Friday, 30 April 2010

Bitten by the bug: a "Southern belle" at Budleigh Salterton Flea Market

To Budleigh Salterton's excellent Thursday flea market in the Public Hall, pictured above, where my friend Annie and I have often found interesting and collectable pieces at bargain prices.

The market is run by Hittesleigh-based Hyson Fairs Ltd, whose Sheila Hyson has been successfully staging Antiques & Collectors Fairs and fleamarkets for over twenty years. The company is proud to support Leukaemia Research and four times a year it holds an Antiques & Collectors Fair at Chagford, to raise much needed funds for this worthwhile cause.

The stallholders are a friendly bunch of people, always ready to haggle or just to chat about their sale items. Like the producers at our Farmers' Markets they do a lot of good for the town by bringing in visitors. Some of the stallholders come from the Budleigh area like Sue Chapman, who contributed a piece for this site at But generally they come from all over Devon to liven up Budleigh with their colourful presence, and on this occasion I was intrigued to discover one who'd come all the way from California via a remarkable family connection in Tennessee.

Dealing with a customer: Maria at her stall in the flea market

Well actually, Maria Sykes, whom I had the pleasure of meeting at her antiques stall, has been living in Devon for five years. But that tan and the sunglasses perched on her head did give the impression that she'd just crossed the pond that day to sell her varied collection of curios and memorabilia.

Maria grew up in Chicago before moving to California, where she lived with her family on Camp Pendleton, the major West Coast base of the United States Marine Corps. After attending San Diego State University, graduating in Psychology as well as in Spanish, she worked in Mexico City, editing a book in Spanish and English aimed at investors in the US and Mexico for the American Chamber of Commerce.

With a late 19th century edition of Punch

But now with a husband working in the finance department of Devon County Council and a son who attended Exmouth Community College it looks as Maria has put down roots in the local area. She still has a strong link to the US - her son is getting married there next month, and her daughter will shortly be graduating from California State University Fullerton, hoping to make a career as a DJ. The daughter can be heard online at the University's radio station on

"My entire life I have collected and sold things," says Maria to explain her interest in antiques and collectables. "As a child I owned a real 1960 barbie as I was born then, and I owned and collected as a child to make my own pocket money." Her family history and its colouful past, which included a famous grandfather, also played a part. "I was raised by an older mum as I am the eighth child of a total of nine. The baby girl. She and I discussed the things she grew up with in detail and it intrigued me all the stories she had and the things she knew."

Above: Charlie 'Slingshot' Taylor Picture credit

Maria's grandfather 'Slingshot' Charlie Taylor was a world famous slingshot shooter from Tennessee who travelled the world displaying his trick shooting using a slingshot, or what we know in the UK as a catapault. He even shot waterfowl with it and travelled to Hollywood where they made a movie about him. "My aunties bragged that the Elvis Presley Foundation bought the rights to his story but Elvis died before he had a chance to actually finish that project," says Maria. A picture of Charlie Taylor and one of the wooden slingshots that he sold to the public can be seen at Tennessee State Park Museum at Reelfoot Lake

Maria at her stall with another of her treasures, an embroidered purse

So my mom grew up with nice things like a Shirley Temple doll, life size and I was very interested in her history and the many things she enjoyed as a child," Maria told me. "She had a very colourful life."

It was after she left the US that Maria started dealing properly in antiques. "I probably started really selling here in England, but as a single parent and from a poor family I made a contribution to my own home and the needs of my family, " she explained. "I worked as a teacher and I enjoy learning but collecting was a hobby and could become a mainstay here in England if things take off well."

Maria loves the freedom and variety that flea markets give her. "I do enjoy working on my own and have been self-employed many times in my life as an artist. I enjoy meeting people and hearing about their things and making a difference in either giving them some money or helping them get sorted in what they want to get for something they owned or cherished or are happy to get rid of for a fair price. It's fun to know that I can make some money and still pass on a good deal to either another dealer or a member of the public."

"Deals, deals, deals is what I like. I find it a lot of fun to make someone happy and tell them about something they have or own and what it could be worth even one day," she says. So a visit to the flea market is an entertainment in itself quite apart from any bargain you might pick up there.

The Budleigh Salterton Flea Market is held every Thursday, in the Public Hall, situated near the High Street of this busy seaside town. Free carparking is available and refreshments are served all morning. The Market is open from 10.00 am to 1.00 pm. Admission is free.
Note: Occasionally there is a Thursday that is not available

The real Budleigh

As most local people know, the village that we know today as East Budleigh was a thriving and relatively wealthy community long before Budleigh Salterton became popular as a seaside resort. Not until the end of the 19th century did Salterton become a parish in its own right, with its own church of St Peter's, consecrated in 1893.

By contrast there is evidence that the origins of All Saints Church in East Budleigh go back to Saxon times. You certainly feel that you're in an important historic place as soon as you enter the village with its winding main street lined with picturesque thatched cottages. In fact visitors from our sister-town of Brewster should probably start in East Budleigh if they want to explore the area, if only because of the village's centuries-old links with America.

