Wednesday, 28 May 2014

Memories of birthdays past

HEAVEN help me! Don’t the years seem to fly by....and suddenly I’m celebrating my 60th birthday. 

Yes, I know I don’t look a day over 71, but such a landmark date in my life did provoke a few memories of previous birthdays gone by. 

I can remember as a child my late mother cooking the most delicious birthday cakes that had all my friends clamouring for extra pieces and I can remember as a student in Manchester being found sat quietly on a bag of cement in someone’s garage after a celebratory birthday night out got a bit too much for me on the way home. 

There have been numerous celebrations since in Weymouth from nights out with family and friends to a special celebration event for my 50th at Weymouth Football Club. 

But the years take their toll and for my 60th I decided to hold open house for a few hours in my garden and invite various friends and fellow members of the Press round for a few glasses of home-made lemonade and a scone. 

For some reason I couldn’t find the lemonade and we had to make do with a delicious range of real ales, various wines and other potables plus staple hack fare of bread, cheese, pork pies and sausage rolls so familiar of any reporter trying to grab a bite while working, and we also enjoyed home-made Black Forest gateaux which I loved. 

It was a great day with lashings of nostalgia and lots of humour surrounded by at least 40 of those whose company I enjoy, some of whom I have known locally way back to 1980. 

Even more my oldest friend, who I’ve known since 1970, came down specially from Nottingham. 

So many thanks for all your best wishes during a year which has already seen me successfully operated on for cancer. I know it must have been my day because I didn’t have a hangover! 

Busy year ahead for Weymouth’s new mayor

ANYONE notice all those recent gusts of hot air? They were politicians breathing a sigh of relief as they got re-elected… or not as the case may be.

There were the usual thrills and spills, fervent promises to faithfully represent the residents who so warmly put a cross in the right place, all the usual stuff.

But our councillors don’t have much time to catch their breath before they have to take part in the first major post-election event of the new political year, the grand Mayor Making ceremony which this year will be held at the Riviera Hotel at Bowleaze Cove.

It takes place tomorrow night (May 29th) when the great and the good will gather to watch current Deputy Mayor, Councillor Kate Wheller, assume the highest civic office in the borough.

It will catapult her into a hectic year of hundreds of official engagements including the merry-go-round of summer season events which seem to occur on almost every day.

Councillor Wheller is already a familiar figure but she will become even more widely known in a remarkably short space of time as she attends everything from fetes to fairs and from markets to meetings, openings and major events such as the annual carnival.

So wish her well as she prepares to assume office. It is going to be a busy time for her.

Don’t mess with a squirrel when there’s food about

SQUIRRELS seem to be in aggressive food collecting mode… and they aren’t taking nonsense from anyone!

The ones frequenting my garden keep burying provisions in my lawn – hasn’t anyone told them it’s a bit early to prepare for winter – and woe betide any cat passing near which gets indignantly chased off.

Then there are those squirrels in the nearby cemetery, normally placid creatures unafraid of passing people, but who now call angrily at pedestrians as they explore beneath the trees.

Even squirrels closer to town seem set on repelling all borders as they dart along fence tops or patrol gardens.

So I’m wondering if the wettest weather in history has rotted their buried winter supplies and forced them to be a little fiercer in their foraging.

Whatever the reason, they are certainly a lot friskier than they usually are.

Whose nerves will break first?

THEY’VE got kings’ ransoms to spend on support for new high speed rail links yet the Government tells us that it doesn’t have a paltry £10 million for berth conversion work to keep Condor ferries in Weymouth.

Such a sum is beyond most of us but it is chickenfeed to the political coffers of Whitehall and that, of course, is key to why a recent delegation to the Big City had no luck loosening a few Government purse strings.

There were the usual “very sympathetic to what you say”, “always supported the idea of ferries” and “would help if we could” type of comments, but the bottom line was, as my old boss would say: “Your story has deeply touched me. Now go away and stop bothering me”.

Government finds it difficult to focus on anything south of Westminster Bridge, so Weymouth is back once more with the thorny problem of how to both keep Condoor Ferries and find £10 million to pay for the work to do so.

Someone somewhere is going to have to back down. It is just a question of whose nerve breaks first.

Bang your gavel Sal, it’ll soon be closing time!

GIVEN that most people speak on average at a rate of 150 words per minute, by the time that last week’s Lyme Regis Town Council marathon had taken a break at 9pm to draw a breath, 18,000 words had been spoken at the meeting.

