Pier begins to rise from ashes

JOURNEYING through the ancient Somerset levels at the weekend I found myself remembering a big national news story we covered through the remarkable medium of the internet - the burning of Weston Super Mare's much-loved pier.

James Marston

JOURNEYING through the ancient Somerset levels at the weekend I found myself remembering a big national news story we covered through the remarkable medium of the internet - the burning of Weston Super Mare's much-loved pier.

So as I was passing I thought I'd go and take a look and report back.

Built in 1904, a fire engulfed the Grand Pier back in July 2008 - you may remember seeing the pictures.

I can report today that work is underway on a �34million scheme to rebuild and reopen next year.

And my curiosity is satisfied.

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I managed it.

Choosing one of the hotter days last week I decided to have a dip in the sea of the coast of the Edwardian seaside town of Felixstowe where I have made my home.

But swimming in the sea - one of life's great (and cheap) pleasures - was not without some difficulty.

It was, of course, utterly freezing, and by the time I'd edged into the water and immersed my shoulders - always the worst bit I find - it was almost time to get out again and go for a hot chocolate.

I'm hoping it will get a bit warmer or I'll have to grease myself up next time.

It's just weeks to go, dear readers, before I tread the boards at the 100th anniversary show of Felixstowe's Spa Pavilion.

Of course I know you'll be rushing to the phone to book tickets just to see me but I have to warn you I shan't be dancing much, preferring to stand at the back, sway and occasionally throw my hand in the air.

As I said to a friend during rehearsal with the members of The Dennis Lowe Theatre Company

“I hope I shan't be asked to a back flip. I've told the director I'm no dancer.”

My friend replied “I wouldn't worry James, I think she's worked that out for herself.”

Just as well I suppose.

THOSE poor members of parliament -though perhaps poor is a bad choice of word.

But you have to have some sympathy for them.

Suddenly a job which came with it social position, respect and status is suddenly ridiculed, despised and disrespected.

Politicians, it seems, have joined the ranks of estate agents, and indeed journalists, in the national psyche - though I doubt that's quite the case.

Being disliked or mocked simply because of your job is something we journalists know all about.

Sneering comments such as

"You lot are all the same."

"It's not a real job is it?"

"You better be careful what you say around him he's a journalist"

"You lot just make things up don't you?"

"You can't believe anything he says, he writes for a newspaper."

And even once or twice "How do you live with yourself."

Have, and I'm sure others in my trade agree, been levelled in my direction fairly regularly.

Today I shall not launch into a defence of journalism but I do know it to be a worthwhile and valuable occupation.

When people find out what I do for a living I am often challenged into defending it - something I doubt a teacher or a lawyer or a bricklayer or a businessman or a civil servant or a barman often has to do.

In response, I generally ask them who the prime minister is - a question that usually draws a puzzled look - before reminding them we only know who the prime minister is because a journalist told us.

Nonetheless I count myself lucky to be a journalist.

We know what's going on, we go to interesting places and see interesting things, we scrutinise, we educate, we inform and we reflect and help forge public opinion.

We do all these things with access to people that most would only dream of - I have met and interviewed politicians and high ranking officials, rich and poor, artists and craftsmen, war veterans and soldiers, actors and actresses, singers and dancers, the famous and infamous as well as, and these are often the best ones, those otherwise ordinary people yet with a remakable story to tell.

This week and next the organisers are making the final preparations for the Ipswich and Suffolk Press Ball - a glittering event for which I shall be dusting of my dinner jacket and struggling with evening tie before leaving my small Felixstowe flat with sea views (distant) for a night of dining and dancing.

The Press Ball is, at its heart an event that raises money for charity - this year the Cystic Fibrosis Trust.

Cystic Fibrosis is a cruel and destructive condition that is hard to live with and takes young lives.

And as a journalist, I have been lucky to meet and interview several who live with the condition many of whom know they will not make old bones.

It is these people, not the famous or the celebrated, that inspire and restore your faith in human nature - and without wishing to sound too pompous - it is a humbling experience.

And I urge you to look on our website www.eveningstar.co.uk where we have a dedicated Press Ball section where CF sufferers themselves explain far better than I what the disease is all about.

The Cystic Fibrosis Trust is currently funding crucial gene therapy research and the money we raise on the night will help those with CF live with and manage the disease -it might even provide that extra push for a breakthrough.

And it will be of those remarkable uncomplaining, courageous people that I shall think the next time I hear someone blame "the media" for society's ills or tell me I don't have a proper job.