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By the Photographer’s Assistant

 

Hot and bothered woodpecker

Summertime, here it is, even here, it is too hot. The thermometer reads 33C, it is not very accurate and it’s on the side of the tool shed, but that is good enough. Only mad pensioners, who are old and don’t care, and anyone who really has to earn a living out there is out and about. The woodpecker, who frequents the feeding station, has quite lost his head. He is attacking friends and enemies alike and is in a frenzy of heat. The donkey across the river is protesting loudly. Whatever happened to his lovely breeze. Finally, the free range chickens down by the swimming pool, have gone indoors for the sake of their sanity. Dogs drag themselves out of the river and look mournfully at their owners. They leave balls on the footpath and walk away. They simply don’t care any more. To cap it all, The Photographer, whose study has always been a restricted zone, has commandeered an old bookshelf and is sorting out books and paperwork.

The Photographer, the Assistant, and the Daughter have all managed to go on holiday together, to their favourite place in all the world; St. Davids in Pembrokeshire right bang on the Atlantic coast, where the sea is awesome and only stops when it gets to New York. What struck the trio on their trip was St. Davids’ similarity to The Little Town. The Little Town has the river, not the sea, but the ambiance is similar. This is another rural self help community. The life for St David’s farmers is hard as the wind whips off the sea and we all know how tricky fishing is. As time goes by, the people become more and more dependent on tourism for income, but there are still many examples of small businesses, which thrive despite the presence of a very unattractive supermarket built almost out of town.

 

A mobile Police station…….yes, really!

Our trip took place during the election period, when even this distance from a conurbation, (100 miles past Swansea) the mobile police station spent some time outside the polling booth, making its anti terrorist presence felt. Incidentally, when did you see a police presence in The Little Town, let alone a mobile police station? St Davids is a community, which has saved its senior school from closing. It has a rugby club, of course and a City Hall (aka the Village Hall, but they have a cathedral!) like The Little Town’s, which is constantly booked up. When we were there the craft society were reluctantly making way for the bowls club! Very similar too, was the organic presence in the town, in almost every food shop. Our favourite food outfit was Em and Nicks Bakery van; a shepherds hut with loads of good food and the best coffee. Their breakfast was a “must”. The van was staffed by keen young people, full of good ideas.

 

The very excellent and enterprising Bakehouse

What else did it have in common with the Little Town? It had trouble. Here, where there is a great need for social housing, retirement housing for the over fifties has just been built instead and it is empty. It was passed by the National Park Authority, who are supposed to promote local interests of all kinds. It is beginning to have been empty for a long time. In St Davids, there is a proposal to build a Premiere Inn there, rather than social housing. The National Park are allegedly supporting the hotel proposal, which apart from not providing housing, will take a great deal business away from individual holiday lets etc. Do we really need unelected National Park Authorities, which we actually pay for and don’t always act in our best interests? This is not usually a political blog, but there will be no blog about these wonderful places if they are allowed to die.

Back to St.Davids, where you can walk to Porthclais across the fields, watch the sea, and go to the tea shed. Brilliant! You can go a few miles outside and go to the Blue Lagoon, where the old slate works are slipping into the sea. There are houses here too that the sea will soon reclaim. It is a dramatic sight with nature at work in the most ferocious way.

 

Always a welcome at Porthclais and THE BEST sponge cake and proper good tea…….when can we get back?

 

Abereidy; Erosion threatens a house now perilously close to the edge

The Cathedral in this small town is an amazing place. It is buried right down in the middle of the town, so that you can’t see it from any distance. This was to protect it form the Vikings, who also managed to reach this remote corner! This is the simplest of Cathedrals. It does not have much stained glass, but it has huge windows, which let in the light. Even the pews are not permanently fixed. Every now and then, the pew gaps have to be measured with a wooden gauge because the floor slopes and the pews move, so they have to be readjusted. It is a very friendly place with many interesting bits and pieces about it. If you want a good sermon, this is the place to get one. You won’t sleep through it here. Your bones will rattle and your brain will revolve, especially if you had a good night at The Farmers Arms. Incidentally, The Assistant, who is not a good sleeper, found that simple chime on the hour from the church tower, the very best sleeping draught that you can have.

It was his place so we should end here with St Davids own words. Having led the simple life, and brought Christianity here, even if you are not religious, his dying words were good ones, “Be joyful, keep the faith and do the little things that you have heard and see me do.” The words of a brave and simple man, which suit both our remote and simple communities so well.

