About Me

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Bristol , United Kingdom
I am co-director of the Leaping Word Poetry Consultancy, which provides advice for poets on writing, editing and publishing, as well as qualified counselling support for those exploring personal issues in their work - https://theleapingword.com. My fifth poetry collection, Learning Finity, is now available from Indigo Dreams or directly from me.

Sunday, 8 May 2022

It's just the way it changes

Springtime trips to Teignmouth and Shaldon in South Devon to mark the birthdays of one son or both have become almost an annual event (pandemic notwithstanding). Yesterday our party comprised just me and Son the Elder, Son the Younger currently working and residing up north in Coventry.

It was also the first time we'd been down to our hallowed ancestral grounds since the death of both of my parents, with whom we'd spent so many holidays there. We discussed how this felt on the way down in the car, and decided the main emotion was one of gratitude for the happier times of our childhoods, many of which happened there. 

The darkness of summer was already evident in Smuggler's Lane in Holcombe, with the first Hemlock Water Dropwort beginning to flower on the edge of the stream running down to the sea ... 

... and, judging by the noise from the trees overhead, a rook, dead and tyre-flattened, poor thing.

We pressed on, past incipient clumps of thrift and sea campion ... 

... and up around the steps beyond the railway bridge ... 

... to the sea wall. I never tire of this approach, or the view to Shaldon and beyond, even though some of the South West coast path books advise cutting this section of the walk out altogether because it's so urbanised and spoilt. (This is a fair point when you compare it with the wilder, wildly beautiful sections of the path, but Son the Elder was carrying 31 years' worth of memories with him, and me 60, and this makes all the difference.) 

Yesterday even the ordinary was beautiful to our eyes. 

Chips on Teignmouth front for dinner

Teignmouth dock was devoid of ships, something I hadn't seen since before the miners' strike, when Polish coal was imported through smaller, non-unionised ports and changed their fortunes, in stark contrast to the mining communities, though I might be reading too much - Brexit, war in Ukraine, etc - into this. 

We had to wait a turn for the ferry to Shaldon, which was loading passengers hard by the jetty rather than in its customary spot at the end of the slipway. A holiday maker ankle-deep in water some feet out from the steeply sloping beach suggested that the tide had done something interesting to the contours of the beach that were still underwater. 

Once we were out in the estuary it became apparent, if only for a moment, that we were actually in Turkey or on the Adriatic ...

... at least as long as you kept looking in the right direction. 

Once in Shaldon we decided to walk around the Ness the back way, which turns the long steep drag up from the Ness Hotel into a descent, and is thus more comfortable for me these days.

Even so, we sat on a bench around the back of the cliff-top zoo for a breather, where we were joined by robins and blackbirds that are clearly very used to humans and have little fear of them.

The trees on top of the Ness have only been there since the late 19th century, but some of them are looking pretty venerable these days.

I don't think I'll ever quite get used to the absence of the red-painted mine that used to stand at the Ness Viewpoint, and which we always put a few pennies in for charity - I think it was the RNLI. Though it's there in my head, of course.

Back in the village we had a drink at the Clipper, and then Son the Elder walked back to Teignmouth across the bridge, while I took a return trip on the ferry, passing a few favourite crannies on my way, remembered from earliest childhood, when we used to stay locally in various B&Bs and chalets.

Over on Teignmouth back beach the earlier issue with the beach and the ferry had been revealed by the falling tide. 

It was a bit like being in the sort of dream where a place is really familiar but the lie of the land is wrong. 

My meeting point with Son the Elder was the bench in Northumberland Place, where we hoped to get an ice cream from Amanda's, and this allowed me to wander through my favourite part of Teignmouth, with its narrow side streets and glimpses of the estuary. 

A shaft of sun was shining directly on Keats' House (which might or might not be some days but definitely was yesterday).

Amanda's isn't called Amanda's anymore, but you can still get ice cream with a dollop of clotted cream on the side so that's OK.

We made friends with a pied wagtail while in post-ice cream recovery.

Poor foxes

I see sea slater on the sea wall

Back at the Holcombe end of the sea wall, we sat for a time while I investigated my pockets for treasure. Clearly my eye was in for sea glass yesterday, rather than stony representations of the cosmos. 

Then back down the steps, up the hill to the car and home. A gift of a day.


  1. '...things we can't untie...' xx

    1. The melancholia's really kicking in!

    2. Robert MacFarlane:
      'Melancholy differs from grief in its chronic nature: it is an ache not a wound, it lies deeper down, is longer lasting, is lived with rather than died of...' xx

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