Saturday, 26 December 2009

New Panto Group for an Old Tradition

With the old year behind us - "Oh no it isn't!" I hear you say - Budleigh Salterton has yet another entertaining aspect to it in the aptly-named Buscers, who are launching their first production in the New Year.

Budleigh Salterton Community Entertainers will be staging the pantomime Aladdin in the Public Hall on 16 and 23 January, with performances starting at 2.15 pm and 7.15 pm.

Panto director Steve Andrews heads a team of 90 people involved with the show, including 16-year-old Rebecca Clark who is playing principal girl Princess Jasmin. He has been delighted with the enthusiastic response from the Budleigh community. It's going to be, as he says, "a show to remember."

Oh yes it is!

Profits from the show are going to Budleigh Age Concern.

Tickets are £7 and £5 for under-14s and are available from The Card Shop Too in Budleigh Salterton High Street, or from Jenny Nicholls - telephone: (01395) 446415.

A sweet idea for a Budleigh shop

Even in Budleigh Salterton one sees sadly empty or boarded-up business premises, like this shop on the High Street.

When I pass them I wonder what an enterprising shopkeeper would do to fill a gap in the market, and think how hard it must be in these troubled economic times to come up with a good recession-proof idea which would enhance a small town's high street.

Maybe it's the time of year, Christmas being a binge-time for chocoholics, but I was excited when I read the following news from our sister-town of Brewster, Cape Cod, where the appropriately named Mr Lively has opened a shop selling 75 different kinds of chocolate truffles.

Above: Could Budleigh chocolate truffles become as popular as its pebbles?

In a health-conscious community he could be on to a winner. Chocolate which is high in cocoa solids is now recognised as having many qualities that are beneficial to health. It contains essential trace elements and nutrients such as iron, calcium and potassium, and vitamins A. B1, C, D, and E. Cocoa is also the highest natural source for Magnesium. Magnesium deficiency is linked with hypertension, heart disease, diabetes, joint problems and pre-menstrual tension (PMT or PMS).


Truffle master offers unusual treats
By Rich Eldred

There’s a lot more than just a lotta chocolatta in chef Paul Olaf Lively’s terrific truffles.
The chocolatier hand rolls 75 different original truffles with ingredients as diverse as blue cheese, sugar cane, wild blueberries, jalepeno pepper, sun-dried apples, Sumatra coffee, toasted pumpkin seeds, real live mushroom truffles and, naturally, chocolate.

Paul Lively, right, assists a customer at Chocolate Peddler.

It’s a dizzying array of gourmet dessert treats that he sells at Chocolate Peddler at 2628 Main St. next to True Value Hardware along with (amazingly good) soups, biscotti and sundries.

“When I get into a creative mode, I can mix anything with chocolate. I can take my culinary skills, mixed with the pastry stuff to create phenomenal chocolates,” he said proudly. “They’re all created here, it’s about a three-day process where I infuse chocolate for two days, make a mix and hand scoop and roll. I push them so far they’re off the wall.”

You can buy a Georgia-Ray (for Ray Charles), white chocolate infused with white peach, blood orange and raspberry, or the King Kong BBQ comprising grilled red banana, bittersweet chocolate ganache, fresh nutmeg, sugar cane barbecue sauce and mango.

“I make them because I can and nobody else does,” Lively reflected. “The B.B. King has blueberry (for BB), dark chocolate around luscious Lucille (his guitar) caramel and it’s sweet because he plays some sweet riffs. The King of Pop contains orange Grand Marnier, Fuji apples, smoked Gouda cheese dipped in white chocolate and wrapped in silver foil because those were some of Michael Jackson’s favorite things.”

The Neo contains actual truffles. “A chocolate truffle reproduces the look of a mushroom truffle,” Lively pointed out.

Ingredients come from local organic farms such as Ron Becker’s in Brewster and his landlord, Stephan Brown, is next door in his herb shop. “I said, ‘Would you like to sell my product in your store?’ And he said, ‘no, because I’d like you to open your own store.’ Part of my creativity is because I’m in a place that has almost become my home. And being on an organic farm inspires me,” Lively observed.

Lively came to Brewster from Wareham, where he’d started making and selling his chocolates after leaving New York City, where he had established himself as a pastry chef.

Lively was born in Rockland County, N.Y., and started out as a pastry chef in Manhattan at the Russian Tea Room next to Carnegie Hall before being lured into the world of fine chocolates.
“I got into pastry because I wanted to have a bed and breakfast when I was in my 20s,” he recalled. “My job from December ’91 to Jan. 15, was to make truffles, 25,000 in a month.”
That might have put someone off chocolate forever but it had the opposite effect on Lively.
“I worked a 40-hour week and then stayed afterward to learn chocolate; how to mold chocolate, do sugar,” he recalled.

He worked as a pastry chef at the 21 Club with chef Andre Bonhomme [in New York City] and soon succeeded him as the head pastryman. “Andre taught me the essence of French pastry and myself, and he and Michael Lomonaco came up with the recipes in the 21 Cookbook,” Lively said. “At the Tea Salon is where I got into infusions. Everything was infused with tea.”

Infusion is one of the secrets of Lively’s truffles. “The infusion process is like steeping a cup of tea. The ingredients are steeped into the chocolate so the natural flavors are extended into the chocolate and flavor becomes concentrated and intensified,” he explained. “I’m very particular on how things taste. If you’re infusing shrimp with coconut, you taste the coconut, you taste the shrimp, so one doesn’t overpower the other. I was fortunate to have been a sous chef and then become a pastry chef,” he noted.

Lively intends to produce his own ice cream next year, and add to his line of soups, pastries and organic gourmet takeout meals such as coconut key lime smoked barbecue ribs. He will teach a cooking class in your own kitchen or cater a fancy wedding as your personal chef.

“I really want people to feel welcome. The aura you should feel as you come into the store is comfort,” Lively said. “Everything is the essence of who I am and who you are. Every day is different. I get to experience and meet people and I’m producing a product that is great.”
The shop is modeled after an old mercantile with a soft sofa, copper pots and pans, an old Victrola, several antique radios, cookbooks, photos, jars and boxes of chocolates.