For a start East Budleigh is the birthplace of Sir Walter Raleigh, the Elizabethan courtier, poet, soldier, and explorer who was responsible for pioneering some of the earliest European settlements in what would become the United States. And then, remarkably for what seems such a quiet and hidden-away village today it was also from where Roger Conant set out with a company of fishermen to found the city of Salem, Massachusetts in 1626. Even when Budleigh Salterton had long eclipsed its more ancient original settlement a few miles inland, East Budleigh should be a place to visit for historians of modern America; one of the church's most attractive stained glass windows commemorates Admiral Preedy, commander of HMS Agamemnon, which laid the first transatlantic telegraph cable between Europe and America in 1858. The Admiral is buried in All Saints churchyard. There are more details about him at

All this remarkable history and more is contained in a recently published booklet about the village of East Budleigh and its church, commissioned by the Friends of All Saints. Hanneke Coates, who has lived near East Budleigh for many years, was responsible for the research and writing the text. A talented artist she also created many of the etchings and colour illustrations in the booklet. Her drawings of the church bench ends show particularly well the amazing detail of medieval craftmen's work. The example pictured above, showing the Seafarers' Seat, appears on the booklet's back cover.

I almost gave up on my search for Admiral Preedy's grave because the churchyard was so overgrown, feeling just a bit surprised that a national hero's last resting-place should be so neglected. But Hanneke Coates points out in her booklet that ancient churchyards are effectively miniature nature reserves, noting that 100 species of wild flowers have been identified. All Saints really is a place where you could quietly compose an Elegy in a Country Churchyard.

The booklet is most informative without being too 'heavy' about many other aspects of East Budleigh and some of the surrounding places of interest such as the Salem Chapel, even including Bicton St Mary's and the mausoleum a few miles away. It's an attractive publication which is certain to find its place on both residents' and visitors' bookshelves. All Saints Church and the Village of East Budleigh is on sale at the Church, East Budleigh Village Shop and The Card Shop Too in Budleigh Salterton High Street.
All illustrations above are from the booklet.

For more information about East Budleigh click on

Thursday, 29 April 2010

Iolanthe in Budleigh, Saturday 8 May 2010

Following their success with The Pirates of Penzance on their first Springtime trip to Budleigh in 2008, Imperial Productions return with another Gilbert & Sullivan classic, Iolanthe.

"We feel sure that Imperial will be able to present an excellent show to the good people of Budleigh, given the talent and enthusiasm on offer," say show directors Sarah Hargreaves and Wendy Norman.

Iolanthe or The Peer and the Peri, was the seventh of Gilbert and Sullivan's operas, and opened at the Savoy Theatre in London on 25 November 1882. It pokes fun at the British legal system and government, especially the House of Lords. With its absurd plot combining fairies and peers and its tuneful songs Iolanthe has always been seen as one of the most entertaining of G & S works.

There are two performances in The Public Hall at 2.30 pm and 7.30 pm

Tickets at £10 are now available at Budleigh Salterton Tourist Information.

The cast list is as follows:

Lord Chancellor - Tony Baker
Lord Tolloler Tim - Sawers
Lord Mountarrarat - Neville Hargreaves
Fairy Queen - Lorna Perry
Iolanthe - Kirsty Bennett
Celia - Heather Caddick
Leila - Georgia Dobson
Fleta - Mary Groom
Strephon - Philip Errington
Phyllis - Yvette Litchfield
Private Willis - Jim Fisher

Farewell King Billy... Welcome Ocean House!

Ocean House Café & Deli

Yet another local landmark has been lost with the demise of Budleigh Salterton's King William pub. It's a sign of the times, with 52 going out of business every week at a cost of 24,000 jobs over the past 12 months, according to research carried out last year for the British Beer & Pub Association (BBPA).

The King William Hotel, fondly known in Budleigh as the King Billy

Equally a sign of the times is the success of King Billy's replacement, the Ocean House Café & Deli, where new owners Robin and Nikki Townsend have made their mark on the Budleigh gastro scene by providing healthy food with a strong salad theme and a dash of the Mediterranean.

I tried one of their platters some months ago and was impressed by the care which had gone into the arrangement of all those green leaves and other healthy items on the plate. A few days ago I went back with a hungry son-in-law and two noisy grandchildren, this time with my camera to record the happy family scene as well as the colourful dishes.

The food took just a little longer than expected to arrive, but we'd arrived at a busy moment, the waitress was politely apologetic and of course the Ocean House Café's boast is that "We don't serve fast food, we prepare good food as fast as we can." Anyway, just sitting and waiting in the light and airy surroundings which make for a pleasantly relaxed atmosphere is no great hardship. And there is a good selection of beers, wines and soft drinks.

I was relieved to hear full marks being awarded by my demanding foodie family from Tunbridge Wells when the dishes did arrive. "The best steak pie I've ever tasted" was son-in-law Tom's verdict. He'd arrived before us so I finished off the remains of his bean and chilli soup (£4.95) to keep me going. Deliciously hot and spicy.

I then had a bruschetta, shown above, with slices of Parma ham and shavings of Italian Pecorino cheese (£5.95).

Meanwhile my friend Annie was tucking into the excellent hand-raised Ocean House platter of hand-raised pork pie and salad, pictured above, which I'd had on the previous occasion. The platters range in price from £6.95 to £8.95. I noticed pizzas on the menu (£6.95/£7.95) to match the Mediterranean theme but there was also Devon Rarebit - "Cheddar cheese with a pinch of English mustard, a glug of Devon ale and a dash of Worcester sauce served on a generous slice of toasted artisan bread (£5.95).

