Archive

Spring

By the Photographer’s Assistant

 

We are writing this blog on the sad day of the Manchester bombing.

Many years ago, The Photographer and the Assistant went shopping in Guildford, where we passed a pub called The Horse and Groom. We were in the habit of having a beer when we were out, but decided to go home and most unusually, have tea instead. When we arrived home, it was to an anxious Photographer’s mother ( no mobile phones ). This normally stable elderly ex nurse was by now in the most terrible state. She had had the Assistant’s father on the phone, who was also in a terrible state, asking where his daughter was. This was the day of an IRA bombing, which was simply indescribably dreadful. You could not believe the carnage and our parents were beyond hysteria. Today, is the day of the Manchester bombing and none of us ever got over the Bombing of the Horse and Groom. Our feelings could never have been described by the most literate of journalists. The long term effect, even though we weren’t injured, was for all of us, including, our children, to never go out without saying where we have gone and today, to never forget our mobile phones, even when we go a short distance. We will never forgot the day our parents nearly imploded and for the whole of the rest of the IRA campaign no one from our family went to London.
We couldn’t take the risk for all that pain. As the mayor of Manchester said it was an act of pure Evil, which has taken place. Obviously, now, our thoughts are with everyone involved in the Manchester bombing.

It is Monday, so, of course, we have our usual bacon butty at Blacks. People stop and speak as they walk past. Steve, a local artist ( we have quite a few artists in town), walks past on his way to training. Bank Holiday Monday will be the day of The Two Hills Race, held every year on the same day. Steve has a favourite pair of running shoes, which are worn out. The race is only a week away. What to do? The answer is to run in his trainers, which will be almost like running bare foot. We have met quite a few runners out on the hills. We live in the knowledge that while we love our walking, neither of us are up to this one. A huge number of the community are running. It is a tough gruelling race, not easy on rough terrain. It is a sign of unity and the true grit which exists in the community. It is pretty admirable stuff. It is heartening to see parents who we knew as much younger people, running their hearts out alongside their children, and friends sacrificing a good place to run alongside less able people.

We are walking to the river, which is a much frequented walk for dog walkers. On the way, we stop at The Courtyard and pick up our treat of the week, two organic bars of chocolate, which are the evening after supper treat of two squares each. Everyone wants to know if we are well. We have been gardening so much that we have not been in. They like to keep an eye on their more elderly customers! We must look bad today, but it was a good weekend!

Shortly, we meet a truck with a long load. The driver is tearing his hair out, almost literally and everybody is trying to help him back up an almost impossible load. He needs to get up the narrowest of lanes, and despite the queues, which are building, he is persuaded to take a break. He has a cigarette at the side of the road and we walk on. No one is swearing and cursing at the poor man. It is sad that no thought goes into the loads that pass through such a small community. Several times, we have watched as giant log lorries pass through and nearly rip the sign of the Chagford Inn. The National Park seems to be oblivious to the damage that will eventually be done somewhere in the town. On our tour of an American National Park all vehicles were stopped at the entrances and large vehicles had to park on the perimeter. It is a tribute to the local townspeople that they do not lose their tempers and do their best to help. This month the daughter arrived an hour and a half late for work on just one day due to one of these hold ups.

 

Inch perfect

On we go, nodding to acquaintances as we go. We amble past the school, which will shortly be replaced with a brand new, up to date building. You can hear excited chatter amongst the children as you go past. We pass a group of houses, which have been built for the elderly. The problem here is that the elderly don’t want them. Some wag has painted a slogan across the houses. It is bright red and points out the need for social houses in our community. Oh dear! This is going to see some controversy.

We walk past the old garage, which we all miss. It will shortly become a building site. The old architect’s office is empty too, and has been for some time.

Down the hill we go towards the river. Here we see a couple of cheery sights. On our right, out in the sunshine after the dreaded chicken flu lock up of the winter, the free range chickens, cavorting in the sunshine, wings flapping, they seem to be racing one another around and around the field.

