Star Wars in science fiction sand exhibition

A HOLLYWOOD legend has just opened Weymouth’s Sandworld exhibition of sci-fi sand sculptures for the 2013 season.

Brian Muir is famous as the creator of the iconic Darth Vader mask and has worked on more than seventy films.

These include four Harry Potters, ten James Bond films and, Alien, Superman and Indiana Jones.

But he very nearly found himself unable to cut the official opening ribbon for the world’s first exhibition of science fiction in sand after he was “attacked” by Darth Vader!

He recovered enough to say what an honour it was to be asked to open the attraction for a new season and praised the quality of the exhibits.

Just taking a stroll into the site set hairs rising on the back of your neck as the first thing visitors met was a giant Darth Vader mask.

There was an exhibit devoted to Jurassic Park and another for Superman, but the showpiece sculpture was devoted to Star Wars.

R2-D2 and C-3PO, Luke Skywalker, Princess Leia, Han Solo, Chewbacca and, of course, Darth Vader are all pictured by some stunningly detailed work.

Another striking creation is a moon face with a rocket embedded in it, highlighting the famous 1902 French film Les Voyages dans La Lune while more recent territory displays a chilling recreation of the Alien monster.

Dr Who’s tardis was in the process of creation – you could already see its police light – while a striking sculpture displays the Time Machine.

Elsewhere there are favourites such as Ben 10, Star Trek and Metropolis while a ferocious Incredible Hulk suddenly glares down on visitors as they reach the far end of the exhibition.

Parker and Lady Penelope were getting some finishing touches on a large display for Thunderbirds while youngsters were being awed by the Dorset Troopers in full stormtrooper gear.

The exhibition will now run every day from 10.30am and will continue until November 3rd and visitors won’t have to go to infinity and beyond to have fun.

More information and pictures will apear in the April 4th edition of the View From Weymouth free newspaper.




Weymouth Pavilion

PEOPLE must wonder what is going to happen next as the saga of Weymouth Pavilion continues to produce more twists and turns than a ropemaker’s bowl of spaghetti bolognaise.

What has happened so far has all the elements of a tragedy and a farce rolled in to one gothic production garnished with heroic knights, evil villains and a fair sprinkling of village idiots.

The Pavilion was built in 1908 for £14,150 to meet heavy demand for entertainment because Weymouth was growing in popularity as a seaside resort.

Along came World War II, the Pavilion got requisitioned by the military and by the time they had finished with it – the last use was as a naval post sorting office – it took two years before the council could farm it out to the Buxton Theatre Circuit.

The Pavilion finally re-opened in 1950 with a new name, The Ritz Theatre, but it burnt down in 1954 and here’s where we start to see the first disastrous links between council thinking then and council thinking now.

The Fire Brigade felt they had saved enough of the building for it to be rebuilt, but the council decided to put forward a claim on the fire insurance policy, the site was cleared….and not a brick of the new Pavilion was built for the next four years.

Apparently this was because of extensive delays caused by litigation and wrangling, but plans were eventually drawn up for a new Pavilion at £154,000 only for the Royal Fine Arts Commission to demand changes which cost another £25,000.

Comedian Benny Hill starred in the show Let’s Make A Night Of It for the official opening in July 1960, but the years went by and the building fell victim to comedy of a different sort, this time of errors.

Instead of maintaining the building and pursuing a policy to ensure quality attractions would generate quality returns, the Pavilion was allowed to bumble along until grandiose turn of the century plans were announced to redevelop the site with a £135 million scheme in time for the Olympics.

There were plans for this hotel, that car park and marina and the other luxury apartment, oh were there plans for luxury apartments! The number of floors being proposed seemed to relate directly to angry residents’ blood pressure, the higher the apartment block being suggested the higher blood pressures got.

Howard Holdings went bust – remember that? – and the council was suddenly throwing its arms in the air and talking about no longer being able to support the loss making Pavilion.

The wheels of council operation had been oiled for some time by siphoning harbour cash off and spending it to plug holes elsewhere, a situation angrily highlighted by Councillor Peter Farrell.

But the holes came home to roost on the Pavilion’s doorstep with poorly maintained harbour walls cracking into a giant cavity to the sound of Condor upping its anchor and taking its ferry service to Poole until repairs are completed.

