Saturday, 17 March 2018

Springtime in the Tamar Valley

Who'd a thought it?  Yesterday we had enough sunshine to ward off the cold easterly wind and today the snow is falling in thick flakes.  I had anticipated that we might have some of the white stuff tonight with the possibility of waking up to a blanketed garden, but it has arrived early. 
So a day spent indoors apart from a couple of short forays up the lane with a reluctant little dog (Benji doesn't 'do' precipitation of any sort) means led me to sort out another post on my blog (please don't faint!).

So yesterday I drove to the Tamar Valley Centre in Drakewalls, Gunnislake where I spent a very nice hour or so wandering around the Art Exhibition. Permission was given for Benji to accompany me, so that saved him from stressing, yapping and panting in the car while I was out of sight.
He also enjoyed a little excursion around the old mine ruins that surround the building.

Rather than drive straight back home I decided to drive down the valley to Calstock, a small village on the banks of the River Tamar which has been an important river port since Saxon times.
I loved the tall white houses and very narrow streets - and admired the skill of the School Bus driver as he manoeuvred his coach around the tight turns on such steep gradients. 

But Calstock is dominated by the splendid viaduct of 1908 which carries the branch line from Plymouth to Gunnislake. 

 Sunbathing, dozing Muscovy Duck.

Passing through Cotehele on the way home, I couldn't resist buying a couple of bunches of sweetly perfumed narcissi from one of the many roadside stalls.
I love this time of the year when the Daffodils are all around.

Thursday, 15 March 2018

Twins, a Chinook lands, Seaton Beach and Primroses.

The first set of twin lambs were born yesterday, up on Bodmin Moor - in heavy rain, high winds and very low temperatures.  Poor babies - what a welcome. But despite the adverse conditions, they looked very healthy, energetic and downright cute today.  I hope conditions improve soon so that they can enjoy the warmth of the sun on their backs.

 Mummy Sheep obligingly posed for a group photo but then decided that the photoshoot was over.  She led her babies away from the woman with the camera and her inquisitive little dog.

Maybe she heard the !Thwump, thwump, thwump" of the big, noisy Chinook that appeared, flying very low across the Moor and eventually landing very close to where I stood. 

 Zooming in once it landed, I could see that there were troops being unloaded to take part in an exercise on Bodmin Moor; once offloaded and swallowed up by  the nearby gorse bushes they were replaced by another group (troop?) who boarded the Chinook.

This next photo tells the story of how Benji reacted to the first fall of snow. These are the only prints he left on that first morning . . 
Dashed out of the door, yelped, spun round and dashed straight back inside!

The following day, though cold, was sunny and we headed to Seaton beach; Benji thoroughly enjoys galloping along the sands. The sea was 'lively'!

There he goes, trotting off to meet and greet other dogs being walked along the beach. 

House with a view!  This is a recently built 'upside down' house overlooking the beach but I rarely see anyone there.  Maybe it was intended as a holiday home for occasional use - but what an expensive white elephant it seems to be.
Those large rocks at the bottom of the cliffs were tipped there two years ago in an attempt to stop any more cliff erosion - but on walking along the beach it's plain to see that many metres of land has been lost where the cliffs have eroded and fallen into the sea. Garden fences are constantly being lost, then replaced but Mother Nature is gradually winning.

Happy Benji.

A beautiful blue sky - but can you see the bubbles?  A young lady was making HUGE bubbles  and wafting them across the beach with a length of rope, so I had to try to capture them on camera.

Finally - on the way home I saw these brightly coloured Primroses and treated myself to 6 pots, intending to plant them out in the garden.  But when it started to rain heavily and with a forecast of several degrees below freezing I decided to keep them indoors, enjoy the lovely perfume of them and save them from drowning or freezing! 

Monday, 12 March 2018


Mothering Sunday is the 4th Sunday of Lent.  Although it is more often called 'Mothers' Day' it has no connection to the American festival of the same name.  Traditionally it was the day when daughters who had gone to work as domestic servants were given the day off to visit their mother and family.
I don't have daughters and my three sons left home many years ago and have families of their own, but although they were unable to physically visit, I did receive a phone call from each one which was really lovely.

Of course, my own dear Mum was on my mind on that day, thinking how great it would be to spend time drinking tea and chatting to her as in days gone by. Although she died more than 40 years ago, she's frequently in my thoughts and dreams - even more so as I get older.

Mum, with her sister-in-law (my Aunt Ivy) and with my two eldest sons.  She never met my youngest son as he was born in 1979, the year after she died. These photos were all taken in the hot summer of 1976 - I can feel the heat from these photos.