 

Big Essential and Expensive!!

Also, on our right, the arrival of great works at the swimming pool. The photographer makes his way down and we are so pleased to see that funds have been raised to start the essential and environmentally friendly work. A further £10K is needed to complete the Waste Water Treatment project, and you can support it by donating to Chagford Swimming Pool link here. No committee can have worked harder to make this possible. The pool opens at 2pm on Sat 27th May with free swimming and free hot chocolate for swimmers…..enjoy! Hopefully, now we have the sunshine, people will soon be able to take a dip. Not being a swimmer myself, I hope to go along with a book and enjoy the wonderful atmosphere, soak up the sun and indulge in one of Pam’s delicious treats at the kiosk. When the pool opens any tension from the winter will be drowned in the water as the community soaks up the real arrival of summer.

 

Canadas on patrol

The banks of the river are covered in wild flowers and the fields are the greenest of green. All that recent rain has filled the worryingly shallow pools and side streams and the river is once more a mighty one. As we proceed along we open a new gate into each field and in the distance we can see the rust red of the Community Farm barn. Now, just by our side, two Canada Geese sail majestically along. We are still and they are not bothered. We meet a spaniel, who can swim all the way across the river to the other side. His master sighs. He is finding the exuberance of the animal just a bit too much on a Monday morning. We pass the old Mill with its glorious gardens and we are back on the road, over the bridge and in to the woods. The woods are cool and shady. We have bluebells, squirrels and a general panoply of wild life. Recently, we came face to face with a buzzard. We were both alarmed and frightened!

 

Springer takes some light exercise

At the bottom of the woods, we meet up with a pleasant stream and small water outlet, to which someone has attached a golden image of Aslan. This has been here some time. It is an amazing place to find it. No one has removed it, because it actually looks kind of appropriate!

 

Aslan

We cross the stream and into a field, where we are pleased to find the sheep, who have returned to the field with their lambs. How lovely for us, who have the field that they wonder into, right at the back of our garden. We talk to the sheep and they usually answer back. Amazing! It was a joke to start with, but now, it is real.

We reach our home in short order and take a fresh pot of coffee, down to our own stream into the river, and think how fortunate we are to live here on Dartmoor, and we think of those poor people in Manchester and their parents on the telephone.

 

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

It was, alas, almost the end of Easter. The Photographer and his Assistant stood at the entrance to the back field, where the hamlet’s inhabitants had created a well worn path along the uneven field and down its steep hill to the stream below. They were watching in silence as the blonde head with the woolly hat and the bobbing tail disappeared from view. It had been a lovely day with good food and wine, but it was over. The daughter and her dog had disappeared from view leaving the two alone on the hillside, thinking of what to watch on the telly as they gently snoozed the evening away. All around the hamlet guests had left or were leaving, some to go back abroad, and some to big cities. The whole place had the feeling of desertion and solitude. Never mind, it was only two weeks to the next Bank Holiday. Who knows who would arrive then?

Back to normal and no more food, probably forever, from the look of the weighing scales.

The next morning, the Photographer was surveying the sky for much needed rain when over it flew in the most casual of manners. It was that wonderful throw back to an imagined dinosaur age. We had a heron in the hamlet, flying straight over the houses. What a magnificent sight, not so for anyone with a pond, of course, but just glorious all the same. He was the shape of a modern plane, with those giant legs drifting majestically behind. He appeared every morning for two or three days, flying from the river and on to an unknown destination. He was followed a few days later by a hovering helicopter. It flew around and around. It was out of sight at first and all sorts of thoughts came to mind. Did someone need the Air Ambulance, a frequent sight heading for the little town’s school playing fields, but it wasn’t that. It had gone on for too long. Possibly, someone was missing or injured higher up on the Moor. The Photographer got his long lens out and, there was much relief when the helicopter turned out to be surveying the electricity cables for any faults. An amazing display of flying took place. You just couldn’t take your eyes off it. What skill!

