Monday, May 31, 2010

For Devon read Heaven.

Pat I’ve just been dreaming about Dad and I had to meet him but I wasn’t sure what

time and exactly where.

MTL Heaven?

Our Australian grand-daughter - when she was tiny - confused Heaven with Devon and really after last week I think she was right. Dalwood is a sleepy village a mile and a half inland from the A35 twixt Honiton and Axminster and we rented an elegant cottage on a hilly, small- holding above the village. Sylvan views abound and the Blackdown Hills are an area of outstanding natural beauty

Thanks to all your kind wishes we had a lovely holiday with perfect weather. It was a green wonderland – spring had just burst out and Siegfried Sassoon’s poem was ringing in my head.

EVERYONE suddenly burst out singing;

And I was filled with such delight

As prisoned birds must find in freedom,

Winging wildly across the white

Orchards and dark-green fields; on—on—and out of sight.

Everyone’s voice was suddenly lifted;

And beauty came like the setting sun:

My heart was shaken with tears; and horror

Drifted away ... O, but Everyone

Was a bird; and the song was wordless; the singing will never be done.

The air was swirling with the fluffy seeds from dandelion clocks and from trees with blossom like fluffy, pussy willows. We called at the ancient Tucker’s Arms Inn for lunch on their terrace. I had a tasty linguine and MTL fish and chips. Chatting to the land-lady as she showed me the pudding menu I observe that she didn’t sound as if she came from Devon – more where I came from.

L.L: I come from Huddersfield!

P: Well somebody has to.

L.L. Do you want your pudding or not?

Thankfully I was given Belgian Waffle with caramel sauce and vanilla ice cream.

The cottage was unusually spacious. Minimalist in d├ęcor – which is a pleasant change for a holiday, but I like to live with old family stuff – pictures, photos and all the usual memorabilia. There were geese, chickens, two daft Dalmations, sheep and lambs down the hill and a civilised cock who only crew when we were up and about. The hens and cats were rescue ones and the charming owners were hard working and a modern version of The Good Life. They were just finishing a pond for the ducks. By the way did you know not to turn your back on geese? Karen said if you do they think they are top dog and come after you. Like lions really you have to stand still and face up to them. I decide to admire the pond from above.

I gratefully eyed my inches thick book – Diana Athill’s Life Class. This was the perfect place to curl up with an apple and a good book.

Some pictures below – more later. Hope to visit in the next few days.xox


We were high on the hill. Note the red phone box.

The 15C Church and WW1 War Memorial with four lost boys from one family

A good place for lunch and banter. The Tucker's Arms built to house the workmen when they were renovating the church a few centuries ago
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View from the deck of the cottage.

Wistaria in the village

The brook

The field full of floating dandelion clocks
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Thursday, May 20, 2010

Brief Interlude

We are off to East Devon. Back by the end of the month. Keep the faith. Why not delve into the archives whilst you're here - there's all sorts. Look out for Jimmy and the Deep Purple.

Wednesday, May 19, 2010

Such Spiffing Fun!

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Believe me, my young friend, there is nothing - absolutely nothing -half so much worth doing as simply messing about in boats.
The Wind in the Willows. Kenneth Grahame 1822-1885

When our Norfolk daughter was here I told her how nostalgic I found the old thirties posters and the other day these arrived in the post. They inspired me to reprise a true story which will be familiar to some of you but it may help to fill the gap when we are away till the end of the month.

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Messing about in Boats

I was working hard and my bank balance was growing. William had arranged for us to go on holiday, sailing in Judy - a small wooden boat. Two weeks of being able to slob around without make-up or stilettos. Lovely! We were both ready for a holiday. William had been settling into his job with BISRA and I’d been getting established in the modelling world. Two weeks with no housework and no pressure for either of us. Bliss!

We picked up the boat from Maldon (in Essex not New Maldon in Surrey). Judy was a lovely wooden two-berth sailing boat – as they were in the fifties. I loved those boats. Somehow one’s rear would meld safely to the wood when the boat heeled over - unlike the fibre glass boats of today.

As usual William became happy as Larry - once on the boat, and as the weather was kind I slung a mattress in the pram dinghy that we trailed behind us and read and sunbathed, enjoying the plop- plopping in William’s wake. Judy had to be anchored in deep water (she didn’t have a flat bottom) to maintain stability, and the pram was needed to row ashore. One day near West Mersea Island, we dropped anchor and rowed ashore to get some shopping. We hadn’t realised the strength of the tide and on the way back were rapidly swept past our boat and out to sea. Some chaps anchored in a large sailing boat saw our plight and managed to catch us before we were swept past them. They hoisted us aboard and we spent a jolly day with them until the tide took us safely back to Judy. They kept us amused with anecdotes; they were becalmed for days in the Doldrums and suddenly were delighted to hear the swish of water and thought at last they could get under way – only to discover it was Trudy – the only female member of the crew - washing her smalls.

The holiday was going well and then William suggested inviting Wallace and Fleur – his brother and sister in law - down for the week-end.
‘But William it’s a two berth – how are we going to sleep four people?’
‘No problem! We’ll share one berth, Fleur can have the other and there is a pipe cot for’ard near the anchor chain. Wally will be quite happy there.’

To my amazement they accepted and said they would bring some stores and we would meet up in the pub. We’d also made friends with another sailing couple Harry and Jean so we looked forward to a jolly party. I have never knowingly been under –dressed and this night was no exception. I wore a halter-necked Horrock’s cotton in black, white and green with a bouffant skirt boosted by a scratchy, buckram petticoat. With my pale honey tan I felt like the Queen of Sheba - perched in the dinghy, as William rowed us to shore. True to form Wallace and Fleur arrived on the dot, we introduced everybody and settled down to a lovely boozy evening. The pub was full of handsome sailing types and I was having fun.

At about seven thirty Fleur started to get twitchy. It was almost supper time she said, and we needed to get on, doing potatoes and so forth. My jaw hit the floor – we were having such a splendid time – the tales were getting wilder and wilder; why did we have to stop and think about potatoes? The men solved the problem. They would row Fleur out to Judy with most of the stores ( it wasn’t all food, Fleur had brought for herself three soft fluffy blankets and a hot water bottle – quite wisely – the blankets on the boat were congenitally damp and so rough, they left a red chafing rash round the chin.)

After a short while we would follow on with the rest of the stores and have supper. That was the plan. I can’t remember what it was that prompted one of us to suggest maybe it was time to make tracks and my goodness, the call,
‘Time Gentlemen Puleeze!’ confirmed this.

Outside the pub the five of us looked out to our respective boats, ours and Harry’s which were settled in a sea of black, soft, squelchy mud - the tide had gone out! Much further out we spotted Judy gently bobbing in the moonlight. I find at times like these it is politic to say nothing. It was decided that I, with my bouffant ensemble, should sit in the dinghy guarding the rest of the stores and the men’s trousers and Jean’s skirt (they had all stripped off with unusual alacrity) and William, Wallace, Harry and Jean would push the boat through the thigh- high mud until we reached our respective boats.

Once ensconced in the boat I have to confess that the sight of the four of them in their Y fronts (Jean had big pants encasing her quite large thighs) caused me to giggle so hard I got hiccups. It was ‘The African Queen ‘all over again - without the leeches. I laughed so hard – well after all that drink you can guess what happened. Unfortunately I was sitting on Fleur’s lemon – meringue pie at the time.

As we neared the boat our hysterical laughter died away and I realised that Fleur would not be amused and had every reason to be absolutely livid with us. After a whispered good night to Harry and Jean, we clambered aboard – William and Wally dripping the evil mud in their wake. Thinking on my feet I urged Wally to go below where, presumably, Fleur would be nestled in her pink fluffy blankets, clutching her hottie and, please God, asleep. We would allow him privacy to scramble into the wretched pipe cot, whilst we disrobed outside. Then we would sneak, silently, into our shared bunk, thus avoiding any unpleasantness.

