Early last month I stumbled across a peach of a story. It had intrigue, moderately salacious details, well-known names, lots of gossip and fun… and I knew immediately who else would love it. I called Roger Guttridge, who, as I had predicted, chuckled with glee and promptly said he was ‘on it’.
He spent the next few days researching the facts, interviewing descendents and those who might have had a hand in the truth of the tale, tracked down old magazines and photographs … he checked in with regular updates, knowing I was agog to see what he discovered. He admitted he was having more fun than he’d had in a long time, that the old journo skills had been throughly dusted off and he was loving every second.
Finally he submitted the story – two days early and written perfectly, as Roger’s copy always was.
The next day I called him – to tell him I couldn’t use it. Upon reflection, the gossip was just a little too… gossipy. I expected him to throw a small mood after all his hard work.
Instead, he laughed, and said ‘I thought you might say that. But now you have a gap!’
I said it was fine, I’d manage, and he hung up saying ‘it’s OK, leave it with me’
By 10am the following day, I had the tale of Henry Hastings Champion Seducer in my inbox. Even more ridiculous than the first tale, a far more villainous villain, and in the end a better story.
When I called to thank him, I apologised again to Roger for pulling the first feature. He brushed me off with, ‘Oh, it’s fine, the chase was worth it!’.
While we chatted, he proudly told me he was feeling incredibly well, better than he had for a long time. We planned the next couple of month’s columns together, and he told me he was cashing in my long overdue debt of a promised slice of cake (‘with late payment fees my slice had better be a slab!’).
I promised him the best cake and hot chocolate we could find in a few weeks time, and that we’d invite his friend and co-columnist Barry Cuff too, and make an outing of it.
Less then two weeks after we spoke, having held his leukaemia at bay for four years, Roger passed away.
Since the launch of the BV, Roger Guttridge has been a part of every issue. I know many will miss his writing – almost as much as I’ll miss his advice, his laugh, his opinion … and his endlessly long, winding ‘did-I-tell-you-about-the-time…’ phone calls.
It was with sadness that I heard that Michael Cannon had passed away, and my sympathy is extended to Sally and his family.
I first made the acquaintance of Michael in early 2018 when I approached him about purchasing Sherborne House. At the time, he decided not to, but towards the end of that year he did indeed purchase the house through a Trust he set up. I was then fortunate, soon afterwards, to meet him and Sally at the house, to be shown around the (very run down!) building and to hear about his plans for its future.
We then remained in intermittent contact via email and conversations when we met – often at the Garden Centre! I witnessed the change in ideas for the building and was able to support them, as a minor player, with the relevant authorities. It was a real joy this summer to have another visit and to see the impressive progress that has been made. Clearly no expense has been spared and the work ensures the conservation of what is probably the most important secular building in Sherborne after the two Castles.
It is, therefore, a real tragedy that Michael has not seen the completion of the project – but one hopes he felt secure in the knowledge of what it will become. He has left a wonderful legacy for the town and indeed the county. The opening of The Sherborne should be a fitting memorial to him – and, of course, to his mother who was, I understood, the inspiration behind what he wished to achieve.
Peter Neal, president, Sherborne and District Society CPRE
Save the ticket offices!
I am writing to highlight the proposed closure of rail ticket offices across England, that will have a devastating impact on blind and partially sighted people’s ability to travel independently: stopping people getting to work, health appointments, and seeing friends.
Ticket offices are not just about selling tickets. They provide a reliable first point of contact for many kinds of staff assistance, such as arranging sighted guidance through the station and safely on to the train, to advising on any changes to journeys.
Modernisation of our railways doesn’t just mean apps and touchscreens; modernisation means inclusivity and not leaving anyone behind. These proposals must be scrapped.
Paul Glennon, Shaftesbury.
On the solar farm
The recent approval of the Hazelbury Bryan solar farm is a positive step. It may be unsightly for a few in the very short term, when you take the expected 30 years in context.
Renewable energy is crucial for combating climate change, and this project offers the chance of innovative ways to integrate solar panels with agriculture. Recent studies show that such setups can even benefit livestock and crops.
Before dismissing new energy solutions, let’s consider their potential to enhance both our energy security and our countryside. Education and open-mindedness could lead us to invest in promising, sustainable ventures.
However, I’d like to see Dorset Council placing strictures and covenants on the planning to ensure the land IS used as much as possible, and isn’t simply left (with a cash cow the only livestock required for the investors).
Alan Bearns, Sturminter Newton
I’m delighted that the Council is finally taking our green energy needs seriously. However, their approach as usual appears to be an ‘all-or-nothing’ solution.
When it comes to housing, for example, they seem content to simply add hundreds of homes to the outskirts of small rural communities in instant, characterless estates, without adequately considering the existing infrastructure and turning a blind eye to the struggling community.
The same ‘all-or-nothing’ mindset seems to apply to the recent solar farm planning application. While solar energy is a resource that should be wholeheartedly embraced, allocating 190 acres of valuable farmland for a solar farm seems irresponsible. Particularly when this so-called ‘environmentally-conscious’ council has no mandatory requirement for new builds; the developers of the new homes springing up across Dorset have absolutely no need to include the use of solar panels.
We need a more balanced approach that both respects the environment and considers the long-term sustainability of our communities.
Anna Cours, Wimborne Minster