Brakespeare catches up with a farmer’s unusual prize, a slim Wisbech man, and grave digging PCs

BBC presenter Evan Davis has defended his controversial TV documentary, The Day the Immigrants Left, filmed in and around Wisbech and screened in the spring.

I WAS mildly amused to catch up on some threads of conversation from residents of Milton Keynes angry at the insinuation they felt the BBC had portrayed in alleging the town wasn’t exactly a hotbed of cultural activity.

“Look East delivered a slap in the face to anyone who has ever been involved in staging some sort of cultural event in Milton Keynes” chirped one irate listener.

“They should stick to those areas and activities about which it is better informed Wisbech, Ely, fen-hopping, sheep-bothering and the like.”

Coming soon, perhaps, then to a TV screen near you.

IT is one of Cambridge’s oldest colleges and one of its wealthiest and anytime soon it can expect to have another �2.5 million in petty cash to play with.

That’s the likely sale price of a Fenland farm owned by St John’s and put up for sale by Savills.

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Avenue Farm at Fenton, near Warboys is being sold at the end of an Agricultural Holdings Act tenancy.

There are 419 acres of Grade 2 and 3 arable land and a vacant, three-bedroom cottage in need of restoration: in all there are five lots with a guide for the whole of �2.57 million.

“Although it’s often said by agents, this will be a real test of the market,” said Savills Adrian Wilson.

A CORRESPONDENT sings the praise of car boot entrepreneur Paul Salter who, as I mentioned last week, is giving money to charity from an international motor bike show at Skylark next month.

“Mr Salter is too modest about his achievements as there have been no photos in any of the papers or details of his generous donations to several charities”, says my correspondent.

CHOKED though I was to contribute twice in recent years to the Government for exceeding, by modest amounts, two 30mph speed limits, I am still glad to live in Cambridgeshire rather than Hertfordshire.

Across the border the Government raked in a mind boggling �2,168,280 from speed cameras for the 2007/8 period compared to just �896,880 in Cambridgeshire.

Personally I’m with the Taxpayers Alliance who commended Swindon for being the first town in Britain to scrap speed cameras and has seen no increase in road accidents since.

And less impoverished motorists, too.

WHITTLESEY farmer Martin Whitwell has one a competition for a prize most of us wouldn’t know what to do with even if wed entered too.

Martin’s prize in a competition organised by Farmers Weekly is three months free use of the new 5m series tractor from John Deere.

“When I spotted the competition I thought I’d have a go,” said Martin, who farms 220 acres of potatoes, sugar beet and wheat with his brother John.

“Like most people I never thought any more about it, until John Deere rang me to say I’d won - I don’t know anyone who’s ever won a competition like this, or won anything myself, so you could say I was shocked and nicely surprised.

I’ll probably use the tractor with our potato harvester, and do a bit of ploughing and cultivation work with it as well.”

ONE can safely assume the sale of the former Hippodrome Bingo Club in March to Wetherspoons will lessen, probably for ever, its chance of ever returning to any of its former uses which included a cinema.

The 903 seater cinema opened in 1928 for the Bancroft family complete with five dressing rooms, and admission charges that ranged from 8d to 2s 2d.

Ian Grundy, who once penned a history of the building, observed that the company name for this and the nearby Regent Cinema (also with a stage, but now demolished) was March Amusements.

“The initials MA Ltd can be seen on a cartouche at the top of the facade on Dartford Road. The other street side in Darthill Road is also of interest with the stage doors, ornate windows and decorated exit doors,” he wrote.

“The Hippodrome Cinema was taken over by the Star Cinemas group in the 1960s and was closed in favour of bingo in 1970. A couple of attempts to re-introduce films failed until 2001 when the circle was adapted with new seats in every other row (giving fantastic legroom), new projectors, Dolby sound and a new screen in the original proscenium were all installed.”

Mr Grundy added that the building has seen little material alteration in nearly 80 years of use and is an attractive and comfortable survivor.

PART time jobs undertaken by Cambs police officers have become public following a Freedom of Information request.

This is how I came to discover that two policemen have become gravediggers to boost their monthly pay packets.

A tenth of the force’s 1,300 officers seemingly have a second job and these include a chief inspector who has taken up sports massage, an inspector who sells cosmetics and another who is a plasterer.

I OWE an apology to Councillor Kit Owen after wrongly describing the head’s study of the former March Grammar School as being on the ground floor.

“Do wish you’d check with your victim before writing such bullshit,” writes Kit. “Cedric’s study was not on the ground floor so hardly likely I would jump out of his window.”

Kit adds: ““Never run away from a caning, you take it like a man with stiff upper lip. “Then maybe you’re the sort that would run away and expect the same of others.”

Ouch! Taken like a soft diarist that I am.

THE immaculately produced annual magazine from Wisbech Grammar School drops through the letterbox- a massive tome chronicling all aspects of their feast of activities for the past year.

A ‘chalk and cheese’ moment came as I read of the retirement of the vice chairman of governors, Dr Colin Kolbert and his replacement by a Whittlesey businessman, John Warren.

Dr Colin, or to be more precise His Honour Dr Colin, has served as a High Court judge and is a former fellow and lecturer in jurisprudence at Oxford, a fellow of Magdalene College, Cambridge, a life long violinist, a violin music critic for a magazine, and author of the Penguin classic The Digest of Justinian (the digest of Roman law, theft, rape, damage and insult which he translated 30 years ago into English).

Mr Warren, by contrast, is managing director of Leisure Engineering Projects Ltd of Whittlesey, supplying furniture and equipment to schools and prisons as well as installing ice rinks across the UK. For many years he’s been a governor at Wisbech, where his son, David, was a pupil, and Mr Warren is the school’s longest serving Young Enterprise adviser.

IT’S rare to hear Brakespeare gasp but gasp he did when up popped the story of the amazing weight loss achieved by Alan Ramsay of Wisbech.

His efforts are remarkable, shedding an extraordinary 7st 6.5lbs to just 12 st 12 lbs and in the process picking up accolades at the Slimming World’s Man of the Year competition in Derbyshire.

“I feel so fit and healthy, like I could run rings around the English football squad,” said Mr Ramsay as he met up with goalkeeping legend Peter Shilton at the awards ceremony.

Mr Ramsay may not be national champion but he sure as heck cuts a dashing figure around his home town these days.

“I feel like a new man in so many ways, but I’m the same person I was always was deep down,” he added, as he stepped up to collect a consolatory signed World Cup football.

Shilton, who won 125 caps for England during a 30 year career, was fulsome in his praise.

“I take my hat off to Alan,” he said. “His incredible story will show other men that losing weight and getting help from slimming clubs isn’t just a women’s game.”


THE BBC presenter Evan Davis has defended his controversial TV documentary, ‘The Day the Immigrants Left’, filmed in and around Wisbech and screened in the spring.

In an exclusive interview for Fenland District Council’s quarterly magazine, The Fenlander, he says that immense care was taken with the script and adds: “It genuinely wasn’t an attempt to make immigrants look good and local people bad.”

He adds that he grew to like Wisbech during his various visits there.

Elsewhere, Davis describes Dragons’ Den, which he also presents, as “good entertainment and good education”.

And he dismisses criticism of alleged “dumbing down” at the BBC.

You can read the full interview in The Fenlander, which comes free with the paper next week.

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