By The Photographer’s Assistant

This Special edition of the Dartmoor Diary Blog is devoted to the glories of the Bacon and Egg roll or buttie, and the amazing variation of interpretation of this simple recipe by some of the great cafes and shops around the Moor.

There is no intention to rank the food or to discuss prices, just to celebrate some brilliant cooks who feed us lucky Moorlanders. Every interpretation is special, and the different styles and very high quality of them all is what triggered this blog.

So, starting with our very local Blacks Deli in Chagford.

 

Blacks finest Bacon and Egg baguette

 

Specification: Bacon Baguette with 2 Eggs
Where: Blacks Deli, 28 The Square, Chagford, Newton Abbot TQ13 8AB
Website: http://www.blacks-deli.com/
When: Weekdays: “Early till 10 a.m.”

This is our every Monday breakfast and Chris has evolved his recipe for easy eating as well as great taste. There are choices of baguette and Andy the Butcher supplies the ingredients. Eggs are now “flipped” as the original version with unflipped runny yolk caused excitement by squirting out over the eater! Choose 1 or 2 eggs, and discuss Rugby and Cricket with the genuinely expert Chris, while admiring Catherine’s energy and welcome. Best eaten with their fresh coffee, or if they are not too busy, and you ask really nicely, a pot of Catherines excellent tea. Eat outside or in, dependent on weather and how many of you have come to start the day.

 

The Assistant says……..It’s the best start to a week that you could possibly have. There is usually a lovely basket of flowers outside the door and the welcome just can’t be beat! We get to walk there and back across the fields and through the woods, enjoying the lovely views and the hills across the valleys. We are known to be outside Blacks by friends and acquaintances and Mondays are when people stop and talk and sometimes, even have a coffee or two. We catch up on news that you would not usually get when living so remotely. It kind of symbolises what Moorland life is like.

Down the hill now to The Devon Guild of Craftsmen in Bovey Tracey

Specification: Classic Bacon Butty with Egg by request
Where: The Devon Guild of Craftsmen, Riverside Mill, Bovey Tracey, TQ13 9AF
Website: http://www.crafts.org.uk/Cafe.aspx:
When: Every day 10 a.m. till 5 p.m. (4:30 p.m Winter)

The Classic bacon butty with wholemeal twist at the Devon Guild

 

Probably the best Arts Gallery venue in Devon, certainly one of the oldest, The Terrace Cafe is a benefit of the major renovation of a few years ago. Providing the springy floor doesn’t distract you it is a delightful environment oozing art, craft and a quality of life we should all aspire to. The Bacon Sandwich preferably on untoasted thick wholemeal bread with the optional runny single egg, is an interpretation of the classic which matches the ethos of the Guild perfectly. Great coffee too, though a little strong for some tastes.

The Assistant says……eat a real feast, which fills you up for the day, surrounded by a varied and cutting edge display of art through paintings, photography, pottery, and many crafts. An excellent place to take visitors. If the weather is bleak, it can be combined with a visit to The House of Marbles, which is just up the road. Here you can see glass actually being blown. You can have a lovely tea there too, and that’s your whole day sorted! The Assistant is only allowed to visit the Guild when she can afford a piece of Leach pottery, (Don’t tell, but she can’t resist.)
Out into the country next for a very special treat. Hittisleigh Village Market in the restored Old School Hall.

Specification: Rare breed bacon optionally with sausage (no egg option) cooked by real Farmer’s Wives in the refurbished kitchen, paid for in part by the Market Bacon Rolls
Where: Hittisleigh Village Hall EX6 6LG
Website: http://www.hittisleigh.org/vhmarket.shtml
When: The 2nd Saturday of every month 10:00 till 12:00 noon

You are going to love this one. Soft white baps filled with rare breed bacon cooked to your taste, and with a sausage too if you are so inclined. Endless tea from Chris’s big brown teapot or real genuine instant coffee. So nostalgic, no hissing Italian machinery here. Eat two and that’s breakfast and lunch done. All materials from the Produce Market around you, and pick up the week’s veg as well as Sunday lunch cream patisserie for pud. Bring your friends, we all do.

The Assistant says…….Lovely atmosphere with so many really nice people to meet. This is really rural with wonderful fields and surroundings to this hall. A reminder that a small rural community can really punch above its weight. The hall has been renovated as we have attended the market over the last several years. Bits and pieces have been built and renovated as the community could raise the cash. The last wonderful part of the building being its glorious bell situated outside above the apex to the hall roof. A wonderful place to discover the real Devon that usually has to help itself!

A Hittisleigh whopper!

“Down the road, down the road, down the road apiece”

Why ever visit a supermarket when you have a Riverford Farm Shop (aka Ben’s Farm Shop) to go to? We are regulars at the Staverton site.

Specification: All organic bacon, eggs and bread. Choose from brioche style or wholemeal. Wash it down with a double shot black Americano in a mug and don’t forget to flash your Riverford Loyalty card.
Where: Riverford Farm Shop Staverton, Totnes TQ9 6AF
Website: http://riverfordfarmshop.co.uk/shops/staverton/
When: Monday – Saturday 9.00am – 6.00pm
Sunday 10.00am – 5.00pm

 

Another cafe that cooks what it sells. Choose your timing carefully as it can be busy round lunchtime. Free wi-fi to catch up on the world spinning round out there, but you’ll never be rushed so meet here. Riverford redefines the old fashioned values of honest food. It is best quality raw materials grown properly and cooked fresh and well by brilliant staff. “Management” is still deeply involved and can be seen often in the shop. This is not fast food. Order your food, do some shopping, eat your food, then maybe shop some more.
The Assistant says…….What a great place! It has recycled furniture so don’t expect grandeur. It maintains the very best of a good attitude towards the environment. Paper bags and cardboard boxes are the order of the day. One of my favourite veggies to buy is the little box of mushrooms in a small cardboard box. I use the box for collecting veg at home. The Daughter has regular deliveries from Riverford in boxes, which everyone recycles back for the next delivery. She has even bought a recipe pack for when she’s at work. If you go to work, and need decent food delivered to your door, go on the web site you’ll be amazed. To live near the heart of Riverford is a real privilege. It is an seriously well principled and highly organised company, which is now so large, it’s brilliant. A real Devon success story.

