Friday, 25 July 2014

An early autumn?

Under last week’s blog, Jeanne from Oklahoma said, “We are experiencing record low temps with rain and mist. Absolutely wonderful weather - in mid July!!! Usually we have triple digits with drought so you can imagine how much we are enjoying this break. It's so unusual, it's almost spooky, but I am still enjoying it.” This left me thinking about the weather here because I think I detect something odd this year.

Like the other plant pictures here, this was taken late last night (hence the use of flash) so we can see exactly how things are going.
Hazel nuts - and someone has been nibbling.
Before I go any further, a quick thought. Nancy (from Charlotte, also in the USA) is far more knowledgeable about plants than I am – I shall rely on her for a logical explanation of what I have been seeing and photographing if, indeed, there is one.

Rosa Rugosa hips
The spring was a bit of a blur as we were preparing to move during March and April. There was little point in doing anything positive in the garden we were leaving apart from making sure it was reasonably tidy. We did not have access to the garden we were going to until it was rather too late to do all the things that are needed early in the year to ensure a productive season. Worse, in some ways, I was distracted from the more natural things – flora and fauna – and so was not as aware of the way last spring panned out than I would have been under normal circumstances.

Blackberries in the hedge.
The first realisation that things weren’t quite normal was that the blackbirds seemed to be nesting later than usual and then I began to suspect that for some reason everything was holding back by a week or so. But it is what is happening now that I find most interesting. We are still in July and yet when I look around me it seems that many plants have fruited early and already beginning to take on a look of early autumn. That is not to say that they are beginning to take on their autumn colouring yet but that there is that slightly tired look that I associate with late August. Indeed, and I do not expect most people to agree with this, for the casual naturalist August is the most boring month of all. The birds stop singing and are seen far less frequently and very little comes into flower. But, stop and listen for a moment. Can you here any birds? Quite – and we are still in July.

The beech tree by the front gate is looking very autumnal.
Is that this year's mast or left over from last year?
Actually that isn’t quite true. Although we are some way from the sea the River Dart (which we could see from the windows were it not for the trees and shrubs that grow on its bank) is tidal less than a mile away and we are often visited by gulls: herring gulls in the main. They fill the air with their strange cries as the wheel around the house in the late evening. And then there are just one pair of pigeons who pop in and out and sit in the branches of the trees in the garden cooing gently to each other. And that is that: no thrushes inspiring the evening air, no blackbirds pouring out their rattling challenges, no warblers warbling or sparrows chirping.

This small tree/large shrub is coming into berry. I have no idea what it is and so I am relying on one of you to tell me. It is probably something quite common and I should be thoroughly ashamed of myself. We'll see.
Am I right? Has nature somehow started this summer late, rushed through it at breakneck speed and is now already beginning to tumble into autumn (or fall if you prefer)? If I am, why? Any ideas, Nancy?

There are always many charities that appeal for our support. Both of us rate very highly those who provide terminal care for people and one such is the Rowcroft Hospice. This charity, which operates only in South Devon, cares for nearly two thousand people each year. From Saturday, August 9, to Friday, August 15, they will be running a Summer Reading Campaign to help them sell books that have been donated to them. Marcia will be helping with that campaign. She will be in Rowcroft’s shop in Totnes from 11 am on Thursday, August 12, when she will be giving a short talk and enjoying a chat with other supporters. She hopes to be meeting as many readers as possible but totally understands that some of them (such as Jeanne and Nancy) might find getting there a bit difficult.

And there he was. Sitting on the driving seat and daring all and sundry to come and start pinching things. Buddy may not be that big but he knows he’s bigger than everyone else.

PS We would both like to send our best wishes to Traudel who is due to have an operation next Monday. May it happen this time and let us hope for a totally positive outcome.

Friday, 18 July 2014

A Busman's Holiday

Part One – by Marcia

Ways With Words is finished and my busman’s holiday is over: and what a wonderful time I had. It made such a difference to be able to walk to any event that interested me rather than worrying about arriving in time to find a parking space and then joining the end of a long queue. With a Rovers ticket I was spoiled for choice. Sometimes it was difficult to choose between the Great Hall and The Barn; between a poet and a politician, or a biographer and a stand-up comic.

It was utterly inspiring to listen to the philosopher, Roger Scruton, and I’m really enjoying his first novel: ‘Notes from Underground’. Two of my favourite novelists – Helen Dunmore and Jane Gardam – were there, and Penelope Lively got a cheer when, talking about the problems of old age, she said that reminiscing should not be inflicted on the young but should only be allowed between consenting octogenarians. Michael Rosen was brilliant and Sandi Tocsvig made me laugh and laugh. It was so good to see James Long again and remember how, nearly twenty years ago when the festival was very young, he and I, with Joan Brady and Mary Wesley, played croquet in the courtyard on the final day.

Sometimes I went to four events back to back and was very grateful for lovely Beattie and Ross in their van, The Humble Egg, who supplied me with coffee or hot chocolate or tea and cake, depending on what time of the day it was. The courtyard had quite a medieval look with the tents and marquees that popped up to cater to the festival-goers.

There were many familiar faces and many new ones. The WWW Staff were helpful, efficient and fun: pretty Jess – having a week’s break from her work with English National Opera – delightful Charlie, who kept everyone cheerful, poor Olly who had been bitten by a horse-fly down by the river. For that brief time they became friends.

It was so sad to say goodbye. The final event was on Sunday evening, so on Monday morning I went for a walk wondering whether Dartington would have been restored to its more usual tranquility. Instead there was that strange desolation that goes with the end of an event: tents being dismantled, people carrying suitcases, vans and taxis being loaded.

See you next year,’ someone called to a friend.

I came home with that end-of-the-party feeling. Then I reminded myself that Dartington International Summer School starts in a fortnight and I’ve already bought my tickets for some of the concerts.

The party goes on!

Part Two – by Rodney

There was a Peter Wimsey “who dunnit” by Dorothy L Sayers called “Busman’s Holiday” on the shelves at home when I was a young boy. It was not alone – it shared shelf space with almost every other book Sayers wrote as well as countless books by other authors. Each one, of course, represents a good deal of hard work from the moment the characters begin to appear until the final proofs have been read. So when Marcia talks about it being a busman’s holiday she rather overlooks the fact that we spent a few hours trawling around to the east of the River Dart trying to find where the people who have just begun to occupy her thoughts could be living.

You will remember that she had a feeling that the Green Café in Totnes might be important and so we have decided to look in the countryside around the town before going further afield.
Anyway, this is typical farming country where the lanes offer little in the way of views except when you pass a gateway. 

There are lots of these and we stop at nearly every one just in case. This means it can take an hour or so to cover a couple of miles and does absolutely nothing to improve the fuel economy of the car (if we – the car and I working together – achieve ten miles to the gallon we are doing well in these circumstances).

We passed a farm where an untidy tumble of old equipment acted as a background to a lovely rose growing on a fence.

Then we stopped in a gateway for a mug of coffee and I amused myself trying to take a reasonable photograph of a tortoiseshell butterfly that was far too far away for this to be a sensible activity. Eventually I got one that was not too bad.

After winding through the lanes for a little longer we came across a bridge carrying a track over the main railway from London down to Penzance in Cornwall.

There we met Edgar, a retired farmer with a great interest in steam locomotives – one of which was due to pass beneath us at any moment. Out with the video camera – you can see the result if you click here.

Then back home with me asking the inevitable question, ‘Well, have we found what you’re looking for?’

I don’t know,’ Marcia was looking thoughtful. ‘We may have done. We shall have to wait and see.’

This week’s blog dog is a Cairn terrier called Dougal. I have a huge affection for this breed. I think it was fifty-one years ago that my next-door-but-one neighbour (in a tiny hamlet of four dwellings of which was was a converted mill and the others cottages where the miller and his workers would have lived) gave me a cairn puppy as a Christmas present. This, I should add, without asking me whether or not he would be welcome. Well, he was and became my companion for the next seventeen years. Two days that remain firmly etched in my memory: the day we met and the day he died.

Friday, 11 July 2014

Ways With Words

The annual bunfight known as the Telegraph Ways With Words. a Festival of Words and Ideas is under way here in Dartington. That is an interesting title for this festival: when you look at the Ways With Words website the bye-line says “Literature Festivals and Writing Holidays”. Whilst Marcia has been attending quite a few of the events, I have been brooding on what seems to me to be rather a mixed message and thus on to asking myself what makes writing “literature”. I suspect, as Bob Dylan put it, The Times They Are A Changin’.

Where else would you see such a deck chair? 
Fifteen years ago, most of the speakers here would have been people who made a living by writing and many of them would have been novelists. Not so today. Like all such festivals, the speakers tend to be people who are, for one reason or another, in the public eye. True, they have all written books but they are here not because they are great writers but because they are the sort of people that draw crowds. Some of them have even written a novel.

The other day the Great Hall was packed to over-flowing to hear Princess Michael of Kent. Many of those will line up after the event at the Waterstone's marquee where she will be signing copies of her first book The Queen of Four Kingdoms. It tells of events in high places in the 15th century and is described as an historical novel being part one of a trilogy. (I cannot help but remember what Mary Wesley said to Marcia after she had signed her first two-book contract. “And are you sure you can write a second book?”)

Perhaps surprisingly, I am very glad that there are these celebrity writers – they help to support an industry (book publishing) that is in serious trouble and without which “working novelists” such as Marcia would be out of a job.

The jackdaws and gulls were busy cleaning up the remains of people's picnics.
All of this has made me think about what is meant by “literary”. According to my Oxford dictionary, literature is defined as: “Written works, especially those considered of superior or lasting artistic merit“. From that one would assume that a literary festival would have such works at its centre. Clearly matters have moved on: literary festivals are (like any other business) trying to make a profit and we live in the age of the celebrity. The result is that this festival has only a few novelists in the programme. Having said that, Marcia was thrilled to be able to go and hear Helen Dunmore and Jane Gardam (two of her favourites) and hopes to meet up with our old friend James Long whom we haven’t seen since he moved up to Bristol some years ago.

The birds weren't the only ones here to work. Waterstone's marquee stocks all the books being discussed at the festival. Here is Emma-Louise holding Farmageddon - a terrifying book about the consequences of factory farming, was written by Philip Lymbery with Isabel Oakeshott. Mr Lymbery was kind enough to give me an interview before his talk. If you would like to see what he had to say, please CLICK HERE.
To me creative writing is at its peak when the writer can so describe landscape as to enable the reader to smell the heather, the sea or whatever and to bring such life to the characters that the reader can really fall in love with them. Hacks, people like me, who write about factual events (be that as as a journalist, a newspaper commentator, a biographer or technical writer) can write well or badly but they will never meet that definition of literature. Let me give you an example.

The Great War in Europe in the years 1914 to 1918 was one of the most horrific moments in the history of the world and one that has long fascinated me. I have never really understood why it happened nor why for four long weary years there was a military deadlock. I have read a fair number of historical books dealing with the period just before and during that war but none has ever created the sort of emotional connection that one needs properly to understand such events.

All the tents, stalls and banners really did create a great "vibe" at Dartington.

Then I read Ken Follett's “The Century Trilogy”: The Fall of Giants, The Winter of the World and The Edge of Eternity. Although the fact that nobody seemed able to stop almost sleep walking into the war, I now have a far greater understanding of how people felt at the time and not just on one side of the conflict but from all sides. Is that great literature? Most critics would not rate Ken Follet that highly but he managed to speak to me and I know from all the messages we receive (by comments on the blog, emails and letters) that Marcia speaks to all of you. What more can a novelist hope to achieve?

She just can't help herself. Cuddles with Willow who (quite reasonably) is seeking reassurance from her owner. 

Friday, 4 July 2014

Literary festivals and family reunions

Today is day one of the annual Ways With Words festival held here at Dartington. Many years ago (longer than either of us care to remember) it was at this festival that Marcia gave her first talk. She was then one of the unknowns – or so the organisers judged. She was booked into the smallest venue available, the tickets sold out and then Marcia was advised that she would be moved to another, bigger hall. This should have given her more confidence but it actually increased her terror.

To this day, Marcia hates speaking in public (and especially about herself) but she is so incredibly good at it that nobody who has been to one of her talks really believes that to be true but I can assure you it is.

Anyway, since that first time she has appeared at a number of other Ways With Words and at festivals as prestigious as the Oxford Literary Festival and as local as the one held at Tavistock. Each one evinces the same response.

‘Why do they want me? I’m a writer not a speaker,’ she wails. ‘Don’t they understand that it’s the books that matter. Anyway, when novelists stand on their hind legs and start talking about themselves, nine times out of ten they intrude between the reader and the books and that is always a bad thing.’

Well, this year I bought her a Rover Ticket for this festival which means she can go to everything she wants to. It was by way of a birthday present but I had to give it to her a month early (you can’t wrap a festival in pretty paper and keep it until the day). She has gone off to listen to Jonathan Miller speaking in the Great Hall which I am sure she will thoroughly enjoy. I walked over with her so that I could take some pictures. It was, would you believe, raining.

Somewhere in the middle under an umbrella is Marcia.
This year there is also an exhibition of sculpture here, small pieces some of which, as you can see, are pretty weird.

Head Above Water, Body and Soul Together
This and the two below by Tati Dennehy (stoneware ceramic)

Lie Dee Down

Ghost Dog

Woman with Mandolin by Anne-Marie Moss (French Limestone)
 On Sunday we are off to Dartmouth for a family reunion lunch. Working out who is who in the family is not one of my things but it certainly is for Hugh, the eldest son of Josephine, daughter of my mother’s elder sister. We all lived together during most of the war years and, as a result, Jo and I were very close: she is more like a sister than a cousin.

Jo, Ken and baby Hugh moved to Canada (an exchange posting for Ken who was a helicopter designer working for Bristol Aeroplane Company) and then, at the end of that contract, down into the US where Ken moved to Boeing. In time they were all granted US citizenship – Hugh’s three siblings being born there were Americans from the first yell.

Hugh is passionate about the family. He has spent many hours working out who is who and, starting tomorrow, various members will descend on Dartmouth from the US, from Canada, from Switzerland and, of course, various parts of the UK. It will be good to catch up with people I haven’t seen for a long time and to meet some for the first time. My main sadness is that Jo and her husband Ken will not be there although Jo’s brother (another Ken which has led to confusion in the past) emailed me the other day to say that he and his wife Patsy would be coming.

It will either be great fun or a terrible disaster. Let us hope it is the first.
Look at those paws!
This is a superb example of a Bernese Mountain Dog

Friday, 27 June 2014


This week my blog is written by Marcia.


On Wednesday I drove across the moor to meet friends in Tavistock. 

It was a quiet, grey west-country day: drifting mist obscuring the distant tors, ponies grazing with their foals, the rhododendrons at Venford Reservoir a dim, fading pink. As I reached North Hessary Tor the cloud thinned and a watery sun gleamed through and, by the time I arrived at The Bedford Hotel, the sky was clear and blue and it was promising to be another hot morning.

For more than forty years I’ve been meeting friends in the Bedford Hotel. When Charles was at Mount House School I’d take him there for exeats - when it was too far to drive back to whichever naval port we might be stationed at - and always with our golden retriever, Cassie, who was made very welcome at the Bedford. All our dogs have loved going to the Bedford; hurrying up the front steps in the expectation of seeing an old friend, settling under the table in the corner by the window, pricking ears or giving an appreciative thump of the tail when one of the staff appeared with a bowl of cold water.

This morning I was meeting Jean for coffee. Some people say that it’s not possible to make close friends when you’re old. It’s not true. I’ve known Jean for six or seven years; she came to help muck us out at The Hermitage but after a very short while she became a very close and special friend. What is that rare dynamic, that odd, instant recognition, that makes someone a ‘kindred spirit’? She’s much younger than I am, our life experiences have been quite different, but it isn’t relevant: we are on that same wavelength that surmounts those barriers.

We shared our news, we laughed a lot, we enjoyed the coffee – then we parted and I went to meet Carrye at ‘Café Liaison’ on Church Path.

I’ve known Carrye for forty-two years; we were young naval wives together. At Carrye’s wedding (our husbands were on the same submarine but I’d known her for only a few short months) Charles, who was then two and half, disappeared during the reception. When I found him he was sitting amongst a pile of her half-opened wedding presents thinking, no doubt, that Christmas had come again. Carrye was amazingly gracious about it! I am godmother to her daughter. We have a shared past embracing married quarters, Summer Balls, loneliness, silly in-jokes, divorce, bereavement . . . Lunch lasted for over two hours.

The journey home was through a very different landscape: a brilliant sky, the high rocks clear and sharp. I stopped below Cox Tor, reluctant to leave one of my favourite places and an inspiration for so many of the books, and bought an ice-cream. In the far distance I could see the gleam of the Tamar and, beyond that, the sea. How often I’d walked here with Charles and Cassie all those years ago.

I finished my ice-cream and as I glanced again towards the west I though I saw a small boy playing with a golden retriever, chasing a ball and running in the sunshine, but the sun was dazzling in my eyes and, when I looked again, they’d gone.

My best to you all and thank you for being such loyal readers.


Last week I had to pop into our local garden machinery place and one of the chap's there has with him a young puppy. Neither of us could resist him so here he is chewing Marcia's scarf.

Friday, 20 June 2014

Devon? Cornwall?

At this time of the year – well, usually a bit earlier than this but we are running a bit late after the move and everything else – Marcia starts to think about where the next book will be set. I feel reasonably confident in predicting that it will be somewhere in Devon or Cornwall but beyond that it would be dangerous to go.

The way it works is something like this. Somewhere in the back of her mind Marcia has one or two characters beginning (her words) to reveal themselves. She is on record as saying that the characters bring their landscapes with them and this is because of what we call a “Clare’s wedding moment”. Like all family catchphrases that is a code that cannot be broken – you have to know what it means. Clare is one of Marcia’s nieces and she, obviously, was getting married and we, as you would expect, had been invited. Getting there was a bit complicated as we had to fetch our son from school in the way. Somehow and for some reason neither of us could quite see ourselves at the church. There was no rational explanation for these feelings – which we both had – but they were quite strong.

The garden is full of young birds pestering their parents to feed them - and parents doing their best to move them on. Here is a young blackbird who, when he grows up will be like the smart guy below.

To cut a long story short, we had problems with the car and so we just made the reception. Ever since, a situation that looks perfectly reasonable but in which one or the other of us simply does not believe is a “Clare’s wedding moment”.

Looking for the landscapes brought by Marcia’s characters usually results in many miles of travel and many such moments until, usually unexpectedly, it all feels right to her and we have found what she has been looking for. Sometimes this is definitely not where she would like the book to be set but you can’t have everything you want, can you?

Probably the most uncanny example was finding where Maudie Todhunter was living. This was before Marcia started writing A Week in Winter – before simple because she could not get going until she could see Maudie in the right environment. You may already know the story: if you do, skip to the last two paragraphs.

Here a baby blue tit is learning to feed himself. Most young tits have a yellow tinge to their feathers unlike the adults.

It started because I trod on my spectacles and broke one of the lenses. At that time we were living in Avonwick an optician (Vision Express) in Newton Abbot (Totnes is about half way between the two). I rang up and explained the situation. They had a laboratory on site and said that I could have an eye test (one was due anyway) at noon and the specs would be ready a couple of hours later (which, when you think about it, was incredible service). So off we went with Marcia driving. The obvious thing to do was to have lunch in Newton, which we did, and then a bit of shopping that we needed and then, having collected the new glasses, back home (with me driving this time).

Great Spotted Woodpeckers - dad on the left and son on the right. As soon as the boy loses his red cap his father will attack him and drive him away to find a territory of his own.

It did not go according to plan. As we drove out of the car park, I was indicating right that being the way home, Marcia suddenly spoke.

Quick, turn left. I’ve just seen Maudie. We must follow her.”
Causing some little confusion to other motorists, I did just that and, following Marcia’s instructions, drove through the town and out on the road towards Bovey Tracey. Even then it was not straightforward. Having said that she was sure Maudie lived in Bovey, as we approached the roundabout where I was expecting to turn right, she changed her mind and so on we went. About a mile further on she directed us left, down a narrow lane, left at another junction and then, having crossed the bridge over the River Bovey she told me to stop. There, on the left, was a gate behind which was scrub (small trees, lots of brambles and so on).

There, that’s it. Good, we can go home now.”

And we did and Marcia started writing later that afternoon and wrote one of her most poignant stories.

Not everyone, of course, can believe this is what happens. At one of the festivals at which she was asked a question about this business of finding the landscape. She finished her answer with the words, “So, you see it really is nothing to do with me. The characters tell me where they live.”

How lucky that none of them want to live in central Birmingham,” came a dry comment from one of the men in the audience. Clearly he was not a believer.

And so here we are again, setting out on a journey of discovery. It was easier in the days when we did so in our old camper van, taking with us all we needed in the way of refreshment and providing a base from which to wander about and “listen to the characters chatting amongst themselves”. For both Indian Summer and the book which still awaits and agreed title, this base has been provided by cafés and other such places. It was in The Dandelion (a café which is part of the Moorland Hotel below Haytor on Dartmoor) that Marcia sat and brooded – and which features in the book itself. The Brioche in Totnes was also important – and again was to feature in the book. For Untitled it was the shop/café associated with Stokeley Barton Farm Shop on the road from Torcross to Kingsbridge and The Boat House in Torcross itself. Again both feature in the book. If you want to know more about these places, follow the links.

Meanwhile here is Marcia with Anton, one of the people who look after us when we pop into the Cott Inn in Dartington for lunch.

This time? Well, as I have said, I have no real idea but as I write this Marcia is in Totnes and she has just sent me a text. She is having coffee in The Green Café just down the road from The Brioche. I wonder – just wonder. If it proves to be important then we can rule out Cornwall this time around but I doubt it will be that easy. I’ll keep you informed.

This week's blog dog is, very appropriately, called Canuke. He really is a splendid fellow and I just hope that he does not feel homesick.

Friday, 13 June 2014

Farewell number twenty-five. Welcome number twenty-six.

This week Marcia finished work on the editorial notes and so the manuscript for book number twenty-five (I am ignoring the four she wrote as Willa Marsh in this count) was sent off to her editor at Transworld which explains the headline. Naturally she has had no time to brood about number twenty-six as yet so I cannot tell you anything about it. From my point of view it means coming to terms with a whole new set of characters so that I can make sense of our conversations for the next few months. This is always great fun but demands huge concentration and a good deal of brain-searching.

“Albert? Albert? Do I know anyone called Albert?”

“He’s Jossie’s mother. Do keep up.”

These names were not pulled out of a hat. We have a lamp stand called Albert (please don’t ask why, the reason is lost in the mists of time) and our last dog was, of course, Jossie.

Meanwhile over on the other side of the Atlantic things have been buzzing. As most of you will already know, Marcia is published in the US by St Martin’s Press who are domiciled in the famous Flat Iron Building in New York. Soon they will be publishing The Sea Garden and Marcia has a new publicity team at SMP so it was decided that it would be good if everybody got to know each. This was achieved by a conference telephone call. It was held at 11 am in New York (4 pm here) and it was attended – if that is the right word – by Marcia, Marcia’s London agent (Dinah Wiener), her US agent (Kathy Anderson) and the team from SMP.

The cover of the SMP edition of The Sea Garden
As a result of that meeting, plans for the proposed marketing and publicity campaigns in the US were discussed and it has been agreed that all the US titles will be in the “book shop” on Marcia’s web site (which means work for me).

This year St. Martin’s Press is re-issuing a series of six memoirs, beginning with All Creatures Great and Small, by James Alfred Wight better known by his pen name: James Herriot. He was, of course, a vet whose practice was based in Thirsk in Yorkshire, but which covered large parts of the Yorkshire Dales and the North Yorkshire Moors.  

St. Martin’s Press has asked Marcia to say something about the late author and his work to be shared on the James Herriot Facebook page – see link below. This is what she has had to say.

"It is always a treat for me to re-visit the world of James Herriot. Begining with "It Shouldn't Happen to a Vet" I reacquaint myself with the many delightful characters: young James starting out on his new job at Darrowby; the two Wagnerian brothers, Siegfried and Tristan; Mrs Pumphrey and her pampered pekinese, Tricki Woo; the Dalesmen farmers and their families, their livestock and their traditions.

Herriot's entertaining stories of his triumphs and disasters, and his evocations of the magnificent Yorkshire countryside – magical in spring, bleak in winter – never fail to delight."

Should you want to have a look at that page (which will not yet have Marcia’s comment on it) click here

Meanwhile, I have been having fun and games with animals down here in Devon. Apart from the squirrels (who continue to find ways of winning regardless of what I try) we now have problems with rabbits. 

Well, to be honest, one rabbit. The garden here is generally rather wild (which we like) but we decided that a bit of colour on the lawn (if that is the right word for a mixture of plantains, dock, dandelion, daisy mixed in with the odd blade of grass) outside our sitting room would not go amiss. So, I filled one of our wooden tubs with pansies and and a ceramic pot with nemesia.

You will be as delighted as I was to discover that bunnies LOVE pansies: flowers, leaves, stalks and even roots.

Why is this cat here?  There is no good answer to that question but he (or, as it may well be, she) was sitting on the wall of a garden up the road and I thought some of you might like a rest from dogs. But not for long.
Meanwhile, Marcia and I went for a walk around the grounds here in Dartington Hall yesterday and I took a few photographs. These are on the other blog: if you want to have a look click here

You will remember that I was out on the River Dart with my friend Roger a while back. As we came out of Old Mill Creek, there was a work boat bringing a catamaran up to put her on a mooring. Not terribly unexpectedly, the guy in the boat was another of Roger’s chums and with him was his dog, Roy.