Up until then, councillors had discussed pay rises for senior staff, Woodmead Halls not getting a grant (or getting one, according to Councillor Mark Gage), the threatened closure of the Tourist Information Centre, Lyme Regis Development Trust evicting the poor and not making any mention of this at their annual general meeting, the skatepark, new plans for the Monmouth Beach chalets, the Cart Road ice cream parlour, which councillors should serve on external committees like the surprisingly-still-existing Three Cups Working Group, the election of chairmen of council committees, how to record the votes of councillors, salary increases for senior staff (again), underpaid outside-working council staff, jeering by Councillor Terry O’Grady, objections to jeering by Councillor Michaela Ellis and Councillor George Symonds’ rather interesting aside that, as another member of staff had just quit the team, why was it that the council had suffered such a high turnover of staff in recent years?

But of these 18,000 words, there was absolutely no mention of the three words “the Saturday bus”. Which was very odd, because it is the county council’s recent axing of the Saturday bus and the widespread calls for this decision to be reversed which is the talk of most of the town.

When I say “most”, I mean those most-disadvantaged by the loss of the Saturday bus, i.e. those who represent the overwhelming majority of voters in the town - the elderly.

According to Dorset County Council’s official statistics, 45.1 per cent of the population of Lyme Regis are aged 60-plus. There’s 1,640 elderly in Lyme, the biggest block of voters. 

As opposed to that, the numbers of newborn to 17 year olds, or “young people”, is 553, 15.2 per cent of residents and not one voter among them, and the number of young adults, aged 18 to 29, is 277, or 7.6 per cent.

So as the number of old people in Lyme is three times the number of pre-school and school children in the town, and six times the number of young adults, one might have thought that a matter which weekly affects this majority of voters would have got more discussion from their representatives than pay rises for their staff.

As I popped out in the recess to experiment with how many cigarettes one can smoke in ten minutes, I reflected that a lot of the elderly of Lyme depend on the Saturday bus and how they would hugely appreciate it if councillors backed their unheeded call for the county council to reinstate the service. If councillors kicked up merry hell at county level about the Saturday bus, a lot of Lyme’s elderly would not feel so forgotten.

Many of Lyme’s elderly do not own cars and without the Saturday bus they are effectively marooned at weekends. Lyme’s hills ask too much of the infirm to walk into town, so at weekends in Lyme if you’re old you can’t join in with anything.

That means that, because of only being old, hardly a lifestyle choice, basically half the population of Lyme is being excluded from the Jazz & Blues Weekend, D-Day commemoration events, The Big Mix, a lot of Lifeboat Week events, a lot of Regatta & Carnival Week events, the Folk Weekend and Guitars On The Beach, because they can’t get a bus from their road in and out of town on a Saturday.

As I lit my second Marlboro I mused that many of Lyme’s elderly must be thinking, “Why is it OK for the council to lavish £155,000 of our money on a skatepark, but our needs go unnoticed?”

Back in the meeting, Councillor Ellis announced that she wanted to “say something”. All night long she’d been saying she wanted to “say something” but whatever it was kept getting bumped towards the end of the agenda.

Now we all know what Michaela’s last-minute “say somethings” are like. Usually they provide the most excellent entertainment but the meeting’s end was nearing fast as the councillors’ catechistic standing orders said that they had to wrap up by 10pm - otherwise it would be last call by the time one got up to the Nag’s Head.

Was Michaela, usually the most astutely-in-touch with the town, going to “say something” about the Saturday bus? Was Michaela going to raise the point that, as Lyme’s elderly population is 12 per cent higher than the Dorset average and 23 per cent more than the national average, that this represented a special case to be argued with the county council?

The meeting resumed and councillors discussed the adoption of an information policy, the introduction of e-banking, the adoption of communication and PR procedures, the employment of cleaners for the community rooms at the shelters, seating at the shelters, keeping Strawberry Fields but doing nothing with it, the Anning Road playing field, re-surfacing the roof above By The Bay, the seafront railings and a proposal by Councillor George Symonds that, to get through the agenda, the council should, if necessary, sit through the night.

This suggestion clearly suited Michaela, who was still keeping her “say something” close to her chest. But it did not appear to suit others in the chamber. They had so much to get through the town clerk explained, that they could be there until 11.30p, “possibly midnight”. Hell’s teeth, midnight? Did the Nag’s do lock-ins anymore?

But then the mighty figure of Councillor Mark Gage stood. And with the full authority of Strategy & Policy chairmanship (and therefore de facto council leader), which had earlier been reinvested in him by a landslide vote (bizarrely proposed by the mayor, rather abdicatingly), he was having  0none of 0this night-shift malarkey.

