed. 

With seaside concessions, no matter how well you run your business or how entrepreneurial you are, the final factor in success or failure can often be the weather.

We are told there will be no lack of those who wish to take on Rinky Tinks, which is good, but we should spare a kindly thought for the Cliffs and those who worked for them.

In a very short time they created quite an iconic seaside attraction. I wish them well for the future. 

Why so secret?

WHEN the current town council was swept into office with several new faces, we were promised greater accountability and transparency and a desire to involve the people of Lyme more in the decision making process. 

There was even talk of staging council meetings at various locations around the town to encourage more people to attend. What happened to that idea?

In reality, the reverse has been the situation. Lyme Regis Town Council has, I believe, has become one of the most secretive I have covered with more items being debated behind closed doors than any other local authority in the area.  We cover four other local councils and none of them go into secret session with such alarming regularity.

The Lyme council even went into committee recently to discuss the United Beach Missions’ use of the main beach, a hot topic locally.

When barring the press and public from such deliberations, they invariably hide behind the cloak of “protecting financial information”.

I have written before in this column about the amount of discussion that goes on between some councillors via email, and a number of councillors are very wary of the weekly committee chairmen’s meeting with no public minutes kept.

Some have even told me that the first they hear of certain matters is when they read them in this newspaper.

If you share these worries, ask the question at the annual town meeting which takes place on April 11th.


THE generosity of the people of Lyme Regis never ceases to amaze me. 

On Saturday evening the hard working Woodmead Halls committee, led by Stan Williams, organised a fundraising event in memory of one of its most industrious members, respected local musician Jim Sweetland.

Jim, a tireless worker for the halls over many years and former founder and chairman of Lyme Regis Town Band, was keen to get a defibrillator installed at the halls. Music was one of Jim’s great passions and he was a popular member of the Three Counties Swing Band, having played for many years with the Rowland Halliday Dance Orchestra.

The Three Counties band agreed to give their services free for Saturday’s concert, the halls committee laid on a ploughman’s supper and Jim’s family organised a draw. 

As a personal friend of Jim’s for many years going back to the Rowland Halliday days, I was asked to compere the evening and we set ourselves the target of raising £1,000.

Thanks to generous support from the League of Friends of Lyme Regis Health Service and the Rotary Club of Lyme Regis, and other donations on the night, when we counted up we were delighted that a total of £3,150 had been raised. 

We now need a few hundred more to install the equipment but Jimmy would have been delighted that we raised enough to cover the purchase of the defibrillator at the first event.

It was a very enjoyable evening, well supported by local people who knew Jim so well.
Thank you for your wonderful support.  If the defibrillator saves just one life in the years to come the effort will have been well worthwhile. 

Are you paying the average council tax bill?

NEXT Tuesday is All Fools’ Day, April 1st, and a singularly appropriate time for 2014 council tax bills to become active.

Some might say we have been fortunate to have had such bills frozen for three years but my complaint – if survey figures are accurate – is the manner in which they have resumed for Dorset.

The Chartered Institute of Public Finance and Accountancy claims the average council tax rise to be 0.6 percent and that the highest increase of 0.8 percent is in South East England where Band D properties face a bill increase of £11.25.

Well lucky them, laughing all the way to the bank, because down here reality is a lot harsher.

Dorset County Council is among more than 30 councils nationwide hitting its residents with the maximum rise of 1.9 percent, something CIPFA seems to have missed.

Their cosy claim of an average Band D property paying £1,464 for 2014-2015 is ludicrously wide of the mark since Band D properties in Dorset are facing a bill for £1,723.

My home is in Band C and even I will be paying £1,531, nearly £70 more than the claimed Band D average, while the extra £30 I will have to find for 2014-2015 is nearly three times the increase the CIPFA claims is being paid by homeowners in the band above me!

My bill does include the usual elements for Fire, Police and Weymouth and Portland council while CIPFA figures aren’t so clear cut.

Whatever the true national picture, it still means that council tax payers in Weymouth and Portland can consider their bill to be anything but “average” whatever the band.

Will new brand work for Weymouth?

WEYMOUTH now has itself an official new brand which the Business Improvement District hopes will encourage many more visitors to the resort to boost its town centre economy.

The new brand “WE” does not, as one wag suggested stand for “Worthless Expense” but has been carefully created after much research and talks to project Weymouth into the public eye over as wide an area as possible to show as many people as possible just what the town and its area have to offer.

Its launch in Weymouth Library attracted both those who were quite taken with the new brand and a few non-believers, but it was away from the staged event that the gloves really came off.

A quiet coffee got nervously slopped into my saucer when I found myself in the same area as a tirade from one businessman bemoaning both the fact he had to pay the BID levy and what they were spending his money on.

To describe his reaction to the new “WE” brand as “underwhelmed” didn’t do his mouthful justice and his words carried more weight as he was joined in his anger by other business people furious that a levy they didn’t want to pay was, in their view, being frittered away on a brand they didn’t like and didn’t have faith in.

The BID genuinely believes the new brand will attract more people in to sample what Weymouth has to offer, but if it can’t convince a number of its own members about that then its hierarchy had better hope it has more success with visitors because the doubters will be watching.

The smell of summer

DID anyone notice that the smells of summer have made an early appearance in Weymouth town centre?

Recent sunny weather sparked an explosion of visitors, but the walk on to the seafront was like a slap in the face for the aroma of cooking oil and hot vinegar.

If anyone needed reminding that the holiday season is not that far away then it was provided by the sight of scores of people strolling along eating ice-creams.

I mean, ice-creams in March?! Only 32 weeks now until Bonfire Night!

Follow the glow home

GLOWWORMS apparently made a recent dramatic appearance in Weymouth.

These rarely seen creatures were out in force around the midnight hour when most of the town was in bed counting sheep.

But keen natural history lovers such as myself were alerted to the presence of this insect by its unusual call – “My God! I can’t see!” – heard reverberating eerily along many pavements.

Sadly closer inspection revealed it wasn’t glowworms but people desperately trying to find their way back home, any home please!

The late arrival of a train saw passengers join others returning home from pubs and restaurants who were caught out by dense fog.

That was bad enough for pedestrians trying to navigate a passage back to hearth and loved ones… but then the council’s cost cutting measures came into force and all the street lights were switched out! The result was chaos.

Poor visibility instantly became zero visibility and pedestrians did the only thing left for them to do in the circumstances. They switched on their mobile phone torches.

Watchers were treated to the soft glowing path of Samsung, O2, Orange and T Mobile weaving an unsteady path broken only by curses when the holder hit a lamppost or wheely bin. Bed was never so welcome.

60 SECOND INTERVIEW: Michael Ellery

MICHAEL Ellery was born at Weymouth’s Portwey Hospital, now a block of flats, on St George’s Day, April 23rd, 1954. He went to Abbotsbury village primary school and Weymouth Grammar School before joining the DHSS as a clerk in 1971.  In 1974 he joined HM Customs and stayed with them until his early retirement in 2010 following an M25 car accident. He is now director of Brewers Quay Emporium Ltd in Weymouth, using his keen interest in antiques and collectibles which he developed while a customs officer.

WHY do you live in Weymouth?
I live in Upwey because it is my ancestral home and the most beautiful part of Weymouth. My grandparents lived there and are buried there, my mother was brought up there and married there and I have now lived there in the village for 12 years.

WHERE do you go for your holidays?
The last one was Portugal. Prior to that I drove to Spain twice and I have also been to South America, Turkey, Canada and Newfoundland, most of Europe and Egypt. 
I believe New York and Istanbul are the two greatest cities in the world and I would recommend anyone to go and see them. I suppose of all the places I have been to then rural France is perhaps my favourite.

WHAT is your favourite time of the year?
Summer because it is hot. I like shorts, T-shirts and flip-flops, so it has to be hot.

WHAT is your favourite film?
That’s a tricky one. I think I’ll go for “Dr Zhivago”, “Far From the Madding Crowd”, “The Usual Suspects” and “Kill Bill”. I love Quentin Tarantino.

WHAT is the scariest thing that has ever happened to you?
Thinking I was going to be killed in an air crash in Peru in 1982. The pilot braked as we took off from Lima and we ended up in the grass at the end of the runway. That’s about as scared as I ever want to get. I don’t like flying any more, but I still do it.

IF YOU could live your life again what would you be?
I would like to be a journalist or a writer. I have always enjoyed writing and reading books. If I couldn’t be a journalist I would like to be a lawyer and get paid for arguing with people.

WHICH three people would you invite to your dream dinner party?
My first would be the Dalai Lama because I used to study Buddhism and my second would Tony Benn because he was one of the few politicians to stick to his principles. My third choice would be George Best because he was the greatest footballer who ever lived.

WHAT would you do if you won the Lottery?
I would travel, drive across the US, go and see the Golden Temple of Amritsar, but I wouldn’t rush out and buy everything. What’s the point.

