Wednesday, 29 April 2015

60 SECOND INTERVIEW: Clare Davison

CLARE Davison has been principal at Kingston Maurward College for five years, coming to the role from the position of deputy. In total, she has been at the college for about 15 years. Prior to her arrival in Dorchester she led a management and professional studies department in a Bournemouth college after teaching jobs in schools. She comes originally from the Muscliff area of East Dorset which, as she says, was then a small village, before being swallowed up by the Poole-Bournemouth-Christchurch conurbation.

WHAT are some of your earliest memories from your childhood?
Probably of Throop Mill where we fished and swam. There is a picture of me at home at about the age of two at the mill. It’s a lovely place.  We also used to cycle around the area as a child, with a group of friends, although I have never let my daughter do that. 

HAVE you always had an interest in the countryside?
Yes, I have always has an interest in large country houses of the sort this [Kingston Maurward] is, and I’ve had an interest in the countryside from my father who had a smallholding.

WHAT attracted you to Kingston Maurward?
It’s a very special place and unique in its ways. There are now only 14 land-based colleges. When I first came into the sector there were probably 40 or 50. I do feel passionately about Dorset hanging on to its land-based college because so many have gone, although a number have been merged with further education colleges, some successfully, some less so. Since I have been here were have diversified along with the industry. It now has new facilities for animal sciences, horticulture and we have just got some money for agritech, just to mention a few. We have needed to be outward facing and seek to grow year on year and are, of course, popular as a venue for weddings and conferences.

WHAT keeps you interested in your job?
The staff and students, who are fantastic, but of course this building and its grounds. I never tire of looking at the site and try and get out every day for a walk around and to chat to people. It’s a busy but exciting job and we continue to grow year on year and the college has seen more students opt to come here. 

WHAT sort of changes might yet be to come?
We have to constantly innovate and one of our priorities is to do more in Higher Education. We’ve done particularly well with apprentices – over 700 last year is significant for a relatively small college and of course with Dorset full of small and medium-sized business we have great links to hundreds of employers across the county, and beyond. Most of our students do go on and get jobs. We want to do more Higher Education and be in the forefront of making it possible for people to stay local.

DO you have a favourite area or department?
There hasn’t been a single day when I don’t drive into this beautiful campus and think “Gosh, I’m lucky to be working here”, and when you come in on a spring day and you see the lambs in the field and you look at the gardens with all the magnolias it’s hard not to like agriculture and horticulture. 

IF you went back to the classroom what would you teach?
I still do a bit of teaching but I would perhaps concentrate on English and maths, which is so important for everyone to have a good standard in. 

IN your spare time, if you have any, what do you like to do?
My husband and I like to cycle. On a good day we’ll get the bikes out and sometimes go fair distances. One of our favourite cycle trips is to go from Wimborne down to Poole on the old railway line and then over on the ferry and then on to Old Harry Rocks. It’s a view which is hard to beat. 

ANY hobbies a bit less physical?
Reading - I do like psychological thrillers. I don’t paint but I do like art and spend a fair amount of time browsing art galleries and looking at art. I’m a member of the Royal Academy and always go to the summer exhibition and am generally tempted by something. I love impressionist art. We’ve got a nice garden, but I can’t claim to have put it together, we inherited it when we bought the house. It’s now full of flowering cherries and magnolias and lots of shrubs, but we don’t have a lot of flowers.

HOW do you see the years ahead for you and Kingston Maurward?
I think we are well positioned to face the future and have the infrastructure and courses to ensure young people in Dorset have a real choice from us. You can never do these things quickly enough - I would like to see us being considered a world class institution and I like to think we keep in touch with what the sector needs and how its needs are changing so we can always deliver what is appropriate to the next generation. Our biggest challenges are financial – we need to maximise our commercial activity and we will have to continue to remain being very efficient in all that we do.

The Marine comes clean about its future 

AS we all know, rumours spread like wildfire in Lyme - and are very often wide of the mark. It’s much the same in any small community. 

The rumour mill in Lyme has been working overtime following a couple of cryptic Facebook postings and half a story in a rival newspaper concerning the future of the Marine Theatre. 

