Wednesday, 2 April 2014

Mayor making - or baiting!

FROM what I am led to believe we could be in for another lively session at tonight’s council meeting. Get there early!

Main item on the agenda - the appointment of mayor for  the coming year.

Until a few days ago those who  take an interest in council affairs (a dying breed) thought we would definitely be having a different, if not new, First Citizen.

Last year Councillor Chris Clipson was defeated on the casting vote of Sally Holman, who won a rare third year in succession. Would Councillor Clipson try his luck again?

Then it emereged that Sally was considering a fourth year, which had only happened on one occasion  before - back in the 1970s with Henry Broom serving for a similar period.

A former mayor once told me that the first year was enjoyable, the second year tolerable and a third “bloody awful”.

Sally has certainly had a difficult year and has presided over the most controversial periods in the history of Lyme Regis Town Council. I think many of us assumed she would be relieved to relinquish the reins. But she clearly feels there is unfinished business.

Things were very different when I became mayor in the 1980s. The process of selecting a successor was a more friendly affair. The outgoing mayor would seek confirmation of those whom wanted to stand and then sound out the other members. 

The mayor would then ask those with the lowest support to withdraw so that the appointment of the successor was invariably a happy and unanimous one. Then we all went for a drink!

It hasn’t been like that for some time.

Sally will be challenged tonight by Michaela Ellis, who served as mayor for two years in 2009-2010.
Both have served the town well over the years but, whoever gets the job, they will surely be in for a rough ride as the current split council attempts to repair its poor public image before the elections in May 2015.

Broad Street’s looking swell

SOME glorious  days have given us a taste of what we might expect in the coming summer months, I hope, and Lyme was teeming with visitors as soon as the sun poked its head out. Kids were actually playing in the sea on Sunday afternoon.

Broad Street is looking a lot smarter with the arrival of Seasalt, the Cornish-based clothing company, and other new arrivals, Lyme Gifts (which has moved from the Coombe Street Emporium) and the highly innovative Pug & Puffin.

The latter’s owner, Martin Wiscombe, and I grew up just a few doors away from each other in Anning Road, and he has recently returned to his hometown after a glittering career in the art world.

I popped into Pug & Puffin with Francesca for a glass of fizz for the opening on Friday evening  and was delighted to meet up with Martin’s father, Dave, again, one of the area’s most prolific bee keepers. Dave and I played football together yonks ago and he still keeps fit and well. I’m sure his son’s new shop, with a distinct doggy flavour, will prove to be a huge hit with souvenir-hunting visitors.

I think all three new businesses enhance the shopping experience in Broad Street and I’m pleased to report that in the next few weeks we will be launching another series on Lyme’s main street in the 1950s and 60s. Any photos from that era will be appreciated.


I ATTENDED my first Civic Night in the late 1960s when it was first introduced by Alderman Douglas Fortnam and his wife Lydia. It was a very grand affair and in those days called The Mayor’s Ball. I remember wearing a Simon Dee roll-neck silk evening shirt and was a little concerned I would not be allowed in as they were very strict on the dress code in those days.

Surprisingly, I can’t really remember my own Civic Night but as a former mayor I’ve always purchased tickets for this annual gathering of the town’s civic and community leaders and have always enjoyed the occasion. Civic Nights are now much more relaxed and informal and dress codes have been all-but abandoned. There are conflicting opinions on whether that is a good thing or not. I stuck to tradition and wore a dinner jacket.

In past years all councillors made a special effort to attend Civic Night in support of the position of mayor rather than the personality wearing the chains. This, too, is very much a thing of the past. 
With the council now irreparably split (they only have to tolerate each other for another year), only four councillors bought tickets for Saturday’s event - Stan and Anita Williams, Michaela Ellis and Ann Bradbury.

The event clashed with the 50th wedding anniversary party of Councillor Lorna Jenkin and her husband Keith, attended by the gang of five (Councillors Gage, Campbell, Clipson, O’Grady and Austin) but not before they popped into the Woodmead Halls, much to the surprise of many,  to shake the mayor’s hand and have a quick drink before departing for what they considered to be the better gig in town.

But Lyme’s organisations turned out in force, as they always do, making it another enjoyable evening for those who want to see such traditions preserved.
But for how long is anyone’s guess.

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