WHAT do you hope the future holds?
To be happy. Doesn’t everyone want to be happy? If you have that and you are healthy you’ve got everything.

Wednesday, 19 March 2014

Cemeteries becoming a disgrace due to litter

SOME of the cemeteries in Weymouth and Portland are becoming little short of a disgrace because of litter.

I walked through one near where I live and counted more than 150 items of rubbish strewn about close to the path.

One area alone had more than 20 beer cans or bottles, but there was everything lying about from sweet wrappers to empty cigarette packets as well as less savoury offerings such as dog mess half collected in a plastic bag and just dropped on the path.

The owner of that may well have been too exhausted to finish clearing up after their pet because a few yards later they tried to recharge their batteries with a packet of sandwiches, the wrappers for which had just been tossed on the ground.

Litter is annoying at the best of times – my front garden attracts hundreds of offerings every year – but this was a cemetery which was being turned into a tip.

Council cutbacks at local and county level mean maintenance and upkeep staff have never been under greater pressure, so we can’t expect such sites to be as pristine as they have been in the past.

That said, everyone should know not to dump litter in a cemetery and until some system of spot fines – with all the usual officialdom rows over how to administer it – is brought in then the careless people who caused the problem in the first place will just carry on being careless.

Warning: Read at your own risk

OUR iron died on us the other day but, when we bought a new one, the manufacturers were taking no chances on us suing them for even the tiniest thing which might be laid at their door.

They had come up with every conceivable type of warning in their product literature including, believe it or not, “Don’t iron clothing while it is being worn. You’ll injure the wearer.”

Well blow me down with a wet pair of Y-fronts! Who’d have thought that using a red hot iron to get a few creases out of my shirt while I was wearing it might injure me?!

That’s like telling a pedestrian: “Don’t walk slowly across the M1. You might get knocked over and killed.”

It should be self-evident, but we live in an age of litigation and quite clearly manufacturers are taking no chances.

So, before all your solicitors get in touch with me, I have to warn you that reading the View might give you paper cuts this week as the Editor’s secretary is on holiday and we don’t have her emery board to smooth down each print run.

What a bargain?!

NEVER feel sorry for big businesses because they use their dominant market position to charge pretty much what they like for what we want… but every now and again one gets its cum-uppance.

A Weymouth man had a set of high quality saucepans whose handles were coming to the end of their useful life, so he wrote off to the manufacturer to enquire how much four new saucepan handles would be.

When the big business wrote back the man was so horrified at the price they quoted that he was determined to make his own handles.

So he bought himself a woodworking lathe and some hardwood, cut the wood roughly to size and then carefully turned it so that each piece slowly emerged as a replacement saucepan handle.

He then smoothed all four pieces into their final shape before drilling and fitting them into position, ensuring that he and his wife were able to enjoy many more years of use from their saucepan set.

Now the lesson from this story is that the man paid out a total of approximately £104 for the lathe and wood plus, of course, his time and skill in making the saucepan handles.

But he still ended up saving himself a staggering £56 because the saucepan company had quoted him £160 for four new handles, a whopping £40 each.

Not only did the man have handles he knew were well made, not only did he save himself £56 but he also got a nice new woodworking lathe out of the situation – and you don’t see that sort of special offer in any saucepan manufacturer’s Spring sale!

It’s all in the name

WHAT’S in a name? Well, quite a lot if you happen to be Weymouth and Portland Borough Council.

The authority is currently reorganising itself ahead of selling off the council offices on North Quay and debate has included discussion of sites to rehome various staff including the Mulberry Centre in Weymouth and the infamous – and distant – South Walks House in Dorchester.

But there is also a third site which is featuring large in talks to get staff relocated.

It certainly got Councillor Ray Nowak’s support because he quite rightly pointed out it was good to use building assets which were closer to North Quay to minimize disruption and inconvenience to staff.

However, as he pointed out at a recent council committee: “It is a good idea to use our assets, but the depot at Crookhill does have an unfortunate name for our offices!”

Is the Pearl losing its gloss?

ARE the media darlings falling out of love with Lyme Regis?

I am prompted to ask this question after noticing that “the Pearl of Dorset” failed to make the Sunday Times’ Top 101 places to live in Britain.

When national publications trot out such lists, Lyme usually features somewhere.

A few years back I think it was The Sun which named Lyme as the most romantic place in the country and the town council made good publicity capital out of it.

But we failed to creep into the Sunday Times’ Best Places To Live In Britain.

