Don’t judge a book by its cover – especially if that cover is hiding a native, born-and-bred West Cumbrian.

I’ve adopted West Cumbria as my home but feel I would have to have lived here a lot longer than 17 years before I could claim to be one.

The first thing that stuck me on arrival here – and something that has stayed with me – was how cheerful and friendly people were. It is absolutely true and I have done many a column and story on their open-hearted generosity.

But – and there is a but – scratch the surface and you will find many people who expect the worst because they know it’s going to happen.

I work in Maryport, a pretty harbour town with its share of problems but so much to commend it. Let anyone criticise it and the town would be up in arms. That is their job (and they do it so well!)

There is also almost a dependency culture in the town. I was quite shocked several years ago when a group of retailers got together concerned at work being done in the town which might put shoppers off.

It was suggested that a large banner be hung across the road proclaiming Maryport still open for business. Retailers thought it was a great idea until they realised Allerdale council wasn’t going to pay for it!

It’s easy to be critical of this attitude but not if you think of this town’s past – and most other towns in the area.

When there are large industries in a town such as Sellafield, the coal mines and the steelworks, people can start to depend.

I grew up in Zambia in a town that existed solely for the copper mines. We had free medical and dental care. If we needed a light bulb or the paint we went to the mine store and picked up what we needed.

My parents were perfectly independent, functioning people but when they returned to the UK after 20 years under this system they were quite lost and shocked!

This whole area has been battered time and time again with the closure of industries and concern about the future of Sellafield.

I was quite inspired by a meeting last week. The chairman of a new and successful Cockermouth Chamber of Trade said he would not allow any negativity in the group. They are there to talk up the town, not bring it down.

Also there was Allerdale council’s policy manager Andrea Hines who spoke about the large number of unskilled people in our area who found it hard to make a decent wage and the large number of companies in the area who found it hard to find skilled labour. Her solution was not rocket science but it was certainly a light bulb moment1

If businesses throughout West Cumbria got together to discuss their needs they could afford to run joint training courses at half the expense it would be to send someone away to train.

Working together and being positive could help in so many ways. It’s worth a try!