We knew about what was happening but against my better judgement decided to hang fire as the livelihood of some of the staff was possibly under threat. 

Once the story appeared in the Bridport & Lyme Regis News, people were talking about the 
Marine being “in financial trouble again”. 

The people of Lyme have every right to be concerned about the Marine when the town council generously provides £30,000 of funding every year. 

I am a big admirer of the Marine and those volunteers who work so hard to maintain it and keep it going. Without them, the place would have closed down years ago. 

Like many locals (oops, can I say that?), I have a soft spot for the Marine. It’s where me and my mates did most of our courting at a time when the theatre played host to some of the top music acts in the country - the Big Beat Nites of the 60s. 

Over the years I have compered many events from the Marine stage and have rarely missed a chance of extolling its virtues. 

I’ve also been impressed with how the Marine has attracted so many top names in recent times in a programme led by its two artistic directors, Tim Bell and Harry Long. 

Alas, Tim and Harry are off to pastures new in a few weeks. 

So what’s actually going on down at the Marine? Manager Nigel Day, sadly, has lost his job in a belt- tightening exercise that hopefully will prevent the trust going cap in hand to the council again. 

We put a number of questions to them this week, based on some of the rumours flying around and they were honest enough to reply in detail. That doesn’t always happen when we ask some difficult questions. 

Lyme branch of the Royal British Legion in good hands 

REGULAR readers of this column will know that I am a big supporter of the Royal British Legion, especially the Lyme Regis branch. 

Small in number, they punch far above their weight and do wonderful work in and around the town for ex-service personnel, as well as raising thousands every year for the Earl Haig Poppy Fund. 

Although I have never served in the Armed Forces there is some military history in my family with my grandfather, Alfred Evans, who lived in Silver Street, being a career soldier, serving with the British Army in the Boer War, in India and in the Second World War before becoming a policeman. 

My father was in a reserved occupation making Spitfires throughout the war and his two brothers saw action in El Alamein and Arnhem. 

I got to know about the work of the Legion by being asked to compere their Festival of Remembrance, which I did for 15 years. 

Although it is 70 years since the end of the last war, with our troops sta- tioned at every hot spot around the world the need of the Legion is as essential as ever. 

Non-serving personnel are now able to become full members of the Legion and on Saturday Jackie and I attended the Lyme branch’s annual dinner at the Golf Club, where it was 
good to see so many younger people present. 

Eventually, the Legion will be run by the young and it would seem that Lyme is well placed to maintain the branch’s fine record. 

As the years pass by, every year there are a few more familiar faces missing but in passing the baton they can rest assured that the Legion in Lyme is in good hands. 

"TELL me it’s not true" was the email message I received when a good acquaintance of mine, who serves on a neighbouring council, heard that Lyme Regis Town Council was planning to make an addition to its Diversity & Equality Policy to prevent staff and members being discriminated against because of their place of birth, i.e. not local. 

It was a parting gift from the Gang of Five at one of their last meetings and predictably was not supported by four of the old school. 

“Is it true or is it a joke,” he asked. “Tell me it was a joke, please!” 

In these politically correct days such polices are common place in public bodies and are no doubt necessary in these enlightened days. 

Stirred by Mark Gage’s absurd and slanderous “racism” accusation at the recent parish meeting, Rikey Austin took it further by saying that she felt some people could be discriminated against because they were not born locally. Rubbish. 

Lyme has a proud record of welcoming its incomers who, increasingly in recent years, have played a crucial part in the social and community life of our town. 

It’s one of those policies that will stir up more trouble than it’s worth 

Council dammed if they do, and damned if they don’t

WEYMOUTH and Portland’s sharp rise in car parking charges has come as no surprise.

Cutting charges was a nice idea but it has proved impossible to continue with the initiative because of the impact on council revenues.

So charges have had to rise, to the confusion of those visiting the borough, many of whom have been heard swearing blind that charges were lower the last time they were here.

Of course they’re right. Charges were lower the last time they were here, but a few blanched faces in various council committees at some pretty grim car park revenue figures was all it took to increase charges.

To be fair, the council is damned if it does and damned if it doesn’t.

Put up parking charges and there will be outrage at the way visitors are deterred by the high cost of parking in Weymouth and Portland.

But keep charges low and the authority finds itself with a big gap in revenue which has to be plugged in some way, often at the expense of cuts in other services which creates a different sort of public outrage that the council is cutting vital services.

It’s a tricky balancing act not least because Britannia Parking, which operates the town’s multi-storey car park, has decided against following the council’s lead and will be keeping its prices at their current level.

If this site’s all weather parking was popular before then it will be doubly popular now that it is cheaper to park there than in council car parks.

That will make revenue figures collated ahead of 2016-2017 council budget meetings even more interesting reading. 

Could we then see an even higher hike because the expected revenue from the current increase hasn’t materialised?

Politicians in denial

NATIONAL polls show the people of Weymouth and Portland are just like every other town in the country. They are fed up with politics!

Research has shown that there is widespread apathy about the forthcoming election and that has surprised and shocked the politicians so much that a drive has been launched to encourage people to be more enthusiastic about polling day on May 7th.

Quite why people’s disillusionment with government should be such a shock to those actually in government is beyond me.

After all, hard working people who have prudently saved all their lives are being rewarded by getting a good rate of interest on their savings, aren’t they?

Young people starting out on life’s highway can easily find a job or start buying their first home, can’t they?

And surely the NHS has never been in better shape, the national debt never so low and public optimism never higher?

Well the answer to all these questions is ‘Yes’... if you are a politician in government.

Sadly a new project by Specsavers only had funding for 650 pairs of rose-tinted spectacles, just enough to give one to every MP at Westminster.

The rest of us have to make do with seeing life how it really is and that’s enough to make anyone fed up with what has happened to this country.

A good summer in the offing?

COULD Weymouth and Portland be on the brink of a bumper summer season?

We won’t really know for sure until September but the early signs are very promising with a particularly good Easter.

The ‘No vacancies’ signs were out, beach traders told me that business had been very good and, on some days, almost impossible to keep pace with while most town centre traders were generally happy with what their tills were taking.

There can be no doubt that all this was due to getting mostly decent weather over this crucial early trading period.

But no-one will be tossing their cap in the air yet because Weymouth knows all too well that early sunshine can be followed by the disaster of a miserable summer.

Hopefully that won’t happen this season, as recent years have shown above average temperatures and there is nothing yet to show this trend won’t continue, so my umbrella is still tucked firmly away at the back of a cupboard... but I know where it is.

Ne’er-do-wells give bad impression

WEYMOUTH’S tucked away little areas are proving a haven for dodgy behaviour.

Teenage schoolchildren gathering for a crafty smoke in an Asda back street doorway, drunks gathering to swill cans in small parking areas behind the seafront and street people set up shop on out of the way bench areas near the harbour and Radipole Lake, it is all going on.

Such incidents are hardly likely to be a top priority for police, but they might be for the council’s tourism machine since these images are not the sort they want displayed as the vital summer season gathers pace and holidaymakers start to flood into town.

If the authorities want to do anything about these problems then the time to do so is now.

Tuesday, 28 April 2015

There was only one FR

LIKE many hundreds of others from the sporting community in East Devon and South Somerset, I was saddened to hear of the death of Frank Huddy - gentleman cricketer, wonderful musician and raconteur.

I first met Frank when he ran the Double H entertainment agency in Chard when I was Regatta & Carnival secretary in Lyme Regis. I booked the Tony Graham Combo, for which he was the front man, for numerous dances.

But I got to know Frank better through local cricketing circles. Known affectionately as FR (his Christian name initials) he was club captain at Chardstock for many seasons in days before league cricket ruined the local game and village cricket was much to the fore.

Fixtures between Uplyme and Chardstock were always competitive but ultra-friendly, especially after the games when we would repair to the The George in Chardstock or Talbot Arms in Uplyme to buy  jugs of beer for dropped catches and listen to Frank’s cricketing tales. Whatever happened to those days?

Frank had a way with words, both spoken and written, and helped to pen a charming history of Chardstock Cricket Club when they celebrated their 100th anniversary in 1987.