And today at Riverford we have the brioche bun with runny yolk mmmm……

And finally……well for this blog anyway…..we go right off piste.

Fire up The Beast, engage cruise control, blat up the A38 to the Big City……Exeter….(well, even hillbillies like us have to sometimes….cam belts for The Big Duck for example)

So having braved the latest twist in the ongoing game of “catch the motorist” with Exeter City Council, we breeze into the Boston Tea Party for a late elevenses.

Now even further off piste this isn’t even with bacon….but their splendid Smoked Salmon, Scrambled Eggs & Avocado on Sourdough Toast.

Specification: Ethically sourced ingredients served on an interesting array of platters. Creamy scrambled eggs, masses of smoked salmon and a whopping portion of avocado on proper sourdough toast. A medium house black coffee to match.
Where: 84 Queen St, Exeter, EX4 3RP
Website: http://www.bostonteaparty.co.uk/our_cafes/exeter.php
When: Mon – Sat: 7 am – 7 pm
Sun: 8 am to 6 pm

We love “The Boston”. The vibe is just great, it’s full of students, arty farties (like us) and generally interesting types. It is also THE place to show off your latest Apple device.

The range of food is unique and it’s not stuffed full of sugar, although you can get a pretty big hit of carbs if you want to. There are cakes, wraps, burgers, sandwiches….the whole gamut. Coffee is excellent, have the large if you like it cool, or medium if you want to drain it all hot. The “full english” options will be your meal for the day, but choose from the more adventurous outliers in the menu and you’ll have a taste ball. That’s where the eggs and avocado fit, but explore the eggs Benedict/Florentine/Royale cascade. The BTP specialise in bringing old buildings back into everyday use, so all their cafes are architecturally engaging.
The Assistant says…….What an Oasis! It’s been hell getting through the traffic and, because you’re not used to the cut and thrust of city life, your nerves are like chewed string, and the amount of money stuff costs is unbelievable. Just thank God that you no longer travel on the tube and rush through London like a demented robot. Here it is. This is that place of sanity and a refuelling stop that can’t be beat. If your broadband is rubbish, you sit in here with great coffee and do a catch up.
If you’re in here anyway, just try it out. Your feet will really appreciate it and its almost good for your soul.

To sum up, Devon is just the greatest foody place, even for breakfast. (Other meals are available)

So, that’s it, a Grand Tour of Devon butties.

We’ve probably missed your favourite.

Tell us if you’ve enjoyed this, or even found it useful. If we get some good feedback we might even do something like this again

 

The Photographer’s snapshots can be seen on Flickr (follow link) or the serious stuff is on Artfinder (follow link)

Any similarity between characters in this blog and real people, products or events is entirely co-incidental

Any similarity between “The Little Town” and Chagford is entirely deliberate, Click on this link to find out more. Visit Chagford

“Going to run over” … “getting gear on now xx” the text messages read.

The Photographer and the Assistant carried on reading their Sunday papers. This was last Sunday as spring began to show her ever beautiful colours.

Sunday morning papers

Sunday morning papers

 

To know the whole story to the text you have to go back to the early 1980s. Margaret, a character very like an older midwife in the television series “Call The Midwife” is standing at the window watching her daughter in law and a small child in the garden. The child is two and is doing her best to help her very pregnant mother tie in the raspberry canes. It is spring and there might even be daffodils soon. Though disguising it, the “midwife” is worried. Four years ago she moved in with a young couple who both had careers. It was difficult to tell which one was the most ruthlessly ambitious, her son or daughter in law? Now she lived with the same son, a delicate daughter in law and a toddler and there was another baby on its way. She could not voice her feelings. She thought that her daughter in law had way overstepped the mark in being greedy for another child. On top of that she was not the easiest person to tell what to do. Only last week this tiny athsmatic creature had been told plainly that she was an “Elderly Primate” in front of a crowd of other younger mothers. Now, she was flatly refusing to go to the ante natal sessions Thank goodness she had persuaded her GP to see her, although even that was with her travelling on the back of the son’s motor bike.

Time moved on and the athsma returned. It got worse and the daughter in law was struggling, as was the GP who came to the house to see her now and discussed strategy with the elderly nurse.
This went on for a while until the baby was born. Her son had, at last got the car repaired and the new baby duly returned home. The athsma had not gone away and the GP called to find, to his amusement, that the daughter in law had defied the ex ward sister and gone for a walk with the new baby and the little girl. On her return, the doctor issued prescriptions, which could help this woman to breath. The baby was fine. It clearly had a splendid set of lungs and quite a strong personality. All was fine for a while. The baby loved sleep, lying in the garden and settling down to the Archers. The attention now shifted to the father, who had to go to work and feed the baby at night. His wife, he had been informed would never be able to get up during the night for fear of an attack, and that having more children was also off the agenda. His mother was mortified and did all she could, but she was in her seventies and had to conserve her strength for the day time. The child, the baby and the mother seemed able to continue quite well though.

Things ticked along. An early christening was arranged as the child’s maternal grandfather had terminal lung cancer. Despite being ill the child’s grandfather put on his best clothes and managed to attend a very happy spring event. There was bubbly, cake and heaps of daffodils amidst the sunshine. So many friends came that the street was packed with cars. The little child was overwhelmed with affection. It was all lovely. The Grandfather had a good look at this new arrival. He kept looking at it, but there was more than the thrill of another grandchild here. He took the grandmother aside and they had a nurse’s chat for he was also a nurse. Nothing was said and the party continued. When everyone had gone, the Grandmother took the baby to one side and announced that she didn’t think that it was thriving. The next day some local expert in babies appeared, but Margaret was not happy with goats milk as a solution to the problem. She took the baby, the child and the mother upstairs and took a bottle with her. For the first and only time in the house, the child took the feed and then sprayed all the walls of the room with milk. It could no longer be held in the child’s system. Margaret rang the GP, who accepted her experience and sent the child to hospital immediately. Rarely for a girl, the child had a condition where her gut closed up and she could no longer drink. The parents were relieved. It had taken so much longer to feed her than it ought to have done. The Royal Surrey County Hospital had quite a time with the baby. It cried so much at the specialist, it was so angry at being hungry, and got its fists out, that the surgeon operated that night, probably for the sake of peace and quiet. The parents slunk off for a decent nights sleep and Margaret felt that she had not lost her touch!

The baby now entered a spoilt phase for the rest of its life. Each time it was visited, it had a new frock and toys. It was clearly the best toy baby the nurses had! The little penguin that its mother and father had chosen was clearly inadequate. So the baby went from strength to strength. It fought everything with aplomb. Of course, it had athsma. That goes without saying. It could not eat anything too fatty, like its sister, who enjoyed wonderful health and to this day is tremendously strong. The baby, however, began to accept ill health as the norm. In her teenage years, she even spurred up with a cruel and rare illness, which meant regular scans. Her determination to attend university was a total obsession. She had a year out in France, where she lasted nine months and came home too ill to do anything for a week. Margaret, by now a very old lady always looked at her with a deep suspicion. She enjoyed the company of the girls every evening. They would share boiled sweets and terrible soaps on television. Granny’s room was always full of private goings on, but every time she looked at the little girl it was with caution.

The elder child went to university and became an environmentalist, of whom we are all proud.
The younger child, despite her parent’s pleadings was highly ambitious and despite their doubts, entered a Russell Group university, and despite truly awful health worked in a bar and on her degrees for six years. She followed her father and became a career led woman. At Uni, amongst some illnesses, she seriously damaged a leg and she later also broke it. She has a thorough determination to be well, so she eats and works her body almost to destruction. She has rarely had a day off work. Her latest hobbies are cycling and running. Just recently, between us, she beat Nick Baker and her whole group at running, so, on Sunday, she and the very large dog, ran over to see her parents. Her father put the kettle on, while the sweat poured off her. She had run the three miles from the little town, the long way round, of course. She explained to her mother that she thought that she had hit the runner’s wall and just had to stop and walk a bit. She was disgusted with herself and sat against the AGA panting with the dog. The dog was licking her. She is her new nurse. Sadly most adult children do not live this close to their parents. She saw the Moor and fell in love. Nothing was going to stop her living on it. Nothing!

So here is spring again and it is something special in our house, ever since 19XX (we couldn’t possibly tell you how old she is, that would never do), but soon, her father will lash out for another celebration meal that couldn’t be beat and plan another ambitious year for his two asthmatics kept going by NHS GPs and nurses ancient and modern.

To finish, Margaret, that very useful and much loved nurse had a short spell in a home before having a stroke. She had lived with the family for over twenty years. She had been a part of everything and loved these children. They were her life. She died just as the children left home, aged 93 cuddling the teddy that the girls had just brought her. She had a distinguished career as a nurse, being a Sister in the operating theatre in the Royal Surrey County Hospital during Dunkirk. She died talking about these patients, whose dreadful experiences never quite left her.

 

Sister Caplen RSCH 1939

Sister Caplen RSCH 1939

Owen, the children’s maternal grandfather, was attached to the Eighth Army before and during the war. He was a medical commando, who together with the SAS attended to the poor victims of Belsen. After the war he was taken on by Dr. Goodman at Stoke Mandeville Hospital and helped in the treatment of spinal injuries until his retirement. He smoked heavily as a result of his experiences and died of lung cancer 6 months after the christening.

Meanwhile, the Photographer and his Assistant live a charmed life. We can sit outside Blacks and enjoy some tea and a bun, talk to the sheep on the farm next door, have a drink in the garden, meet our mates at Hittisleigh market and enjoy that rarity, living alongside our daughter, who, of course doesn’t have much time to do any of that. She is too busy helping with the swimming pool, running with her mates, and having a drink at the rec. club. She has become a regular Moorland citizen. Look out if you see her running your way, her generation are coming!

 

A Hittisleigh whopper!

A Hittisleigh whopper!

 

The Photographer’s snapshots can be seen on Flickr (follow link) or the serious stuff is on Artfinder (follow link)

Any similarity between characters in this blog and real people, products or events is entirely co-incidental

Any similarity between “The Little Town” and Chagford is entirely deliberate, Click on this link to find out more. Visit Chagford

Footnote:

 

No gender stereotyping at Hittisleigh where everyone gets stuck in

No gender stereotyping at Hittisleigh where everyone gets stuck in

By the Photographer’s Assistant

 

With Christmas and the New Year unceremoniously swept away the Photographer and the Assistant slammed their cottage door shut behind them. They were on a mission entirely appropriate for a new beginning. A friend had asked them to go to their home and receive delivery of a used and much loved piano. They arrived in comfortable time to take delivery, intrigued to oversee the operation. The Assistant’s only experience with a piano was smashing one up for her grandmother who needed the space for. How much more delicately was this piano handled! The two men had the piano covered in the van and were clearly experts, explaining that delivering pianos was their life’s work. Pianos would often arrive and be loved for five minutes, they explained, and then, they would move on to various owners before being donated in a worthy way, to the Scout movement, where they would end their days. So, there you are, that’s what happens to old pianos. This new arrival was now removed delicately to its new home, where the Photographer thinking of the friend, had it moved about a little for it to have light, but not too much and a comfortable seating area. Now, having settled in and tuned, the piano is Dartmoor’s newest arrival, and Chopin can be heard being played across the valley, bringing peace and rest to its owner and its new home.  The Photographer and Assistant happily homeward bound for tea in front of the fire, the Assistant’s memory jogged, and she remembered donating Aunty Gertie’s piano to an old people’s sheltered housing block, where the piano was a cause of great joy, and occasional anger
The new piano was the first to arrive in this new year’s artistic wave. An artist friend is using the Photographer’s garden for a new and exciting endeavour. It is secret in case it goes wrong, so you’ll need to watch this space if it is a success, otherwise, we shall pretend that it just didn’t happen!

 

Right said Fred.......

Right said Fred…….

Mains Gas, the jazz group, returned to Hittisleigh Village Hall for another successful performance. The evening ended with dancing and much joyous laughter.

There are stirrings about this year’s Chagford Literary Festival . There is to be a fund raising literary quiz to start things off.

Having moved house and, at last got things straight a well known local artist has built a studio shed in his garden. This is so useful for coffee and teas and ideas that must be worked on while the muse is there.

There are stirrings all around the patch including in the Photographer’s studio, where he has begun to work on his R reg motorbike and his photography in tandem. In order for this to happen, the Assistant and the Photographer had to actually leave Dartmoor and take a trip to Bristol! This was a very rare event. The Photographer had an enormous meeting at his usual suppliers place, and came out well sorted, complete with his missing manuals and having been, much to the Assistant’s relief, been persuaded to part with a camera that had cost much angst and unrepeatable swearing on shoots, where it would jam right at the critical moment. The loss of the recalcitrant camera was duly celebrated at IKEA, where fish and chips were washed down with lots of free coffee ( The Photographer loves being an IKEA family member. He enjoys any discount that he can get. This is a side hobby that the Assistant finds amusing. She had just been told off for not using her Nature Rewards card at the RSPB )

 

Italian curves......ripe for recommissioning

Italian curves……ripe for recommissioning

Having spent up enough for several months, the two slunk back to the Moor, where the next morning, a couple of goldfinches were discovered on the lavender seed heads in the garden. Much excitement led to no pictures, as the birds were frightened off by all that photographic equipment.
Now, of course, its back to the tits of all types, who loyally turn up all day as they will starve if they don’t, but they are not the same as the goldfinches, and the Photographer spends his breakfasts staring out the window thinking of what might have been.

Soon, the growing season will be upon us, so the seeds have arrived and are being processed. The Assistant’s cunning plan is to write all the labels in advance, in order to avoid freezing to death under the Photographer’s instructions in all sorts of weather conditions. The Photographer has several large jumpers from years ago, when the daughter had a discount as a student. Womens’ jumpers are not so thick and lovely, so the Assistant is usually expected to freeze, writing labels, while the Photographer enjoys warmth and hot drinks. The Assistant has just lifted a hot drink to her lips when she is timed out, and a new really long label with special instructions is required.

Optimism for springtime

Optimism for springtime

 

At this time of year the freezer stock level in the workshop is examined. This is a job which is beyond being cold. The Moor always gets in a mood about then and throws everything it has straight at the shed and spring, whatever they say, has not hit Dartmoor yet. This year, the Assistant has told the Photographer that much as he loves blackcurrants, there is a limit and it has been reached. The freezer, which is at least twenty years old sighs in agreement, and the Photographer sulks. At this stage, the Assistant has developed the Queen’s cold, and is no longer allowed out of doors, so the Photographer is left to struggle over what feels several miles with the excess blackcurrants, which he is to turn into jam and coulis as a sort of penance . Life out here can be so cruel.

Looking forward, on February 28th, when, surely, it will be warmer, if you are local, don’t miss the Swimming Pool fund raising curry, an event to beat all fund raising events, where food is concerned. Each dish is cooked with great care and much pride is at stake. Go on. Treat yourselves. We won’t tell, unless we are short of copy!

A very special friend is seventy, and has invited us to his party. HAPPY, HAPPY BIRTHDAY DAVID. And to the rest of you, we are a community of Davids so you’ll never guess which one it is! We know a Chris, at Blacks and we know an Adam, who is the best dressed man in Chagford, but which David is it? We’re not telling!

Next time we write we will be in deep panic. The winds and damp cold will have gone, the evenings will be longer and we’ll be in the garden. How many tomato plants can you get in a propagator? Watch this space!

 

 

The Photographer’s snapshots can be seen on Flickr (follow link) or the serious stuff is on Artfinder (follow link)

Any similarity between characters in this blog and real people, products or events is entirely co-incidental

Any similarity between “The Little Town” and Chagford is entirely deliberate, Click on this link to find out more. Visit Chagford

By the Photographer’s Assistant

 

 

The Assistant strides purposefully into the Little Town.....there is Breakfast to be sourced!

The Assistant strides purposefully into the Little Town…..there is Breakfast to be sourced!

Christmas is a strange time on the Moor. Of course, it is a lovely time, a time of comfort, rest and joy, but it can also be a time of disturbance, and indeed, a much needed time for reality to invade our own little world, which is usually full of sheep, cows, a little shooting, and not much reference to anything out there. In actual fact, many people live in the little town in order to avoid the real world, especially if they have been subject to the massive car parking charges inflicted by Exeter Council. Indeed, when one has had a trip in, particularly at Christmas time, you wonder that place does not have golden streets!

