Wednesday, 27 August 2014

60 SECOND INTERVIEW: Megan Dunford

MEGAN Dunford has always lived in West Dorset with a keen interest for art. After getting A-levels in art, photography and textiles at the Thomas Hardy School in Dorchester, Miss Dunford went on to study a Fine Art Foundation at Somerset College of Art and Technology for a year and completed a Fine Art Degree in Cardiff in 2011. Since finishing university, Miss Dunford has volunteered for various arts organisations and worked as a gallery steward at Bridport Arts Centre. She now works as the exhibitions assistant at Bridport Arts Centre, helping to manage the Allsop Gallery exhibitions, liaising with the artists and helping Dorset Visual Arts run Dorset Art Weeks. This year she was also the event co-ordinator for Bridport Open Studios.

WHAT inspired you to work in art?
For as long as I can remember I have loved drawing and learning about art and artists. I love meeting and working with artists and helping them to realise the intentions of their work and deliver these ideas for an art event or in a gallery environment. It is hard work and not a black and white job, but I think that’s what I enjoy. You have to be willing to put the hours in and be very flexible but it is worth it in the end.

WHAT do you enjoy doing in your spare time? Are you a part of any community organisations or groups?
I try not to do anything too mentally exhausting in my spare time. I like to get outside and cycle and swim a bit. I try and make as much work as I can of my own, although this gets put on the back shelf! 

WHAT three things would you like on a deserted island with you?
A pencil and a huge pad of paper, you will never be lonely if you have these and your imagination! Plus a bottle of Frangelico for cold nights! 

WHAT would you do if you won the Lottery?
If I won the Lottery I would go travelling around the world, particularly Italy and South America, for 18 months, and bring my friends, family and partner with me! Then I would put my money and efforts into opening a centre or space that would help and encourage younger people to get into creative industries. We would teach music, art, languages, and writing courses generally having fun whilst inspiring the minds of the future! 

WHICH three people would you invite to your dream dinner party?
The thought of a dream dinner party fills me with dread it would have to be a damn good menu to impress. I would invite Nellie Bly (or Elizabeth Jane Cochran), a revolutionary journalist from the late 1800s/early 1900s who not only went round the world in 72 days but also faked insanity to report from an insane asylum. Nicolas de Staël, a Russian born French painter whose work I love, who committed suicide at 41-years-old. Last but not least, Amy Winehouse, she’d be a laugh I reckon and hopefully give us a tune after pudding.

Council give red card to stadium plans

WEYMOUTH FC was soundly beaten when plans for a new stadium home at Lodmoor were given a red card by the council’s planning committee.

They and Wessex Delivery had argued that the new stadium would “sit comfortably” in its surroundings, but some councillors felt there was no need for a new one when a perfectly good stadium already exists at Southill.

And residents living near Lodmoor were singularly unimpressed with the prospect of having a large new football ground suddenly mushroom close to their homes.

There was also derisive laughter when Wessex suggested stadium lighting would be no more intrusive than existing street lighting.

There was certainly a wealth of conflicting views on the future stadium including those of the club itself which felt Lodmoor was the way to put Weymouth FC on a sound footing… despite opposing a stadium at Lodmoor last year!

When I arrived in Weymouth several decades ago the Terras played their football in the heart of the town centre at a battered stadium near the bottom of Boot Hill.

That land is now the site of the Asda supermarket which moved in and levelled the place for its new store as Weymouth FC moved out into a rose-tinted sunset and headed off to a new life at the Wessex Stadium off Radipole Lane.

Even the most ardent of Weymouth FC supporters will be forced to agree that since then the club has had the odd internal dispute or three which brings us to present times and the current proposal to relocate the stadium again, this time to land near Lodmoor tip.

I don’t carry a torch for the club but I talk to people who do and they make one very telling point: a Weymouth FC in the heart of the town centre knew its market and knew its fan base.

So moving to the Wessex, now known as the Bob Lucas Stadium, gave the club a new stadium but forced every fan in the densely populated centre of town to make a pilgrimage some distance out to Southill to watch matches.

That hit potential crowd gates, something supporters said would be even worse if the club moved to Lodmoor and played its football at a ground surrounded by Lodmoor Country Park, Lodmoor tip and Lodmoor Nature Reserve.

They point out there would be no big nearby fan base which could walk a few yards to matches nor would it be like the Bob Lucas Stadium with the Southill community on its doorstep and Westham within three-quarters of a mile to draw fans from.

Instead any new Lodmoor stadium would have relied on fans driving there since only Melcombe Regis is relatively nearby while parts of Radipole are more than a mile away and parts of Preston are more than two miles away.

A Weymouth FC at Lodmoor would have faced the same fan travel issue that it does at the Wessex or perhaps even worse.

Finally there are the views of the cynics that the whole scenario – which included proposals to build 170 homes on the Bob Lucas Stadium site - was just a classic example of people lining their pockets.

Nearly 100 people packed the planning meeting, opposition to the stadium was fierce and councillors ended up unanimously voting against it.

But this is Weymouth FC and I doubt very much whether we have heard the last of the “new stadium” saga.

WEYMOUTH Carnival went off gloriously, everyone had a great day and the Red Arrows spectacular high-in-the-sky display was perhaps the best they have ever done.

The town’s biggest day of the year brings tens of thousands of people in from a huge area, but things did not go smoothly for every visitor.

One non-local radio station, keen to air the atmosphere and key figures of the day, found itself left with egg on its face.

They lost no time getting down to work and swiftly set up an interview with the Weymouth carnival queen.

Fortunately radio cannot show embarrassment so station blushes were spared when it emerged they had just interviewed not the carnival queen… but a woman down for the event from Wolverhampton!

Condor sets sail from town

CONDOR has set sail from Weymouth, perhaps never to return.

The puppetmaster of the high seas has tried to pull Weymouth’s strings for years. But its relationship with the town reached an all-time low when the council carried out £4.4million worth of harbour wall repairs only for Condor to say Number 3 berth wasn’t good enough for its shiny “new” Austal 102 vessel.

For once Weymouth found some steel in its spine and said it wasn’t prepared to pay the £10million cost of adapting Berth 1 to meet Condor’s requirements.

Condor said it wasn’t going to pay and the Mexican stand-off was abruptly ended when Condor announced Austal would operate from Poole from Spring 2015 when it would also pull the plug on its Vitesse vessel’s Channel Islands service from Weymouth.

Condor recognised this would be “disappointing news” for the town but encouragingly said its “medium term” arrangement with Poole would give Weymouth time to establish its long term plans for the port. How gracious of them!

Perhaps now the town can concentrate on what it wants to do with the whole of that peninsula including whether it wants to talk to a totally different ferry operator.

As for Condor? Well, I’d love to be a fly on the wall when the increased fuel cost bill for the longer Poole-Channel Islands run drops with a thud on their boardroom table.

Tigers will roar again soon

I WAS privileged to get a sneak preview of Axminster Town’s new football ground in Chard Road last week, courtesy of a personal tour by club chairman Ray Self.

As someone who has failed miserably to bring new and better facilities to my own home town club, I left the site a very jealous man. The Tigers’ new stadium is nothing short of breathtaking in design and quality of finish.

As always with such major projects, there’s been a few hiccups along the way, especially with the laying and drainage of the pitches. 

But Axminster Town players will soon be running out on what I consider the best football pitch  for an amateur club in Devon, perhaps further afield.

As a former player for the Tigers (I played for the club in the late 1960s and have never lived it down in Lyme Regis), I  always had a fond regard for Sector Lane.  It was always considered to be one of the best football pitches in the area and there were many who opposed the demise of their beloved Sector and the move to Chard Road.

Those who ran Axminster Town FC many years ago made the brave decision to buy Sector Lane - a decision which has enabled to club to sell the land to developers who have, in return, provided the new facilities at Chard Road.

This is a project that has dominated chairman Ray Self’s life for 12 years and during that time he has had to overcome many problems and a good deal of resistance. But he has never wavered from his dream of providing the town’s footballers with the very best facilities. That dream will soon become a reality and when that day comes Ray Self should be a very proud man indeed.

There will be work still to be done rebuilding the  football structure, especially the development of a youth section, so very necessary today.  That will be the club’s next challenge and I have no cause to believe they won’t meet it. 

If they get the football structure right, I believe every top player in this area will want to play for Axminster Town.  It’s the nearest they will get to playing at a professional club.

And with wonderful  facilities, the new ground will become Axminster’s premier venue for social events.

Chard Road will soon become the new Sector Lane - but much better. I wish them every success over the next few months in their transition to a new home of which they can be justly proud.

A Walk Through (generous people’s) Time

OUR new eastern seafront - from Charmouth Road car park and along the seawall - is nearly ready. Protecting a critical part of town, this magnificent engineering also brings a new seaward dimension: a coastal walk from the eastern car park all the way to Monmouth Beach, with barely a glimpse of road traffic.

It offers, too, a fresh way into my periodic pursuit of volunteers who keep Lyme Regis thriving - for it’s not coastal protection alone that sustains the town and guards its future. 

Let’s walk this route one imagined day in late November when the footpath and steps are open.

First, look across to the vibrant Lyme Regis Football Club - voluntary to the core, everyone working for free. Howard Larcombe chairs a 15-strong fully-involved committee which, representing all club aspects and ages, keeps a busy show on the road. 