In later years meeting Frank at various sporting dinners and occasions was always an enjoyable experience. He was a lovely man and will be greatly missed.
  • IS anyone in Honiton interested in local government?  The last few months has been one of the most controversial periods in the town’s recent history with the argument raging over the Beehive community centre. You would have thought the annual parish meeting would have been packed out. But how many attended? ONE!

Wednesday, 15 April 2015

The double-edged sword of visitors and behaviour 

ALL Weymouth and Portland residents must accept that their lives change between April and September when the area welcomes its annual influx of visitors.

However, this is a two-way street and visitors – no matter how much they are trying to relax – should show courtesy to residents and the place they have come to.

This was not the case the other day when at least four groups gave weekend crowds a wonderful example of their skilful use of the ‘f’ word.

I’m no shrinking violet, but can these people really do no better for a conversational style than f-this, f-that and f-the other?

Two of the groups concerned were young men with Midlands accents, one group was much older and seemed to have come down for the weekend and the final verbally challenged individuals were actually a mother and father in a family group with fairly young children. 

Really good role models there!

None of this should be taken as some sort of clean bill of language health for residents because they can swear with the best of them.

However, persistently offensive behaviour by a resident gets noticed and can be dealt with through various legal orders while the same style of behaviour by a visitor is rarely punished because they are gone almost before they have arrived.

Their impact as individuals is fleeting albeit annoying, but the general influx of visitors has a much greater collective impact.

I’d love to make some sort of comment that perhaps the council or the police could do something but that is frustratingly pointless when faced with the inescapable fact that if these visiting adults haven’t learnt how to behave by now then they never will.

Bird-brains and bribery

WE’VE all heard about the destruction that storms can inflict on people’s homes. Some people get flooded out while others are left struggling to repair damage, but I’ve never heard of a home which ended up on its roof until now.

A recent storm caused havoc for one farmer who went out the next day to find that his chickenhouse was upside-down on its roof!

So he realised that perhaps the area it was in was a bit exposed and he went to all the trouble of moving it and re-erecting his henhouse in a more sheltered spot.

But the chickens were having none of it. Having been mentally scarred by the experience of being in a tumble drier as their home was blown over by the storm, they were in no hurry to get back into such an unpredictable structure.

They flatly refused to have anything to do with the henhouse even if it was in a nice new des res area.

The farmer had to resort to bribery with grain to get them back inside. Just as well really as the alternative was the tender mercy of local foxes.

Children conned by cardboard

WELL, Easter is over and everywhere you go you can see children with the glum faces of someone who has been conned.

I do not speak about youngsters failing to believe that Christ rose from the dead after his crucification.

Oh no. I speak of the diminishing size of Easter eggs!

It was only when I saw mums at a supermarket, loading trolleys high with Easter eggs, that I took a close look at what was on offer.

Some of the ‘Easter eggs’ were the size of small suitcases, but the vast amount of product on show was just packaging, great elaborate swathes of plastic and cardboard.

Any child tough enough to battle their way through that would have felt cheated at their reward, an Easter egg barely one twentieth the size of its carton.

No wonder children were looking like they’d been short-changed.

Get kids outside!

IF you are old enough and lucky enough to have children then you may be shocked to find out that sons and daughters are spending less than half the time outdoors that their parents did as a child.

Research commissioned by the Eco Attractions Group showed that children splashing in the mud of Puddletown Forest or building a sandcastle on Weymouth beach may be becoming a thing of the past.

Many have never climbed a tree or planted a seed, preferring instead to play computer games, watch television or hang out with friends.

A study of 2,000 parents revealed that more than half their children hadn’t had a picnic outside their back garden, barely a third had helped to grow fruit and vegetables and barely a fifth had gone pond dipping.

Worryingly, one in four parents said they don’t live near a green space or somewhere with outdoor activities for their children. We know all about that in Weymouth thanks to recent developments!

The message is clear. Parents need to make the effort to encourage their children outdoors or there may come a time when they have to explain what a cow is.

The challenge facing this new council

WHEN the news came through mid-morning that only 10 candidates had put their names forward for election on Lyme Regis Town Council, no one could really believe it.

