Portland Probus Club

Portland Probus Club
Isle and Royal Manor of Portland
United Kingdom
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Meeting Place - The Heights Hotel, Portland
Next Main Meeting

Due to Coronavirus, the Programme of Meetings
and Events has been temporarily suspended.

Please watch this space for futher announcements.
and updated 29 Sep 2020 -
Rob Coward


Latest News
Please see Mike Duthoit's "Lockdown 4" article below
(inserted 29 September 2020)

Well done Mike & Mo for continuing to keep the PPC flag flying in these difficult times!
Do no other Members out there have some Lockdown experiences that they could share with us all?
I am sure that this is not the case; please pass items to me, no matter how short,
and I will publish them for all to read.
Thank you in advance.
Rob Coward

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'Lockdown 4'
Break Out
Should we or should we not go that was our dilemma?

It was not as if this was going to be our first excursion from the house since lockdown as a couple of weeks previously we had ventured up to Chippenham to spend a weekend with our daughter.  Anyway after weighing up the pros and cons we decided that we would go.T

To be honest the extended week end break had been planned since last year.  Although our original reason of going to Symonds Yat had passed, we actually fancied having an extended week end break, especially as neither Mo or I had visited this area and the weather looked good.

Our first night away was booked in the Queens Head pub in Monmouth. We arrived early afternoon via Chepstow Racecourse and Tintern Abbey.  We thought that Monmouth or Trelynwy (we were in Wales after all) is a lovely town with some delightful buildings, many of which are grade 1 listed buildings including the mediaeval Gatehouse on the R.  Monnow Bridge, Shire Hall and Great Castle House. Many buildings are occupied by Haberdashers school.

Monmouth is associated with a number of famous people including Henry V, Admiral H. Nelson and Charles Rolls (Rolls Royce).

The main
Monmouth   Street has most of the usual high street shops, in addition a good number of small individual shops.  The street ends in a car park and public loos, the latter I might add were extremely attractive as the outside walls were decorated all over with a colourful display of real flowers.

Symonds Yat some 7 miles from Monmouth is also situated on the River Wye but, is in
England as opposed to Wales.  We were lucky to be staying in a self catering chalet which was first class and had everything we needed.  The weather was superb but, being August there were ‘masses’ of holidaymakers.  Most were making full use of the river be it fishing, canoeing, paddle- boarding, swimming, youngsters jumping in, cruising or just sitting on the river banks like us, people watching.

The picture post card that you often see is at a viewpoint some 5/6 miles away by road from where we were staying.  The Yat’s horseshoe bend and stunning views of South Hereford and the
Black Mountains can be seen at the viewpoint.  If you are lucky you might see raptors here such as Peregrine falcons, Buzzards or Goshawks. This is also a good area for walking.

There is an east and a west side of Symonds Yat depending on which side of the river Wye you are situated.   Bridges are few here and to cross the river there is a Forestry Commission suspension bridge built in 1957 although renovated in 1997 and 2 hand pulled ferries, alternatively it is a 5 mile road trip.

We so enjoyed our 3 day visit which was really relaxing and have already booked to go again in 2021 especially as we as we did not do Ross on Wye justice.

In fact when we got home the 4 day break felt like we had been on a 2 week holiday especially, after being cooped up at home for over 6 months.  If you have not been to this area it is thoroughly recommended place to visit.

In case you are wondering the answer is ‘The Great Gadsby’ by F. Scott Fitzgerald. The question of course was ‘what are you reading at present’?

Mike Duthoit
29 September 2020

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'Lockdown 3'

I really do not want to be accused of plagiarism or acting as an agent for the government but I had already decided to write this article before government announcements were made on obesity and exercise – honestly!

Now exercise might not be your thing but, taking exercise during the lockdown has been a must for Mo and I.  I am sure it has helped us both mentally as well as physically.   We opted to walk for our allowed lockdown time outside – okay boring, not unduly strenuous but, very effective.

The first thing that must be said is that we are all so, so lucky to live in such a wonderful part of the country.  It is easy to take it for granted but, the last few months have certainly reinforced to us the beauty and loveliness of our locality here in Dorset.

Over the weeks we devised various walks and routes, which have been seaside or country walks.  Our walks are of different lengths, degrees of difficulty and over various terrains.

It is not everybody’s choice but, walking first thing in the morning suits us best as usually there are fewer people are about.   At this time though you can guarantee you will see runners with, surprisingly more women than men, and dog walkers.

