The Great Storm

THANK God we have all survived “The Great Storm”.

Weymouth wasn’t swept into the sea and Dorchester wasn’t blown off the map, but both towns were given a damn good shaking.

We’ve had winds gusting to 98mph in Portland Harbour and police say more than 100 trees have been blown down all over the county.

Pockets of flooding on rural roads almost everywhere and the A354, the main road artery between Weymouth and Dorchester, was closed for hours by 20 trees blowing down and the route being hit by a small landslip.

Some truly spectacular waves along Chesil this morning and many trees have been stripped of their leaves.

But does all this justify its billing as The Great Storm, a weather monster to rival the Great Hurricane of 1987. The answer is clearly a big “No”.

Twenty-six years ago I stood in an office window in St Thomas Street and watched total chaos descend on the area.

Leaves fluttered through the air as the town was battered by terrible winds, but what people were actually looking at wasn’t leaves but the slate roof of the Crown Hotel being slowly torn off to fly through the air.

Police had to step in and cordon the whole area off with tape because it was too dangerous for pedestrians to go out on the streets near Town Bridge.

We had vehicles blown over, countless trees came down, numerous buildings were damaged and I lost count of how many roads were closed.

Yachts were trashed, local woodland lost thousands of trees and the wind was so strong in places that it bent road signs.

Compared to all that I think our 2013 “Great Storm” has been a bit of a pussycat. Still, better safe than sorry.

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Police stations could close

DORSET Police could cut the opening hours of police stations across the county, but officers say shorter hours or the actual closure of stations would badly hit rural areas.

Some villages aren’t taking any chances and are already making plans to fight any cuts.

The current police station at Piddle-in-the-Pond, which has operated for years in an alcove off the snug in the Horse & Plough pub, may not have many staff but it has been a huge success.

News that the station might reduce hours or even close was a bitter blow for PC Ivor Thirst who has run the station almost singlehandedly for nearly forty years.

His popular brand of community policing carried out in front and behind the bar has created the only zero crime area in the country.

There is no theft but only things that have been “mislaid” and no violence unless people don’t do what he says.

At 6ft 6in and 23 stone, few people have been unwise enough to challenge PC Thirst. Well there was that American tourist who complained about the surcharge on his beer, but a “spot” sentence of a week working on the pig farm soon smoothed that over.

PC Thirst said: “I just can’t see how them headquarters people can cut station hours here. The pub has got to open and I open the station with it and close when old Dan’s had his last pint so I can walk him home.

“I’m right on the edge now. Harvest time is over but there’s all the cider to make. There’s only so many hours in the day left for all my policing and the Widow Bedworthy gets tetchy if I leave too soon.

“That Heath feller Prime Minister has got to realize that rural life can’t be rushed. Slow and steady wins the day and if I’m told to shut the station early there’ll only be Albert’s Tuesday and Saturday night lock-ins when folk can do a bit of business with me if you gather my meaning.”

Villagers, too, are worried that less policing could lead to a rise in serious anti-social behavior incidents.

Eileen Dover-D’Wall, who lives up at the Manor, broke off from waspishly directing a Fortnum & Mason’s van away to the rear courtyard to say how appalled she was that Dorset Police could even consider such a measure.

She said: “What on earth are they thinking about? Don’t they realise that without proper policing one might get tradesmen at one’s front door, perhaps even a Labour canvasser?

“PC Thirst does a fine job ensuring such riff-raff know their place and it will be a sad day if his superiors interfere with the proper order of things. I shall be writing to the Chief Constable about this today.”

So there you have it. Nothing has definitely been decided yet, but Dorset Police are clearly facing a rural backlash….and no-one wants to be on PC Thirst’s black list.

Beer Festival

BEER has been a familiar part of our lives long before the written word surfaced.

In fact, earliest archaeological evidence shows remains of beer making more than 7,000 years ago, beer arrived before bread and there is reference to Noah’s provisions on the Ark including beer.

Now more than 200 billion pints are produced per year, some of which were available to sample at the 2013 Weymouth Beer Festival.

We have come a long way yet some of the early mysticism associated with beer still remains with a wonderfully colourful collection of names for a variety brews, more than 60 of which were on offer at the festival in the Pavilion Ocean Room.

Organised by the West Dorset branch of the Campaign for Real Ale, the festival delighted with taste and entertained with its labels.

Where else but at a beer festival could you find Goats Leap vying with Dragons Breath and Buzzard and  Raven getting in a flap with Avocet and Golden Chough?

There is a sort of inevitability that Detonator Pale would be rubbing shoulders with Danish Dynamite and that where you’ve got a Rusty Boiler you are bound to have a Funnel Blower.

There was plenty of space to keep Noah busy with everything from Mole Catcher and Otter to a Devonshire Piglet while architects could quaff to their heart’s content on the likes of Castle Gold and Old Barn.

Yes, the festival forecast had some wonderful indoor weather from Summer Lightning to Black Hole and Tornado while a variety of professions offered liquid temptation from Pesky Pirate Porter to Sheppard’s Crook and the Reverend Hawkers.

The only problem with all this largess was where to start first. Fortunately many previous festivals had given me a simple approach to tasting.

If the experts have set the festival up then go to them first and ask what their favourites are and try them.

Next follow your own particular taste – mine is porters and ruby ales – and check out what is on offer before doing a few spot tastes on what is left. Finally tackle the ciders because they will definitely tackle you!

It is terrible to be ruinated early on, but a nice glass or two of cider at the end of the session goes a long way to somehow sorting impressions out and clearing the palate. Who knows. It may even allow you to go back and try a few more fresh beers or revisit a favourite.

Whatever you do, get a decent snack on board to help soak it all up a bit because an empty stomach is the last thing you want to take to a beer festival. Fortunately the venue also had everything from fresh loaves, pasties and sausage rolls to burger and chips

Believe it or not, the organisers are already making plans for next year now that they have secured their venue at the Pavilion which is good news for beer drinkers and good news for the Pavilion.