Delicate flying……and all to check our electricity cables are up to scratch

 

Having surveyed the water butts, and giving regard to the bore hole, the household embarked on what was usually a summer occupation; water conservation. The blue bucket was lowered into the kitchen sink and stayed there. Washed hands, washed vegetables, coffee grouts and old tea and anything that wasn’t toxic was now carried into the garden on a rota basis. This water kept most of the plants alive, including the lovely pots of tulips, which had bloomed for some weeks now. Next the Photographer kept a daily eye on the oil tank read out. They had turned the oil off, except for heating the water, some weeks ago, the oil price had begun to be prohibitive. The mark had been on three for weeks, but now, it was down to two. The oil supplier arrived in a day and filled the tank. This tankful had just lasted 14 months, which was pretty economic. The installation by Vince, the plumber, had worked. He was determined to help the Photographer install a condensing boiler system, no matter what problems arose, granite walls etc. He had succeeded and they had gained an extra three months oil usage out of this system. All of this meant nothing to the Assistant, who just loved the steam, which came out of the outlet and reminded her of her obsession with the steam train. She thought that the disturbance was worth it just for that!

Tulip Black Parrot..in the rain

 

There may have been a shortage of rain, but, here was the perfect excuse for all types of work out of doors. Compost, which had been left for a year in its bin was now released and the Photographer turned to with a will. He sieved and sieved, until a cup of tea was really necessary. The two looked down on the compost in awe. Usually, the compost was mainly straw and the clearings from the garden stream Piled up and left for a year. It had never been sifted. They could not believe that the new bin used for kitchen waste, egg shells, waste veg, etc, could produce such a fine product. They decided to bag it up and keep it for very special plantings.

A fine product…….compost to die for!

 

There were some spare tomatoes in the greenhouse and the Photographer could not waste them, so he put them up on the little town’s Facebook page and they were gone almost instantly. He particularly liked seeing a small child and her mother carrying a couple away. This page is the life blood of the town. Everything that you can think of goes on this site.

Next, the Photographer turned his attention to dismantling and rebuilding a new smaller fruit cage on the veg plot. They both agreed that this would be sensible considering their age! They did, however remember various incidents in the cage. The cage, which was supposed to keep out deer, rabbits and birds, did no such thing. The local squirrel and his family would be regular destroyers of the netting, particularly, around the vulnerable edge of the frame. Naturally, any bird could now enter at will. The Assistant, being the most illogical creature on earth, would stand and just scream at the cage. Marcus, one of the most famous local spaniels, was then in his youth, and was severely distressed at the site of his mistress screaming at animals that he could not get in and catch. What was to be done? A friend offered what appeared to be the only possible solution with strawberries now disappearing almost before they were ripe. He offered a squirrel trap. It would be humane and the squirrel would be caught and could be released onto some other part of the Moor. Yes, that was naive, but we were just starting out! The trap was laced and baited with strawberries. Marcus danced about so much that it was felt he could destroy the cage. He was put indoors. A squirrel was soon captured, but it became obvious that anyone picking up the cage would be severely wounded. A fully licensed shot gun was produced by a helpful local, as per DEFRA guidelines, but do not worry, the squirrel bounced about so much that it wasn’t worth letting a shot off. Anyway, we south easterners weren’t used to that sort of practical solution and weren’t keen. It was decided to let the squirrel out in order to have a rethink. The spaniel appeared, having worked his way out to see where his mistress had got to. He gave his mistress a brave look and barked, Leave it to me, and disappeared over the horizon after the squirrel. Death was swift and the squirrel was swiftly disposed of without ceremony. What can we say?! Marcus was always keen to help in these matters. His love of squirrel chasing never subsided. In his old age, he would cry when he missed one. He is buried very close to where the squirrels now roam free. Poor Marcus! Incidentally, he came close to being the Best Dog in the West, but never quite made it. The best dog, when he was alive, was a resident of Wiltshire called Bilbo, a gentle man amongst dogs, not given to chasing vermin and always an adoring and not a deserting animal to his mistress. Currently, the Best Dog in the West is Finn, another fine and loyal dog. You might think that the Daughters dog, the ever glamorous Marilyn Monroe of the dog world, would qualify, but her appetite for anything, particularly whole lemon drizzle cakes, has ruled her out.

