Friday, 31 August 2012

Farewell summer

Last day of August. Some might say the last day of summer – and what a summer. It really has been the worst that I can remember: worse than 1947 which was pretty terrible. As you would expect I was at school that year and our sports day would have been cancelled, a wash-out, had the headmaster not been the type to expect things to carry on no matter what the heavens threw at us. He had fought during the war, as had most of the teachers, and considered the slightest suggestion that the boys might be feeling a bit cold or a bit wet as a personal affront – especially if it came from a parent.

Then the summer holiday started. If I remember correctly (and I may not for I was quite young at the time) my father was still in the army travelling daily to his office in the old War Office and so we were unable to go away. I was allowed to do what I wanted and go where I wanted so long as I did not upset the natives (or, in adult speak, our neighbours and particularly the farmers). The parents of the twins who lived next door and who were my particular friends felt the same and so the three of us would meet after we had finished our chores (which, in both cases, revolved around chicken and other matters horticultural) and off we would go armed with some sandwiches to seek adventure where we could. How different life was in those days – I cannot imagine many parents giving their offspring that level of freedom at such a young age.

Anyway, that summer life in the woods , the fields and the lanes was pretty miserable and we spent a great deal of time in the twins’ play room generally bored out of our minds, playing the odd game of table tennis and generally falling out with each other. How important the weather is to us poor human beings!

It has been just as bad for our friends in many other parts of the world. North America seems to be having more than its fair share of ‟weather″ and our thoughts at this time are with all who have suffered thanks to ‛Isaac’.

Having said that, yesterday the sun shone without interruption and it seems we are in for a few more lovely days even though the temperature has dropped quite a bit.

* * * * *

We had a lovely surprise yesterday when two books arrived from Denmark. These are reprints of books (The Way We Were and The Summerhouse) but what we found rather amusing is the fact that the red star carries the legend, ‛A good read’ not in Danish, as you would expect, but in English.

Another arrival this week was the new publication of The Prodigal Wife from Estonia. Marcia has a very soft spot for the Estonians for whom she formed a huge admiration during the ‛singing revolution’ in 1989. We find it incredible that such a small country (less than two million people live there) can support so many book sales.

Friday, 24 August 2012

Holiday? What holiday?

The game plan for this last week and next week was really pretty simple. I suppose “chill out” would have summed it up pretty well. Whatever you want to call it we felt that we had earned a bit of a rest and that it was time for a bit of a holiday. Not a “going away and doing” holiday but a “sit around not doing” holiday.

Fat chance.

For a start we had a completely unexpected and delightful telephone call from our daughter-in-law. She was suggesting that she and our grandson should come down by train to see us. Obviously we were thrilled and we really enjoyed having them here with us but it would be stretching the truth to suggest that it was restful. For a start it meant a frantic couple of days getting their rooms ready. Until that telephone call they were definitely low priority.

Then Marcia received an email out of the blue. The next paragraph is for the sake of those of you who live outside the UK so if you don't and you know the BBC programme 'Countryfile' skip it.

Every Sunday evening, the BBC broadcasts a programme called 'Countryfile' which more or less contains what it says on the label. It used to be devoted almost entirely to farming but in the last few years the emphasis has moved more towards people enjoying what the countryside has to offer. We usually watch it even though neither of us is likely to take part in some of the rather extreme sports they come up with. There are also slots that deal with country crafts – thatching, basket making, hedge laying: that sort of thing – and our wildlife (which, of course, always interests me). They also have a 'Countryfile weather forecast' with an amusing twist. If you have watched the weather forecast associated with the news earlier in the evening, you will see that the forecaster is quite formally dressed: if it's a chap he will almost certainly be wearing a suit. Not so for the one during the Countryfile programme. He, or she as the case may be, will have dressed down: usually wearing jeans in both cases.

Many BBC programmes have magazines (and websites) associated with them and Countryfile is no exception. The Countryfile website carries a great deal of information about what is happening in the countryside throughout the UK as well as about the programme itself. The Magazine tab takes you to a section where you can find out what each issue contains and buy a subscription if you want it to be delivered to your home.

The email was asking Marcia whether she would be willing to write a piece for the magazine which evokes the sense of Devon. You may remember that she write a piece for this blog – Journeys – a few weeks back and she has been using the idea of journeys for this piece for the BBC.

Anyway, because she is already thinking about the next book and expects to start writing that fairly soon, she wants to get this article for the magazine out of the way as quickly as she can. Holiday? What holiday?

Speak to you again next week – if I still have the energy.

Friday, 17 August 2012

Back to work

You might say that this has been week one back at work after the move. On the other hand you could describe it as “week one spent trying to work but actually looking for things that I/Marcia/we knew were in this/that box but which weren't”. I have a rather horrid feeling that week 2 is going to be much the same although most of bits and pieces needed to keep the wheels on the wagon are now to hand.

On Tuesday we went into Totnes: there were a few things we needed to get (or, at least, that was what we told each other). Tuesday in Totnes is faintly odd and bizarre: you will find it described as “Elizabethan Totnes” and there are market stalls manned – or, more generally, womanned – by people wearing Elizabethan clothing (with a few more modern additions). All the proceeds go to charities and many visitors come to the town on Tuesdays, curious to find out what this is all about. 

The Totnes Town Crier is usually on hand to help matters along and, if you are lucky, there might even be Tudor Dancing to traditional instruments.
There is something very Totnesian about this display of boots and . . .
. . . the buskers outside the bank.
It was a nice day, neither too hot nor pouring with rain, spoiled slightly because Marcia left her favourite fleece gilet somewhere and we have been unable to find it. Perhaps it might show up when I throw some more stuff in the recycling bin . . .