The Times admitted selecting the Top 101 was a challenge. They said their intention was to “celebrate real towns for real people”, whatever that means. Their methodology relied on lots of hard data about crime rates, house prices and school performances, as well as the expertise of their writers, a team of select bloggers and the views of their readers who were asked to tweet their thoughts.

We would have surely met part of the criteria: we are virtually crime free in Lyme and we have good schools. We may have scored a black mark on house prices as in another list published not so long ago we were in the top five of the most expensive resorts to live in England and Wales.

Perhaps we just didn’t tweet enough.

So which towns and villages near us did get themselves into the Top 101?

Branscombe, just eight miles down the Devon coastline topped the South West locations with the adjudicators apparently impressed by it having the longest street (surely that should be lane) in Devon, two pubs and its own brewery.

Hang on minute, take a look at our main street. And we have two breweries.

Sherborne also did well and it would be difficult to argue The Times’ view that it is a “drop-dead gorgeous” town.

I’m not sure that appearing on such lists has any real benefit to a town like ours.  After all, Lyme gets more than its fair share of positive  coverage in the national press and I for one count my blessings every day that I am able to live and work in Dorset’s unrivalled “Pearl”.

The West End comes to Lyme Regis…

I”M not a great cinemagoer. I think the last full feature film I saw at The Regent was 'Gandhi'

This is clearly a character flaw for we are so lucky to have The Regent in Lyme, said to be the smallest town in the country with a year-round cinema.

Like most Lyme-born boys, I did go to the flicks regularly as a youngster, often on Saturday mornings when there was usually a cartoon followed by a cowboy film.

As we got older most locals would go on a Sunday night when it often got quite rowdy and the owner, Donald “Spike” Hardy, would invariably have to interrupt the main feature and get up on stage to warn us about our unrully behaviour.

Going home down Sherborne Lane it was custom for one of us to be pushed through the door of undertaker Boswell’s spooky house and then run all the way home.

I did, however, spend a brilliantly enjoyable night at The Regent recently to see the live streaming of the National Theatre’s stage version of  'War Horse' which is now playing all over the world to great acclaim.

Streaming live theatre shows into remote sites at community halls and cinemas is a recent innovation which is really catching on. The Regent, superbly refurbished now by Scott Cinemas,was packed for 'War Horse' and I understand that a number of similar screenings are planned for the future.

On a recent visit to London I nearly paid £86 a ticket to see a West End show. I think admission  for 'War Horse' at The Regent cost around £13 - so the West End comes to Lyme at a fraction of the cost.

As I say, how lucky are we? A town of 3,500 population with its own 12-months a year cinema and a theatre that provides live entertainment all year round.

Guildhall Gos

BY-ELECTION: AS predicted in my last column, there wil definitely be a by-election to fill the vacancy caused by the resignation of Daryl Turner. Ten electors called for an election, as is the requirement, and voting will take place on May 22nd at the same time as the Euro elections. The closing date for nominations is 4pm on Thursday, April 24th. I suspect the timing of Daryl’s departure was deliberate to coincide with the Euro elections so that his resignation did not place a financial burden on the electorate. Apparently, it costs around £5,000 to stage an election in Lyme and town clerk John Wright informs me the cost is met by West Dorset District Council, unlike East Devon where the cost is passed on to the parishes.

MAYORAL MANOEUVRES: Jockeying has already started over the appointment of the next mayor. Town councillors will be choosing the mayor elect at full council on Thursday, April 2nd. At least one councillor has started sounding out her colleagues about possible support and I know of one other who is also considering putting his name forward. The big question is whether last year’s defeated candidate, Chris Clipson, will try again and there’s a rumour circulating the town that the present mayor, Sally Holman, may even be offered a fourth term. If that is the case, she would become only the second councillor to do so - the uber-popular Henry Broom served for four years in the 1970s.


ALAN Escott has been general manager at Dorchester’s Odeon cinema since October 2012. The Brewery Square cinema is one of the chain’s smallest and has had to overcome a long-standing loyalty to the Plaza to win an audience. But after a slow start numbers are rising and many now see a trip to the Odeon as part of an evening out at Brewery Square.

HOW did you get to take up the position at Dorchester? 
I’d been working in a cinema in Andover, having started work in security in Bristol and prior to that being brought up in Weston-Super-Mare. I trained as an electrician when I left school and had also worked as a fitter.
SO what drew you to work in cinema?
I have always had a passion for films and used to go to the pictures a lot when I was a kid. My grandfather worked in a cinema in St George, Bristol – although the building is now a pub. It was very old school, carrying reels up and down the stairs, but of course it’s all digital now… the projectors are more like a computer with a complex control system which stops anyone showing films before they are allowed to. The films come in on a type of hard disc and we have to have the correct ‘electronic key’ to even get them to work. My grandfather wouldn’t have recognised them.

