Thursday, 31 December 2009


It's that time again.

The sands of 2009 are running out fast.

I'm not good at New Year's Eve - abrupt ending of comfortable familiarity and contrived expectation of shiny newness is just too much.

Melancholy sets in - particularly on a grey, raw day like this.

Apricot had the right idea this morning - see left.

My most memorable 31/12 was tequila-fuelled, at least I assume it was memorable. I only remember how I felt on 1/1.

One NYE, my sister's boyfriend dragged us to Trafalgar Square as he wanted to "mingle with the traditional throng". My sister and I decided to kiss a policeman - well, it used to be traditional - which we rather enjoyed, and so did the policeman; but mingling and thronging was just very cold.

So, my thronging days being over, I don't want to go out; but don't want to stay in either.

Can't face staying up till midnight; but really don't want to go to bed either.

It's like watching the ending of a film you've already seen.


I'm actually well this year - no pleurisy; no 'flu, no shingles.
It has been the most amazing year that I can remember.

I 90% sorted out my office this afternoon. Getting there...

AND... on Channel 4, there's 20 best CBB moments, so it's not all bad.

2009 goal of reading minimum 2 new books per month was achieved - easily.

Some admittedly lightweight - Adrian Plass Churchmanship for one; On Royalty for another!

Some less so - Audacity of Hope; Netherland; Cameron on Cameron; Revolutionary Road...

Best book of 2009 - The Shack - by a country mile. Breathtaking.

First two for 2010; Celsius 7/7 (Michael Gove) and Abraham Lincoln (James McPherson). - two hours to go.
May our New Year be peaceful, happy, healthy and fulfilling.

May we recognise how blessed we are and take time to savour this precious life we've been given.

Monday, 28 December 2009


If the last blogpost seemed unusually heavy, here's a cake that Harriet and I made on Christmas Eve for light relief.
As you can see, we rather liberally iced the worktop (and attendant doggies) as well.
thank you Nigella -as ever.
plenty left - so if you live in Shaftesbury, come and have a slice.


...well, according to Richard Dawkins - that's me - the Wrong Kind, that is.

I'm currently pinned down by (thankfully quite mild) tracheitis - slept for most of the last 24hours - then on surfacing, thought I'd listen to Start the Week. Themed on scientific topics today. Generally scholarly, thought-provoking and fascinating.

Professor Dawkins had been invited to discuss and comment on this year's Darwin anniversary, all fine and measured until he made one of his predictable side-swipes at Faith-based groups & their response to Darwin's theories - in this case, natural selection.

That's fine - the more freedom of speech and discussion - the better.

However, he made one extraordinary observation.

Apparently, when he talks to the "right kind" of Christian, eg. "Bishops, Archbishops and Cardinals", they appear to be less antagonistic than others, ergo the "wrong kind".

Sorry, Professor Dawkins. I don't believe that our Maker (sorry, more fairytale nomenclature) differentiates between right and wrong kinds of Christians.

We enjoy different ways of expressing our faith; but one is not more valid nor important than another. However, the exercise of authority is another matter.

These "right kinds" of Christian occupy positions of authority, where they have to balance spiritual and political leadership. Their responses would, of necessity, be tempered by pragmatism and an understandable reluctance to become media targets.

Anyway, I am evidently the wrong kind of Christian for Professor Dawkins, believing 100% as I do in Divine Creation.

However, I would not be totally dogmatic in the belief that each of the seven "Days" of Creation was necessarily a 24 hour period.

But it could have been, couldn't it? We'll find out in good time.

Saturday, 26 December 2009


Lovely to have had a (dysfunctional and often short-tempered) Christmas, and really the best to have so many of our friends from Shaftesbury for drinks yesterday morning.
Finally grabbed some time to take Apricot for a proper walk. Fresh air - no one interfering or criticising - bliss!
Returned to find my father in the cellar about to reset the boiler... obviously should have given him a tricky new piece of software or difficult puzzle to occupy his mind.
Last night, I was sadly too stupidly exhausted to cope with watching Hamlet - and stupefied by the germ-laden tropical heat that my dear parents feel is mandatory for existence. OK - they are quite elderly; but still...
I loathe central heating, except in the very coldest weather. Bad for one on every possible level , makes me even more bad-tempered than usual and just appalled that people feel it's their God-given right to be warm in a T-shirt in midwinter.
So instead, while doing some nice relaxing cooking - roasted butternut and sweet potato soup + blue cheese biscuits - to leave for parents. I indulged in light relief on Facebook, doing the 2009 Status Collage. Brilliant. Especially thoughtful of the App-Meisters to have a nice blue template option for me.
It really was an exciting year - once the persistent after-effects of pleurisy and viral tracheitis finally left me - and this "high-level" (software-speak) reminiscence triggered many more memories.
2 local election campaigns - as candidate for the first time. The best fun! Even won the second one.
Who'd have thought I'd end this year as a Local Councillor?

I'd forgotten that I'd been so tempted to deliberately deliver campaign letters to the wrong addresses in certain streets, to get people to talk to each other.
I'd forgotten the frantic fortnight before we started Job Club.
I'd forgotten that I only discovered NCIS this year. (Typical - I only discovered MASH in 2002)
I'd forgotten just how cross & frustrated I was about Total Place.
I'd forgotten that I taught a brand new flautist - she now plays in our Church band.
I'd forgotten people's individual concerns that I'd been able to help with.
The single best thing about having a "profile", is having the platform to make a difference.
I am so thankful, both in this community and beyond, to be involved with so many interesting and (hopefully) worthwhile causes and projects.
I felt helplessness in the face of friends' illnesses - & respect for the devotion of caring families.

I so appreciate my wonderful friends - old and new. Especially those who know me well enough to be honest with me...
I was moved beyond belief by the things people said and wrote about me during the Cambridge selection process.
I learned what it was like to be ridiculed online - and found that I didn't really mind at all!

And so much best of all - should have been top of this list - long-delayed spiritual renewal.

My hopes for 2010 - still thinking about it... apart from practical stuff like making my office more functional and more comfortable. More like an office in fact. I'll do it on New Year's Eve.
And (please God - please) playing some golf!
One thing is certain; it will be mid-March before we know it, and I will have had yet another ski-less Winter. With my skiable years dwindling fast.
I could book a week now - and am seriously tempted. But we all know why I won't be doing that, don't we? Tory Girls and Boys!!

Thursday, 24 December 2009


Hector the Puppy finally exhausted and asleep - in the wrong bed, of course, so bound to be disrupted in a minute. Enjoying momentary peace and quiet...


Hector the Puppy is settling marginally... but still two more to arrive!

aged parent not thrilled. Will need pacifier (scotch) on arrival. His dog - a massive French "Croisee" is perfect of course.

so perfect that it stole the turkey two years ago...
Just remembered I'd better cook the tagine for tonight.

Looking forward to playing at the Crib service at 6pm. Exuberance bordering on chaos.


I'm just feeling sad for all those who don't have the joy of large, dysfunctional families.

Wednesday, 23 December 2009


it doesn't matter if lunch is two minutes late.
it doesn't matter if James says (again) that Paxo was perfectly fine for his mother...
it doesn't matter if someone puts something away in the wrong place.
it doesn't matter if I find one of my better saucers under the vast rock pressing out the tongue.
It really doesn't.
it does matter if I spend the next three days in a sweaty panic and forget that this season is all about love.
it does matter if I forget to appreciate what we mean to each other.
it does matter if I behave differently at home from the way I behave in the street and in church.
it does matter if the point of all of this is submerged in goose fat and brandy butter.

We really can't expect to be magically transformed into the Disney fantasy by a roasted bird, glittery baubles and the Queen's speech. Real transformation takes rather more than that; but I hope that setting out from this perspective will mean happier memories, less guilt and fewer regrets after this year's festivities.

Happy Christmas - May we all experience great joy and deep peace.

Saturday, 19 December 2009


Playing flute today for Shaftesbury's annual outdoor nativity. (Sunday - 12.45 Town Hall)

Cold weather makes it difficult as the flute and the great outdoors are not generally Best Buds.

So, enter my latest brainstorm - the flute cosy!

Knitted during Strictly Final (really pleased C-Ola won) and tail end of Love Actually.

Note purple blanket stitch (for Advent) - first time I've attempted any sort of non-button sewing since I was twelve...

Would have liked a fleece lining; but this should do the job. Deliberately chose uncharacteristally dull colour to tone with fetching costume...

With thick fingerless gloves and a couple of heated pads to keep the fingers mobile.

Sub-standard in sub-zero ? No way!

Thursday, 17 December 2009


Only a Jewish festival would bestow on its followers a divine command to eat deep-fried food...
But during Chanukah - the Jewish Festival of Lights - we wallow in doughnuts, latkes, zalabia and fried gefilte fish, as we remember the miracle of the oil.
One day's supply of Temple oil burned for eight whole days, so the Temple could be cleaned and reconsecrated.
It's the most wonderful, timeless feeling to know that candles have been lit to celebrate this festival down the ages since 162BC.
I've not succumbed to the fat-laden calories just yet; but making sure that noone round here will escape unscathed when I make rugelach.
Rugelach are sweet yeasted pastries, filled with chocolate or cinammon or jam or - well - anything really.
I'm creating a chocolate / peanut butter version tomorrow! Watch out Job Club...
It's getting me in the mood for Christmas cooking - yes - Chanukah and Christmas - or Chanu-mas as we call it.
Early pressies(Chanukah) - carols(Christmas) - cards(both) - candles (both) - making decorations for the tree - what's not to like?
But there is a problem. That tree. Do I eschew my lovely Christmas tree as a forbidden pagan ritual? Do I compromise with a glittery plastic version? Or do I tough it out, buy a tree and ignore the question for another year?

Wednesday, 16 December 2009


Why is everyone so worried that there will be no agreement in Copenhagen this week?
Does anyone honestly think that Copenhagen will be allowed to be a PR disaster?
In two days time, after a flurry of compromise and armlocks, commitments will be signed, broad grins all round (and no doubt Gordo will have saved the planet again) and everyone flies off - if their airline isn't on strike.
The US will then fail to ratify whatever treaty has been agreed.
It happened in Kyoto and it will happen again.
These earth summits have to happen - if only for raised awareness; but top-down target - driven initiatives are never the answer to anything.
The Cambridge City Council system of micro-community champions is far more likely to make a significant and long-term difference, as people become aware of the real-life consequences of their actions.
This low-cost initiaitive is certainly worth rolling out across other councils nationwide.


It's paranoia revisited.
All those sensations which - I was convinced - had been consigned to the past.
Ever-present low-level nausea. A distracted search for displacement activity. Trying not to watch the clock. Secret calculations. Loss of appetite. The stomach-flipping reflex when the 'phone rings or a text buzzes through.
No - I'm not in love... though looking at what I've just written, I'm sure a reader would conclude that I was; the symptoms are virtually identical.
My darling daughter is jumping a new (and very young) horse in the ring this evening. She'll be working in just now - and I'm not there to check her girth, write her number on the board, find her hat, tie, spurs; chat up the ring steward, (could Jill still be there? surely not) hold the rugs, run up the stirrups, buy her a hot dog etc etc...
Most importantly, I'm not there to encourage her nor absorb her nervous outbursts.
And you'd think after ten exhausting, emotionally draining, financially punitive years on the road in a lorry, with Harriet, the ponies and horses, I'd be just so relieved that someone else was doing the whole freezing to death in the Cambridgeshire Fen thing this evening.
But in fact, although nowadays my horsey activity is limited to patting the odd nose and helpfully holding a bridle, I'm actually itching to be there.
So much so that at lunchtime, I very nearly decided to drive 3 hours back up to Cambs just to watch a couple of tiny clear rounds.
Good luck Harriet and Sassy... that's another half an hour accounted for, and she should have jumped by now...