There was gentle snoring from Fleur as we crept below; in fact she was the only one who had a good night’s sleep proving that there is some justice in the world. There was a bit of a popple on the water and a swell, so although there was to be no conjugal nonsense over the week-end I spent the night clinging for dear life to William to avoid falling out of the narrow bunk. Poor Wally had the wandering anchor chain for a bed fellow and didn’t sleep a wink. He was up at crack of dawn with a conciliatory mug of tea for Fleur and one each for us but we had to get up in order to drink it. We all apologised to Fleur with lots of excuses about time and tide but she knew full well that for the rest of the week-end she would rule and we would behave impeccably.

As the wind and tide were right the men decided we would set sail immediately and I would cook breakfast en route. The stove was on gimbals and I was a dab hand at cooking under way. Everybody enjoyed eating in the fresh air – whilst scudding through the waves, but Fleur objected to my doing bacon and egg AND tomatoes.
‘So extravagant Pat, and not at all necessary!’
Fleur hello! The war is over! I think she was quite cross that I could actually do something useful. She was such a competent and thrifty person she had stuck me into the ‘useless blonde’ compartment.

Judy wasn’t a boat with mod cons. There was an enamel bowl for washes and a tin bucket of the ‘bucket and chuck it’ variety. The etiquette was that the men went for’ard to pee and we girls were given a private bucket. Anything more complicated had to be dealt with ashore in the pub and it all worked perfectly well until we had that dodgy ice cream at Felixstowe. Oddly, for a naval officer, Wally was often sea-sick – I was told it was not such a rarity in the navy.

It was a glorious sail up the coast and we were in high spirits as we went ashore for lunch. The fish and chips were delectable and then came the fatal ice-cream. I don’t want to labour the point and list the gory details but the four of us - that week-end - reached a level of intimacy that can take years of married life to achieve. We didn’t linger in Felixstowe as we had a hard beat against the wind to return Fleur and Wally to where they had left their car. It would have been difficult enough tacking but with the onset of D and V it was sheer hell.

The sea became rough and we were tossed about mercilessly with the violence of the waves. I thought how bizarre it was that we were on the brink of disaster and yet across the turbulent sea were the holiday makers at Clacton sunning themselves in deck chairs – oblivious to the life and death struggle unfolding before their eyes. Life jackets? What life jackets? We didn’t drown, we didn’t die and we finally reached port - exhausted and chastened. As Wally and Fleur tottered towards their car, trailing the now sodden, non- fluffy blankets I wondered if Fleur would ever take to the water again. By the way, I almost forgot - what with the sickness and all, the lemon meringue pie wasn't mentioned. The rest of the holiday was an enjoyable convalescence, exploring medieval Maldon and pottering round the salt marshes, relishing the birds and glimpses of Thames barges with their terra cotta sails. By the end of the fortnight I was eager to get back to the phone and see what Paula had in store.

Monday, May 17, 2010

Staring Back

There are few better ways to spend a sunny afternoon than sitting in the garden with a background of birdsong and a brand new book compiled by a blogging chum.

Some time ago Kim Ayres discovered a passion for photography He took some great landscapes (my favourite is Low Winter Sun at Rascarrel Bay see Feb 7th 2010 archives) and then honed in on portrait photography. Of all his previous occupations - and they are many and varied - photography brings him ‘more joy than all the others by a factor of about 14 billion.’

Kim’s enthusiasm is infectious and before long he was invited to display his work at the Mill on the Fleet in Gatehouse of Fleet in SW Scotland. I would have loved to have been there - along with many other bloggers , but distance and circumstance precluded the possibility so when Kim decided to make a book of the exhibition I couldn’t wait to get my hands on a copy.

There are 24 portraits with an introduction to each of the sitters and accompanying photos of each one when they are not ’staring back’. Kim explores ‘what happens when the face we are so intimately viewing stares, unapologetically, right back at us.’ The portraits are arresting and it is a fascinating experience to examine the varying faces.

