Hell on Wheels

DORSET has seen a 70 percent increase in the number of “anti-social” incidents involving mobility scooters in barely three years.

So many incidents are happening that police officers have been sent on a special course using real life case studies so they can learn how to deal with mobility mayhem.

A typical incident involved 83-year-old retired lamplighter Albert, arrested after a vicious clash on Weymouth Esplanade with four skinheads in a red Ford Escort with go-faster stripes sporting two large foam dice dangling from the driver’s mirror.

They drove up quietly behind him before the driver activated air horns which blasted out Marching Through Georgia so loudly that a startled Albert swallowed his dentures, but the four’s escape was halted by a pedestrian crossing, allowing Albert to catch up at 6mph.

Police who pieced together what happened next believe the large amount of excrement on all the Escort’s seats was caused by the irate pensioner limping up to the driver’s window and lobbing a can of MACE into the back seat before deploying an industrial strength taser.

Hysterical accounts from the skinheads claimed they’d been attacked by a ten-strong gang of local thugs and they strongly denied being bested by a lone pensioner, but CCTV footage captured the incident – now a police Christmas dinner favourite – and Albert was later arrested.

At his subsequent trial, Judge Knott said the octogenarian may have been provoked but the law was the law even if it did involve “scum like that”, Albert receiving a conditional discharge provided he gave Judge Knott the address of his MACE supplier.

Officers are also boosting their training by going through the case of a terrible duel between Millicent Halfbuckle, a spinster of 78 years, and Harold Penfold, a widower of 81 years.

They met in a narrow side street in Weymouth town centre where neither Harold in his three-wheel Reliant Robin nor Millicent in her mobility scooter would give way.

Words were exchanged and sobbing bystanders later told police that both pensioners drew back and then charged each other like jousting knights of old.

When the dust settled Harold’s colostomy bag had torn open and his Reliant Robin was on its side minus the front wheel while Millicent’s false leg had been hideously twisted up her back, she had lost her bi-focals and was lashing out with her walking stick at those trying to put her scooter back upright.

Sgt Eileen Dover said: “More and more of our officers are having to cope with such incidents with several being injured by the protagonists, so it is important that they learn how to deploy body armour and issue those nice striped mint humbugs to help defuse these situations.

“It would appear that you are never too old to lose your temper and we maintain a zero tolerance policy for pensioners the same as we do for other age groups.

“So we would urge all mobility scooter offenders to remember this. You can hide slowly but you can’t run!”


Another year older

TODAY is my birthday, a life which began just a few days after Roger Bannister ran the first sub-four-minute mile.

It seems like I have been running hard to keep up with life ever since with little fame and no fortune, just an ordinary existence which has had some rich moments.

So what sticks in my mind as I look back nearly 50 years? (All right, all right! So I’m lying and I’ll never see the half century again. Give a birthday boy a break!).

To coin a famous phrase, I’ve seen things you people wouldn’t believe.

Thousands of illegal electricity lines snaking into a slum in Rio, streams like the silver veins of some giant leaf laid out on the ground far below my parachute, 500,000 people packed into a single stretch of street in Istanbul and the glorious ruins of Machu Picchu viewed from a nearby mountain top I’d climbed to.

I’ve drunk fruit schnapps in broad daylight on a glacier at 3am, relaxed with a gin and tonic in the ornate interior of an old Luftwaffe headquarters, sipped a beer from the safety of a tree platform above a crocodile-infested lake in Sri Lanka and enjoyed a glass of champagne 20ft under the streets of Weymouth surrounded by thousands of bottles of wine.

By day I’ve seen people mugged on the streets of New York and at night I once had my pocket picked by an elephant in Bangkok.

I’ve nearly drowned three times, been shot at in a city centre and was once chased for a quarter of a mile through Manchester by a man with a huge knife.

Two planes I’ve been on have been struck by lightning, a hotel I stayed in was badly damaged two weeks later by the terrible Boxing Day tsunami and I walked through Kings Cross and away to safety 30 seconds before the IRA bombed the station.