He proposed that the meeting should end “on the dot of ten o’clock” irrespective of whatever somethings other councillors wanted to say.

Of course, as Mighty Mark had said it, councillors who are often at pains to protest that they do not block-vote and are not a “gang” of anything, went along with him; let’s shut up shop and mine’s a Babycham.

And so it was. There was a bit more chat about councillors’ need for a larger table in the chamber – understandable, as how else can they find space to stack up all of those sweets they eat? – and then as the clock struck ten it was over. Press and the public were turfed out and we never got to know if Michaela’s “say something” would be the missing words of ‘the Saturday bus’.

What’s the betting that things change now that Cheryl Reynolds has been elected to the council chamber? Methinks that Lyme’s elderly have found their champion at last.

The secret to Cheryl’s poll success 

IN national politics very little credence is given to the results of by-elections.

They are usually dismissed as being of little consequence to the political scene.

Can the same be said in local politics? Should we read anything into the quite stunning victory achieved by Cheryl Reynolds in last week’s town council by-election?

Recognised as one of Lyme’s community champions for her many successful fundraising projects for various organisations over the years, mainly for the young, Cheryl polled 877 votes to win the seat vacated by the controvesial, and in my view, totally unncessary, resignation of her brother, district and county councillor Daryl Turner. That number was undoubtedly boosted by the fact the by election was held at the sametime as the Euro elections, which would have got more people out to the polls.

But it was still a turn out of 44 per cent, a high number, twice as many as those cast in the last by-election when Stan Williams returned to the council chamber.

On each ccasion their opponent was Woodroffe schoolteacher Seoras Strain, who was unfortunate to come up against two local candidates. I don’t know whether he will go a third time, but he will stand a much better chance next May when a new council has to be elected and a fewer number of votes will get him elected.

Cheryl’s 877 votes, the most ever in a town council by-election,  even exceeded those cast for Lucy Campbell, who topped the poll at the last four-yearly election in 2010 with 827 votes. Cheryl  can rightly claim, therefore, to have a bigger mandate than any other councillor in the Guildhall.

There were two reasons why she was so successful. The first was down to sheer hard work: she distributed two election addresses, one to catch the postal voters and a second more comprehensive missive laying out what she wanted to achieve, low on platitudes by high on commitment,  both delivered to virtually every address in town.

That’s really hard work and Cheryl, a qualified herbalist who suffers from severe arthritis, deivered the majority of these, supported by husband Alan and a few supporters.
Brother Daryl is a great beleiever in getting out and about his constituencies, a hallmark of his success, and Cheryl has the same work ethic.

The second reason why she was so successful is that she correctly judged the mood of the town in their perception of the town council after a year of unseemly disputes and unacceptable behaviour.

The council made a big error at the recent annual town meeting by pretending all was rosy in the garden and that their woes were caused by this newspaper, and this column in particular. In doing so they underestimated the intelligence of the voting public.

What they should have done is to have apologised to the town, told them they were getting their act together with a new code of conduct  and would prove in the run up to next year’s election that they were worthy of their votes. No sign of that yet.

Cheryl attended a number of council meetings to see for herself and spoke a number of times during council meeting public forums as well as the town meeting.

It was seeing what was happening in the council chamber that encouraged Cheryl to stand at the by-election and she will take her seat at next Wednesday’s adjourned adjourned annual meeting another first.

The Mayor has already told her she will have to behave herself. Can we assumed that all other councilors have been given the same advice?

Not Michaela’s most onerous role…

IT CAME as no surprise that most the top jobs on Lyme Regis Town Council went to the gang of five. Well, they do have the votes with increasing support from the mayor, deputy mayor Anita Williams and Lorna Jenkin, they rule supreme. 

As expected, Mark Gage was returned to the most infuential position of chairman of the Strategy & Policy Committee.  What was surprising to many was that he was proposed by the Mayor.

No one was surprised that Michaela Ellis, 18 years a councillor,  lost the position of vice-chairman. As she was not consulted of any occasion during the past year, or ivited to partake in side meetings etc, Michaela will not be too bothered.

It will be interesting to see whether Councillor Gage involves his new vice-chairman, Lucy Campbell, in more of the decision making in the coming year.

Chris Clipson keeps Town Management and Anita Williams (Planning & Highways) and Lorna Jenkin (Tourism and Econimic Development) were both re-elected. 

Guildhall Gossip

WHAT is it about this council (or at least some of them) and confectionary?

In all the years I’ve been covering local government (I know, too long!), I’ve never come across so much eating of sweets during council business. In fact, I’ve never seen it in any other council, other than a serupticious Polo or Tic Tac being slipped into the mouth. 

