Thursday, January 31, 2008

Rush, rush, hurry, hurry .....

Rush, rush, hurry, hurry ... there just aren't enough hours in the day.

These gales make everyone feel restless and this morning I could see from my window on the main street a steady stream of people moving very quickly one way, blown along faster than they might have liked towards the shop. Returning they were moving much more slowly, leaning forward into the wind, their coats blown out behind them.

Amy had a visit to her physiotherapist this morning - that sounds very grand and serious. David has a practice in Kingsbridge for humans, but treats a select number of canine patients too. Amy is crippled due to an old spinal injury before I adopted her. Normally she gets about quite happily at her own rather slow pace and doesn't suffer a lot of pain. Earlier this week though, when romping with the puppy - and absolutely determined to show him she was still in charge - she managed to twist one of her back legs again and has been hobbling around seeking sympathy wherever she could find it. So it was off to see David, who has a reputation for firm handling of human patients. Amy loves him though and positively purrs (if such a thing is possible!) when he runs his ultrasound machine over her hip.

Then it was lunch club, but we were rather down on numbers this week as many of our very elderly and unsteady members were understandably reluctant to venture out in these gales. This meant everyone had to have seconds which was no hardship at all for any of us!

And home .. for more dog-walking and sewing. I'm going to be doing some craft fairs this summer, at Exeter and some National Trust properties amongst others, so I've got to make lots of stock.... need more hours in the day!

Saturday, January 26, 2008

Batson Creek

Today has been so mild and spring-like. I loaded the dogs into the newf-mobile and we headed for one of our favourite walks - down to Batson Creek near Salcombe. The old green lane snakes down between high Devon hedgerows and although the hawthorn was still bare, there was plenty of fresh green growth at the foot of the hedges. I spotted tiny wild violets, snowdrops and plenty of fresh young nettles!

The tide was rapidly receding when we reached the creek, revealing plenty of mud for wallowing in newfie-like fashion. Ben was rather concerned as I threw sticks into the water for him - as he swam towards them they were carried away from him on the tide, as if they were trying to escape his sharp white teeth. Still, he's a very strong swimmer and enjoyed the challenge.

Going back up the hill I paused to let Amy rest her legs and heard sky larks for the first time this year, high above the sheep pasture, and a wren chuck-chucked at me from the hedge. They are tiny birds with a huge attitude!

A fellow-walker passed us with three Bassets. They are such comical dogs with their stumpy legs and ears that brush the ground. These were very friendly, though a little wary of Ben who has a tendency to bounce all over his canine friends. Took some photos, then came home to try to make a painting of them...

Tuesday, January 22, 2008

A weekend of travelling

Last Thursday I journeyed to Portsmouth to meet up with (townie) husband and then on to Heathrow with our daughter Rosie to catch her flight to Sydney as she embarks on her big Aussie gap year adventure.

As I drove I was struck by the beauty and variety of the landscape around me. At first the ground was all crumpled and creased into hills and valleys, almost as though a giant fist had scrumpled the ground like a piece of paper. Then my little car seemed to climb and climb towards Dorchester as we came out on top of the world with the looming bulk of Maiden Castle on the right. And all the time the sea in the distance, the great curve of Lyme Bay sweeping away down towards Exmouth and back home.

Sadly the landscape near Heathrow is very different. Instead of hazel catkins and gorse blossom, the hedgerows were coloured by discarded plastic bags and other rubbish. Then the blight of endless industrial estates and pylons - I know we need these things, but why does utility always seem to have to be ugly? Rosie caught her flight alright, and has since sent us a text to say Sydney is "awesome" so I guess she's having a good time.

Although I don't have any up-to-date photos of the dogs swimming, I took my camera out with me today and got a good shot of the two of them on the beach. I was so cruel, I made them sit and stay for oh - must have been at least 30 seconds while I took their photo. Hope you like it - Ben is on the left and you can see is poised for flight. They might not seem very big, but you are looking at 20 stone of dog - and at the end of our walk - 20 stone of wet, sandy, happy dog!!

Wednesday, January 16, 2008

Dogs and doughnuts ...

I took the dogs up to Blackdown Rings today. These are the remants of an old Iron Age fort, topped a thousand years ago with a Norman motte and bailey caste. The bailey has long since disappeared, but the views from the summit of the ramparts are amazing, you can see for miles and miles in every direction. Up to the tors of Dartmoor in the north, over the sea to Kingsbridge and Start Point south and south west and just over miles of rolling countryside in every other direction. No signs of any spring lambs today though.