There was a cluster of existing and ex-councillors at the Cancer Research UK Big Breakfast checking WDDC’s website on mobile phones expecting a contest with, perhaps, as many as 18 nominations. 

No one expected that the list would fall four short of the requisite number - 14.  So in a way, those councillors who had refused to say whether they were standing or not had the last laugh.

There were rumours that a couple of the “Gang of Five” would be standing down but I don’t think many thought that all five would chuck it in. 

Later that day, at the annual parish meeting, Mark Gage announced that he had made up his mind not to seek re-election 18 months ago because of the battering he was getting from this newspaper. He went on to assassinate my character, accusing us of being “racist” against incomers and running the council, a ridiculous accusation. 

I’m not going to bother to defend my reputation. There were 40 present at the parish meeting and this column is read by 4,000 people. Unfair advantage. I will leave my service to this town for others to judge.

The criticism has also been aimed at us that the lack of candidates has been caused by the robust coverage of the council by the View From and that potential councillors did not want  to expose themselves to such a level of examination.

I think there is something in that but on the other side of the coin I am aware of a number of people who wanted to put up but decided not to do so because they did not wish to work with those councillors.

Had those who did not seek re-election been honest about their intentions, I am sure there would have been a contest.

There is one indisputable fact here that prompted our stance - the senior members of this current council have presided over the two worst years in the history of the authority and its predecessor, Lyme Regis Borough Council, with a litany of errors, falling out and reprimands from the town clerk about their behaviour. Lyme Regis deserved better.

But the new-look council will undoubtedly face a tough few months.  Whilst there is talk of reducing the number of councillors from 14 to 12, I understand they will be able to co-opt four new members after May 7th.

The first - and possibly the most difficult  task for the new council, and certainly the most important - will be to rebuild the reputation of Lyme Regis Town Council.

They will go some way to achieving this is they treat each other and those who have gone before with respect. There will be arguments in the council chamber. Councillors will fall out. That is the nature of the job, but such disagreement does not have to descend into personal insults and immature behaviour.

I think the town also expects its local councillors to support the civic traditions of this historic town and this has ben greatly lacking in recent years.

My hope is that the 10 will soon become 14, or at least 12, and they make a determined effort to work together to restore pride in Lyme Regis. 

Making omelettes is clearly not my forte...

THANK you to all those who supported our Cancer Research UK Big Breakfast at the Baptist Church Hall on Friday, realising a record £1,250.

This was our first event of 2015 and we are hoping to raise another £10,000 this year to take us over the £60,000 mark since we formed our fundraising branch in 2008.

The numbers attending were undoubtedly boosted by the extremely generous gesture by Mark Hix who gave a £150 voucher to dine out at his Oyster and Fish House.  We gave a free draw ticket to win this excellent prize to everyone who attended - the lucky winner being Julia Gay, from the Marine Theatre.

Despite his hectic schedule running some of London’s top restaurants as well as his Lyme outlet, Mark also called in to accept my challenge to see who could make a three-egg omelette in the fastest time, aka the “Saturday Kitchen” programme.

I have to say, rather sheepishly, that it was a bit of a disaster from my point of view.  Mark certainly took it seriously, bringing his own pan and wild garlic filling and completed his omelette in just over two minutes before finishing off my own effort, which was hopelessly undercooked by the time he poured his onto the plate.

It was just a bit of fun but emphasised the old adage: “Stick to what you do best” - and clearly cheffing is not what I do best!

We served 125 breakfasts on Friday morning as well as 25 takeaways with the ladies on our Cancer Research UK committee doing a brilliant job in the kitchen.

We are currently putting together a programme of events for the rest of the year so keep an eye out for our next one.


FAYE Neal is a professional photographer living Bridport. She has just started out and developed her own business, Faye Neal Photography. Faye has lived in the area since see was two-years-old when her parents moved down from Crawley, West Sussex. She is currently busy developing her portfolio and looking after her daughter, three-year-old Lacey Rae. For more information on Faye’s photography and to see some of her work visit 

WHEN did you first embark on photography?
I went to Colfox School, and went straight into work at River Cottage HQ. Unfortunately while I was in this job I got unwell and had to give up work and didn't work for a few years. During this time I decide to take my passion for photography further and put myself through a photography course. A year later I got my photography diploma.