SO how did you get this job?
It was an internal application. I had been working in Andover, commuting from Bristol and we were looking for somewhere to settle down. Dorchester seemed ideal.

IN terms of other Odeon cinemas this one’s quite small, isn’t it?
Yes – we’ve got three screens. The largest can seat 173, the second screen 153 and the third screen 98. It is one of Odeon’s smallest. The one in Bristol has one screen with 400 seats and a couple of around 200.

AND how have you found Dorchester since moving here?
We love it. We have a young family and wanted to settle down. It’s a lovely place and the people are friendly. I think it’s fair to say it matched up to our expectations. Before I came I knew it was the county town and people had told me it was a bit like Bath – which turned out to be a bit misleading.

I HEAR you’ve been doing up your house?
It’s been quite slow at time but I’m quite practical and have managed to do a lot of it myself. To date the only professional help I have had to pay for is a plasterer.

HOW important is it to choose the right staff?
Very. I was offered the job in June which gave me four months to oversee the final stages of the building work and to get involved in recruiting. We tend to have a young staff profile, a total of 15 full and part time and we are very keen on apprenticeships and training them up to NVQ Level 3 which many have achieved. It’s great to be involved in bringing people on in their careers and to look back at the progression they have made.

WHAT are your early memories of cinema?
Seeing The Jewel of the Nile in the ABC at Bath was one of my early memories. It was such a treat to see a film on a big screen and I seem to remember it was a very long and narrow theatre.

DO think the cinema and the Brewery Square development has made a difference to Dorchester?
Without any doubt. People tell me there wasn’t much happening in Dorchester in the evenings before but Brewery Square is now busy every night, not just at weekends.

Wednesday, 12 March 2014

The best performance of the Winter Olympics by far

I HAD to share this gem with you involving that shy, retiring and modest person Kim Jong-un, the leader of the Democratic People’s Republic of Korea.

We’ve all watched hours of Winter Olympics coverage but, according to North Korea’s Ministry of Information, we’ve all missed the single most outstanding performance in the history of this illustrious competition.

They went on to announce that their president, “despite never having trained”, claimed gold in every event he entered including single handedly winning the pairs figure skating competition as well as the two man bob sled, setting world records “never to be broken”, in both events.

The Information Service added that their “glorious and exalted” leader, Kim Jong-un, had also taken gold in ski jumping, “flying higher and farther than scientists had previously believed humanly possible”, gold in the giant downhill slalom beating athletes from every other country including the United States and Japan, as well as capping off his visit by shutting out the entire Soviet national hockey team in a game yet to be played!

In case we were still in some doubt as to his God-like status, the Information Service concluded by saying that all victories were accomplished with “record scores and times” never to be broken in the history of mankind.

But it was also reported that the glorious leader’s modesty meant he will refuse medals, honours and all decadent Western-style celebration in favour of returning immediately to North Korea to share that glory with his people “while allowing the sun to rise and set in his honor”.

All this rhetoric may impress down-trodden North Korean residents but it didn’t cut much ice with Russia which coldly denied that Kim Jong-un was even at the games much less a participant, adding that “he would have had to qualify just as all athletes are required to do and we have no one by that name registered as a participant”.

Incensed, the leader’s spokesman angrily denied this and said it was all propaganda and the product of international jealousy over the prowess and supremacy of The Great Leader over “mortals”.

Back in the real world, I have just covered a Weymouth and Portland council meeting and the difference between elected member and Kim Jong-un was clear for all to see.
Kim Jong-un believes he might be a God whereas all the councillors at the meeting knew they were Gods… at least until the elections in May!

Time to pitch in and help with the clear up

THERE has been so much rubbish washed up on Chesil Beach after the recent storms that it almost formed its own structure on the pebbles.

Smashed up timber, dead sea birds and mountains of plastic lay like some multi-coloured beached sea monster for all to see… and it has been provoking arguments.

The debating ring includes those encouraging volunteers to come along and help clear the beach by collecting all this rubbish up and those annoyed that volunteers should be expected to pitch in when the council and other groups are said to be responsible for clearance.

Now that the jet stream has seen fit to allow us a bit of a break from a conveyor belt of vicious storms it has created time to consider the situation.

Both sides have a point and, if people want to volunteer for a clearance task like this, the council is unlikely to turn down a bit of help.

