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One Day Out, One Day In

Yesterday was the third mild, sunny day in a row, such a treat for the end of February.  But as the weather forecast was for rain from today (Thursday) we thought we’d do our shopping yesterday and also have a walk along Torquay sea front so that we could see the magnolia trees which are now in bloom.  They flower for such a short period and I knew that once the rain had arrived when we next saw them, the petals would be on the ground, going brown, and not making those beautiful ‘cups’ on the trees, for I think they look vaguely like cups and saucers.

And so off we went to Waitrose (where again our trolley bags were admired by someone – wish I’d a £1 for every time someone has stopped us and asked us where we had bought them!) for our weekly groceries and then, with our ‘free’ Waitrose coffee and a prawn sandwich to share, we drove down to what is our usual parking place, the small car park at Meadfoot beach.  It was sunny but very misty, we couldn’t see across the Bay to Berry Head.

But what we could see were those young cormorants which we’d seen, ducking and diving for fish, last week.  And after watching them fishing we saw them, in turn, hop onto that rock on the right of this photograph, and spread wide their saturated wings, for cormorants, unlike ducks, aren’t ‘waterproof’ and have to dry their feathers in the sunshine.  (We have now dubbed this part of the Bay “Cormorant Corner”.)

From Meadfoot we drove to Torquay sea front, parked the car for 1/2 hr, and had a walk through Rock Walk.  This was very overgrown and in quite a dangerous state until eleven years ago when the Council brought in heavy equipment and the whole rock face was cleared of shrubbery and a super-abundance of weeds (sorry, wild flowers).

Photo, 11th February 2008

This was one of the largest (or perhaps that should be longest) cranes in the country that was brought in to do the work of clearing the wooded rock face of Rock Walk.

Now Rock Walk is not quite as ‘romantic’ looking but it’s much cleaner and safer and much more open. It isn’t wise these days to have lots of hidden places, and for obvious reasons.

Eleven years on and the rock face is greening up again, but without the super-abundance of foliage.  And of course, it means that those properties at the top of Rock Walk – mainly flats now rather than hotels – have wonderful views with only a few trees in front of them.

And so we walked along to admire the two lovely magnolia trees, one white, the other pink …


Of the two, I like the white one the best, but both are beautiful.  We continued our walk until we reached the Torbay Hotel (on the left in the photo below), which is opposite the Victorian fountain which was renovated last year and  will soon be filled with water again. Sadly, some children had decided it could be used as a climbing frame and they had climbed into where the water will eventually be and were busily climbing the delicate cherubs, with their parents looking on.  Is nothing safe from this kind of behaviour?  The Council had spent thousands on the renovation, and now children think it’s a free-for-all.  I didn’t blame the little ones but you’d think their parents would have more sense, wouldn’t you, in allowing this?  Sadly common sense isn’t common to all.  And if the little ones fell, I dare say such stupid parents would be the first to attempt to sue the Council for negligence in not having a barricade around the fountain in winter, or something daft like that.

But back with the Torbay Hotel for a moment … on the wall the Torbay Civic Society has placed a plaque …

The Torbay Hotel must therefore have been one of the first purpose built hotels in the Bay, in 1867.

From the Victorian fountain we walked back to our car, along the promenade, passing the Princess Theatre (not shown here) and the sunken gardens.  These gardens used to have borders of flowers, too, but now they’re grassed from wall to wall, making them less expensive for the Council to maintain.  You can just catch a glimpse of the pink magnolia on the extreme left of this photo (the sea, out of sight, is on the right.)

* * * * *

And so to today, Thursday.  We awakened to the rain that we’d been ‘promised’ and so I decided to have breakfast in bed, just a croissant with apricot jam, and my book to read (which, thus far, I’m enjoying.)

What a luxury it is not to have to go to work or even get up if one doesn’t want to!  I stopped here reading until well gone 10am!  Coffee was on the bedside chest of drawers (I had by now removed my overnight water glass – that is what those little mats are for) …

And I also have a look at the two magazines from yesterday, one which arrived via the post, the other bought in Waitrose …


I also stocked up on fruit yesterday, and there is still more in the fridge – apples, tangerines, plums and pears.  Making sure of our five-a-day!  The daffodils (above) are the ones I bought last Thursday and they are still looking good, and also yesterday, for the first time this year, I found some double daffodils in Waitrose and while they look a little raggedy now,  they will be fully opened soon.