WHERE did your passion for photography come from?
My passion for photography has always been with me from a young age, I remember my granddad being very good at it; he wasn't a photographer but was handy with a camera. I have always wanted to do it as a profession and a lot of what drives me is my daughter Lacey, I want to be a good role model for her.
WHAT events have you already done?
The past year I have been working hard to gain as much experience as I can. I’ve done a number of private photo sessions for people, a wedding, Buckham Fair and a lot of equestrian-related stuff. I feel I am now at a point where I feel I can go off and start my own business and offer my services to the public, I am doing Buckham Fair again this year, which is really exciting as it grows every year and feel I can grow with it and capture the atmosphere it brings. Other than events and equestrian, I will be offering photo sessions that include newborn and family, couple and engagement, weddings, dogs and other pets. 

IS THERE a particular place, person or animal you like to photograph?
Yes I specialise in equestrian photography. Horses are amazing animals and give off such a calming vibe, it is by far where I feel most at home with my photography. I do love street photography and people too, I have a couple person projects that I am about to start working on in this area and I am looking forward to it greatly. 

WHAT can you offer customers?
I offer a friendly relaxed service that is affordable for everyone, I work on location or at your home, my photography is very natural. I will be working on my own and hopefully as my business grows I will be able to take on young photographers to work along side me at events and weddings etc. Other than photo sessions I will be working on some personal projects to keep my portfolio up to date and fresh, I hope to do some travel photography in the near future and hope to get involved with more local events in Dorset. 

Tuesday, 14 April 2015

Pulman’s comes home

THIS week we welcome three new titles to the Pulman’s View stable - Crewkerne, Chard and Ilminster.

This sees a return to our South Somerset roots. Although born in Axminster, this newspaper’s founder - George Pulman - set up the Pulman’s Weekly News and Advertiser in Crewkerne in 1857. 

Before that, Mr Pulman was editor of the now defunct Yeovil Times - so it really does feel as if Pulman’s is “coming home”.

Until this week, we have been covering the news and views of Crewkerne, Chard and Ilminster through our series of popular Weekender titles. 

But we felt now was the time to bring South Somerset back into the Pulman’s fold, where we can offer a bigger and better newspaper every week.

Regular Weekender readers can rest assured all of their favourites parts of the paper can be found in Pulman’s View, along with new features and expanded property, local services and motoring sections.

Everything you’d expect to find in our arts and entertainment section Weekender Life - and a whole lot more - is in our View 2 leisure guide.

And, of course, Howard Larcombe’s comprehensive coverage of the local sport scene remains in place.

So make sure you look out for your Pulman’s View every Tuesday, across East Devon and South Somerset.                       


Wednesday, 8 April 2015

60 SECOND INTERVIEW: Melinda and Andrew Newberry

MELINDA and Andrew Newberry moved to live in Bowood, near Salway Ash, Bridport, 12 years ago. Andrew is a gardener and, until recently, Melinda worked in a solicitors office but left in November to focus on a new business venture in floristry, called Little Strode Flower Farm, and to undertake some floristry training. Their family consists of two dogs, a cat and some chickens.
To find out more about the Little Strode Flower Farm visit 

WHAT inspired you both to get into the florist business?
I saw a TV programme some years ago about two women who set up a flower growing business, and I thought "I'd love to do that", and so we have gradually built up the growing part of the business, and the floristry side has been a natural extension of that. 
For the past three years we have been developing a small business growing cut flowers.  We occasionally have a stall on Bridport Market, and otherwise provide flowers for weddings, parties, funerals etc.  We are also now hiring out trees to decorate wedding venues.

WHAT do you both like doing in your spare time?
Walking our dogs, ideally on one of the lovely coastal walks nearby with a pub lunch at the end of it. We both love the outdoors, and have a long-standing interest in gardening and growing things.

WHAT has been the highlight of your careers?
Being involved in the Hampton Court Flower Show exhibition last year. It was great to meet other growers and speak to enthusiastic people, potential customers, who love British grown flowers and are keen to find a grower near to them.

