25 August 2012


Last week we had a reasonably good weather day and decided to head for the beach, something we don’t do as often as we should. Dog friendly beaches are few and far between at this time of year, and we decided on one we had not previously visited: Ness Cove at Shaldon near Teignmouth. The cliffs and therefore the sand are that amazing red sandstone, and when we returned, we all had deep red stained feet.  It was important that Snippet had a good day too as he’s been missing out on our long, post lunch walks during the holidays. We parked in a very reasonably priced car park (a miracle these days), and walked down a long, eerie tunnel cut into the cliff, emerging at the top of a steep flight of steps down to the beach. It was soggy and dark, dripping with red water.

Snip was extremely good. It was his 3rd birthday on the 21st and I think he’s beginning to grow up a bit. He used to rush off after every dog he saw and get into scraps a lot. He was attached by a black spaniel that actually got into our car when he was a puppy and he tends to react badly if growled at, so we’ve have to be very careful about letting him off the lead around other dogs, particularly black ones. However, he was very, very calm and stayed close by and was very responsible when other dogs came along. Here is a record of his day…..

We had a very pleasant few hours and even I went in the water, trousers rolled up, looking for sea-life and scouring the cliffs for wildlife and flora. Lots of scary signs with pictures of boulders falling and exclamation marks so I was a bit careful. Not a great deal about but here’s what I did find:

Common or Painted Top Shell

Tiny, tiny shore crabs

Snakelocks Anenome

Sea Campion


Lovely supper in a pub and then home to stain the bath red with our feet and an early bed after all that sea air. We VERY rarely have days out together like that. My partner is a slave to our woodburner and the chopping to keep it fuelled, so there just isn’t usually time. It’s our only source of heat or hot water so it’s rather crucial that it’s organised. We should definitely get out more often as we all had a great day. Until next time, when we’ll resume moorland service, have a lovely time wherever you are. 

22 August 2012


I haven’t felt heat like we had in London since 1976; it was unbelievable. We left Dartmoor on the Thursday where it was tipping down with rain with a chill in the air and arrived in Leytonstone five hours later to temperatures in the late twenties centigrade. That evening we had our first takeaway for some time and a walk on the fringes of Epping Forest. The heat was starting to build even in the evening sun. Snippet and his Border Terrier friend Oscar had a great time, Oscar diving into a lake after swans to no avail (thank goodness!) and Snippet chasing the numerous rats out and about in broad daylight – rather disturbing to be honest. I remember seeing them in the twilight walking home from school on winter nights but not in the day in such a brazen fashion.

Swan deflecting Oscar

Snippet ended up sleeping with me in our friend’s box room while Origami boy and partner shared the other room. I had to have the door closed to prevent Snip wandering around in the night and, with the window closed against road noise, it was like a furnace in there. Not much sleep as a result but the next morning we set out with our oyster cards for the London Eye. Clearly, we had no idea how to use the cards as they started malfunctioning pretty quickly! One amazing innovation since we left London over a decade ago, is that Children go free on public transport. I wish that had been the case when I was a child. 

Origami boy and I really enjoyed the Eye; it was a very strange sensation: almost unreal. I have a certain level of fear of heights but found it totally gone in the capsule. I almost felt like I was watching the view on television we were so insulated from reality. More staggering was the high level swing thing pictured at the beginning of this post. Those people must have been completely crazy fifty feet up in the air. Apologies for the strange spot which has started appearing on many pictures which is apparently a speck of dust within the camera which I can only get rid of in PhotoShop. I just haven’t had time I’m afraid. The structure of the Eye is quite staggering and I spent more time staring at the mechanism than the view. I had also nudged the camera into the wrong setting in my bag, so most of the pictures were completely blown out until I noticed having alighted half an hour later. I’m surprised Fuji aren’t knocking down my door with sponsorship deals!

And then, thanks to my mum’s generosity, a quick cab ride to the Imperial War Museum. Origami boy is doing WW2 for his project next term, so we thought it would tie in well. I haven’t been for thirty years at least so it was lovely to be back. What a beautiful building it is.

I had forgotten how stunning the main hall is and we all had a great time exploring and staring up at the planes. Seeing ‘Little Boy’ was a sobering experience. It was so much smaller than I expected given the hideous damage it did and the legacy of horrific consequences. 

'Little Boy'

An Italian  'Human Torpedo' with a beautiful brass propeller 

Almost as affecting as ‘Little Boy’, was this counter which expressed the number of deaths through conflict since the beginning of the twentieth century. It reached one hundred million at midnight on the 31st December 1999 and has been counting ever since. If the rate were to continue as it did last century, two people would be dying every minute. Each rotation of the clock represents one death and a light fades in and out as it does so. 

My favourite exhibit was this embroidery piece. Something beautiful and creative to come out of  struggle and turmoil.

