Pandemic Pondering #563

The Scrag End of Summer, North Coast Bobbing tour continues today after a brief return to home. The sand and mud of North Devon has been cleared, out of the van, ready for some North Cornwall sand and mud to be gathered. While I was in North Devon there was a fair bit of rain but my reading journey took me to the unrelenting heat of turn of the century Buenos Aires and the evolution of Tango as a music and dance form in the hands of migrant musicians to Argentina.

So while my real world outlook was grey and a bit damp.

My immersive reading world was somewhat more lively.

My reading for North Cornwall will take me to 18th Century London, I’m not anticipating a huge improvement in the weather of my reading life or my real life on this trip. Awaiting whatever the Scrag End of Summer brings us.

Pandemic Pondering #562

The last morning of the Scrag End of Summer Break. Tea and coffee options on the hob. The next trip in the van will fully embrace Autumn. This has really been a very traditional Scrag End, British break with long walks in the rain and steamy cafes providing respite from the weather either side of one full day of glorious skin warming sunshine. Our last day highlight was the local museum , something we would have missed if we had had two consecutive days of serendipitous sunshine. Local museums are just glorious nuggets of local history, geography and culture. Sometimes they are dusty and fusty and you have to dig around to find pride and joy. Combe Martin Museum is not like that. A great selection of second hand books at the door entices the museum phobes closer luring them into the museum and part with their fifty pences for books and even better the small entrance fee. As is often the case in second hand book shops three well thumbed copies of Fifty Shades of Grey suggest that Combe Martin has a specialist interest in S and M. Just a few steps into the museum gives a mental loosening of the bindings when the true specialty of the area is revealed to be S and S. Strawberries and Silver.

©Combe Martin Museum
©Combe Martin Museum

Three sorts of cream is quite decadent. Never has ‘normal’ cream been so unappetising to me though. Who in their right mind would ever order ‘thin’ cream. Regardless of that Combe Martins original USP was mining for Silver and Lead and growing Strawberries. Products that they historically traded with nearby Wales for Coal and other essentials that coukdnt be found closer to home. Tourism has obviously been a big factor in the life of Combe Martin. In a curious time warp the first big boom was during the time of the Napoleonic Wars when the wealthy could no longer travel in Europe. Combe Martin boomed again this year when neither the wealthy or the normal could easily travel anywhere but the British Isles.

One small aspect of the museum I loved was a contemporary book of Remembrance. Featuring obituaries of the residents of Combe Martin. Ordinary peoples lives reveal extraordinary stories, revealing the human face of a location.

Here are our doggy faces posing, vintage style at the end of their Scrag End of Summer Van Trip.

Pandemic Pondering #561

©Marianne Bobber

As luck would have it we have a dog whose ears act as a windsock. Thus allowing me to share other pictures that feature wind and you will have an understanding of sense and direction. Lola is staring out to sea looking northward towards Wales.

Yesterdays swim was extraordinary. Exhilarating and epic, the thrill and managed risk of an unknown beach made our morning swim just delicious. The previous day we had met some fellow coast path amblers. The woman expressed an urge to swim in the sea, her male partner was somewhat dismissive of her diligence or ability to do such a thing. We told her we would be at the beach at 11:30 and at 11:30 she strode into the sea to join us with no sign of her doubting man.

© Marianne Bobber

There were furry lifeguards on duty at all times.

The rest of the day was spent ambling and exploring the coastal path.

Somewhat disappointingly the stretch of coastal path did not live up to its designation of scenic. We knew the sea and cliffs were to our left but what we mostly saw were brambles. I observed that the walk was “About as scenic as my arse’ which pretty much describes everyone’s view. A rotating display of four human bums and three dog bums depending on which order we were walking.

Book reading conversations were the high point of our rest stops. Raynor Winn and Simon Armitage have both written books about walking the South West Coast path. Both books were given rigorous reviews in the bramble caves where we found benches to stop. Blackberries were available for refreshment which was a reasonable compensation for not seeing the Bristol Channel.

A View!

Thankfully walking the coastal path had not been the plan so there was no huge disappointment with the lack of views. The reward for doing a challenging and unexpectedly long amble was pints of Doom Bar shandy and smaller measures of Gin and Tonic served with tasty fish and chips at a beachside pub.

Just a final, uphill mile to our beds.

Pandemic Pondering#549

Some late September’s bring us Kataifi and other sweet treats. This one brings us plums from a friends allotment.

We are having a few days in the van trying to extract the last preciousness of nectar from the scrag end of summer. New swimming/bobbing destinations are the ultimate goal although the tides were not on our side for an afternoon swim after our arrival. Instead the dogs went mad on a craggy beach and we talked with other swimmers also waiting for higher tides.

© Gill Bobber

Although I worked in this part of North Devon long ago the fine detail of the coast is unknown to me. Having worked in health screening at the time the same cannot be said for the North Devonians, some of their intimate spaces are seared onto my brain. The one that sticks ( or stinks) in this approximate location is a woman who appeared at my clinic in fairly normal clothes for an evening at a nightclub. She had arrived in a van driven by a younger man soon after we opened at 10 a.m. There was a feint whiff of something rural as she settled into the chair for the interview part of the procedure. She was garrulous and witty. The getting nearly naked part of the examination was a surprise to us both. Every layer of her clothing was dotted with the excrement from the overnight production of multiple chicken bottoms.The poo had gently warmed as she was driven to her appointment. Although it is imprudent to ask why patients arrive unclean she was anxious to explain her situation. She had been enjoying a drink with friends in a pub with a dancefloor, a friendly young man had asked her to dance and had lavished attention on her all evening and then offered her the opportunity to explore his body more effectively. He explained that he lived in shared accomodation but that he had the key to a warm and comfortable barn. She was anxious to explore the European Union Common Agricultural Policy in action and accompanied him to the barn. Unknown to her he was a poultry farm worker. Her precious going-out clothes were discarded in the dark under the watchful gaze of roosting hens who spent the night voiding there cloacas on her best underwear and dress. Getting to grips and being gripped by an advocate of the European Common Agricultural Policy had quite exhausted her and she had only woken up an hour before her appointment and had scrabbled back into her clothes under the continued watchful gaze of the hens and begged a lift into Ilfracombe for her appointment. She had been aware of a certain musty or earthy smell as the van warmed her up but the true horror of the situation only revealed itself to us both as she took her clothes off. Examination completed she returned to her European lover in two NHS gowns and her 3 inch heels.

And that my friends was North Devon 25 years ago. When we had the benefit of a European Common Agricultural Policy.

Pandemic Pondering #522

Vanlife Part 3 at Bantham. There were many reasons for visiting Bantham. The prime one was to visit the location of a future sea swim around Burgh Island. Two bobbers swimming, one bobber bobbing, Someone has to look after the dogs and take the photographs…

The practice swim over it was time to visit the village shop and cafe for breakfast. Beautiful Bantham made sure that we will visit again by turning on the photographic charm on our walk up the hill.

And just like that Summer is officially done. The last blog of August!

Pandemic Pondering #521

Vanlife day 2 at Bantham. Up bright and early for a dog walk.

We learnt so much last night, having lived so long in Cornwall we are well used to the marked nativism that is the signature disrespect held for all that were not born in the Duchy. Devon takes a gentler approach. Visitors are generally known as DFL ( Down from London) London being a general term for visitors from elsewhere.

For many years like so many Cornish, Devon and West Country people we became economic and professional migrants and lived and worked in London. On our regular returns to the West Country we were certainly described as DFL when in actual fact we were FH R ( From Here Really) Last night we mingled with many who were DFL and with whom we had much in common but when discussing that we were FHR needed more clarification. JUFP did the job! Just up from Plymouth.

So much easier to be a dog, they just needed to pee and sniff each others nether regions to realise that they and the DFL dogs had in fact met many times in the glorious parks of South London.

Not for them the curious Social dancing of humans just a simple. sniff and all the social niceties are observed in an instant. Not that that didnt exhaust them. Barely able to keep their eyes open last night. Today is very much a van day after the early morning walk and a breakfast until noon.

Taking it in turns to be alert.

More Bantham blogging tomorrow, you can never have too much of a good thing.

Pandemic Pondering#520

Saturday finds us camping at Aunemouth Farm, Bantham and walking eight furry legs a very long way.

A walk alongside the estuary gave us our first glimpse of Burgh Island.

Loads of walking later found us nattering at the Bantham Village Store Cafe/bar listening to @djironingboard and watching the sun go down. All in all an excellent way to spend a Saturday.

Pandemic Pondering #497

I’ve changed my museum working day to Wednesdays instead of Thursdays. Perhaps the dullest sentence to appear in the blog! Yesterday was a red letter day as the museum has adopted a near normal working model for the first time since it opened.

Figureheads loom over the entrance and reception area, I happened to look over as a large unruly group of people walked in. I imagined what a shock it might be to the figureheads who have spent the whole time the museum has been open, hanging over strictly ticketed punters, who could legitimately be limited and controlled in the name of Covid regulations.

At last the museum can relax, I’m not sure the figureheads ever will.

Not particularly museum related, this picture popped up on a sea swimming page on Facebook. Our summer swimming ‘friend’ the Compass Jellyfish doubling up as a display cabinet.


Museum time was sandwiched between dog walking and normal domestic chores. A prime donestic chore was to find a supplier of camping gas. Not as easy as you might think. Britain and presumably the rest of the world is in the thrall of a new, allegedly, type of holiday. The Staycation. The strangest things are in short supply. Camping shops ran out of replacable gas tanks weeks ago. @theoldmortuary ran out of gas at last weekends festival. This was a crisis of sorts as no gas= no tea, and @theoldmortuary runs on tea. A proper first world crisis! Thankfully as Plymouth is a seafaring port it has Chandlers. I have only once in my life been into a chandlers in search of a caribineer to hold a poo bag dispenser for dog walks.

Yesterday I went into 3 , they are fantasy destinations. The first two might not have had gas but they did have intrigue. Shelf after shelf of things to do with boats, all of which had names and practical uses that sounded exotic and quite unknown. The 3rd Chandlers had some gas but I may think of other reasons, in the future, to return to these shops just to look around and ponder a whole new world on my doorstep.

These flowers are also on my doorstep. I hope Thursday is good to you…

I will try not to visit a Chandler just for the sake of it.

Pandemic Pondering #491

On the road. Having tried out our dancing legs at a wedding last week we are off to a festival.

Not quite there but close enough, Dorset artisinal coffee and baked goods on board we are off to search for an old pink cardigan.

This exact pink cardigan, knitted for my summer holiday many moons ago. Here it is being modelled on the beach at Frinton-on-Sea, Essex. One week later we were at the top of Lulworth Castle, in Dorset, when I slipped it off to skip about a bit. We were many miles away by the time I realised I hadn’t ever picked it up. Admitting this to my parents was not my most popular moment. Fifty years or so later I’m heading back to collect it. I’m hopeful that my parents will do any ashy, dust to dust, other realm jig when they realise my half a century too-late diligence.

It will be time to put the flags out when we are reunited.

Spot the strutting seagull in one of these images.

Pandemic Pondering #450

Dog grooming day takes us to this delicious location for breakfast. The forecast storms have not blown into the Southwest peninsular over the last couple of days so a campervan breakfast followed by a swim is the morning schedule.

Wembury is a regular destination for dog pampering. Even in poor weather there is plenty to do here for a few hours while the dogs are turned from rural scruffy mutts to urban sophisticates. We do coastal walks or rockpooling or just catch up with reading.

Today, after breakfast, some bobbers are meeting us here for a morning swim. But for now breakfast is the main event.