Slow Lane Life II

How we moved to the West Country and learned to slow down even more



I saw a Facebook post the other day that tickled me; it read “You know it’s cold outside when….. you go outside and it’s cold.”

I’m rather enjoying the sudden change to properly seasonal weather, as it provides an excellent reason for evenings in front of this:


I think this was one of my fires, because of its meagreness; it would certainly have needed feeding during the evening. The Gardener fills the entire stove, blazes it up furiously, and it then lasts the entire night without needing to be topped up. Except then we can’t get near it for the heaps of cats and dog in a group fireside coma.



The world news is all so terrible, so upsetting, so all-pervading, that I was glad to receive these phone photos today.

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Baby E was just starting to get the hang of wobbly, not-quite-there-yet smiling when I last talked to him, but it looks like he knows what he’s doing now.


Thank you, little E, you lifted a heavy heart today with your radiance.


The new poison


I am now beginning my 4th week of being completely sugar free*. After a summer shared with teashops-and-cake-loving visitors, I felt I could do with a break from all the sweetness (and calories) that – erm, social etiquette demanded. Don’t raise your eyebrow like that; you know it would have been rude of me not to have joined in.

Surprisingly, I have not craved – or, really, even thought about – anything sweet since I began what was intended to be a brief experiment, but which I will carry on. I have not been tempted once to join The Gardener, who is not as committed as he might be to this experiment, and indulges in the occasional bowl of ice cream, or what he invariably describes as “just a tiny cake” when he’s out at work and thus safely out of my sight.

This is Somerset. Tiny cakes do not exist here.

*By sugar free, I mean I won’t eat or drink anything that I know to have sugar/honey/maple syrup and so on added, and artificial sweeteners are so revolting that they are easily omitted. I’m not yet ready to step back into the world of policing carbohydrates, refined or otherwise, although I know from past experience that a more restrained approach to carbs is my best bet in the fight against flab. That’s a fight yet to come, though.





Me: “Grandpa is promising Baby E that he will have his own little spade and learn how to dig in the soil and to plant seeds in his own little garden….”

Grandpa: “I’m promising him that I will teach him all about shutter speeds. I have his first camera picked out for him already.”

Baby E: “Keep talking to me. I love it!”


In the company of pets


If you phone our vet(erinarian), you may get the answerphone, with various options to follow. Press one for equine, two for farm animals, and so forth. Press another for “companion animals”. Not pets. This threw me the first time I heard it. While Flossie and Lottie are most definitely companion animals, sticking so close to us that they could almost be termed what my grandmother called “a poultice” (i.e. an over-clingy friend), we could hardly describe Catkin, with her unwavering preference for the dinner dish and the comfy armchair, as a companion. She is our pet; we are the hand that feeds her, and which she sometimes bites.

And what about Hamish, who might be better called the Anti-Companionship Animal? He and Catkin are lodgers at heart, at times to suit themselves. Scooter fits somewhere in between; sometimes (dinner times, chiefly) lovingly attentive, other times scuttling under the dining room table as we approach. Still slightly feral, but as I used to tell him years ago, longing to be a lap cat, if only he would admit it to himself.

The Gardener likes the term Companion Animal, and often uses it on Flossie. He has a range of silly names for her. She doesn’t care what we call her, so long as we let her go everywhere with us.

But today the Gardener referred to me as a Companion Human.




Visiting Peter Rabbit

Well, we didn’t quite make it to either the Barometer Museum or the Gnome Reserve. Hands up, anyone who is not surprised. Not having looked up any directions in advance may have helped, as does loathing garden gnomes and finding barometers less than exciting (and why does a barometer always move a little when tapped? And why is it generally wrong in its forecast? Childhood mysteries.).

But we did arrive at RHS Garden Rosemoor, albeit somewhat later than intended. En route, we discovered a reclamation and antiques showplace, and spent rather a long time wandering round it.

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Ah, those pre-decimal days…. Half crowns, florins, shillings, sixpences and threepenny bits, pennies, halfpennies and farthings (can you believe the latter was still in use until the end of 1960!) and then, to confuse the afflicted still further, those items for sale in posher shops, priced in guineas. How difficult it all was, really.


And we had to give Flossie a ball-chasing run in an empty open field. The beech trees, so plentiful in this area, were a glorious gold, their leaves edging the road with heaps of gleaming colour.

By the time we reached Rosemoor, we were ready for a cup of tea, which gave the rain time to stop. The garden still held a significant number of plants in bloom despite being at that stage of quietly going to sleep for the winter.


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Or perhaps not so quietly. I am not overly fond of such hectic shades of red and orange, myself.

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Gourds, pumpkins and apples were everywhere in the kitchen garden, to me, as always, the most interesting part of the whole garden.

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Someone has a good eye for colour:

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The air was very still; in the older part of the garden, Lady Anne’s, the Mediterranean (formerly the tennis court) and the exotic gardens, hardly a soul was about, although there was evidence that gardeners had simply gone for lunch and would return.

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A quick stroll round The Queen Mother’s Garden, still with roses (some with a reassuring degree of black-spotted leaves).

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And it was time to go.cropped-dscf2278.jpg

We went into Torrington in search of a late lunch; an odd little place, we thought, with a sort of sad, half-day-closing feel about it.┬áBut Brown’s Deli did not disappoint, and we tucked in to a very nice home-cooked lunch (Homity pie for me – mmmmm) with gusto.

Great Torrington sits perched on the edge of a cliff, beneath which the river flows; the enormous car park hinted that during the holiday season, Torrington may be far livelier. Far below the car park, you can hear, rather than see, the river Torridge:

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And then we came home, rush hour building up around us, making us thankful that in our sleepy home town, rush hour is barely noticeable.


Rainy day


We’re going out this morning, The Gardener and I. It’s raining. We share many memories of jolly days out in the rain, when he can’t (or prefers not to) work.

A bone of contention between us is his inability to decide where we should go. “You choose” he says, leaving me to scrutinise maps and websites, balance distance and time in the car against scenery (even in the rain, the scenery here can be stunning) and interesting destinations (with cafes) that are worth the trip. Sometimes it’s difficult to find a place we haven’t visited often.

Mostly we just enjoy going out together, anywhere; we chat, we reminisce, we check the rear view mirror to chuckle at Flossie enjoying her outing, nose aloft, ecstatically catching the scents coming in at the open window. On the way home, dinner wolfed, she will sleep snoringly on her comfortable puffy dog bed that fills the boot of the car.

Today, we are off to Great Torrington in North Devon, ostensibly to visit RHS Rosemoor, which I have never seen. But if you click this link, you will find there are other attractions in Great Torrington. Oh yes.

Last night, The Gardener said “I don’t think I’ll sleep much, because of all the excitement” and when I asked why, he said “The Barometer Museum!” It’s always nice to fall asleep chuckling.

Maybe we’ll go. Unless we are lured into the Gnome Reserve….

There will be photos. Excitement must be shared.


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