The End.
A traditional design of Pembrokeshire gate, now disappearing

 

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

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

By the Photographer’s Assistant

The Assistant is standing in Keswick Museum and Art Gallery. She is beyond excitement. Some dear friends have invited her and the Photographer to stay with them in the Lake District. She has always had an ambition to learn more of the great A.W. ( Alfred Wainwright ) Here she is at a whole exhibition about him. He was the big figure in the encouragement of fell walking. Here, you can touch the suit that he walked in and stand under a bus stop that he will have used to get to the start of his walk. There is an enormous map of the Lake District on the floor. You can walk on it and see all those famous walks. You can read his school report and see some of his drawings. As many of you will know, his books are full of information and details. They are exquisite and even if you can’t walk, you can go with him in his writings and drawings. Indeed, unable to find a companion or a way of walking Hadrian’s Wall complete, the Assistant has bought his guide and will sit in front of her Moorland winter fire engrossed in vicariously doing just this.

The dreadful bonus of this trip has been to see the endeavours of Jo Tasker and Pete Bordman repeated in an adjoining room. She had met their climbs before in an all encompassing exhibition of mountaineering in Scotland, and The Photographer, who was born the same year as Tasker, had followed their exploits whilst they were alive, with enthusiasm and admiration. These two amazing pioneering climbers forced out the boundaries of Alpine style climbing. Tasker had taken a decision as a young man not to become a priest, but to climb instead. Both men perished on Everest in 1982. Their bodies have never been found. Tasker’s camera was found and the film had been developed. Other bits and pieces turn up from time to time. There are postcards to his parents. The exhibition is too evocative and heartbreaking. You long to go back to that mountain and help these two to continue, but it is this impossibility that is so cruel!

Well, you can’t just go to the exhibition and sit and have an Eccles cake, you’ve now got to do some fell walking yourself. The Photographer, the Assistant, and John, their experienced friend, set off to “do” Catbells, one of Wainwright’s easier walks. The Assistant is thrilled to have such companions and takes an extra puff of medication so as not to let them down! What wonderful views await the three. A walk not too long, but just right, the beauty of which is so incandescent, you wonder that Alfred ever returned to his day job. He must have sat on that bus, puffing on his pipe with great satisfaction.

A view from Catbells above Derwent Water

A view from Catbells above Derwent Water

Before reaching the Lake District, the two had visited the Brecon Beacons, where they painfully knocked off a few of the highest Beacons. Having previously used a less well known route to climb Pen Y Fan, the mountain, now famous for killing some soldiers shortly after their own climb in 2013, the two decided to deal with unfinished business on the slopes by taking the less risky but most used route. This was a mistake. A path had been installed by the National Trust which was so uncomfortable that the two found little enjoyment in it. The car park for the hill was packed and the toilets were deplorable. The only salvation was a tea van!

The Assistant devours the obligatory pork pie near the top of Pen-y-fan

The Assistant devours the obligatory pork pie near the top of Pen-y-fan

 

Sitting in their remote cottage that evening, the two decided that they would tackle a less well known slope next, Sugar Loaf. On the map this climb looked a sheer delight of boundless scenery for very little effort. The following day, the two found a deserted car park and no tourists at the chosen start point above Abergavenny. They became quite cocky. You couldn’t see Sugar Loaf from the car park and they almost decided not to wear boots, but casual shoes. This would not have been a good decision. On rounding a bend at the foot of Sugar Loaf, they were presented with a very steep climb. They were a little tired, but neither wanted to let the other down, so they continued. The climb was much steeper though lower than any other on the trip, and they wondered if it was worth it. Worth it? The views were amazing with no mist and a perfectly clear day and flocks of sand martins swooping around the peak. We would go back to it again any day. Just to top it all, while the two were standing there, a power glider flew over and saluted them!

Backlit Fournier RF5B salutes the summit of Sugar Loaf

Backlit Fournier RF5B salutes the summit of Sugar Loaf

 

Here we are now back on the Moor, having had a thoroughly enjoyable trip, which was far more adventurous than we thought it would be and feeling all the better for that. To come down to earth, we are now wedding cake baking again. The morning’s effort has sunk again! The Photographer is now viewing this as a scientific challenge and has a major weapon in the form of a meat thermometer. He is not thinking of joining Paul Hollywood on The Great Bake In.

