Saturday, 30 April 2016

Pebbles On The Shore

On Thursday we were off to Teignmouth for the launch of Pebbles on the Shore, an anthology of poems about the town. We went via the scenic route. 

Gibbet Hill and Brent Tor

Cox Tor car park
My glee at being on Dartmoor under my favourite circumstances - bright slanty sun and pewter cloud - dissipated as rain rolled in over Tavistock and hit the moor. Hard. 

The same rook which had been preaching in the shade of the ice cream van almost exactly three years earlier was there again, but wetter.   

There was nothing for it but to retreat to the car and eat a Magnum.  My dog, Ted, kindly offered to do some of the driving through driving rain.  

By the time we reached Shaldon, the weather was brilliant and beautiful ... 

 ... though fitful.


I'd felt a bit apprehensive about returning here while I was driving down the M5.  The sudden death last spring of the owner of the caravan park, where my family had two caravans, had resulted in a massive hoick in ground rent, followed in September by two months' notice to everyone to get their vans off the site so that his sons could install a fieldful of lodges at £180,000 apiece.  

It was painful to lose what had been our home from home for the last 45 years, but the nagging fear inside that the landscape I loved had somehow abandoned me turned out to be unfounded. (Of course it did!) I'd simply forgotten Herman Hesse's wise words: 'Home is within you, or home is nowhere at all.'

So now I was looking at everywhere with new eyes, stripped of complacency.  A new relationship, a fresh and fruitful way of interacting with a place that is part of my heart.  And still less than 100 miles from where I live.  

(Of course, we wouldn't be in this situation if my parents had bought this house, Thalassa, when it was offered to them decades ago, but £3,000 was a huge sum then and they couldn't raise it.)
I must have eaten dozens of meals in the Clipper over the years, but this was the first since they dismantled the glass-walled booth selling souvenirs of Devonshire pixies and unpinned the tea towels from the walls, and it was by far the best, being decidedly palatable.  The cider was pretty good too. And it's dog friendly. 

A quick wander up to the bridge ...

... a glimpse of a still rainy moor ... 

... a peep down School Lane, through which my sister and I would walk to fetch our dad's newspaper ...

... a peek at the river between cottages ... 

... and it was time to head to the Alice Cross Centre in Teignmouth for the launch of Pebbles on the Shore.  

As well as reading some of the poems, anthology editor Neil Howell explained about the work of the Centre and gave the audience background information about them, while the artist Maureen Fayle spoke about her ink illustrations, many of which were executed in part with twigs.  I love this one of the back beach she drew to accompany my poem, The Poet and the Boatman, which you can read here

The whole evening went well, and it was a pleasure to meet some of the local poets. Even Ted behaved himself, although in the penultimate poem I heard a couple of loud, theatrical sighs emanating from the back of the hall to signal that even dogs who are dark poets can sometimes get poetried out.  

Information about Pebbles on the Shore and where to buy it is here on Neil's blog.  

'The Poet and the Boatman' is from my collection, Map Reading For Beginners.

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