However, I digress, to those of you who did not dare open your e mail, or post over the holiday, let me reassure you that that was the correct thing to do. Now, come on, you have loved ones out there and they most certainly need you. We must try not to think that everyone will mention their terror as the day of Mr. Trump’s inauguration approaches.

We have had much sad news from friends and family this year and we have had sad happenings in the little town, but we have also had good news. The Photographer and his Assistant have been sad at some of their news. A friend, who lost her 25 year old son a year ago, has buried his ashes in one of the most beautiful graveyards in the South Downs. This was sad news, but it brought some comfort to know in what a wonderful place he had been put to rest. My good friend, has been abroad for some years now, and I was able to remember the times we had together, when her son was in the pushchair and we would go for walks and cups of tea together as we waited for our older children to appear off the school buses. These were our halcyon days when we just needed to hold everything together while our husbands travelled the world to earn the family’s keep.

Another old friend wrote to say that her husband had had a bad fall down the stairs and that his neck was going to be in a brace for some time. A dear cousin was busy writing wonderful books together with her husband. She was attempting to hold their whole world together while her son, out of his own volition, was spinning out of control like a spinning top on the edge of his own universe.

We were rung from an airport by a friend, who had to fly away to attend a funeral because an aged relative had died. She simply wanted someone to be in her house while a large musical instrument was being delivered.

Meanwhile, in the little town a lady, who would always read the Assistant’s poetry on public occasions, had simply just died. She had been very old, but she was one of those people who you thought would go on for ever. Now, we shall go to a church services and she won’t be there in her splendid purple velvet hat, sitting at the front, so the priest would not have to face that awful empty pew!

There are, no doubt, other instances we could name, but there is one more we shall mention. On a day between Christmas and New Year, a man aged only 36 died without any warning, in a local pub. The Photographer and the Assistant had seen the Air Ambulance pass over their house and hoped so much that this would not be bad news. The young man had suffered an aneurism and there had been nothing that could be done. He served the community wonderfully well and will be terribly missed. And so we could probably go on, but we won’t. To those of you, who have found Christmas very hard to get through, we wish you a much better New Year.

Oh! What of good news though. The Assistant has been very busy studying photos of her new great nephew, about whom she is very excited. He is the first baby to be born in her branch of the family for over thirty years. What a perky little fellow he is, and of course, the only person he resembles is himself, which is as it should be. What fun selecting sleepwear for the young man.
Should his clothing have a giraffe motif or a monkey or a bus or ——–.

Is this the way forward in 2017?

Is this the way forward in 2017?

Jim, the Artist, has undoubtedly, had an enormously successful year. His drawings creating a set of tarot cards, have been HUGE in every way. He has almost had to hide on his trips to the Courtyard Cafe. He plans to spend 2017 fishing from a boat on a lake.

The Daughter ended the year with a new permanent job, which she adores. This had been a real slog to find, so it means a lot to the family that her two degrees, so hard earned, are at last being used.

Many older members of the community survive and remain incredibly fit, indeed some of them ended up looking after their own children, who being exhausted by the outer universe and all its strange demands, have ended up, once more, being looked after by their elderly parents for few days, or a week, while they regained their sanity in the fresh air on the Moor.

If you do come to visit, and forget your walking boots, even deliberately, remember that Bowdens will fix you up. This is not a good move. The number of men and, indeed women, seen returning to inner cities fixed up with hunting or shooting gear, never to be used again, are innumerable. The boundless energy of the staff at Bowdens will so enthuse you, that you will not be able to resist. It’s far better, to just remember your boots. You must also eat whatever you are given, however hideous, the old person will have spent many hours wandering about the little town, even tasting this very special whatever it is, half demented with thinking about what you eat in town. Be kind and eat it, whatever it is, even if it is something indeterminate to do with sheep.

As usual, the staff at the little town’s surgery, have kept many a pensioner going with special clinics and ideas. They now have appointments for patients, who are otherwise healthy, but would like to have their toe nails cut. The Assistant has only recently managed to turn down a trip to Oakhampton Hospital for some Physio. Not likely! It’s strange how her leg has begun to improve!

Lastly, there is a very special word for Maureen, who is the wife of the Photographers cousin. For years we have written to one another at Christmas, and now, she too has an iPad. She sends us the most wonderful sun fueled family photos. There are loads of family, out there in Australia, beaming and bonny. Why didn’t we get that brave and just risk the adventure like them? Who knows, but we love them all. The Assistant, though, has just heard from her own great aunt, who lives in the States, (remember Trump?) The Assistant isn’t in the least bit worried about him. Her aunt informs her that having emigrated with 4 children in 1956, she is now matriarch of 22 members of that branch of the family. Amazing! We’ll see what Mr. Trump has in store for them. Some of them have kept their British passports. We are clearing the spare room right now. After all, from the day he takes charge, they will be immigrants or from a migrant family. Watch this space.

To all our readers HAVE A GRAND NEW YEAR and keep your tin hat on as my granddad would have said.

FootNote If you have soft fruit like apples left from storing, please remember to spread it on your lawn for the birds and animals. It is so very cold at the moment.

 

Blackbirds really love an apple

Blackbirds really love an apple

 

The Photographer’s snapshots can be seen on Flickr (follow link) or the serious stuff is on Artfinder (follow link)

Any similarity between characters in this blog and real people, products or events is entirely co-incidental

Any similarity between “The Little Town” and Chagford is entirely deliberate, Click on this link to find out more. Visit Chagford

By the Photographer’s Assistant

It is a Sunday and Colin Smith of Bowdens, the popular ironmongers, is doing his bit for Christmas. He is perched at the top of one of his own ladders, outside the shop, decorating the Christmas tree. He should be having his Sunday lunch, but this is more important! The problem is that in this traditional community nearly everyone else is on their way to Sunday lunch, even if it is a liquid one! Colin is up and down that ladder like an Olympic athlete, everyone wants a chat.

