Friday, 5 October 2012

An ice cream on the beach

Before looking at the week that was (does that ring a bell with any of you?) may I thank those who have sent us emails recently but who have not had a reply. We do get a bit overwhelmed by the numbers that we receive and sometimes it is just impossible to respond to them all. This does not mean that they are not appreciated. Writers fall into two groups – brash and over confident on the one side and needy and under confident on the other. We fall into the latter group and really do need your input to keep the fears and insecurities at bay. Keep 'em coming, please.

We have started to look for the location of the new (to us) book. As you probably know that is not the book scheduled for publication this October, it is not the book scheduled for publication in October 2013 (this is beginning to sound like a skit from a pantomime) but it IS the book scheduled for publication in October 2014. Whenever we have to go somewhere we turn it into an exploratory trip if we can and it is in the right area. Thus, since we had to visit Kingsbridge Hospital so that Marcia could have her three monthly check up – all clear, I am delighted to say – and she has been muttering about Dartmouth recently, we came home via there.

The journey took us over Torcross Line (where we stopped for ice creams). The weather was not that good but I thought I would take a shot of the entrance to the River Dart as the one I usually use was taken back in the 1950's. Not that it really matters: nothing much has changed.

Dartmouth also has a small hospital. Both my parents died in that hospital, in beds that looked out over the River Dart which they both loved so much. I hate it when I hear that a small hospital is to be closed. They may not have all the mod cons but they are so much better at providing the basics – proper care, cleanliness, decent food – than the big multiplex all-singing and all-dancing complexes so in fashion with our governments in recent times.

Unlike Torcross, the river is now very different. There are a number of pontoons just off the Embankment to make it easier for people to tie up alongside at all stages of the tide and on both sides of the river marinas have been built. I have no idea how many boats now use this as their home port but they are obviously very important for the town's economy.

I had just taken some photographs of classic sailing craft of the 1920's and 1930's that were moored near the hospital (you will meet boats like this in The Sea Garden) when we turned to see a man looking at us with a somewhat quizzical expression. I suspect our faces carried the same message. It was an old friend we hadn't seen for many years. David Griffiths is a well known local figure. For many years he was the River Dart Pilot with responsibility for the safe navigation of all ships inside the river and harbour limits. When not acting as a pilot, he would be involved in the Castle Ferry which plies between Dartmouth Embankment and Dartmouth Castle. Probably twenty years ago now, when I wrote a regular column for the magazine 'Yachts and Yachting', I travelled with David out in the pilot boat to meet an incoming freighter carrying from Norway to the Baltic Wharf in Totnes and accompanied him up the river, taking photographs as we went. As well as providing me with material for an article, it was a fascinating experience best described as threading cotton through the eyes of a series of needles stuck randomly into a piece of wood and having only one shot at each.

Will Dartmouth appear in the new book? We don't yet know the answer but Marcia tells me that while we were there she had some interesting thoughts.