Why I’m Christmas shopping locally

Accompanied by Andrew Hodder – a reward for his fundraising efforts – the Mayor of Lyme Regis, Councillor Brian Larcombe MBE, about to switch on Lyme’s Christmas lights before a huge crowd

FOR the last month I have been walking five kilometres a day, mainly for health reasons but also to raise money for the men’s health charity Movember.

In doing so I’ve raised £600 (thanks to all of you who have made donations), lost a stone in weight and gone a long way in reversing my type 2 diabetes which I have been suffering for ten years or more. I’m also on a strict diet.

I was motivated to do so by my eldest daughter Zoe’s efforts for Movember in Galway. She was appointed a Movember ambassador for the Western Ireland city where the fantastic sum of €52,000 has been raised.

I must admit it’s been a bit of a chore dragging myself out of bed at six in the morning to walk down to the end of the Cobb and back to get five kilometres under my belt for 30 days in succession. In all, I did more than 200,000 steps.

But it’s been fabulous seeing the sun rise over Golden Cap, or the sun set over the bay, and I intend to keep on walking, perhaps not as far or as often, but certainly on a regular basis because I’m very close to my diabetes being in remission.

When it was blowing of gale on the seafront I decided to take a walk up town instead one late evening and did a bit of window shopping. And I suddenly realised what a great little town Lyme is for its range of shops. So I decided there and then that I would talk to Mrs E and suggest that this year we should do all our Christmas shopping in Lyme.

I also spoke to my colleague Geoff Baker about the idea and he did a bit of research for us which makes interesting reading. According to Deloittes, in 2018 the average UK Christmas spend was £567, the breakdown being (roughly) £300 on presents, £150 on food and drink, £65 on socialising and £50 on travelling.

But Geoff, in his usually inquisitive, investigative way, went a little bit further. There’s 1,843 people aged 16-64 in Lyme and 1,334 aged 65 plus. So that’s 3,117. Lop off the teens, who are skint, and the very oldies who are also skint, and call it 2,000 of present-buying capacity. So those 2,000 could (not saying they will, but could) spend £300 on presents in Lyme, £150 on food from Lyme (do-able) and call it £50 on socialising, i.e. going to the pub or out for a meal. That’s £500 each.

Five hundred quid times 2,000 equals £1million – that’s the potential Christmas spend in Lyme. Of course, it’s not realistic to think everyone in Lyme will do this. But it’s an interesting theory and having looked in all the shop windows in Lyme on my marathon walking month, there really is no reason to go out of town!

Are these the best ever Christmas lights?

SADLY, I missed the turning on of Lyme’s Christmas lights on Saturday. We were visiting our grandchildren in London on a pre-Christmas visit. But I could not wait to drive down over town late on Sunday to see what we had missed.

The first sight was almost breathtaking. This year’s illuminations just have to be the best ever. The actual volume of colour was intoxicating.

Lyme’s steep main street, of course, means that whether you are looking up or down the street, you can see all the lights. And that gives us a great advantage over other town’s who have a level main highway.

I was even more gobsmacked when I saw Richard Austin’s switch on photos on Monday morning. I can’t ever remember seeing so many people crowded into Broad Street, from top to bottom.

There was a record number of lanterns made by children during the afternoon and the majorettes, resplendent in their Christmas costumes, added greatly to the occasion.

Many congratulations to the Christmas Lights Committee under the chairmanship of Christine Lovell, and to Virgil Turner and John King for their efforts in sourcing the illuminations and putting them up. Quite a task.

Well done also to marketing expert Rob James who sharpened up the committee’s publicity and proved that using Facebook to promote such events is now essential in this day and age.

Local journalist David Cozens MBE welcomes Terry Wogan to Lyme, watched by former brewery PR Nigel Fortnam, at a reception before the Miss Lyme Regis Ball at the Woodroffe School, circa 1972

School ready to open its doors again

IT’S good to hear that the Woodroffe School is throwing open its facilities for the community to use once again.

With my Royal British Legion hat on, I was one of a number of people invited to the school’s open evening to officially meet the new headmaster, Dan Watts, and to listen to his presentation on how he sees the future for the school.

During an excellent presentation, the headmaster announced that the school wanted to build better contacts with the community and that they would be making available their various facilities for hire by local organisations.

This used to be the case but a succession of headmasters in recent years have allowed the school’s profile in the community to deteriorate somewhat.

In future, the school hall, drama studio, sports hall and gymnasium, as well as other facilities, will be opened to the public at very reasonable hourly costs.

Going back to the 1970s, the school was the number one choice for Lyme’s big social events, including on many occasions’ the mayor’s civic ball. The first ever of these events was organised by the late Alderman Douglas Fortnam and his wife Lydia when they were First Citizens in the late 1960s – and a very posh occasion it was too.

During that period I organised a number of events at the school, including the Regatta and Carnival Christmas Balls and a number of Miss Lyme Regis contests. At one of these we secured the services of Terry Wogan to compere the event.

The Joe Loss Orchestra, one of the most famous big bands in the world, appeared at the school for the Lyme 1200 Festival Ball in 1974. The school hall was ideal for such events with a capacity well in excess of 300 in those days and a kitchen conveniently adjacent to the hall.

The only two other venues capable of staging such events are the Marine Theatre and the Woodmead Halls. The cost of hiring the theatre in prohibitive these days due to its extensive programme of events and the Woodmead Halls is so well used as a community centre that booking suitable dates is not always possible.

With in excess of 1,000 students now at the Woodroffe, the school is an integral part of Lyme Regis and as one member of the audience told Mr Watts – “this is music to our ears”.

Yer, listen to this…

I WAS interested to see a piece in the Radio Times last week when the BBC’s political correspondent, Chris Mason, a proud Yorkshireman, was having a moan about the lack of regional accents on national TV.

The new presenter of ‘Any Questions’ said he could not think of a single person on the national network that spoke with a West Country accent. Plenty of Brummies and Geordies but no one from this part of the world. “It’s mad,” he commented. I agree.

This has always been a bit of an issue with me. Many moons ago when I was a young reporter I was auditioned for a job with Westward TV. I got through the first interview but was finally rejected, having been told I was over-compensating for my West Country accent and adopting a an ‘estuary’ accent, whatever that might be.

It was just as well as I just don’t have the voice for television or radio, which is why I’ve stuck with print journalism all these years.

But I don’t agree with Mr Mason. I can think of only one reporter with a slight burr to his accent on local TV. But the BBC Spotlight’s best reporter, Hamish Marshall, is Scottish!

Also, has a West Country comedian ever made it really big? Admittedly, Jethro has enjoyed a fair bit of fame in recent years but no one else.

The reason of course is that anyone with a real West Country accent is considered to be thick. I blame Worzel Gummidge.

Woodmead Halls
About Philip Evans 784 Articles
Veteran journalist and newspaper manager Philip Evans has worked in the publishing industry for more than half a century. He started out as a reporter for Pulman’s Weekly News as a young man and went on to work for an international publishing company in the UK, South Africa and Australia before returning to Lyme Regis where he is still reporting on local events as he has done for more than 53 years.

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