The introduction of lockdown has seen strangers walking of whom sometimes Mo and I remark “they are not usual walkers”.  It is also possible to quickly gauge who is going to speak to you, even if it is to just say “good morning” – some people just look at the ground, others in the opposite direction and some pretend they have not seen you at all – you could have a contagious disease after all!

We tend to be creatures of habit and as are most people and therefore we often see the same people in more or less the same spot every day.  Many of these people we do not know, although if they have a dog we seem to quickly get to know the dog’s name.  Over time we speak to these people for longer, at a safe distance of course, but this often has the disadvantage of shortening our proposed walk for that day as a result.

It really is quite surprising that there are not many days when the weather is inclement but, if this is the case then usually a walk later in the day is often possible.

As we live very close to the Rodwell Trail we often use this for our walks, it is interesting to see the almost daily changes we see there.  I particularly like it when the buddleia and honeysuckle is in full flower as the scent is overpowering.  We also monitor the coming and going of the cruise ships when walking at Nothe Gardens – 10 is the maximum seen on one day.

We enjoy walking along Weymouth Promenade usually as far as Greenhill Gardens – the gardens have a lovely display of flowers, a treat to behold again this year.  The gardeners working daily on the gardens do a splendid job – such a good attraction for the few tourists to look at and enjoy.

Missing you but, hope we will meet up again soon, in the meantime stay safe.

Mike Duthoit
28 August 2020

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'Lockdown 2'

 
Love it or hate it, no I’m not talking about marmite but, gardening.
 
There is no doubt that a large number of people who used to moan and groan about cutting their grass that the weeds in the borders are taking over, have perhaps viewed their gardens in a different light over the last 3 months due to the compulsory lockdown.
 
We have been exceptionally fortunate during lockdown this year in that it we have had very little rain, certainly here in Weymouth.  In addition we have had many hours of sunshine, although too much wind at times.
 
If you are in a lucky position to have a garden the chances are there have been opportunities to escape outside, enjoy large amounts of fresh air, something people living in large blocks of flats in our bigger cities have not been able to do so easily.  In addition perhaps you have that fork, hoe or secateurs you forgot you had out and therefore managed to get some exercise.
  
It is for others to say but, I think that my garden is the tidiest and best looking it has been for a many number of years.  I have tackled jobs and areas, which being out of sight, have been ignored.   I was slow off the mark though in checking out my vegetable seed stock I had left over from last year, as by the time I got round to it, the seeds I required were unattainable.   I did try putting in some seeds which were 3, 4, 5 or more years old with varying success.
  
A few years ago I used to only grow vegetables but, these days whilst I always grow lettuce, runner beans, courgettes and other vegetables I tend to grow more flowers.  I think I am starting to win the battle with convolvulus which is endemic in  my garden.
  
Weather permitting of course Mo and I usually meet up on our wooden garden bench for eleven’s and then afternoon tea at 3.00 p.m.  It is lovely looking at what is happening in the garden which at this time of year changes almost daily.  The only problem is though is that it is also obvious what still needs to be done.
  
We have also taken to watching and listening to the birds.  A robin always checks up on us and seems more confident daily as it seems to get closer and closer to us.  Unusual sightings for us in the garden have been a spotted woodpecker, long tailed tits and goldfinches.
 
I must stop now as ‘dead heading’ calls followed by watering.  These are the last 2 jobs to be carried out before going indoors at close of play.

Mike Duthoit
27 July 2020
P.S For those who read my last lockdown musings, I can report that I have finished reading about the exploits of Gabriel Oak, Sergeant Troy and Bathsheba Everdene!

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'Lockdown'

I have being doing something that I have not done since I was at school and that was 57 years ago.  Whilst this might conjure up all sorts of thoughts of what I have been doing,  I am in all probability only doing something that you might also have been doing during this lockdown period.

Once the realisation set in that we were going to be house bound for several months I decided that I must make really constructive use of this time.  Why not clear up and undertake those jobs that I have been bleating on about doing for months, no to be honest, probably years. You know the ones – painting rooms, de-cluttering, blitzing the garden, learning a language or playing the piano etc.

Well, all the above were on the list but, another one was to read a classic novel or two.  As we had a super tour of Thomas Hardy locations with Peter Welton a few years back I thought this really is a good opportunity to read some of his novels. I must admit I did think that this might be hard graft so; I started off with ‘Wessex Tales’.

Wessex Tales is an excellent way to start as it is a collection of 6 short but completely different stories. I thoroughly enjoyed reading this book. The one thing I did find however was that it was essential to have a dictionary close by as, there were many words used which either have gone out of use or which I just did not know the meaning.