Chris of Blacks, the deli at which we have our now famous Monday breakfast, has been putting in the most tremendous efforts . Anyone who wants to see us about anything now comes and sees us when we are having breakfast, which is lovely and very cheering. Not only do we recommend Blacks for the mouth watering food, but the display is quite simply tremendous. Usually known as a cricket fan, Chris has transferred his skills to climbing, not a skill for which he was previously known, but something at which he has now shown his hand (note to the Dartmoor Rescue team) Chris has put on a huge display of lights, at his home of which any town could be proud. His display looks amazing and the Photographer couldn’t resist taking loads of pictures.

 

Chris does subtle.........

Chris does subtle………

At the Birdcage cafe, there is a wonderful window display, It is very traditional, with beautiful white birds, ginger bread houses and some very special Christmas trees. The boys, who run the cafe have had some beautiful white trees made to especially fit their window. If you want to see something pretty, this is the place for a lovely display.

 

A Birdcage stuffed with fine fare. As Christmassy a window as you can possibly imagine

A Birdcage stuffed with fine fare. As Christmassy a window as you can possibly imagine

At our social retreat, The Courtyard Cafe, there is the homey atmosphere of a family lounge, and in many ways this is what this place means to so many of us. Here are red bells, beautiful table decoration and the most amazing display of organic food. The Assistant simply doesn’t know which of the display to buy for the family. In the the background, Vicky administers hot drinks, cakes and comfort to her customers. Not for nothing has the cafe got a Taste of the West Award this year. During Christmas and the New Year anyone who has had a rough time or has sadness in their heart can find a sociable and cosy hole here.

 

All good things for the Organic palete, served by the lovely Vicky and all her lovely colleagues

All good things for the Organic palete, served by the lovely Vicky and all her lovely colleagues

Meanwhile, in the Square, Adam, that well known wizard with clothes, and Vicky, the loveliest saleswoman, have been at work, making the fashion boutique look like something from Oxford Street, while the shop uniquely sells glamorous clothes that will also keep you warm, when those cold Moorland blasts arrive.

 

These boots are made for putting under the Christmas tree.......even a Magnolia

These boots are made for putting under the Christmas tree…….even a Magnolia

If you want a drink whilst walking around, take your pick. We have four hostelries, all of which will welcome you.

All in all, if you live near, your needs will be met with loving care from a member of our community, and there are not many places where this can happen in that fast paced, largely commercially minded world out there, and, yes, we do know how lucky we are.

Finally, we cannot end this blog without acknowledging the especially terrible plight of our refugee neighbours around the world. Please take time out, even though you are so very busy, to read this poem, which I wrote 11 years ago, since when the plight and numbers of refugees has only increased..

After reading it you may want to donate to the Disaster Emergency Committee and BBC Children of Yemen Appeal

.
A Child Stands

A child stands
Its hands are ivory
Its feet are shrouded
In white white fur
In its hands
A blanched candle

The only noise
None at all

Complete darkness
Envelopes the scene
No star so bright
No small wrapped present

The child is still.
Upright.

Inside the child burns
Orange
The eyes speak of a vast
Betrayal

Not a word uttered
No tears call
But the child knows
It is alone

The Photographer’s snapshots can be seen on Flickr (follow link) or the serious stuff is on Artfinder (follow link)

Any similarity between characters in this blog and real people, products or events is entirely co-incidental

Any similarity between “The Little Town” and Chagford is entirely deliberate, Click on this link to find out more. Visit Chagford

Preface

On the Thursday before the wedding, the Bride’s mother and father decided not to go out at all as the weather was terrible, so, almost for the first time ever, they spent the afternoon sitting, holding hands watching their namesakes in Pride and Prejudice and it was a lovely start to a lovely weekend. How soppy can you get!

A Dartmoor Wedding

By the Photographer’s Assistant

The Assistant and one of her dearest friends took the road to Gidleigh Church. They drove cautiously in case there was a fast oncoming vehicle. There could be no bumps at this stage of the proceedings. The lane was narrow and it was noticeably cold. They had an enormous bag of ivy and trimmings from the garden. The Assistant had her trusted secateurs, some scissors, all sorts of string and useful bits and pieces in an old box. The car came to a halt by the church and the two set out into a beautiful sight.

Stiffly starched and all the same. The bridesmaid's work of art

Stiffly starched and all the same. The bridesmaid’s work of art

 

There, was the work done by a bridesmaid and her fiancé. Beautiful white bows adorned each chair in the church. It was an amazing sight and here, was the natural greenery to adorn it. Outside, there were to be candles in personally decorated jars. The bridesmaids were busy clipping and snipping. There was nothing in the church that had not been made and crafted by friends and that was the essence of the wedding. There were no vast amounts of money spent, just friends who wanted to join in. The small family involved (just the Bride, groom and four close relatives) were both amazed and touched at all those wonderful helping hands.

A wedding lectern

A wedding lectern

 

As her friend decorated the lectern, the Assistant heard a car door shut outside but it was some while before the occupant appeared. This was a dear elderly lady who had known the Assistant since she arrived on Dartmoor. This was an unexpected appearance. The lady had forgotten that there would be no flower arranging this weekend. She had the most beautiful flowers to contribute, so the Assistant’s friend helped with arranging her flowers too. Only that morning, the Assistant had been sad that all of the brides grandparents had died years before. The lady who had come to fulfil her role on the flower rota was the only person the Assistant knew with a connection to her own father. This lady, who was now very old had had a husband who was a doctor attached to the Eighth Army in the war, and the Assistant’s father had been a medical commando, also attached to the Eighth Army. The Assistant found this a strange happening. In a way, her father had made his way to that church. He had always loved children and had only seen the bride for nine months before he had died.

