Sunday, December 16, 2007

Time to Say Goodbye

Not exactly what we were expecting ... But then we didn't have a clear idea of what to expect.

The quiet period of the year in teaching English as a Second Language has just past, and the jobs are coming on-line again.

The student thing never really happened. And the Homestay Tutoring kinda fell through too. All that was actually Plan B. Plan A was to take a break after our time in Sheffield, so we did manage to do that.

We have jobs

at the University of East Anglia, in Norwich. We start on January 7, so we have to get moving.

I've never been to Norwich, or that part of the country at all. So, time to start a new adventure.

Tuesday, December 11, 2007

I Remember Sidmouth Beach

It's been wet and windy and cold for about a week ... well, what would you expect in winter in England?

But then, suddenly, a sunny day! So we hopped in the car and went to see Sidmouth - our favourite summer beach spot back in the sixties.

A pebble beach, of course. I remember getting out of the car and wanting to rush down to the water, but having to hobble across the stones instead.

There are warning signs about not swimming out to the rock islands - I'm pretty sure they weren't there before. I suppose they are some sort of anti-beach-erosion device.

So there are really two beaches at Sidmouth. There's this one, the first one you come to.

And then there's this one - obviously the place to swim.

And in between - wonderful rock pools.

I remember the rock pools - they were even good in winter.

And then there's Jacob's Ladder just above the rocky area.

We were hungry, and it was very cold (despite the bright sunshine and brilliant blue sky) and so we climbed up and went to the restaurant - this part is all relatively new.

We had intended a light lunch. I ordered soup, but (as they only had one soup serving left) Peter ordered a couple of fish cakes.

Not quite what we expected. After lunch we waddled our way around the delightful old gardens at the top of Jacob's Ladder.

Connaught Gardens, I think they are called, and they would be wonderful on those hot summer days,

when the sun is not just bright, but hot as well.

It was 2 in the afternoon, and the sun was low in the sky - time to head back to Torquay.

Happy memories.

Monday, December 10, 2007

Winter in Devon

When we first arrived here a lot of the trees were losing their leaves ...


But not the oak in our back yard.

Then slowly, slowly we watched the leaves change colour.

Those leaves hung on and hung on ...

Eventually, a few of them fell, and most of them gravitated to the pond.

But then we had a really wet weekend, with a lot of wind.

A sunny winter's day

But it happens every now and then. The sky clears, and we get to wander on the beach.

Nothing quite like a vacant beach. This is Preston Beach, rolling on to Paignton.

That's Paignton Pier over there. And back this way, some lovely rock pools to play in.

One of the nicest things about Preston Beach in the winter is this little kiosk - that actually stays open.

Young Madeleine in there serves great coffee and bacon baps and the like. And while we sit there and enjoy our meal, all sorts of interesting people come by to chat with her and grab a coffee or a snack too.

Musicians and all sorts of interesting locals. And because this is England and the people are friendly and we can speak the language we can enjoy a bit of jovial banter with them.

Time to stay indoors

Of course there are still a lot of days when it's too wet to go to the beach.

And no students.

So lots to do on the computer.

Remember Woking

When I was ten, my sister and I returned to the UK from Nigeria to attend boarding school. During the holidays and on special weekends we stayed with our grandparents in Woking.

This old house. Now my aunt and uncle live here. I last saw Aunty Joyce when she visited us in Cairns nearly 20 years ago.

So it was a very special time visiting and chatting with my favourite Aunt.

Great Little Town, Cullompton

So then my brother John dropped in on his way from Germany back to Western Australia.

So we went to have another look at our childhood home - Cullompton again.

It's normal in these little Devon towns for the main street to be called Fore Street or High Street, but we found this amusing.

I got to have another look at the church ...

But this time it was open and so John and I managed to go inside.

It's a very beautiful church, with that multicoloured 'rood screen' across the front. The choir stalls - John used to be a sweet little choir-boy - used to be in front of the screen forty years ago.

This thing lay at the back of the church in those days too, and I remember looking at it often, not understanding what it was.

Of course, I probably never read the explanation - or maybe it wasn't there back then.

I know that it's a very old church, dating back to the 1200s, if I remember rightly.

