That morning was no opportunity for a lie-in though, no matter what my head might be feeling about it. Very soon the whole family would be arriving in Salcombe. It was going to be an invasion of epic proportions.
Three cars arrived separately for the fight for somewhere to park! Families were dumped down in the town while unfortunate car drivers drove right back to the top of the huge hill, parked and walked down, with every step down a reminder of a wearisome step back up later. We raced around to meet them all!
Everyone was completely knackered!
We dined well in the hotel that evening. I think that after all those ‘complimentaries’ anything we ate would’ve seemed wonderful! But sober Mrs H confirmed that the food was very good indeed.
And then to bed? No way! Not until I’d checked those complimentary flasks once more. Now I wouldn’t want you to think I’m a boozer.. but you must admit... needs must when the devil drives!... not even ‘needs’.. or ‘wants’... but irresistible temptation!
When we woke, flinging open the curtains I couldn’t see our beach. No.. I wasn’t blind drunk, the estuary was fogged up, not me!
So on we drove from Dartmouth to Salcombe. To our lovely hotel. They hadn’t stinted on the room... one of the best in the place, complete with large balcony overlooking the estuary and across to ‘our beach, our beautiful beach’ of nearly 40 continuous years of holidays.
But that could wait... first of all, away to the bar for our complimentary glasses of champagne.
Then back to the room for our complimentary gin and/or sherry. There was no question of ’or’ for me... but Mrs H declined both.
She looked lovely. I was very complimentary.
It seems complimentaries were flying!
On the subject of the icy Narnian plunge pool, not only was I first in, I went back in twice more that day and three times later in the week! And let me tell you, the other wimps who ventured in did so either in wetsuits or tee-shirts. The little imps of course wore lifejackets as the water was rather deep... I could forgive that!
But I’m no wimp! Barechested, I braved the deep, braved the cold and braved the long, wispy weeds that seemed to threaten to drag me down to a watery grave. Nobody was impressed though!
Sending us off for a luxury couple of nights in our favourite place in England was lovely, and very kind. I couldn’t help thinking though that we two were very much the old codgers... the older generation. But when it had come to generation, I’d generated quite a few oohs and aahs when I was first into the icy Narnian plunge pool.
”Ooh!.. Baba’s getting into the pool! What’s the temperature, Baba? Aah! 18 degrees sounds really cold! Are your teeth chattering, Baba?”
Now I like to chat... but I was blowed if my old teeth would be joining in!
A mazing, sociable little creatures cozying tightly up to each other!
N o-go area for oh-so-many humans... but not me!
C ram-packed with flavour and stuff that’s so good for us!
H igh in those o-so-important fatty acids we all need!
O h why don’t more folk realise how they can raise food to amazing levels?
V ersatility beyond imagination, beyond experience, beyond belief!
Y ou might now want to finely chop them and add to all manner of fish and meat dishes. The fishy taste disappears completely, but the flavour reaches glorious heights!
The day after ‘anchovygate’, the fishy trio still eluded me... but Mrs H and I had to pack our bags quickly, for we were off for two nights imprisonment in the best hotel in nearby Salcombe (thanks guys!)... but to get there, 13 of us would take the riverboat down to historic Dartmouth.
The trip down the beautiful, winding River Dart was wonderful... past vineyard, riverside villages and Agatha Christie’s house, to lunch for 14 at Rockfish on Dartmouth waterfront (aha! - fish at last! Brilliant!). The 14th delivered us our car.
Only 12 sailed back to Totnes. We’d been exiled!
One day we visited Powderham Castle, aside the River Exe, near Exeter. This fine mediaeval castle is the ancestral home of the Courtenay Family, sometimes Earls of Devon, sometimes ex-Earls, sometimes exiled!
I was told tales of an old countess King Henry threw into the Tower of London... no trial, no reason! After two years imprisonment she was given one hour’s notice of beheading. But Henry’s head headsman was busy up north! Refuting any guilt, she refused to kneel for the apprentice headsman... so he hacked her to death most savagely.
King Henry VIII wasn’t a very nice bloke!
My son’s house is most unusual, atop a hill overlooking the ancient town of Totnes and the Dart Valley. With beautiful exterior, exquisite windows with Chinese style Gothik (sic) glazing, cast-iron verandas forming a loggia around most of the house and stunning position, it has a history. It was built by an Earl of Somerset, one of many houses here and there. It’s said he might have kept a woman in each. Naughty boy!