It’s all based on trust between model and photographer and there would be none of:

‘This is my best side.’

‘I’ll just take my glasses off.’

‘Could you just soften my frown lines?’

It’s great credit to Kim that they put themselves in his hands and the results are mesmerising. It’s a slim elegant volume that deserves better than to be thrust on some dusty bookshelf - the perfect book to have lying around so that people can browse through it at will. One in every room would be nice.

‘You’ve got interesting looking friends.’ I observed.

I am a firm believer that everyone is interesting looking; it's just that most of the time we don't look in the right way. As I mention in the book, I love faces. I'm yet to find a face that I wouldn't enjoy photographing :)

Below are some random photos from the book. For more details go to or click on Kim on side bar. Scroll down to 2nd May for The Exhibition Launch and the Book.

Random Photos from Kim Ayres book 'Staring Back'

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Thursday, May 13, 2010

When Nick met David

The setting was idyllic - the sun was shining the birds were singing, the wisteria was tumbling and all the guests sat quietly in their chairs as if awaiting a society al fresco wedding. The happy pair advanced – all smiles and deference – one was reminded of that comic couple ‘After you Claude.’ ‘No after you Cecil’.

My imagination took flight and Nick sang:

Our love affair will be such fun we’ll be the envy of Mandleson!

David – with a pleasing tenor sang:

I beg your pardon – I never promised you a Rose Garden.

The spell was broken somewhat when a wicked reporter reminded David when asked what his favourite joke was replied:

‘Nick Clegg!’

Deep intakes of breath all round but congeniality reigned and the anger was only faux and the apology sincere. There was much to be done and the new friends toddled off to get started.

And we all lived happily ever after. Didn’t we?

Wednesday, May 12, 2010

The Rest of Yesterday's Garden Watch

Same view - different angle

One of two cuttings I took - varigated Weigelia

This has m e foxed. Anyone know?

The first of the Aquilegia. MTL says it's prone to green fly - but not in my experience

I was glued to the TV yesterday and now feel relieved and hopeful. I'm glad Gordon Brown left on a happy note with his wife and delightful little boys. The Queen has accepted her 12th Prime Minister which started with Winston Churchill. Through out those decades she has parlied with her PM once a week and must have been a comfort to many in the bad times - she's seen it all. Every important person on the world stage since the early fifties she has met. Harold Wilson once said it was his favourite meeting because she never lied and she wasn't after his job. God bless Elizabeth.
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Tuesday, May 11, 2010

The sword of Damocles

Even now we may be about to be governed by 'A Coalition of the Defeated' without our say so! Enough of politics the garden beckons.
At last the clematis Armandii is out. How I wish you could smell it

The magnificent Ilex fully out after last year's shearing

I never tire of this view and the array of different trees. The distant hills are the Quantocks
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Monday, May 10, 2010

No comments:
Lena Horne

Born in Brooklyn Lena always wanted to be a performer against the wishes of her middle class family and, aged 16, she danced in the chorus of Harlem's Cotton Club. She married a minor politician and suffered the humiliation and racial prejudice from hotels and restaurants that was rife in those days.
Inspired by Paul Robeson she took part in the struggle for equality and justice fo Afro- Americans and was the first Afro- American woman to have a contract with MGM.

In WW2 she used her own money to travel and entertain the troops and helped Eleanor Rossevelt to reach her goal of anti - lynching legislation. She helped to pave the way for the black actresses of today. I remember her as a beautiful film star whose voice I tried to emulate in my favourite of the songs she sang: Honeysuckle Rose.

Saturday, May 08, 2010

Two Blogging reasons to be cheerful

It's colder and rainier and it looks like we may have an election all over again in October. Oh joy! But Sweetie the beloved cat of Naom in of the Hills (side board) cheers up my office and reminds me of a dear friend across the pond.