As a child, the only restaurant we ever went to was Marine Ices in Chalk Farm and, in the 1970’s, it was so exciting having such a range of ice cream flavours and incredibly exotic food when mince and boiled potatoes was the staple in our household. We took Origami boy there after the IWM on a tube train so hot that most people’s hair was plastered to their faces and no amount of anti-perspirant could deal with such temperatures. Discreet wiping of faces with arms and then having nowhere to wipe the arm was a popular move. He was singularly unimpressed with my childhood home of treats and we left to get an over-ground AIR-CONDITIONED train to Stratford for more exciting fayre.

At this point I need to mention that I spent eight years, from 1989 to 1997, working in Stratford at the Theatre Royal, of Joan Littlewood fame. I was the stage manager there for some years and came back after a break having thought I needed to work somewhere else, as so many of us did, to what felt like home and family. Stratford was unbelievably run down in those days but had a charm that kept us there. What I saw when the train pulled into Stratford station last Friday was utterly shocking. I was too overcome to take pictures I’m afraid but it was like landing on Mars. The ‘Westfield Shopping Centre’, which leads up to the Olympic park is immense and full of shops that I can’t believe will survive much beyond Olympic fever. The closest Stratford came to fine dining when I worked there was Greggs the bakers and to high fashion, River Island. There is now a branch of Prada, Tag Heur, Liberty and many, many others. The place was very full but, looking into the shops, they were remarkably empty. I predict a massive white elephant in a couple of years but hope I’m wrong for the sake of local residents, if such people even exist any more. It was all very depressing to be honest. At no point did we get a decent view of the Olympic park as it was closed for preparations for the Paralympics.

Apologies for my negativity but ten years away from London has had a profound effect I think. On a more positive note, the following day we had a lovely, if extremely hot, walk in Epping Forest with the dogs and visited Queen Elizabeth’s Hunting Lodge, a stunning surviving timber-framed hunting lodge built for Henry VIII in 1543. Originally the upper floor would have been an open gallery for the royal parties to shoot deer with crossbows. Lovely to see the external structural timbers painted white as they should have been, rather than the black favoured by the neighbouring pub!

When we left Epping that afternoon, the car’s thermometer was reading 34 degrees centigrade and we had to have the windows open all the way round the M25 and halfway down the M4 on our way home. By the time we reached Dartmoor at 12.30am it was reading 14 degrees……home sweet home! Till next time….Snippet on the beach. Enough of this city stuff. 

Snippet and his very good friend Oscar

12 August 2012


Last Sunday, my oldest friend and her family came to stay. The evening they arrived, we all went for a short walk after supper. The skies were amazing. I’ve talked about us living in a cloud before, but usually we just sit in a big grey mass of it. This time, the edges and individual wisps and sections were very obvious. It was slightly drizzly, creating another of those rainstumps, this time very dramatic over the rocks. Here are the pictures I took which give a pretty good idea of what it was like. I rarely get out in the evening, so it was lovely to observe the difference in light.

Betty and Lizzy were hanging around that evening with a grey gelding who was acting very proprietarily. Betty seemed happy to have him around and, in the mood for anthropomorphism, I thought they looked like a lovely family group. 

One thing that has been really lovely about writing this blog is the notice I’ve been taking of the moorland flora. I think I only thought there a few flowers out there before, but having spent a lot of time scrutinising the ground, I’ve been amazed at their numbers. Everything is miniature or stunted in height, somewhere between normal and alpine I suppose. 


Red Clover

Hawkbit seed-head

In the disastrous vegetable patch, we decided to leave a couple of last years leeks to go to seed so we could sow them next year. I’ve been waiting and waiting for them to flower and they are spectacular; about six feet tall and such a lovely subtle colour. The bees are enjoying them too!

Trigger’s eye is healing well thank goodness. The bad weather came just in time for him in terms of the reduction in fly numbers. He’s looking good and the split in his hoof is pretty much gone after Tuesday’s trimming. 

Here are some pictures of:


Blurred fun...

Completely uninterested in the ponies

Rodent hunting....


And a few things I’ve seen over the week too:

More strange clouds

That lone hawthorn again from two different angles

A sparrow-hawk out the back from rather a distance I'm afraid - Sorry!

A drinker moth I think. Bit difficult to tell to be honest!

Again, rather difficult, but a common green grasshopper is what it most looks like.

Sorry to sully proceedings but I thought these dung fungae were rather beautiful 

These three are part of the herd I had the magical experience with some weeks ago. The middle one is the one who let me scratch and stroke him. Out of their own patch, they were far more wary

I may not manage to post before we go to London next week but I’ll make sure I take the camera. We’re staying with friends who live near the Olympic park so we’re going to try and have a look round. Origami boy wants to go on the London Eye so, as the person who doesn’t suffer as badly with vertigo, I’m the one having to accompany him. I grew up in London, only coming here ten years ago, and I only really look forward to viewing it through my son’s young, Devon-born eyes. His life is SO rural, it must be incredibly exciting for him. So, till next time and hoping Olympic cold turkey isn’t too painful!