I’ve interviewed the famous from Prime Ministers to the Archbishop of Canterbury and people wealthy beyond belief in places ranging from mid-flight aircraft to 400ft underground in a cave, from the crisp freezing air of the Arctic Circle to a steam room the size of a sofa in Jordan where the leaking boiler threatened to explode at any moment.

There’s been delight viewed at everything from school sports days to the Olympic Games and enough tragedy to last me a lifetime including seeing 14 bodies. I’ve even trudged round sightseeing a deserted and ransacked holiday resort in Croatia before a shaking guide dragged me away from the area….which was full of unexploded shells, mortar bombs and other ordnance from the war there.

I’ve enjoyed the carnival route in Weymouth and in Rio, walked the Pennine Way in England and the Appenine Way in Rome and marvelled at the Giant’s Causeway in Ireland, the Parthenon in Athens, the Ice Cathedral in Tromso and the ruins of Pompeii.

For all those wonderful experiences, there is no place like home and my celebrations today will probably involve a mug of tea while relaxing in the garden….with perhaps a glass of wine or three later. The toast will be – growing old disgracefully!

Prince Charles opens Poundbury dungeon attraction

PRINCE Charles has visited Dorset to open a new dungeon attraction at his Poundbury development in Dorchester.

Poundbury is the Prince’s vision of what an ideal town should look like and the result has a strong Georgian flavour, but the Royal scourge of British architecture came in for a bit of a whipping himself when he completed his first building on the site, a fire station.

That was described by one national newspaper as “the Parthenon meets Brookside” and “architectural dabbling of the worst kind”.

Since then the gloves have come off with previously wary critics increasingly vocal in their dismay including comments that Poundbury is “a mish mash of styles from different centuries”, “a toy town” and “a museum of a mythical past”.

But some of the Prince’s most vocal critics have nothing but praise for his latest Poundbury attraction, an historical dungeon built with Portland Stone and painstaking attention to detail so it includes all the main instruments of torture from centuries of English history.

This may have something to do with the fact that those same critics have been arrested and locked up in the dungeon as part of the attraction!

They feature prominently in the daily charity demonstrations of the rack at 11am and 3pm when members of the public can donate coins by dropping them in to a tub which slowly tightens chains attached to the critic’s wrists and ankles. The Prince said that whether such donations were true charity might be “stretching a point” but “hey, one’s charity is one’s charity”.

Another popular feature is the Iron Maiden (Castle), a special local version of this gruesome torture mechanism designed by Prince Charles himself.

He drew on personal knowledge of incidents where he felt critics had stabbed him in the back to come up with this mechanism which can stab a critic in the back and the front at the same time.

Equally fiendish is the Sobbing Room, an open-barred four-sided cell surrounded by four white walls on which are projected never-ending slideshows of Poundbury.

Among critics to lavish praise on Prince Charles’ latest creation was Algernon Forbes-Farquhar, now stretched to an impressive 11ft 2ins, who felt it was “an honour and a privilege” to play a small role in such “a colossus of architecture” and could someone please notify his tailor that all his suits needed letting out.

Agnatha Peabody was equally effusive in her praise, citing the dungeon as the finest Royal-designed building she had ever been incarcerated in, a trifle minimalist perhaps but with clear overtones of caementum. She is currently serving 17 years for excessive use of critical adjectives.

Early figures show that the Poundbury dungeon has raised more than £100,000 for Prince Charles’ new charity, the Happy Valley Family Home for Critics Pie Company.

Adverts on police patrol cars

DORSET Police has announced that it could be rolling out a new money spinning venture to boost Force funds by selling advertising on its patrol cars.

Wondering if a bargain was to be had, I wandered down to Western Divisional Headquarters in Weymouth where I was directed to Inspector Connor Price, head of the new Buy One Get One Free (BOGOF) section.

He sat me down and said that a bonnet started from £1,000 while they had a special on this week with two doors for the price of one with a free Bertie the Bobby cuddly toy thrown in.

Popular numberplates were also available including “BLUEBOTTLE 1” “FLATFOOT “ “ROZZERS” and “PARK DA PIG”, all for £35 each with a free replica tax disc.

Very reasonable, I said, and asked if they’d had much advertising take-up by local businesses.