Dear Marcus…..squirrel wouldn’t melt in his mouth!

 

We are all hoping that this weekend does not produce the madness of the last Bank Holiday where the speed limit on the Moor was continually broken. The top speed on the monitor was 117 miles an hour. This is not a holier than thou attitude, as you know the Photographer is a devout petrolhead, but hit one of the many animals frequently sleeping in the middle of the road, hit it fast and you are dead. That means the Air Ambulance has an unnecessary call out and lots of people are sad. Please be careful! That said, have a happy holiday, out there in the wild, perhaps take a walk with Dartmoor’s Daughter, not to be confused with our very own “The Daughter” whose main preoccupation is now raising funds to help the Chagford Swimming Pool open on time this season.

Watch this space for more news on The Pool

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

 

 

 

Go for it young lamb……the world is your…um…er..field?

 

A sudden influx of people; people you thought had moved or died, or simply disappeared. They are startled, and irritated, annoyed with the weather. This is always difficult. They need to resettle. They have become used to the other world, the one outside the National Park. Surely, there would have been a new post office by now? The bank is closing. The little town has lost stuff that really belonged to the outside world. You have come back from where you were to Brexit land and you had forgotten all about it. The world changes, and who knows, it might be for the better. It is the Moor that is the Centre of this world and to illustrate the point, here is a lamb in extreme weather standing bravely on a rock and facing it down. It is alive and new and bold. The picture was taken during a walk, on which no one needed any money. A hot cup of tea was taken after, at home. In the background of the picture is Castle Drogo, awaiting the vast hordes that will visit over the holiday. We would like to wish them all a Happy Easter as we are not afraid to say that we are Christians, and we would like them all, especially the children, to have a nice time, out here in the wilderness amidst the absurdity of a late nineteenth century castle. Enjoy! There is brilliant exploration to be done.

Thinking of living in the wilderness, we do have shops and boxes and loads of animals. Here are a few local visitors to the village hall, who are leaving, finding the morning lecture a little tedious. They had hoped for a lecture on types of moorland pasture land, but this was not to be the case.

Well that was pretty boring

Outside the Deli, brave local cyclists are having one last round of decent refreshment before the first arduous and chilly outing to the Moor for a couple of nights wild camping. Yes, you can wild camp on the Moor as long as you are not in view of the road. It’s free and it is a real adventure. Soon a child’s group from Torquay are going to camp up there. What a brilliant idea!

As promised guys…..did the ride go well?

The postman has arrived with our monthly magazines. They are a really big treat and will take the whole month to read, it is our way of circumventing no shop in the hamlet. Later in the week, our daughter’s order will arrive from Riverford. Being busy at work and loving healthy food, her shopping is all sorted by them, and arrives delivered by a girl we have got to know, in a van that is small enough for our lanes. It is The Daughter’s big treat of the week. The boxes arrive with lots of ideas on a sheet in with the boxes, and she loves the recipes that Guy Watson sends. It is all very personal and what we call Very Devon! If you live in the little town, Chagfarm and Chagfood are currently registering new members and they have drop off points for their food, so you too can avoid big town shopping.

 

 

Other brands are available………including Chagfood

We have Spar for lots of other necessary shopping. It is an essential shop. The Photographer has just been in to Bowdens and picked up Gro Bags for the greenhouses, no need to go to a Garden Centre for them.