Saturday, 28 November 2009


Had that first tingle of Christmas spirit on Friday, as Job Club decorated a tree for the St Peter's Annual Christmas Tree Festival.
The trees will be up until 21st December and are already attracting many visitors.

It's so good to feel that Shaftesbury Job Club is becoming part of the town's thriving network of community organisations.

Next year, we'll do something themed.

For now, we've settled for contemporary and positive. Silver and gold with square lights on a black background. Symbolising hope. Very appropriate...
contact for more info.

Thursday, 8 October 2009


The best Conference to date.
The tone was non-strident (of course - now the media says we're dull...)
The speeches were a reflection of thought and ideology - rather than crudely-strung soundbites.
There was a real feeling that shadow departments were really talking to each other wtih common purpose.
For anyone involved in the voluntary sector, it was hugely encouraging.
and I even got to ask a question during the Welfare Reform session - see it here - about 45 minutes in. (you can fast forward; but the session is well worth watching in full.)

Now back to reality.
After talking about Job Club & 50+ all week, it will be great to be there again!

Wednesday, 30 September 2009


PM on the Today programme.
What Gordon is actually waiting for is the recommendations of Total Place, due Feb 2010, to massage the details of his spending policy.
Total Place, by the way, is a classic, top-down Whitehall betise; and YOU are paying for it.
Lots of words, system-heavy, endless duplication, employing expensive consultants.
You'd think they had enough highly-paid officers to make these decisions; but no, LG officers aren't sufficiently highly-paid to think nor to express firm opinions.
They follow systemic practice and make incomprehensible statements, heavy with impentrable jargon.
Here in Dorset,Bournemouth & Poole ( our Total Place sub-region) our chosen focus is services for older people.
Lobby your County Councillor - expose the fact that there has been no consultation WITH older people OR their agencies to date!
I have been appointed to the Board - the only voluntary, unpaid member of course, and will bring a practical perspective.
But I will be the voice of logic and reality in a land of nonsense.

Tuesday, 29 September 2009

Sunday, 27 September 2009


jaw dropping story on BBC News about two women facing prosecution. Their crime? taking it turns to mind each other's children.
When I was a single parent, an informal evening child minding arrangement with a group of other single parents in the village gave is all social lifeline, as well as providing a supportive peer group for our children - as our LG officials would doubtless call it.
cannot believe that this wretched Government can now criminalise people who are trying to be mutually supportive in their communities.
We need to show that we will dismantle this pointless and damaging legislation.

Saturday, 19 September 2009


One of our Job Club members asked us to assess his training skills.
As this member is a knotting expert - amongst many, many other things - we spent twenty very enjoyable minutes as we all struggled to turn our ropes into life-saving slings and winches.

I'm left-handed - with eleven thumbs - eat your heart out Ann Boleyn! But eventually, even I managed two of the simpler knots.
He must have been a good trainer!

Really good fun, great for waking the brain up and very useful.

We welcomed four new members to Shaftesbury Job Club yesterday as well as our regulars.

More jobs advertised around Shaftesbury this week - hopefully we'll be able to pair people up with some of them.

Our website is getting closer to launch - lookin forward to having that extra bit of communication.
So - If you know anyone who is looking for work, suggest to them that they might like to drop in next Friday - or any Friday - and see us in Toby's between 9am and 12noon.


AS you can see in the pic, it was cold and windy; but at least it was dry.

I printed the T shirt the night before, using software "negotiated" as part of a PC World deal, when I bought my first computer ten years ago.

Really rather impressed, as the S/W was about the least intuitive I have come across...

Even more impressed was getting the transfer from its paper to the T-shirt.

It entailed my first ironing of the year!!!

The back ( which you can't see) is even better, and it certainly caught the eye!

I won the election - thanks to all of my wonderful supporters and advisers.

So I am now Councillor - Elect for Central Ward, Shaftesbury.

Thanks also to Justin Elesmore - my opponent - who was extremely courteous throughout.

... and NO.

I will NOT be running for mayor next year!

Great to have increased female representation on the Council by 100% - ie from 1 to 2!!


How great to see these guys working so hard to raise money for Sure Start. They were working in one hours shifts, and it did look pretty painful at times.
Supported in part by the Prince of Wales Trust, more money is always needed for different projects, and it's good to see people who are prepared to make a serious effort to get what they need.


Third Shaftesbury & Villages 50+ Lunch Club, and we all had a great time at the Half Moon in Shaftesbury.
Excellent food and company - great value too.
The staff went out of their way to make us feel welcome, so we hope to return next year.
We were especially pleased to welcome some new members, and hope that they will join us again.
Thanks to Brian and Ann for organising the menu and publicity, Rachel for doing the ever-popular raffle and Diana for handling the money.
Next Lunch Club will be our Christmas knees up back at Amore- Wednesday, December 9th, so hope to see you all there - with lots of your friends & neighbours!
Before that we have a talk at Ashmore Village Hall - October 20th 10am - so bring your altitude pills. Then we have "Party like you did in 1959" at Shaftesbury RBL in the EVENING of Thursday, 12th November. Should be fun, so please ask us if you need a lift to any of these things.
We're always pleased to hear what you have to say, so do use this blog to comment, ring up, pr send an email.

Thursday, 9 July 2009


Went to the opening of Blackmore Vale Credit Union's newest outlet - in Shaftesbury. Great news for members, who won't have to go to Gillingham any more.

The Shaftesbury branch will be open every Thursday morning in St Peter's Church.

Shades of the moneylenders in the temple!

This is a seriously excellent grass-roots community project which deserves broader recognition.

Here's Bob Walter MP for North Dorset - already a Credit Union member - making his first deposit in Shaftesbury.

Wednesday, 27 May 2009


These are the real workers...

Wonderful effort stuffing pledge letters.

delivering will be a challenge.

Monday, 25 May 2009


and let's go!

No mistaking our political affiliation, is there?

Strangely, the signs on Park Walk have attracted even more people than usual - townsfolk and tourists - who want to have a chat and look at the garden.

Off in a moment to start the evening's canvass.

Will probably be interrupting leisurely Bank Holiday barbecues this time...

I am so going to miss this all in ten days time.

Saturday, 23 May 2009


Well, you all know why there hasn't been any blogging from me recently.
It's been hard work taking abuse on the doorstep.
To misquote the then Sir Geoffrey Howe, I feel as if I'm on the 18th green, only to find that my putter has been stolen by the "Professionals" and I can't hole out.
I don't blame people for feeling sore.
The bleating self-justification that we've heard from certain MPs makes ME wonder what planet these soi-disant "Representatives" occupy.
Anyway - i'm still enjoying the campaign hugely.
Great to meet so many people, and who knows? we could still win this!
And talking of bats, (well - I did almost quote Lord Howe) here's a bit of light relief.
Must declare an interest of sorts: the inventor of the Mongoose Cricket Bat is my stepbrother!

Thursday, 7 May 2009


Had a great day with Don Collier, our Conservative European Parliamentary Candidate for the South West .
What a mouthful...
Introduced Don to the Shaftesbury Youth Project - Toby's - where Rosie Dawson told us about last year's visit to the European Parliament in Brussels and we discussed future funding.
We then went to the other end of the scale, and held an impromptu stump meeting at The Pavilions in St Martins Lane, one of Shaftesbury's sheltered housing complexes, organised for us by residents Jean Ellis and Yvonne Richardson.
The lively Q & A session ranged from Zimbabwe, border controls and Gibralter to local bus timetables, street cleaning and litter.
Very stimulating and the highlight of my campaign so far.
Huge thanks to Don - he'd be a brilliant operator in Brussels.
So fingers crossed for a huge vote.

Wednesday, 6 May 2009


OK - Nomination Papers for County Council Candidate presented and accepted at Democratic Services in Blandford.
So - it's real.
I'm standing for election on behalf of The Conservative Party and votes will be cast on 4th June.
Feeling nervous and exhilarated at the same time.
Visiting Toby's Youth Project with MEP candidate Don Collier this afternoon.
Toby's raised enough funds last year to send a group of children on a visit to the European Parliament, so very interesting for both of us to hear about it.
More later after tonight's doorstepping...


Bob Walter MP and I visited concerned residents in the Knapp last Friday.
If it wasn't enough to have their safety threatened by speeding and dangerous driving with vehicles using Tout Hill as a short cut to the Town Centre; their houses shake violently every time a lorry passes.
During our meeting - very efficiently arranged by Sue Foreman - we actually heard this for ourselves.
Windows rattled repeatedly as every passing car rammed into low gear before launching into its steep climb up the hill.
As one of the residents said, "Many of the streets in Shaftesbury were built before the advent of the combustion engine; we feel unsafe and the very fabric of our homes is suffering."
The Council has promised to look at the problem - and promised - and promised.
I am sure that Bob's intervention will bring swift practical results and commonsense solutions.
Or will there have to be a serious accident in The Knapp before someone takes notice?
I sincerely hope not.

Monday, 4 May 2009


How lucky were we on Saturday for Shaftesbury's 5th Food Festival? Look at this pic of one of the stalls lining Park Walk!

Had a great time (in my Official Red T-Shirt) selling Bottle Tombola tickets - just a pound; WIN BEER, went down very well.

The tombola was in aid of Swans Trust, who give such huge support to so many great projects across Shaftesbury's annual calendar.

Was asked when the "pole dancing" was going to start!

Do hope that these people weren't too disappointed...

The MAYpole dancing was charming in its simplicity, accompanied by traditional Country music.

Tamara Essex, who organises the Festival, deserves every accolade for her tireless organisation, as does Charlie Turnbull for the Park Walk stalls.

More than one person noted that only Tamara could have got me to wear a RED t-shirt... & I'm back to true Tory Blue today

Anyway, it was great to see everyone enjoying a traffic-free High Street.

If I'm elected on 4th June, we'll look properly at the whole Shaftesbury traffic question.

And this time it will actually reflect what Shaftesbury people WANT.

Oh yes - my birthday...

fab relaxing day with lovely cards and pressies & lunch at Rushmore GC.

obviously NO CAKE as losing nicely at the moment. Don't want to ruin it!

Wednesday, 22 April 2009


In London today.
It feels like 1978 all over again.
The Victoria Line was
closed all day - RMT industrial action.

Hugely inconvenient - hope it's open today.
Missed what would have been a lovely, indulgent pre-meeting hour in Tate Britain.
Took overcrowded and sweaty alternative route.
Emerged in Westminster to find wall-to-wall police - some armed - all looking terribly nervous and being elaborately polite and helpful to passers-by.
Of course, as well as the neatly-corralled, high-decibel group of Tamil and other protesters, it was Budget Day.
Perhaps Mr Darling had ordered extra protection, imagining hordes of jobless people, increasingly bewildered and abandoned, descending on Parliament to attack his fantastic & complacent attitude to our economic woes.
To quote Richard Wolf of the Financial Times
"A government that made such large claims for the quality of its economic stewardship hardly deserves to survive such a debacle."
Let us hope, for all our sakes, that they don't.

Tuesday, 21 April 2009


Ever wanted to try Line Dancing?

Well, Shaftesbury & Villages 50+ Forum gave its members the chance to do just that.

Professionally organised with a VERY patient teacher, we had a great time.

And - it just keeps on getting better doesn't it - IT WAS FREE!!