There was a large range of delicious-looking cakes and pastries but the grand-children were getting restive and we felt it was time to move on. Maybe next time.

The Ocean House Café and Deli is open every day from 10.00 am - 5.00 pm and serves lunch from 12 noon - 2.30 pm.
Ocean House Café and Deli
7 High Street
Budleigh Salterton Devon
Tel: 01395 442676
For more details click on

The changing face of Budleigh (2): Social Networking on the High Street

The Houses of Parliament, photo by Adrian Pingstone
MPs are increasingly using sites like Facebook for their work

It's been criticised for encouraging paedophiles, accused of failing to keep our personal details safe, and banned by anxious parents in many homes. And yet social networking sites like Facebook are used as a normal tool of communication not just by young people but by businesses and charities such as Oxfam. Arts events organisers use it to promote literary and music festivals from London to Ledbury and from Edinburgh to Exeter. Social networking in general has seen a 660% percentage in its use by MPs over the last three years.

Budleigh Salterton Cricket Club is a Facebook user

Here in our little corner of East Devon Facebook is being increasingly used by clubs and businesses as a free and easy way to advertise activities and products and to communicate with members and clients. Group sites include St Peter's School with 277 former-pupils, the town's Cricket Club, East Budleigh Football Club and a Tobias restaurant fan club.

There's even a Budleigh Salterton Interfaith Ping Pong League, described as "a closed group dedicated to monitoring events and following developments within the fast-growing Interfaith Ping Pong scene in the British Coastal town of Budleigh Salterton." A match report ends: "Father Conway now proceeds to play Rabbi Samuel leewhacker in the semi finals of the Seaton Open." Is this for real?

The new face of Budleigh Wines

One of the latest 'serious' users of Facebook is Budleigh Wines, the independent wine store on the High Street in Budleigh Salterton. In fact the site was originally called Threshers Budleigh & Exmouth, started by Paula LeBlanc with 11 members, but with Paula and her husband Serge taking over the business the Budleigh Wines Facebook group now has over 50 enthusiastic fans.

Click on!/pages/Budleigh-Salterton/Budleigh-Wines/106815689349461?ref=mf and you'll find a running commentary from Paul and Serge on their courageous bid to make Budleigh Wines into one of the thriving independent High Street businesses of which Budleigh Salterton is justifiably proud. "Feels great to be free!" they commented on 28 March, shortly after acquiring the shop from the collapsed Threshers group.

Paula and Serge LeBlanc, owners of Budleigh Wines

But of course the LeBlancs, married for three years this June, are also using the site to promote their products to loyal followers. "We're very happy with Facebook," says Paula. "It's a good way of telling customers what's on offer, and of course we can update it easily ourselves." The couple organise regular wine-tasting sessions at the shop on Fridays and Saturdays and the Facebook site is the perfect place for comments on their recently acquired Marlborough Sauvignon Blanc such as "Deliciously crisp and fresh, packed full of vibrant and long lasting lime, gooseberry and tropical fruit flavours."

In these recession-hit times a site like Facebook, which costs nothing, is a good solution for a small business's marketing strategy. "I'd certainly recommend it to other small businesses in the area," says Serge.

Berton vineyard in South Australia, a supplier to Budleigh Wines. The company, started in 1996, has grown further through the acquisition of a modern winery complex in Yenda, NSW. Naturally Berton Vineyards - Fine Australian Wines has its own Facebook site at!/pages/Berton-Vineyards-Fine-Australian-Wines/259063494656

The couple are currently on a tour of Australian vineyards and hope to upload photos of their trip on their site, not just when they get back to the UK but 'live' from 'Down Under' thanks to the internet. I'll look forward to seeing them displaying the various bottles that they discover out there. The name of our local wine shop may have changed, but as Serge says, "We're the same faces inside." And that's partly thanks to Facebook.

A sunny outlook for Brewster in Bloom 2010

Above: Doris Franzago, co-founder of Brewster in Bloom

Just as I was boasting at that Budleigh Salterton with its famous micro-climate was benefiting from the early arrival of spring, compared with our sister-town of Brewster in Massachusetts, the sea mist swept in and the rain came down as if winter had suddenly returned.

I doubt that World Dance Day at Budleigh Salterton which I'd promoted at ever happened. My friend Annie and I were about to set out in time to catch the 10.30 am start of the spectacle on Budleigh beach when the heavens opened. When we finally made it through the murky mistfulness an hour later to the event's location at Steamer Steps only the pebbles were there to greet us. The beach was empty.

Well, that's the English weather for you. And we are still in the month of April showers. And the gardens were desperate for a drink.

Cape Cod Highland Light Scottish Pipe Band playing at the Brewster in Bloom parade 2009

By contrast, over in Brewster according to the online forecast they can look forward to sunny skies and a high of 19°C this Friday for the start of Brewster in Bloom 2010. Saturday is even better, hotting up to 21°C and no rain in sight.

Twenty-four years ago, to celebrate the profusion of daffodils gracing Brewster's Main Street and other roads, residents Bob and Doris Franzago sparked interest in a daffodil festival. Before long, Brewster in Bloom was born and grew into a wonderful three-day celebration of spring. Proceeds from early festivals were earmarked for the building of the bandstand at Drummer Boy Park, which is the site of weekly summer evening concerts by the Brewster Band. Proceeds from this year will go to the Elder Brewster Scholarship Fund.