By the time of the next blog all wedding preparations will be at the hysterical phase, though it must be said that the bride and groom are not worried. Should the wedding give cause for alarm, they have now booked a honeymoon well away from the experiments, which constitute their wedding. After all, they are doing the cooking at Christmas, and have that to look forward to!

Wishing you all well, now that we can all enjoy fresh apples and pears from the orchard, and the beautiful autumn mists which presently surround us.

 

Harvest Home

Harvest Home

 

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 Thursday and the Photographer is arranging and primping his car. For the first time in a while the Daughter will be taking the day off on Friday. It is a special day for the family and the Photographer is taking his girls out for the day. When the day dawns, the Photographer packs his girls into the car. He is going to take them for breakfast at the Riverford Farm Shop, where the Daughter and the Assistant will enjoy a little shopping and a nice cup of coffee. His purchase of breakfast is very welcome and a real treat.

 

Blacks do great food!

Blacks do great food!

Breakfast taken, the party make their way to the coast, but they are not at the coast for the seaside, but for a very special shop. The Daughter has an acquaintance, who runs this shop and she is ready for them, excited that the Daughter has chosen here for this very special purchase. Lined up in a row are 6 white frocks. The daughter has finally found time to chose her wedding dress. The frocks are all beautiful, they come from a white, bejewelled fairyland. The Photographer is pleased. He finds a seat for the fashion show. The Photographer and his Assistant got married with the Assistant wearing a cheap “Dorothy Perkins” green and white nightdress, full length. They had only been to two weddings since in the past 45 years and were enchanted with this process so left the Daughter to choose her frock. There were “Wows” and “Ooohs” and “Aahs” and lots of giggles from everyone. The Daughter chose a beautiful fairy tale frock and her friend had given her a wonderful time. With a disguised tear, the Photographer made financial arrangements and the deed was done.

Ever since his daughter had been born, he had looked forward to this moment. He could not have been more proud. The Assistant was emotional and the Daughter looked overcome that her dad could love her, looking at the price ticket, quite this much. So to the many of you,who have dared to inquire, the wedding of the year continues to entertain the little town, where these two young people are so well known.

The Photographer was delighted to arrive back in the Little Town, where the whole family had a celebration courtesy of the Daughter, the Boyfriend and a dear friend, who had had one of his pigs killed and had brought along a beautiful piece of pork. The pork was simply delicious. The next day, the photographer topped his own efforts by taking his wife out to the Chagford Inn, for a delicious meal. (Thank you John)

Vince, the plumber, arrived soon after this event. He was meticulous in his duty. At last the elderly, smelly old oil boiler was replaced with a brand new Anglo German one, which was super efficient in every way. Radiators and pipes were taken away and replaced at lightning speed. The whole system was so improved that the Assistant insisted on roasting the whole house, touching all the radiators and revelling in hot water, all of it delivered reliably, on time and not on the usual wing and a prayer. The Photographer basked in being the great provider and opened, most unusually, a bottle of sparkling cider, which had been specially purchased from Blacks Deli together with a very special piece of cheese. Never had the family held him in this high a regard. He felt that he had to make the most of it before things returned to normal!

In the little town, the Boyfriend, now has such a heavy work load (he never says no to most jobs) is barely seen by the daughter as they both wave to one another going to or coming from work. The Boyfriend’s latest project, Chagford Swimming Pool,the refurbishment thereof, is taking shape. He feels proud of the work and is looking forward to the Grand Reopening in May. Meanwhile the Daughter and the Committee are making grand plans for the event. They are all very proud of it now being an environmentally heated pool. It will, of course, be photographed by you know who and no doubt feature in this blog.

 

Dusty sees the joke!

Dusty sees the joke!

 

Sadly, not everything in the country is perfect. The Assistant was woken recently in the very early hours of the morning by gunfire. She could identify the gunfire as being a distance away. It was faint, but disturbing. A couple of weeks later, she was out on her usual walk when she and the Photographer met the lady they often meet. She loves riding her competition horse around the same section of countryside and, today, she was anxious to thank the Photographer for a lovely photo, which he had taken of it. She also had bad news. She told them of the shooting of local deer by people from away. Worst of all, a small lamb had been run over, killed and thrown, just like a piece of litter, up into the hedgerow. The local deer had been disturbed and panicked, one of them almost walking into her and her horse as they rode the lane. No one like s this sort of event. It makes our cosy little haven seem less secure.

