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.