Brewster's brownies on their parade float

The weekend celebrations in our American sister-town start tomorrow, Friday, with many of its shops and galleries holding open house during the day. Two music events will take place in the evening: one in Brewster Baptist Church performed by the Brewster Band, and a 'Swing into Spring' Big Band Dance at the Ocean Edge Resort & Golf Club raising money for the scholarship fund.

Saturday's events include an all-day Antiques & Collectables Fair on Drummer Boy Park, the Brewster in Bloom Run starting at the Brewster Inn and Chowder House at 10.00 am and Brewster Historical Society's staging of a blacksmith's shop with 'colonial craftsmen' demonstrating their skills in iron and tin and making horseshoes.

The Brewster Coffee shop team

There's also a pie-baking contest, and - something I've never come across before - a Fire Truck Golf Drop Fundraiser where the town's Fireman Glen will apparently drop hundreds of numbered golf balls at 3.00 pm from the top of his fire truck ladder. Tickets cost $5 a ball or 5 for $20 and could earn the winning holder a big cash prize if his or her lucky golf ball finds its way onto the bulls-eye marked on the ground.

Sunday 2 May at 1.00 pm sees the start of the famous Brewster in Bloom parade. And then from 3.00 - 5.00 pm, if you feel like learning about the town's interesting architectural heritage you can go on a Historic Inn Tour. Many of Brewster's most celebrated buildings such as the Candleberry Inn and the Old Manse Inn , included on the tour, were the homes of some of America's great 19th century sea captains.

All in all, it looks like being a fun-filled and interesting weekend, with wonderful spring weather that we in Budleigh will be envying from afar.

For a full list of events click on
Pictures of the 2009 Brewster in Bloom parade are from this website.

Friday, 23 April 2010

Cooking for the prostate

It was published almost a year ago. But, says N&EDPSA member David Warner, there are still men he knows who have never heard of soya or lycopene even though they are members of the support group that he runs for Exmouth and Budleigh Salterton.

N&EDPSA stands for North & East Devon Prostate Support Association of course - the letters PSA should be an obvious clue to the purpose of the group, associated as they are with the most common test for a disease which kills one man every hour in the UK.

So anything which can be said to slow down prostate cancer's progress has to be a good thing, and David, pictured above with urology/oncology specialist nurse Jane Billing from the Royal Devon & Exeter Hospital, was happy to recommend the Prostate Care Cookbook at the Association's local branch meeting on 22 April 2010.

Above: Soya milk, an alternative to dairy products, and tomatoes, rich in lycopene, are both recommended by many experts to fight prostate cancer

I did promise myself that I wouldn't be one of those people who bang on about their cancer in their blogs, especially after giving you at some of the gory details following last year's surgery. And most especially because I'm now supposed to be cured, and therefore free from cancer.

But, maybe because I'm still suffering from the almost inevitable side effects of my prostatectomy, I went along to the Association's meeting at the splendid Tidwell Manor, just outside Budleigh, hoping for some useful tips on coping with unmentionable problems. About half the 20 or so total membership of the local branch were there, including some partners, who are always welcome.

Tidwell Manor is a superb location for the N&EDPSA meetings
And the best thing about the N&EDPSA is that no problem is unmentionable at their meetings. Most of the dozen or so people there are "living with cancer" and some were formidably knowledgeable on the subject of prostate cancer and the various treatments available while somehow retaining their sense of humour about the disease. And guest speaker Jane Billing was even more formidably able to answer their streams of questions, with an approach which managed to combine expert knowledge and down to earthness. There was also useful advice on issues such as travel insurance for prostate cancer sufferers.

Treating prostate cancer is not "an exact science" and there were plenty of "however"s in Jane's explanations of the latest research. She admitted that there is even a lot of contradictory evidence about diet, including variants such as air pollution which affect the cancer rates in different countries. I came away feeling a bit more reassured, and more than ever sure that most men need to be better informed about their prostate.

The next main meeting of the N&EDPSA takes place in Exeter on 15 July, with the next local branch meeting at Tidwell Manor on 21 July. For further information about the Association contact David Warner on 01395 442707 or click on to access the website.
The Prostate Care Cookbook costs £12.99 from any bookshop, and contains a useful 50-page introduction about prostate cancer.

The Labour Party in East Devon: helping the world to become "a more civilised and fairer place."

The Labour Party has only been in government for four short periods of the 20th century, but claims that its achievements have revolutionised the lives of the British people. Labour believes that it stands for social justice, strong community and strong values, reward for hard work, decency, and rights matched by responsibilities.

In particular the Party claims, as set out in its constitution, to be creating "a community in which power, wealth and opportunity are in the hands of the many, not the few."

"Those democratic values have guided us through twelve years in government: everything from the large canvas of economic stability, full employment and record investment in public services, to the fine detail of the minimum wage, free museum entry and civil partnerships."

The Party admits that the lessons it should draw from its history are not all positive. "Labour was in government for just 23 of its first 100 years. On occasions we have also been the victim of division and disunity which, as we all know, has cost us dear in electoral terms." It won in only two out of the 11 parliamentary constituencies which make up the county of Devon in the 2005 General Election.