Secretary Rob Thom deals with league matters: player registrations, referees, fixtures, correspondence. Teresa Golesworthy keeps the books in order. Others focus on youth football, marketing, fundraising, match programmes, bookings for the clubhouse... and all roll up their sleeves for the nuts-and-bolts: bar staff, gate-keeping, the social events that feature so strongly.

Volunteer groundsman, handymen and willing helpers keep the Davey Fort and its clubhouse shipshape. Four “tea ladies” providing refreshments for players and spectators also walk the touchline collecting donations at home games: life-member Kath Wellman, a founder of the LRFC Ladies Supporters Group, to give them their proper title, has 30 years of doing this.

And the football? With three teams - almost, now, enough players for four - the Seasiders buck the trend towards playing on screens rather than on grass. 

“We’re stronger this year than ever,” says Howard. 

Well-led by first team manager Tim Edwards, the other managers and their assistants, and training twice-weekly throughout the summer (weekly in the season), they play to demanding standards, with a high profile and reputation for quality.

Moving the first team to the Devon & Exeter League is strengthening the club’s attraction for players some way from Lyme. 

In this, it reflects what I saw with B Sharp and Lyme Regis Majorettes: ambitious excellence in a small town creating the “critical mass” of a larger population.

Before descending the path, imagine the soon-to-be skatepark, admiring (in my case, envying) agile displays of fitness and skill. Persistence by Lucy Campbell and her young helpers over recent years - researching, consulting, planning designs and equipment, building momentum - has turned decades of wishing into a coming-reality.

Alongside, a small volunteer band led by Pat Campbell and Cheryl Reynolds put long hours into gathering an important £13,000 for the project. Starting with a Nag’s Head auction (£3,000 in one night), their effort embraced duck races, quiz nights, produce stalls, and other events. 

My Sundays in the Jubilee Pavilion last summer always saw Cheryl and one of the team on Marine Parade, determinedly selling tickets for a skatepark lottery linked to Guitars on the Beach and raising £3,000 from advance sales, with over £750 on the day.

Fundraising is tough - not just when the open-air disco coincides with heavy rain. Each event is backed by many hours of imploring, planning, organising, and getting the legalities right. Name me a town organisation without its hardy fundraisers: there can’t be many.

‘Lyme punches above its weight’

Now down and along the seawall - relish the view while resting on a seat, its timber backrest recycled from the old groynes.

Above is St Michael’s Parish Church, no longer at risk of losing graves to the sea. A prime example of the cliché that “Lyme punches above its weight” is the new Skrabl organ. 

Reputedly the finest new organ in the south of England, it’s outstanding in the beauty of its sound and of David West’s carved pipe shades - also for meticulous preparatory research and an astonishing funding effort. Andrew Nicholson’s group raised nearly £350,000 during five (financially hard) years. Some grants and many concerts helped; but most came from individual donations - a remarkable achievement.

The founding of the Lyme Regis Organ School, a non-profit trust chaired by Andrew with Dr Richard Godfrey as music adviser, is one consequence. The trust runs an annual residential and several day courses, and promotes a series of early autumn concerts.

This special church organ complements, but mustn’t overshadow, the quiet voluntary work underpinning an active community. The 12 elected Parochial Church Councillors have broad oversight: finance; policy - whether liturgical or organisational; administration; liaison with St Michael’s School. 

Two churchwardens, Margaret McConkey and Linda Nicholson, manage the building, its upkeep and the activities within it, meeting the regulations of Diocesan and civil authorities. The Church Hall, too, is voluntarily managed.

Retired clergy assist with services, while lay assistants from the congregation help with, for example, administering Holy Communion to the housebound and in care homes. A dozen bell-ringers, on duty each Sunday, practise one evening a week, as do a similar number in the choir. 

Then all those on the various rotas - flowers, collections, readings, intercessions, brass-cleaning, coffee-making, locking and unlocking a church that’s (uncommonly) open all day, welcoming visitors, Sunday public cream teas during the season... weekly pew-leaflets must be prepared, website maintained, Parish Magazine compiled and published ten times a year.

So the life of the parish church draws heavily on a tradition of centuries - the offering of time and talents by friends as well as church members inspired by their faith, with some helpers having multiple roles. Such support is vital in keeping this historic building, and the communal spirit that it fosters, in good order for our town.

Reliance on people who volunteer for several jobs, within and between organisations, characterises so many voluntary groups. (Who at the football club is vice-chairman? Reserve team manager? Occasional player? Bar supervisor? Maintenance overseer? Regular labourer? Gerard Hitchcock, one and all. You’ll know equivalents all around town.)