The newfies love it there too. In wet weather the old ditches fill with rainwater, crystal clear and sparkling, just right for splashing and swimming in. Ben loves to retrieve sticks, but sadly they don't float well in this water and he hasn't yet mastered diving. But it's great fun watching him blow water out of his nose when he resurfaces. Amy thinks he's just plain silly and prefers to float lazily on the surface, wobbling gently like a giant furry jellyfish.

I've been working hard lately on a chilli picture, so on the way home decided I deserved a reward and stopped at the local bakery for one of their wonderful doughnuts. Yes, it's true, in Devon you can purchase a little piece of heaven for only 50p! Crisp and sugary on the outside, soft and chewy on the inside and just the right amount of gloopy raspberry jam in the centre. (Has to be raspberry, nothing else will do)

Wonderful, particularly when enjoyed on the sofa in the kitchen (had to remove slightly soggy dog biscuits, half-chewed teddy and other canine treasures first) with the new issue of Country Living (finally arrived) and a cup of coffee.

Saturday, January 12, 2008

Today has been a day of contrasts...

Our house

This morning the sun shone brightly and we headed down to Beesands for a walk along the Ley. Ben was overjoyed to meet his best mate Paddington, a chocolate-coloured labrador who loves to romp and chase with him until they both collapse in a heap of squirming dog flesh. Meanwhile the girls, Blossom and Fleur - two beautiful honey-coloured labradors, and Amy are content to frolic in a more dignified fashion, leaving the real rough and tumble to the two silly youngsters.

After lunch though, the sun went in and the heavens opened. I'm writing this at half past six in the evening and although the curtains are closed I can hear the rain flinging itself against the windows and rushing down the pipes to the well below the house. There was no chance of getting out into the garden so I spent some time working on new designs for DevonBears then settled down with a new book I received for Christmas. It's called "Country Fair" and is a compendium of fifties country lore offering advice on everything from how to prune roses to how to deal with moles and the behaviour of rooks.

One chapter discussed living in the country and said confidently,

"To get along in the country, you've got to prefer it to the city in all its moods, even its most vile, when it's blowing and raining, drizzling and damp, or just plain dull and uninspiring. If you can stand it under these conditions, even taking real pleasure on a drenching day that instead of walking on comparatively dry pavements as one of a crowd you are splashing and squelching your way through mud and muck and puddles in splendid isolation, then the bond between you and the country must be a strong one."

Interestingly the author then went on to say that real country-lovers are almost invariably those who grew up in the country - I wonder if that's true? Certainly I grew up in rural Warwickshire, but couldn't wait to leave for the bustle of the city where life was fun and the job was interesting. But one day I knew I'd had enough of city life and felt an overwhelming nostalgia for the countryside I left behind so long ago. Now we've made our home in Devon - and we're here to stay!

Monday, January 7, 2008

Monday morning.....

We went to the Farm Shop ....

We went to the beach this morning. Our nearest is Lannacombe. It can only be reached by a rutted track which passes between deep Devon hedgerows - a nightmare in the summer when the visitors, unused to our narrow lanes, return. But this morning it was deserted and we bumped our way down to the beach with no need to squeeze onto the verges or reverse back to the nearest passing space. The beach was wonderful - at first the sun was shining, though there was a cold wind, and Amy lay down and rolled and rolled for the sheer joy of it while Ben bounced and ran and twirled chasing his favourite yellow ball across the flat expanse of sand.

But then, with a gust of wind, everything changed and our world was made of water. The sky seemed to darken in less than a minute and the heavens opened. Between the crashing of the surf, the swollen stream and the torrent of rain it was hard to tell whether I was on land or somewhere beneath the sea. I felt gills would have been better than lungs! The dogs thought it was wonderful, for Newfies are water dogs and Amy has been known to sit out in the rain just for the pleasure of feeling the water run down her furry body.

We ran for the car and made our soggy way to the Farm Shop where I purchased some leeks and a lump of their wonderful stilton cheese. I'll use up the last of the Christmas gammon tonight, cut into cubes and heated in a Stilton, leek and creme fraiche sauce to pour over my jacket potato. Light the fire and snuggle down - my hero Hugh's on Channel 4 - just need to add a glass of Sharpham's and two dozy Newfs. How relaxing is that?

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