Overall, however, Labour believes: "Our history is one to be proud of. Since our formation, Labour has grown from nothing into a formidable political organisation and one which has achieved major social and political reforms during the 20th century."

Gareth Manson, pictured above, has campaigned in East Devon on local issues ranging from controversial planning applications to failure to invest in education. He has taught from nursery to adults, in the public and private sectors, in mainstream and in special schools, and in this country and abroad. Among his pledges to constituents he promises to hold surgeries in every town and village in East Devon and to establish an office in the constituency which will be open all year round; in addition he pledges to work hard to support people over 60, to champion the rights of public sector workers and those working in hotels, restaurants and shops, and to bring more investment into the area. Gareth Manson believes that the radical changes to the East Devon Constituency at this General Election mean that it can no longer regarded as a safe Tory seat. A former local councillor, he is currently employed by the Hospital Education Service. He is married to Diana and has a dog and a cat. There is more information at source of photos featuring Mr Manson below.

1. What made you a Labour supporter?

I joined the Labour Party because it recognises that the world can become a more civilised and fairer place and that active, progressive government has a key role to play in achieving this.

2. Do you see yourself as Old or New Labour, and what do you see as the difference between them?

Above: Gareth Manson campaigning with Secretary of State for Children Schools and Families Ed Balls
I don’t like labels. Too often when someone is given a label, people assume they know what that person is going to say and fail to listen to what they actually say.

Often the debate around Old and New Labour focuses on ‘Clause four’.

Clause four of the Labour Party Constitution supported ‘the common ownership of the means of production, distribution and exchange’. This was often taken to mean nationalisation. However, it could equally have meant municipal ownership or workers' cooperatives.

This phrase was removed in 1995 and replaced with ‘by the strength of our common endeavour we achieve more than we achieve alone’.

I strongly agree with the new version. I was less comfortable with the old version as I believe that private enterprise has its place alongside common ownership.

3. As someone involved in education, what do you think of the ideas proposed by Conservative Shadow Education spokesman Michael Gove?

Gareth Manson campaigning for Fairtrade
Where do I begin?

The Tories' central policy is the introduction of Swedish style ‘free schools’ despite the fact that, in the last 15 years, Sweden has plummeted in international league tables.

Unfortunately the money to fund these new unregulated independent schools, most likely to pop up in more affluent areas, would come from existing schools, resulting in fewer teachers and larger class sizes.

Schools are better than they have ever been; teachers are more skilled, pupils more dedicated and parents more supportive than ever before. Mr Gove refuses to recognise this as the reason for improving results. Instead, he insists that exams have been dumbed down and he plans to arbitrarily increase pass marks.

Diplomas are designed to strengthen the status and quality of vocational study and bring together academic and vocational programmes. Mr Gove insists that the traditional qualifications not suited to many pupils are best and will cancel diplomas.

He insists that maths and physics are superior to other subjects and should carry more points in school league tables.

He thinks that school discipline will improve if pupils stand up when an adult enter the room!

Conservative policies on education are retrograde, right-wing and reactionary. They would harm our children’s education and damage our country’s prospects.

4. Many people view Labour as representing heavy-handed state interference. Is this fair?

Active, progressive government has a key role in making the world a more civilised and fairer place. It is the responsibility of the Government to take an overview of what is happening in our country and involve itself when things are not as we would like them to be.

Few people would now argue, as the Tories used to, that tighter regulation of the banking sector is heavy-handed state interference!

Few people would argue against state intervention which gave women, black people and gay people equal rights; banned smoking in public places; or gave people the right to scrutinise MPs' expenses.

The Tory view that all but the minimum of state intervention is heavy-handed state interference is not only outdated, it is also morally and intellectually bankrupt.

5. From your experience of the NHS what key improvements would you like to see being made?

Above: Budleigh Salterton Health Centre. Gareth Manson claims that Labour's investment in the NHS has had "a massive effect."

I work for the Hospital Education Service. However my job focuses on the education part of the title – I am not a health professional.

However, it is clear to anyone who has even had anything to do with the NHS, how dedicated its staff is and the massive effect that Labour’s investment in the NHS has had on this vital public service.

The key improvements proposed in our manifesto include:

The right to cancer test results within one week of referral. This builds on the right to see a specialist within two weeks if your GP suspects that you might have cancer.

A maximum 18 weeks wait for treatment.

Preventative healthcare through routine check- ups for over 40s and a major expansion of diagnostic testing.

Access to psychological therapy for those who need it.

6. You have written that you feel that "East Devon is essentially rural with its own character, issues and aspirations." How would you define these, and how would you help the area meet the challenges that you believe it faces?

Above: Sidmouth's Royal Glen Hotel: the hotel trade in East Devon is a major employer says Gareth Manson

I was comparing East Devon with Exeter when I said this. East Devon is a collection of towns and villages essentially rural in character. Exeter is a city, essentially urban.

Two-thirds of workers in East Devon are employed in the public sector, hotels, restaurants and shops. Many of these will be on low wages and will have benefitted from the minimum wage, others will work seasonally or part-time and will have gained from new workers’ rights. Both of these measures were introduced by Labour.

One third of residents in East Devon are over 60. Many of these will have benefitted from winter fuel payments, free TV licences, free eye tests and national bus passes, again all introduced by Labour.