Equally, these are special circumstances, so can the authorities really be expected to shoulder all responsibility for what is washing up when community spirit means that people genuinely do want to help.

I think the answer has to be that everyone helps together and each does what they can…until it is time to take cover again from the next 90mph blast.

Reward for turning 80

A FORMER Mayor of Weymouth has contacted me to share his utter joy at turning 80.

Now anyone is entitled to jump for joy to celebrate their birthday, but the gentleman in question had a slightly more humorous reason for his celebration.

Apparently those nice people in Government always like to wish a pensioner turning 80 well and to give them a heartfelt financial reward reflecting the esteem they hold such people in.

Mike Jewkes isn’t sure yet what he is going to do with the extra 25 pence on his pension, but he could use it to buy a pack of doggie snacks, about one fifth of a litre of petrol or half a cream egg.

I’d go for the petrol Mike. The other two play hell with dentures!

The garden is my gym  

GOING out and seeing people pounding the pavements to keep fit is nothing new, but there must have been some drug in the breakfast cereal recently which powered ordinary people out in torrential rain.

I saw one woman, hair plastered down her face, slogging up a hill with a cloudburst slashing down so hard she deserved to lose a few pounds for sheer dogged persistence.

Her effort and those of a number of others I saw really show true devotion to a keep fit regime matched only by my own mantra.

This gruelling focus avoids all contact with gyms and jogging and instead pursues walking and gardening as a more enjoyable approach to weight control and fitness. The results aren’t always what I’d like but I’m rarely as miserable as those joggers.

All in it together? Yes, we are!

“They should …” Remarks starting like this, usually aimed at some public authority, are tempting when times are tough or things go wrong. But there’s a mirror image: “we could …” or, more directly, “we can …” and “we will …”.

Town clerk John Wright remarked, soon after arriving, on the amount of volunteering in Lyme and how it keeps the place buzzing. Peter Jeffs, coming similarly fresh to LymeNet, noted that in many ways the town “punches above its weight”.

Both men are from comparable towns nearby; by professional background they appreciate how communities tick. They noticed one reason why new residents in Lyme often comment along the lines of “there’s so much going on - I just can’t keep up.”

So I’ve decided to explore our communal “can do” attitude, and how volunteering drives it. From B Sharp to beach cleaners, Fossil Festival to football club, majorettes to millers; what goes on, who does it, why do people volunteer, what issues does it raise? A single monthly piece won’t do so, editorial patience allowing, I’ll develop the topic periodically. But where to begin?

It’s easy to think “volunteering”, then list the festivals, visitor attractions and leisure providers with which we’re familiar. I’ll get round to them, too. But they are, perhaps, icing on the community cake; other important voluntary work goes, quietly, into essentials: shelter and food.

Affordable housing for local young people is critical. For years, a small band comprising Keith Shaw, Wendy Davies, Nigel Marsh and Stan Williams has toiled as a research and pressure group under the LymeForward umbrella. They’ve sought and mapped possible sites, talking to owners, they’re regularly in touch with housing associations to encourage action, they keep pressure on the district council to give priority to Lyme people when allocating housing. 

They identified the possibility of housing association homes at Woodmead Halls, now being pursued by the town council and Raglan Housing. They also developed with Raglan a possible scheme near the medical centre, now under negotiation with the district council.

Emerging from the same LymeForward initiative, a Community Land Trust (CLT) has been established with Denis Yell as chairman, and Keith Jenkin, Rob McLaughlin and Brian Rattenbury as the other interim directors. A registered company accountable to the Lyme community, the trust has the power to seek sites within and outside the development boundary, and to negotiate with housing associations able to access funds for land purchase and construction. By retaining the freehold while not seeking profit, the CLT has greater influence than is the case with housing association homes built as part of a commercial development, such as that coming to Woodberry Down.

There’s no quick win with either of these efforts; land shortage, legal and bureaucratic obstacles, and commercial pressures combine to make progress extremely difficult. It’s vital work, for patient and determined volunteers who beaver away in the background.
While the housing challenge is of long-standing, the food bank responds to a more recent need. Our mayor’s charity, an initiative of LymeForward under the umbrella of Lyme Regis Development Trust, and administered from St Michael's Business Centre, the food bank exists “to help people unable, for a variety of reasons, to get good food for a short period”, says Audrey Vivian, who chairs the group.

Audrey has around her some 30 volunteers offering varied skills for different tasks, including collecting and storing food donations, packing and delivering boxes specific to each recipient, preparing publicity and information, handling phone calls and administration, fundraisingm even - a special feature being developed - offering cooking lessons. Everything’s done within the overriding rule of confidentiality.