Well, that’s it from our cosy little town and surrounds, as we look forward to meeting more visitors to our town and making them welcome over the next Bank Holiday. Please use the Visit Chagford website to find out what to do and where to go.

Footnote: It was with great sadness that the Photographer and the Assistant, having just purchased their daughters wedding dress, watched Trevor Hicks, father of two victims of the Hillsborough Disaster tell of how, when his daughters were born, he had looked forward to paying for their weddings. Now, he never would. They were the sisters, who died in that terrible, searing tragedy.

Footnote: To two dear friends, who will know who they are. Many, many congratulations on your recent wedding.

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

 

 

 

 

Photo Footnote: Happy Birthday Queen

Photo Footnote:
Happy Birthday Queen

By “The Photographer’s Assistant”

How is that possible? Sun tanned in Torrington? The arrangement was made on a Saturday over tea. There were five of us neighbours. Two of us were discussing Audi gearboxes and three of us were discussing the beauty of camellias. To say that we were all stir crazy would be an understatement. We all loved our gardens and could see them destroying themselves before our eyes. The Assistant had been able to inspect her garden, and when half drowned, had informed the Photographer that one third of a border would have to be dug up and started off all over again. She knew how bad it was when the Photographer simply agreed, despite the expense!

 

Yes, we have camellias.....some of the best camellias in the UK strut their stuff at Rosemoor National Show

Yes, we have camellias…..some of the best camellias in the UK strut their stuff at Rosemoor National Show

The three camellia fans wondered where these purchases should be made and it was decided that the Photographer would drive to Rosemoor, the RHS garden about 45 minutes away. The gathering of four took place a day later, the fifth was concentrating on the construction of deep vegetable beds, and had much the best and most envied camellias, so he was left behind. The four tipped themselves into the car and headed off, being grateful that the brave Photographer was able to steer himself through the now icy conditions. There was much wonder at this different part of Devon. It was like driving through a flat plain of small settlements and was a real contrast to the Moor.

It was an excellent day. There was much appreciation of the RHS garden mixed together with an envy of how we would never get our own patches looking this good. Phones were got out and plants were photographed. The stunning white birch close to the buildings took everybody’s breath away. We all seemed warm, gloves were removed and clothes rearranged. A decent lunch was taken, and, after much consideration, plants and seeds purchased. The car boot was stuffed and the Russia Expert even managed to obtain his beloved newspaper. All agreed that they had had a really lovely day. They sat back in the car and sighed one of those sighs of true contentment, the sort of sigh that means a good night’s sleep. It hadn’t rained all day. The Assistant examined her companions in wonder. There, it was on everyone’s face. It was a kind of bloom, a sort of flush. My word! This was a sun tan. The sun tan was , not from abroad, but from Torrington! Dear old Devon, trying so hard to combat the wet!

 

Even the bunnies are bigger at Rosemoor!

Even the bunnies are bigger at Rosemoor!

Other lovely happenings during the month have been numerous. There was news of a wedding and a baby for the daughter of two lovely friends. Our dear neighbour brought us the most delicious bag of chipolatas from a trip away. They were so tasty that we oozed pleasure. The milk tanker man, stopped his mighty beast in the narrow lane and chatted about the better weather to come. How nice! Jim, the Artist was wonderful company over a couple of teas. The Courtyard cafe was full of interesting and diverse company. The children providing wonderful company in their colourful winter wear, some of them just able to speak through mouthfuls of deliciously wholesome cake. The Assistant gathered her ingredients for home made Meusli and the choice was just too much. She sat down and had the most delicious piece of chocolate and beetroot cake made with almond flour. You have no idea how wonderful. Efforts were made to help the Cyclist with his crossword and the rain carried on and nobody cared.