Apparently interest is keen including their first advert which was sold to a Weymouth upholstery company keen to get their message across that “We’ll stitch you up a treat”.

A dance company snapped up the rear of one patrol car to ensure coverage for its jingle “Don’t drink and jive” while a local builder took a front passenger door ad on another patrol car which now bears the snappy slogan: “Get plastered with us!”

More adverts have included one on another patrol car door for a bathroom supplies outlet urging: “If this shower can use us why can’t you?!” while one burglar alarm company took an entire bonnet to make sure everyone saw its advert “Use us Before you Need Them.”

I asked Inspector Price if perhaps some of the Force’s respect and credibility was being lost in this pursuit of hard cash, but he said police had always tried to work with businesses although they had to weed out some adverts.

What were those, I asked, and he cited one they’d had to withdraw from a local sports car racing team which had entreated: “Slow getaway car letting you down? With our tuning you’ll be laughing all the way from the bank.”

When I asked what was wrong with the advert, Inspector Price explained that there was nothing inaccurate about it. He added: “That’s what worried us!”

Interesting times, I thought, as I walked out clutching a goodwill Bertie the Bobby past a row of patrol cars, the last one of which caught my eye.

Workmen were removing its blue flashing light roof assembly, so I asked them what was going on.

One of them replied: “Roof’s been bought guv, so the lights gotta go.”

I asked what was going to take its place and was told that a large yellow ice-cream cone was due to be bolted on with two boards bearing the logo: “Soft on your tongue, not on crime”.

Times were clearly changing fast but I couldn’t believe my eyes at what was being rented just near the building’s main entrance.

More workmen had just finished painting the words “To Let” on it when I asked: “Surely you’re not renting that out?”
They replied: “No mate. It’s for the Chief Constable’s visit this afternoon just in case anyone gets caught short and needs a pee.”

I said: “There should be an “I” in “TOILET,” and walked off shaking my head.

Dorset…..Getting Smaller By The Day

A GIANT chunk of Dorset cliff is hitting the headlines after falling on to the beach near Durdle Door and taking a bite of the coast path with it.

What with Lyme Regis, Burton Bradstock, West Bay and Bowleaze all joining the slide in to the sea there soon won’t be much left of the county.

So it is perhaps not surprising that property “For Sale” signs are shooting up, but these aren’t being nailed to posts by worried owners with homes on threatened sections of coast but by owners with property at inland areas such as Beaminster and Dorchester.

They’ve all stuck £20,000 on their asking price because they can now legitimately advertise that they are “near (er) the coast” or that their property comes with “dramatic views of the Dorset coast”.

Some property owners living a little too near this flurry of landslips are finding their location a bit more dramatic than they would like.

Coastguards are warning walkers away from the latest landslip at Durdle Door and a path on Portland is causing a few problems for walkers because a cliff fall has left one section of pavement with a large hole through which you can see straight down to rocks 50ft below!

Weymouth is not immune with constant problems in the Castle Cove area not to mention the famous day when half the Nothe Gardens slid into the sea and walkers suddenly found the footpath they were descending had a 10ft drop before it continued lower – much lower – down the slope.

You’ve only got to look to the right as you drive on to Portland to see cliff slopes covered in scree, the cliffs and paths round Lulworth Cove are definitely not the most stable and nor are those round Osmington and Preston.

Only eight months ago there was an earthquake measuring 2.0 on the Richter Scale just south of Weymouth so the area is hardly mundane when it comes to land movement.

The whole of this stretch of coastline is vulnerable to stability problems, if not from unusually heavy rain causing the ground to sag and slip then from the sea eroding it away.

Some sections are so vulnerable that they are only preserved by massive coastal protection works notably along Preston Beach Road and at Newtons Cove as well as the huge work to protect Portland which has been devastated by past storms.

Yet danger seems to attract those unwilling to consider personal safety, so the poor old coastguard is left practically tearing their hair out as  children explore landslips, fossil hunters search for fresh finds underneath the latest cliff fall and scores of warning signs directing walkers and visitors away from danger areas are blithely ignored.

There has already been one tragedy where a woman was killed by a cliff fall at Burton Bradstock and we can only hope history doesn’t repeat itself.