Local churches and some businesses act as food donation points. The food bank uses a strict system of referral from approved organisations such as medical centres, churches, housing associations, schools and the Citizens Advice Bureau. Referrers liaise with the relevant services and monitor progress. The part played by all those is itself voluntary - beyond their normal business. For the food bank team, it’s another aspect that demands good communicating and coordinating.

The non-profit Community Lunches in the Baptist Church Hall also find people volunteering on top of their own businesses. Andy Crockett of Penny Black CafĂ©, assisted by “celebrity” sous-chef Councillor Terry O’Grady, prepares affordable hearty and healthy, freshly-cooked two-course meals, primarily for the more elderly and those who may not often get out of the house. 

Other volunteers serve and wash-up as well as providing transport where necessary. Andy also handles bookings and payments. Each month, 30 to 40 happy eaters enjoy a good British meal and the sociability that goes with it.

Now into their third year, Community Lunches were initiated by Ellen Austin and the LymeForward team. A hard-working, productive source of many of the town’s relatively unsung voluntary services, they anticipated the reality that communities must increasingly look after their own rather than rely on publicly-funded authorities. 

Examples like these show that home-grown voluntary effort can be precisely tailored to local circumstances, and outstanding in quality. To sustain it, even in such a good-hearted town, will require ever more shoulders to the wheel. That’s a challenge for each one of us. Many organisations are looking for more help - can you be one of those able to respond? 


Dee Lanning, 30, moved to Bridport in 2012 with her husband Jake and 18-month-old son Joshua. Dee is a trained dance teacher and taught dance lessons for eight years, but she is now a full-time mother and puts much of her free time into her role as Bridport’s Branch Co-ordinator for the National Childbirth Trust. The trust, which is the UK’s largest charity for parents, works to support new parents through the initial period of having children, from pregnancy and birth and on into the child’s early years.

WHAT do you like about living in Bridport? 
I love how welcoming and friendly people are. There is real sense of community. I come from a town in Northern Ireland that is also by the sea, it has lots of similarities to Bridport which makes me feel very much at home here.

What sort of work does the Bridport and Lyme Regis branch do on a local level? 
It is a small, informal branch and we aim to offer support to families in the area through our many groups and gatherings. All of our mums are friendly and helpful and are only too happy to offer support and advice to other mums. Our Nearly New’ sales offer a chance for parents to purchase good quality second hand clothes and baby equipment.  We also run British Red Cross Baby First Aid courses, for a small charge, which lots of local families have already attended and found invaluable.

WHAT is your role in the organisation and how long have you been involved? 
Around nine months ago I made enquiries about getting involved with the branch - there was a need for a social media and web site manager so I took on the role. In August our Branch Co-ordinator stepped down from role, leaving us with a vacancy that urgently needed filling and there were no volunteers forthcoming. I sat down with the ‘Small Talk’ Newsletter Editor, Alex O'Dwyer, and we decided between the two of us that we could take on the role in the interim so I am now, with no previous experience, one of two Branch Co-ordinators and I think we are doing an OK job.

WHAT was your inspiration to become involved with NCT?  
Before I moved to Bridport I had a handful of friends and I made a few more when we moved, but being at home all day with a baby is quite lonely and I craved adult conversation. I found the NCT Bumps, Babies and Beyond group one of the friendliest that I had attended and started to make friends. The group also offered a support and advice network for my baby and me. When this looked like it was about to disappear I knew I had to help keep it going, even if that did mean taking the reigns for a while.

ARE you looking for more volunteers to get involved with NCT?  
Yes! Our branch is solely run by volunteers so the more volunteers we have the more we can do for local families. We are actively seeking a Branch Treasurer - the commitment to this role would be around four to six hours a month, plus one evening every two months to attend branch meetings. We are also looking for a Fundraising Co-ordinator as well as Bumps, Babies and Beyond and Just Bumps hosts and Walking Group leaders. I think our Nearly New Sale team could do with a bit of help also. If you are interested in volunteering please contact

ARE there any upcoming events you would like to tell us about? 
We have our next Nearly New Sale on Saturday, March 8th at Colfox School between 2pm and 4pm, and we currently have seven places left on our NCT British Red Cross Baby First Aid Course, taking place on Tuesday, June 10th at Bridport Children’s Centre. We also run lots of events on a regular basis including Bumps, Babies and Beyond weekly coffee drop in, Just Bumps monthly pregnancy social evening, Open House, Walking Groups and Mums nights in and out. All of our event are on the website, you can 'like' us on facebook or even follow us on twitter

ASIDE from NCT, what else do you do in your free time? 
Free time? What is that? Between my toddler and my responsibilities as Branch Co-ordinator I do not get a lot of free time. However, when I find the time I hand-make jewellery, attend a Zumba class in Loders and the NCT Mums Nights Out are always great fun!