 

When it rains, it rains, even on the best sundial in the West

When it rains, it rains, even on the best sundial in the West

The highlight of the Photographer’s month was to get a letter in the Financial Times. To be honest, the Assistant had thought that it wasn’t worth doing. Nobody took notice of people like them, particularly not urbanites. It was the most enormous surprise when it was printed uncut on the letters page. The Photographer and the Assistant were gob smacked and both had to sit down and draw breath. The letter had been in reply to an article which claimed that the infrastructure in Britain was complete. Everyone had all the necessary facilities. The Photographer had replied that there were many small villages in Britain, which had very few. Our own hamlet was an example. We had no public transport,no water supply, only half had sewage facilities, no gas, no DAB, no 3G or 4G, limited digital TV, and 0.5 to 2 Mb broadband. The only council facility was refuse collection, which had to be dragged along the street by some very elderly people. Well done the Photographer. You should know though, that we wouldn’t swap living in this community for any of these things. Right now, there are those among us who are not well and one who is very ill indeed. Those who are frail, are being looked after, not in a home, but amongst our neighbours, who run errands, cook, provide company, and collect medicines, running one another to hospital and the surgery. We are none of us alone unless we want to be. Anyway, if you live here you can even get a sun tan, not abroad, but in Torrington! Why not try it some time!

Footnote

 

Ther be dragons down there in Torrington

There be dragons down there in Torrington

By “The Photographer’s Assistant”

The Photographer was down to it. He was passing photographs through the Apple as though his life depended on it. He was being driven by the Assistant, who was having a chuck out. At her time of life, she had decided that family heirlooms had to be very precious indeed to be kept.

The Photographer cursed the weather. For months they had been unable to get out. There was a pile of waste for bonfiring, higher than there had ever been. He could not take the trailer over to the bonfire area, because the garden was virtually under water, particularly, near the stream.

The Assistant was wondering whether his mother had really meant to leave a small room full of stuff. Surely, as she had been dead for at least 16 years, she would not be wearing her Russian hat again, especially as she had been cremated!

The Photographer was on the attack and had come up with a scheme to temporarily halt the black bag offensive. Would the Assistant like to get her family albums out and he would archive them on the Apple too? She was struck dumb and Mother in law might survive another day. The Assistant was flat out with the old photos. This was a good distraction as her family had been photo mad and she had photos of holidays going back almost a hundred years. There were, of course, several boxes of pictures of the children, but these had already been sorted.

The assistant's family on holiday in the 1930s

The assistant’s family on holiday in the 1930s

 

In a blanket box, in yet another shoe box, they had found the smallest shoe box you could possibly have with two little pairs of first shoes. One of the pairs was red and the other patent leather. Beside the box, was an exquisite little red rain coat with matching hat, beautifully kept and treasured. The two sighed, and thinking of all that had happened to their grown up children, all those tribulations and misfortunes amidst some more happy times, they put the lid on the box. They put the things back. When the two had got married and had their children, the world had been a very simple place. Not so any more, and they couldn’t really work it all out. How, for instance, in the case of the daughter about to be wed that working every hour possible still didn’t mean that she and her partner would have their own home and so on. The two had a cup of tea in companionable silence really unable to understand this modern life, so they just left it all hanging in the air.

After tea, the Photographer went upstairs with the Assistant. He knew that the next pile of stuff would not be easy. It had become very apparent from letters found in the clear out that the Assistant had really suffered from her parents’ deteriorating marriage and that as a result, one of her Aunts and her paternal grandmother, a woman in her late seventies, had taken care of her in their Welsh home to the extent that their pictures, of which there were few, were the most precious in her collection. The fact that she no longer possessed anything of theirs except these pictures drove him on. He must buck up and give a hand. When these pictures were found, he was delighted and made a special effort to restore them working hard on the contrast and brightness of the pictures.

Much loved Aunt Liza

Much loved Aunt Liza

 

The Photographer decided that enough was enough. If there was one thing that he and the Assistant loved it was an adventure, and he loved driving his car. He put the Assistant in his car and turned the heated seats on. They were going to Somerset for the day. Clearing out was not a good idea. It was mauling. Poop! Poop! Vroom! Vroom! What was wrong with playing Toad for the day? It was a shame that Somerset was hot on speeding. Never mind, and they were off.

They had wanted to go to an exhibition of photographs by Don McCullin, the famous war photographer for years. There was actually an exhibition close by and they weren’t going to miss it. They had a nice lunch in the gallery and the Photographer decided that his own photographs were not dark enough. The Assistant bust a little bit of her cash on a book. Next, they went to the John Leach pottery and the Assistant bought some pots. She was thrilled and they both agreed that adventure was better than turning cupboards out. What a surprise!

The Assistant wondered when The Daughter will clear out these pots and books

Firewood for Mucalhenny Pottery (is it dark enough?)

Firewood for Mucalhenny Pottery (is it dark enough?)