“I have regular customers who come in for soup and food. I love the town of Brewster; it’s one town that really hasn’t changed but where we’re creating a downtown Brewster where we’re all pulling together,” he said.

Chocolate Peddler
2628 Main St., Brewster

Reprinted with permission from
Wicked Local photo by Barry Donahue

"Yule find it's so bracing!"

Well, that's what the mad Christmas Day swimmers told me when I joined crowds of Budleigh residents, curious spectators and the swimmers themselves as they gathered on the beach at 10.00 am on 25 December. A new record for both actors and audience seems to have been broken every year as the ritual grows in popularity, and Budleigh's Christmas Day swim is now a great local tradition as well as being officially listed by the UK's Outdoor Swimming Society as one of their 'must do' events.

On a sunny morning with silvery calm sea, Budleigh is hard to beat, says the Society on its website and as far as I was concerned conditions couldn't have been better on Christmas Day, with a brilliant blue sky and radiant sunshine helping to make some good photos. The sea temperature of 10 degrees wouldn't suit everyone, and I was quite glad to have the excuse that I'd just come out of hospital. But maybe next year...

Just in case of mishaps, the Exmouth lifeboat is on hand for the event at 10.00 am before heading off to the even bigger Exmouth Christmas Day swim a few miles along the coast.

Supporting the RNLI at the event was Gilly Jones from Budleigh. She's been fund-raising for the RNLI for two years, and I hope that she left with a full model life-boat: there must have been 1,000 spectators and 100 swimmers there, she thought. I explained why I wouldn't be going in the water and she explained that she couldn't because of collecting. So her husband Russell had been the one who'd be taking the plunge, his first time. For information about the RNLI see

Local reporter Simon Horn from the Exmouth & Budleigh Journal was another spectator who had a good excuse not to strip off and join the mad people. He's been attending the Budleigh event for 13 years.

Dave Winter from Budleigh was there with his daughter Hazel. She now lives in Eastbourne in Sussex, where they also have a Christmas Day swim. I unkindly suggested that she might have come to swim at Budleigh because the sea temperature would be higher here than in the snowy South East of England. But no, it was simply "a great family tradition."

So now they're under starter's orders with an exciting countdown from 10 just to build up the adrenalin or whatever you need to keep you upright and alive in this bonkers situation. The countdown seemed to work. Nobody chickened out and ran the other way as far as I could see.

It could just have been a lovely sunny summer's day as they all splashed happily in the waves, but the Santa hats are a giveaway.

Running southwards into the sun does help maintain the illusion that you're heading for a warm bath in the English Channel, I suppose. I didn't know whether this sun-facing shot would come out, but it turned out to be quite arty.

You have to be pretty smart with a camera because no sooner have you taken a shot of everyone heading to the water than they start running back again! Understandable really. I say running, but of course those famous pebbles can be quite painful for frozen feet and this couple look as if they're suffering a bit.

Suffering or not, the face of this young man holding the Santa hat shows all the triumph of his crazy achievement.

Amanda Gulbrantson from Littleham has been doing a Christmas Day swim for 20 years. Both she and her dog Sam look as if they've been enjoying themselves. Ryan Morris, next to her, clearly can't understand why that lone swimmer is carrying on towards Sidmouth. I did hear the word "crackers" being used to describe him.

Ryan told me that the event was "non official" and had no organiser because of dreaded health & safety issues. He introduced me to his father Larry who had started it at Budleigh. "Originally it was a Boxing Day swim but that clashed with a raft race so they moved it to Christmas Day," explained Larry. A keen swimmer, he is a member of the local water polo club and was now on his way to swim at the Exmouth Christmas Day event, which begins an hour later at 11.00 am.

It's "very bracing" says Larry. And this event was clearly just a warm-up for him. "If you think this Budleigh swim is big, come to Exmouth. There'll be three to four thousand people watching and a thousand in the water."

And first-timer Russell Jones' verdict after his little dip? "Fantastic", "exhilarating" he said. But he did admit that the après-splash swig from his mini bottle of sloe gin might have helped.

It sounded fun. Yes, maybe next year...

Brook welcomes Brit Art icons to Budleigh

Renowned names from the British art world joined the team to launch the Brook’s major Christmas exhibition, The Coriander Studio Show. This ‘blockbuster’ of an exhibition opened on 9 December 2009 and runs to 10 January 2010.

The guest list for the private view on Tuesday 8 December included names from the British Art elite such as Brendan Neiland, Brad Faine, Bruce McLean and Sir Peter Blake.

Above: Storm Thorgerson, 'Chrome'

World renowned for its techniques in silkscreen and digital printing, The Coriander Studio’s reputation was honed in the 60s. Now under the direction of Brad Faine, the 500 or so international artists with whom he works are a roll call of Britain’s best, many of which are included in this stunning exhibition. The Brook is also thrilled to be given the opportunity to exhibit for the first time anywhere, two absolutely gorgeous brand new pieces by Damien Hirst – a real coup for an independent gallery.

Above: Peter Blake, 'Madonna on Venice beach'

The exhibition will take your breath away with other works by John Hoyland, Gary Hume, Michael Craig Martin, Maurice Cockrill, Sir Terry Frost, Tom Phillips and Storm Thorgerson, all beautifully and passionately printed by Coriander Studio Ltd. British art and its icons are truly celebrated at this exclusive Christmas show and this last exhibition of the year, truly sets the standard for yet another exceptional 12 months of art in 2010.

The Brook Gallery Coriander Studio exhibition is open 10.30 am to 5.00 pm, closed Sunday mornings. Call 01395 443 003 or email

Above: John Hoyland, 'Gnome'

A pebble for your thoughts

Not too many people venture out on to Budleigh beach at this time of the year - apart from the mad Christmas swimmers of course - but that very special stretch of ancient beautiful pebbles will always charm visitors, whatever the season.

Some Budleigh people might like to keep it as one of those undiscovered gems of the UK coast. One told me recently that one of the things that induced him and his wife to move here nearly ten years ago was that they had been informed that Budleigh Salterton was "not a tourist town, and catered rather for the residents."