I have just popped a cottage pie in the oven to heat through and that we will have for lunch and while there is a pile of ironing to tackle and dust to remove from just about everywhere, I really don’t feel much like doing either this afternoon, so I might just sit and enjoy reading my book.

Until next time.


About Margaret

Margaret’s main interests are her husband and family, her friends, her home, her garden, writing, literature, architecture, décor, social history, photography, historic houses and gardens, and towns, villages and the countryside. She writes about the things she enjoys: flowers, scent, fine soap, monthly style magazines, and other such small indulgences, such as afternoon tea or simply enjoying her summerhouse with a book. She invites you to enjoy this virtual visit to South Devon, England.

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  1. Your morning sounds so luxurious. I have had to be up with the lark the past three weeks to welcome the various workers who are fitting a new bathroom and I can’t wait for it to be finished so I can give everywhere a deep clean and have my first bath since moving last April. Your beautiful magnolias are way ahead of ours. I have a pink one in the garden which was in its final flowery throes when we arrived last year and soon after moving I planted a Magnolia Stellata (White starry flowers) and both are still smothered in masses of velvety buds. After the lovely Cornish gardens like Trengwainton and Trelissick, Nymans is my favourite place to see Magnolias so I should plan a visit there soon. To distract me from the bathroom work and keep my mind in the present I am crocheting a jumper in the most gorgeous raspberry red merino wool spun from Romney Marsh sheep. I love wearing pink and red and have just tried on the front half of the jumper for fit and length and I think it is going to be quite groovy in a retro crochet way. At my feet I have The Ballad of Peckham Rye by Muriel Spark which I’m reading for Book Group. I can’t say it is my favourite of her novels. It seems quite dated and even a little bit misanthropic, but maybe it will improve. Last month’s book was The Red Haired Woman by the Turkish writer Orhan Pamuk which I loved reading from beginning to end. The sun is now out after a rainy morning, but after three wonderful days in the garden, not to mention several long walks including a paddle in the sea, a frosty early morning off-road cycle and a swim I am resting my weary body today so I am fresh for yoga this evening. Enjoy your leisurely afternoon and maybe at some point you can dance around the sitting room with a duster, preferably a damp one so it picks up the dust!

    • Margaret

      I love magnolia stellata, Sarah, so I might see if we can get one for our tiny garden … we could keep it small, I think, and it would take a while to grow, anyway. Or put it in a pot, with ericaceous soil.
      I’ve not visited Nymans although I have read much about it and even written about it for a magazine. I write about the beginnings of the house and garden and then I jump to the 1930s when the first Lord Snowdon’s mother lived there …
      “We are now approaching the third generation of Messels at Nymans, with Leonard and Maud’s daughter, Anne, Countess of Rosse taking over the running of the garden (Anne Rosse’s second husband is Michael, 6th Earl of Rosse. From her first marriage to Ronald Armstrong-Jones, Lady Rosse has two children, Susan and Antony, later Lord Snowdon).
      Having been brought up in a family of antiques collectors, she is keenly aware of a sense of the past and is a founder member of both the Victorian Society and the Georgian Group. Her brother, Oliver Messel is famous in the world of theatre, film and architecture and some of his paintings can be seen at Nymans, along with a dear little television set decked out as if it is a toy theatre.
      While visitors to Nymans are there to see its glorious gardens, the part of the house not ruined by the fire of 1947 is worth seeing. Known as the Messel Family Rooms, they are presented as the Countess of Rosse left them. “The spirit of the famous gardens begun by Ludwig Messel in the 1890s has entered the house, so that both are fused into a tranquil expression of English country-house living,” says historian, Michael Pick, adding, “Time has mellowed the stone and the ruined wing gives a spurious additional quality of age, particularly as creeping plants encircle the empty oriel windows and finger the sharp outlines with a green embrace.” ”
      I haven’t read the Muriel Spark novel you mention, although I have read others, nor the novel by Orhan Pamuk, so I might investigate that one.
      I hope the bathroom is finished before too long and you can enjoy a long soak in scented water! I’ve not bathed since 2004 because I can’t get in and out of a bath with my gammy hips, but I do enjoy a hot shower twice a day.
      My goodness, you are engergetic – off road cycling, swimming and yoga! Housework is as much as I can manage these days; I used to play squash but it ‘did’ for my knees!
      I’ve just done some ironing, so that’s me done for the day!