This morning we both had long overdue appointments to have our eyes tested. We had been putting this off because we felt it better to wait until after the move and we knew exactly who we wanted to see: the highly recommended optician to one of Marcia's old friends.

Shortly after we woke up, the heavens opened and it started to rain very hard indeed. It was still raining as hard on the drive to Ivybridge and as we rushed from the car to the opticians.

Then the rain eased off so I took the opportunity to dash out and take some photographs of the River Erme in spate. I should have had the video camera with me and then you could have enjoyed the enormous noise this water was making but as it is you will have to imagine that.

Now the sun is shining on the wall outside my study, the rain drops on the leaves of the Rambling Rector Rose climbing the old wall beside the Red Valerian looking like tiny jewels, reflecting all the colours of the rainbow (which, of course, is exactly what they do do).

Friday, 10 August 2012

The prodigal glasses

In a response to a comment last week, I promised to tell you the story of the Prodigal Glasses. These are (and nearly were as we shall see) my dark glasses which, following the various operations I have had on my eyes, are the ones I am supposed to use for driving.

We were very lucky when we moved: after months of dreary rain and grey cloud we had a few days when the sun was shining and it was hot and hot. There is room for one car in the garage and another just outside but the garage was full of boxes and so my car was parked in a car park some distance from the house. Although very little happens to cars so parked in this neck of the woods, it is not an ideal situation so I was hard at work on those boxes. The result was (as always) masses of tissue paper, newspaper and cardboard (all recyclable) as well as bubble wrap (which is not). All this packaging was being sorted and stuffed into bags as I emptied the boxes and Marcia was finding suitable homes for the stuff that was coming out. I use that word 'stuff' quite deliberately as so much that one accumulates over the years really is utterly pointless but, usually for sentimental reasons, cannot be just given away.

Anyway, lunchtime Friday and really no time yet to get organised food wise so over to the pub for lunch. Brilliant sunshine so both wearing dark glasses. Return from pub and carry on unpacking. Reach the point where Marcia can get her car into said garage and I prepare to walk over and fetch mine. No dark glasses. Search everywhere, telephone the pub (no sign) and use ordinary specs to fetch car.

As I am due for another eye test soon (17 August to be exact) it seemed rather silly to panic and so I decided to just cope without until then.

Fast forward to early evening on the following Saturday and Marcia and I are carrying four bags of recyclable rubbish to the skips in the car park. Three have been emptied and we are working on the fourth. Marcia is holding the bag open and I am bundling the contents into the skip's 'letter box' when suddenly there is a clatter as one pair of dark spectacles fall down, bounce off the skip and land at my feet.

No fatted lamb but I was very pleased to see them again. Must be more careful in future!!!

* * * * *

Two nice packages received this week. One was from Transworld with a copy of the bound uncorrected proof copy of the next book: these are produced for distribution to the various publications that carry book reviews. Thought you might like to see the cover.

Then we received a card from our old friend Pam Goddard. Pam is one of those people who Marcia loves to write about: people who can paint and have something special on top of that talent – humour in Pam's case. She also has huge empathy with the creative process and helped Marcia with the way in which Aunt Em (in The Way We Were) worked.

Whenever Pam writes to Marcia she does so on a card that she has painted. The story behind this one is that Pam has recently become a grandmother and Marcia saw the most delightful dog hand puppet – on of those that take you hand and arm up to the elbow – which she thought Pam might like to use to entertain her grandson. Pam has given this dog the name 'bracken' and here he is, on Dartmoor, dutifully looking after his sheep and bearing a present for Marcia – a bone. The painting is, of course, signed – bottom right hand corner – 'Em'.

* * * * *

Marcia was at Chagford library meeting some of her readers there the other day and met up with Emmanuelle, a French reader who lived for a while in Chagford and often pops back to visit. They have been in contact by email for many years but this was the first time they had met.

Friday, 3 August 2012

Coming off the boil

Sorry this will be a bit late but I am actually quite surprised that I have managed to find time after all the busyness of moving in. Why is it that there are always a few very important but small items that get lost? Where, as an example, is the spare key to my car that Marcia takes when we are out – and the spare key to hers that I take? Then there are the cooking tongs: two pairs, both lost. May have to buy replacements.

It is lovely to be back. We have met so many people that we knew all those years ago and they have been overwhelmingly pleased to see us. It really has been a great home coming.

Marcia is busy dealing with the editor's notes on the last novel she wrote. These arrived just before we moved and she decided (quite rightly) that it would not be possible to give them the attention they deserved if she tried to do them while there was so much going on. Anyway, she started yesterday and more or less finished them this afternoon. That means that she can now free her mind off and let the next bunch of characters start chatting away and revealing what they have been up to that needs to be written down.
Holne Moor is one of my favourite places and is now just up the road.
It will be odd being up there without a dog. 

She already knows something about some of them and at least one will be a character we met in a previous novel (although I am not allowed to mention who that might be). Now we shall have to start trying to find out where it all happens. Under usual circumstances that is a job for May and June but the weather was so bad that the few trips we did make were not very productive. Then, of course, we decided to move. Somehow we need to find this location before the end of September and – as anyone who has been down here on holiday will testify – there are a lot of people around during August and the first couple of weeks in September. It is lovely to see them but it makes getting around rather slower and Marcia understandably finds it far harder to 'listen' to her characters and feel the vibes of the various places when they are too busy.
Next week we hope to go to Totnes where we shall no doubt meet some more old friends. I shall enjoy taking some more photographs of the old town to share with you.

Transworld produce unproofed copies of the books for reviewers and so on: Marcia's copies arrived the other day and they look wonderful. Next week I will share the cover with you (I have yet to get my scanner up and running so can't do that today).

Ahhh . . . we have just found those keys but still no sign of the cooking tongs.