The other plants are desperate to go outside, so there is lots of fleece about. Especially, as the asparagus has suddenly, decided to appear, in this weather!. It is French and has never quite understood the climate.

C’mon chaps..time to go out into the big bad world

 

Today’s specials board outside the Courtyard Cafe has many delicious organic soups and a message, “First foal has arrived & so have the swallows. Spring is here.”

 

Not just foals and lambs but bunnies too

 

 

At the same end of town, there is a notice, put up by a householder, apologising for any inconvenience caused by his building work.

There is a notice in the bread shop window as follows

 

So now you know

 

Sweep away winter with one of these excellent brooms.

There’s no cliche like an old cliche…..new broom sweeps…

They are from Bowdens, of course
Get on the phone, or on the internet and order what you haven’t got for Easter. Spar has got cash if you need it, and lots of stuff too. We have an excellent new wine shop, which amongst most other shops here, takes contactless. Leave the big guys behind with their rude ways and general lack of care. Go native. You know you really want to, even if it can only be for Easter or the holiday season.

 

GENERAL NOTICES.

The Chagford junior cricket club has season tickets up for grabs at £35 a throw. There are loads of notices about this. Follow the link to their Facebook page

The Chagford school is collecting money for books. Go on. Give a child a world of wonder for very little money.

Boreholes and wells are commonplace round here so we know how important they are. Chagford PCC are buying a well for a village in Mali, and need just a bit more funding. Show you care too. Phone Tony Milton on 07834 665122 to talk about Joliba

The Chagford swimming pool committee needs help with getting ready for the season. This one really punches above its weight in such a small place. Visitors use it and if you have a business,they are probably going to come in to town and use you.Make the Daughter’s busy life easier. Go on. Volunteer

 

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

 

It is the 5th June 1962 and the Assistant’s aunt has died. She was sixty two and she died of cancer.

It is term time but The Assistant has been taken out of school and sent to Wales. She will sit with her grandmother while the funeral takes place. Although it is June, they will sit by the fire, one is old and frail and the other asthmatic, though she is not wheezing today. No women attend funerals and all the other female relatives and mourners are being led in prayer by a priest at the dead aunt’s house. The grandmother has now lost four of her children, two of whom will now have been buried in the plot, which she meant for herself. The two companions do not talk of death, except for the grandmother to say that children should not be sent to funerals. The grandmother is dressed from head to foot in black, which she has worn for some years. She is a chapelgoer and despite her age, she will attend chapel every Sunday. She does not talk of religion, but she testifies to it by being loving and kind to all she sees. There is no dissent in this house. She gets up now and puts out the bread and the eggs on to boil. They can enjoy a small meal together before the others arrive. It is quiet, peaceful and they sit together thinking of the dead aunt, who used to hide housekeeping money, so that she could give her niece the school equipment that she needed but could not afford.

 

Granny Thomas (Mamgee)

Granny Thomas (Mamgee)

Amidst this silence, there is a shove at the back door. It is a warning and the child is sent to open the front door. The child is examined as each person enters. Eventually, the house is so full that shorter people are forced into the large kitchen pantry. There is a lot of Welsh being spoken, a lot of clatter, clamour and general mayhem. The child had never seen so many cups of tea and people kept on coming. Worried about the fragility of her grandmother, the child timidly opens the front parlour door, insisting that her grandmother sits on a supportive dining chair. This room is flooded with people and everyone wants to talk to “Mamgee”, the mother. They speak in English now, so that the child can understand. There are tributes and there is laughter and many, many memories and so the day goes on into the night when the uncles come home roaring drunk and the aunts are silent. The child sleeps on the floor with an aunt deemed fit enough to give up her bed. The strength of the grandmother is undiminished as she is summoned in the night to give instruction on the care of an asthmatic aunt who has all her pillows removed and who breaths more deeply at the sight of her mother.