We’ll meet this theme again next month as we pass the Marine Theatre, the museum and beyond. It’s admirable - but with serious implications. 

Wednesday, 20 August 2014

Who dares gets battered!

I’VE always looked upon Colyton and Colyford as one community - and indeed it is.  I’ve always been aware, of course, that Colyford is an ancient borough but the village and town have always been run by Colyton Parish Council on which Colyford has  representation, currently four out of 13 councillors, although this is not a statutory right.

There has been murmurs for a long time, however, from Colyford that the village does not get a fair deal, which has encouraged the current Mayor of Colyford, Howard West to “bravely” raise the issue at a recent council meeting.

I say “bravely” because it takes a bit of guts to go against the grain at Colyton Parish Council meetings. They are, as demonstrated frequently in recent years, a close-knit group who close ranks whenever anyone dares to challenge their modi operandi.

This newspaper is the only one that takes any interest in Colyton Parish Council by sending a reporter to every meeting. Indeed, we have done that for many years.

From time to time, however, we have upset councillors by reporting on matters that they would prefer not to be publicised, despite such matters being discussed in open council, the inference being that we should only report on the positives and never the negatives. That view, of course, is contrary to the basic principles of democracy and we have resisted any attempt to stop us doing our job responsibly.

We really upset the council recently when we had the audacity to record their deliberations at a particularly controversial meeting, to ensure we got it exactly right. To do so was contrary to the council’s standing orders (rules). We had never been sent a copy of those standing orders and they are not listed on the council’s website, at the library, on the council notice board or any other public place.

The council threatened to report us to the Press Complaints Commission for contravening their rules but common sense prevailed and if we want to record meetings in the future we have to seek permission which, from time to time, we will do.

The parish council defended its commitment to Colyford at its last meeting and Howard West took a bit of a battering over his claims about the village not getting  its fair share.  

But it was his democratic right to raise the matter and he should not be unnecessarily castigated because he did not tow the party line.

Get off the open register if  
you don’t want the junk mail

THE Government has effectively ordered Weymouth and Portland council to open itself to ridicule.

Some might say this isn’t too difficult a job, but this time the council is the innocent party.

Thousands of us recently had a leaflet popped through our letterboxes entitled: “Your vote matters. The way you register to vote is changing.”

Now the council, no stranger to controversy, immediately spotted the ludicrous way the Government-backed leaflet had been written and contacted Westminster for permission to change the wording. That permission was denied and the council was forced to issue the leaflet as it was.

It told the residents of Weymouth and Portland that “you do not need to do anything else” over election eligibility because “you have been automatically re-registered under the new system”.

That’s all right then… but it isn’t.

Sadly, as with so many decisions the Government makes, all is not quite as it seems.
Lower down the same leaflet we are told our details are on an open register, an extract of the electoral register which is not used for elections but which can be bought “by any person, company or organisation”..... “to confirm name and address details”. 

Then comes the key sentence: “Your name and address will be included in the open register unless you ask for them to be removed.”

So, despite what the Government-backed leaflet says, unless you want an avalanche of “special offer” and charity mail pouring through your letterbox, you do need to do something.

Specifically you need to look at the bottom of your letter where there is a long security code of more than a dozen numbers and have that handy when you call 0800 197 2327 and ask to be removed from the open register.

I view the whole letter as a stealthy approach which could in many cases lead to businesses and charities being able to confirm precisely where you live and the only reason they can have for doing that is to send you “junk” mail or begging letters.

If you still haven’t made your mind up then more information on both registers is available at

But be warned. This, too, is top heavy on information about how easy the voting change is.
Only by going to Section 3 and pursuing that relentlessly do you finally arrive at what the open register is really about.

It includes a list of who uses the open register such as alcohol and gambling businesses, charities to help with fundraising, debt collection agencies and “direct-marketing firms when maintaining their mailing lists”.

So now you know. The Government says you do not need to do anything else. That’s fine for the election side of things but people who choose to ignore removing themselves from the open register only have themselves to blame if they then get a lot of unwanted mail.

A RECENT visit to the cinema underlined the impact weather is increasingly having on all our lives.

We joined 30-40 other film fans who packed into the excellent Plaza Cinema in Dorchester to see Guardians of the Galaxy.

Our trip included £4 in town centre parking fees and nearly £6 inside the cinema for nibbles, tea and other drinks on top of our cinema ticket bill.

Then we relaxed in our comfortable seats and waited for the usual burst of colourful adverts to herald the start of the entertainment.

We were still waiting nearly 40 minutes later after several false starts of music but no pictures when the manager came out in front of the audience and said that regretfully, due to technical problems, everyone would have to leave and be given a refund or similar option.