As your MP I would give special attention to these groups.

East Devon has particular issues with housing. Local people need affordable homes but finding space to build them in such a beautiful part of the world is difficult.

Many of East Devon’s towns and villages have major issues with traffic. Their narrow streets were not designed for the motor car.

East Devon’s economy is heavily dependent on tourism and farming. These industries need support. Others industries must be developed in ways that are sustainable and, at the same time, in sympathy with the character of East Devon.

7. What achievements were you most proud of as a local councillor?

I am most proud of the things I achieved above and beyond those expected of me as a local councillor.

Any elected official will have defined duties and must discharge these well. However, they also have a degree of influence.

I involved myself in a wide range of community activities, from membership of a Wheels Park Development Committee to litter picks. I produced an acclaimed parish newsletter which, residents tell me, helped foster an increased sense of community.

I believe it is this sort of activity which marks out a good elected representative.

8. Do you feel that the Armed Services have received all the support that they deserved under this Labour government?

The Labour Government has met every request for extra equipment for Afghanistan. In the last four years it has doubled the number of helicopters and spent £1.7 billion on 1,800 new vehicles.

Defence spending has increased 10% in real terms since 1997. Funding for Iraq and Afghanistan is additional to this. This increase in core funding has enabled us to give the first ever tax-free bonus for those on operations abroad.

Service families can now retain their places on NHS waiting lists when they are deployed to another part of the country and further education is free for those leaving the forces with six years’ service or more.

Hundreds of millions of pounds has been invested in forces accommodation.

The new Queen Elizabeth Hospital in Birmingham will have a military-run ward. Headley Court and the new Army Recovery Capability will continue to offer world-leading support to those rehabilitating after serious injury. We have doubled the lump sum payments for the most seriously injured and increased lifetime income payments by up to a third.

9. You have stated "In my considered view, hunting with dogs for sport is abhorrent." How do you feel about other sports involving cruelty to animals such as shooting and fishing?

Above: Gareth Manson and Labour support the ban on hunting
Picture credit:

I think it is difficult to compare killing an animal with a clean shot with chasing a fox or stag with a pack of dogs until it is exhausted and then allowing those dogs to tear it to pieces whilst it is still breathing!

There has been some research involving injecting venom into the lips of trout which challenges previous thinking that fish brains are not developed enough to experience pain. However, it is hard to suggest that the pain and anguish of a fish caught on a hook compares with that of a fox or stag being torn to death.

Irrespective of these and similar arguments, I believe that everyone should oppose the repeal of the ban on hunting with dogs because the way the world views us and the way we view ourselves, are important.

Britain is a modern, civilised and compassionate country. We want those at home to take pride in their country. We want those abroad to consider our country worthy of investment, cooperation and visits.

The dedication of parliamentary time to the re-introduction of hunting with dogs would attract vast media attention at home and abroad. The negative message it would send, would be highly costly and extremely damaging. All those with Britain and her interests close to their hearts should recognise this and oppose repeal of this controversial, minority sport.

10. You have obviously enjoyed exercising your creative talents in the theatre with ventures like your screenplay, Fitting In, performed at Bristol's Tobacco Factory in 2005. Do you have plans for the future in this direction, and if so what themes would you like to explore?

Since being selected as the Labour Party Candidate nearly three years ago, I have been extremely active in East Devon campaigning on a wide variety of local issues. I teach in the Hospital Education Service – the most fulfilling and, sometimes, most demanding job I have ever had. Many of my pupils will be sitting their GCSEs this summer, so I will only be able to take a couple of days off during the election period.

I enjoy spending time with my family and I have a puppy that needs lots of exercise! Unsurprisingly, writing has had to be put on hold.

Politics in East Devon is changing. The constituency boundaries have been substantially altered and there are several local factors which make the result of the election almost impossible to predict. Should I become your MP, my writing will remain on hold.

Wednesday, 21 April 2010

St Peter's Music concert: A Piano Recital by JOHN LILL on Thursday 6 May 2010,

John Lill will play

Sonata in F K332 Mozart
Sonata in C major Opus 53 (Waldstein) Beethoven
Ballade No 4 in F minor Opus 52 Chopin
Variations and Fugue on a theme of Handel Opus 24 Brahms

John Lill, photo by Sophie Baker

Arguably Britain's most well known pianist who has recently celebrated his 60th birthday with a series of concerts throughout the UK, John Lill first came to international attention when he won the coveted Tchaikovsky award in Moscow in 1970. Known for his aristocratic interpretations of Beethoven and the great masters of the nineteenth and twentieth century piano repertoire, he performs all over the world and was awarded a CBE in the 2005 New Year's Honours List, having been awarded the OBE in 1977.

John Lill's concert career spans over fifty years. His rare talent emerged at an early age - he gave his first piano recital at the age of nine. At eighteen he performed Rachmaninov's 3rd Piano Concerto under Sir Adrian Boult, followed by his much-acclaimed London debut playing Beethoven's 'Emperor' Piano Concerto at the Royal Festival Hall. His success was reflected in many prestigious international prizes and awards, and in 1970 he won the most coveted of these, the Moscow International Tchaikovsky Competition, further consolidating his already busy international concert schedule.