It all started with Rikey Austin courting popularity asking all in sundry in the chamber of they would like “a sweetie”. 

Now it’s become a habit and if last week’s meeting is anything to go by, it’s time the mayor called a halt before they all end up with Type 2 diabetes. 

Mark Gage clearly has a sweet tooth. He got to his feet more times last week to pick a sweet than he did to speak!

COUNCIL EAVESDROPPING: Mark Gage to Terry O’Grady during last week’s marathon meeting: “What time is it?” O’Grady’s reply: “Past beer o’clock!”


RICHARD Mabb lives in Askerswell and is the owner and founder of Saison! Seasonings. After 10 years running his own marketing agency in London, Mr Mabb moved back to his family home in Askerswell in 2003, where he began his first food business, Gustosecco Risottos. Following years of fine dining and shopping for produce around the world, he launched Saison! Seasonings in 2012 where he specialises in dishing up variations on traditional British food.

HOW did the idea for Saison! Seasonings come about?
I’m a foodie who’s been lucky enough to shop at produce markets and eat at grand restaurants, in cheap cafes, on building sites, on city streets, on country roadsides and in people’s homes in places from Spain to Libya to Sicily, Venice, Greece, Lebanon and especially Turkey. I wanted a quick, convenient way of adding their wonderful flavours to our everyday food and came up with the idea of adding authentic regional ingredients to salt and pepper, the necessities of good seasoning. Local farm shops including Washingpool and Felicity’s backed me when I first started and their generous support helped me find a wider public. I’m very fortunate to have been taken on by a national distributor and as sales grow so is the seasonings range, which now includes variations on basic British grub including stews, fish, roast veg, chops and pies.

YOU also appeared on BBC Radio Solent alongside Katie Martin. How was that?
Katie was a blast! The only thing is I think I talked too much. Katie started a conversation on food and I couldn’t help myself. I only shut up when she asked me if I sneezed while packing pepper. Then all I could do was to laugh.  

YOU also travel to different food festivals with your range of seasonings. Where can we see you over the next few months?
Our big launch for this year will be our first ever Saison! Christmas gift packs - Winter Home Cooking, Mediterranean Cooking, Cooking with Chilli and Ottoman Cooking. We have many new and exciting ingredients to source, products to make and labels to design for these between now and September so I’m holding back from food festivals until Eat Dorset at Parham House on October 18th and 19th.

WHAT has been the most exciting thing to happen in your career so far?
It was quite a moment when the 2013 Masterchef winner Natalie came up to my stand at the BBC Good Food show in Birmingham last June and bought our Lavender & Nutmeg Sugar, Orange, Fennel & Chilli Salt and Strawberry & Mint Pepper. Natalie was lovely and seemed really interested in talking about how flavours work together. We talked for what seemed like hours though it can only have been five minutes. Five minutes of magic for me!

WHAT three items would you like to have on a deserted island with you?
If there isn’t room for my own seasonings then firstly I’d want salt. Not that I’m always thinking about food but we can’t do without salt and I know that it’ll make whatever strange foodstuffs I find taste better. Then Turkish red chilli flakes, which I use to boost the flavour of almost everything savoury. 

IF you weren’t in the food business, what job would you have?
I’d like to be a soul singer. Nothing makes me happier on any given day than listening to Smokey Robinson, Marvin Gaye, Bobby Womack and Jimmy Cliff. But you wouldn’t want to hear me down at the factory duetting with them via the radio!

Wednesday, 21 May 2014

More war-time GI memories

THE more I listen to the war-time memories of Lyme Regis people, the more I realise what an easy life my own generation has had. 

I was born three years after end of hostilities and whilst rationing was still in operation, I have no recollection of those difficult times and the grief suffered by those families whose men never returned to their  hometown.

I have never really appreciated either how frightened local people were about the propsect of a German invasion, especially because of our position on the south coast where Hitler was planning to land his Stormtroopers.

The presence of hundreds of American GIs in town in the run-up to D-Day would have heightened that fear.

But there can be no doubt that generally the young men from across the Atlantic were welcomed into our town, shown kindness by local families and they reciprocated in many generous ways.

This came over very strongly when I spent a fascinating hour chatting to Irene Catley last week, known to many locals as the former Miss Rene Williams who lived at 34a Coombe Street, next to the fish and chip shop, the daughter of well-known bus driver Glyn Williams and his wife Emily. She also had a brother, Raymond (now deceased).

Irene was 11 years old when the GIs arrived, having just passed her 11-Plus school examination.