The Butcher's Shop

When we left Cully John was 15 and I was 17. John had a job at Veyseys Butchers, delivery boy riding a bike. So he was keen to see if the shop was still there.

Only one butcher's shop in Cully these days - Veyseys!

John said there was an alley next tot he shop, and they used to butcher their own meat behind the shop.

Yup, there's the alley. And Roger Veysey - who was 18 and working there back then - assured John his bike was still there.

But they don't kill their own meat any more, a vet had to be on standby all the time and it proved too expensive. The meat is all still very local, as I read on their blackboard.

There was a young chap (about 9 years old) hanging around helping out wearing a butcher's apron - Roger's grandson.

We had a good chat and a laugh with Roger ... back then he had considered going to school a waste of time and couldn't wait to leave and get into the family business of butchery, and he's still there after forty years. He's happy - seemed to feel a bit sorry for John who is still stuck in 'school', doing research at a University.

Around Cully ...

The old Fish and Chips shop - on Saturdays we would often join the queue that reached right around the shop, out the door, and down the street. Now they offer takeaway Chinese as well.

Up the narrow main street - I'm sure traffic wasn't so heavy back then, and that was before the M5 was built nearby.

Lots of old buildings. This would be a tourist magnet in Australia, but here it's just ho hum another old building.

Then there was the "Secondary Modern" high school. It was brand new when we first moved into Cully. I attended here briefly (Dad taught here) before they decided I would fit in better at Grammar School in Tiverton. But in my short time here I was picked as a tree monitor to look after this tree - or maybe it was the one next to it - which had just been planted.

... and on to Tivvy

Where John and I both went to Grammar School. Now, of course, it's a primary school.

This little shed in the corner of the school playing field

was where John used to go to ATC (Air Training Corps). Lotsa fun.

The Tea shop - and a real surprise

It was a cold afternoon, and John and I were following the route we used to take to get to the bus after school each day. On the corner near the bridge there used to be a sweets shop where I often stopped for a little something. Now there seemed to be a tea shop in the same spot, so we went in.

Apparently I had got it wrong - maybe the sweets shop had been the other side of the road - because the proprietor (who had come from Birmingham a couple of years ago) told me he thought it had always been a cafe.

But he was a friendly chap, and we got talking over our Devonshire Cream Tea (yep, clotted cream again). We were talking about interesting people you meet in Devon, and after a few minutes we realised that my friend, Mary, from Cully 40 years ago was the same 'Mary' he was talking about. In fact, he said, she lives just over the road from the tea shop and drops in regularly.

Looking out of his window he said that he could see her sitting at the window of her flat. So he rang her, and she came over.

From left to right that's me, Mary, Helen, and (I think) Maureen.

She hasn't changed a whole lot - somehow we got talking and didn't take a photo of her in the shop.

She is the last person I expected to rediscover during my little sojourn back in Devon. The person I really want to find is Helen, and I hoped Mary would be able to help. But she had no information.

All the same, it made for a remarkable day of memories.

Visitors from the East

Well, Brighton. That's a bit East of here.

Charlotte and Susan (who we stayed with in Brighton when we first left Sheffield) visited us for the weekend. We tried to go see the local little castle at Compton, but of course it was closed for winter.

But we did manage to go and see Brixham - what a great little place. We had fudge from one of the fudge shops, and we had a Devonshire cream tea - with fruit scones and jam and clotted cream - in a little tea shop.

And we went to see "Bygones" in Torquay.

Lots of displays of how things were in the Victorian era, and also back in the '50s and 60's. The house is set up like a Victorian street (inside the house), and you could hear lots of "Ooh, d'you remember those?..." from people walking though.

There is a train - a real (huge) steam engine - inside the house up on the first floor.

Apparently the madness of purchasing this piece of machinery and installing it in the house (using a crane to lift it to its present resting place) was what started the whole 'Bygones' idea.

But the BEST thing at Bygones is the old coin-slot games and machines. For a lot of them you have to buy an old penny to play with (costs 20p!), with others you can use 10p or 20p.

It wasn't exactly air hockey, but there was a score to settle and this was a lot of fun.

And then the weather closed in for a while, and what better between English teachers than a game of Scrabble.

A most enjoyable weekend.