Whilst I know that Casterbridge refers to Dorchester there were many other places I did not know or could not guess at so I also had a list of names of places used in his Wessex novels to hand. Soon after finishing Wessex Tales I went on and read ‘Tess of the d’Urbervilles’.

I have just finished reading my third book written in the 19th century a book published in 1899 (Eleventh Edition) entitled ‘The Country Banker’ – his Clients, Cares and Work by George Rae. The more I read this book the more I realised that banking basics has not changed much in the 121 years since publication. I could relate to a lot of the topics and procedures covered as being similar to those used when I worked in a bank (just over a quarter of a century ago!).  I found that it was necessary when reading this book as I did with the Thomas Hardy books to have a dictionary by my side as there were many words which were new to me.

After reading a lighter (some would say trashy) book, I am reading at present the plan is to tackle ‘Far from the Madding Crowd’, especially as it does not look as if we will have a club meeting up again yet.

What have you been doing during lockdown? I hope you are keeping well and coping.

Mike Duthoit
26 June 2020

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Thursday 4 June 2020
Know your Birds Quiz

As some of you may know I really do hate quizzes.  I nearly always find some excuse not to attend our club’s annual quiz in January, so you can imagine my thoughts when I saw that a quiz was this month’s virtual activity for the club.

The current lockdown has however forced me to participate in several quizzes.  Most Saturdays over the last month or so our family has organised a quiz on Zoom.  A different member of the family ‘volunteers’ to be question master and last week it was our turn to set the questions.  In fact it has been very entertaining and yes, enjoyable and we have had some good laughs.

Most rounds usually cause me a degree of angst.  When the almost obligatory specialist rounds on sports, film, pop music or soaps surface, you can guarantee that my score rating takes a markedly downward turn.   There are certain members of the family who say that my general knowledge is a little short of the mark as well.

So what do I know about birds?  Well sitting in the garden I saw 2 robins, several sparrows, a couple of blue tits, a swallow or house martin, some pigeons and of course seagulls, the other day.  I also saw two buzzards being harassed by a crow.  Did I do Rob’s quiz?  Well I looked at it and then gave it to Mo.

Thank you Rob or, was it really Joyce, for setting the club this quiz.  I know that many of you will have thoroughly welcomed the challenges that this quiz and even though there was probably some snorters no doubt somebody will have completed all the questions.  I understand that the answers will be sent out shortly.

Although there is a gradual loosening up of meeting people and families which like me you are missing, by Jove the decibel level in the café at the Heights is going to be high  when we do met up again with so much catching up to do.

In the meantime I hope that you are keeping in good spirits, remaining safe and bearing up well.  The lovely weather we have had is certainly a boost.

Mike Duthoit
4 June 2020

P.S.  I spotted the following in connection with designated days in June this year.
The 15th is National Beer Day.  This is selected as the same day as Magna Carta was sealed in 1215.  Among the rights enshrined in the document was, that ale was to be served in a standard measure throughout the Kingdom – so here’s to the pint and the 26th June is National Cream Tea Day.  This raises the question as to whether you should adopt the Cornish or Devonshire way regarding which should go on first the cream or the jam.


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Thursday 7 May 2020
The Portland Bomb Evacuation 1995 Revisited

Mo and I decided that we would side step the President and hold our Probus meeting today at 10.00 am.   Not only that, we opted for a dressed down meeting, okay scruffy clothes – shorts and t-shirts.

There were no reports or notices from other members of the committee, so we were able to get cracking with watching Stuart Morris’s video on the unexploded Portland bomb story straight away.

Several things struck me immediately on watching the video, the first amazingly was that this incident occurred 25 years ago.   When the video started it felt almost as if it was yesterday.

The second thing that struck me was seeing the empty streets and roads which seemed very similar to the present time.   There was a subtle difference however in that instead of imploring people to stay in their homes; the message then was the complete opposite with the demand that 4000 people within a 1000 metre of the bomb must leave their homes!   The bomb was situated on what used to be the penalty spot of the Portland United Football ground.

Undoubtedly it was necessary to take every precaution to deal with this unexploded 1100 lb WW2 bomb.   This involved many agencies working together – Police, (over 100 officers) W&PBC, RSPCA, as well as others.   The cooperation between them all working together was praised by W & P BC Chief Executive afterwards It was after all the biggest peace time evacuation since WW2.

