Monday, August 28, 2006

Friday, August 24th, Dartmouth


Sarie arrived and we heaved my heavy luggage into the Ticklemore delivery van. This white van looks innocent, but I'm not fooled. It is to be my chariot while I'm here. It is a small Citroen two passenger van with a manual transmission. Oh God. Not only do I have to drive this thing on the other side of the road, but I have limited visibility behind me and I have to shift with my other hand. And the mirrors are in the wrong place, too. Oh boy. I won't be leaving the dairy much, I think. But now we are grabbing some things to take up to the dairy before they leave for Spain in a couple of hours. It is Friday, and that means market day in Totnes. Markets are held in many towns all over the U.K. and Europe. They are a combination of flea market and farmer's market. Cheap socks, tasty pastries, and fresh carrots all in one place. Yippee! Sarie and I grabbed some bread for sandwiches, I snagged some green gage plum preserves (heavenly), some raspberries, apples, and eggs. Enough stuff for me to make some weird meals.

Robin and Sarie pack up their car and off they go to Plymouth to pick up a ferry to Brittany. I unpack and settle in. Nick and Liz are working in the dairy today. They keep popping in and out of the front room. Time for tea, lunch, etc. Essentially, I am staying in an apartment tacked onto the dairy. It's sort of like an illegal inlaw unit. When Robin built the place, he was granted permission for the industrial use of the property, but not the residential. That has since been rectified, but it hasn't been improved much since it was built. The main living area is also the employee lounge. Everyone comes and goes all day, the door is always open. The bedroom is off of living room/kitchen. There are stairs leading up to the den where there's a sofa, chair and bookcase. The bathroom is also up here. As is the airing cupboard. The bathroom has a large bathtub, sink and toilet. No shower. Damn. There is a hose to rinse with, attached to the faucet. How am I supposed to wash my hair? This is going to be a challenge.

Staying in someone else's home is a strange way to get an intimate glimpse into the lives of others. It's strangely voyeuristic. Things I take for granted at home are not here. They have a washing machine but no dryer. They have a slow, Dial-up modem, not DSL. They have a refrigerator the size of a large dorm fridge. There are no condiments like ketchup, mayonnaise, Tobasco. I can't find a frying pan or tongs. It is sort of like stepping into someone else's life, but they don't seem to cook much. I'll be on the look out for frying pans at the local thrift stores.

Nick has invited me to follow him to Dartmouth to see the Dartmouth Regatta. It's a weekend full of rowing races, a carnival, Navy displays, fireworks, fishing derbies, and an air show by the Red Arrows (UK version of the Blue Angels.) Dartmouth is home to the Royal Navy Academy and it is full of old, Tudor style buildings and fudge shops. Big tourist town. We take the long way around from Totnes to Dartmouth, sticking to the major roads instead of driving down "the lanes." It is so easy to get lost down the lanes. I am happy to take a few more minutes driving in order to avoid dodging oncoming traffic in the narrow, windy single track back roads. People drive like maniacs down these narrow roads that are seven feet wide, if you're lucky. Every turn is a blind curve due to the hedgerows. It is a wonder that there aren't more fatalities on these roads. They really scare me.
Photo: Dartmouth
Nick lives in the next village beyond Dartmouth, so we park our cars there and carpool in to town. He's picking up the family, so I am left to my own devises. I stroll down along the quay, watching the crowds and the boat races. There are several rowing contests going on and there is a loudspeaker calling the gripping action on the river. The smell of grilled sausages and cotton candy is overwhelming. The carnival dominates the center of the festivities. There are hundreds of people packed onto the quay. Not only are people watching the boat races, but there is a crab derby going on. People of all ages are holding spools of kite string with bacon fastened to the end of the string. They lower the bacon into the water, wait a minute and pull up the bacon again. With luck, there is a small crab clinging to the greasy pork product. It's about 15 feet from the water to the top of the cement quay wall. Half the time, the crabs let go and plunge back into the murky water. Kids are lined up and down the quay, with string in hand and a bucket of water at their feet for their catch. They're reeling the crabs in, fast and furious. The crabs are about the size of the palm of your hand. They're small. The English don't eat them, but the get shipped off to France and Spain where they're considered a delicacy.

As I watch these young teenagers playing with the crabs, I call Jim. A 14 year old boy hears my conversation and starts talking to me. He offers to let me have a go at crabbing. I get off the phone with Jim and have great success. The crabs can't wait to get my bacon. It barely hits the water when there's a crab on it. Amazing. This kid named Marcus is fascinated by my accent and the fact I'm from California. No, I don't know any movie stars, I've seen a few. He asks a million questions. Someday he hopes to go to America, but first he wants to visit London. He's from Bristol. His family has rented a house nearby and they're spending the week in Dartmouth. Nice kid.

Photo: I caught a crab in Dartmouth!

I quit fishing for crabs and bid Marcus and his friend Haley farewell. I head back to the bus stop and catch the #93 back to Nick's house in Stoke Fleming. It's drizzling and I'm tired.

Nick's house is a beautiful 18th Century home that's on several floors. It's actually three old cottages that have been joined together. He's got three kids, so he needs the space. Nick and his wife Sally love to cook. They used to own a bakery in the village, but gave it up due to the hideous hours and slow business. They have a great kitchen, full of equipment for baking and whipping up good meals. He's made some sausages and offers to give me a few. I head off, retracing my steps back to Totnes. Sausage for dinner. Amazing, nicely seasoned, and perfect. They go well with my fresh corn.

I miss my DSL....

1 comment:

Jack said...

"have a go" at crabbing... Sarah, you're already turning British! :)
Enjoying your blog from over here in Denmark. Keep it up, pal.