Friday, 23 March 2012

To go or not to go? That is the question.

As many of you will already know, I have been having fun and games with my eyes so that for two years and a bit I was not able to drive. Happily I am now back in the driving seat but . . .

When you live as remotely as we do this sort of thing makes you think about what would have happened if, at the same time, Marcia had not been able to drive: through sickness (‛flu perhaps) or an accident (a broken wrist may be). The result is that we have days when we find ourselves seriously considering that we should move nearer to civilisation. Yesterday was such a day, the successor, I should add, of many such days.

It was a gloomy, overcast day with occasional spits of rain and a bitingly cold south easterly wind. The sun remained behind this boring veil of cloud, sulking to itself, throughout: the worst possible day in a house like this which needs the sun to be warm and cheerful. So we decided the time had come to move. The question then becomes: where?

Since we are talking about creating a lifestyle which would work well should neither of us be able to drive, clearly that means in the middle of a town but which one?

The obvious choice is Tavistock. We know it very well (I used to have an office in Tavistock) and know quite a lot people there. One of our closest friends is nearby and everything you could possibly want is contained in quite a small flat area. Tavistock has the best taxi service that I know of outside London, and Dartmoor is just up the road. Yes, Tavistock should be on the list.

Then, of course, there is Totnes. This is our old stamping ground and we have a host of friends living there or thereabouts. The main drag – High Street and Fore Street – is quite steep. This poses a problem: unless you live at the bottom of the hill. Still, Totnes is a contender.

In both cases it is extremely difficult to find houses that are in the right place for walking to and from the shops and yet allow the sun to pour in on good days. This is essential to Marcia; as is somewhere private outside where she can sit with a mug of tea or coffee and brood.

Of course we could consider going back to Dartmouth. Again the shopping area is on the level even if the houses mount the hills behind. Father lived in a first floor flat on the Embankment after my mother died and he had a wonderful view over the river to Kingswear on the opposite bank. There was always something to look at and that is another factor we are considering. What do people do all day? The thought of day time television brings both of us out in a cold sweat but with no garden (and therefore no contact procession of birds as we have here), no ponds (and no frogs, toads, tadpoles or newts – and no fish and herons) and all the work these entail, what would we do all day? Yes, we need a view, a busy view. It could be people or boats but it has to be something. As far as Dartmouth is concerned that means down near the water, and the prices there are indeed eye watering.

Of course, on the assumption we move while at least one of us is still driving we need somewhere to keep a car. Tricky in Tavistock, difficult in Totnes and almost impossible in Dartmouth.

Then we have to consider when we should move. Do we go now and spend the next twenty years wondering why we went too soon or wait until we are pushed so that we have to jump to whatever is available at the time.

Life is just so difficult at times.

Of course we could think about this as the time to do something totally different, to branch out and become part of a scene that is new to us. Neither of us have spent any appreciable time living in a city. Perhaps we should try. Marcia went to school in Bristol and I was a student there. Actually we were there at the same time although it was to be another twenty years before we met. Could we have had another twenty years of happiness or would the younger Marcia have found me too much to take?

Anyway, we decided to have a look at some of the houses for sale in Old Clifton (the only part in which Marcia would wish to live that could be within our means).

Then we had the mad idea of living on a narrow boat and gently exploring the canals and river. There is one for sale on a newish marina on the River Avon to the east of Bristol and not far from the Ariel Rowing Club to which I belonged when I was a student. This is not that one but is pretty typical of these boats.

This morning, however, the wind has dropped, the sun is out, the kitchen doors are open and we are drinking our after breakfast coffee to the sound of sparrows, great tits, one of the warblers (not sure which) and the occasional black bird. Oh, and just then the croaking of a pair of crows flying up the valley and a ewe calling to her lamb.

Perhaps we will postpone the move for a wee while longer after all.


The good news is that the toad eggs have hatched. There are only a few and they will be kept separated from the frogs as I want to see what differences there are.

The bad news is that I now start on that balancing act is so crucial to this whole thing: feeding tadpoles. If you put in too much food, or food that they reject, you soon contaminate the water and that causes all sorts of problems. If you don’t give them enough food, they will eat what is at hand and that is, of course, smaller tadpoles.

We talk about the loss of tadpoles thanks to predators such as herons, blackbirds, back-swimmers and dragonfly larva but probably the biggest losses are caused by cannibalism. It is estimated that a thousand frog eggs will produce no more than seven adults and sometimes less.

Since I see no point in trying to increase numbers just for them to eat each other, I tend to over feed and to compensate for this by changing the water every other day or so. Tap water should stand for about a week to ensure all traces of chlorine and other chemicals that the water authorities have added have gone. I have two sources: from the top pond which is connected to the house roof drains and the water tubs which stand beside the potting shed. In both cases this is rain water and, because we are so far to the west, it is almost pollution free.

In the wild, tadpoles live on dead fish and invertebrates – and each other. At the moment, I am trying Cumberland sausage and cat food (tuna in jelly). As far as I can make out sausage is far more popular than the tuna. Whether the fact that it is Cumberland or not I have yet to discover.