As was to be expected there was reluctance from some people to leave their homes and it took hard and persistent  work by Stuart, as Evacuation Officer and his team of 34 assistants (little training in this work) to eventually achieve nearly !00% success.   Animals were a big problem.  Those residents evacuated were located where necessary to Haven Holiday Parks.

The defusing of the bomb took place over the first weekend of April 1995 by the Royal Engineers with Capt Mike Lobb actually doing the defusing work on the bomb.   As we know all went smoothly and the bomb was safely defused for which everybody was extremely relieved and grateful.

There are some really wonderful photographs of Portland on the video taken from the small spotter plane used which are well worth a look.

Thank you Stuart making and sharing this video with us.   I thoroughly enjoyed recalling what was at the time an exciting but also scary time for Easton residents of the Island and for suggesting this as a topic for our Portland Probus Club meeting today.

If you missed today’s meeting all is not lost as I think that it is still possible to watch it on ‘Youtube’ – here is the reference given in the email by our secretary David.   Well worth doing.

It looks as if it is going to be a while before we can meet up normally which is a shame but of course sensible. I hope that you are bearing up well and remaining safe.

Mike Duthoit
7 May 2020

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Thursday 2 April 2020
President's Virtual Quiz

It really does seem strange sitting here typing a report for a meeting I have not attended.

Instead of just allowing our Probus Club to remain dormant until we are all allowed to leave our homes and circulate again President Alan came up with the good idea of holding a virtual meeting together with a quiz.

Our meeting today ran along exactly the same lines as our usual meeting with the main difference being that nobody would leave their home.

Now many of us curse IT /modern technology/AI but it is at times like these that it comes into its own.  How many of us have used – What’s App, Zoom, Skype, Face time etc to contact our families and friends so as to see them as well as to talk to them? Brilliant!

Mo and I actually used one of these formats this morning to contact our Club Secretary David and Sue and then followed this up with Joan L. during coffee time 11.00 am to 11.30 am. We wanted to have a multi member tie up but, there the technology did beat us.  I also had a telephone call to Aldo who understandable was concerned about the situation in Italy.

When the quiz duly arrived at 11.45 am we spent a frustrating but enjoyable hour trying to fathom out the answers to questions on Weymouth and Portland.  This was hopeless, of course, as we have only lived in this area 33 years.  Even using the internet and various books we only found about half of the answers.  I suppose with more time we would have done better.

The answers had to be returned to President Alan by 3.00pm.  I was told that Alan was pleased with the response by members.  After thoroughly examining the entries and dealing with one or two queries the end result turned out to be very close.  The winner, wait for it, was Rachelle Smith, by one point.  Congratulations Rachelle on your superior knowledge of our area.  Your prize for winning will be presented as soon as it is possible to give it to you.

As Alan has mentioned it would be nice if we could arrange a similar meeting in May.  Alan is looking for ideas on what we can do then – please let him have your thoughts and ideas.

Thank you Alan very much for the time and trouble taken to organise today’s meeting.

I hope that it will be sooner rather than later when we can all return to normal and meet up again in the flesh, in the meantime remain safe.

Mike Duthoit
2 April 2020

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Thursday 5 March 2020
Portland Probus Club AGM

The winner of the Egg, for the organisation of the best 'Event' for the 2019-2020 year; was Ken who was delighted to receive it for the second, or was it the third time?

Rob handed over the Presidency to Alan, using the latest responsible form of 'elbow shake', and wished him all the very best for the coming year.

The new Committee members are listed on the 'Committee' page and the minutes of the meeting will be available, in due course, on the 'Downloads' page.

RobC
5 March 2020

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Thursday 20 February 2020
Portlad Island Discs

There was a group of 20 club members at the Heights hotel for today’s interim meeting.

Unfortunately our usual disc jockey and compere Jim had a hospital appointment, so I was drafted in.

I do enjoy this activity, not just for the music chosen but for the tales that are told by the volunteers.

It is always better too if there is a wide choice of music.  There are no restrictions on the type of music chosen, so theoretically we could have had a morning of classical music or head bangers.  I got the impression though that today’s choices went down well with the audience.

Maureen started us off.  We were surprised that she related how her first love was ice skating.  She started at age 9, had private lessons, entered figure skating examinations, speed skated and enjoyed doing the ‘head banger’.  She stopped due to school examinations and difficulty practicing.  She played Guy Mitchell “Singing the Blues” which was used on her first ever dance programme.

