Finders Keepers.

Love Shed Hunting. It's not just about looking down - it's about looking up and all around - it's the whole magical experience.

Love Shed Hunting.  It’s not just about looking down – it’s about looking up and all around and listening…the birdsong at eventide is sublime.

It is my experience, late April heralds the time of year when Red Deer cast their magnificent antlers; they cast not only their antlers but a magic spell – that holds me in thrall until I find one – it is a Quest.

There is no way of knowing exactly where or when an antler will fall because they fall at will – but it is the expectation and excitement of finding one that’s addictive; I say expectation because you have to believe that you will find one.

Every evening this week – I have disappeared for a couple of hours or more into the forest I call ‘Shedland’ – in the hope that I’ll find a cast antler.  There is nothing more exciting in my eyes – than that first moment of recognition when suddenly I realise what I’ve been searching for – a huge, branched beast of an antler! Tuesday – 18th April 2017 was my lucky day – and it came right at the end of a two hour shed hunting session when day had almost descended into night.  Suddenly five beautiful, glowing white tips lying on a muddy bank in the darkness stopped me in my tracks – their tracks. I waited until my eyes fully opened and acclimatised to what lay in front of me – it ‘s a magical moment that I often play over and over again in my mind – it is so powerful.  Before picking it up – I took a photograph of it in situ… 

White in the darkness - moment of recognition.

White in the darkness – moment of recognition.

I say ‘always’ – I have only ever found three – two whoppers in 2016 and this beauty. It’s what makes all three so prized.  The odds are I won’t find a shed antler because they are more likely to be cast over a huge area of thicket that’s impenetrable to mere humans – thank God ‘my’ four boys have sanctuary away from people with guns.  These are truly wild stags. 

‘Four Stags of Yggdrasil’

My boys! I call them the ‘Four Stags of Yggdrasil’.

A freshly cast antler provides a great calcium source for many nocturnal animals too – foxes, badgers, mice – and the deer themselves enjoy a wholesome gnaw and nibble – so I’m deeply grateful when Nature leaves one for me.  I know the date that this antler was cast because I covered exactly the same ground the night before.   

They enjoyed a nibble and left the rest for me.

They enjoyed a bit of a gnaw!

It's like finding magic!  It measures thirty-one inches from its pedical to it's tip.

It’s like finding magic!  It measures thirty-one inches from its pedical to it’s tip.

Yes!

Yes!

Casting a shadow. Bringing my prize home under the orange glow of the street lamps.

Casting a magical shadow.  Bringing my prize home under the orange glow of the street lamps.

When finally I emerged out of the forest – I carried my prize all the way round another three miles on the road – it was a perfect excuse not to get home too early and put it down – even though it’s got a good weight to it!  I stopped off in the church yard – to show it to my Dad…  

Forget-me not.

Old habits die hard.  I still like to show him my finds!

Showing Dad my first find.  'Yod' an eight-point cast antler in April 2016.

Showing Dad my first find.  ‘Yod’ an eight-point cast antler in April 2016.

I placed the antler on his plot and sat awhile next to him.  I listened to the owls – and thanked the stars above. They were shining over the church more brilliantly than I can ever remember…

I didn’t really want to come back in – I was so happy!

Earth to earth.

From earth – to earth.

Yod and Son of Yod - cast Red Deer antlers.

Yod and Son of Yod – my other ‘pair’ of cast Red Deer antlers.

My three cast antlers have all been given names – my first is ‘Yod’ – my second is ‘Son of Yod’ – and this year’s find – is ‘Yaffle’! 

‘Yaffle’ because it’s got a ‘Y’ at one end – a huge ‘E’ at the other – and in between there is a small white mark on its trunk-like structure where the wild animals got to it before me – it looks like a Woodpecker’s hole!  ‘Yaffle’ is a country name for a Green Woodpecker.  It all makes perfect sense to me! 

Deer Yaffle!  From muddy bank 18th. April 2017 – to crowning a cushion of Daisies in my garden – 21st. April 2017.

Wow!

Wow!

 

A Cruise to Portland Bill & Chesil Beach in Zunny Dorset.

To the lighthouse. Portland Bill - Dorset.

To the lighthouse; Portland Bill – Dorset.

One of the fun things about having a grown-up son – is being taken out for a spin in his nice motor!  On his visit home this time round – he surprised me with a newer model.  I have to say – I was rather sad to think of his faithful runner abandoned on some faraway forecourt in Kent but I’m sentimental about cars – where as he isn’t – to me they hold memories. I give them names – he thinks I’m potty!  His latest car is ‘Ravena’ – not just because it is black and it can fly – but because it has a bonnet that reminds me of a Raven’s beak. His former car had a front grille like a Great White – so I named it ‘The Shark’!  