Monday, 12 February 2018

A Guest Post all the way from Afghanistan

I will confess from the outset that I am a keen fan of my mother’s blog. It’s a way of keeping up to date (when she posts) of what she is up to, and more importantly, the progress that the wee dog that she has adopted is making.... he has revolutionalised her life in so many ways since the departure of what was for sure the most astonishing canine evolution that was Zac. Zac was an adored family member; totally human and entirely dog - a truly winning combination for all of us, who is sorely missed. Benji is worlds apart and yet, he has won our hearts so it was with joy that we spent a week with him and Mum in January in a cottage on the north coast of Cornwall.

“We” consists of me; middle son, aged 42 (thanks for the Spider-Man birthday card Mummy!), based mainly in Kabul, Afghanistan and my lovely wife Sheeja, three years older (though I am not allowed to mention that) who until very recently has been working with Rolls Royce and Siemens as a Project Manager. Our 17 year old son was absent - he doesn’t really do rural Cornwall (internet is not up to scratch) but in fairness, he is also away at boarding school.... 

We were joined for the first couple of days by my baby brother’s children Leo and Eleanor (11 and 7) which made for much hilarity as we enjoyed chocolate pizzas and ice cream pancakes and played football tennis ( if you haven’t tried it you should) in the rain.... I rarely get time in the UK so a couple of days with them, and a day with my brother and his partner was fantastic. I get to be the indulgent uncle agreeing to all sorts of bad habits, but taking none of the blame as the parents have to deal with the fall out.....

The weather was shocking - no real surprise for north Cornwall in the depths of winter but after Afghanistan, the rain and cloud and fog were so refreshing. We had a lovely cottage - a converted barn from which we saw absolutely nobody (bliss) at the top of a deserted lane. 
The drive from the cottage was flooded on one especially wet day, but that's when the countless games of Uno passed the time.

Benji kept us very entertained dashing around the place (and keeping a lookout for marauders from the window seat) and we enjoyed lots of cooking and card games, all accompanied by medicinal amounts of wine....

On a rare day of sunshine, or rather sky that was not raining, we set off intrepidly for the beach. ** He didn't mention the howling gale!** 

 The cliffs were amazing sculptures thrown up by prehistoric earthquakes

Being an eco warrior, and influenced by the recent Blue Planet David Attenborough series, Mum started collecting plastic from Sandymouth Cove where we ended up. The great thing was the fact that fairly soon, we were all at it and we collected an enormous amount. The downside? No one was looking at the sea anymore - collecting plastic is seriously addictive but perhaps that is no bad thing.... Sheeja amused us all by forgetting her walking shoes. It turns out that walking in boots with heels on a rocky foreshore is quite difficult - eventually the boots came off and she hopped from rock to rock in her socks - and stuffed her boots with plastic rubbish! 

Eventually, growling stomachs needed to be sated so we headed off for lunch. There is, if you ever visit Bude, an absolutely superb cafe at the top of Crooklets Beach serving excellent lunches and mind blowing coffee (the coffee did not contain illicit substances as far as I know, it was just very good and quite unexpected). This became our regular haunt over the course of the week and Benji took to staring at my face, without blinking or moving whenever food was served, leaving me to christen him “Devil Dog” - obviously Mum did not approve of this moniker. 
 ** A note from 'Mum' here to explain that Benji stared at David because he had a habit of 'accidentally' dropping pieces of food for him!**

Leo and Uncle David bracing themselves against the fierce wind on Crooklets Beach

Sheeja and I had planned to stay for 2 nights leaving Mum to enjoy the cottage for a few days before heading home, but it was so nice to relax together and just enjoy, that we ended up staying for the week (sorry Mum!) but I have no doubt that we all had a really good break. My mother is one of the smartest people I have ever met and even at the ripe old age of 73 still gives me good advice. Being based away from home certainly teaches you to appreciate what you have, and we thoroughly enjoyed spending time together for the entire time we were there. 

At some point I must have agreed to write a guest entry for this blog, so apologies that there are no flowers, no gardens and no musings on rare plants. I also love to garden but I thought that on this occasion it would be nice to simply express my thankfulness that I have a great family, and that I am very lucky. The week in Cornwall was something I will treasure and even here, in the middle of the night in Kabul as I write, I am still smiling when I think about our holiday. Isn’t that what holidays are all about?

**Relaxing holidays are also inspirational and one early morning, when I was up and about before anyone else, I shared Benji's window seat and drew the tree at the top of the drive: it's the only 'plant' you'll see in David's post!!!**