We welcomed new members, as the evening event brought people who would be at work in the daytime.

To start with, it felt a bit like playing Twister - you forgot which foot was which - but we soon got the hang of the "step behind and rock"etc. and the music was great.

We'll be doing this again - but i'll let you know what my calves feel like tomorrow...


Despite a cold and windy morning, we had a great response to our Pension and Savings National Action Day campaign.
The Town Council had kindly granted permission for us to set up our campaign stall on Park Walk.
As you can see, Apricot was keen to get in on the act, and drew her usual Jack Russell Fan Club!

We were delighted that one of our National MEP Conservative Candidates Don Collier was able to join our band of local volunteers - plying our petitions and clipboards in Shaftesbury.
We had people literally snatching pens out of our hands to sign the petition supporting two key Conservative proposals:

Abolish Income Tax on Savings for Basic Rate Taxpayers

Raise Pensioners' Personal Allowance (Tax Threshold) by £2,000 to £11,490.

All the signatures we collected will give us ammunition to pressure this Government to DO IT NOW.
Because this group of people - savers and pensioners - have been especially hard-hit by the financial crisis, and these people need relief NOW.

It's all very well announcing packages of billions.
But what we need are simple, common-sense practical measures, which are even-handed and fair to all and which can actually DELIVER benefits to the individual.
Huge thanks to our wonderful volunteers who pounded the High Street with clipboards and to the endlessly patient shoppers, visitors and walkers in Shaftesbury who took the time to stop and talk to us.

The petitions will be delivered to Westminster tomorrow, and to Downing Street later on this week. will report anything interesting that emerges.

Monday, 13 April 2009


... and this is what I've been doing instead of Facebooking and blogging.

making not eating, of course...

Monday, 6 April 2009


Very unfunny though.
Yet another shop in Shaftesbury High Street announces a closing down sale.
What will we be left with, come balmier times?
For now, we're simply living in barmy times.
And where are Gordon Brown's billions when you need them?


no turning back now.

We're definitely having a new sink...

That wall looks - somehow - very French.

no offence to our European Partners...


Went to hear Mozart's Requiem (& Bruckner Te Deum, plus Brahms Overture "Tragic") in Salisbury Cathedral on Saturday.
The Brahms; never was the performance of an overture more aptly named. .
I have to say that Salisbury Music Society's virtually consonant-free style suited the Bruckner admirably - sort of endless meandering surges of sound.
And just when you think it's about to end - whoosh! He's off again...
In the (unnecessary) interval I walked round the cathedral and enjoyed seeing the stunning new font.
Tourists obviously think it's some sort of wishing well.
Money - in small denominations - has been thrown in!
Wiltshire's answer to the Trevi Fountain, perhaps.
To say that they butchered the Mozart would be far too polite.
Ripped from "navel to chaps", I fear.
Appalling diction, no perceptible dynamics and rhythmically suspect.
Lets not mention the ensemble... nor the tuning.
But, strangely, I really enjoyed it.
Clapped as enthusiastically as everyone else; possibly to stave off hypothermia.
Those great cathedral vaults under the magnificent ceiling are cold!
Nothing like live performance!

Monday, 30 March 2009


Very pleased to read AA Gill's prominent article in the Sunday Times Mag yesterday.

Mr Gill certainly hit the spot; highlighting loneliness and isolation.

But - like most people new to the subject - he is at most only partially aware of the vast volunteer army of Forums and Networks; building and operating support systems for older people's services.

Also - as Jackie Allen pointed out - "Older People" are not an amporphous, asexual mass; but a group as diverse as any other in our society.

So, it's great to have you with us Mr Gill; bringing older people's issues into the mainstream, and attracting the attention that we need.

But please investigate Dignity in Care campaign and come and see the Forums in action before you write your next article.

There's a lot of good stuff going on...

Sunday, 29 March 2009


Lovely day here in Shaftesbury.
might get the BIKE out later, once the frost goes .
Just seen David Cameron on GMTV
He looked as surprised as I was that he hadn't been grilled about Stuart Wheeler and UKIP.
(Thank goodness!)
Great that he'll be sitting down with the US President.
As he said, the G20 is a Government beano - so the Opposition Leader can't just "muscle in" as he put it.
So Obama took the opportunity to have a meeting with him.
A serious barometer of international opinion - or a really persistent PA!!
He was sweetly reasonable about the Home Secretary's husband and the whole expenses charade in general.
He does have a knack for the common sense answer - dare I whisper it - like Margaret Thatcher in her glory days.


.... or rather, our committee and our Shaftesbury Branch Members won the Cup...


Shaftesbury Branch won the new, and extremely handsome, Mason Cup (see pic) for mega fund-raising effort.

Presented at the AGM of the North Dorset Conservative Association by Captain Leigh Mason. Vice President of the Association.

The award belongs to the committee, as they are the best, the most willing and most hard-working group of people I have ever encountered in the Conservative party.

A lively meeting all in all.

(Almost) all change on the Officers Group.

If Shaftesbury wants to hang onto the cup in 2010, there's a new - somewhat more contemporary - challenge.
Get the highest percentage of email addresses for Branch Members.
...which ties in with the task my campaign manager has set me for the weekend... so better get on with it...


Great speech by one of our MEP candidates at our North Dorset Conservsatives AGM - Julie Girling.
you see, Stuart Wheeler; we ARE talking about Europe in the Conservative Party!
Julie was very clear about our Grouping within the European Parliament,
our voting record (versus that of UKIP)
our attitude and voting record on the European Budget (versus that of the Labour and Lib Dem MEPs)
and our clear commitment on giving Britain a Referendum regarding the ratification of the Lisbon Treaty.
All of this is discussed on numerous websites and blogs.
So assuming Mr Wheeler has a computer, he shouldn't find it too difficult to see that we DO have a position; we DO have policies and our MEPs demonstrate real achievement within a coherent Party organisation; unlike their UKIP counterparts.
Unlike UKIP, which relies on shock-horror, drop-your-marmalade statistics; we should try to consider the whole European question intelligently and without knee-jerk, isolationist rhetoric.
Let's be adult about this and recognise the wider issues.
A European Union in some form has given us the longest period of Western European peace in modern times.
Yes - we agree that the EU wastes huge amounts of money.
Yes - we agree that federalism must not seep insidiously into our nation.
But surely we can be grateful that the last three generations - mine being the first - has not lost the flower of its youth in pointless conflict.

Friday, 27 March 2009


After yesterday's excitement, we're back to normal today.

Took 50+ Secretary Brenda and NORDOP Chairman Ann to the DASF Quarterly Meeting in Dorchester. (Dorset Assoc of Senior Forums). Here we all are in the photo.

This is one meeting i really look forward to and hate to miss.

Wendy HIlton is a superb Chair - and the completely honest and gloves-off Round Robin gives us so many brilliant ideas to inspire and improve our Shaftesbury & Villages Forum.

The over-50s in Dorset are really lucky to have these committed and energetic people working - AS VOLUNTEERS - on everyone's behalf.

Forum Devt Officer Hilary Foggo gave an excellent & totally clear presentation on the future of DASF.

...and I only ended up with one extra task!

In future I'll be reading relevant consultation papers for DASF, extracting the guts and providing precis or briefing notes.

Good practice for County Hall and Parliament - fingers crossed!

I invited delegates to submit a Senior-related question for me to ask on their behalf during the Conservative Spring Forum next month.

The Conservatives look daily more likely to form the next Government, (NO COMPLACENCY HERE) so it makes sense to make our presence felt now.

Wednesday, 25 March 2009


OK - Well I was just bringing Harriet back to Shaftesbury to pick up a car.

Readers of this blog will know that I am sometimes required to switch back to Mummy Mode which generally involves a lot of mileage...

As ever, Harriet couldn't travel without a serious nosebag, which is how we came to be at Fleet services, where we saw Geo and Tom (above, with me in the blurry photo!) hopefully holding their placard

"Charity Hitch Hike - South to Portsmouth" said the sign.

So we picked them up, having discovered that they were students form Manchester University, hitching from London to Morocco in aid of Link , a charity which raises money and runs community development projects in Africa.

I was going to drop them when we left the M3 for the A303. But it was cold and getting dark, and I didn't want to switch on the radio to hear that two young students had either been murdered or hit by a lorry.

So we took the delightful pair to Southampton docks and dropped them outside the ticket office.

They gave us the sweetest note and we'll be following their progress on Facebook,when Harriet gives me the address - given she hasn't lost the note...

More later


Only one meeting today - off to AMore in Mustons Lane to negotiate menu etc for the 50+ Forum next Lunch Club meeting in May.
The key issue - apart from price and having all food hot - is getting away in time for the Film Club's showing of Dial M for Murder at the Arts Centre.
One of my favourite films; I'll be buying a ticket today...
But today's big challenge is part-demolition of the kitchen and part-installation of the new one.
Thoughtful Olly is doing it in sections so that we can continue to cook etc.
Really looking forward to it - but wish we were away while it was being done!

Monday, 23 March 2009


up at crack of dawn - making 12 posies for Mothering Sunday service in church...

was pleased with my first-timer effort until i saw everyone else's elaborate hand-tied bouquets!

Will have to improve next year...

really funny email card - hand made as always - from Harriet.

(see above)

i am certain that I was not wearing an ear to ear grin on my mercy dash to Hatfield with Harriet's forgotten purse, before her skiing holiday.

Still, without being cloyingly sentimental, Jade Goody's death makes

me more than usually grateful to have a daughter at all. So - I suppose it WAS a pleasure.

Saturday, 21 March 2009


Really not as dull as it sounds - no - really!
we had a bit of a shock at one point as the Chairman appeared to step down...
this was done so abruptly, that it woke us all up, in anticipation of a bit of drama and controversy.
But no - settle down everyoe - he was just stepping aside to allow correct procedures to be followed for re-election of officers.
Sadly, there was a complete absence of hordes clamouring for my Secretary role; so it's back in harness for another year at least.
Although, if I DO win the CC election in June, there will have to be a bit of a rethink. we'll cross that bridge if / when we come to it.
We were delighted to have snared Euro Candidate Zehra Zaidi (ZZ Top in my book) as our Guest Speaker.
I have heard Zehra speak before and was looking forward to hearing her.
There is so much confusion generally around Europe. What should our attitudes be? What actually IS the Party line? Why does our vote really matter?
Zehra cleared up all of these uncertainties and more - taking tricky issues (eg Conservatives voting for the overtly racist and politically barren UKIP) - head on.
I'd like to see Zehra briefed to speak to schools & colleges around our region; introducing and explaining Europe to the next generation, from historical, social, constitutional and economic points of view, as she is intellectually more than qualified to do.
She could carry this off with the aplomb that characterises everything she does.
Unsurprisingly, the high point of our AGM... although the wine and food seemed to go down VERY well...

Thursday, 19 March 2009


Interviewed by Mid West Radio re Dignity in Care.
Listen tomorrow evening. (or sooner, if it's a slow day for local news)
It's important to get the message out there.


It's always good to visit the Mothership from time to time and the excellent seminar on"Women & Debt" in the bowels of the House of Commons was well worth the (smooth) journey.
As always, I was blown away by the sheer intellectual power of the CWO members - all ages - some holding pretty elevated positions; some just footsoldiers like me.
It was very energising.
I hope some of our North Dorset members will come along on April 22nd.
Pauline Lucas is a formidable Chairman, not to mention Vice Chairman Eve Burt, .
If they can't motivate us - with their infectious enthusiasm and energy - to mobilise the latent political power of women; well, then no one can!
A young girl (aged 19 with 2 yr old haemophiliac son) spoke movingly about how the YWCA was helping her to break the cycle of debt & general social hopelessness, with practical support and education.
Christians against Poverty ( explained their holistic approach to debt management, and in doing so, displayed deep sensitivity and again, a thoroughly practical approach to this massive problem.
CAP UK - although a Christian organisation - is anything but exclusive when it come to giving advice. And typically of a successful third sector group like this, it is funded by voluntary donations.

The speakers highlighted the continuing financial vulnerability of women as they usually bear the burden of financial problems for their families.
David Chauke MP (Shadow Treasury Minister) outlined the ways in which a future Conservative administration will approach the problems of debt.
Education, Clearer Information etc...
That was actually a bit pedestrian .
I really hope that they will be MORE IMAGINATIVE, by working with the CSJ and the third sector generally who really understand the problems at its roots.

Time to nip into the House of Lords afterwards to listen to 10minutes of a debate.
Just nice to enjoy the atmosphere.
Do MPs and Life Peers realise just how prvileged they are?
Like I say - to me it's the Mothership.
Home by midnight - and well worth the trip.

Wednesday, 18 March 2009


Our March Event was a talk by Rob Curtis.

"Turnpikes and Dorset Coaching Days".

Rob - who is ex-RAF - opened with a fascinating introduction to the origins of our road network, before introducing us to the privations, inconvenience and serious danger that the 18th Century traveller signed up for.

I always rather romantically thought that I'd like to have eloped with my dashing lover in a bygone age. But having heard about tollgate thieves, violence and bedbugs, not to mention the footpads and highwaymen - well - perhaps not...

Anyway, Rob was brilliant - as you can see from the rapt expressions above - and we'll certainly be inviting him again....


Delighted that the Local Government Association (LGA) is finally showing some sense.
Let's hope that PLAIN (& dare we hope CORRECT) English will gradually permeate all levels of - better not say community - society.

Monday, 16 March 2009


Somewhere between the nadir of dropping my mobile down the loo and the euphoria of being in the winning team at the annual Shaftesbury Quiz in aid of Cancer Relief (Pic above) there must be a happy medium.

Probably my putting yesterday.

it shouldn't be that difficult, should it?

it's a little ball and a comparatively big hole.

so why always so erratic?

I always put it down to astigmatism and my inability to see a straight line.

Thank goodness I don't drink...

But who could be too downhearted with this amazing weather.

Huge sympathy to those of you who are ill at the moment and missing the glorious sunshine.

It's such a tonic - and it's FREE!

Enough Polyanna prattling.

Too much to do and the phone is ringing...


Thursday, 12 March 2009


Shaftesbury pavements were in the news again, Midwest Radio News in fact.
Part of an interview I had pre-recorded earlier this week hit the airwaves this morning.
Sounded OK - factual and I was quoted in context.
At the Day Care conference nr Charminster today, I was surprised by how many people had heard it!
A good lesson there - I'm a soothing Classics person (if I'm not in a Quo or Zeppelin mood) - so rarely listen to local radio.
This is obviously going to change now.
More about the Conference later.
But in general, practical, interactive and seriously useful.
Also good to meet Andrew Archibald - Head of Services for the Elderly at Dorset County Council.
Sorry Andrew. The title may be wrong.

Tuesday, 10 March 2009


no - this can't be right.
This is a bit last-ditch but better late than never.
I know that money is tight and the Council has a balancing act to perform but we need to look more closely at this decision to close Shaftesbury Leisure Centre...
The health benefits of regular exercise cannot be overstated.
Just having a BMI over the recommended level may expose you to
  • heart disease
  • respiratory disorders
to name but two. Check out any website you like (Weight Watchers is good) for the full picture.
So surely, we need to fight to have a gym in Shaftesbury.
Going to meet the people who run it this evening and get a few facts and figures.
Should Shaftesbury residents really have no alternative but to GET IN THE CAR and drive to the nearest gym? (Gillingham - very good but a bit expensive for most people).
Where will GPs refer patients to after 22nd March - proposed closure date.


Despite the off-putting title (I am woman - hear me roar - puh-leeese!) the Equality South West Womens' Day conference was well-organised.

The speakers were a mixed bag - from traditional militant to downtrodden. Mainnly unprepared and poor communicators.

Frankly, the delegates were a lot more informed and intelligent than the supposed experts.

Tracy Smith (above) was a last-minute replacement,and at least she had a personality and spoke movingly about being a child of alcoholic parents.

However, I can't help thinking that this sort of special pleading is outdated and in many ways counter-productive.

The real benefit of 20th Century feminism has been to give us choice.

Not to make us feel guilty if we want to be a wife and mother rather than run a merchant bank.

Though, perhaps more common sense and less hubris would have prevailed if women HAD been running merchant banks...

Oh dear - I seem to have caught the "superiority of women" vibe.

As I always say, pick the best person for the job. Not the whitest, blackest, gayest or most female!

Positive discrimination leads to mediocrity and mediocrity gives us the likes of Hazel Blears in a Cabinet position. Case closed.

Sunday, 8 March 2009


Loads in the diary this week and I'm really looking forward to reporting back to you as we go along...
Taunton tomorrow for Women's Week event.
Taunton again on Wednesday - luckily sharing lifts both times - for South West Regional Seniors Forum committee meeting (I'm the Press Officer, so will use shiny new blue netbook in "real time" to write hot-off-the-press articles for our Regional news agencies.
It's a real lobbying powerhouse, so will have to keep wits about me...
Thursday - a bit nearer thankfully - an interactive conference on Community Day care.
the longer we can help our elderly folk to retain independence, the better, from every possible point of view. Social, financial, mental health, PHYSICAL health...!
(Sorry - I know it's one of my no-brainer hobby horses)
On Friday, it's the NDCA CWG AGM. of which more later.
Looking forward to light relief on Friday evening - quiz night & shepherds pie at the Legion.
I'll keep you and the blog posted...

