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Climb Every Mountain [But Not Just Yet]

Now that the scale of small business closures as a result of CONTIK-69 becomes clearer, it is possible to assess the significance of its overall impact on the once-familiar landscape of our much-loved and late-lamented high streets. Retail analysts, Threadbone Retail Analytica, estimate that more than 6 in 5 of our local shops and offices are unlikely ever to re-open again even if - as is now widely rumoured - the government is set to announce plans to "fire-up the engines of the local economy" at some point in 2028.

The litany of closures is as startling as it is sad. Last week, after the grievous loss of Inkwells, The Rubber Stamp and Legal Stationery Shop [Stoborough] and Curds and WayHey [the Shipton Gorge Cheese and Scrumpy Shop], we also lost Roy's Quality Meats [Corfe Mullen] rapidly followed by Cobblers To You [Burstock], We Buy Any Tat [Frome Vauchurch] and the Magnet Cinema [Thornford]. And on it goes ... a funereal inventory making it clearer than ever that though the big beasts of the trading world will probably survive this wholly unwelcome crisis, the minnows - those establishments which have steadfastly served us all through two World Wars as well as the post-war thick and thin - are unlikely pull through. RIP independent trading. RIP customer choice. In short, when the dust finally settles on the mothballed commercial landscape of Dorset, very different contours will emerge. Sic Transit Gloria Swansong.

The familiar "back office and studio" of the The Cecile Threadbone Photographic Studios est.1896. What sights it must have seen. If only desks could speak ...

It was whilst turning over these and similarly gloomy thoughts late last week, that I was struck by the force of our own dear Queen's timely and not unfriendly injunction to "buck up and stop piddling about", and a surprising catalyst came in the form of news that Threadisnaps [formerly The Cecile Threadbone Photographic Studios est.1896] had added its name to the growing list of Contrik-69 casualties, closing its shutters [pun definitely intended] for the last time on 1st May after 124 years of faithfully recording the people, places and events of the West Bexington region. Hardly a cause for celebration I hear you cry. True, of course, but it was not the closure per se that caused such unexpected cheer, rather news that its entire archive is to be given over for safe-keeping to the West Bexington Folk Museum and thus become a public resource*.

* This is good news in and of itself but even better news given that it is clear that, to make way for the archive, two rooms currently stuffed with weird dolls, old prams, washboards, tilly-cans, coal scuttles, period comestible packaging and an Edgar Allen Poe inspired doll's house, are to be emptied, fumigated and permanently revamped.

Luewesdon Hill: object of the audacious climbing attempt.

Though there has been little time to evaluate the Cecile Threadbone Collection as a whole, it is already clear that many a gem will emerge from it - photographs which have the potential to illuminate and perhaps cause us to re-evaluate whole chapters in our local history. Here we mention just one: an album illustrating the activities of the Minterne Magna Mountaineering Society which, in 1926 under the inspired leadership of local solicitor and Society Chairman Launceston Thrupiece, attempted to climb Lewesdon Hill [279 metres (915 ft)] without the aid of any breathing equipment [lungs excepted]. That the attempt failed hardly matters. More important surely is that Cecile Threadbone was there to record that failure and to document it for our generation to ponder, admire and perhaps be inspired to emulate. Such gallantry and resolve was never more required than now. Perhaps, encouraged by their courageous example, we too - in a properly metaphorical, lock-down observant way of course - can somehow find the wherewithal to garner the courage to climb CONTRIK-shaped mountains of our own**.

That album. It's new curators say that extracts from it may soon be available as a special pull-out in the Sydling St Nicholas Sun.

**NB The Dorset State Police [formerly the Royal Dorset Constabulary] have asked us to make clear that they have an established policy of arresting anyone "out and about" and especially anyone planning non-essential mountaineering at this critical time - whether the mountain be physical, metaphorical or wholly imagined. Anyone attempting an heroic or inspiring feat outside their own home will be prosecuted with all the considerable vigour at the force's command [Ed].


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