Unanimously described as the leading British pianist of his generation, John Lill's career has taken him to over fifty countries, both as a recitalist and as a soloist with the world's greatest orchestras. He regularly performs in all the European capitals (including Amsterdam, Berlin, Paris, Prague, Rome, Stockholm and Vienna), Russia, the Far East, Australasia, (including several ABC tours) and he is a frequent visitor to the United States, where he has worked with the Cleveland, New York Philharmonic, Philadelphia, Dallas Symphony, Baltimore Symphony, Seattle Symphony, Boston Symphony, Washington and San Diego Symphony Orchestras.

John Lill, photo by Roman Goncharov

John Lill's extensive repertoire includes more than seventy concertos, and he is acclaimed in particular as a leading interpreter of Beethoven, whose complete sonata cycle he has performed on several occasions in the UK, USA and Japan. In Britain he has given over 30 BBC Promenade concerts and regularly appears with all the major symphony orchestras. He has toured overseas with the London Symphony, London Philharmonic, BBC Symphony, City of Birmingham, Hallé, Royal Scottish National and BBC Scottish Symphony Orchestras.

Most recently John Lill has performed with, among others, the Indianapolis, Gothenburg, Rotterdam, Royal Stockholm, Royal Philharmonic, Czech Philharmonic, London Philharmonic Orchestras, and the Orchestre Philharmonique de Radio France and gave recitals throughout the UK, USA, Europe and Australia. His 2009-10 season includes a return to the Seattle Symphony, Milwaukee, Hallé, Royal Scottish National, Bournemouth Symphony and a recital at the Royal Festival Hall as part of the IPS series.

John Lill has recorded for Deutsche Grammophon, EMI (Complete Beethoven Piano Concertos with RSNO and Gibson), ASV (both Brahms Concertos with the Hallé and Loughran) plus the complete Beethoven Sonatas and Pickwick Records (Tchaikovsky l with the LSO and Judd). More recently he has recorded the complete Prokofiev sonatas with ASV and his recent recording of the complete Beethoven Bagatelles and Piano Concertos with the CBSO and Weller is available on Chandos. He recorded Malcolm Arnold's Fantasy on a Theme of John Field (dedicated to John Lill) with RPO and Handley for Conifer and the complete Rachmaninov Concertos and major solo piano works for Nimbus Records. His most recent recording projects have been the 60th birthday release of piano works by Schumann on the Classics for Pleasure label and 2 new releases for Signum records of Schumann and Brahms and Haydn Piano Sonatas.
John Lill has been awarded eight Honorary Doctorates from British universities as well as several Fellowships from the leading musical colleges and academies. He lives in London.

"Do not miss this wonderful chance to hear him in person! "

Tickets £ 15 For information on how to obtain tickets click on or

Tuesday, 20 April 2010

Tickets for 2010 St Peter's Music Concerts in Budleigh Salterton

Above: St Peter's Church, venue for the St Peter's Music concerts

Only ten days remain until the deadline for obtaining a special deal for season tickets for the popular series of St Peter's Music Concerts.

The tickets cost £51 for the whole season but must be purchased before 1 May 2010. Application is usually made on the form on the first inside page of the 2010 St Peter's Music Calendar of Events, enclosing a cheque made payable to St Peter's Music. Alternatively, enquiries and an S.A.E should be posted to St Peter's Music, Pipers, 5 Bridge Road, Budleigh Salterton, Devon EX9 6EA.

Purchasers of these four tickets in advance are entitled to a complimentary glass of wine or fruit juice during the interval of each concert by producing the receipt for their purchase.

Tickets for individual concerts are normally on sale about one month before the date of each concert. The tickets can be obtained in a number of ways, as follows:

1. From the following ticket outlets:

The Lawn Bakery, The Lawn, Budleigh Salterton
Lesleys, Stationers, High Street, Budleigh Salterton
Eagle House, The Strand, Exmouth
Tourist Information Centre, Ham Lane, Sidmouth
Opus Classical, Guidhall, Exeter

3. By telephone:
Ring 01395 443963 and request the tickets. You will be asked to forward a cheque made payable to St Peter's Music at the above address and a return S.A.E.

4. At the door on the night. These are subject to availability.
Concessions: Full time students pay half the advertised price.

Details of the 2010 concert programme are given at

Let them eat cakes!

Above: The Lawn Bakery, at 8 The Lawn, Budleigh Salterton

Forget the guilt trips as you gorge yourself on what Devon's most famous for - its cream teas. That's what Rachel Anne Walls from London would advise friends and readers of her newly-launched blog Raw Baking at

Above: The Lawn Bakery's "scrumptious" pecan slices

And the star recommendation on her site for a good gorge is Budleigh Salterton's own Lawn Bakery - "the best bakery in the south west" as she calls it. She gives top marks to its pecan slices and cherry buns. "Truly scrumptious!" gasps Rachel.

This will be popular reading in Devon, as will Rachel's advice to her blog readers:
"I eat and bake and exercise in between so I can eat and bake more." It sounds more fun than any of the diets that I've tried.

All about twinning, a little sister and its Big Brother

Above: An aerial view of Brewster , Massachusetts

The Spring 2010 Town Meeting of our Cape Cod sister community of Brewster will be held at the Stony Brook Elementary School Cafetorium at 7.00 pm on Monday 3 May.