Many of the American troops were billeted in and around Coombe Street and she struck up a friendship with two of them in particular, both of whom showed her great kindness. The nearby Monmouth Hotel was also utilised as accommodation for the troops.

Irene recalls that one of the soldiers  had a girlfriend back home in the States called Mary and he named his jeep after her, often taking Irene down to Jordan to wash the vehicle in the river.

The other GI was called John with a girlfriend named Opal. John had a photo of his girlfriend and Irene remembers going to Boots in Broad Street to buy a photo frame for him.

The troops set up a cookhouse in Cats Park (George’s Square) and Irene has particular memories of the wonderful smells that wafted over Coombe Street. On one occasion they gave her a large piece of steak for her father. With strict rationing, meat was in short supply and the whole family were treated to a steak supper.

The Williams’ responded by inviting George and John to Christmas lunch with Irene’s mother managing to get hold of a poussin from a local farm.

Irene told me: “I can remember talking to them about me passing my 11-Plus and saying I was a bit frightened about going up to the Grammar School. They encouraged me a great deal and even used to clean my school shoes.

“But one day they just went and we did not see them any more.”

The GIs were always telling the locals that they would kill a German for them and a few weeks after leaving Lyme Irene was thrilled to get a letter from John, postmarked France, in which he enclosed a badge from a German uniform.

“I told you I would kill a German for you,” he wrote. 

“I was very thrilled to get a letter but I can’t remember what happened to the badge,” she said.

Irene says she has thought about her two American friends many times over the years but has no knoweledge about whether they survived the war.

After the war, when she 18, Irene moved to London to live with an aunt in Streatham and work as a telephonist with the GPO.  The first thing she was told to do was to lose her Dorset accent and she now speaks with a cut-glass BBC accent. 

She got married in London where she lived for 50 years,  having enjoyed a career in aviation before retiring back to Lyme in 2000. 

Irene now enjoys the community life of Lyme, having recently returned from a trip to Bermuda with the Lyme Regis/St George’s Twinning Association.

When Lyme commemorates the D-Day landings on June 6th she will almost certainly say a little prayer for her two wartime buddies, John and George,  hoping they made it through to 1945 and were able to return to their sweethearts in America.


I REPORTED last week on the decision to scrap the toast to the Press at the mayor-making ceremony to avoid any potential conflict due to the uneasy relationship between some councillors and the Press (i.e. the View).

It was all done to ensure that Mayor Sally Holman would enjoy her big night.

How unwise, therefore, for Councillor Lorna Jenkin to use her response to the toast to the town council to slam the Press for causing all the council’s woes, accusing us of exaggeration and not reporting any good news. Change the record, PLEEEEASE!

What a wasted opportunity. Councillor Jenkin, a hardworking councillor, particularly behind the scenes, could have used her five minutes in the spotlight to expand on all the great things the council are doing, of which de-facto council leader Mark Gage spoke with such pride at the recent town meeting.

Before a sparse audience of about 40 (the lowest attendance for many years, if not ever) she squandered that opportunity by making another cheap jibe at the Press (she meant the View so it was a bit unfair on the Lyme Regis News).

In the process I believed she contravened the council’s new Communications and PR Policy (clause 3.2 actually), not that anyone cares and it only goes to show that the council’s new code of conduct ain’t worth the paper it’s written on!

COUNCIL QUOTE OF THE WEEK: “Never mind about tradition, let’s bring the council kicking and screaming into the 21st century.” - Terry O’Grady

Beware of those election promises when you go to the polls

VOTING starts in elections for Weymouth and Portland council in just 24 hours time, but will it be Heaven for your councillor standing for re-election or will it be Hell? 

It would be wrong to influence your political leanings, so I’ll leave you with a little humour to consider. 

A councillor was walking down the street one day when he was tragically hit by a truck and died. 

His soul arrived in Heaven and was met by St Peter at the entrance who said: “Welcome to Heaven. Before you settle in, it seems there is a problem. You see, we rarely see a man of public office round here, so we're not sure what to do with you.” 

The man said: “'No problem, just let me in.” 

But St Peter replied: “Well I'd like to, but I have orders from higher up. What we'll do is have you spend one day in Hell and one in Heaven. Then you can choose where to spend Eternity.” 

The councillor barely thought and said he’d already made up his mind and wanted to be in Heaven, but St Peter said rules were rules. 

And with that, he escorted the councillor to the lift and he went down, down, down to Hell. The doors opened and he found himself in the middle of a wonderful restaurant. Sat at every table were all his friends and other councillors who had worked with him.