It emerged that the problem was believed to have been caused by a lightning strike during a recent storm over the county town. Typical! There’s never a Guardian of the Galaxy about when you need one for a spot of projector repairing.

Check my name tag!

IT was a simple trip out to Bristol by a Weymouth man and his friends which all went horribly wrong.

He drove up to the city and they had a good time, but he didn’t know the place and set off home by driving the wrong way up a one way street.

Then to get out of trouble… he drove the wrong way up another one way street. And to get out of that dilemma… he drove the wrong way up a third one way street!

It is perhaps no surprise that police eventually spotted him and pulled him over. The officer asked him how old he was and the young man replied: “17.”

He was also asked if he had been drinking and he replied: “Yes, but only a couple of pints.”

By now the policeman was determined to check the young man out and asked if he had any form of official identification on him.

The young man thought about that for a while and then admitted that he didn’t but, before the policeman could speak, the young man’s face lit up and he said he had just realised that he did have some form of identification.

He then got out of his car, rolled up a trouser leg and showed the officer his name stitched to a label on the inside of his sock! The officer was still laughing when he waved the young man on his way!

A walk on the quiet (east)side

WE went for a walk along the prom on Sunday evening, as we often do. We usually stop, look back over Lyme Bay with Golden Cap in the distance and remark how lucky we are to live in Lyme Regis. I never tire of that view.

Only this time it was different. This time we were strolling towards Golden Cap, going east and not west.

The day before I picked up on Facebook that the new eastern promenade was now open to the public. 

And during the day a number of people contacted me to ask did I know the new seawall was now open to the public?

The wall is part of the £19.5 million project to protect homes, roads and infrastructure on the eastern side of the town from the effects of coastal erosion and landslips.

We weren’t the only ones to be taking a post-dinner stroll in the late August sunshine.
We met a number of locals all of whom had the same idea and commented: “Isn’t this wonderful?”

And indeed it is. 

Lucky Lyme, I say, for the new eastern walkway will undoubtedly be another big attraction for locals and visitors who want a quiet stroll by the sea without all the hullaballo of the commercial seafront. A walk on the quiet side.

I love Lyme in the summer (well I love it all year round, really) but sometimes, especially during August, you feel  how nice it would be to escape the masses.

I hope West Dorset District Council, which has led the project, will avoid the temptation to commercialise this new walkway with ice-cream concessions and the like. I’m pretty sure they won’t go down that road, having protected the Gun Cliff walk from the kiss-me-quick attractions.

As well as providing the ideal place for a quiet stroll, the new walkway will also provide better access to back beach. And I understand that local anglers have already latched onto the new seawall  as an ideal spot to cast their lines.

It will certainly be a big attraction for the hoardes of fossilers who frequent that area and who can now gain easier access to the rich pickings from Lyme’s crumbling cliffs.

As a local from that side of town, back beach was very much our domain as kids. We would spend many summer afternoons at weekends exploring the rock pools for shrimps (never prawns for some reason) which provided Sunday tea. Every shed in Anning Road had a couple of shrimping nets.

Phase IV of the ongoing costal protection scheme is not complete with some areas still fenced off for minor works to be completed. Landscaping and planting will be completed by Christmas and the walkway will be closed for three weeks in October for steps and a footpath to the Charmouth Road car park to be completed. Another big asset.

Lyme should be grateful for the manner in which these works have been handled by West Dorset, carried out with a minimum of intrusion and the minor inconvenience (considering the future benefit to Lyme) of losing a few hundred car parking spaces.

The scheme was made possible by a £14.6million contribution from Defra with Dorset County Council (£4.27 million) and West Dorset District Council (£600,000) chipping in.
Those who harp on about how little the county and district councils do for Lyme would do well to remember that.

The official opening of the scheme will take place before next summer when all works are completed and the extensive planting established.

Any ideas about what the new walkway should be called?

The stars who crowned our regatta queens

MY favourite radio programme is late on a Sunday evening when lyricist Don Black plays his favourite tunes on BBC Radio 2. It suits my mood.

Black invariably plays a Matt Monroe number. I think he managed the East London-born crooner at one time. So what has this got to do with Lyme, I hear you mutter?

Listening to a Matt Munro song on Black’s show during Regatta Week brought back memories when the singer, one of the most popular in the world of entertainment in the 1960s and 70s, came to Lyme to crown Miss Lyme Regis.

In those days all the big stars appeared in summer season at the  Weymouth Pavilion and the management always encouraged their clients to make as many personal appearances as possible in the area to boost ticket sales.  

Before I got involved in the Regatta (I was secretary for nine years), I can remember Anne Shelton crowning the Regatta Queen on Cobb Gate car park and an appearance by the Dagenham Girl Pipers, a big hit with the boys. During my time as secretary we managed to persuade a whole host of big names to come to Lyme. 