Ford focus Titanium and BMW 1 Series.

Goodbye ‘Shark’ – Hello ‘Raven’!

Monday 10th April 2017 – marked my maiden flight – or voyage – drive in ‘Ravena’ – a day out over the border to Dorset! Our first port of call was the county town, Dorchester – and as always with me – I sought sanctuary from the brightness of the day inside a church – St. Peter’s.  Inside St. Peter's Church Dorchester. Something about DartmoorInside it was cool and quiet while outside the town hustled and bustled under a clear blue sky. I bought a perfect postcard in the church to send to my beloved Uncle Peter and his faithful lion-dog ‘Sir Winston’.  

Peter loved his card - and made a couple additions of his own!

Peter loved his card – and made a couple additions of his own!

The postcard is an engraving of one of two recumbent medieval Knights that can be found sleeping on the sills of the Church’s beautiful stained glass windows – together they add a lovely feeling of peace and sleepiness to the atmosphere inside the church – especially on a Zun drenched afternoon in April.  

Bathed in “Zunsheen”.  Memorial to one of Dorset’s own great literary sons – poet and writer William Barnes near the steps of St. Peter’s Church – Dorchester.  He was born in Dorset in 1801 – his  collection of pastoral poetry is written in Dorset dialect; so it’s  Zun not Sun in Dorset!  William Barnes died in 1886.

From the glow inside – and outside St. Peter’s Church – it was onward to Portland Bill Lighthouse with a bought picnic from M&S in town…

On our arrival – I was thrilled to be greeted by a familiar feathered-friend perched on the gable end of Portland Bill lighthouse; the clever Raven was expecting me!

“Cronk Cronk” went the Portland Bill Raven.  One only need compare it to the seagulls to recognise its impressive size.

Images from the Head. The Portland Bill three-sided Daymark made of Portland

Images from the Head. The Portland Bill Daymark: a Portland Stone obelisk erected in 1844 to warn shipping.  Also my lucky find at the very tip – a Hag Stone!

A Hag Stone is simply a stone with a natural hole through it – but it is a whole lot more besides!  To read more about Hag Stone lore – just click here.

From Portland Bill we cruised along to Chesil Beach…

Chesil Beach from the high road from Portland Bill.

Chesil Bank viewed from the high road coming back from Portland Bill…

Foot bridge over the water to Chesil Beach...

Footbridge over the water to Chesil Beach…

Watching the Moon rise from the footbridge…

Listening to the drag of shingle…

A walk along Chesil Beach at sunset – is a ‘Kickerbocker Glory’ of sensory delights complete with a raspberry-ripple topping.

Here we enjoyed a walk along part of the World Heritage Jurassic Coast – and although I didn’t find any recognisable fossils – the experience was as old as Time itself – or as timeless…

'Boys' will be boys! It wasn't all peace and serenity - a couple of times they needed chastising for lobbing the occasional small pebble at me - but most of the time they were good 'Boys'!

‘Boys’ will be boys! It wasn’t all peace and serenity though – a couple of times they needed chastising for lobbing the occasional pebble at me – but most of the time they were good ‘Boys’!

To one side of the long strip of beach – April’s Moon rose like a huge orange – while on the other side – the Zun melted to a glorious raspberry-ripple-pink over a serene sea that just rumbled ‘n’ rolled the shingle continuously into shore – and out again…

Time and tide wait for no man. Shingle on Chesil Beach.

Shingle on Chesil Beach keeping rhythmic time on our visit.  There is also a ‘pay and display’ car park that’s 24 hrs a day –  seven days a week!

My 'Saturn return' stone!

My ‘Saturn return’ stone!

 Among the millions – I found two special stones on Chesil Beach – one was a super-smooth, heart-shaped stone for a special man called, Peter – and the other was a small pebble for keeps; I have named it ‘Saturn Return’.  To read about the astrological meaning of ‘The Saturn Return’ simply click here

Speaking of return – it was all too soon time to journey home in the darkness to Devon having thoroughly enjoyed our visit to warm, Zunny Dorset. 

The Guardian Cormorant at the 'gateway' to Chesil Beach

Goodnight to the ‘The Guardian Cormorant’ who stands at the ‘gateway’ to Chesil Beach.

Finally, thank you to Archie – for chauffeuring us on our two-hundred-mile round, impulse trip to Portland Bill – we set off in the afternoon – so thank God for the lighter, Spring evenings! I look forward to our next outing – when I can’t promise not to ‘litter’ Ravena’s smart dashboard with stones and feathers again – and fill her roomy boot, with its once spotless interior, with more kindling twigs for the fire; he’s a tolerant son and a most excellent driver! 