WHAT do you like most about the area?
Having access to the coast and loads of beautiful countryside, and Bridport itself is a lovely town.  There is so much going on, and Bridport people really "go for it" and enjoy themselves.  You can also pretty much get most things you need in the town, perhaps buying second hand, or compromising a little - we like to buy locally whenever we can.

WHICH three people would you both invite to your dream dinner party?
Dinner invites would be David Bowie (musical hero), Sir David Attenborough (what an amazing life he's had) and Vic Reeves (he would just be really silly and a laugh).

DO you have any other passions outside of work?
Not sure about passions outside work, but we do love to escape for holidays/breaks to Spain whenever we can.

Choose the least bad option

ALMOST beyond belief, the government has announced that the campaign for the general election on May 7th has now started!

OK, so that statement was backed up by a few minor incidents such as the dissolution of parliament, but you’d have had to have been locked up in solitary confinement in an Orkney Island jail to have missed all the electioneering which has already been going on.

Giving the campaign an official ‘start’ stamp merely uses a broad brush to gloss over the inescapable fact that for weeks now politicians at local and national level have been after us for our vote.

Like all courtships it has a certain format with the suitors bearing gifts of one kind or another... and we all know what they say about people bearing gifts!

What has amused me down the years is that, while the faces may change, the tub-thumping rhetoric, histrionics and extravagant promises remain the same. Give me your vote, they say, and I’ll make sure you’ve never had it so good!

By my count this is my ninth general election so I’m sparing a thought for you and the rest of the electorate who, like me, are just totally disillusioned with politics in general and politicians in particular.

Now my view may be challenged by the political machine which will be trying to coax people to the polling booth, their argument being that interest in the government of this country has never been keener. Sadly the facts will not support them.

Figures show that the turn-out for the last three general elections in 2001, 2005 and 2010 has been the lowest since 1918.

And the turnout for those three elections, which left the electorate clearly underwhelmed,  was a minimum of six percent and as much as a staggering 11.7 percent less than the previous lowest turnout of 71.1 percent way back in 1935.

It merely underlines politicians’ greatest skill which is to believe their own exaggerations.

What the job millions of voters face is not to support promises for some non-existent land of milk and honey but to weed out the lies, hot air and evasion before making as shrewd a choice as possible from what is left.

It is a thankless task, but only by gritting our teeth and carrying it out do we retain the right to be critical of the next brains trust to take its seat in Westminster.

That squirrel’s driving me to the nuthouse!

WE have robins nesting in a conifer bush in our garden, opposite our French windows.
Just watching them makes me feel tired because they are zipping in and out with loads of material or food every minute or so.

Contrast the pleasure of seeing them at work with the unwanted regular morning arrival of a grey squirrel, presumably out foraging from the nearby cemetery.

This damaging creature has left our lawns looking like a giant demented woodpecker has been having a go at them, scores of holes half the size of a golf ball where the squirrel has either excavated something or retrieved some food items cached for the winter.

The robin will fiercely defend its territory but the squirrel is equally determined to get at anything it fancies and so it wrecks bird food displays, digs holes in flower beds, excavates newly-planted vegetable areas I’ve just broken my back to dig and plant or knocks over pots and ornaments.

We are not short of grey squirrels which have been a pest for some time. One less in my area would be very welcome. 

I hear squirrel pie is very tasty, or perhaps a stew, or burgers...

There’s no fooling you madam

WELL, last Wednesday was April 1st, otherwise known as All Fools’ Day, and I’m sure you all successfully negotiated the usual pranks, fantastic claims and bizarre broadcast items designed to catch you out.

Among a number of chuckles I have had were two pensioners reading their papers in a coffee shop.

The woman was gasping at various unusual stories she had come across, but the man was having none of it.

He said: “Don’t be so daft! They’re all made up.”

She replied: “That eclipse thing the other week wasn’t made up.”

To which the man hit back: “Well that wasn’t April 1st, was it.”

You can’t argue with that.

Keyholder forgot the drill

FEW people look forward to a visit to the dentist but one group of early morning patients found themselves on a visit to remember.