Bob told us that the radio was always on in Bethnal Green police station.  It was there that he was at times ‘forced’ to listen to classical pieces.  After awhile certainly pieces began to appeal and his choice of Bizet’s “The Pearl Fishers” was one of them.

Sue followed and told us some interesting and amusing yarns about her time working for John Lewis.  At one stage all her family worked there, getting past the obstacle of the firm not employing people with red hair, (all her family were red heads).  She even managed to pinch the MD’s bottom!!  She played “Dancing Queen” by ABBA as she often played this on the radio travelling to work.

Janette stepped in for Tom, (ill).  She read out about Tom’s time in 1958 when he was stationed in Cyprus with the Royal Engineers and had a pen friend, Debbie, who lived in Plymouth.  One Sunday a record request was played on ‘Records from Home’ radio programme.  The record was “Dream Lover” by Bobby Darren.  He was mocked by his comrades as a result. He never did meet Debbie though.

Lis recalled the time when she lived in Calne as a 15 /16 year old, when Harris’s sausage factory was in the centre of Calne.  She had an enthusiastic music teacher who introduced her to singing what is a difficult piece of music to sing.  He was on the CD we played.  This was “Pie Jesu” by Faure.  We also heard some of “In pasadisum” as well.

When Jim is I.C., he usually finishes with “We have all the time in the World” Louis Armstrong, so I did the same.

A really big thank you to the volunteers for their tales / stories they told us and the music selected.  

Mike Duthoit
20 February 2020

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Thursday 6 February 2020
Welcome to new member Valerie
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Talk by Dr Anne Collier on
The American Revolution - Britain's First Brexit?

Well that is it!   Rob’s last full meeting as our club President.  Thank you Rob for the excellent way you have conducted the main monthly and also the management committee meetings.  I know that it has not been easy for you at times but, Beate would have been proud of you, albeit subtly altering a few things no doubt.  Judy will now of course be ecstatic to have more of your undivided attention.

Rob again had the privilege of inducting Valerie White as a new member of our club.  A big welcome Valerie we hope that you quickly settle in and that you have much pleasure in enjoying our meetings and activities.

There were several announcements by club committee members.  These included reminders that nominations for next year’s committee close today.  Any matters that members want raised at the March AGM have to be submitted to the club secretary within the next week.  Our annual £20.00 subscription is due and has to be paid by 31st March 2020 at the very latest.  Members were asked to ensure that their mobile phones are switched off before the start of meetings.

Today we had the welcome return of Dr Anne Collier as our speaker.  Her topic was The American Revolution.  We were exposed to a very detailed and different slant on what actually happened and which was at some variance with that recorded in many books covering this era of history.

Undoubtedly Dr Anne has carried out painstaking and exceedingly thorough research for this talk which basically covered the period from The Stamp Act of 1764 through to 1812 and the 2nd War of Independence.  Even though I was scribbling down notes as she spoke I could only record a fraction of the information which Dr Anne imparted to us, in an extremely enthusiastic and visual way.

If I was facing examination questions on the 1774 Continental Congress, Ben Franklin’s Propaganda – Join or Die, the Forgotten War, the actions of Paul Revere or the part the French played in the American Revolution I know I would be looking at a certain failure.

Thank you Rob S for  arranging for Dr Anne to speak to us at  short notice and indeed to Dr Anne for talking to us on a subject I suspect few members had only scant knowledge.

Mike Duthoit
6 Februaryy 2020

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Thursday 2 January 2020
Welcome to new members Jill and John
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Talk by Joyce and Rob Scott on Namibia

It was nice to meet up again after the Christmas and New Year and to start another Probus year. As usual there was a buzz in the cafeteria of the Heights hotel as we gathered to discuss who did what over the festive season and which family or relations either visited you or you went to visit them.

What a great way to start the new year with President Rob having the pleasure of inducting 2 new members, John and Jill Brown, into our club. Both are well known to a number of members which hopefully will enable them to settle in quickly. We hope that they enjoy the club fellowship and our activities.

President Rob advised the club that Rita is prepared to be Vice President next year. He also threw out the suggestion that perhaps the club might join Facebook – there’s a thought, maybe Twitter as well?

Other announcements included a reminder that subscriptions are due in March, the speaker next month will be a return visit from Dr Anne Morris, a request for the return of feedback forms, the next philosophy meeting is next Thursday and any issues for the AGM should be submitted to the Secretary.

I admit that I have numerous places on my ‘bucket’ list of places I would like to visit but, Namibia was not one of them. To be honest before today I am not sure I could reliably place it on the atlas – I could now.