My all time memory of riding shotgun in Archie’s former car – ‘The Shark’ – was at Longleat Safari Park in Wiltshire – when he was overtaken by a ton or more of speeding Rhinoceros!

Many happy afternoons – ‘The Shark’ 2014 – 2017.

Down Walkhampton way – Dartmoor.

A pair of Ravens etched in a glass screen in Walkhampton Church - Dartmoor.

A beautiful pair of Ravens etched in glass in Walkhampton Church – Dartmoor.

As the Raven flies – Walkhampton isn’t that far from my favourite Dartmoor wood – so a walk to both made a perfect April pairing.  First off – I enjoyed a quiet amble through Ravens’ Haven and almost immediately stumbled upon treasure – or leftovers! A second squirrel’s skull complete with two sharp yellow teeth…

Complete with two, rather yellow teeth.

Skull and crossbones.

Spring clean!

Spring clean!

I think the Ravens had been Spring-cleaning as the skull, plus bones and numerous pellets were scattered beneath their tree-top nest.

A Raven's left-overs.

A handful of Ravens’ leftovers.

A little further on through the wood – I picked-up another treasure – a Witch’s hat!

A dried, blackened Toadstool - or Witch's hat.

A dried, blackened Toadstool – or frilled Witch’s hat!

All the while I was searching the woodland floor – the pair of Ravens were searching me…

Watchtower.

Raven watchtower.

Not wanting to crick my neck – their exact position high in the tree-tops was difficult to pinpoint at times – but by following their distinctive call I was able to track them around the wood.  My ‘Raven’ isn’t very good but they did allow me to join in their conversation – probably amused – or bemused – by the fool on the ground who tried to talk their talk!  

Raven!

Raven!

Eventually it was time to move on and leave the Ravens in peace – and wander over to Walkhampton Church with its fairy-tale tower…

St Mary's Church -Walkhampton.

Four over-sized pinnacles silhouetted against a darkening sky.   St Mary’s Church – Walkhampton.

 At around sunset – I would have expected the church to be locked – but as luck would have it – the door was left on the latch…

Inside Walkhampton Church.

Bringing the outside in.   Etched on glass – Ravens, Ponies and Granite Tors inside Walkhampton Church.

Stained glass window detail.  Beautiful ‘Sugared Almond’ coloured leaded lights.

As well as its impressive church – Walkhampton boasts another equally impressive shelter – its surprisingly comfortable bus stop!

If ever you are passing through Walkhampton - it's well worth a STOP!

If ever you are passing through Walkhampton – it’s well worth a STOP!

I finished this visit to Dartmoor – with an impromptu stop on B3357 betwixt Foggintor and the Staple Tors to meet up with my tousled haired friend again…

My luckiest find of the day.

Perfect end to a lovely day

Homeward bound.  A perfect end to a visit full of simple pleasures…

Early Hawthorn Blossom near Ravens' Haven.

Including a lungful of early ‘May’ near Ravens’ Haven – aah.

The wider picture: Plymouth.

Plymouth Sound viewed from Sheepstor. Something about DartmoorI rarely visit Plymouth – even though it is so close to Dartmoor – in fact I’m more used to viewing the ships in Plymouth Sound from afar – from the area around Sheepstor.   I’m too much of a country mouse for the big city!Plymouth Sound viewed from Sheepstor. Something about Dartmoor

A colourful maritime window that caught my eye on Plymouth Barbican.

A colourful maritime window that caught my eye on Plymouth Barbican.

Up close – Plymouth is as monumental as the great Tor itself – 

Monumental Plymouth.

Monumental Plymouth. (‘image’ can be enlarged by clicking on it!)

although some just can’t tear themselves away from their mobile phones no matter what the wider picture! 

I of course was was snapping a picture of Plymouth's iconic Smeeton's Tower down on the Hoe - and they were in the foreground.

I was snapping a shot of Plymouth’s iconic Smeeton’s Tower down on the Hoe – and they just happened to be in the foreground.

Plymouth Sound. Something about Dartmoor

A ‘close-up’ of naval ships in Plymouth Sound.

If a wish was a heart-shaped stone. Foggintor Quarry.

Ruins at Foggintor on a suitably fogbound day. Sunday 19th. March 2017

Ruins at Foggintor on a suitably fogbound day. Sunday 19th. March 2017

It was while passing by the ruins of Foggintor Quarry – on Dartmoor – that I received my name Raven – as in Raven Bean. The Beanies are a walking group that I used to walk out with once in a while – everyone had a prefix name to ‘Bean’ – and mine was ‘Raven’.  It was when a lone Raven flew out of Foggintor Quarry over our heads – that I excitedly exclaimed to our great leader Old Bean – “Raven” – and the name stuck.  In that sense – Foggintor is where I was officially baptised into the Wonder of Dartmoor.  Nowadays – I’ve inevitably become a bit of a lone Raven myself and prefer to walk alone – or with just my son, Tom – for company.

I like to stand and stare too much – to move on at my own pace and think my thoughts without too much chatter.  Even young Tom finds my tendency for grinding to a halt trying at times – nevermore so than when I come across some beloved ponies.  It’s never enough for me to just say a simple “Hello” – I like to hold meaningful conversations with them; meaningful to me that is!  Tom gets impatient by my dawdling – and if he sees a dreaded group of them on our horizon first – he will deliberately try to guide me off course before I spot them. It never works though – because my eyes are as keen as my namesake. 

Foggintor Quarry is one of those interesting, atmospheric places on Dartmoor – that is suitable for an easy, short afternoon stroll – even when the infamous fog has descended because there is a track that will always lead you back to the road. 

Sunday 19th. March 2017 – was one such occasion!  We parked at the romantically named ‘Four Winds’ car park on the B3357 and set off in the direction of the quarry over moorland.  In no time at all – an inquisitive, young pony came running to me unbidden. Such a beautiful bright-eyed creature – and so trusting.  

Reflection of myself in the eye of a Dartmoor Pony.

Mirror mirror.  Reflection of myself in the eye of a Dartmoor Pony.

I find it unimaginable to think that these gentle, inquisitive animals too often go for meat – or are just shot before they even reach their first birthday. If I could have bundled my new friend into my rucksack I would have done – but wishful thinking is no solution to saving Dartmoor’s ‘unwanted’ Hill Ponies.  I enjoyed the ‘moment’ – and was delighted to see an aspect of myself reflected back – we both wore our hair untidily – in a side plait.

We shared the same hair style.

Same untidy hairstyle…

but without the beautiful, sun-bleached highlights.

Foggintor Quarry - 19th. March 2017.

Company at Foggintor Quarry – 19th. March 2017.

On our delayed arrival at Foggintor Quarry – we were treated to an aerobatic display – not by Ravens – but by a group of brave young hearts from Holland – who were queuing up to launch themselves off the edge.  

Foggintor Quarry

Foggintor Quarry – where not only Ravens dare. A brave, young outward-bounder leaping off the edge.  WOW! BRAVO!

From our aerial view above the quarry – we watched them one by one – bravely throw themselves off – as they whizzed down the zip-wire – ‘skimming’ the windblown surface of the dark, shifting water below.

Caught dangling in mid-air.

Caught dangling in mid-air.

We had arrived at the fortuitous time – any earlier and we would have had to stand around in the cold and damp for the afternoon’s spectacular to begin.  As it turned out – our meeting with the Dartmoor Pony had been most timely – despite Tom’s intermittent grumbles!  

We continued our walk all around the top of the arena – and hoped that the fog would not descend too low should we end up going over the edge ourselves – only without the aid of ropes and carabiners!  Foggintor Dartmoor. Something about DartmoorFoggintor Dartmoor. Something about DartmoorFoggintor - Dartmoor. Something about DartmoorWe arrived back at the Four Winds – suitably soaked by mist – Foggintor had lived up to its name. 

Foggintor Heart shaped stone.

Foggintor gemstone glistening in the surface water.

On the stony track back – I picked up a small heart-shaped keepsake that fitted in my pocket with room to spare; if only the pony had fitted into my rucksack as easily…Dartmoor Pony with the wind in her hair. Something about Dartmoor

La Primavera! The Power of Three.

Posted – Friday 17th March 2017.  To serve as an update on my sweet – and purely innocent – Belladonna Babe.

'Atropa Belladonna' and 'The Go-Between' by L P Hartley.

‘Atropa Belladonna’ brooch made by felt artist extraordinaire – Inna Danchenko from Ukraine.  Bespoke made item available from her Etsy shop – InnaFeltArt.

I’m feeling excited as we race forward to the Spring Equinox; with longer, warmer days ahead and the promise of late-night walks in the dimsy.  I’m sniffing wafts of warm, heady scented summer breezes and I’m feeling intoxicated already – for three reasons!

Beginning to grow - Spring 2016.

Beginning to grow – Spring 2016.

My Belladonna Babe has survived her Winter sleep and now she is pushing forth also – growing noticeably bigger everyday that passes. She is so beautiful and green – and lush – and will soon need replanting especially as she has sprouted two small ‘off-shoots’ – or sisters as I like to think of them.  Together they have just about outgrown the confines of their small clay pot.  Daily, I will them to grow more strong – more powerful.  “Grow, grow, grow…”  I whisper sweetly to them.

The tallest and strongest sister is growing well-away – but her diminutive siblings have catching up to do – and need their own independent space to thrive.  I feel now is the time to separate them and to further encourage them – I have given then individual names.

For inspiration – I turned to an ancestral photograph that hangs on my parlour wall. The canvas is positioned high up over some french-doors – and because this is a Victorian house with high ceilings – the three sisters benevolently smile down at me from their elevated position up in ‘the gods’ – where spiders weave their clinging webs about them.

The Three Graces - Jane, Mary and Margaret of Tavistock.

‘The Three Graces’ from left to right – Jane, Mary and Margaret.

The Sisters have such kind, familiar faces – I feel like I have known them all my life; this side and next – and back through the mysterious tunnel of time from whence I came. Collectively I call them ‘The Three Graces’ – individually they are from left to right – Jane, Mary and Margaret – and they were all born in the ancient stannary town of Tavistock in West Devon – on the edge of Dartmoor.

All born in the 1800’s – they are my ancestor’s through my late father’s side.

It was only on a recent trip to my birth-land – following my father’s death in January – that I rediscovered their beautiful faces. I can’t thank my inspiring cousin adequately enough in three ‘simple’ words for having shared them with me but here they are – “THANK YOU SHARON!”

For me – the three sisters represent my faith and belief in the unseen – therein connection with my deceased father and so on and so forth… 

I adore everything about the composition of the photograph – the angle of light – the dry-stone wall overgrown with ivy – and I especially admire their long, black garments.  Their embroidered waistcoats, pin-tucked blouses and their hair so elegantly pinned atop their smiling heads.  I feel like they have come home – or is that me!  It’s only a cheap, modern canvas picture but it works like a mirror.

You may well ask why I should wish to name three potentially lethal plants after three such benevolent beings?

The Power of Three. Atropa Belladonna x 3. Spring 2017.

‘The Power of Three’.  Atropa Belladonna x 3.  Spring 2017.

Well, It is my argument – for example – that a length of string or a knife have the potential to do harm also, but for most people they are simply useful tools that we handle throughout our daily lives.  

Even when choosing a nice new shiny car – people are drawn by the aesthetics and performance – yet they are buying something that has the capacity for destruction also.  No one bats an eyelid at the availability and procurement of these three things.  Although I concede – that Deadly Nightshade can’t be compared to mere objects because it is a living, breathing entity – its potential for use or misuse are no different.  From the time of the Romans – Belladonna was used to open eyes and enable clear vision.  Although it is rarely used for this purpose today – metaphorically it still dose the trick in my eyes!

Atropa belladonna is a magical, all-seeing plant; she is good at listening and keeping secrets too.

Nowadays – her medicine, Atropine – is good for an ailing heart – so what better endorsement can there ever be for it’s broader cultivation than that.  

Warning: Atropine - good medicine for an ailing heart - but not for garnishing a salad!

Warning: Atropine – good medicine for an ailing heart – but not for garnishing a salad!

For my purposes – its cultivation is purely for its inherent, natural beauty; it is as innocent and as beneficial – and as powerful as that!  Mary and Margaret are my chosen names for my tiny specimens – but the tallest and strongest – has to be Jane.  

P.S.  I have notified my grown-up sons that while their three infant sisters are residing in their small clay pot on my kitchen window sill still – it is not to be mistaken for Basil or the like…

Sweet BELLADONNA - NOT sweet Basil.

Sweet BELLADONNA – NOT Sweet Basil.

Bravo Sweet Belladonna! May you grow more lovely with each and every day that follows. Keep you posted . . .

Highways, High Days and Holidays: The Daymark – Kingswear.


Penn Inn Roundabout - South Devon Highway.

Last year – on Tom’s 16th birthday, I snapped this chance photo of a highways maintenance lorry as we circled the Penn Inn Roundabout ‘just for fun’ – in South Devon.  A gift in itself for highways fanatic Tom; he is undemanding and easy to please! Tom’s birthday always falls in half-term week so we mark his day with an outing of his choice – this year he chose South Devon again – and a cruise up and down his favourite stretch – The South Devon Link Road

He has gained considerable knowledge of Devon’s highways and byways from years of studying roadworks.org – and from his travels around the county.  I can’t remember a time when he hasn’t been interested in road construction and planning.  It’s been a lifelong interest and even though he’s seventeen now – he has always known where he is going!

On the 16th February 2017 – we sailed along the South Devon Link Road – to Kingswear – and across to Dartmouth by car ferry – aboard the appropriately named – ‘Tom Avis’…

Hands free driving. Big Brother at the wheel.

Hands free driving. Big Brother at the wheel.

Kingswear and Dartmouth. Something about DartmoorDartmouth Harbour. Something about Dartmoor

After a quiet afternoon mooch around Dartmouth’s individual shops and colourful houses – we drove back over the water again to Kingswear – for a sunset walk to the Daymark Tower.  It stands high above Dartmouth and Kingswear as a guide to mariners – because Dartmouth harbour is notoriously hard to find from the open sea.

Viewed from land the tower is equally outstanding. Viewed from within it is inspiring…  Inside the Daymark Tower. Something about DartmoorDaymark Tower archway. Something about DartmoorThe Daymark Tower Kingswear. Something about DartmoorCrop circles around The Daymark Tower. Something about DartmoorSun setting on Tom's day through the Daymark Tower. Something about Dartmoor

The Daymark Tower at Sunset. Something about Dartmoor

Tom enjoys watching this great video on YouTube about the construction of the South Devon Highway – and I have learned through him – to enjoy watching too.  I’m looking ahead to when Tom can realise his dream of joining these amazing earth-movers…

Tom at Seventeen standing inside The Daymark Tower.

Tom at seventeen standing tall inside The Daymark Tower that’s just 74 feet higher – at 80 feet!

The sky's the limit when you're inside the ultimate traffic cone!

The sky’s the limit when you’re standing inside the ultimate navigation cone.  Good Luck Son in all your aspirations and endeavours – the road is yours…

 

Transfiguration.

The saying “Where there’s muck there’s brass!”  is very true of our Recycling Centre in South Molton.  In fact a whole variety of scrap metals pass through our yard on their way to be recycled into ‘money’…   Rolls-Royce roof. Something about DartmoorThursday 9th February 2017 – was one of those golden days when I’d had the ‘foresight’ to grab my camera on the way out to work in my usual morning rush. Because mid-morning a very regal lady came into our recycling yard – her name was Elizabeth – a classic gleaming black Rolls-Royce. Reflection - Rolls-Royce. Something about DartmoorBirch Trees reflected in Rolls-Royce. Something about Dartmoor

Alas she hadn’t been brought in as a donation – or even brought anything in for recycling in her spacious boot…Where there's muck there's money! Something about DartmoorRather she was just out for a pre-lunch spin in the winter sunshine with her farmer owner – Reg.  Even though he’s been coming into our shop for years – it’s the first time he’d graced us with his regal Roller – Elizabeth. It’s what I love about working in a recycling shop – our patrons are as diverse as the range of cars that park-up in our yard. Their drivers and passengers come from all walks of life – and you could never pair them. If I hadn’t seen Reg at the wheel – I’d have presumed the farmer’s truck next door was probably his – if I hadn’t known already it belonged to a smartly dressed lady – another regular – who had just popped into buy a bed…  

They also say “Never judge a book by its cover.” In our shop where we get crate loads of ‘unwanted’ books too – I’ve learnt how true that is.  I love talking to our customers – and hearing nuggets from their daily lives – or what they plan to do with the secondhand – even third-hand or fourth-hand item they’ve just bought. There is a magic about working where I do – like the Phoenix bird the shop is named after.  I also have a very understanding manager – who allowed me to disappear up the back of the yard for five minutes or so – so that I could take photos of Elizabeth and learn about her.  Reg has owned her for twenty three years!

The Spirit of Ecstasy - Rolls-Royce - Something about Dartmoor

Elizabeth – like her namesake – was very at ease rubbing bumpers with the more common cars in the car park – and she even came over for a chat with the lowliest, scruffiest – dirtiest car in the car park – mine! Rolls-Royce next to my Skoda. Something about Dartmoor

Even the fridges dumped at the back of the yard have less rust – but like the ‘Spirit of Ecstasy’ on Reg’s Roller – my faithful blue Skoda can fly, especially with the wind behind her!  My old Dad always taught me – that it’s not what you drive but how you drive that makes the difference. As I’m usually running late in the morning – we overtake a bit – much newer cars that potentially possess a lot more thrust; ‘Bath Chairs’ as we call them!Spirit of Ecstasy and Silver Birch. Something about Dartmoor

Our brilliant metal man – Philip, was doing the scrap metal run in his faithful vintage tractor and had just loaded up his link box – when Elizabeth quietly glided by on her way-out of the yard. I love the juxtaposition of the diaphanous Rolls-Royce mascot against the sharp pile of old scrap.  where there's muck there's brass. Something about Dartmoorwhere there's muck there's brass - Something about Dartmoor

Who knows maybe in the next life – some will get smelted down and transfigured into something as beautiful and as iconic – even it.  I hope so…

The Spirit of Ecstasy - Rolls-Royce. Something about Dartmoor

Reg’s beautiful car is named in honour of our great Queen – Elizabeth II – but the ‘it’ figure on the front brought to my mind a person who was very much in the news that day – Tara Palmer Tomkinson.  I don’t really know much about her – but I remembered reading an article in my late father’s Daily Mail newspaper – towards the end of 2016.  I rather warmed to her after reading it – she clearly lived life at full throttle.