The Vinery is large, micro-fenestrated and if only they grew grapes I could start treading them and we’d all be in wine for life!
Like all small fish that swim in shoals, anchovies suddenly dart off either seeking food or avoiding a predator... even the salted ones, in olive oil, huddled together in tiny cans... well, like sardines! I was the predator and my three cansworth had escaped, aided I suspected by the capricious fairies.
Our pizza night went very well and (dare I admit this?) I didn’t miss the fish course on my delicious pizza.
Fast forward several days to our departure yesterday... the anchovies had swum back and hidden in the folds of my raincoat.
It all seemed very fishy to me!
In our Narnian dell, with natural pool, cascading waterfall and fire pit was something I doubt even CSL could have imagined... a large outdoor pizza oven. Knowing that before arriving, I had planned. In the car were three tins of anchovies, a veritable small shoal of the tiny, tasty wrigglers! On our pizza night I couldn’t contemplate one without anchovies. Of 14 of us, 11 hated them... and only me actually craved them.
But the fairies dealt me a savage blow. The anchovies had completely disappeared. I searched everywhere. They must have swum away!
Eleven breathed a sigh of relief!
If you’re out and about shopping in Totnes, be careful. For as you now know, Totnians are different. Different in so many ways, but you probably didn’t expect a different currency. Forget those annoying Scottish fivers and tenners that someone sometimes surreptitiously offloads on to you, carefully hidden in ‘proper money’, or those irritating Manx, Jersey and Guernsey coins that sneak into your pockets from time to time! In Totnes, you need to watch out for the Totnes Pound (t£), for this town pioneered town currencies. t£ was withdrawn just two years ago but still watch out for strange change!
Now if you’m a stranger to Totnes, you’ll find it’s rather strange too, with some strange people and some strange goings on. Expect to see laid-back dudes in dreads, tributes to Flower Power, 50s, 60s, 70s throwbacks, road-sweepingly long grey hair and beards, works of art indelibly captured on arms, legs, backs, torsos, heads and even faces, itinerant players and ephemeral food factors. On the air are heady reminders of homemade pie, joss-sticks and more than a hint of ganga.
And maybe the odd jester or two will help you keep your wits about you.
My younger son Alex and family stayed in The Cabin, in Narnia, or maybe it was Totnia. They were the lucky ones with the plunge pool, the water lilies and the weeds. But they let me swim there with him and the two 5 year olds.
You would never call Alex hirsute these days, as he’d given his receding hairline a helping hand long ago! With trepidation and dread we all slipped into the icy-cold water, shocking even! But the biggest shock of all was when Alex emerged from the deep sporting green dreadlocks. Amazing... he’d instantly turned Totnian!
At dusk, in our Narnia, we had gathered for the show. All sitting comfortably in our makeshift alfresco auditorium overlooking the pool, suddenly there appeared a trio of mystical creatures. Were they nymphs perhaps? Or satyrs? So difficult to tell in the half light, although the fairy lights suggested fairies.
But what’s this... one, two, three they leapt into the icy plunge pool, among the weeds and water lilies. In turn they told their stories, but maybe it was the fizz we’d enjoyed earlier, but I for one thought they were speaking Mermish, for surely they were mermaids and merboy?
We are staying at the top of the hill at my son’s wonderful house. The rest of the family are in little dwellings next door. As you walk down the long secluded path at dusk, lights come on and off as you pass. A pretty cat is always lurking there.
Reaching the end there’s a gate to the steep wooden steps taking you down and down the side of a rock cliff... to The Cabin, in front of which is a wonderful scene. An oasis, complete with natural plunge pool amid water lilies and fairy lights. This surely is Narnia.
Having headed southwest, it seemed like we’d headed due east, to Bohemia. This beautiful, ancient town, complete with castle, is in a time warp all of its own. Walking up and around the main shopping street, called Fore Street round here, the characters there were straight out of a cult beatnik movie.
By the river sat a man dressed in bright yellow, with dreadlocks, drinking water and smoking something I didn’t want the kids to inhale. Another man in purple suit and headdress bid me ‘good morrow’!
Others passed by with shabby clothes and spectral hair colours.
This was Totnes!