Namibia was however the choice of Joyce and Rob S principally to celebrate Rob’s 70th birthday. It was quickly apparent that they had 4 tremendous weeks in a country which has only been independent for 29 years, has had little rain in 7 years, only has 5k of tarmac roads, no industry,  is mostly desert and sand dunes, the best loos Joyce has come across and apart from having a lady Prime Minster seems to be run generally by women.

Most people usually have just one birthday cake but nearly every slide Joyce showed us featured another cake – Rob certainly did very well.  During there travels over 3116 kms and 10 stops, Joyce and Rob saw many African animals including elephants, giraffes, lions, cheetahs, zebra  and a large warthog who wanted to share the veranda with Rob. Joyce showed us slides of spectacular sunsets and the exotic accommodation they stayed in.

All in all a super talk to start the year off. Thank you Joyce and Ron for sharing your experiences  with us today.

Mike Duthoit
2 January 2020

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Thursday 5 December 2019
President Rob welcomes new member Rachelle

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Portland Probus Club Revue and Christmas Lunch Party

Just where has this year gone?  It really does not seem a year since M.C. Trevor was introducing star acts at last year’s revue.

Needless to say there was much excitement and anticipation as the biggest club gathering this year met up in the hotel café area for refreshments.  Although not compulsory, it was nice to see an assortment of Christmas jumpers, waistcoats, ties etc being worn.

As usual the ‘heavies’ started shepherding us through to the main meeting room at 11.25 am where we were directed to tables of 10.

The aim at this meeting is to keep announcements to a minimum but, there is usually somebody who ‘bunnies’ on and this year was no exception with the publicity officer talking about feedback forms.

President Rob handed over to Trevor as soon as he could so the show could start.  Many of last year’s stars made a welcomed return and even though members of the Royal Manor Ballet Company were unavailable, we were still provided with a first rate show.

Trevor handed each table a selection of Christmas jokes which were read out with groans and sighs when the punch line was read out.  He then introduced Chris who this year was playing the bagpipes. It quickly became apparent that Chris was not blowing.  I later quizzed Chris who told me that he had made the bagpipes himself and that he used a hot water bottle and some electronics to help create the sound.  Anyway the instrument produced some pleasant melodies.

Next, a man appeared in a kilt and beret and of obvious Scottish extraction.  He related a lovely little ditty about a sparrow.  Well done Jim.

Our MC then had the privilege of introducing us to that wonderful harmonious singing duo of Carol and Angela who delighted us with several songs loosely based on Gilbert and Sullivan and then a rendering of Santa Baby.

Today our star act was President Rob.  If you were not there then you would never has guessed what followed.  Rob appeared fully dressed up as Elvis Presley.  He then proceeded to gyrate around the stage miming to several of Elvis’s hits including  ‘Falling in love with you’ and ‘Teddy Bear’.  It was quite a spectacle with many photographs being taken and at one stage I thought I saw something being thrown onto the stage!  It was certainly something different and a good finish to the show.

The Heights then served us with Christmas lunch which rounded off a very enjoyable morning and indeed Probus for 2019.  After lunch President Rob thanked the Height hotel for today’s lovely meal and also for all that the hotel does for us during the course of the year.  He made presentations to Duty Manager Lynn with many other hotel staff members present.

Mike Duthoit
5 December 2019

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Thursday 21 November 2019
Visit to The Mill House Cider and Clocks Museum

This is the second time that I have visited Mill House Cider and Clocks.  The last occasion was maybe 15 / 20 years ago.  I could be shot down for writing that I do not think much has changed since my first visit.

This is in no way distracts from the fact that you can spend a very enjoyable half day here, coupled, if you so wish, coming away with some locally produced and nice cider or cheese.

Today we were a group of 21 who met up on a cold, chilly and cheerless morning at 10.30a.m to be told we would not be starting off with a caffeine intake.  What! No coffee.

No, we went straight into the clock museum which is largely filled with Longcase Clocks, (Grandfather clocks to you and me), many dating back to the 18th century with some earlier.  Our guide explained that this museum was started in the 1960s and is mostly filled with Dorset clocks.

Luckily we were given a   paper guide with a list of commonly used Horological Terms. I thought I knew what a Train was but it turns out it is a Series of gear wheels.  A Single train is a Clock which only tells the time.  I might add that there are also Two-train, Three-train, Going train and Striking train as well but I will not expand on the meanings here.  I could tell you what Pendulum Escapement and Verge Escapement are but, you would just say I was showing off.