"We have found this to be the case, and have much enjoyed its quiet atmosphere," he wrote. "There are plenty of nearby tourist resorts for those who seek them."

Above: A winter scene on Budleigh beach, looking west towards Sandy Bay and Exmouth

Nobody wants to see a string of amusement arcades along the sea front, but I can't imagine how that person thinks that Budleigh traders or indeed the organisers of its very successful festivals will manage without visitors from the world outside.

So - with a few possible exceptions - we should be pleased to see the comments of one recent enchanted visitor who is also a fellow-blogger. "Walk along Budleigh Salterton's pebble beach," he writes. "There are many places in life that will catch your eyes but only a few that will capture your heart."

My American readers may be interested to know that this is a New York-based interior designer who spends his life in what he calls "the pursuit of beauty" and whose client-list extends in the USA from the East to the West coast, and across 'the pond' to England.
Above: New York designer Christopher Ong, a recent visitor to Budleigh

Christopher Ong's career has in fact been international, owing much to an East-meets-West experience. After a childhood in the Far East he studied in Toronto and New York City before starting his design business in 2000. 'Manhattan meets Malaysia' is a theme of much of his work, which has embraced everything from lifestyle product designs to the interior design of various critically acclaimed, celebrity-frequented boutique hotels in South Beach, Jamaica and the Bahamas.

But back to Budleigh Salterton. "It was a windy and wet and chilly afternoon," he writes. "We took a walk along the beautiful clean pebble beach. I had never seen a beach like this before. It was beautiful."

Long may it remain so.

Above: Budleigh beach from the sea
Christopher Ong's work can be seen at

Monday, 21 December 2009

Dealing with some old chestnuts

Well, I think I can face that Bob Monkhouse advert for the Prostate Cancer Charity with a slightly less troubled mind now. Certainly before 19 October 2009 I found it a creepy experience to be faced every time I went into the supermarket by Bob's staring eyes and those warning words: "Prostate cancer cost me my life. Don't let it cost you yours."

And I feel able to post this item and get back to blogging only because I’ve just received what they tell me is a (so far) 'all-clear’ based on the histology report and blood test following surgery on my own prostate.

I won’t be blogging quite so frequently for the time being, and I’m not sure that I’d have been cheery enough to do any at all had I received bad news from the hospital about margins etc. Though of course many brave people do, and Bob Monkhouse is even joking about such things from beyond the grave.

But then, cancer does give you a sense of tumour. (Sorry about that one, Bob).

In spite of having lost that annoying and mysterious little gland I can’t say I feel greatly changed after my op, though I could have prepared myself better for some of the bewildering side-effects. But every body is different, and time will hopefully heal the damage. It’s been an educational experience in some ways: I’d always thought that pelvic floor exercises were yoga stuff that women had to do on the floor.

It certainly feels better to be out of those white surgical stockings, bags and tubes – though I’d have been able to strike a real horror note at the Halloween party I missed.

Thanks again to people who sent their best wishes. Men’s prostates seem to be getting their rightfully higher profile nowadays, what with a whole special supplement about prostate cancer being published in The Times in the week that I went into hospital, and the news that Andrew Lloyd Webber was being treated for it at the same time as me

Of course you could say that there is too much information out there on the web, and after a bit your head starts spinning, especially when you read about the different ways of treating the disease. Devon even has its own Chestnut Appeal website at – the organ is often likened to a chestnut because of its size and shape – to provide support for patients and their families and to raise funds for treatment. And just after my op I read in the newspaper a full page article about a new ‘therapy’ for the disease which was clearly a re-hash of a piece similar to that which had appeared a year ago in December 2008 – ‘Nanotechnology delivers lethal dose of drug to prostate cancer cells’
Initially you think, “Damn, why didn’t I wait for this new wonder drug instead of letting them cut me up?” But of course the wonder drug is not going to be available tomorrow, even privately: as one online commentator on that article noted “it takes anywhere from 3 to 13+ years for a drug to trudge through the pipeline.” And meanwhile, as the Bob Monkhouse ad says, prostate cancer is a disease "killing one man every hour in the UK."

After an initial positive diagnosis in 2004 I opted for active surveillance and regular PSA blood tests as a treatment rather than immediate surgery or radiotherapy. After all, in apparently 50% of cases the cancer doesn’t progress and you’re likely to die of something else. But earlier this year it was worryingly clear that the PSA was taking a rather too steep upwards turn, and I’m grateful to my consultant at the Royal Devon & Exeter Hospital for telling me that more dynamic action was now needed.

Exeter would have been more convenient, but the NHS currently offers only open surgery for radical prostatectomy at the RD&E, and I was pretty sure that I wanted the more modern laparoscopic procedure that is offered at Musgrove Park Hospital in Taunton, just 45 minutes away on the motorway: less blood loss, a lesser risk of wound infection, faster recovery time etc.

And now, after a hospital stay of only two nights, I feel that I’ve just been given the best chance of a cure, if there is such a thing. In a moment of post-op enthusiastic admiration for the neat surgery I did look at some film of laparoscopic prostatectomy at when I got back home. Fascinating to watch and a tribute to the skill of the surgeon, but I fairly quickly decided that putting my feet up and admiring the beautiful autumn colours of the garden was easier on the eye. And soon, I hope, the whole thing will be a distant memory, including those upsetting side-effects about which I won’t go into detail.

But before I forget it totally, and especially for my American readers, I would like to say that, whatever they were told on Fox TV by UK Conservative MEP Daniel Hannan about our National Health Service being a 60-year-old “mistake” which has “made people iller”
I was grateful and full of admiration for the doctors and nurses I met on Ward 3 at Musgrove Park Hospital. They could not be faulted for their careful and considerate approach. It was surely beyond the call of duty for my surgeon to call in three times during my two-day hospital stay to check up on what seems to have been a routine operation; and the anaesthetist called twice to see how I was recovering.

The NHS as a system is not perfect. My own case was marked by some minor but unnecessary clerical errors, and I did have to wait for two months for an op because of what I was told were “problems with capacity.” But prostate tumours are generally slow-growing, and the delay did mean that I got those gardening jobs done.