There were also growing cracks appearing in council willingness to support the Pavilion and we began to hear talk of closure and demolition which sparked a storm of protest at both the way the council had allowed the situation to develop and what it was trying to do about it.

Community groups rallied to the cause, the council stepped back from the brink of demolition and it was finally agreed that the best option was to hand the Pavilion over and let a community group try and run it.

There was consistent talk of the need to expedite this, to get whatever community group was chosen in and running the complex as soon as possible but the words of Councillor John Birtwistle appear to be coming back to haunt the authority.

He told a full council meeting in the Pavilion Ocean Room packed with more than 150 spectators that the Spanish had a word, “manana”, meaning not today, “but the council doesn’t have a word which conveys that sense of urgency”!

His words have proved prophetic because next Tuesday’s meeting of the council’s management committee will debate a proposed schedule not for welcoming a fresh start in June but for a handover which could keep a community group out of the Pavilion until at least October….and that’s if things go smoothly and the whole place isn’t vandalised into a ruin by then.

Maybe there are legal niceties to be observed, maybe the council does have to do things in a certain way to ensure it doesn’t lay itself open to action, but should doing all that really take so long?

Parts of this whole sorry scenario are likely to be buried away deep from the light of public scrutiny, but one thing is for sure. Next week’s council management committee will see furious community groups give the meeting a pretty rough ride.


A TRIANGULAR oatcake is at the centre of the latest gaffe by officialdom.

It seems that a school in Essex has banned its dinner ladies from baking them.

The sledgehammer-to-crack-a-nut reaction came after a pupil suffered a “sore eye” when a fellow pupil threw one of the three-cornered “weapons” at him.

If the reaction was in the best British traditions of being bizarre then what happened next was guaranteed to put the school in an unwelcome national spotlight.

Its overkill actions were compounded by issuing another order to its dinner ladies that from now on they were only to bake square or rectangular snacks!

This prompted me to cast the net a little further afield and see what other mind boggling measures I could come up with. It didn’t take long to find some.

First in line came Butlins which in the past has been guilty of taking safety concerns too far at several of its parks where they ordered dodgem cars to stop bumping into each other.

More soaring stupidity came courtesy of a Yorkshire tourist beach where safety concerns prompted a ban on kite flying.

My favourite involves a ban on pins being used for commemorative poppies while a close second came one school’s ban on those nasty, dangerous things footballs….unless they were made of sponge!

Schools do seem to be involved in quite a few of these ludicrous ultimatums and another school acted swiftly to ban the danger posed by sack races at a school sports day.

Not so long ago my son successfully graduated from his degree and appeared in one scenario where he and his fellow students posed for a photograph before celebrating by throwing their mortar boards into the air.

Such high-spirited actions were actually banned at another university, fearful that the falling headgear might hit someone and injure them.

The next incident almost defies belief when a pensioner who had been suffering from breathing problems was passed fit to go home from hospital. Well, she’d been passed fit by medical experts but they had apparently neglected to scheme the hospital transport department into their medical debate.

Transport bosses promptly halted the entire process of getting the poor pensioner home, voicing and then debating their concerns over whether or not it was safe for her to go because she had a four-inch step at her front door.

My final incident has all the ingredients of a television farce which is just as well as it illustrated one of the less than glittering incidents of BBC baloney.

Apparently a seasoned Tom Jones impersonator was due to appear at the BBC, a man well versed in how his act often drew extreme reactions from watching women.

Many of them would scream and throw their knickers at him on to the stage while shouting endearments but he had so far taken it all in his stride.

However, it was his stride that was worrying BBC bosses who were concerned that he might fall over knickers thrown by his supporters in their studio.

So the BBC ruled that while supporters could show their appreciation they could only wave their pants in the air not throw them!



If you live in Weymouth do you do your shopping in the town or do you spread your custom about a bit?

I only ask because troubled times for Southill’s bus services have seen rescue proposals include a link from Southill to Morrisons supermarket to enable residents from that area to catch a bus to Dorchester for hospital appointments or to visit the county town market.

This raises important points about the future of both towns.