Everyone was very happy and in evening dress. They stood to greet him, shake his hand and reminisce about the good times they had while getting residents to pay for them. They enjoyed a friendly conversation and then dined on lobster, caviar and champagne. 

Also present was the Devil who was really a very friendly and amiable man who had a good time pouring wine and telling jokes. They were having such a good time that, almost before the councillor realised it, his time was up and he had to leave. 

Everyone gave him a hearty farewell and waved while the lift rose, going up, up, up until the door reopened on Heaven. 

St Peter was waiting for him and said: “Now it's time to visit Heaven.” 

So another 24 hours passed with the councillor joining a group of contented souls moving from cloud to cloud, playing the harp and singing. They had a good time and, before he realised it, the day had gone by. 

St Peter returned and asked him: “Well, then. You've spent a day in Hell and another in Heaven. Now choose your Eternity.” 

The councillor reflected for a minute, then answered: “Well, I would never have said it before, I mean, Heaven has been delightful, but I think I would be better off in Hell.” 

So St Peter escorted him to the lift and he went down, down, down to Hell. 

But when the lift doors opened the councillor found himself in the middle of a barren landscape covered in waste and rubbish. 

He saw all his friends, dressed in rags, picking up discarded cans, dog waste and old cigarette packets which they were putting into black bags while more rubbish fell on them from the sky. 

The Devil came over to him and put his arm around his shoulder as the councillor said: “I don't understand. Yesterday I was here and there was a lovely restaurant and we ate lobster and caviar, drank champagne, chatted and had a great time. Now there's just a wasteland full of rubbish and my friends look miserable. What happened?” 

The Devil looked at him, smiled and said: “Yesterday we were campaigning… Today you voted.” 

So, when it’s your turn to vote, make sure your newly elected councillor remembers all those election promises!

A good deed is still a good deed 

HUNDREDS of people turned out for the recent Party in the Park run by community radio station Air FM. 

It was a lovely family event and there were nearly 40 stalls on show to tempt visitors.
Those there early watching everything being set up were quick to realise that one stallholder was having a bit of trouble. 

So they offered their help, she gratefully accepted and a number of bags, boxes or containers were carried on to the grassy area containing the stalls. 

It was a really Good Samaritan effort but the deprecating helpers felt they didn’t deserve praise because they were just doing their bit with a community event. 

But they were particularly interested in the person they had helped and they asked her what type of stall she was planning to set up and run that day.

They were a little stunned to be told that all the stuff they had carried was not actually for a stall. 

Oh no, it wasn’t for a stall! Everything belonged to a family which had come down to the party in the Park… and they’d brought their picnic with them, hadn’t they! 
One of the helpers told me: “You’ve got to laugh. I had to see the funny side of things!” 


JANE Burt owns The Happy Cupcake Company, based in Lyme Regis, with her husband Chris, and has just opened a second premises in the town – The Blue Sea Café on the seafront. Originally from Birmingham, Jane joined the Army at 17 and was posted to Salisbury, which is how she first came to the South West. She then lived in Somerset before moving to her dream home in Lyme Regis with her family eight years ago, having previously visited on holidays. Jane and Chris have three grown up children, Laura, Jake and Joe, and two grandchildren. Their two sons will be helping them to run the new café over the coming months. 

HOW did you first get into baking?
I started baking at a very early age. The person responsible for getting me into baking was my auntie Lynne who sadly passed away at the age of 62 last year. She used to make lovely puddings on my visits. Queen of Puddings was a favourite and I wanted to be just like her.

WHEN did you open The Happy Cupcake Company?
I started what is now The Happy Cupcake Company with Chris as a market stall at Wells Market. It was called Absolutely Cupcakes then and it was very successful but we always dreamed of having our own place and so we opened the cafe in Silver Street, Lyme Regis. 
We could see that there was a market for the decorations that I was using on my own cupcakes and so started sourcing and importing unusual sprinkles, etc. from all over the world. When we opened the shop on Broad Street we felt it was better to focus our energy into that to get it established and now we also sell a much wider range of items, which include ceramics such as Jersey Pottery, beautiful homeware and the odd piece of vintage furniture.

WHAT did you do before this? 
I am a Bachelor of Laws and before I had my own business I was a local government officer working in the legal department at Somerset County Hall in Taunton. I enjoyed my job but I much prefer being my own boss and working with my husband.

WHAT will your new seafront café be offering?
The new seafront cafe will be called The Blue Sea Café and will be showcasing my homemade cakes and scones, as well as savouries like quiche. We have chosen to stock Purbeck ice cream, as this is fabulous quality and will use this in our sundaes also. In the summer holidays we are planning to offer a pudding club in the evenings to give people the opportunity to try my homemade puddings whilst enjoying the magnificent location.