Any system can be improved. To reject it as a failed 1940s social experiment in “a nice togetherness”, as Mr Hannan did in his interview, sounds to me like a rejection of the whole philosophy of caring for others.

What’s so wrong with “togetherness”? It can help put lots of things into perspective. By some chance I was put in a side-room on my own in Musgrove Park after my op. Only as I was about to leave the hospital did I meet other patients in the main men’s ward as I began to experiment with walking again. There was the brave amputee Ray, about to be fitted with an artificial leg, who told me how his experience had made him want to volunteer to meet other amputees to show how he had coped. Just a few beds away was the surprisingly well-looking fellow-prostate cancer sufferer whose disease had spread to his bones. And then there were the really sick-looking people who made me wish I’d been clever enough to follow a medical career to do something for them.

I realised that I may have got off fairly lightly, for the moment anyway. Part of me was happy to go home to convalesce after my short stay. But I also felt like staying to try and cheer them up.

Mr Hannan’s cruel and dismissive judgement on our health service is as much an old chestnut as was my dodgy prostate.

Sunday, 18 October 2009

Deer friends (not)

Left: Some real wildlife arrives in the garden
I touched on a personal note in my last bulletin when I apologised for unusually erratic postings due to “health reasons.” Many thanks for the goodwill messages from friendly readers wishing me luck as I disappear from the blogosphere for a time while the doctors deal with my little cancer problem.

I feel a bit of a fraud actually. I’ve never felt so well as I go into hospital for my op early tomorrow morning. But I ought to be thankful for that.

Yes, it’s a boring old prostate problem which the clever doctors diagnosed years ago and which they now say should be dealt with. Friends who’ve had the same op say “It’s nothing!” but I have my doubts about that.

OK, so it’s supposed to be the nearest thing to a cure, but the vision that I have of all those tubes sticking out of me is more grotesque than any horror movie scene I can think of. So I’ve had to turn down an invitation to a Halloween party on the 30th . I reckon I’d frighten away even the most outrageously dressed would-be zombie or vampire.

I have to confess that my erratic blogging of late has nothing to do with being laid low with chemotherapy or radiation sickness. It’s just that some weeks ago I woke up early to find a couple of unwelcome visitors in the garden chewing away at my roses. What I thought were thick and thorny hedges were clearly no defence against these little deer at all, and made me realise that something needed to be done before I’m incapacitated for months due to surgery. So I’ve been frantically busy with all the garden jobs I could think of, including as a priority making a deer fence to protect the roses and just about every other growing thing that the creatures have an insatiable appetite for. And of course one job led to another, and so on.
Above: "No, not that way, dear!"

A pity really. The deer are lovely to look at, even if they are really just vermin. But the roses are even lovelier and smell nicer.

A bientôt, as we Francophiles say.

Power to the people – solar panels power Brewster home

[Both Budleigh Salterton and Brewster boast sunny climates which are welcomed not just by sunbathers. Here in Devon, our local Lily Farm recently produced the earliest-ripening grapes of any UK vineyard, while across the Atlantic a Brewster-based company is promoting ‘green’ thinking with its development of solar power to help solve the world’s energy crisis.

This map shows that South West USA is the optimal location for reliance on the sun for electricity, but Cape Cod – even though it’s right up in the North East – ranks with Florida in being blessed with 88% of the solar capacity of central Arizona! “Cape Cod is a prime location for a Solar Energy System,” says Luke Hinkle, proprietor of My Generation Energy.
Picture credit: ]

Fretting about the electric bill is but a faint memory for Rich Wolf of Brewster.

The retired electrician gazes heavenward for his source of energy.

As of last Tuesday all of his electricity is courtesy of the sun. He’s installed 43 solar panels atop his garage and roof at his home alongside quiet Myricks Pond.

“I’ve been interested in alternative energy for several years and that’s something that my wife and I could do to improve pollution and to help with energy independence for the country,” said the ex-AT&T engineer.

Healthy pitch pines shelter the house but Wolf isn’t worried about shadows short-circuiting his solar panels, thanks to state of the art technology.

“On one side the trees still shade some of it,” he conceded, “but Luke (Hinkle) has a special system. The inverter coverts DC to the AC that we use on a panel by panel basis.”

Normally a shadow will shut down all the solar energy production across the system but the panel-by-panel inverter means the other 42 panels keep producing.

“It’s sort of like with the old Christmas lights when one went out they all went out, versus parallel wiring where when one bulb goes out the rest stay burning,” Wolf recalled.

So Wolf didn’t have to lumber his lawn in order to put the panels up. The panels are on the southern side to maximize their exposure to light.

“Ideally it’s (due) south but anything southeast, southwest works almost as well,” Hinkle noted.

Hinkle runs My Generation Energy in Brewster, a solar installation and development company, and he’s done several other local homes. He put 29 panels on the garage and 14 on the house. Each one weighs 34 pounds.

“The system we put up will provide 100 percent of the electricity for the home and it’s an all-electric home with the exception of gas heat and water,” Wolf said.

The panels cover 600 square feet of roof.

“We believe this is the biggest residential installation on the Cape,” Hinkle said.
It has a 9,245-watt capacity and over a year could produce 12,000 to 13,000 kilowatt hours of electricity.

“We saved room (on the roof) for a solar hot water heater and Perry Borden will be putting it up next month,” Wolf promised.

Each panel is 3 by 5 feet and produces 215 watts of electricity in full sun. Sanyo manufactures them.

“The (silicon) chips are made in Oregon and the glass is fabricated in Mexico,” Wolf said. “Each solar chip is exposed to the sun and it gives off electrons. The wires connecting the dots collect the electrons and give us the electricity. Electrons moving are called electricity. The inverter collects the electricity the panels produce.”

“There are over 3,000 individual solar cells on the roof,” Hinkle noted.

The energy isn’t stored but pumped into the grid. There are no batteries.

“Right now we are selling electricity back to NStar,” Wolf cheerfully pointed out, “because in the sunlight it makes more than I use. Tonight when it’s dark, we’ll buy electricity back from NStar.”

All of this is recorded by a net meter which can run forward and backward.

“The expectation is that over the year it will be neutral,” Wolf said.

Last Friday, after one day of operation, Wolf had supplied 20 kilowatt hours back to NStar. The panels had generated 42 KW hours. His home uses about 12,500 KW hours a year.

“The average home in the country is 16,000 KW hours,” Wolf observed.

Hinkle handles all the paperwork with NStar, permitting and inspections. Wolf, who is on the town energy committee, noted that Brewster was very helpful.

“As soon as it was installed, Rollie Bassett came out and did the inspection,” he explained.

“Brewster is very alternative energy considerate.”

“When I walk in to the building department, they say, ‘Hi Luke. How can I help you,’” Hinkle reported. “The big advantage of (home installation) is you don’t have to move the electricity far.”
If there is a power outage the solar panels also shut down. NStar doesn’t want independent power sources pumping energy into the grid when it is repairing wires.

“Residential systems start at $15,000 and go up from there,” Hinkle explained. “But they often come with incentives from the state and federal government in the form of rebates and tax credits. The people who can least afford it get the most rebates. Some of my customers will pay no tax this year because they invested in this kind of system.”

There is a 30 percent cash credit on solar and wind power from the federal government that was spread out over time but now is available in the year the system is installed.

“It will pay back itself in approximately 10 years,” said Wolf. “And the system life is 30 plus years. The benefit is a little cleaner air and a little less oil the country has to import. It’s not a quick buck, it’s an investment over time.”
Above: Luke Hinkle, left, with homeowners Ann and Rich Wolf, who are using solar power for all of their electricity needs.

Reprinted with permission from

Saturday, 10 October 2009

‘Travelling by Tuba’ on 21 October at Budleigh’s St Peter’s Church

“This picture really says it all!” says Chris Parrish of Budleigh Salterton’s St Peter’s Music.

“‘Travelling by Tuba’ is a unique pair of players who perform a stunning innovative programme on lots of instruments. As one of the busiest groups in the UK they undertook over 200 performances last year. This success was not only due to their virtuosic performance but also the ability as irrepressible entertainers to communicate with their audience. This is great fun as well as proper music.”

‘Travelling by Tuba’ starts at 7.30 pm. There is wheelchair access into the church. This is the last concert of the 2009 season of St Peter’s Music.

Tickets: £10 (half price for full time students), may be purchased from the Lawn Bakery or Lesley’s in Budleigh Salterton; the Tourist Information Centre, by the Swimming Pool in Sidmouth; Eagle House, 44 The Strand in Exmouth. Or phone Chris Parrish on 01395 442275.

Honeybee jamboree offered at Brewster museum

Beekeeping is alive and buzzing in Cape Cod, and especially in Barnstable County, where Brewster is situated. The Barnstable County Beekeepers Association (BCBA) is a 35-year-old group of more than 200 honeybee enthusiasts from Cape Cod and the surrounding area.

Today, Saturday 10 October, from 1.00 to 3.00 pm the fourth annual Honeybee Jamboree is being held at Brewster’s Cape Cod Museum of Natural History.

The cost is $3 for members and $2 for nonmembers (with museum admission).

This special event is co-sponsored by Barnstable County Beekeepers Association. Members will present demonstrations and sell their bee-related products, such as honey, candles, ointments and lotions.

Members of the museum bee group will explain the honey extraction process and provide information on beekeeping and honeybee hive activities, and current concerns.
A share of the profits of the event will go to the museum.

Picture credits: and

Autumn brings 'Crosscurrent' to the Brook

Hot on the heels of selecting and hanging work for the Summer Exhibition at London's Royal Academy of Art, acclaimed artist Eileen Cooper RA, joins the team at Budleigh Salterton's Brook Gallery to launch her solo exhibition 'Crosscurrent'.

Often referred to as one of the British figurative artists, Eileen Cooper will host a private view at the gallery on 15 October from 5.00 pm to 8.00 pm. 'Crosscurrent' runs from16 October to12 November.

Says Brook Gallery owner Angela Yarwood: “Eileen's work has an immediate appeal –her distinctive 'no nonsense' approach shows through in her work and, combined with her bold images from the outset of her career to the present day, they are a pleasure to exhibit.

Eileen has lectured at the Royal College of Art and is currently teaching at London's Royal Academy schools. Her work has endless vitality and we are delighted to be able to show the full spectrum of media, including painting, to demonstrate the true diversity of her skill. The title piece ‘Crosscurrent’ was exhibited at this year's RA summer exhibition.

The exhibition will launch three brand new woodcut prints continuing on the same theme which we are excited to showcase at the gallery. They are so new in fact, that we're waiting now for the ink to dry ahead of framing!

We're delighted to welcome an artist of such calibre and to have her here at the gallery for our private view on 15 October is a privilege.”

Born in Glossop, Derbyshire in 1953, Eileen attended London's prestigious Goldsmith's College between 1971 and 1974 and then on to the Royal College of Art to 1977. Just two years later, she launched her first solo exhibition at London's Air Gallery, followed by a constant array of exhibitions at other renowned galleries, such as Blond Fine Art and Artspace Gallery, Aberdeen, Castlefield Gallery, Manchester and Artsite Gallery, Bath.

Regular exhibitions of her work are held at Benjamin Rhodes Gallery and at Art First, London. Eileen has also participated in many group exhibitions at galleries including the Courtauld Institute in London, the Royal College of Art and the Victoria & Albert Museum.

Brook Gallery Fore Street Budleigh Salterton EX9 6NH
Call 01395 443 003 or email
Open every day, except Sunday mornings, 10.00 am to 5.00 pm
Go to for more information

Wednesday, 7 October 2009

Guests flock to Avian Exhibition at the Brook

The Brook Gallery in Budleigh Salterton launched its current exhibition 'Of a Feather: An Avian Alphabet' by celebrated artist Colin See-Paynton at a private view on 18 September. His 'joyous designs' have been praised by renowned naturalist Sir David Attenborough. Guests were welcomed with wine and canapés by Colin and owner of the Brook, Angela Yarwood.
Seen here from left to right are Priscilla Hull, co-founder of Budleigh’s Fairlynch Museum, Angela Yarwood and Colin See-Paynton.

The private view coincided with the launch of the first Budleigh Salterton Literary Festival, with many of those involved in the Festival joining in the celebrations, including its President, Sue Lawley, and guest author Virginia Ironside. Pictured above are Literary Festival Chairman Susan Ward, author Hugh Williams, Sue Lawley and James Griffin of Everys Solicitors, lead sponsors of the 2009 Festival.

Christopher Briscoe (Literary Festival Treasurer) and Jane Briscoe, with Festival committee members Sue Peters and Anne Grieve.

Budleigh residents Christine Bland and Janice Brace

'Of a Feather: An Avian Alphabet' the work of Colin See-Paynton, continues until
14 October.

For more information on the Brook Gallery, go to or call
01395 443 003.

Photography by Trudie Burne

Thursday, 1 October 2009

Virgin on the risky

I’d intended to write something about the excellent three-day first-ever Budleigh Salterton Literary Festival, but somehow it’s already slipped weeks into the past. And I’m well aware that my postings have been rather spasmodic of late and feel that some sort of explanation is needed for my regular readers. Especially as this post I’m writing now is the sixth in my block of six-bulletin summaries that I’d been emailing to them. And more especially as it could be the last! But I hope not.

Today, as I discovered by chance in this morning’s newspaper, has been specially designated by the Government as Older Person’s Day, so what I’m going to write sounds appropriate.

This is all getting rather personal and rambling, isn’t it? But maybe I’m just turning into a boring old blogger after all.

I’m going to start again.

Let’s go back to the Literary Festival. By now, everyone in Budleigh Salterton knows that it was a great success. The fine weather helped of course. But a lot of work had been put into the organisation, the festival-goers were full of anticipation, and some interesting, entertaining and successful writers came to talk at packed-out venues.

The first talk I went to on 18 September was given by the journalist Virginia Ironside. Now you can tell what generation she belongs to from the first words of greeting on her website at “I’m not sure whether to say Good Morning, Good Afternoon or Good Evening, because I’ve no clue when you logged on, but I hope you will consider yourself duly greeted. Anyway, I’m delighted you’re here, so hello.”

No casual “Hi!” from this seasoned journalist, author and agony aunt who’s been dispensing sensible advice to magazine readers for what seems now like half a century. No assumption here that we’re all highly web-literate and can dispense with those old-fashioned little social niceties that mark her generation, and mine.

Virginia Ironside, you see, is old. Not ancient. Just post-60. And that means she (and I) have joined the Club of people with free bus passes, no prescription charges, liver spots and sometimes unmentionable ailments. And of course why she writes for The Oldie, rather than Cosmopolitan. (Is Cosmopolitan still out there?)

In fact she started her talk by asking if there were any young people in the audience, and hinting that they should leave.

She had of course come to the right place, and she knew it. Budleigh Salterton, otherwise known as ‘God’s waiting room’, had greeted her by turning up in droves at a packed-out Temple Methodist Church. Indeed, within a few minutes I got the feeling that we were at one of those Evangelical or Pentecostal churches where the pastor’s rhetoric is rewarded by the sight of thousand-strong congregations swaying to his every beat.

Ms Ironside knew which buttons to press. She had come to Budleigh to deliver a performance that had been just previously well-rehearsed at the Edinburgh Festival, a show based on her new book, The Virginia Monologues, 20 Reasons Why Growing Old is Great.

It was a clever celebration of grannyhood that she entertained us with. “The years after being 60 have, no question, been the happiest years of my life,” as she told us, and as she writes on her website. Her talk was full of amusing one-liners and possibly contrived senior moments when she needed a sip of water or a few seconds’ pause to consult her notes. We learnt of the joy that comes with rejection of the need to appear young and sexy, the acceptance of crows’ feet in women and the ridicule of ageing would-be male lovers with beards and glasses who now, as she pointed out, look like mass-murderer Dr Harold Shipman. (True, since coming to Budleigh I’ve never seen so many King George V look-alikes).

Silvery heads all around me nodded fervently in agreement as Pastor Ironside recalled those little household economies appreciated by the baby-boomer generation brought up on wartime rations. Like paring the mouldy bits off cheese rather than throwing it away. And how we all laughed together when she mocked that unnaturally radiant ultra-active retired married couple modelling for Saga magazine, and the too-glamorous older woman advertising step-in baths when she’s clearly just stepped out of the hairdresser’s in her bath-towel.

We were just a little taken aback as the 65-year-old tried to share with us her more shady lifetime memories of occasionally dabbling in cocaine and even smoking heroin. “No, no, no” went the silvery heads, and I thought for a second that voices of protest might be raised – this is Budleigh, after all. But we continued to listen, enthralled. Pastor Ironside held us all in the palms of her liver-spotted hands.

She managed to entertain us even with grotesque images familiar to the Older Person: of “paps” reaching to belly-buttons, and cruise ships converted to nursing homes which return to port with morgues filled to portholes. She ‘came out’ at one point, admitting that after an op she now had a bag, and that she had suggested an article about it for Saga magazine. And made us laugh when telling us the story of how her editor assumed she would be writing about her shoes as well.

She mentioned death, and there was a hushed silence from her audience. We needn’t have worried. Her book You’ll Get Over It: The Rage of Bereavement has been praised by readers for its sensitive approach to such matters.

She used the ‘F’ word, though I didn’t notice it at the time. Understandably some members of the audience were upset that she had used it in a church. But on reflection I can see that non-gratuitous bad language can have its place in a sacred environment. If I were staging a modern setting of the Passion, for example, it would be highly appropriate for the brutes who torment Christ to use ‘F’ words and worse. Language can be as wounding in its way as any nail or thorn.

Virginia Ironside’s talk was quite a tour de force, lasting for just over an hour. But she’s a professional who knows her business. She even confessed to feeling that she should enclose an invoice when she writes a message on a Christmas card. I’d certainly pay up. This Festival event was good value.

And ever since then I’ve been thinking of the ageing process, and how one day we all have to join the Club. She didn’t use the ‘C’ word, but perhaps now is an appropriate moment for me, inspired by her frankness, to say that ‘health reasons’ will explain my erratic postings of late, and that I may be away from the blogosphere for some time thanks to my own op which I hope will sort out my little problem with the ‘Big C.’ I look forward to my next posting.

Tuesday, 29 September 2009

Award for Budleigh’s Lily Farm wine

Within three years of opening their vineyard on Dalditch Lane, Budleigh producers Faye and Alan Pratt (pictured left) were delighted to find that their red table wine has been a hit at the South West Vineyards Association's annual blind tasting.

The husband and wife team who run the two-acre Lily Farm Vineyard won trophies for their 2007 vintage at the tastings, held at Kenton Vineyard near Exeter on 4 September.

“Our first vintage has been awarded The John Buchan Agronomy Shield – Best Red Wine from a small scale producer – and also a bronze award in the main red wine category where we competed alongside top wine producers in the UK,” announced Mr and Mrs Pratt, from Moormead in Budleigh. “We are very excited to have received such prestigious recognition of the quality of our wine and we will work to maintain this standard in future vintages.”

Lily Farm Vineyard made national headlines in 2007 when picking of its Rondo grape harvest began a month before anywhere else in the UK.

A World War memory via the Web

Otter Valley Association (OVA) members were urged to use the internet to research local history during the talk given by Dr Todd Gray on 5 September in East Budleigh, previously reported on my pages

On a personal note, that advice was borne home to me when I received out of the blue a few days ago an email from Argentina. The writer had contacted me after reading about a sad but inspiring episode during World War Two that I had described in my book Oundle’s War, published in 1995 and featured at

Major Patrick Dudgeon MC (pictured above) had nothing to do with Budleigh Salterton as far as I know. A former pupil of Oundle School in Northamptonshire, he had joined the Royal Corps of Signals at the outbreak of war, and won the Military Cross for ‘gallant and distinguished service in the field.’ Later he was engaged on various secret and dangerous missions by submarine and air in North Africa while serving with the Special Air Service Regiment.

Operation ‘Speedwell’ was Patrick Dudgeon's last mission. The plan was to reduce the rate of German reinforcements to the south of Italy by attacking rail communications between Genoa and Spezia, Bologna and Pistoia, Bologna and Prato, and Florence and Arezzo. Had the operation been properly supported in terms of aircraft and supplies, it has been argued, the strategic advantage gained would have been immense.

On 7 September 1943, two aircraft took off from North Africa carrying two groups of SAS men. By midnight they had landed successfully in the mountains north of Spezia, some hundreds of miles behind the German lines. Patrick Dudgeon set off with his six men to attack the Genoa-Spezia railway. Two members of his group succeeded in blowing up two trains on the Spezia-Bologna line, and finally made their way back to British lines. Patrick Dudgeon, with fellow-soldier Trooper Brunt, then ambushed a German amphibian and succeeded in killing a number of the enemy before being captured near Parma.

It was clear to the Germans from the explosives he was carrying that Patrick Dudgeon had been hoping to reach a further objective, but nothing could make him give any information about the target. In the presence of his staff the German General responsible for the interrogation expressed admiration for the British officer's courage, but gave the order for him and his companion to be shot the next morning on Hitler's orders.

News of Patrick Dudgeon’s capture and death came after the war in the form of a letter to his father from the German army Captain who had acted as interpreter at his interrogation, and who wanted to fulfil his pledge to the person he described as the bravest English officer he had ever met. (Right: Victor Schmit in 1943)

My Argentinian emailer turned out to be the grandson of the German officer who had befriended Captain Dudgeon shortly before he was executed. Attached to his email was a copy of the original letter that his grandfather Victor Schmit had written in 1945. I found it so affecting that I decided to reproduce it here:


May 11 1945.

Dear Sir,
By this letter I fulfil my word pledged to the bravest of English officers I met in all my life. This officer is your son, Captain Dudgeon, who fell for his country in Italy on October 3rd 1943. Before he died I had to promise him to give you information about the circumstances and the spot he was buried.

I was at that time a platoon commander in the 65th Infantry Division of the Germans. My unit lay in the Passo della Cisa about 30 miles west of Parma on the road Parma – La Spezia.

About 0100 o’clock a.m. I was wakened by my men who told me they had captured two English soldiers driving in the direction of Parma, their clothes were smeared with blood, in their bags they had about 40 pounds of explosives. I went down and found in the Guard Room two English soldiers, one of whom a captain. When I asked who they were they gave me their military cards. I reported to the Coy. Comdr. and later to the Division. The Divisional Officer on duty told me that half an hour ago a German Sgt and a private driving towards La Spezia had been shot and the car stolen.

This having happened several hundred miles behind the lines and the two soldiers carrying explosives they had to be treated as Greischarler (? Freischarler) and would probably be shot.

The battalion commander who had arrived in the meantime tried to get out of your son anything about his purposes, where he was coming from etc.etc., I being the interpreter. When the German insisted your son asked me to translate “If you were my prisoner should you betray your country talking about your mission?”

Upon this my captain told him that probably he had to be shot by an existing order of the Fuhrer. Captain Dudgeon took the news, answering something like this - “All right I’ll die for my country”.

When my captain had withdrawn I sat beside your son on the straw and we were speaking together all night long. He told me he knew little of Germany, that he had been during his holidays to Switzerland etc.

In the morning the Divisional Commander, General Von Zielberg, informed the Bn. That he would come and see the English captain before he was to be shot. I told him (your son) that the German officers were scandalized that an enemy who had behaved in so brilliant a manner had to be shot but were mightless against an order of the Fuhrer. To me the behaviour of the young officer of 23 years old had made such an impression that I couldn’t help telling him when we were alone “Your country may be proud of you. If you were not my enemy I should ask you to be my friend”. Captain Dudgeon gave me his hand saying “I thank you for telling me that”.

Page 2.

The interview with the General was quite resultless. At the end of it (all German officers were present) the General told me to translate to your son the following sentence –
“Sagen Sie ihm dass ich vor Seinen Haltung alle Achtung habe. Er wird, mit seinen Kameraden in einer Stunde erschossen.”

Your son saluted militarily and left the General. He asked me to stay with him until it would be over. He gave me your address asking me to inform you. He asked for a protestant priest. Before he died he asked to die with free hands and open eyes. He knelt down for a short while praying with his hands in front of his face.

Then he got up and died like a hero.

I wasnot allowed to give you notice of your son’s death by way of the Red Cross as the enemy was to have no information whatever regarding the efficiency of the parachutists. So I had to wait and keep the address hidden up to now. The grave of Captain Dudgeon is 200 metres South West of the Chapel on the Passo della Cisa going in the direction of La Spezia, 100 metres behind the last of the buildings.

I am, Yours sincerely,

Victor Schmit,

C/o Veura Schmit - Zoller
pris de Luxembourg

And perhaps, after all, in my mind there is the vaguest connection with Budleigh. Shortly after settling here two years ago, while sunbathing on the beach, I was struck by the sight of 30 young men jogging along Marine Parade towards the coast path. On a weekday? Suddenly – it must have been the haircuts – I realised that they were marines from nearby Lympstone. Probably on a 30-mile jog, in training for Afghanistan. Possibly some would never return alive. And I thought of all the tragic loss of life of young people which I had described in my book: Patrick Dudgeon was only 23 when he died.
Above: Victor Schmit with his grandson Rodrigo Quiroga Schmit in 1966

Monday, 28 September 2009

Another rape in Budleigh Salterton?

Below: The Rolle Flats on Budleigh’s sea front are now one of the town’s major landmarks, thanks to planners who gave the go-ahead to the demolition of Budleigh’s best known hotel.

The headline may seem sensationalist, and this story may appear nimbyist. But ever since arriving in Budleigh Salterton I’ve been struck by the number of fine old buildings in the town that have been destroyed, to be replaced by architectural eyesores. Budleigh is a lovely town, beautifully situated, with an interesting historic heritage. That has not helped to save it from the greed of developers and the stupidity of planners.

The full story of this desecration is told in a series of 20 or so files kept on a shelf in the town’s excellent Fairlynch Museum. The title of one of the files, 'The Rape of Budleigh Salterton', seemed to me to be highly appropriate.

Right: Clyst Hayes House on Exmouth Road,
Budleigh Salterton. Planners have given the go-ahead to its demolition.

So when I received a letter from East Devon District Council (EDDC) inviting me to comment on the impending demolition of Clyst Hayes House, it seemed only natural to make the following response.

27 September 2009

Dear Sir/Madam

Your ref: 09/1857/RES Letter dated 17 September 2009
Clyst Hayes House 4 Exmouth Road Budleigh Salterton Devon EX9 6AF

We have already registered our objections to the proposed demolition of the above property in letters to EDDC Planning Service dated 26 March 2008 and 10 October 2008.

Along with many other Budleigh Salterton residents, including the Town Council, we feel that the demolition of Clyst Hayes House would constitute a flagrant disregard for, as our Councillors have already stated, “guidance laid out in the Budleigh Salterton Design Statement.”

The Budleigh Salterton Town Design Statement (TDS) notes in at least three of its sections that the greatest threat to the open rural character of the town is from infill or “backland” development, where large gardens are particularly vulnerable to opportunistic development (4.5.3), quoting examples of large detached houses saved from demolition or “successfully converted to multiple occupancy” (5.6.2), and suggesting that “greater attention should be paid to the sub-division of large houses of distinctive character rather than the soft option of demolition and redevelopment of the site.” (5.9)

Clyst Hayes House is described in the Site Description by EDDC, available on the internet at
as “a large slate and render, Edwardian house of attractive proportions.” This description would clearly indicate on the basis of the TDS guidelines that the property should have been considered as a strong candidate for being preserved and restored.

On your website at East Devon District Council states that “The Town Design Statement was adopted as interim Supplementary Planning Guidance to the emerging East Devon Local Plan on 13th October 2004. It's [sic] guidelines add detail to, and complement, the Local Plan policies and will be used in the determination of planning applications and to guide householders undertaking works not requiring planning permission.”

By approving this demolition, East Devon District Council is making a mockery of its publicly stated policy with regard to such buildings, and demonstrates a lack of integrity which we find hard to understand.

Yours sincerely

Michael and Anthea Downes

Above: Clyst Hayes House garden: a tempting prospect for developers who would like to see it filled with houses.

Friday, 11 September 2009

An Avian Extravaganza: Colin See-Paynton Exhibition enchants at The Brook

Coinciding with the launch of Budleigh Salterton’s first Literary Festival on Friday 18 September the town’s Brook Gallery will be exhibiting until 19 October a wonderful selection of ‘Avian Alphabet’ woodcuts by a renowned artist viewed as a ‘national treasure’ for his skill and craftsmanship.

“His delight in the lines of a bird so elegantly inscribed by the cut of his graver, his skill in varying texture… his palpable pleasure in composing his subjects into joyous designs have brought something new to the portrayal of birds,” comments the celebrated naturalist Sir David Attenborough of Colin See-Paynton. Above: A Gaggle of Geese

Widely regarded as the leading exponent of the art of wood engraving, Colin See-Paynton, with his exhibition ‘Of a Feather: An Avian Alphabet’ brings an elegant vision of our feathery friends to Budleigh Salterton’s renowned gallery this autumn. The series of prints has been produced from a body of fresh new engravings, launching with a talk by the artist at 3.00 pm on 18 September followed later by a private view party at the gallery.

Pictured above: Sir David Attenborough, left, with Colin See-Paynton

Collections of Colin’s work are also held in the UK at the Victoria & Albert Museum in London, the Ashmolean Museum in Oxford, the National Museum of Wales and the National Library of Wales. Worldwide he is also held in many private collections and his work is exhibited at the Berlin Graphotek, the Fremantle Museum and Art Gallery in Australia, the Gaudi Salon in Barcelona and the Yosemite Wildlife Museum in California.

A Fellow of the Cambrian Academy, an Honorary Fellow of the Royal Society of Painter-Printmakers and a member of the Society of Wood Engravers, Colin brings a new vigour to the art of printmaking while earning praise as a meticulous observer of the natural world.
Above: Tidings of Magpies

Opening hours: 10.30am - 5.00pm
Closed Sunday mornings
Tel: 01395 443 003
Brook Gallery Ltd
Fore Street
Budleigh Salterton Devon