This is a Birthday card from Parsnip (side bar). She made it herself - as she does all her cards and it depicts one of the wild flowers that bloom all over Tucson
. Love is only chattter, friends are all that matter. Gelett Burgess 1866-1888
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Friday, May 07, 2010

No Clean Sweep

I stayed awake till 2am and woke at 6am to what sounded like good news for the Tories - but it was just the West news. So far it looks like Labour have lost the election but neither the Tories or Lib Dems have won it. Normally I resist change but as far as running our country I long for it and for a government that doesn't have would- be powerful people looming over it like Peter Mandleson. But that's just me.

The girls have asked me to go with them today to our local railway station to photograph their commemorative flower bed which was more or less designed by Margaret, paid for by Townswomen's Guild and opened by Joy whose 80th birthday coincided with the anniversary. They want to send the result to Margaret so she can see her work lives on.

You choose a member indeed ; but when you have chosen him, he is not a member of Bristol, but he is a member of Parliament.
Edmund Burke 1729-1797
Speech at Bristol 1774

Wednesday, May 05, 2010

Plant and shrub of the week

Fritillaries hide in the woodland and I have to search for them
The one above is the aptly named snake's head.

The acer - a gift from Mum . We chose it together from a specialist near Taunton and ensured we put it in the right place.

Tomorrow we vote - with hope in our heart - and then are off to Taunton - because it's there. I may be some time.
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Tuesday, May 04, 2010

Books to be read.

Some books are to be tasted, others to be swallowed, and some few to be chewed and digested; that is, some books are to be read only in parts; others to be read but not curiously; and some few to be read wholly and with diligence and attention.

Francis Bacon 1561-1626


Over at Charlie’s yesterday I was reminded of the awful Sheriff Joe Arpaio - a monster in charge of the prison written about in the blog Jon’s Jail Journal. Jon whose real name is Shaun Attwood is British and determined to write about his experiences and expose what went on within the walls of the prison As I wrote some time back, Shaun was awarded a mentor – Sally Hinchcliffe who wrote the excellent thriller Out of a Clear Sky. Shaun’s book Hard Time is now available from Amazon.

Leigh Russell another Blogger has her second thriller Road Closed also available at Amazon and Kate Lord Brown

has had her debut novel The Beauty Chorus bought by Corvus.

A different kind of book and one I look forward to receiving from Blurb shortly is Kim’s book of photographs from his exhibition Staring Back. You can see a video of the photographs on his blog.

Not for the first time, a review by Charlie impelled me to read Rooftops of Tehran. by Mahbod Seraji. Apart from the fact I found it enthralling it was a real eye-opener for me who had been imbued with the belief that the Shah of Persia and his beautiful, tragic wife Soraya were the beautiful couple of the fifties to be respected and admired and I remember my excitement when they arrived at the theatre where I was watching Separate Tables. The book paints a very different picture of a despotic regime where innocent people were imprisoned and tortured.

Don’t let that put you off – it’s funny, enchanting and a love story so romantic you can see the stars in the Persian sky. I make a point of emailing any author whose work has moved me – where possible – and had an immediate, charming response from the author yesterday.

Preparing yesterday’s lunch-time salad I was listening to MTL’s radio which is always tuned to Radio 4 and heaven help anyone who fiddles with it. I pricked up my ears as a woman with a pleasant voice talked of how – reasonably healthy and independent but in her nineties - she decided to live in a retirement home in Highgate. It sounded so attractive I said:

‘If ever we had to move that’s the sort of place I’d like to go to.’

It got more interesting – her name was Diana Athill and she had her memoirs published when in her eighties. She had had a happy childhood and had her heart broken as a teenager. You can imagine my double take! However she never married, never had children and had a dazzling career in publishing. I look forward to reading her book Life Class (a title used by two other authors) which should be on its way as we speak. It was interesting that she also was greatly inspired by Alice Herz- Sommer who I did a post about recently.

I did have second thoughts about the retirement home; London after this haven would take too much adjusting - to say nothing of swapping our big old place for a large room however attractive.

Sunday, May 02, 2010

Song for a cold windy Sunday

I have just sen an elderly Don Mclean sing this on the Andrew Marr show. Age has not withered...