The great Charles Street development in Dorchester has been given the rough edge of many tongues for being too much public money spent to benefit too few with too little public consultation while Weymouth’s town centre is stuttering so much that attempts are being made to set up a new Business Improvement District, something which already exists in Dorchester.

The question for Weymouth is whether it may all be too little too late.

Council purses are so empty they contain little but famished moths with the authority voting to stop financing the Pavilion, sell its own offices and the Guildhall and cut back on a variety of other drains on its finances.

This includes closing Weymouth Tourist Information Centre on May 31st and Portland’s in September, brave moves for an authority whose area relies on tourism for its lifeblood.

Those visitors need more than just a beach to lie on and pubs and restaurants to relax in and you’ve only got to take a stroll round the main shopping streets to be immediately struck by the amount of whitewashed windows, empty premises and signs “For Sale” and “For Rent” that there are.

It is also noticeable how many businesses have cut their opening hours or even the number of days that they are open and, if this isn’t very attractive for visitors, it is a whole lot less attractive for residents who may be considering spending what money they do have in those outlets.

The economy is so dire at the moment that people are devoting far more time than ever before over what they buy and where they buy it from.

Little things can crucially tip the balance.

Weymouth has finally woken up to the fact that its sky-high car park charges don’t do it any favours and recent efforts have produced a much better approach with free Sunday parking and other measures.

But it remains a cold hard fact that one hour’s parking in Weymouth costs you £1.40 while £2 can buy you an entire day in Dorchester.

Maybe the county town’s Charles Street scheme was a bit brutal, but it is there and shoppers like to feel good when they shop.

So in a straight battle between a gleaming new development with close by High Street shops and cheap parking in Dorchester and Weymouth’s gap-toothed commercial smile of working businesses and empty premises even so small a thing as a different style bus service can be crucial.

That very point – the risk that shoppers might use the proposed service to go to Dorchester rather than shop in Weymouth town centre – was raised at a Southill public meeting yesterday.

The whole Dorchester-or-Weymouth scenario must also consider Weymouth’s ever growing number of premises devoted to new charity shops, coffee shops and restaurants. All are no doubt laudable but are they the sort of enterprise to help encourage people in to Weymouth for a decent spend?

At the end of the day only time will tell but there are worrying signs that Weymouth’s finance and commercial problems may get worse with no obvious sign that they might get better.

Snow sign of Spring

SPRING is on the way as you can see from all the snow, massive drifts, torrential rain and flooding affecting different parts of the country.

Water meadows are just that at the moment, one big sheet of muddy-coloured water, and Weymouth in Dorset has already had more than its average rainfall for March, the ninth month out of the last ten when the town has had above average rainfall.

By contrast, this morning saw grim faced officials in the north of England talk about snow drifts 16feet deep in places, motorists stranded in Cumbria or rescued to spend the night in village halls.

Hundreds of thousands of homes have been left with no power, some of them being warned it could be at least three days until they get it back.

Conditions were so bad in some places that the authorities had to send in mountain rescue teams to try and help motorists stuck on exposed roads.

Weathermen warn that the bleak conditions are likely to last until the end of the month and perhaps in to April.

There is no chance yet of a barbecue while news that the cricket season is due to start in a few weeks is the only ecent thing to raise a laugh.

Gardens are way behind with little sign of any splashes of Spring colour which is hardly surprising when plants have been frozen by snow, drowned by downpours or battered by gales.

If plants are having trouble guessing how to react to the conditions then so do humans.

Do we put on something to keep us dry or something to keep us warm…or both?

Classic recent conditions included snow, rain, sunshine, hail and strong winds all in a few hours.

There just seems no rhyme or reason to weather patterns, experts telling us that a weaker jet stream is to blame. That means that high pressure which used to be to the south east of us forcing mild stormy weather over us has been replaced by high pressure to the north east of us which drags in much colder air from Siberia with all the snow and ice associated with that.

Even the economy is taking a beating from the weather which is hardly surprising. If you can’t struggle to your front gate for snow or rain there’s not much encouragement to walk even further to go shopping.

Supermarkets and shops have been badly hit with sales sharply down which means that we’ll all soon catch a cold when they put prices up to compensate for their problems.