Well, you might ask what has all this got to do with Dartmoor? It has a great deal to do with community and this place.

It is the day of Winnie’s funeral. The family are expecting a few people to attend at Providence, the chapel in Throwleigh. All around this area of Dartmoor, people are preparing. Even the photographer, who has only attended the funeral of one great friend since his own illness, is getting dressed in his best moleskin suit and black tie. The Assistant is wondering about hoping to look inconspicuous. They will start off early and the Photographer will drive the car. They are taking David, their close neighbour and he is looking very spruce. They are anticipating a lot of parking difficulty ( chapels were built for walking to ). The Photographer parks a short way down from the chapel. When they reach the chapel, there are an enormous number of people going in. The church itself and its balcony are full to busting already, so the threesome make their way to the anteroom. There is much chatter along the lines of, ” I haven’t seen you for years ……. “. The service is lovely and the priest makes a good job of it despite having to make himself heard over a very large area. There is much talk of Winnie’s great kindness and understanding of people. Everybody present had been touched by this dear lady, whose Christian beliefs had been so unfashionable that it made you wonder why a cup of tea offered in a time of worry could be so unworldly. Winnie had grown tired and had never got over the loss of a dear daughter. She wanted to be peaceful and her wish had been quite simply granted.

After, what a wake there was! There was tea and cake and pasties, of course, and talk and chatter, memories and wonder at such a wonderful life so simply and well lived. The attendance at this funeral was well over 200 souls, people of our community joining together in love and unison. When the Photographer and the Assistant got home, they had another cup of tea. The Assistant remembered that day, years ago, when her grandmother had buried her daughter and everyone came, so that she too was not alone.

 

If you go down in the woods today........you will surely find something beautiful in Stone Lane Gardens

If you go down in the woods today……..you will surely find something beautiful in Stone Lane Gardens

What to do this month on the Moor? Well, what not to do would be more accurate. Have you managed to get to Chagford Swimming Pool yet? Castle Drogo continues to display the Grayson Perry tapestry. Coffee shops and Blacks continue to buzz. The Photographer continues to purchase a very fine steak every weekend from Andy, the butcher. Have you, though, and I bet, you haven’t, visited Stone Lane Gardens, which are now managed by a charitable Trust carrying on the work of the Ashburners. It is just up the road from Chagford, past the Mill End Hotel. It has a tea tent this year.What a lovely place to go! Teas continue at Gidleigh Church on Sunday afternoons. You can walk yourself to exhaustion along the river or up on the Moor. Chagford Show is on 18th August. We are looking forward to the Chagford Film festival and Open Studios in September. Go on, get out there, knock yourselves out before the Dartmoor Autumn winds arrive!

Sorry. That’s it, we are off out to sun ourselves in the best venue of all, our garden!

 

Tailpiece

 

The rough end of the stick Betula dahurica at Stone Lane Gardens

The rough end of the stick
Betula dahurica at Stone Lane Gardens

 

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

May is a wonderful month on the Moor. It is not a frenzied month. It is not a demanding month. It is a pause between seasons. On the second Saturday of the month, we restart our trips to Hittisleigh market. This is a small community which punches way above its weight. It is a meeting of good friends, who are easy with one another’s company. The kitchen dispenses cups of tea and bacon butties with the consummate ease of long experience. It is a restful and happy place. From the market you can travel out and have a picnic in the complete silence of the countryside. Our friends always pack a tea flask, so that they can just sit away from the hustle and bustle for as long as it takes to feel at complete peace. The area is deserted. It was hit hard by the foot and mouth outbreak and some fields are still completely empty and the roads are rough and unmaintained. It has become an area of no interest to the hustle and bustle of modern life. We enjoy the beautiful wilds, the flowers, the bright purple grasses. It is what is happening to rural England with increasing neglect and is not all bad. It is rather lovely, but eventually, you will need good boots or a 4X4 to get here!