      • Wow Margaret, your description of Nymans remains completely accurate. The gardens are still glorious, the rooms are wonderfully shabby and comfortable (piles of books everywhere, trays of drinks and of course beautiful flowers) and nowadays there is always an exhibition in the old servants’ quarters, currently “The Lost Words” which has been put together by Robert Macfarlane with super paintings by Jackie Morris. The exhibition celebrates and gives us a reason to remember words like conker and teasel and bramble and dandelion. While we were there Jackie Morris was painting goldfinches on teasels in the blackest ink which she said is made from rock mined in North Devon and then ground to make ink. And of course all the visiting children were completely entranced. I forgot to tell you about my interest in Ernest Shackleton, but I will leave that for another day…! Haven’t played squash since I was at university and I turned up with my partner only to find a lecturer had just died from a heart attack on court!!! I still play badminton occasionally with my husband, but I know what you mean about knees and I think that cycling (because your knees are supported and in alignment) is very good for them, and also saves a lot of wear and tear on the other joints of the body. Hope you’re having a good Friday. I’m drowning out the sound of stone cutting with Radio 3.

        • Margaret

          Sarah, I will email you the complete article separately. Please bear in mind that I had to research this as I never visited Nymans, but as a feature writer research is what I did, and I’d seen photos of the place and I could imagine the atmomsphere of the house and the garden having been lived in by so many artistic people. I’m glad you think I pitched it right!
          Speaking of Shackleton, in 2004 we flew from Exeter to Edinburgh and stayed at Channings, which was the home of Shackleton in Edinburgh, now a smart boutique hotel. Well, I presume it’s still there as a hotel, one can never tell these days! I must Google it! That is where I had a bath in a deep bath with no handrails on the side and had great difficulty in getting out! We had a suite and husband was in the sitting room and wouldn’t have heard me had I called to him as he had the TV on. But I managed to grab a towel and put that over the side of the bath and eventually escape. I’ve not had a bath since, only showered!
          Oh, that was awful – to arrive on a squash court to find someone had just had a heart attack and died on court! A warning to us all that sport isn’t always healthy! A dear friend of mine had a stoke while performing in a zumba class and fell to the floor and died in hospital a few hours later. I still miss her. I sometimes think, as my mother in law did, to rest in the afternoons rather than anything strenuous, is better for our health!

  2. Your photos are beautiful! I’ve just been gazing and re-gazing at them! Is your weather kind of mild there by the sea? I had no idea you’d have palms, and gardens so pretty this time of year. The fleur- de- lis of flowers is perfection and the pretty Victorian fountain, which I can’t wait to see filled with water. How wonderful it must be to live in one of the properties there above the rock and have such a gorgeous view.

    You mentioned the fruit you keep on hand. Do you mean you have 5-a -day of fruit or 5 combined of fruit and vegetables. It’s a worthy goal that I strive for but don’t meet on most days. I must improve on that – it makes a difference!

    Your magazines look inviting. I especially like the look of the Period Living.

    Thank you for the wonderful tour.

    • Margaret

      Thank you, Kay, for your kind comments re my photos. Yes, we generally enjoy a mild climate here in Torbay, as Torbay faces South West and also it is sheltered to the rear by Dartmoor, so although the moors aren’t far away – about 25 miles – and they often have snow in winter, Torbay rarely has snow, perhaps just a smattering. Last winter when the Beast from the East blew in, we did have snow, but it was the exception rather than the rule. The palms are Torbay palms, not really true palm trees, but they look pretty nonetheless. The fountain looks lovely when filled with water and with water gushing out. Yes, properties at the top of Rock Walk have an amazing view.
      Yes, I meant that the fruit is part of our five-a-day, which includes vegetables. But we love our fruit and often have more than five-a-day if we put both fruit and veg together. We do try and east seasonally and although I bought raspberries last week, they are the exception and not the rule. Right now I’m enjoying Jazz apples (I always buy the smallest apples I can find, large ones don’t taste as nice, so I will often have two small ones rather than one large one.)
      My favourite magazine is The English Home but the new one isn’t published until after the first week in March.