These included Tommy Trinder, Hope and Keen and Billy Dainty (who was the spitting image of Regatta President Ivor Curtis) and if all else failed we could always rely on someone from Westward  TV or BBC Plymouth - Ken Mcleod and Hugh Scully being firm favourites. We even had a visit from Miss World, although she failed to perform the crowing - but that’s another story for a future column!


SUE Worth has had three husbands in recent weeks, can boast making billiard nets for a living and has helped with the introduction of life-saving technology at the County Hospital. Recently retired she hopes to devote more time to her poetry, improve her costume-making skills and would quite like a home by the sea.

ARE you Dorset-born?
Yes, I grew up in Stratton, near Dorchester, before it went upmarket. In those days it was a typical Dorset village - we had a shop in Mill Street and a pub, The Bull, where, as kids we could go to a side door and buy ice cream. The shop had a packet of washing powder in the window which everyone thought had been there for many years and no one would have been daft enough to buy. We also had a village school where I started out before going to the Secondary Modern in Dorchester.

HOW did you get into your medical career?
I wanted to be a student nurse, but didn’t quite have the grades, so a couple of us went to see the Matron at the Dorchester Hospital and she said she would take us on, but we had to wait. It was very challenging and I later went back as an auxiliary on the geriatric ward, working nights, after having our daughter, Naomi, and in between I made billiard nets from home, when I could, to bring in some extra money. Later I went back to college and did a returner’s course. I’d also learnt some IT skills which they picked up on, and I was set to work in the critical care unit doing clinical audits. Before I retired I was working on the VitalPAC system which can provide an amazing amount of information for patients in critical care.

BUT you were also involved in hospital life in other ways?
I had been a staff governor for about three years and really was able to express staff concerns, and a union rep’. It was interesting to be able to work with people of widely different views.

DO you think you are ready for retirement and do you have any plans?
I loved my work but last summer I noticed I was beginning to look out of the window more and more and thought it was time to go, that was in March. I knew the first six months were sorted – Andy ( husband) and I were committed to the Community Play, which was a fantastic experience, and now with the New Hardye Players we’ve been involved with Wessex Scenes, which is about to start its autumn run…hence having three ‘husbands’ in the space of a year! I made most of the costumes for it and would love to know how to get better at it – mine look ok from a distance but when you see the work of some other costumer makers theirs have all the detail, as well.

HAVE you been a Hardy fan for long?
I’ve always loved his poetry but didn’t take to his novels when I was younger. Someone said it was best to come to Hardy when you are older and I think that’s right.

WHAT do you get out of performing on stage?
I think I just wanted to get a bit more confidence and be more comfortable in my own skin and with appearing in public. I’m hoping to be able to perform more of my poetry, although I also write some prose as well. Many of my poems feature a play on words and I particularly like the local accent and dialect which, of course, has become much less pronounced than it was in Williams Barnes and Hardye’s time. I’m now hoping to write more and possibly perform as well. I think poetry needs and audience, although it used to make me a bit annoyed when people laugh where I’m not expecting them to.

HOW else do you plan to spend the extra time you now have?
I’d like to travel more; I  love the Mediterranean where people refuse to move at a modern pace. I like swimming in the sea and I would like to do some more snorkelling.
I’ve also taken on a part-time job as a guide at Shirehall which is a fantastic building with a fantastic history and has so much potential for drama and other things. I just find it staggering that the Tolpuddle Six and their families had the courage to stand up for something they believed in and would fight for a real principle. 

AND is there something you would stand up for?
The NHS. I’m worried about it because you can see the way it’s going. There is so much temptation from people who want to make money out of it, to make us pay for more and more of it. But is doesn’t work. We all know how badly run the American care system is. My grandfather used to say that the day the Government doesn’t look after the NHS is the day he would stop putting his hand in his pocket to pay his taxes.

Wednesday, 13 August 2014

And it seems like yesterday

THIS column usually takes a two-month break during the summer months and in the past has been replaced during July and August by Francesca’s Summertime in Lyme column.

This arrangement has allowed me to take a few days off to recharge my batteries and also gives the town councillors a few weeks without taking a battering from me.

With Francesca now editing our Lyme edition as well as looking after a part of East Devon for our Pulman’s View series, we have abandoned her Summertime column, much to the disappointment of many, and Lyme Matters returns a little earlier than usual.

I’m coming up to the 50th anniversary of my first job in journalism - a cub reporter on the Exeter Express & Echo.

The first big story I covered was the runaway lorry which crashed into the London Inn, the horror of which I can remember as if it was yesterday.

I was tempted by the bright lights of London which took me away from Lyme and was fortunate to work for an international media group which took me to many places around the world that seemed a million miles from Anning Road.