I don’t think there are many people that I could reasonably compare to the ‘Spirit of Ecstasy’ – but seeing it gleaming in the bright sunlight with arms held back as if about to leap forward into the unknown – I saw Tara. 

The Spirit of Ecstasy - Rolls-Royce. Something about Dartmoor

I love this full throttle piece by Amethystium – watch, listen – enjoy.

Poop Poop! No – it’s Toad in trouble again!

Whilst walking back through our village after a night ramble 3rd. February 2017 – I noticed something at the side of the wet road that didn’t look very nice. In the dim light – I thought it was dog’s mess; the right shade – the right shape and positioned at the side of the road at the foot of an unscaleable stone wall -the ‘right’ place so as not to step in it.  I don’t know why I stopped and decided to give the slimy, elongated deposit closer inspection – just instinct I guess!  Close up it still looked like something I didn’t want to pick up – so I decided to give the small slimy heap a gentle nudge with the end of my umbrella – yes it had rained again. The alien thing didn’t budge – even with gentle persuasion from my umbrella tip.  It was cold, swollen and lifeless – a not so beautiful Toad.  I think Toad was utterly spent from trying to scale the impossible wall – he’d given up. Exhausted Toad was between ‘a rock and a hard place’ – his only escape if he’d had the energy – was to dice with death and cross the road in the other direction.  Without my intervention he was going nowhere fast.  With no more ado – I picked up his flaccid body – and carried him home – hoping that he may warm up and revive en-route.  

Rescued Toad. Something about DartmoorWhen I got home – I kept hold of him for a while longer and watched life return to his body.  As he gained strength – I took a couple of pictures of him as he pushed against my gloved hand – asking for release from my lifesaving grip.  Rescued Toad. Something about DartmoorOne of his eyes was slightly cloudy – but I think it was just full of sleep – or slime – in fact he was very slimy and mucky all over. I expect he had not long emerged from hibernation.Health check! Rescued Toad in washing-up bowl. Something about Dartmoor

Finally, I put him on a plastic sheet to check him over in the light – and then I set him free in my next door neighbour’s garden – where there’s a pond and open fields close-by.  Under torch-light – I watched him crawl away into the night – under lots of dead leaves and moss – towards a new beginning that’s waiting around the corner; SPRING! Toad set free. Something about Dartmoor

While compiling this short post about Toad – I have listened too one of my favourite tracks ‘Bohemian Like You’ by the Dandy Warhols – it’s been playing on repeat at full volume! It’s not easy writing and singing at the same time.  I think I put it on today because one of the performers in the You Tube video reminds me of Toad in the nicest possible way; I love toads. See if you can guess which one?  Sing along too – “Whoa Ho Woo”! 

A Voyage of Discovery.

East of the Celtic Sea and West of the County of Devon – stands an imposing double-fronted house made from local Granite.  It’s home to a salty sea dog called Peter; Uncle Peter – my Father’s wonderful brother.

Windward Islands.

Uncle Peter listening for the sea inside a shell he picked-up off a beach on the Windward Islands during his naval years.  He gave it to me before I left – what a wonderful treasure to be given and to keep.   I shall listen often.

At my father’s funeral an impromptu plan was hatched between Peter’s daughter Sharon and I – for me to visit her father at home – because he was not well enough to attend the funeral in person.

Tuesday – 24th January 2017 – I journeyed back to the Celtic land of my birth – to Cornwall.  There was something very full circle about our trip; Pensilva near Bodmin Moor was where my Father helped bring me into the World.  

With Archie at the helm – and Tom as first mate – we set sail together on our voyage of discovery – via the rolling A30! 

Uncle Peter in the heart of his home - holding three of his brothers all sadly departed - Michael, Adrian and Robin.

Peter in the heart of his home – holding three of his brothers all sadly departed – Michael, Adrian and Robin.

Brothers Peter, Muchael, Adrian and Robin. Something about Dartmoor

Peter and I – share a special bond founded through our love of a Victorian painting called ‘The Light of the World’ by William Holman Hunt.

The fourth Light of the World - artist unknown.

A fourth version of ‘The Light of the World’ – artist unknown.  The tangle of weeds around the closed door show that it has not been opened – and there is no handle either on the outside because it can only be opened from within.  It symbolises the door of our lives.

Like the painting – Uncle Peter exudes light and love – he is both worldly and otherworldly in one.  He lives with his wonderful daughter Sharon, my cousin – and her family – and his adorable cuddly Pekingese – Sir Winston.  On the day of our visit – Peter’s three year old Great-Grandson was filling the house with his play and laughter; it’s open door to several generations.

Holding his beloved 'Sir Winston'.

Holding his beloved ‘Sir Winston’.

My sons stroking Sir Winston and being tickled pink in exchange – or licked!

Sir Winston is the living embodiment of James Herriot’s character ‘Tricki-Woo’ – he sits on a huge throne of cushions – and is hand fed the choicest nibbles of home-cooked meat; Sharon is a marvelous cook who caters for everyone’s needs.  On our arrival she served up a delicious piping hot plateful of homemade macaroni cheese – cor it hit the spot! 

Together – with Sharon’s sister Linda and her family – they all look after Doris – Peter’s wife.  She has suffered from Alzheimer’s for more than a decade.  Because of their strong family bond – Doris lives between their houses – and was at Peter’s and Sharon’s home on the day of our visit.  Unable to communicate or do anything for herself anymore – Doris was sat in her special chair facing the large window in Peter’s extraordinary room of imagination and colour.

The large window reflected in St. Michael's Mount - Marazion.

The large window reflected in St. Michael’s Mount – Marazion.

The house is full of art and creativity – on Sharon’s sitting room wall there are four intricate tapestries – that Doris had done before she was robbed of herself.

Entering Peter’s room was like seeing a reflection of my own parlour room – neither of us decorate our rooms in the traditional style – instead our rooms are covered in wall-to-wall art. Peter is a prolific artist – he paints from the heart.  He is also a terrific story teller – a writer.  One needs to pay multiple visits to Peter’s room in order to take it all in – it’s like sitting inside a kaleidoscope!  If one scans around too quickly one is apt to feel giddy!  His love of life and the sea – flows out of his hands onto canvas – and covers all four walls.

Flashes of vivid blue are everywhere around his magical room. 

A 'Lover's Eye'

They say a person’s eyes are a window to their soul. Uncle Peter’s eyes are as deep – and as blue as the ocean and as full – with love.

During our visit we were treated to a delicious homemade cream tea – followed by a catch-up with our Great Ancestors via the magic of Ancestry UK.  It was fascinating to learn that in 1875 a female relative of ours was born in the same Devon village that my youngest sister was born in some ninety-one years later. My sister was born in October 1966 – and our ancestor died in February 1966 the other side of the World – in Wellington New Zealand.  My father was born in West Norwood in Lambeth and spent his early life in Sussex. He was married there and his first three children are Sussex born – yet he always held a dream to move ‘back’ to the West Country.  I was born in Cornwall and my youngest sister was born in Devon – he realised his dream.  Who knows why any of us have a feel for a certain place – or time in History – perhaps genetic – or inherited memory guides us unwittingly towards our fate.  Connecting with my Great Ancestors made me feel better about Dad’s passing – it’s like everything isn’t by chance at all – we go on in some shape or form – or other. They gave me a strange feeling of confused elation – I didn’t know whether I was looking forward to the past or looking back to the future – it’s mind-blowing stuff!

After spending a golden afternoon together – it was time for the long drive home – back across the border into Devon.

Before leaving – Peter gave me a parting gift taken down from his bedroom wall that afternoon…

Minton tile.

An oak framed tile made by Minton Potteries hanging on Peter’s inner sanctum wall.  I just knew it was the kind of place to discover a sign from my spiritual bird – The Raven.

Peter and I – are soul-mates through and true – forever. X

peter

Peter’s and Sharon’s open door aglow in the darkness.

Rolling home in the darkness along the A30 – I remembered a song by Kate Rusby – called ‘Sweet Bride’.  The words to this song make me think of Peter and Doris – and the sounds of the Sea; I’m holding that shell to my ear again – enjoy and sing along.

A lady was walking on a midsummer’s day
The birds they were whistling so merrily and gay
When along came a white steed in the finest array
And it carried a young man these words he did say

Come live by the great moon
That rules the strong tide
Climb up on my horse love
And be my sweet bride

I bid you good morning, this young man did say
And where might you be going on such a nice day
I’m walking to view sir the bonny blue sea
For it’s all I have left now that means much to me

Chorus
If that’s all you love now, come riding with me
You’ll live in my castle deep under the sea
You’ll sleep in my gold bed, my fine silken sheets
And have gifts of great beauty from all that you meet

Chorus
She’s up in the saddle and away they did ride
The horse skipped and danced over waves on the tide
Now she’s only remembered by this story I tell
From an old man on horseback who once knew her well

Somewhere East of the Sun and West of the Moon.

I can see the sea – snapped through the car window.