Budleigh Salterton Public Hall, seat of the Town Council, where our Annual Town Meetings are held

Budleigh Salterton had its Annual Town Meeting a month or so ago on Wednesday 10 March, as I reported at

Of course our Spring comes a bit earlier than Brewster's.

I see that on the Town of Brewster website at that it is now officially stated by our Cape Cod sister-community that "Brewster is a twin town with Budleigh Salterton in the United Kingdom."

Budleigh Salterton Town Council's coat of arms

It's lovely to see the link recognised. But of course no such declaration has ever appeared on parchment signed by representatives of our two towns - or however such twinnings are normally officially recognised - even though Budleigh Salterton Town Council told me that they think reviving the connection is "a good idea" and would fully support the link if residents wish to "put the association on a more formal basis."

They're not exact twins of course. Brewster's population of almost 9,600 - growing to an astonishing 25,000 in the holiday season - is more than twice as big as Budleigh's (4,805 in 2001).

And Brewster dwarfs Budleigh in another sense.

Sometimes I feel that certain Budleigh people would like to declare a Unilateral Declaration of Independence (UDI) from the rest of the county of Devon.

Right: The East Devon District Council logo

At least that seems to be the opinion of certain members and officials of East Devon District Council, its Bigger Brother, under whose jurisdiction the town of Budleigh Salterton falls in matters such as economic development, planning and household taxes.

EDDC development management chairman Paul Diviani, for example, was quoted in the Exmouth Herald of 28 September 2009 as saying that residents had to realise Budleigh Salterton may be unique to them, but East Devon District Council viewed it as 'part and parcel' of East Devon.

Budleigh Salterton Town Council responded a month later with an Open Letter published in the local press accusing its Bigger Brother in Sidmouth, a few miles up the coast from us, of high-handedness and bullying. "It is very depressing for us to discover that the district council is not so protective and not so concerned about the town and its residents," it complained. Some people, it felt, believed that EDDC had "little regard for the democratic process, for the views of the town council, and for the views of the majority of local townspeople."

Above: Budleigh Salterton's Longboat Café, a source of controversy in the town

All this public anger and indignation has arisen mainly because of East Devon District Council's ruling that the Longboat Café owners in Budleigh can go ahead with their plans for development of the site into a restaurant. "Such actions cannot but give the impression that EDDC officers and district councillors 'know what is best' for this town and that it is only their opinions that matter," bitterly concludes Budleigh Salterton Town Council's Open Letter.

A poster advertising the Longboat protest meeting
on 24 March 2010

Of course in Brewster, as far as I can gather, such a situation would never come about because their Town Selectmen (Councillors) are the decision-makers. In the land of Independence Day, even relatively small communities like Brewster seem to have a wonderful autonomy over their affairs, just as each State is able to enact many of its own laws. But that's America for you.

Some of our Town Councillors might now be envying their US counterparts in Brewster such powers. But the other side of the coin is that the Cape Cod town is financially accountable for its own affairs. And I read that Brewster is looking at a deficit of $396,000 for the 2011 financial year. These are hard times of course.

Above: The clubhouse at Brewster's Captains Golf Course, just one of the many concerns for which the town's selectmen are responsible

So running Brewster is not a simple matter. Education, roads, water services, housing, police and fire services, waste disposal, the Captains Golf Course, the Ladies' Library, the Brewster Town Band... The list of Selectmen's responsibilities goes on and on. The document published by the Town Administrator's department to accompany the Town Meeting on 3 May runs to an eye-popping 64-page pdf document which you can access at

And of course the whole show has to run harmoniously. Brewster's voters will be expected to play a full part in their town's decision-making process, but naturally in a civilised and rational fashion.

"No person is to indulge in personalities or derogatories," they will have read in the sternly worded instructions for the conduct of the Town Meeting, somewhere in amongst those 64 pages. And worthy of the tone of the 1789 United States Bill of Rights is the final exhortation which concludes them: "Let us maintain decorum and reason together."

I feel rather in awe of our Big Sister across the pond.

Sunday, 18 April 2010

Gardeners' Fair at Budleigh Salterton

Above: Container gardening for everyone - anything that could hold a plant is possible

Well, the gardening season is well underway, and so are the weeds, slugs and snails though in this dry spell there's less sign of those annoying predators. But every time I lift an old bit of brick or paving slab in the garden there they are breeding stealthily and dreaming about their next meal.

Good value on one of the plant stalls at Hyson Gardeners' Fair

So there's plenty of work to be done out there, and a Gardener's Fair in Budleigh Salterton's Public Hall on 1 May 2010 might be just the place for you to pick up some useful gadgets, books, plants or even hints from experienced gardeners.

This is the fourth annual Gardener's Fair in Budleigh organised by Hyson Fairs Ltd which stages similar events at Topsham just over a week later, and at Chagford at the end of the month.

From potting shed to patio - lots on offer at a Gardeners' Fair
Each fair offers a variety of stalls selling everything for and to do with the garden, from plants, garden furniture, gardenalia - a word I hadn't come across before - to gardening tools new and second hand, antique bygones, gardening books, and much more.

Admission is free. The Budleigh Salterton Gardeners' Fair is open from 10.00 am - 3.00 pm. For further information click on

All photos courtesy of Hyson Fairs