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.