As I write conditions here are cold, there is a stiff breeze, the sky is a flat grey and there is mist building, not the sort of light-hearted conditions associated with Spring.

There is even the bizarre news that the World Cup football match between Russia and North Ireland has been postponed because of snow….and Northern Ireland were at home!

And if you need cheering up further then think on this. It is less than 13 weeks until the longest day of the year after which the nights will start drawing in again. At the moment I feel as if they have never drawn out!


CHOCOLATE sales enjoy a peak at Easter when children demand a delicious egg to consume.

But chocolate is by no means confined to this traditional shape and chocolatiers have certainly not been frightened to push the boat out and produce some eye-catching even startling creations from a tasty giant camera to a Darth Vader figure.

Women may claim fashion is their God but I’m sure chocolate would give that a run for its money not least when some chocolate creations have included clothing and even pairs of shoes!

Nothing seems to be beyond the talents of a chocolate expert to recreate and some of the impressive items to be produced include an entire miniature football stadium and even a whole roast turkey.

I’m not sure about a chocolate skull while I’m positive that the attraction of a collection of spanners and pliers is solely due to their being made of chocolate and owes nothing to any obscure artistic merit.

There is also a sinister side to this sweetest of confections and at least three children have choked to death after eating chocolate eggs which contained toys.

Men have also died making chocolate including one who fell into a giant vat of the stuff. There is even a dessert called Death by Chocolate.

One bishop was allegedly murdered by his chocolate being poisoned after a dispute he had with women over them drinking chocolate during mass while one murderess launched a reign of terror after systematically buying chocolate, impregnating it with strychnine and then returning it to shop shelves. Many fell ill and one boy died.

One of my favourites involves Sir Winston Churchill and letters which revealed a Nazi plot to assassinate him using a bar of exploding chocolate!

Among some tasty facts are that the largest ever box of chocolates weighed 2,002lbs or nearly a ton, that one in every 200 workers in Belgium is involved with the making, sale or promotion of chocolate and that one chocolate chip provides enough food energy for an adult to walk about 50 metres.

Just how intensive production needs to be can be seen from the fact that one tree’s entire crop for a year is needed to make just half a kilo of cocoa or, that during the period of the Aztec empire, a slave could be bought for 100 cocoa beans.

Africa is currently the hub of chocolate, producing 66 percent of the modern world’s supply. while cocoa trees were first found growing in the Amazon and the foothills of the Venezuelan and Colombian Andes.

Interestingly more than twice as many women as men eat and crave chocolate, a word derived from the Aztec “xocolatl” which means “bitter water”.

And be grateful you live in modern times with modern regulations. A couple of centuries ago and corrupt producers used brick dust and red lead in place of cocoa when making chocolate.

Finally, more than a fifth of all chocolate consumption takes place between 8pm and midnight….so you might be eating chocolate now!

Best ever Footballers?

ENGLAND’S popular football season is heading towards its climax, so I’ve taken time out to draw up a shortlist of this country’s greatest – but unsung – football stars.

No goalkeeping hall of fame would be complete without Reg “The Owl” Penfold, so called for his stomach-churning ability to stand still on the line yet turn his head right round behind him to see where the ball had ended up in the net.

Reg holds a number of infamous records including most goals conceded in injury time, most goals conceded while arranging a defensive wall and most goals conceded while eating a bacon sandwich.

The pinnacle of his achievements came in Division 4 of the Bristol Amnesiacs League where he forgot to come out for the second half.

Joining him in the dusty hall of fame is left back Wilfred “Guppy” McForrest, a notoriously shortsighted player who was once sent off for tackling a corner flag. The referee first booked him for abuse and then gave him his marching orders after McForrest claimed the flag had “dived”.

He sometimes bewildered opponents by screaming for the ball, unaware they weren’t on his side, and his hazy sense of direction often saw him celebrate goals scored by the other side.

His career ended in tragic fashion at an away game where he got off the train unaware there was no platform beneath his carriage. He fell across a live track and was then run over by a Football Special.

Equally infamous and no less tragic was centre-half John “Big John” Johns, a giant of a man noted for his heading ability.

So fearlessly did he dominate his penalty area that he smashed crossbars and posts in his eagerness to get the ball clear, often causing his keeper to have hysterics.

He perished during a derby game on a municipal football pitch when he tried to clear a corner with a leap which powered him into the underside of the bar, the council goal having been constructed of scaffolding poles sprayed white to deter vandalism.

Another terraces favourite was right back Jimmy “The Shadow” Conroy, a player famed for sticking so closely to opponents he had to marry one of them.

Conroy was such a master of the art of man marking that the exchange of shirts at game’s end usually gave him his own one back.

He was such a ghostly presence that his side was once investigated by the Football Association over claims they’d only fielded ten players.

Completing the back four is “Windy” Willie Arbuckle, a player of ordinary ability who achieved outstanding success thanks to his thunderous farting caused by eating pickled onions.

He consumed an entire jar before every game and forwards got to know they must score in the first ten minutes against Willie before flatulence set in and convulsed them with laughter.

He once scored into an open goal to win a crucial cup-tie after every other player in the box was felled by a pungent wind gust of epic proportions. When he retired Willie enjoyed a successful career with Channel.

Moving on to the midfield greats, few who saw him will ever forget “Tractor” Tom Sheridan’s searing pace and skills.

Tom wore boots with long studs which ripped pitches to shreds, pursuing defenders being blinded by a storm of mud and grass thrown up in the wake of Sheridan’s darting runs.

Match of the Day pundits once famously dumped using white lines on screen to illustrate their views on game strategy in favour of just pointing to various ploughed areas of pitch which showed exactly where Tractor Tom had been.

Bill “The Boomerang” Taylor was another midfield character whose incredible ability to slice the ball caused havoc in opposing defences.

He won numerous league titles in Wales including one Goal of the Season award for a corner aimed at the edge of the 18-yard box which swerved so much he scored at the near post.

Sadly his career was cut short by a freak brain injury in a gale at Swansea when one of his free-kick specials bent so much it came right round and hit him on the back of the head.

Joining him in the hall of fame is Bernard “Snapper” Doyle whose infamous career includes more sendings off for biting opponents than any other player in Football Association history.

His reign of terror used crowded goalmouths to hide his “little tasters” as he called them, nibbles or bites delivered to fearful defenders while their backs were turned with buttocks a particular target.

He was once suspended for ten games by a disciplinary panel despite denying the assault charge after plaster cast evidence gleaned from one victim’s neck literally convicted him out of his own mouth by matching one incisor mark to Doyle’s own dental records.

The final midfield place goes to “Dodger” Terry Handley whose jinking runs tied defenders in knots.

This was actually the secret of Dodger’s success because he could never tie his boots up properly and was constantly treading on loose laces, giving him his trademark jerky style.

But Dodger’s success eventually proved his undoing when he won a lucrative sponsorship deal with a bootmaker whose product had Velcro fastening. With nothing to trip over Dodger’s mystery was gone and he committed suicide, hanging himself with a pair of laces from the crossbar at his favourite Sewer Road end.

Just the two strikers to go but what a two they are.

Shane “The Hump” Doherty was a top class centre forward. He knew it and so did the girls.

He was a class act whether it was 90 minutes on the pitch or 90 minutes off it, specialising in hat-tricks and threesomes to the delight of fans, females and the tabloids.

His finest hour came when he scored five goals in the first half of a cup game before “entertaining” a minibus of women fans so enthusiastically in the baths at half time that escaping water shorted out the floodlights and the match had to be replayed.

The final member of this legendary eleven was Michael “Honey” Harrison, a free-kick specialist who was also a drag artist of some note.

Harrison was always stunningly turned out and goalkeepers seemed mesmerised by his physical attributes especially if it was raining and Honey’s shirt had stuck to his 38D “chest”.

After goal celebrations had to be particularly careful in order not to inflame fans and opposition alike and there was, of course, no question of exchanging shirts with an opponent.

That’s it and if these names are unfamiliar to you then hopefully they’ll raise a few more smiles than the usual “Best Ever Footballers” lists which do the rounds.


Money, Money, Money

FINANCE in Cyprus appears to be in tatters with levies threatening to leave people’s savings accounts with more holes in them than a dartboard.