I’ve loved every minute of it, although it’s been a bumpy ride these past few years as local papers have had to deal with a dramatic decline in advertising revenues and competition from the digital media. But I get as big a kick today when a good story breaks as I did when I was that slim young man who thought being a reporter was the most exciting job in the world. I still believe that.

Journalistic opportunities for young people are few and far between these days and as I gallop towards retirement my greatest satisfaction is to see my young reporters develop into first rate journalists.  I am, of course, very proud, like any Dad would be, that Francesca has followed in my footsteps. She works tremendously hard and has developed a love for her home town which is demonstrated every week in her commitment to Lyme through the columns of this newspaper. 

It’s not easy being my daughter in this job. She often gets the backlash of my rantings in this column but she’s developing a thicker skin and a more cynical attitude so essential for any journalist.

With my lower profile in Lyme at this time of year, she is constantly asked if her Dad is well (I am, thank you) or retiring. 

Not quite yet!

Lyme looks blooming great again

MY new-found interest in gardening, revealed in my last column, has caused much mirth among my mates. 

One of them has resorted to calling me “Percy Thrower”. For those of you under 50, he was the Alan Titchmarsh of our youth (Percy, not my mate).

But I’ve really got the gardening bug and I’m already planning how I can improve and extend my floral displays next year.

And whilst on the question of horticultural matters, a big pat on the back for the town council’s outdoor staff, under head gardener Barry Trott, who have once again done a splendid job in making the town look so attractive this summer with the various displays in the public gardens, Marine Parade and Broad Street. 

A word of praise also for local traders who have enhanced their premises with some magnificent displays, especially the Nag’s Head and Royal Lion.
Lyme does not enter the Britain In Bloom awards any more, which I think is a shame. 

Many moons ago I was editor of the Sidmouth Herald and organised a reciprocal trip for our readers to visit Harrogate in Yorkshire, which had won the Britain In Bloom large town category, Sidmouth having been adjudged the best small town.

Entering the Britain In Bloom contest engendered great community spirit and has proved to be a big tourism attraction for Sidmouth over the years. 

Seaton and Beer also pull out the floral stops and have also reaped great benefit from their efforts. Is Lyme missing a trick here?

Guildhall gossip

I WAS stopped in the street last week by a regular reader of this column and asked: “What’s going on? It’s all gone a bit quiet in the council chamber, hasn’t it?” 

Not before time, I thought.

As far as their public face is concerned, it does seem that our waring councillors have settled into a more respectful mode following the town clerk’s plea for them to “move on” after Tweetgate.

Behind closed doors, however, there is still, a great deal of animosity between the two factions. At a recent “in committee” meeting I hear that there were several very caustic exchanges which prompted one senior member to say “I have never heard anything like it in 40 years” after one councillor used some choice language out of pure frustration.

T'was ever thus.
  • DOES Lyme Regis need 14 councillors to run the town?  The neighbouring town of Seaton is bigger than Lyme but does it with fewer members. Of course, it’s not a question of how big the town is, but the duties it performs and Lyme council has greater responsibilities (and a bigger staff and budget) than its neighbours. The idea of reducing the number of councillors in Lyme was floated at a recent meeting but comprehensively rejected. With confidence in the council at an all-time low, as I’ve said before,  Lyme’s biggest challenge will be to attract 14 candidates at next May’s election.

Persistence pays dividends

THE decaying frontage of Woolworth’s old shop has been a blight on the shopping centre of Seaton for too long.

Woolworth pulled out of this prime trading site before the recession started to bite so there’s been little hope of finding a new tenant for such big premises. Business rates alone are said to be £25,000.

With the appointment of local agents (Richardson Gill) there is renewed hope that a new tenant may be found, especially as the landlord has agreed to free rent providing the business rates are covered.

That they have taken this unusual action is very much down to the efforts of John and Rita Buckley, comparative newcomers to Seaton who recognised the town was looking a bit tired and decided to do something about it.

Showing great persistence, Mr and Mrs Buckley set about trying to get the High Street conglomerates to improve their premises. Lloyds Bank and Boots redecorated their buildings, encouraging other independent traders to do the same. 

And their sheer determination has spawned a refreshing community action which tomorrow (Wednesday) will see a group of volunteers turning up outside the unkempt frontage of the former Woolworths building armed with buckets and mops, brushes and paint, to give the eyesore a makeover it needs so desperately.

East Devon District Council are also doing their bit by power washing the front of the building.

There are those, of course, who believe that landlords should be forced to keep their premises in pristine condition. In an ideal world that would be the case and it would seem that most small towns suffer greatly through the neglect of premises once they stop trading.