  3. Those daffodils are GORGEOUS! Never have seen any like those before!

  4. I’m with you on the behavior of some children, Margaret. I would say – no, no place is safe from that kind of behavior. There are too many parents who won’t hold their children to a standard. It is hard to take, that’s for sure. I can’t believe those magnolias! Oh my goodness. It really is spring where you live! We are in winter and the temperatures promise to be very cold, possibly, until the middle of March. And don’t get me started on all the snow piled up! Spring would be nice about right now.

    • Margaret

      I actually feel sorry for the children of the parents who disregard such things as the Victorian fountain and think it perfectly acceptable to clamber all over it. If, indeed, that it even crosses their minds. It took great presence of mind for me not to interfere and tell them go hop off the fountain, I’d have been viewed as tut-tutting old bat. But this kind of thing is everywhere, children running amok in places, although on the other hand, we have seen well-behaved children in cafes and so forth, too. It’s not all of them, thank goodness, nor are all parents at fault.
      Yes, the magnolias are lovely, even if there are only two of these trees along Torquay sea front, but they are also in some gardens along the routes that we drive regularly to various parts of the Bay, in people’s gardens. I’m sorry to hear you still have snow piled around, we were fed up with it last after a couple of days!

  5. What a fun post this was, Margaret! We have anhingas where I live, who also hold their wings out to dry in the sunshine. And what magnificent magnolias!

    Much to my delight, yesterday’s mail brought a cheerily-wrapped package from you, with the two books I won in your drawing. Thank you again! It truly made my day! I’m enjoying “A Country Life” already.

    • Margaret

      I’m delighted the books have arrived so quickly, Beth! I only posted them last Saturday, which will be a week tomorrow. I’m so glad you are enjoying A Country Life, one of my favourite books to dip into.
      I’ve not heard of anhingas, I must Google those! Glad you liked seeing the magnolias, they are so beautiful but only last a week or two. But that’s what’s so special about flowers, isn’t it? Their ephemeral nature. If we had magnolias all year round perhaps we’d not give them a second glance.

  6. The double daffodils are gorgeous! I’ve not seen any for sale locally, but I have been buying the standard ones regularly. They really brighten my North-facing kitchen.
    What a lovely set of photographs you’ve posted; the gardens look so colourful and well maintained. That’s something we always notice when in the area.
    I feel your pain with regard to the children and their lackadaisical parents!

    • Margaret

      Yes, the double daffs are lovely and we, too, have a north facing kitchen made even darker with the walnut tree in the back garden (but we love the tree and not only that, we can’t do anything about it as it has a preservation order on it). The local gardens are very nicely kept, and I think the Council does well to maintain so many green spaces when, as we know, budgets are being pruned so much (no pun intended, but appropriate nonetheless!) As for the children, I think had I been on my own (husband hates it when I push my nose in!) I’d have been inclined to have had a quiet word with the parents, reminding them of the fragility of the Victorian ironwork and how much the Council had spent on it and really, it wasn’t in anyone’s best interest to allow children to use it as a climbing frame, after all, they could impale themselves on the ironwork and that would not be nice for anyone. I dare say I’d have received a mouthful of abuse, to eff-ff, silly old bat (or worse). I think it’s not because these people don’t care, they don’t actually think – they need to be taught to think, just as children need to be taught to care for such things.

  7. A good read as always Margaret! Lovely to watch the cormorants – we see them sometimes on the river Wharfe here. I love to see them drying their wings – they look like ancient heraldic beasts! Every morning when I awake, I am thankful not to have to turn out for work and just to start the day at my own pace. I always enjoyed my work, but I have never been a lark, alas, and have never felt at my best first thing in the morning. I would like to ask if you have any favourite fiction authors. I am finding it harder to find books to my taste as a number of my favourites seem to have stopped writing (or died).