What is apparent is that what started off as Philip Whatmoor’s hobby has turned into a splendid collection of clocks which the public can view.  These clocks need to be kept in low light, with a dehumidifier so as to protect some delicate mechanisms.

Coffee break whew!  We actually sat watching a cider video depicting the pressing of apples on a very early apple press.  Mill House cider started in 1985.  We stood watching a batch of apples being washed, cut up and pressed surrounded a large collection of big demi- johns with cider in various stages of fermentation.  We even had an opportunity to taste the juice. It was amazing how little the method or indeed the equipment has changed. The press used today was well over a hundred years old.

At 12.30 we departed for the Red Lion for a lovely lunch and some jolly good chatter which ended another well organised Probus event.  This time our thanks go to Carol and Geoff for making all the arrangements and ensuring everything went smoothly.

Mike Duthoit
21 November 2019

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Thursday 7 November 2019
Talk by Stuart Morris on Portland Lighthouses

A talk by Stuart Morris is always full of interest and this one was no exception !

A history of the 3 Portland lighthouses from Roman times, when beacons may have been lit as warnings to ships, right up until today when new equipment is to be installed.

This talk is about so much more than the actual "lights".  We learnt  how the big corporation ie Trinity House  refused in the late16th century to agree  to the building of a lighthouse, no account being taken of local knowledge (was it ever thus?) the persistence of Holman and Langrishe paid off so two towers were built. The first light was lit in 1716.  By 1752 Trinity House had taken over control and have so remained.

Stuart took us through the construction of a new Lower Lighthouse in 1788, the updating of the Higher light at the same time, further reconstruction in the1860's and then the building of the present tower in 1905 and the decommissioning of the two other lights.

He also explained how cutting edge the workings behind the lights had been; from coal fired with glazed lanterns to oil fired with highly polished reflector, this was the first use of this invention and became standard throughout the world, to an electrically lit revolving lenses installed in1905.

This was also a talk shot through with nostalgia as the great revolving lens has just been dismantled and new LED lights are to be installed.  Beautiful photos showed the last beams as we all know them spreading out across the sky.   Recordings of the fog horns were amazing, evoking many memories for those who lived within their range.

I hope that our friends from Weymouth enjoyed this talk as much as those of us who have lived  within the ambit of the lighthouse.

Stuart also treated us to a short film of his visit to the Tracy Arm fjord in Alaska.  Absolutely stunning!  Next holiday destination.

Ann Ashworth
7 November 2019

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Thursday 17 October 2019
Visit to Weymouth Golf Club (WGC)

Fore! Fore! This was not really appropriate as we were sitting in the very comfy and pleasant first floor of the WGC, where there was little likelihood of a strange golf ball coming our way.

We were a small, some would say select, group, of 14.  It should have been more but, there were several late cancellations due to a spate of illness.

After a rather nice cup of coffee we were fortunate to be given a talk by Norman who has been associated with the WGC since 1961!  Norman gave us a very detailed account of the history of WGC including the trials, tribulations and financial issues which have been encountered in the club’s 110 year old existence.  A flag flies celebrating WGC centenary in March 2009.

It was difficult, at times, to hear what Norman was saying due to the activity in the kitchen close by and also the presence club members and another group.  What did come was over was how dedicated the WGC staff and volunteers have been.  The first golf professional was with the club over 60 years, the present professional has 31 years service in and the head green keeper has put in 41 years.

I have to admit my eyes kept wandering outside where the intense green colour of the grass and its immaculate condition just did not seem real, certainly compared to my own lawn which has only just turned green after being brown most of the summer.

The only condition which prevents golf being played at WGC is a hard frost – but how often do we get these in Weymouth?  As you would expect there is friendly rivalry between WGC 620 members and Came Down with approximately 700 members but also co-operation.

Over the years many celebrities have played on the course and these have included Charlie Drake, Russ Abbott, Kenny Lynch, Jimmy Tarbuch, Jethro as well as those who have played in Pro-Am tournaments.  At the far end of the bar there is a small memorabilia room displaying not only cups but photographs and newspaper cuttings which are worth looking at.

The Hardy View Restaurant is a franchised operation and is open to the general public, as indeed is the bar, not just WGC members.  I have to say that I had one of the best pie and pint meals I have had for a long time and at an extremely good price.  Whilst we were gathered at the 19th tee we did not observe much happening on the other 18 holes but, there were several substantial showers of rain so not surprising really.

