IT can’t be, surely? A truthful non-political would-be politician at election time?

Date: Friday 17th April 2015

Just when Cumbria’s election campaigns seemed to be lapsing into a rather somnolent and disinterested state, well, certainly the ones in Allerdale, Eden and Copeland, along comes just what it needs an independent who doesn’t beat about the bush.

Penrith-born Roy Ivinson, who farms on the West Coast near Silloth, handed in his nomination papers for the Allerdale constituency last week and promptly declared: “I fancy being a politician. I think it’s a well-paid job!”

Mr. Ivinson, who also has a market stall at Whitehaven, makes no bones about it. He’s in it for the money. And because he wants to warn Silloth residents about the threat from global warming. “People who live more than 10ft above sea level, don’t vote for me,” he says with disarming frankness.

At one time we used to get colourful characters standing for election. Of course Monster Raving Loonies never won. But at least they gave people a smile amid all the sick-making promises, pledges and baby kissing.

Considering what’s at stake on 7th May and in the ensuing horse trading which seems an inevitability, this has been the dullest, most contrived campaign I can ever remember.

Any spurious unfunded promise you make, we can make a better one. I detect a sense of desperation as each of the main parties tries to land that fatal knockout blow on their opponents.

It’s totally stage-managed. The leading figures are scared stiff of putting their foot in mouth, or meeting a real member of the voting public who catches them unawares. Think that marvellous woman who ambushed Tony Blair outside a hospital or Mrs. Duffy, branded a “bigoted woman” by an off-guard Gordon Brown.

Picture opportunities invariably involve party supporters, hi-vis vests and hard hats and speeches are made to hand-picked sheep, people vetted to ensure they clap at all the right moments, and carefully chosen media.

It’s not going to get better. The big beasts are terrified of meeting the public and I take all their promises with a great big pinch of salt. While they adhere to the scripts I’m almost in love with UKIP, not because they have anything particularly sane to say, but because they appear to embrace the very fact their campaign is shambolic.

I’m sure it’s going to be a fascinating election night. But I just wish we could get there now and stop all the tedious negativity of the campaign trail.


THE colour purple seems to hold a certain fascination, especially when it comes to painting the house.

A woman in Worthing, West Sussex, who goes by the soubriquet Al Capone, has painted her house a bright combination of pink and purple in protest after being given an Asbo for playing loud music, abusing neighbours and getting drunk. Seems a decent sort.

The local council has tried to rush through tougher planning rules, but it seems it is too late and the regulations cannot be applied retrospectively.

But, as frequenters of the Newlands Valley well know, not all purple properties give the offence that Miss Capone has caused by painting her home, a former lifeboat station in a conservation area.

The purple house, for many years the home of a delightfully eccentric woman called Mrs. Varya Vergauwen she called herself Mrs. Vee because it was easier to spell has long been a feature of the valley.

It was originally built as a hotel, but Mrs. Vee made it quite famous as lodgings for well-known actors, writers and poets, many of whom came to perform at the legendary old Blue Box Century Theatre in Keswick in its early, still mobile, manifestation.

Guests included Bob Hoskins, Tom Courtenay and Ted Hughes. Mrs. Vee once showed me a visitors’ book in which Hughes had inscribed a few words of poetry dedicated to her. Was it really a “missing” Ted Hughes poem worth a small fortune? I often wonder what became of the book.

Mrs. Vee seemed especially hard up in her later years as the house itself bore the ravages of time. She was pursued by the council for taxes and the fire service wanted the wooden house to effectively be closed to further visitors. It was dry and wooden and truly a fire risk.

It was after a plaintive plea at Keswick Magistrates’ Court that myself and the Herald’s Keswick reporter, Jen Nowak, agreed that we must travel out to Rigg Beck and see if we could at least give Mrs. Vee, who had raised a large family there, some moral support in this battle against the forces of authority.

We were warmly received and Mrs. Vee at one stage asked if we would like something to drink. Actually all she had in the house was a small bottle of elderflower cordial. Did we like elderflower? Of course. Who doesn’t like elderflower?

At this point she poured a small quantity of the cordial in a couple of glasses before nipping out the back. On her return the glasses were filled to the brim with a rather cloudy liquid of dubious provenance which contained, in addition to elderflower cordial, various bits of what one could only speculate were weeds and something else thankfully unidentifiable.

Politeness meant we must consume the drinks, but it was something worse than I’m A Celebrity in the Australian jungle. For, it became evident, Mrs. Vee had no running water and had topped up our beverages from the duck pond!

We lived to tell the tale, although we had queasy stomachs for the remainder of that day. Still, as my mother used to muse, a little bit of muck never did anyone any harm. Mind you, I don’t think she ever had a stagnant duck pond in mind when she said that.

In the end authority, and I suppose common sense, prevailed and Mrs. Vee spent her latter years in Kendal while the house itself was sold by auction to a man from Surrey who restored it to more suitable standards.

In more recent years there was controversy over a pink shop in Keswick town centre. The planners explained they could rule on design and building materials, but not colour. No matter that pink appeared to upset the sensibilities of certain locals. It’s still pink and we’ve all got used to it now. In fact, it’s a bit of an attraction.

Perhaps Miss Alexandra Capone, aged 40, of Worthing, will negotiate what her council wants, which is a more bland colour. But maybe someone from the Lake District might tell the local authority in deepest Sussex that the colour purple does have a certain bohemian charm, as indeed did Mrs. Vergauwen.


ONE of the stars of television series Mad Men, Jon Hamm, is facing claims in old court papers that he took part in a bullying incident in which he struck a young student with a paddle, setting his trousers on fire.

I’m not quite sure how this act caused a conflagration in the trouser department, but I do remember an incident in a cricket match being played at Penrith in which a batsman’s flannels were set ablaze after he was struck in the nether regions while unsuccessfully attempting to pull a quick delivery.

The ball struck the batsman on his back pocket. It just so happened that’s where he kept his matches. It hit with such violent force that it ignited the matches and he was left hopping around the crease in pain.

I’m not sure what the scorebook recorded of the innings which went up in flames, the story of which was once recounted to me in all its painful detail by my predecessor in this column, John Hurst.

Not so much “out” as “put out” I believe is how they termed his dismissal.


FORMER England bowler turned writer and broadcaster Angus Fraser said that listening to a 30 minute commentary by the incomparable Richie Benaud was “like having the back of your neck gently massaged”.

Benaud, whose death was announced at the weekend, knew that silence sometimes spoke louder than words. He could capture the moment with beautiful, economical use of language and never considered himself more important than the game he was describing.

If only they could use Benaud’s recordings as a lesson for the hyperbolic screamers and the unnecessary chatterers who destroy so many sports events on TV and radio nowadays.