This eve of the wedding passed in a haze of preparation. John, the bride’s godfather had arrived and had been a great help with all sorts of jobs, which hadn’t been completed. The threesome sat down and had an early supper, at the end of which they all agreed that age was catching up with them and went off to a night’s heavy sleep, despite the next day’s coming event.

Oh! The day itself was wonderful. The bride left for the wedding from her own home. John and the Photographer had decorated the Photographer’s car, which had been left in a kind neighbour’s garage, one of the few on the Moor. The Moorland mist would have ruined the ribbon. There was a touching scene in the bride’s home. When the bridesmaids were going to be late getting away from having their hair done, the bride was left with her mother for some last precious moments. The bride’s mother had never been very good at dressing the daughter as a toddler, let alone getting full bridal gear onto her as an adult, but the two struggled away together, the bride’s patience being immense. Eventually, the dress was on, but the mother’s fingers could not hook up the fastenings, a hook was really needed. Just as the mother thought she would never get there, the bride’s father arrived. He had decided to park the car early to collect the bride. Father immediately set to, just as he had when the bride was a toddler. With some hesitation, as the bride was a woman, and no longer his small child, the father shyly asked if he could proceed with the fasteners and was shouted at to get on with it! He had the bride done up in no time and completed the job just as the bridesmaids arrived. The father and bride left and had a pleasant chat as they waited outside the church in a wind swept car for the allotted arrival time, specified to the minute by the vicar.

With much amusement the two watched the late arrivals zoom to the church; find all the parking taken, dash back as suggested by helpful locals to the Village Hall, find that full for a pre booked other event, disgorge slightly flustered guests, then disappear down granite lined lanes seeking the non existent parking spots. Meanwhile the more laid back late arrivals spotted the bride and just had to have a gossip.

What a wedding! People who arrive at weddings usually feel a sort of tension. Will it all go well? The mother of the bride did her best to talk to the arrivals and what happy meetings of old friends there were there. The priest, who took the service was a dear man, who had only recently retired from being the hospital chaplain at Great Ormond Street. He is a splendid person, and we were lucky to have him there. The bells rang, the organ played, and there was a silence as the bride entered the church with her two glamorous bridesmaids. As the bride made her way up the aisle, it became obvious that her father could not steer such a large frock in tandem up the narrow aisle. Here was the breaking of the ice. Everyone laughed and the father announced that they just didn’t fit in such a small church. The vows were beautifully said between two lovely people, who clearly loved one another very much. There was solemnity mixed with much smiling. The bride’s artist friend read wonderfully and the bride’s mother managed to do one of the things she was trained to do, and actually used her teacher trained voice to make a clear reading. An achievement at last. You simply can’t let the bride down! The organ played wonderfully. Snacks were laid on in the church and in this the bride’s mother was grateful to her niece, who could not be there because she was expecting a baby. Her niece had insisted that it was essential to feed people throughout the wedding, so Black’s Deli had provided excellent local pasties and there was mulled wine too, provided by the bride’s father and Pilates wine shop. The father had spent the previous morning having a fun time boiling the wine to get rid of the alcohol content! The bell ringers joined in the snacks and a jolly time was begun.

While the guests remained in church munching pasties the Bridal Party and the Wedding Photographer set to work

While the guests remained in church munching pasties the Bridal Party and the Wedding Photographer set to work

 

The reception was just a blast, as they say. There were short speeches, during which the brides mother nearly broke down after the groom gave her a glowing report and a really large bunch of flowers. The conversation flowed, as did the wine. The father and mother of the bride were immensely pleased with the acquisition of a step grandson, who was so fond of their daughter in this lovely frock that he couldn’t help constantly giving her a big cuddle. Needless to say, this handsome young man was in great demand when the dancing commenced until he finally collapsed and was carried to the blue room for a snooze.

The happy bride

The happy bride

There was good country rock music with plenty of dancing and lots of conversation. John, the landlord of the Chagford Inn seemed to have unending energy. He and his staff were simply amazing. The bride’s mother was given a beautiful book, by a friend, signed by the artist, who had earlier in the year seen her own son get married The cake made by the bride’s father was robustly beautiful, and the second cake made of cheese was very very tasty.

Engineered cake!

Engineered cake!

 

They knew the reception had gone well, when the men had whisky to finish off, and the mother’s had a cup of coffee, because they simply couldn’t keep up with them!

It was all like a scene from a Thomas Hardy novel, that joyful playing of music in the wedding of Bathsheba and Gabriel in Far From the Madding Crowd.

Music, wine and good conversation, was had by all...including The Photographer.....who needs focus anyway?

Music, wine and good conversation, was had by all…including The Photographer…..who needs focus anyway?

 

Footnote:

 

Go on, you really just wanted to see the frock…….and the lovely bride

 

The Frock

The Frock

 

 

 

The Photographer’s snapshots can be seen on Flickr (follow link) or the serious stuff is on Artfinder (follow link)

Any similarity between characters in this blog and real people, products or events is entirely co-incidental

Any similarity between “The Little Town” and Chagford is entirely deliberate, Click on this link to find out more. Visit Chagford

By the Photographer’s Assistant

 

The daughter and the Assistant were dressed in everything you can think of to keep warm and dry. The forecast for the Moor was dreadful. The dog attempted to walk beside them, but it was trying too hard to be good so that however hard it tried, it went around in circles. It was funny, but not helpful. Eventually, she was let off the lead. It wasn’t quite autumn, but it felt close. It began to rain and the rain became so hard that they knew they would be soaked. Cars passed. They were so pleased as here came the Photographer, ready to pick them up.