    • Margaret

      Yes, it’s been lovely these past few weeks seeing the young cormorants ducking and diving and then, on Wednesday, seeing them hopping up onto the small rock to dry off. Yes, they do look like ancient heraldic beasts, I couldn’t have put it better myself!
      Fiction is very much a personal thing and I’m not a highbrow reader by any means. For example, I once joined a book group – oh, many years ago, I’d not contemplate this now! – and the leader of this group choose all the six finalists on the Booker list for that year and we were supposed to read them. Well, I soon dropped out of that, I tried one of them and it was dire. The phrase “too clever by half” springs to mind. Or perhaps I’m just not clever enough to appreciate such literature! But I do have some favourites and for different styles of book. For example, I love the novels of Joanna Trollope. She’s not everyone’s cup of Earl Grey, but I really enjoy her relationship books, which is really what they are about. I have read them all (and have them all.) I also enjoy the books of Marcia Willett, she’s modern-day comfort reading and best of all, Marcia (whom I know) sets her books in the west country, sometimes in Cornwall, sometimes in Devon, so that characters meet up in Totnes, say, at the market, or have a drink in the Cott Inn in Dartington.
      I also love the novels of Jane Thynne. She has written a series about an actress, Clara Vine, who is 1/2 English and 1/2 German, and the novels are set in the period just up to and during World War 2, when Clara becomes a spy for the UK. Do read these, they are well written and very good espionage novels, but look up the series either on Jane’s website or on http://www.fantasticfiction.co.uk and read them in the chronological order. Similarly, the novels of Jacqueline Winspear who has written about a young woman, Maisie Dobbs (that sounds so very Catherine Cookson but I assure you she isn’t!) who eventually becomes a psychological sleuth with her own business in the 1930s, but again you must start with the first, Maisie Dobbs, and then read them in chronological order because of the developing back story.
      Kathryn McMahon is also excellent, but I prefer her earlier books to her later books. They are all stand-alone novels, so you could say, choose The Crimson Rooms and see how you enjoy that, or City of Light, which I particularly enjoyed.
      Then there is Rachel Hore who I think would come into the “good read” category. I loved her novel The Glass Painter’s Daughter. Similarly, Charlotte Betts, who has books set in the period either just before, during or after the Great Fire of London, such books as The Apothecary’s Daughter and The Spice Merchant’s Wife. I particularly enjoyed The House in Quill Court and that is set in the immediate building boom in London following the Great Fire.
      I love books where place plays a very important role, too, and Judith Lennox’s book The Jeweller’s Wife is set on the Isle of Mersea, somewhere I’ve not been but have always wanted to visit. A lovely story, very atmospheric. And I particularly liked Judith Lennox’s most recent novel, Hidden Lives.
      I hope that will give you some to consider, Margaret?

      • You are very generous with your time Margaret, thank you so much for your suggestions which I will be investigating forthwith! I know some people are sniffy about Joanna Trollope but I have always enjoyed her work and rereading some of the earlier ones (I particularly loved ‘The Choir’) makes for good comfort reading if I’m feeling below par.
        I am sure you have sorted my holiday reading for a forthcoming trip to Cornwall – very important to have some good books on holiday. Thank you again.

        • Margaret

          That is amazing as her first contemporary novel, The Choir, is my favourite of Joanna Trollope’s novels! Snap! I read it again, only a few months ago and loved it all over again. I also loved the TV serial that was made, many years ago now.
          I do hope you will enjoy your visit to Cornwall, Devon and Cornwall are such lovely counties but of course, Devon is best, ha ha!

          • I remember the TV series – a stellar cast wasn’t it? I wonder if it is still available anywhere ……

          • Margaret

            It would be nice to think it was still available, Margaret. I think Edward Fox was in it as the Bishop. It was excellent and I also loved the music to it. You might be able to get the music to it on You Tube.

  8. Those magnolias are beautiful…..cormorants are sometimes called ‘shags’. As in ‘like a shag on a rock’….. I think we’ve all been in situations where we’ve watched children running amok and wanted to shake the parents. I get quite annoyed if I’m in a cafe and children are bored / restless and start playing up. I don’t blame the kids as having to sit still / quietly is boring for them. Most kids prefer to be outside where they can run, squeal and play without boring adults trying to constrain their endless energy….. The daffodils are very pretty xx

    • Margaret

      I think ‘shags’ here are a different bird, but I might be wrong, Lara.
      Yes, children need to be able to run around, and they also need to be taught to respect property (any kind of property, their own home or someone else’s or public property) from an early age. My dear old Mum used to say, “You look with your eyes, not with your hands” and while this isn’t right in every context for children, they need to feel things to understand texture, it is good to get them to bear this in mind for things which are fragile, things which could be broken or ruined by being handled.

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