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.

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