Saturday, 7 March 2009


Spent the morning with 50+ Forum Committee members - Sue Mercer, Brenda Johnston & Jean Ellis (pictured above) - asking Shaftesbury shoppers their opinion about the state of town centre pavements.

well - they certainly told us!

We will discuss the findings at our next Campaign Sub-Committee and decide how to move forward with this issue.

it's a challenge and we're enjoying it.

It's possible that we spoke to about 300 people in two hours. we'll know shortly, when Brenda has counted the sheets!


Just set up my new baby netbook/notebook ... while eating a bowl of sugar-free raspberry jelly.
off "base" so mcuh these days, really need to be able to write stuff on the run and take notes etc.
Fab little gadg and all SO straightforward - lots to thank Bill Gates for (sorry Mac users). going to try out the webcam - oh ear - there goes the last vestige of privacy...
then we'll get back to the report , photo and vid from this morning's Pavement Challenge.
thawing slowly - thankful for sunshine.


Early start - in half an hour - sun breaking through.
Nice to see a new follower - are all my blog buddies going to be called Elizabeth???
hope for serious feedback today - out with the clipboards!!
report, pix AND VIDEOS later...
come and join us if you're local...

Thursday, 5 March 2009


Revving up for the 50+ Pavement Campaign in the Town Centre tomorrow.
Haven't looked at the weather forecast - probably better not to!
Come and tell us your story, or just stop and have a chat.
Our exact locations will be posted tomorrow.
Hope to see you!


To Dornford Centre in Dorchester today with Ann Kirkpatrick, Chair of NORDOP, for "Dignity in Care" Conference.
Horrendous journey as roads closed around Blandford, so we crept around the back roads, enjoying the return of wintry landscapes and catching up on news.
Thank goodness we DID get there, as the conference was brilliant!
Excellent speakers - hard-hitting challenges and an almost total absence of meaningless jargon. Hurrah!

I feel confident that this coalition can & will deliver, due to the high calibre and hugely experienced individuals in charge.
Agencies, Healthcare professionals third sector (Voluntary) organisations - led by NHS Dorset - will all be involved.

The sessions included a detailed look at nutrition and mealtimes from both social and scientific angles.
There was also a session illustrating the benefits of out-of-the-box (or away from the institution) thinking.

Five brief case-studies were well-described and extremely moving. By understanding the PERSON's point of view, and by making a few simple (and cheap) changes, an individual's dignity can be restored and quality of life improved beyond measure.

We are all challenged to become Champions of Dignity in Care Campaign.

I have pledged to persuade the Shaftesbury & Villages 50+ Forum Committee to become a Corporate Champion.
Working with established groups in the Town, we will fully supprt the dedicated services which already do such good work.

lots to think about here... met some nice people as well!


Didn't get to the flix last night - the snow and ice put us off making the journey. Another time...

Wednesday, 4 March 2009


Going to the movies tonight to see The Reader. Preparing to be a bit harrowed.... will review.


Great news of our County Council 's excellent support of the 2012 Olympics - Dorset communities will benefit from our Councillors work and don't forget - it's been achieved by a CONSERVATIVE-LED council...
Dorset County Council achieved Beacon Status last night for its work towards Olympic and Paralympic Games Legacy. This was achieved with DCC as the Lead Council alongside West and W and P.


If you have had a fall on the roads and pavements in Shaftesbury, tell us about it!
You won't be alone - that's for sure!
Members of Shaftesbury & Villages 50+ Forum will be out in the Town Centre on Saturday morning, 7th March, with our clipboards, so that we can continue the campaign for safer streets for all of us.
See you there, or
visit Rachel Caldwell at Swans Yard Trust.
Email me on
or call/text on 07966 544492


Listening to the news this morning, Gordon Brown will be addressing a joint session of Congress (why??).
I'm so hoping that Gordon Brown, having reached the apogee of political experience & sleep-walked our country to the perigee of economic peril, will sign off now and let us have an ELECTION..
This man only cares about himself and his personal ambition.
We need to stop plugging leaks with straw and look at a proper, structured recovery.
One positive, the reporter on BBC Radio 4 Today programme finally acknowledged that GB was not a blameless premier; but had actually been in charge of the economy for over ten years...

Tuesday, 3 March 2009


You know, Casserole and Apricot,I don't think we're in Kansas anymore...
Jules (Campaign Manager for Shaftesbury)literally blew in this evening.
Our first mailing delivered, another about to hit the diary.
So Jules and I have been working out our delivery network.
Thanks to all the fantastically generous offers of help, it wasn't as difficult as he had feared.
I (naturally!) knew it was all going to be OK; but it's Jules' job to anticipate and expect problems.
He's the rudder and I'm the sail - or something.
So far, we have about 70% of Shaftesbury covered, without putting anyone's health at risk or demanding hours of trudging the streets.
so the wind continues to howl round the house, making me fear for the roof and worry about all the beautiful trees in the town.


Great sympathy to the Cameron family on this desperately difficult day.

keep health records private...

Sorry to start this blog on a downer but... I am appalled!
(see link below)
However can the possible sale of our Health records to third parties be justified?
I was still under the somewhat naive impression that we had to give express permission for details about our health to be disclosed.
For example - to a potential employer or insurer. ie to be assessed for our benefit.
How long before someone accidentally left another memory stick or disk on a bus or train; or simply emailed the lot to the wrong address?
What do you think? Are YOU happy about this?
Let me say this:
Regardless of whether I am elected as County Councillor for Shaftesbury on 4th June 2009, I WILL CAMPAIGN TO KEEP OUR MEDICAL RECORDS SAFE


Agreat time was had by all, as 56 people gathered for the Forum's inaugural lunch club meeting. Looking forward to the next one.