Letters to the Editor December 2023


Last Christmas I saw a Tweet by someone hunting for some specific items – and for whatever reason, it stayed with me. She wanted suggestions on where to find the perfect crumble dish, a soft blanket large enough for a 6’ man asleep on a sofa, and a specific set of pink vintage tumblers to match a jug. The list has lived on in my head ever since – it’s such a perfect, thoughtful, careful list of gifts.
Did her sister know that the list writer thought her crumble was the best, and worthy of a very special dish of its own? Did the man who nods off on the sofa appreciate the big-enough blanket? Did she ever find and replace the broken glassware?
I’ll never know. But I do know I try and create my own version of this list every time I buy a gift. What does my person truly love, want or need? Gifts are an offer of your love and respect. A ‘that’ll do’ present, bought in haste, is neither lovely to give or thrilling to receive. The very best thing about giving a gift is seeing the other person’s face light up, letting you know you got it just right.
As we all face another winter of climbing bills and narrowing bank accounts, it’s not a bad thing to focus on the small, thoughtful things that somehow always end up meaning the most. Think back – I’m willing to bet that your most treasured gifts weren’t the expensive ones. They were the thoughtful ones.
As you’d expect, there’s a lot about Christmas gift buying in this issue – and we’ve covered as many local producers, crafters, makers, growers and servers as we possibly could.
Do please click their links, visit their shops, have a browse. If we all do just a little, if each of us buys just one or two thoughtful items from local businesses, or even simply like and share their social media posts, together we really can make a lot of difference.
Lastly, it’s good to remember at this time of year that Christmas is a terrific amplifier – love gets lovelier, hurt gets hurtier, loss gets lossier, lonely gets lonelier and family gets crazier.
Thank you for a wonderful, frantic, ridiculous year – we’re off to light the fire, warm some wine, eat a mince pie or three, and enjoy having a full nest for the first time in a year as our biggest ones come home from America.
Have a wonderful, wonderful month.

Laura and Courtenay x

PS don’t forget we’ll be out later in January – were taking Christmas off. We rather think we’ve earned it.

On the Blandford/Pimperne planning decision
Dorset Council should be thoroughly ashamed of themselves. So much brownfield land available and housing stock unused. Given the state of the housing market I rather suspect however that it might be mothballed by the developer, as homes are struggling to get sold!
Bridgette Browne, Facebook

Great news for all the local people who just can’t get on the housing ladder in Blandford as house prices are so over inflated in the area due to people living longer.
It’s £50-£70k cheaper to live in Shaftesbury/Gillingham areas than it is in Blandford forcing those who have family and family links to Blandford outside of their town as they can’t afford or find somewhere to buy.
All this nonsense about destroying the AONB is just pure nimbyism by the very people who want to protect their over valued houses price.
While there is a lack of infrastructure within Blandford this isn’t a local issue, it’s a national issue that central government isn’t addressing. However the lack of housing and affordable housing is critical in this area and these houses will go towards easing that pressure
John Hart, Facebook

I think there is a clear case for the application to be called in for review by the secretary of state.
It is clearly a breach of an adopted local plan, and even if the Dorset Council has not agreed their structure plan the previous plan is the agreed guidance. The perceived benefits are just smoke and mirrors.
I can only praise the Pimperne parish chairman for standing up for his Parish the AONB and against a clumsy planning decision.
Kevin Maitland-Gleed, Facebook

Insulted of Gillingham
For 80 years I’ve lived on this Earth
Most of them filled with mirth,
I’ve had a good life, a jolly good time
And like to mark occasions with a rhyme.
And now I’m told I’ll be rewarded for living so long
With an increase in pension – this must be wrong?
25p a week is the amount I will receive
Surely my eyes do deceive?!!
This sum hasn’t been significant since it was 5 bob
Back in the 60’s when I first had a job.
For 45 years I’ve worked – often 12 hours a day
Only to be insulted in such a way!!
Barb Dimmack, Gillingham

Appalled in Blandford
I’m just catching up on the October issue, and I wanted to send a note of horrified solidarity to editor Laura on the subject of The Cheese Incident (Letter From The Editor, Oct 23). Firstly – butter has no place on a cheese plate. What were they thinking? Of course you didn’t expect it, it had no right to be there!
Secondly – I suspect we’ve all done it …
Mary White, Blandford
(Thank you for your support at this difficult time, Mary. Needless to say it’s more than I received from C – Ed)

The night sky
I had no request to send Rob Nolan for his Christmas picture – I don’t know enough about space objects to ask for one by name. His images are always worth stopping to appreciate, but I wanted to thank him for his stargazing notes. I have developed a new bedtime routine of checking the clouds before I lock the back door, and if its clear I’ll pop out into the garden for a few minutes and look up. I make note of the special dates, confidently point out various planets and look for meteor showers with my grandchildren – they think I’m a wise old woman who understands the stars, but I’m just repeating what Rob says.
Thank you Rob!
Pauline White, Sherborne

On the willow ships
I’m just sending a thank you for your continued BV magazine and the BV podcasts. I found the recent article about willow coffins very interesting (mentioned in November’s BV, and then there was a fascinating follow-up interview with Cath on the Podcast here – Ed) , particularly the part about ashes departing on a Viking ship and being set alight at sea! My sister lives in Ipswich and has told me many times over the years about the Sutton Hoo treasures and the Viking ship discovered inside a burial mound there.
The idea of using a Willow shopping trolley amused me though – I’m old enough to remember little old ladies using them. It always used to make us laugh; I’d love to see a Uni student wheeling their books to lectures using one!
Sheila Lockyer, by email

Gillingham Walking Festival needs you
Once again, this event was very successful, with approximately 150 walkers taking part in September’s Gillingham Walking Festival. This year we had 15 walks, of varying lengths and difficulty,
to various locations around Gillingham. Some involved public/minibus transport, some
included a stop for refreshments, and some followed a route included in the new pack of
eight circular walks from Gillingham Station, which was launched on the first day of the
festival (free printed copies can be obtained from the Station, Gillingham Library, and other venues
around the town., and a digital version is on the website here.
The festival was begun in 2014 as part of the Gillingham Walkers Are Welcome initiative. For
the last few years, it has been run by a committee of helpers, each with their own role, and co-
ordinated by Sheila Messer. Enormous thanks are due to Sheila for her enthusiasm in facilitating walking in Gillingham.
Now, however, Sheila has decided it is time for her to step down and to hand the reins to a new coordinator – provided one can be found. The current committee are happy to continue their work but are unable to take on the co-ordinator role. Could you, or someone you know, step into this role to ensure the future of the festival? If you would like to find out more, please contact Sheila on 01747 821269 or email her on
Penny Peat, Festival committee member

This week, I learned about Dutch supermarkets introducing ‘chat checkout’ lanes, allowing for leisurely conversations between customers and cashiers. This popular initiative, now in 200 stores, is similar to the French Carrefour’s ‘Blablabla Caisses’. While self-checkout is convenient for quick visits, I’ve noticed many, particularly older people, struggle with it. They seem to miss human interaction, a necessity often overlooked in our fast-paced society. Introducing these conversation-friendly checkouts is a compassionate response to the human need for connection, particularly for the elderly. I hope UK supermarkets adopt this approach, a small but impactful change for improving life quality, especially for our older community members.
Daniel Forth, Wimborne


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