 

Time for bed....and thank you for the eggs, ladies

Time for bed….and thank you for the eggs, ladies

It is now 7.30pm and the Photographer is keenly walking down the lane to a neighbours house, where he is looking after their ducks. For him, this is one of the best parts of the day, the quiet collecting and putting away of these lovely animals, who add to the pleasure with a gentle conversation and by giving beautiful eggs for breakfast.

The country lane leading to the little town is full of wonderful flowers. They are all sorts of delicate and beautiful colours and the early morning silence makes for a magic atmosphere. The Daughter discovers sheep on the bridge and makes some hasty phone calls on her way to work. How many town dwellers long for such a hold up. The lambs are becoming larger, but, just for now, they can still be enjoyed.

 

Do you like butter?

Do you like butter?

The Assistant cannot resist the call to the wild. She has been to the store and found the tent that has been dormant for two seasons. She feels the call of another home far away, which can be visited now, before the major tourist season. She wants to stand on the shore and watch the wide sea, the birds and no surfers! The Photographer joins in. He erects the tent and finds it is still water proof. It is a preparation for the silence of the sea. They will go Celtic camping with the other celts while nature is still in charge.

The little town is in a state of anticipation. Notices are being displayed. Something very big is about to happen. The Photographer will record the event, but first, he wants to record this sense this feeling.The two, who are on foot, make their way along the town roads, over the river bridge and past the most glorious of buttercup fields, which is being enjoyed by every inhabitant that has the excuse to get out there. He can’t resist that photograph, cliche or not. Further on they have reached their destination. The door is locked. Silence reigns, but not for much longer. The Swimming pool is beautiful. It is at the smartest it has ever been, but, just for now, it is unused and perfectly quiet. It is difficult to say how much this place means to this community. Every effort every sinew has been turned to the pools improvement during the winter. Long, long evenings have been spent on the project. This is one of England’s rare fresh water pools. The community has worked to gain funding, so that the pool can now enjoy a little environmentally generated heat, where it had none before. Solar panels have been used to heat the water in the modernised shower block. Friends have come to put in a day’s work. Silent efforts have been put in. The Boyfriend has spent weeks here getting it all right.

The Daughter has put all her marketing skills into getting it the publicity it needs. Andrew has painted the decking. A member of the committee spent days with bureaucracy getting the place a post code, so it could receive its funding. People have baked cakes, and spent hours of their lives until they are absolutely exhausted on this project. And next week it all comes to fruition.
THE REAL CHAGFORD COMMUNITY FRESH WATER POOL WILL HAVE AN OPENING ON SATURDAY 28thMAY AT 2.00 PM. Swimming is free on that day. It is free to children under 9 for the first week. Normal admittance will be £4 for adults and £2 for children. That is the Little Town’s summer sorted. If you can’t swim it doesn’t matter a bit. You can meet other mums with the children. You can read a book and enjoy. Refreshments are available and have a good reputation. Get in there. It’s brilliant. Non-swimmers pay £1.50. If you are on holiday, you are very welcome. Perhaps our friends from the remoter areas will come and enjoy.

 

Soon.....soon those covers will come off and the pool will be open!

Soon…..soon those covers will come off and the pool will be open!

 

So, at the moment, we have quiet contemplation. From the start of June, we’ll all have visitors, which is as it should be. When they are impatient and don’t understand lane driving, slow lives and our general way of life, we should try to remember the way life is for them with all its fast and complicated ways. We are lucky and maybe, we should give a little, just a bit to the guys who bring their families up the M5 seeking what we already have. Silence is golden!

 

Footnote

 

Hey!....I'm getting good at these cliches!......"field of golden buttercups hails the onset of summer".....or just for Paul "potential grassweed trial site"

Hey!….I’m getting good at these cliches!……”field of golden buttercups hails the onset of summer”…..or just for Paul “potential grassweed trial site”

 

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

%d bloggers like this: