Dawlish to Buxton, 237 miles
|A skating rink had been installed in a small plaza - the unseasonably mild weather conspired to turn into a piscina.|
|Keeled over Christmas tree - an apt emblem for our mood..|
|As we boarded, it looked quite compact|
|inside it was huge - and really quite empty - off season it must surely run at a loss.|
|The dog owner pound.|
|Well, they seem in order....|
Eventually the Pont Aven slipped away from the quay, reversed a bit (do ships 'reverse'?), then sailed slowly down the Bahia de Santander towards the sea. It was a pretty twilight and I joined the small gaggle of people at the stern rail scrabbling to take identical cliched photographs of the wake in the evening light. A peaceful scene, punctuated by the occassional yap or howl from the adjacent pooch gaol.
|My brilliant travelling companion...|
Once it got dark we headed for our cabin and played with the folding bunks. Given that the space is not much bigger than one of those coin operated metal toilet kiosks, it is remarkably well designed and contrary to expectations we got a reasonable night's sleep.
At breakfast we learned we had slept through a minor emergency. At some point in the small hours the ferry had to make a detour to enable a helicopter evacuate a seriously ill passenger. As a result our arrival in Plymouth was going to be delayed by two hours. We changed our plans, deciding to head for a campsite near Dawlish rather than the small site on a cider farm near Taunton as originally planned.
|Only five hours to go....|
|Dull but mild|
The first was a couple of miles from where we stayed near Starcross in Devon. . Powderham Farm Shop is packed full of great local products. We went there for some bread and came out with a shopping bag full of stuff, excellent mince, a range of local sausages, some Devon blue cheese - the whole place is a showcase for good British food. In a sense, however, you might expect this from a stately home estate's farm shop. The real surprise came when we stopped for lunch at Gloucester Motorway Services. Bill Bailey called them 'cathedral's of despair', and if you wanted something that epitomises the worst aspects of British food, then look no further than what the hapless British motorist has to put up with on our motorways. However, Gloucester Services shows that it does not have to be like this, the place is full of excellent fresh produce and has a farm shop every bit as good as the one at the Powderham Estate. What the place shows is the mundane and the ordinary can be delightful, there is hope, but sadly only here and there.
|Gloucester Services - catering for the masses does not inevitably lead to mass catering.|
|Low energy architecture with a butterfly friendly roof.|
|Gill with her best 'it's f****** freezing face on, she is, of course, far too well mannered to express such a thing.|
Departure spawns its own mythology:
the tearful scene, a squalid terminus—
she needs his promises; he wants 'no fuss'—
one wistful kiss, a gauche apology.
Her script demands a clichéd gravitas:
the jukebox playing, as his silhouette
dissolves into the cinematic sunset:
"Regrets, I've had a few!" An emptied glass.
Then always for the loved one left behind,
the niggling doubts: this time he won't return,
he'll die, shack-up with someone half his age,
come back quite changed; she knows that those who find
delight in not belonging always yearn
for solitude no woman can assuage.