 

 

Footnote

Do not despair. Its on its way. The birds are singing and the weather is staging a fight between winter and spring and with all this light on the Moors, spring is bound to win! You won’t have to paint that room any more. You can get outside instead and while you are at it, how’s about a nice glass of Somerset cider!

By “The Photographer’s Assistant”

The Photographer lay in bed. It was six in the morning.There were a number of disturbances about which nothing could be done. The Magpie had been moved out of its residence, possibly having been murdered by two marauding ravens. There had been many battles, but eventually the magpie had been silenced. The Assistant had got her binoculars out and had been stunned at the sight of such large talkative residents croaking to each other like an old married couple. They talked from early dawn, sometimes all day. It was driving the Photographer mad. They were not the only disturbance. Next to him and it has to be said, well down to a descent snooze, the Assistant snuffled like a small child deeply contented.

Demonic raven

Demonic raven

The Assistants noise was particularly alarming. He had slept beside this athsmatic for forty five years. There had been disturbance, but nothing quite like this. Her contentment was sweet, but the snuffle meant he couldn’t sleep. His experience was broad and a deep suspicion lay within. She had just had her drug changed to a really strong and expensive one and it appeared to be very effective, so why this symptom? Having got the Assistant a nice cup of tea, the photographer said he would get some toast. On arrival in the kitchen, his worst fears were confirmed. Why, every year, on return from her homeland, he always had to sort this out was beyond him. First call, the fridge. Yes, why hadn’t he spotted the Spanish sherry and, my God, that enormous bottle of Spanish Cava, all of which were impossible to buy in the little town. Look! Up here! A block of unpasteurised Welsh cheese! Clearly things had got out of hand. There were at least 8 bottles of Spanish red wine in the utility room, not to mention two boxes of Spanish almond tart. Usually, The Assistant ordered one bit of toast for breakfast with the Photographer’s own home made marmalade, but this morning she had wanted two with cheese. Clearly, something had to be done, especially, as the little town’s own food shops held so many Devon delights.

The Photographer was proud of sticking to enjoying his own vegetables by way of a diet, on his return from the great Welsh pantry. The Assistant was weighed and found wanting. She had put on 6 lbs. He had lost 3 lbs. This was a very serious matter. The Assistant was constantly being checked up and he had no intention of spending yet another week chasing an entirely disinterested Assistant, who was always in denial, around the house with a blood pressure monitor and an asthma meter. The thought of the tears after another check up at the surgery, possibly at Christmas, was not to be contemplated.

The Assistant was read several riot acts and all food intake was strictly examined. All sad looks at meals were being ignored as they both eat vegetables and she dreamed of the new skirt she had been promised provided the Photographers’s moving target was achieved. Saturday night was a particularly salutary meal. No wine was produced, no chocolate and the cake that she had just baked was frozen as soon as it was cool. She snoozed through “Waking the Dead’ on the Drama channel and went to bed utterly exhausted as all her stimulants and allergy causing agents were under lock and key or armed guard in the Photographer’s study.

The Photographer had been thoroughly distracted from his latest project and would have been angry if he hadn’t found it all so amusing. At least his daughter had found what would have made up an amusing part of his collection of unusual holiday sights in Devon in August. Here it is, the ultimate German camper van for 20. Imagine accommodating that on small Devon roads!

 

The ultimate camper van, with sleeping accomodation for 20!

The ultimate camper van, with sleeping accomodation for 20!

For next year, the Photographer has a plan. He doesn’t usually plan this far ahead, but he is getting older and wiser. The Assistant is very excited at the thought of another trip to Colonsay. Fantastic! The Photographer plans a long visit, affording himself a well deserved rest from nursing. There is barely any food at all on Colonsay. Food involves a long expensive trip to the Mainland to Tesco, where purchases can be monitored. As for the whisky habit. She just loves expensive whisky, so that is only one bottle then! Cunning. No Spanish delis, no Italian ice cream parlours, no Welsh cheese and Welsh cakes. Excellent!

 

The Assistant's whisky stock

The Assistant’s whisky stock

Of course, there are those big blue eyes and the possibility, that she has found out the e-mail address of the Spanish deli. She has been saying that the new stair carpet should come from that wonderful Welsh mill, near the deli, where he just loves the pattern and the colours. Thinking of him, of course. The trip needn’t be long and the spring in Pembrokeshire was so mild………………………. ,

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