Autumn Leaves and the Obelisk at Mamhead Forest

Henry has arrived at Heathrow

My brother Henry is over from Australia (that’s us in the photograph above) and, after a week, he’s just about over his jet-lag. So this morning Chris and I thought he might enjoy a walk to the obelisk at Mamhead Forest as it is not a particularly long walk and it’s pretty flat terrain. Best of all, the lookout point has a magnificent panoramic view of all the rolling countryside leading down to the mouth of the River Exe and the sea. Oh, and the trees are beautiful on a sunny autumn day.

None of us realised it had been raining until we stepped outside the house but it didn’t matter because we were togged up in coats and sensible walking shoes. Chris wore his shorts because my better half insists upon wearing them into November, or as long as possible (providing it’s not snowing), and Henry wore his Aussie shorts because I haven’t taken up his new jeans for him yet. I wore long jogging pants because I was going to the gym after our walk (dieting and keeping fit again) and Malachi had on nothing but her black coat – well she is a black Labrador (we picked her up from Rosie’s farm nearby).

Unfortunately, it wasn’t a sunny day, and as we drove “onward and upward” to the forest we noticed that the hilltop was shrouded in cloud. Nevertheless, as you will see from the photographs below, the mist did not detract from the beauty of the autumn leaves; in fact it was very atmospheric.

And in case you’re wondering why I’m on the Cabbage Soup Diet again – well, you can only do it one week at a time…  I lost seven pounds, subsequently put on two (on holiday) and now I’m back on the cabbage soup to lose some more so I can put it on again. Diets are like the seasons – they come and they go, and I end up pretty well the same.



A Sunny October Day in the Devon Countryside

Yesterday was a perfect day for walking with friends – sunny, warm and with a hint of a breeze to make easier going on the hillsides. I was looking after things at Rosie’s farm – for a day only – and my companions and I could not bear to be inside on such a lovely day. Even Sasha, the old lady, was not content to have just one short walk to the orchard; after lunch she joined we younger ones on a walk to the top of the hillside from where one can see the all the farm and the rolling hills all the way down to the sea. Of course, we were in no rush and took our time, and sometimes we sat down on the grass to enjoy the view at our leisure, and sometimes I carried her… Sasha is a very little old lady. I think she rather liked it when I paused to take her photograph because it gave her (and me) a bit of a breather.




I was small and the world was big.


One morning recently I awoke early after a restless night of feeling hungry and shrinking. Yes shrinking! I was about half way through the “Catherine’s  Cabbage Soup Diet” and I could feel changes (even if nobody else could see them). So I was awake and the first thing that came into my mind made me laugh…


Strangely, I was remembering back to a time when I really was small, three years old I guess, and Henry was a baby in the pram; my sister Mary must have just started school because she wasn’t with us as we were walking home down Molle Road. Now I happened to be an excruciatingly shy little girl who wouldn’t speak to strangers; I’d run away or hide, often under Mum’s skirts if there was nowhere else to hide. However, on this occasion I didn’t run away when we met a group of ladies coming out of Mrs Cottrell’s place… and one of them had a pram.


I didn’t speak of course but I stood by the pram, just as Mum did, and looked inside at the new baby. Young as I was, I knew what a beautiful baby looked like – my baby brother Henry was soft, round and bonny – so I hadn’t been prepared for the sight of the alien little creature in the pram. The baby was bald and pale with a face and skin so thin that all his veins showed through as blue as his sad watery eyes.


“Mum,” I whispered as I tugged on my mother’s gathered skirt to get her attention,”Isn’t that a funny looking baby?”


My  mother wouldn’t answer so I tugged again.


“Mum,” I whispered slightly louder. “Isn’t that a funny looking baby?”


My mother reached down and pushed my hand from her skirt but said nothing. I couldn’t understand why she didn’t seem to hear me.


“Mummy!” I shouted whilst pulling at her dress. “Don’t you think it’s a funny looking baby?”


Silence. Oh dear! Everybody looked at me. Mum squirmed and I realised I had said the wrong thing. I was too young to make amends so I did the next best thing and disappeared inside Mum’s voluminous gathered skirt where no-one could see me. I knew my mother’s legs quite well in those days… when I small.


Nowadays the world doesn’t seem nearly so big and, after a week on “Catherine’s Cabbage Soup Diet”, neither am I. I’ve lost seven pounds. The tricky thing will be to keep it off, especially as we’re on holiday in Spain at this very moment. Actually, I’m hoping to shrink a bit more.‍




Brad Pitt?

My husband is a bit of an ape. No, he’s not short, hairy or a funny noise maker (well he does sometimes make funny noises), I really mean that Chris is a mimic. Had he been more extroverted and showbiz inclined Chris would have made a good impersonator. He does excellent impressions of Prince Charles, James Mason, Harpo Marx and Stan Laurel (of “Laurel and Hardy” fame), and occasionally he pops into impression mode seemingly without thinking about it; hence I’m apt to say, “Oh, you just sounded like James Mason!” or, “You looked just like Stan Laurel!”

Now Chris does not impersonate Bard Pitt – or even Brad Pitt (thought I’d keep in the typo) – possibly because Brad Pitt is so convincing in many varied roles that there is no particular character that is the definitive Brad; or maybe Chris would find the character of Benjamin Button too challenging.

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The other day we were parked and about to alight from the car when Chris had one of his Stan Laurel moments – perhaps he was scratching the top of his head and smiling sweetly – and, as usual, I felt impelled to comment (as wives tend to).

“Do you know who you looked like just then?” I asked.

Chris didn’t answer but paused and visibly braced himself, maybe for the Stan Laurel reference. He looked so crestfallen and Stan Laurel-like that I had a sudden change of heart.

“Brad Pitt!” I said.

His eyes widened and his eyebrows went up in surprise. Then he burst into laughter. He knows I admire Brad Pitt’s good looks, but also that he and the actor bear no similarity except for having fair hair and blue eyes, and even those features are quite different. When our laughter subsided he said something that confirmed what I already knew – that I had made the perfect choice of husband nearly twenty years ago:

“You know, Darling, I really don’t mind being likened to Stan Laurel. I’ve read that he was a very nice man.”


A Story

Before I go to sleep I’d like to tell you a true story. Actually, I am in bed writing this post on my Kindle. You see I’m staying a couple of nights with James, Jaimy and Penelope Sweet Pea (my four month old baby granddaughter) in Brighton. This afternoon I arrived bearing a few gifts, amongst which there was a lovely big book of Hans Christian Anderson’s fairy tales. Jaimy loved the book for Penny, as did I when I found it on Saturday; like me, Jaimy used to be an avid early reader and lover of fairy tales. The mere mention of fairy tales takes me back to grade two or three. at Manly West Primary School and “Fifty Famous Fairy Tales”.

I can’t remember my teacher’s name but my mind’s eye can still see the book in her hands and the way her red varnished nails and gold rings reflected on the glossy cover as she read to us wonderful stories about a golden goose, spinners of gold and dancing princesses. How I wanted to read all fifty stories at my own faster pace.  So great was my yearning that one day I overcame my terrible shyness and plucked up the courage to ask my teacher if I could borrow her book.

“No,” she said, “you wouldn’t be able to read this at your age. The words are too big for seven year olds!”

What a cheek! I knew I could read it, if only I had it.

Some months passed and still I longed for the impossible. Occasionally our teacher would bring out the treasured book and taunt me with the words she said I couldn’t read.

Then I became sick with bronchitis and had to take time off school. My mum, who always liked to buck us up with tasty morsels and delicacies when we children were sick, asked me if there was anything I fancied. I couldn’t think of food. There was only one thing I fancied….

“Fifty Famous Fairy Tales!”

And despite it not being my birthday, and it undoubtedly being an expensive book (probably too good to lend to seven year olds), Mum made my dreams come true. I read that book so much that the spine became worn and thin in the creases, though the rest of the cover retained its glossy surface.

Then one day, years later, when the book was a cherished memory rather than reading matter, a younger child admired it and I couldn’t deny her the pleasure of owning it herself.

Now, of course, it’s not so much the wonderful stories that come to mind when I think of that book… but the heart of my devoted mother. We had so little and she loved us so much.


How is Noel?

“Have you seen Noel recently?” I asked my mother, who was sitting in the back of our car.

Long ago, when I was single and lived at the gallery, Noel was my neighbour; and when I left, and Mum bought the property, he became my mum’s neighbour for a couple of years until he moved into another house that had been left to him by a dear friend. At the time of our friendship Noel had been retired early from his teaching post in Exeter.

He was a clever, witty and good-looking man of around sixty, and he had a soft spot for me. We shared a love of art and books. He had a vast library and helped me with research for my Art History course (well before I had a computer). We went together to art galleries and yacht clubs. Many was the occasion I had dinner with Noel and his bachelor friends, Frank and Walter – both old enough to be my grandfathers (and then some!). He had urged me to go to the town of Bath (Somerset) with him. I didn’t go.


“No, I haven’t seen Noel for years,” answered my mum.

“Nor me,” said Chris, “I used to see him around the town… but not for ages. Of course, he never acknowledged me. He just couldn’t accept me. It’s a shame because I would have enjoyed his company – an interesting man.”

“I wonder if he’s alright,” I said, not expecting an answer.

“He was very fond of you – wasn’t he?” Mum observed.

“Yes, and I of him but he was too old for me…”


That conversation took place last Sunday, just three days ago.

Yesterday evening Chris and I were driving home after visiting a friend in the Royal Devon and Exeter hospital, and we were discussing food – we were hungry. The car rounded the corner at Cockwood Harbour (one of our favourite places) and we noticed with astonishment that the harbour was full almost to bursting with the high tide.

“We could scrap the idea of fish and chips… and have a bowl of chips at the Anchor?” I suggested.

Chris agreed and took a side road which brought us back to Cockwood. We parked and walked around the harbour – the light is beautiful on summer evenings – and the reflections on the water were wonderful last night. It was too cold to sit outside and eat so we decided to go home for beans on toast instead. I continued to take photos as we dawdled back to our starting place. A man, standing alone by the harbour wall, had his phone camera out also.

“Isn’t it beautiful?” he began with a broad smile. “I love it here!”

“So do we!” I enthused.

And that was beginning of a long conversation. Earlier, the jolly stranger with the nice face and smile had been feeling unhappy and decided to lift his mood by going to the harbour and having a beer at “The Anchor”. It transpired that Alex came originally from Norfolk but, quite by accident, one and a half years ago he fell in love with a house he saw for sale in Dawlish and he bought it, although it is his second home. It is a large house with a wonderful garden… along West Cliff Road… The house belonged to Noel, and before that, Walter.

How is Noel?

The new owner didn’t know the circumstances, only that Noel was revered and missed by all his neighbours. To me, Noel will be forever charming, witty, generous and gentlemanly… in loving memory.






Someone is Sleeping in My Bed…

Is there anything more lovely than lying in bed of an early morning and looking across at the most beautiful creature you could wish to lay eyes upon? You watch her breathing – her little chest going up and down – and if you get close enough you can feel her breath exhaling. You want to kiss her but she might wake up. Instead, you stroke her hair gently and she makes a little noise like a kitten.

Your heart is bursting with love for her. She is not yet eleven weeks old… and she was six and a half weeks premature. Yet her arrival was long awaited. If it weren’t for you and your first real love she would not be here.

My tiny granddaughter, Penelope Sweet Pea Pitstop, came onto my bed after her first bottle of the day and I watched her as the sun gained strength and filled my bedroom.

Tom Tom?

“I wonder why they called it TomTom?” Chris asked over his cup of tea in bed this morning.

“Um,” I opened my eyes (I was still lying down – my tea was cold, as usual).

Incidentally, TomTom was on Chris’s mind because yesterday evening my brother Robert asked me to download updates for his device from my computer, seeing as he was having some problem doing so on his. We’re not completely disinterested in the subject as one of our Airbnb guests a year or so ago – a lovely Australian gentleman -just happened to be one of the pioneers of GPS.

“It can’t be because of tom tom drums,” my husband continued, “or the message might be, ‘Is anybody out there?'”

“Or trouble brewing,” I agreed.

“And it can’t have anything to do with Tom, Tom, the piper’s son, who did steal a pig and away did run…” Chris mused with relish.

“And it can have nothing to do with ‘Tom, Tom, turn around…’,” I sat up in bed.

“No, or it would be a sign of faulty GPS!” Chris laughed.

I took a sip of cold tea and added:

“Perhaps two men called Tom developed the TomTom company.”

“Or it was one man called Tom who thought he was so good he named himself twice!”


Ah, we were both wrong. A Google search answered the question – TomTom’s founder was called Harold!


Auto Tech

In an interesting interview with The Guardian, TomTom’s founder Harold Goddijn talks about the company’s genesis, as well as how it hopes to reverse declining sales and falling profits.

One of the “big three” in Australia, along with Navman and Garmin, TomTom started out as a joint venture with phone maker Ericsson in the late 1990s. When trying to come up with a name for the nascent business Tom was the leading choice, but due to its generic nature the name would not have been registrable as a trademark.

During the interview, Goddijn reflects that the decision to go with the personable — and registrable — TomTom name contributed to the company’s success. He also reminisces about how — prior to his directive that upcoming devices be “buy, take out of box, drive home” — sat navs were, prior to 2004, a complicated jumble of CD-ROM discs, wires and PDAs.

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Tom, Tom, the Piper’s Son

From Wikipedia, the free encyclopedia
“Tom, Tom, the Piper’s Son”

Sheet music
Nursery rhyme
Published 1795

“Tom, Tom, the Piper’s Son” is a popular English language nursery rhyme. It has a Roud Folk Song Index number of 19621.


Modern versions of the rhyme include:

Tune for Tom, Tom, the Piper’s Son

Problems playing this file? See media help.
Tom, Tom, the piper’s son,
Stole a pig, and away did run;
The pig was eat
And Tom was beat,
And Tom went crying [or “roaring”, or “howling”, in some versions]
Down the street.[1]

The ‘pig’ mentioned in the song is almost certainly not a live animal but rather a kind of pastry, often made with an apple filling, smaller than a pie.[1]

Another version of the rhyme is:

Tom, Tom, the piper’s son,
Stole a pig, and away he run.
Tom run here,
Tom run there,
Tom run through the village square.

This rhyme is often conflated with a separate and longer rhyme:

Tom, he was a piper’s son,
He learnt to play when he was young,
And all the tune that he could play
Was ‘over the hills and far away’;
Over the hills and a great way off,
The wind shall blow my top-knot off.
Tom with his pipe made such a noise,
That he pleased both the girls and boys,
They all stopped to hear him play,
‘Over the hills and far away’.
Tom with his pipe did play with such skill
That those who heard him could never keep still;
As soon as he played they began for to dance,
Even the pigs on their hind legs would after him prance.
As Dolly was milking her cow one day,
Tom took his pipe and began to play;
So Dolly and the cow danced ‘The Cheshire Round’,
Till the pail was broken and the milk ran on the ground.
He met old Dame Trot with a basket of eggs,
He used his pipe and she used her legs;
She danced about till the eggs were all broke,
She began for to fret, but he laughed at the joke.
Tom saw a cross fellow was beating an ass,
Heavy laden with pots, pans, dishes, and glass;
He took out his pipe and he played them a tune,
And the poor donkey’s load was lightened full soon.[1]

Origins and meaning[edit]

Both rhymes were first printed separately in a Tom the Piper’s Son, a chapbook produced around 1795 in London, England.[1] The origins of the shorter and better known rhyme are unknown.

The second, longer rhyme was an adaptation of an existing verse which was current in England around the end of the seventeenth and beginning of the eighteenth centuries. The following verse, known as “The Distracted Jockey’s Lamentations”, may have been written for (but not included in) Thomas D’Urfey‘s play The Campaigners (1698):

Jockey was a Piper’s Son,
And fell in love when he was young;
But all the Tunes that he could play,
Was, o’er the Hills, and far away,
And ‘Tis o’er the Hills, and far away,
‘Tis o’er the Hills, and far away,
‘Tis o’er the Hills, and far away,
The Wind has blown my Plad away.[1]

This verse seems to have been adapted for a recruiting song designed to gain volunteers for the Duke of Marlborough‘s campaigns about 1705, with the title “The Recruiting Officer; or The Merry Volunteers”, better today known as “Over the Hills and Far Away“, in which the hero is called Tom.[1]



A Golden Sea

Because our house faces south-east we have beautiful sunrises rather than sunset skies but occasionally on summer evenings we, and our neighbours, are drawn out onto our balcony by some atmospheric magic that brings the pinks and gold of the setting sun into our skyscape. Last week there was quite a gathering of folk, either on their balconies or stood at their windows or French doors, all looking in wonder at the golden sea.

A few days later an enormous cloud, first so pretty and vivacious, became enraged before our very eyes and soon flashed and spat with vexation. It was the same night that, farther down the channel, parts of Cornwall were lashed and flooded.

This morning brought gales… and a lone windsurfer scudding, streaking and sometimes flying over the incoming waves. I took a video (a bit noisy owing to the wind). We don’t normally have windsurfers here in the sea off Dawlish – it’s not a surf beach – but we don’t usually have golden seas either.

And now it’s just raining… heavily, but I won’t have to water the flowers tonight!

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Image result for chipmunks photosImage result for chipmunks cartoon photos


“How do you spell chipmunk?” I asked Chris. (At the time I was writing my blog.)

“Chipmunk?” Chris queried. “Is there any other way to spell it?” and he started to spell it out to me, “‘C-H-I-P…M….”

Suddenly, it dawned on my husband that there might indeed be another way.

“Yes? Go on,” I urged.

“M…U-N-K!” he finished.

“I thought so,” I said (not wishing to sound stupid).

The other spelling would indicate something quite different…” he said laughing, “the chip-fat friar! (fryer). We could all Tuck in!”

“Forgive me for being so bald but I thought it was patently obvious,” I chipped in (in a high-pitched voice not dissimilar to the chipmunk voice on the little video I put on my blog a few days ago).


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Friar Tuck with Robin Hood (Richard Greene – the real Robin Hood!)

Correct spelling!

A Real Chipmonk – Correct spelling!