They arrived at the surgery in Weymouth where they greeted the dentist, staff and fellow patients before settling down for the usual wait.

But there was nothing usual at all about this wait because everyone – the dentist included – were all still out in the car park!

It emerged that the key had yet to arrive and, despite a number of hurried phone calls, everyone remained firmly locked out.

It began to look like someone might have to drive across town to get another key when the missing key finally turned up and everyone trooped in, in fear and expectation.

It brought a “hole” new meaning to the expression “filling in time”!

Here’s your chance to fire ten questions at the town council election candidates

AFTER the four most stormy years in the history of Lyme Regis Town Council, during which time members were warned twice about their unacceptable behaviour by the town clerk, the electorate will be keen to see who is standing for election on May 7th.

Nomination papers have to be submitted tomorrow (Thursday) and will be published on our website - - on Friday as well as in next week’s issue of the View from Lyme Regis.

Of the 14 existing councillors, five have publicly stated they intend to seek re-election. These are: Owen Lovell, Stan Williams, Anita Williams, Michaela Ellis and Cheryl Reynolds.

Three serving members have stated that they do not intend to seek-relection: George Symonds, Lorna Jenkin and Terry O’Grady.

Six councillors have not revealed whether they intend to offer their services or not: Mayor Sally Holman, Mark Gage, Lucy Campbell, Chris Clipson, Rikey Austin and Ann Bradbury.

It is expected that there will be an election for the 14 seats, with a number of people saying they are considering standing, the most high profile being district and county councillor Daryl Turner who resigned from the council after being forced to apologise to a member of staff for alleged “aggressive” behaviour, and former dog warden Derek Hallett.

Daryl and George Symonds currently serve on West Dorset District Council and both intend to seek re-election to this authority.

A number of readers have contacted us in recent weeks to ask how they can find out what those seeking their vote really want to achieve as a councillor and their views on local issues.

The traditional way for councillors to make their views known is to issue an election address and deliver to every letterbox in town.

Not all candidates are able to do this due to a number of reasons, including disability. There could be as many as 18 candidates for the council’s 14 seats so making personal contact to question all of them would be a big task.

Although Amnesty International are getting all the parliamentary candidates together, there are no plans for a hustings for the local election, in which voters can turn up and fire questions at their would-be councillors. Even if there was, there would be no guarantee that all candidates would attend.

In a bid to provide some information on the candidates’ intentions and ambitions, the View from Lyme Regis will be send an email/letter to all candidates asking them to respond to a number of questions on issues that have caused the most controversy during the term of the outgoing council.

Of course, there is no guarantee that all of them will respond. When we sent an email to all existing councillors to ask them whether they were standing again, the Gang of Five refused to reply, such is their animosity towards this newspaper.

In past elections we have published a photo of each candidate with 200 words of text about why they are standing. Some newspapers dropped this method years ago  because of the pressure on editorial space and the repetitive nature of the replies.

So with so much interest in this election we have decided to ring the changes. We are also asking you, dear reader, to put 10 questions to your councillors. Each question should not be longer than 30 words. We will then collate the top ten responses and print them in our columns.  

Readers could then keep these answers and hold the councillors to account if they fail to live up to their responses.

Let me list my top ten faux pas in the council chamber these past couple of years:
  • Election of the mayor by her own casting vote;
  • The mayor being allowed to serve for more than two years when another councillor was willing to stand;
  • Councillors being able to eat sweets throughout meetings;
  • The poor support by councillors for civic and local functions;
  • The complete financing of the skateboard park by the town council and the decision not to seek grant aid as has happened in all surrounding towns;
  • The decision to lease out a community room in the Jubilee Pavilion when they were built for community use;
  • The refusal to release details of the contract price for work at Monmouth Beach following substantial slippage of the cliff;
  • Voting for vested interests when allocating grants to local organisations;
  • Not protecting the free passage of pedestrians on the seafront when considering by-laws;
  • Accounting errors which allowed The Hub to receive £10,000 it was not entitled to, and salaries paid into the wrong staff accounts. I could go on...

Send your questions to the View from Lyme Regis offices at St Michael’s Business Centre, Church Street or email them to