Government of the popular tourist island plans to introduce the bank raid as part of a £9 billion EU bailout which could include some very unpopular measures biting into people savings accounts.

This could see account holders in Cyprus with up to 100,000 euros paying a one-off levy of 6.75 percent with higher deposits suffering a 9.9 percent levy.

The move could affect many of the UK’s 3,000 military personnel in Cyprus, up to 25,000 expatriates and seven members of a House of Commons select committee out there to investigate European sunshine levels.

No wonder then that Chancellor George Osborne, a man not unversed in parting UK residents from their money, was understandably outraged at being upstaged.

He said that people “doing their duty for our country in Cyprus will be protected from this Cypriot bank tax”, perhaps feeling that the tax is amateur hour when compared with his economic measures.

Mr Osborne then widened the scope of his generosity to say that British government workers on Cyprus would also be protected.

This prompted a huge sigh of relief from the Ministers and NATO United Retirement Endowment group (MANURE) which is based at the Hotsy Totsy Golf and Country Club just outside Nicosia.

No wonder the caring chancellor is keen to preserve for his own use figures which show Britons have about £1.7 billion on deposit at Cypriot banks or a sum roughly the equivalent to a busy Saturday night bar bill at the House of Commons.

Churlish residents unwilling to believe this is all being done for their own good have been queuing outside banks to withdraw their savings from cash machines…or they were until it was announced that the crisis will see all Cyprus banks will remain closed until Thursday!

Observers have been treated to the delicious scenario of Russia fighting the little people’s corner with president Vladimir Putin saying the proposed levy is “unfair, unprofessional and dangerous”, noble sentiments unless you happen to know that Russian banks and businesses have large deposits in Cyprus!

Mr Osborne pledged that people out there doing their duty for Queen and country in Cyprus would be protected from the Cypriot bank tax although not, presumably, from him.

The Ministry of Defence welcomed the Chancellor’s promise which will help many British military personnel while similar pleasure was expressed by Algernon Faquhar-Selfserver, Head of Mission for the 17,029 civil service personnel running the British Embassy’s vital paperclip counting department in Larnaca.

The Cypriot government has promised to share the financial levy and President Nicos Anastasiades admitted the deal was “painful” although probably not as painful for him as the levy grab facing ordinary beach umbrella tout Giannis and others like him.

It is therefore hardly surprising that ordinary residents are furious at the drain on their savings which are threatening to disappear faster than a schooner of Cyprus sherry.

Those in the know revealed the truth for the rest of us to shake our heads at by commenting that the money grab was being billed as a tax to try and get round EU deposit guarantee laws.

This reverses the legend of Sherwood Forest where Robin Hood took from the rich to give to the poor. In Cyprus this comes out as robbing many small investors to ultimately benefit the banks with apparently no threshold to protect the poor, some of whom only have five euros in their account.

No wonder some man came close to bulldozing a bank on the island, a relatively constrained action when stacked up against the levy which comes close to financial rape.

With such compassion for the ordinary people, how long before Mr Osborne or a future chancellor is forced to “reluctantly” bring in such enlightened measures for us?

Blizzards are snow joke


WINTER blasted back across Dorset today, closing major routes and forcing many cars to be abandoned in huge snow drifts.

The great British weather joke was nowhere funnier than in Weymouth where the town beneath the Ridgeway divide had virtually a month’s rain in 48 hours.

That included a deluge this morning which battered drivers into submission from the seafront to Littlemoor, but it was a different story once motorists began to climb up the relief road towards the county town of Dorchester.

Rain being plastered across windscreens suddenly disappeared as if some giant tap had been turned off as droplets turned first to sleet and then to big snowflakes. The impact was startling.

Speeds fell away from 50mph-60mph to a cautious 25mph, the upward two lanes were reduced to a single set of black tyre tracks increasingly shrouded in white and visibility dropped dramatically from several miles to a few hundreds yards.

The higher the road rose the denser the blizzard conditions became until tentative traffic crested Ridgeway and began to crawl towards Dorchester into the teeth of the latest winter’s blast, headlights blurred by swirling snow.

Vehicles coming the other way had as much as six inches of snow on their rooftops, clumps occasionally being jarred off to explode on the road or over cars coming in the opposite direction.

