It hardly seems possible that a week ago we had just arrived in Kingsbridge, South Devon for a week at Crabshell Quay. We have stayed in this complex five times since 2005, in four different apartments. This year, as in 2012, we were in apartment 6 on the second floor with amazing views down the estuary towards Salcombe (which my husband refers to as Bath by the Sea). I absolutely love it here, not only because the apartments are private with gated security parking, but also for the tranquillity, with our lounge opening out directly onto the tidal estuary. So each day there is movement with the ebb and flow of the tide which withdraws leaving behind a sculptured pattern of rich brown mud where seagulls, ducks, moorhen, swan and egrets pad about on webbed feet all in pursuit of food. The water eventually returns, lifting boats and buoys and bringing back a diverse selection of craft. Boarding for the Salcombe ferry is two minutes away from the apartment giving passengers a leisurely journey down to the small coastal upmarket town with its designer shopping, cafes, restaurants and pubs. The Trafalgar is our regular there, a particularly good pub with a great menu and home cooked food. We’re also lucky enough to have a pub right next door to the apartments – The Crabshell Inn does great seafood. It was taken over a few years ago has undergone a complete refurbishment both externally and internally. The pub also offers paddle boarding for anyone wishing to get a little closer to the water.
Arriving mid afternoon after lunch in Honiton we discovered Kingsbridge was in the middle of a music festival weekend. After unpacking we wandered into the market square to see what was going on. A great surprise – an assortment of good local bands, rock, folk – even a taste of Bollywood – and loads of local produce to sample. Stalls had been set up for wine, beer, cider and all sorts of locally sourced food plus, of course, a deli. Although the weather was drizzly there were loads of people there and we spent nearly an hour before continuing our journey into the town where we booked a table at the Seven Stars for later that evening. After our meal we returned to the festival. The crowds were still there and as with all live music, it was very infectious with people dancing and generally having a good time. Friends came down with us and stayed over the first three days to celebrate a special birthday. On Sunday we all met up with another couple staying in Dartmouth for lunch at the Royal Castle Hotel. Afterwards a walk to Dartmouth Castle helped dilute the after effects of a particularly large lunch – they do a wonderful carvery in the hotel!
On Monday the six of us met up again, this time in Salcombe for lunch at The Trafalgar. Tuesday was a complete chill out day and then on Wednesday we met up with family for lunch at Torcross. There is an extremely long beach there which was used as dummy run for the D-Day landings during WW2. A Sherman tank which came to grief during the practice run was salvaged and now stands as a memorial. On Thursday we were in Totnes for lunch with friends at The Forchette Brassiere in the High Street and finally on Friday we bussed to Dartmouth on what was the hottest day of the week. After lunch at The Floating Bridge we browsed the shops before finding a seat to relax and watch boats and people. Dartmouth looks fabulous when the sun is out, the passenger cruisers were full, there was bunting everywhere and lots of activity on the water with every shape and size of boat.
Once back at the apartment it was time to pack and wait for our last visitors. One of the pharmacists I worked with at our local hospital was down for the week with her husband and they spent part of the evening with us. Over glasses of red wine the men talked about cars and usual boys things and us girls had a catch up and talked about writing in general and ’50 Shades’ in particular. I’d read the trilogy but my friend said she had not been able to get past the first book. I think the whole thing has been quite a phenomenon but like everything else there appears to be a division between those who have embraced it and those who find it lacking. Love it or loathe it, E L James is now a very rich woman so I guess she has the last laugh!
I usually find packing quite a sad event. The holiday is over, it’s time to get back to the real world. This time, however, I was returning home wearing a different hat. No more would I be thinking of work and what was going on when I left for Devon – of meetings and admin to catch up on. This time there was still work, only it was my work. I have ditched my nine to five for the life a full-time writer. Therefore although it was sad to leave Devon with all the happy memories of a great week, I was actually looking forward to getting home and being back in front of the computer again. I had e-mailed my manuscript to my editor just before we left so while I was waiting for its return could look forward to a more relaxed time where I could catch up with blog posts (like this one) and also interviews which I’d shelved, needing to finish off the manuscript first. As one friend put it, I was now a liberated woman and I think that’s a great adjective. I’ve always believed to a certain extent our jobs say a lot about us: it’s who we are – a defining thing. I had the idea that once I was no longer employed it would take something away from me, almost like losing part of my identity. This has not been the case. The only thing I have really felt is free. For the first time in many years I can do what I want, I am in control of my own destiny. I’m not tied to someone else’s wishes or needs and it feels wonderful! As my friend so aptly put it – liberating!
I absolutely adore South Devon. Kingsbridge is a trip back in time; a place where the pace of life is slower and people are very friendly. A place where you can watch the rise and fall of the tides, enjoy red wine and relax. Salcombe is small with good restaurants and designer shopping. Dartmouth is buzzier; it has its ferries – Higher and Lower – taking their daily cargoes of vehicles back and forth across the mouth of the river. It has the Dart Valley Railway, a reminder of the age of steam, which ships tourists regularly to Paignton and back. Then there are the many passenger ferries – from those crossing the estuary to Kingswear, to ones making longer journeys up river to Totnes or out around the coast to Salcombe. And of course there is shopping, the town is packed with small independent shops which feed the tourists’ needs. It also has the only railway station in England which has never seen a train. Isambard Kingdom Brunel brought the railway to South Devon as far as Kingswear. He wanted to cross the water and link Dartmouth. He had lined up the purchase of land in order to do this, but when he came to carry out the transaction the landowner backed out. By that time Dartmouth Station had already been built in anticipation of the link but rail lines and trains never ran past its door. Today it’s a tea shop/restaurant (pictured left).
So now it’s back to normality. I did find quiet moments when away to throw some ideas into the mix for my next novel. It’s at a very early stage of course and I’ll use our time away in Italy in September to flesh the whole thing out. However, I’m glad to say that my sixth novel will happen. I always have this moment of concern once a novel has been completed, wondering if this is it, or whether there is, in fact, another book in me. Happily that’s the case – something else to look forward and plan!
Next weekend I’m planning another Tea and Talk so until then have a good week everyone!