Over the Spring Bank Holiday weekend, John and I were working voluntarily at the Discover Nature Caravan and Camping rally near Lincoln, which was organised by Radio Lincolnshire. This involved our getting to the site two days early so we could mark out the pitches with a friend who had also offered to arrive early and help, then greet around 45 outfits, show them to their pitches and collect the payments. These payments were then handed over to the site owner, as the BBC is not allowed to charge for events such as this, so the site fee for each pitch was due to the site owner direct in the normal manner, but we offered to take the money so it would not involve too much extra work on the owner, who is also a friend, and had been introduced by us to the radio station last year for a previous event when Radio Lincolnshire lost an alternative site through flooding.
On the first morning we were there, John left the caravan to find the site owner as he (John) had offered to do a repair on a cable for him. Our five greyhounds, which were, as we thought, fastened in the awning, escaped to find him, became sidetracked by some hares (no hares were harmed in any way) and a very distressing incident occurred. The site owner stormed up to our caravan in his Land Rover, in which there was a shotgun, swearing and shouting that the dogs had disturbed the hares and should they get loose again, he would shoot them. Not only was this not the kind of behaviour we would expect of friends, but we had also put a remunerative weekend’s income their way and I felt it was a strange way to treat us in the circumstances.
I was extremely upset as the site owner’s wife had been a close friend for many years; indeed, as a local practice sister she had nursed John after a major operation for prostate cancer in 1974, which was when our friendship began. My first instinct was to return home with the dogs as I could foresee great difficulties in preventing a dog getting out again once the people attending the rally started to arrive. Because we only had one vehicle, this would have necessitated John returning as well, and at this stage it would have been much better to take the caravan home and look after our own interests, but as we had promised to help Radio Lincolnshire get the ralliers settled, we did not want to let them down, so we confined the dogs to the car most of the time, and when it became too uncomfortable for them, we chained them up beside the caravan, but this would not necessarily have prevented an escape if a determined dog had put its mind to it.
On the first evening of the rally, there was a welcome gathering for the visitors at which wine and beer was offered. By this time, I had had virtually nothing to eat since the escaping incident the previous morning as there had been no time to eat while getting the show on the road and the strain of keeping a close watch on the dogs while carrying out the duties we had offered to do had become too much. I admit that after about four small plastic cups of wine, I was very much more worse for wear than I would have liked, and when the dogs escaped once more when we returned to the caravan, I behaved appallingly, partly because the threat had upset me very much, and partly because I had visions of my dogs lying dead somewhere in a field.
As it turned out, John had caught them early on and shut them up in the vehicle, but I did not know that, and spent a long time searching for them in the dark until friends persuaded me to give up and return to the caravan, when I found the dogs to be safe.
Three complaints (anonymous to me) were made, and on the following Thursday morning, the Managing Editor of Radio Lincolnshire rang me up at home and told me he did not want any more gardening contributions from me, thus severing an unofficial partnership that began in December 1980 when I suggested to the then Manager that a gardening slot from somebody with local knowledge of conditions and trends might be a welcome feature.
I would say that by the time the Managing Editor rang me all differences with those involved in the original incident to everyone’s satisfaction had been resolved. At no time did the Managing Editor give me the opportunity to put the record straight publicly and apologise to anyone who might have been accidentally involved with the Friday night incident. He suggested I make a statement to say it was my decision to leave because I was finding the journey to Lincoln too tiring, but as my contribution has come from my own office for several years via computer/telephone link, and most people know this (in fact I have not been to Lincoln to broadcast regularly for years as prior to the present system, I worked from an unmanned ‘studio’ in Spalding) this would have been untrue and I believe a statement was later made on air that I had decided to retire. He also accused me of having a drink problem; I would state categorically that since my major operation for uterine cancer last year I have drunk virtually nothing as even a glass of wine makes me feel unwell. It was foolish of me to drink anything alcoholic on that evening in the circumstances, but I was tired, hungry, and upset for my dogs and they way close friends had turned on us with no justification.
I feel it is necessary to give the true version of events leading to the unfortunate state of affairs we now find ourselves in. There were ongoing projects being broadcast at the time, and however much I would have like to have terminated my slot, I would never have done so under any circumstances until the projects were completed. I have always been careful not to bring Radio Lincolnshire into any form of disrepute until now, my main concern being our good working relationship and the audience that enjoy the gardening broadcasts so much.
Interestingly, the last time my name was publicly involved with Radio Lincolnshire was when I and my programme presenter won Best Local Radio Programme for the Station at the Garden Media Guild Awards last November. We were, in fact, working on another project to be submitted to the GMG to be considered in the same category when my contribution was terminated. This project, has, of course, now ceased as far as the radio station is concerned, but I shall continue to work on it in a private capacity and its progress can be read about on this website under the Dyke Project.
Because everything has come to such an unpleasant conclusion, and because many untrue rumours are flying about, I have reluctantly decided to withdraw from any form of public life for the foreseeable future, at least. On checking my diary after the Managing Editor’s telephone call, I find that virtually all bookings for the rest of this year were either concerning local community projects or local charities, were without fee, and my feeling now is that charity must at last start at home, my duties being to my husband John, my own garden and my beloved dogs, It is regrettable that some organisers may feel let down by this, but after thirty years of public scrutiny, during which I have raised many thousands of pounds for a variety of local interests, my main concern must be to my own loved ones.