Wednesday, 5 March 2014

A night for past glories

WHEN old footballers get together, you can be assured of a night full of tales of great goals scored and cup final celebrations.

Such was the case when 30 former players of Lyme Regis Football Club from five generations gathered at the Davey Fort clubhouse on Friday evening.

It was the third event organised by the recently formed Seasiders’ Ex-Players Association which has been set up to enable former members to keep in touch and to encourage more of them to support the current set-up at the Davey Fort.

When players finally hang up their boots there’s a tendancy for them to drift away from the club as they take up more genteel sporting pursuits - golf and bowls among them. The Seasiders' Association intends to slow down that migration.

Whilst fundraising is a secondary issue, we have already raised £1,000 for the club which is being ring fenced for a special project and, with two other events planned for this year, we should add significantly to that sum.

On Friday we enjoyed a hot pot supper, prepared by Mrs Evans, and were then treated to a brilliant football photo show by former club chairman and feared centre forward, photographer Richard Austin. 

When I moved to London to work at the end of the 1980s, I launched a sporting publishing company and, with Richard having just turned freelance, I engaged his services to do the photographic work for  a portfolio of professional football clubs which included some of the top Premier League teams. As a result, Richard travelled all over Europe covering the big games and has an unrivalled catalogue of football photos.

He presented them in his usual humorous fashion and afterwards we had plenty of time to recall past glories.

Having had a look around the refurbished clubhouse, including the very smart dressing rooms, we joked about the days we used to wash in a tin bath after games and how one player often tried to get himself sent off early so he got the clean water first.

Happy days.

Guildhall Gossip

BY-ELECTION: There will be an election in Lyme Regis to replace Daryl Turner - if more than one candidate puts themselves forward. I have it on good authority that 10 electors have called for an election which will be held on May 22nd. I am pretty confident that Cheryl Turner, Daryl’s sister, will be putting her name forward but local author David Ruffle, who stood at the last by-election when Stan Williams won back his seat, will probably wait until the next full election in May 2015. The by-election will be held on the same day as the European elections on May 22nd so we are likely to get a better turn out than the last by-election - a paltry 26 per cent.

BEACH CHALETS: Although a decision has yet to be confirmed by West Dorset District Council, the word on the street is that Lyme Regis Town Council’s application to move the chalets forward to the edge of Monmouth Beach will be rejected on the advice of their officers. Threatened by the continual movement of Ware Cliffs behind them, the council’s attempt to move the chalets nearer to the sea baffled many, especially in view of the damage caused to them in the recent storms.

COUNCIL QUOTE OF THE WEEK: “£750 is a drop in the ocean to this council” - Lucy Campbell speaking at last week’s Town Management Committee.

Another nostalgic treat for Ken’s fan club 

DOWN the years local history expert Ken Gollop and I have played a game - “spot the local” - at numerous community events. On most occasions he and I are often the only locally-born people present.

I’m not sure what conclusion we should draw from this. You can make up your own mind.
But one event when then locals turn out in droves is  Ken’s annual “Tales From Under Shady Tree”, named after a meeting place in Anning Road where youngsters gathered to chew the fat in the 1940s. 

These events have an almost cult following among both locals and incomers, who were well represented, and Sunday’s event at the Woodmead Halls was no exception. Ken, who has developed a real fan club over the years, chose Cobb Gate/Church Beach as his subject matter, an area he knows better than anyone as his family ran their fishing trips off the Cobb Gate jetty for 90 years.

He showed us dozens of views of that area of the town going back to the early 19th century but with many faces of young people still living, some of whom were in the hall.

He delivered a fascinating and informative two hours of pure nostalgia, peppered by his own personal reminiscences in his own inimitable style.

Loads stayed for a cup of tea after the event swapping tales of times past and catching up with familiar faces.

The afternoon made a tidy profit for Ken’s beloved museum whose trustees are anxiously waiting for the result of their Heritage Lottery application to extend their unique building on Cockmoil Square.

There’s an old joke that says nostalgia is not what is used to be - but in Lyme it certainly is.
Ken is already working on the theme for next year and for many, me included, it can’t come quick enough