WHAT do you enjoy about the job?
I love the compliments I get about my cakes. It’s lovely that we already have regular customers at the cafe and people even coming back a second time in one day because they enjoyed their cake in the morning so they come back for my freshly baked scones in the afternoon.

WHAT’S your favourite type of cake to bake?
This would be cherry and marzipan cake because it is my husband’s favourite and so I enjoy making it for him. It is a lovely high cherry cake with a layer of marzipan through the middle like a simnel cake.

WHAT are your other personal interests?
Going on holiday and travelling. I love touring around France, although because we can’t really holiday in the summer any more we haven’t been able to do this as often lately. I also love going out for meals and when I am on holiday and I’m a keen photographer. We went to Barcelona last April and I got some really great shots there.

WHAT do you like about the local area?
I was brought up in a big city so, living here, I love the sense of space and the quiet. I have seen dolphins swimming in the sea and I can sit up in bed and look at the ocean. What more could you want?

WHAT do you think it’s missing?
Personally for me, I think it’s missing a proper sports complex. Please could I have one?

WHAT would you do if you won the Lottery?
Easy! Buy all my children houses and a holiday home in the south of France for us, and a big donation to some well-deserving charities of course.

WHICH three people would you invite to your dream dinner party?
I have two wonderful grandchildren who live about an hour away. I don’t see them as often as I would like to due to my daughter’s and my own work commitments, so I would invite my daughter, Laura, and Tilly and Milo for dinner and we would have giant prawns and ham sandwiches (Tilly’s favourite), and pizza (Milo’s favourite) and then lots of chocolate and strawberry ice cream, which they both love. I cant think of anyone that I would rather eat dinner with.

Wednesday, 14 May 2014

60 SECOND INTERVIEW: Jennie Ann Rake

DORSET author Jennie Ann Rake has been delighted with feedback from her debut novel, Deception, Lies and Chocolate Muffins – mostly receiving four and five star reviews from her readers. Writing the book was hard work – only to be followed by a struggle to get it published. Why then would she want to do it all over again? The sequel is already underway with eight chapters written. Many may know her for other reasons – she has been speaking throughout the county promoting the concept of Fair Trade goods, something she remains passionate about together with her love of knitting, sewing, her cats, family and husband… although, as she points out, not necessarily in that order.

YOU spent much of your life out of the area, bringing up a family and teaching. What was it that made you want to settle in Dorset? 
We have been in Dorset for nine years now. When we came back to the area it felt like we were coming back to our roots. David’s (husband) maternal grandma, Florence Bartlett, was brought up at the Crown Inn at Uploders, where her mother was the licensee, and there are other family members around. When Florence married Joseph Rake they went to live in the Stourpaine area.

HOW did you both meet? 
We met through the church choir. He was also a bellringer, and still is. We married in Buckinghamshire in 1971 where we had three children and where the book is based. It was our move to Dorset in 2005 which had all sorts of problems which inspired the book. I had one of those conversations with our solicitor who said ‘you could write a book about this’ – and I thought ‘why not?’. I suppose I always thought I had a book in me, but it was that which got be started.

AS A youngster were you always keen on books? 
Yes, although I wasn’t really fixed on any particular books. I do remember a series of stories about a brother and sister who went for holidays in different countries, although it seems a little implausible as an adult. I loved writing at school, what we used to call ‘composition’ in those days and I would illustrate some of my stories with drawings. I continued to be interested in writing while I trained as a teacher at Rolle College in Exmouth and tried my hand at poetry and writing music.

NOW you are published, how much does it matter to you what people say about the book? 
For my self-esteem I like to know that people like it. It’s nice that most people do seem to like it and that a publisher thought it was worthwhile. The other aspect is that I had set writing it as a personal challenge, so I enjoyed achieving that and knowing that it’s out in print and that even if they don’t buy it people can borrow it from a library. Getting feedback is encouraging and people have been asking what happens to Hattie next, so I’ve made a start on the next one and I am up to chapter eight at the moment…I had one of those ‘light bulb moments’ and came up with how to do it.

WHICH writers have inspired you? 
I used to read Ruth Rendell under the name of Barbara Vine and in the past I’ve been keen on Thomas Hardy and Jane Austin. Then I discovered Katie Fforde, Joanna Trollope, Jill Mansell and Catherine Alliott. At the moment I like Joanna Trollope because she goes a bit deeper and deals with real-life issues.

DO YOU have a favourite word?
Yes, I like ‘chuckled’ – it’s a charming word, sort-of cuddly and good fun. ‘Chuckled’ has got something about it… but I do have to make sure that I don’t use it too often.

AND assuming you have some spare time what else do you like to do? 
I knit. I’m currently working on my third patchwork quilt. I like to sew, like one of the characters in the book. I’m a fairweather gardener and I love cooking for my husband and looking after my three pampered cats.

WHAT would your perfect Dorset day be? 
A mid-morning walk by the sea at Ringstead Bay followed by a cup of coffee and then, later a picnic lunch and a paddle at Burton Bradstock and finally fish and chips at West Bay watching the sunset – food, fresh air and sea breezes.

Memories of the American troops

AS mentioned in this column before, Lyme Regis is pulling out all the stops to commemorate the 70th anniversary of the D-Day landings.

In fact, of all the Dorset towns, Lyme will be leading the way in honouring those  who never made it past those Normandy beaches in the liberation of Europe, with the focus on the American soldiers who were billeted in the town before the big day.

A report in this newspaper of the commemoration plans over the weekend of June 6th/7th/8th has stirred the memory of our senior citizens who were children when the Americans arrived in town. One such person is Pam Kaxe (nee Hallett) whose father Rex lost his life in Italy during the war.

Pam was 12 years old when the American troops were stationed in Lyme in the build up to the greatest invasion ever staged and has many happy memories of the kindness shown to local children by the American GIs.

Many of the American soldiers were billeted in tents on the fields where Anning Road is now built. 

Twice a week after coming out of St Michael’s School the pupils would dash to the fields where the troops were cooking ring doughnuts. With strict food rationing in place, this was a rare treat for the Lyme youngsters who had never tasted doughnuts before.

“They were lovely,” says Pam.

Pam also has fond memories of the Christmas party the GIs organised for the kids, held in the Church Hall.  The hall was decorated for the occasion and each child received a present as well as a traditionally Christmas dinner served on metal plates and including a fresh peach (another rare treat) placed alongside the turkey and stuffing.

When they heard that the troops were about to leave town, Pam and some of her friends, including Janet Sweetland and Joan Bird, put on a variety show  up at the copse at Timber Hill where the troops constructed a stage for them out of pallets.

The next day they were gone so their last memory of England for many of those brave men will be an act of kindess by the children of Lyme Regis.

If any of our senior citizens who have similar memories of the Americans’ stay in Lyme, we would be pleased to hear from you and record them in this column.

Mike Hartley - ‘simply the best’ greengrocer and family man

IT was an appropriate and fitting touch that at last Friday’ s memorial service the coffin of former mayor Mike Hartley was adorned with boxes of organic vegetables.

Mike will be best remembered for running his fruit and veg shop in Broad Street for many years where he made many friends and carried out numerous kindly deeds for his customers.

Before moving to Lyme, Mike worked in publishing in South Africa and London. On moving to Lyme he and wife Lin took over Sturch’s and introduced Lyme to a variety of what seemed like exoxtic fruit and veg, the likes of which had not graced the dinner tables of Lyme hitherto.

Always keen to introduce new varieties, Mike was rightly proud of his shop and built a business which is still greatly missed.

I first got to know Mike as a Round Tabler, always good company and keen to get involved. He went on to join the Rotary Club, serving a term as president and also won a seat on the town council, being elevated to mayor from 1989-1991.  He was a popular First Citizen and an excellent council chairman, giving a great deal of support to a number of organisations, especially the majorettes and pantomime society.  He was also a leading light in the chamber of trade.

With Mike suffering from advanved dementia, life was very dificult for Lin and their children, Alan and Jo, in the last couple of years. But Jo gave a touching tribute in church, recalling  the many happy family occasions and describing her dad as “simply the best”.
I can think of no better description.

Guildhall Gossip

MAYOR Sally Holman is keen to improve the council’s image after all the in-fighting of the past year.

So I am pleased to note she has dropped one traditon from next week’s ancient mayor-making ceremony - the toast to the press.

The relationship between the council and the press (at least with the View From) is at an all-time low, mainly because of the stance taken by this column over the behaviour of certain councillors.

It would be unfair to include the Lyme Regis News in this, although we have always managed to get Mark Gage’s designation correct and not referred to him as “vice-chairman of the parish council” as happened recently.

None of the councillors really want to be seen toasting the press and we certainly don’t want to reply. It would be hypocritical on both sides to do so.

It’s not the role of the press to be pally with our elected representatives. We’re here to hold them to account - and that’s exactly what we intend to do.