Thanks go to Graham who managed to arrange this visit and Norman’s talk at short notice due to the need to cancel the proposed A La Ronde visit.

Mike Duthoit
17 October 2019

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Thursday 3 October 2019
Talk by Douglas Beazer on The Royal Train

I suppose that it was only logical that we should have a talk on the Royal train after previously having had 2 talks on the Berlin Military train and also going on a club steam train ride on the Swanage Railway.

As usual there was a real buzz in the Heights hotel coffee room as we met up prior to the meeting.  It has been after all been two weeks since we last meet up, so there was a lot of catching up to done.

President Rob started the meeting off dressed in what Beate used to call his H….. jacket.  Rob gave a brief resume of last Monday’s committee meeting.  When printed, all members are entitled to read the minutes of this meeting.  Several other committee members brought members up to date on forthcoming club events and activities. The burning issue, mentioned by both Rob and Alan, is the need for a volunteer to be Vice-President next year so as to complete our proposed committee line up for 2020/21.

Our speaker on a return visit, Douglas Beazer, was introduced by President Rob.  It was soon very apparent that Douglas who spent 25 years in the Army, 20 years at Yeovil College, 23 years as a Beaminster councillor has a strong interest in the railways.

Douglas commenced his talk by giving an overview of ways and types of transport used when the Royal family travel by air, sea and land.  The Royal train is just one such option.  The Royal train was used for the first time in 1842 by Queen Victoria.  This was on a journey from Slough to Paddington which took 33 minutes.  The present Queen re-enacted this journey in 2017.  Queen Victoria introduced the first toilet on a train in the world and Douglas duly showed us a picture of it.

It is interesting that there are only 4 principals who can use the Royal train – The Queen, Prince Phillip, Prince Charles and the Duchess of Cornwall.  There are 9 coaches – 7 the Queen’s and 2 specifically built for Prince Charles and Princess Diana in 1982.  The standard of furnishings and fittings is higher than that of the Orient Express.  Three 3 diesel engines are used and there is a pool of over 100 possible drivers.  The Royal train does not travel overnight.  Douglas showed us that the cost of the Royal train in 2014/15 was £800K.

Thank you very much indeed Douglas for your interesting and informative talk today.  I am sure that we all learnt something about the Royal train we did not know before today.

Mike Duthoit
3 Octoberr 2019

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Thursday 19 September 2019
Visit to Martyrs Museum at Tolpuddle

When we arrived at the Martyrs Museum, Tolpuddle, I was surprised that Mo and I were the first to arrive – something we are not noted for.  After nearly 10 minutes and still the only ones it twigged we should be at the Martyrs Inn – plonkers.

The upside of this error was that it gave us an extra walk through what is a delightful and extremely attractive village. The downside was that there was little coffee left when we met up with the other 25+ people on this visit.

Our group sauntered back up the road to the museum where we were met by Tom who manages the museum and estate.  We all stood outside in glorious sunshine, looking over countryside in all its glory, whilst Tom spent an hour giving us a very detailed and comprehensive background talk on the economic and political history leading up to six martyrs’ story, Union and TUC connections. I felt this visit was a welcome continuation of the visit that we made to the Historic Courthouse Museum in Dorchester earlier this year.

The Martyrs Museum is small and could only just accommodate our group. The story and history of the martyrs is well told mostly by printing on hanging banners. There is some commemorative memorabilia on view.

It was interesting to learn that the row of cottages in which the museum is centrally situated was built on behalf of the TUC in 1933 to house agricultural workers.  These properties were the first to have electricity in the village.   As an aside whilst we were listening to Tom we were slightly distracted by probably 100 or more house martins who were there one minute and gone the next but nobody saw them fly off.

We strolled over to the church graveyard to view the grave stone of James Hammett, the only martyr to return and live in Dorset.  This grave stone was designed and carved by Eric Gill who amongst other things carried out work on the BBC‘s Broadcast House.  Ken kindly told us more about James Hammett.

On going to the smallest village green in England, Ken showed us the 320 year old sycamore tree and its much more recent sibling.  This old tree has been designated 1 of 50 Great British Trees.
All this knowledge and learning makes one thirsty and hungry so we quickly made our way back to the Martyrs Inn for what turned out to be a very enjoyable and filling late lunch.

Thank you very much too  Graham and Pat for organising a splendid outing to the Martyrs Museum, the talk by Tom, and Tolpuddle in general, as well as making the arrangements for lunch at the Martyrs Inn pub.

Mike Duthoit
19 September 2019
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