Conditions were almost surreal with every outline blurred and every driver hoping the tracks in front of them remained visible because all road markings had long since disappeared.

A decent team of huskies could have overtaken everyone at one point as one section of road where wind had whipped snow into drift conditions forced drivers almost to a standstill as they negotiated their way over snow packed into icy slush.

It made you proud to be British! Only in a Britain supposedly welcoming in Spring flowers, migrant Spring birds and the first flush of Spring green could we conjure up the sort of scenes reserved for television coverage of howling winter blizzard conditions on the east coast of America.

The Rideway is famous for creating its own weather conditions and the difference between Dorchester struggling to escape from being choked by a snowstorm while just a few miles down the road was Weymouth getting soaked to the skin had to be seen to be believed.

Fortunately we all should be able to enjoy Spring when winter’s finished having its joke at our expense, but there must be a few worried thoughts that the brutal weather of 2012 doesn’t exactly seem to have been a passing blip.

If the first eleven weeks of 2013 are anything to go by then maybe the Gods have a few more weather phenomena  to throw at us, perhaps a nice juicy unseasonal tornado or two although that will probably be reserved for summer when we can all really enjoy being sucked up into the air and blown down to Spain. At least we’d be guaranteed some sunshine there!

Courage in the Face of the Enemy

THE Victoria Cross is the highest award for bravery “in the face of the enemy” that the UK can offer.

The latest recipient of the VC will be a posthumous award to Lance-Corporal James Ashworth who died from a grenade blast as he tried to protect his men in Afghanistan during a clash with the Taliban in 2012.

Only just over 1,300 such medals have been awarded since it was introduced by Queen Victoria in 1856 to honour acts of valour in the Crimean War and barely a dozen medals have been won since the Second World War.

Its rarity has seen some medals change hands at auction for as much as £410,000, the sum paid for Captain Alfred Shout’s posthumous VC awarded in 1915 for hand-to-hand combat at the Lone Pine trenches in Gallipoli, Turkey.

Dorset has its own VC hero in Jack Mantle from the Second World War.

He was an acting leading seaman in the Royal Navy on the south coast in 1940 when there was a German air raid on Portland.

Mantle was on board the converted merchant ship HMS Foylebank manning the starboard 20mm pom-pom gun when the bombers attacked.

Early on his left leg was shattered in a blast but, although wounded again many times, he remained at his gun and continued to train and fire it by hand after electric power failed until he collapsed and died. It was only the second VC awarded for action in the UK.

There have been many incidents of striking bravery including Wing Commander Eric Nicolson who won his VC in 1940 as a fighter pilot over Southampton.

His Hawker Hurricane was attacked by a Messerschmitt and he was hit in the eye and foot, his engine was damaged and his petrol tank set on fire, but as he struggled to get out of his blazing fighter Nicolson saw another Messerschmitt.

Incredibly he decided to get back into his fighter and attack the enemy plane, firing until it dived away to crash. Only then did he bail out, managing to open his parachute and land safely in a field…..despite being fired on by members of the Home Guard who ignored his shout that he was an RAF pilot!

Perhaps the most famous VC was won by Wing Commander Guy Gibson who led the heroic Dambusters raid into Germany to attack several dams while there is also the VC awarded to Lieutenant Howard Elphinstone at Sebastopol in 1854.

He first led a group of volunteers out into no-man’s-land at night in a highly dangerous effort to recover scaling ladders and other vital equipment from a previous abortive attack on the Redan fort.

Then he took part in the final assault on Sebastopol where he was “killed”, his body being taken from the battlefield to join a mound of corpses awaiting burial.

But his servant had been searching for him, recognised his boots and dragged him from the pile where it was discovered that he was only unconscious not dead having been hit in the head by a shell splinter. He made a good recovery but the sight in his right eye could not be saved.

Courage in the face of the enemy never seeks medals but it will always deserve recognition and I am proud of my grandfather who fought at two small skirmishes during the First World War that history remembers as the Somme and Passchendale. He walked away from that with nothing more than a single bullet wound to the delight of his family, but he would never talk about the conditions in the trenches where bravery of a different sort was displayed by all.