 

They were just around the corner from the church and they all quickly entered out of the rain. They stood and surveyed the scene. In four weeks time, the Daughter’s wedding would take place here. Observations were made. Where to place greenery, particularly the ivy from the garden? How many were coming? Where would everyone sit? The discussion went on and Zaney, the dog, attempted to join in by sitting knowledgeably on the floor, sighing, shifting and attempting to direct proceedings. Eventually, the church door was shut and the foursome drove home to a cup of tea and a “warm up” by the kitchen range. The whole event had brought home something other than wedding arrangements. It had brought home the arrival of autumn. There was no denying it.

 

The wonderful rood screen at Gidleigh Church where The Daughter will be married soon

The wonderful rood screen at Gidleigh Church where The Daughter will be married soon

Here was a reminder to put the coats through the washing machine and apply some waterproofer.
The Photographer thought of the boots and the need to work on them, so that they were warm and waterproof. Laces would be checked and the thickness of soles would be reviewed. The lawn would need cutting at every opportunity. However, this was the last day of real rain. The local reservoir was dry and old buildings stuck out above what water there was left. The Assistant spent hours clearing the garden stream out, as weed unexpectedly took over. The pump inlet for the Victorian water system had stopped filling. Their own bore hole, which was shallow, could dry up, for there would be no warning, just a sudden cessation of the water supply.

 

What is it?......Answer at the bottom of the blog

What is it?……Answer at the bottom of the blog

On the following Monday, the Photographer and his Assistant went for their usual breakfast at Blacks in the little town. It was slightly chilly, but dry. They sat outside enjoying the fresh air, when a man in shorts walked past. He always wore shorts and the two admired his bravery. They met a friend who had arrived in a full winter coat, large jumper, thick socks and full winter regalia. He nodded towards the man in shorts and exclaimed, “Nutcase!” as he left for the high moor in his giant 4×4. Opinion on the arrival of Autumn was obviously divided.

 

The man from Endacotts brings the pasties......all will be well

The man from Endacotts brings the pasties……all will be well

Returning from their walk, the two decided to carry on gardening and washing windows, whatever the state the house was in, it would have to wait until the weather finally broke. Frequently, when this happened on the Moor, the weather shut down completely and only the brave gardened until the spring. Your fingers could freeze in just a few seconds. The Photographer decided to mow rather than strim for now. He spent the day mowing neat paths and clearing debris. The Assistant, being of a lazy frame of mind, picked up a small box and started to collect apples. Both the Assistant and the Photographer remarked on a pear possibly missing from the pear tree. Surely not? They decided they must be wrong. The next day, one of the three remaining pears in the garden was missing. There was no sign of it anywhere, not even a core! They sat in the garden and thought about this for a while, over a cup tea of course, there is no point in making a martyr of yourself in the garden. Alan Titchmarsh always said spend time looking at your garden. Now that the two were getting older, they certainly did a lot of this. Having carefully watched Springwatch over a couple of years, and seen a badger climb a tree, they decided one must have taken the pear. There was a back entrance to their home in the garden, and only a few years before the whole family of badgers had driven through the sweetcorn like a bulldozer! The two remaining pears were picked by the humans and the badgers were left some apples on the ground together with the evidence that Mr. Fox had also paid a visit. Some wonderfully coloured jays continued to occupy the same stretch of lawn. The humans began to wonder whether they should sit on their seat at all, considering the number of animals who considered this to be their domain. Zany the dog, meanwhile paid a late visit to the garden and made her presence felt. The two remembered dear Marcus, who died around this time of year. That dear spaniel had taken no prisoners, even tangling with the badgers when really enraged. The two sighed and visited his grave. Life was just not the same without Marcus, then they remembered how very depressed he got in the winter, sighing when it was raining and grumbling during the evening as he lay damply by the fire. You have to be incredibly tolerant to actually live with a proper springer. Their moods are those of a prima donna, no matter how many badgers they have a punch up with!

It does, however, go without saying, that the little town is well up to the arrival of autumn and winter. The aforementioned Blacks was filling up with Chris’s fresh home made soup only this morning. The man from Endacott’s arrived with a fresh load of pasties, they’ll keep the cold out. Casa Magnolia has clothes to keep the ladies of the town looking ravishing, while actually not exposing too much skin to the elements. Bowdens has a large number of individual heaters all ready to go with the frosts that are now arriving. The town’s inhabitants try out various winter garb while surveying the hills for clouds and storms. Spar has had a wonderful offer on various soups. The town is paused, coats are on and The Courtyard Cafe is stuffed full of regulars, some of whom have just arrived from foreign summer adventures and some of whom will now go abroad for the whole of the winter, returning only when friends have told them that spring is here. They will miss the lovely log fires, the smell of the wood wafting out of the wood store as they fill their baskets. Poor John, the wood supplier, will, as usual, together with his team members, pray for a rest on Christmas, as his phone continues to ring in the corner. We will all have a moan, but we’ll really enjoy the chance to catch up with friends, sitting by the pub fires reminiscing about the summer of ’16, when the streams dried up and you had to strip off to keep cool, how the gin and tonic flowed and the beer cooled the working breast. What a summer we had as we await the winter to come.

 

The end of summer.....a wet empty cafe table. But the sun will be back!

The end of summer…..a wet empty cafe table. But the sun will be back!

 

Answer to the quiz:

It is the dry spillway from Vennford Reservoir, waiting for the rain to come and fill it up again

and the blog title is by John Lee Hooker from the album Best of Friends

 

 

The Photographer’s snapshots can be seen on Flickr (follow link) or the serious stuff is on Artfinder (follow link)

Any similarity between characters in this blog and real people, products or events is entirely co-incidental

Any similarity between “The Little Town” and Chagford is entirely deliberate, Click on this link to find out more. Visit Chagford

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