With all other efforts to smarten up Marine Place having failed, at least the people of Seaton, led by the indefatigable John and Rita Buckley, are trying to do something about it.
I applaud them.
  • On Saturday I went to Whitford Show, 48 years after I first covered the village’s annual flower show. That was on World Cup Day 1966 and they installed a black and white television in the village hall. Whitford Show is still going strong, a microcosm of traditional Devon Life at its most charming.  Long may it continue.

Desperate times call for desperate measures

AN emergency sale of surplus council objects is to be held as part of desperate attempts to fund the town’s economic recovery and repairs to the ailing harbour walls.

Star item at a forthcoming auction will be a 1933 signed copy of the great economist John  Maynard Keynes’ work, The Means to Prosperity, which the council apparently no longer needs.

Other meaningful memorabilia include a rare sepia print of the town centre without a traffic queue, historic 2011 documents from when the authority was master of its own destiny and two threepenny bits found down the side of the chief executive’s sofa.

Sadly, while these items may raise a groat or two here and there, you wouldn’t hold out much hope of it meeting the bill for all harbour wall repairs which could be up to £70 million depending on which wild-eyed council accountant you are listening to.

There are even those grimly smiling council critics who suggest that the authority should practice what it preached at Castle Cove, accept it can’t afford the repairs and allow nature to take its course and reclaim the harbour.

Certainly those using the harbour at the moment, such as fishermen, face the unusual prospect of attaching their mooring ropes to a structure which could easily be somewhat less stable than their own vessels and which has more holes in it than a Swiss cheese.

The only solution not yet touched on is to resort to tried and trusted methods and use convict labour to carry out the repairs.

With a bit of co-operation from police it should be possible to rush through a few bylaws to harness the current rush of tourists, charging them with having too good a time but offering to spare them jail if they donate a couple of days labour heaving a few stone blocks into place or doing a spot of sheet pile riveting.

Desperate times call for desperate measures so, if you’ve got family or friends in another part of the country, invite them down for a few days!

THIS column has commented before on the ludicrous situation of cyclists choosing to ride in the road when they have a perfectly good cycle path right next to them.

It appears that the situation has not got any better and my thanks go to several readers who have contacted me about their experiences.

Of particular note is one driver’s comment about Weymouth Way, scene of two recent tragedies.

He was frustrated at a cyclist he couldn’t get round because of oncoming traffic, vehicles being backed up behind the rider because he chose to pedal along in the road and not on the new path nearby which had been specifically provided for cyclists at great cost.

It was a similar tale on Portland Beach Road where another cyclist headed a giant queue of fuming drivers also unable to get round him because of heavy oncoming traffic.

This cyclist seemed oblivious to the fact he was riding right next to recognised cycle routes on to the island.

I think authorities are going to have to campaign to highlight the need for cyclists to make use of the facilities provided for them because some of them are clearly not going to do so without a nudge or three.

Steve joins cyclists on the Tour de France

WELL-known Weymouth council events manager Steve Davies is never happier than when he is on a bike, so he jumped at an opportunity for a brief break up north during which he could see several stages of the world famous Tour de France.

Inevitably he wasn’t content with just watching and was actually able to join a number of other amateur cyclists riding up one steep Tour climb called Holme Moss.

He was absolutely amazed by spectators two or three deep along the entire route and said: “It was the only time I have been cheered by crowds in my whole life!”

The whole get-away was a revelation for a man steeped in Weymouth tourism life because it was like experiencing the scale of Weymouth Carnival crowds everywhere he cycled.

Even Steve, no stranger himself to the bizarre, couldn’t believe what he was seeing at one point when he met a “French” cyclist decked out in beret, onions and striped shirt on an old bike going up Holme Moss by pedalling backwards to thunderous applause.

A bit of a breather was needed later, so Steve dropped in at a hospitality area....which had been set up in the forecourt of an undertaker’s business. Only in Yorkshire!

Wash your hands!

DON’T read this if you are about to have a tasty meal or a much needed snack.

Gone are the days when pub goers were treated to free little bowls of peanuts and crisps.

That loss was bemoaned in a recent pub conversation in Weymouth where staff in the hostelry were asked what had caused landlords to stop making such popular offerings. The reply when it came caused a few looks of disgust.

Apparently such treats were withdrawn after Health and Safety tests on the remnants of such snacks revealed traces of 17 different types of urine in one bowl alone!

It seems that some drinkers were going to the pub loos, coming out without washing their hands and were then dipping straight in to the snacks, adding a certain piquancy to nibbles consumed by pub goers who tried the snacks after them.

Worryingly, publicly available research reveals the same problem with things such as children’s play equipment and cinema seats! Not surprising when figures show one in three men and one in eight women don’t wash after going to the toilet.