Let’s Get Away From It All

By the Photographer’s Assistant


We, that is The Photographer and I, are no longer listening to the news. We find it very stressful and worrying and we have already made our minds up as to which way to vote. The dreadful murder of Jo Cox was almost beyond belief, so we just can’t go there any more. This is a blog for those of you, who like us, have been thoroughly traumatised while sitting in your own sitting room.
Where shall we go?

Well, let’s go out into our Dartmoor garden, which we have been encouraging lots of friends to come and see. The garden has been a project for 14 years now. It has cost money, but not too much. Most of the plants have been unwanted or in sales. When the Photographer started slashing the undergrowth, he was looking worn by life and the world. Now, he is just worn by trying to reach the garden’s expectations, which are very high. He enjoys the fight and is often to be found in the evening slumped against the Assistant, who is fast asleep, pretending to watch a cultural program. She would rather be watching The Musketeers, but the Photographer likes the erudite.


Rh. decorum, NN0907 collected by Neilson in China in 2009. Isn't it wonderful, and fragrant too......Wow!

Rh. decorum, NN0907 collected by Neilson in China in 2009. Isn’t it wonderful, and fragrant too……Wow!


This year the garden has finally decided to give good marks for effort, and actually grow vegetables that are upright, strong and edible. The roses and peonies are bright and scented. Things are really happening out there. On the return from a short trip away, there was a shock in store. A rhododendron, which had been purchased for under £7 had flowered for the first time in Britain. It had been brought from China by the plantsman, who went on trips there, and sold the plants on the basis that they would probably do nothing. The plantsman was so excited that he sent an e-mail at 5 am asking for a photo. The Photographer has caused a stir! On the same trip around the garden, the large banana plant donated by Paul, an old friend, had flowered. No! We don’t think that it will produce the fruit, but we don’t know whether it is a sign that it will die. We hope not! So if you are near, do drop in. Fresh batches of scones are always on the go.


The sinister banana flower

The sinister banana flower


The silence of the countryside and the swish of the wind is so welcome. That walk up the hill to look at the sheep and animals and enjoy the greenery is such a wonderful counter to life out there.
It is almost beyond belief that some of us live in such a productive and peaceful environment. How lucky we are!

Of course, there is the odd necessary disturbance here. Some weeks ago, at around 8.30 am, just as the Photographer was getting the sleepy headed Assistant a nice hot cup of tea, there was the almighty roar of engines and people. The Assistant stuck her head out of an upstairs window. It was Mr. Pigeon, the thatcher. He had come to thatch the next door house. He had brought with him a team of scaffolders and fellow workers. The Assistant shivered as she saw the scaffold surround her study window, but most dreaded of all was her kitchen stairway, where she kept her beloved pictures of Wales. Here, each year, as the light expands through spring and summer, the stairwell captures the sun and throws it in a most miraculous way, highlighting the pictures. The Assistant can run and get a tot of whisky, a big cushion, and watch the pictures at their best. Time would pass, and there would be a long delay before this could happen. She knew this work was needed and felt utterly selfish and miserable at the loss of this light.

Mr. Pigeon, however, was a brave captain of his ship, he gave out orders and kept on course. At one stage, he was so determined to get on with the job that five men were on the roof. Further, the whole business gave the Assistant the excuse not to wash the windows until the job was over! Being born of the Moor, Mr. Pigeon proved to be related to quite a few people and was interesting on many aspects of life. He also, for example, drove the school bus part time and had some offers to make as regards the daughter’s wedding. This is all still under consideration. For some weeks, the Photographer and his Assistant quite thought that they were living through the more cheery scenes of a Thomas Hardy novel. The whole business could have been used as light relief in Far From the Madding Crowd, which is the Assistant’s favourite novel, though, of course nothing can beat The Wind In the Willows, recently illustrated by Steve Dooley of Dartmoor fame.


There's a man on my roof No. 2

There’s a man on my roof No. 2


Finally, we must mention The Two Hills Race, which takes place in the little town every year. The race starts in the recreation field and covers two enormous Moorland Hills. It is attended by most of the community and our visitors, who are usually stunned by the whole event. Large numbers of the braver and fitter members of the community of all ages enter the race and it is a real challenge. A few people put up the most amazing performance, but most people just flog themselves to the finishing line. It is a brave and outrageous event admired by all. In contrast to the athletes, the viewers variously resort to beer from the pavilion, cups of tea, or massive buns full of roast pork. The Photographer takes photos and puts them up on Flickr for inhabitants to relive the whole terror of the event. The Assistant looks for photo ideas. She is well known as a local walker and people are curious as to her and the Daughters non entry. Now this is when a real genetic illness can be useful. They both reply that they would love to do it, but are subject to athsma and the pollen count. So that’s that then. After all, wasn’t it enough that, after hearing a rumour that, despite being involved in the swimming pool, she couldn’t swim, the Daughter proved to be able to do a magnificent breast stroke for as long as you like, up and down the pool. As for the Boyfriend, don’t even bother to compete!


The eponymous Steve Dooley who really is 60 and amazing to have completed the 2 Hills for his birthday

The eponymous Steve Dooley who really is 60 and amazing to have completed the 2 Hills for his birthday


That’s it then, from a community that is so busy, swimming, running, walking, growing food and animals, appearing on Springwatch, running a film festival, having an annual agricultural show, and talking the world to rights in cafes, that it has no time for the News as mostly broadcast about the South East anyway. How many people commute from Dartmoor? I won’t tell you. They do it by plane and you would be amazed.
So amidst all this community achievement, what has the Photographer achieved this month?He put up a picture of which he was very proud on the Springwatch Flickr site. Was it a picture of a fox, a lovely wild flower, a fantastic bird? No. It was a picture of a slug and its slime, and, so far, 300 people have looked at it. Isn’t humanity wonderful!


A slug descending on its own slime. Delightful

A slug descending on its own slime. Delightful



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



1 comment
  1. Kate said:

    Delightful as ever! Welcome back. Like you I’m finding the birds and the lovely grasses in the meadow a sane alternative to the daily “news” aka rantathon.

Leave a Reply

Fill in your details below or click an icon to log in:

WordPress.com Logo

You are commenting using your WordPress.com account. Log Out /  Change )

Google+ photo

You are commenting using your Google+ account. Log Out /  Change )

Twitter picture

You are commenting using your Twitter account. Log Out /  Change )

Facebook photo

You are commenting using your Facebook account. Log Out /  Change )


Connecting to %s

%d bloggers like this: