Sunday, 15 february 1998

I arrived in Exeter, St. David's station, about 6.15pm, and after a little bit of wandering because I didn't know whom I was looking for, I found Peter Glazier, my host for this week. He drove me to his family's place and told me about Devon, this county; mostly just lots of nature and farms and pastures etc. naturally (as it tends to be when I arrive places) it was dark, so I couldn't see much of what we drove past. We got to their place, I met Jill his wife and Hannah their daughter, and we had tea and sat to watch the telly. We had dinner, but mostly for the entire evening we sat and watched. It's not something I've yet really done over here, watching an evening of Brit shows, and I was very tired so I was thankful for the mindless time. plus, I'm supposedly studying television whilst over here. Tonight was a quiz show, Coronation Street, a cop show, and a fire-person show, then this guy who shows clips of various things from around the world.

I'm stunned by how much into my visit they all are. Hannah is behaving like the perfect little hostess; she's 11. I'm sleeping in her room. Tonight they all pulled out a bunch of brochures for various things to do around his area, and peter and hannah have off all this week, so they have time to escort me, and this is part of their own holiday as well. Now I just look around hannah's room, with scarves hanging from the ceiling ('tis quite pretty actually) and Wallace and Gromit posters everywhere.

Monday, 16 february

somehow I wound up sleeping until nearly 10am. I woke, got 'round, had a lovely breakfast. after hannah and peter and I were all ready, we went off to town — to Sidmouth. We drove through the town and then parked near the sea, where we just walked a bit and looked around. the gardens smelled lovely and the sea! O the sea! 'twas wonderful to be near it again. I picked up a few pebbles and looked at the patches of sunlight on the water.

We next went up a hill, and looked down from there after tromping through a field full of ponies. Which was pretty cool. They didn't let us touch them but we were close. We walked through mud and wind, saw the sea again from above, and then went back home, to eat lunch and have tea. I think I had three cups of tea today, maybe four. Constant.

Around 3pm we went out again, this time to the Donkey Sanctuary right outside of Sidmouth, which was recommended to me by the assistant pastor in Glasgow. We saw the donkeys and they were adorable, and then we sought out the two that the Glasgow folk have adopted, though they were eating so we didn't get to chat. Then back again to home, where I just sat/wrote/prayed, and then we ate.

After dinner we played a little quiz game which was cute, and then more of the telly. the News at Ten, and then I headed for bed; have to wake up early in the morning.

Tuesday, 17 february

Hannah woke me with a knock on the door, I got 'round quickly, and then we all left around 8am for Exeter. We dropped off jill at work and then wandered 'round the city. Hannah looked in a couple of places for a video or something and I just tagged along. We wandered, had coffee, saw the cathedral — longest nave in Europe, possibly longest in the world. I got the choir tour, in a sense, since hannah is a chorister there. then down to the underground passages, which were once used as maintenance tunnels for little pipes that ran through them. The passages date back to 1420 and were fun to crawl through, in our hardhats and crouched postures. Damp walls but it didn't smell bad and wasn't too cold. They go under the whole of the old city.

Then on to Dartmoor, where we parked at a scenic spot and had lunch, and then walked around up there a bit. I wandered through the moor on the tops of the hills; the thick vegetation and browner mud and hills rolling out below and around. and a few sheep. Sheep everywhere. We went next to Widecombe-in-the-Moor, which was a nice old little town where we stopped at a pub and actually sat outside because it was so warm today (they're having may or june weather here the last few days). As we drove around, we also saw a few Dartmoor ponies, which were wild and didn't let us near them except for one, who ate an apple from my hand.

Then on to this little model village about an hour away from there, which wasn't a thrill but it was cute, and then on to Exeter again. We got jill from work and then went home and had dinner — fish and chips, take-away. Then on to a prayer meeting, which was strange because it was mostly senior citizens, and then peter, and then me. 'twas interesting though. And then back home, where i wrote 'til bedtime.

Wednesday, 18 february

about 8.45am I woke, and got 'round and then we headed on foot, along some nature trails and the river, into town (Sidmouth this time). hannah got her hair cut while peter showed me a bit of the town; nothing very exciting but it was good to look around and see places like the inside of a hair salon or a realty office or the YMCA or a bookshop of Sidmouth. I checked out a possible phone line connexion for my notebook (at last). We took the bus back home and hung out and had lunch, and then I watched about 45 minutes of figure skating on the Olympics; if I were in the States I'd probably be watching that constantly, but here I just see a few minutes here and there. it's still quite interesting.

About 2pm I headed out on my own, walking down that same path to town, where I set out straight for the sea. I went right up alongside it, picked up a few lovely stones, and sat on a jetty for a while, 'til a bit of rain passed. Then I kept walking, across the river Sid (which is easy to cross at its mouth) and then on along the beach, eastward. I had a very fun game of batting small pebbles into the sea with a big stick; I found great fascination in that for some reason. And then more walking, and more, with the pebbles beneath and the sea to my right and the big red cliffs (with minor danger of rockfalls) to my left... 'til I got to Salcombe, which is the next sort of little river that spits out into the sea.

There I turned up, to the left, into the cliff face, and walked up a more gradual incline along the water 'til I got to the top. I looked out for a long while and then worked my way along the top back to Sidmouth, which was none too easy since it was very very steep. The views were spectacular though; at one point the sun poked through the clouds and set the sea and shore beyond me on fire, or I could just look down at the water far below, or at the fog filling up the green pastures of the Salcombe valley which I'd just left.

Eventually I got to Sidmouth, where I found the bus back home, and took that. When I arrived, I noticed that I was exhausted; about four hours of walking up steep hills and on beaches will do that, I guess. So I sat and watched Star Trek and then we had dinner, which was lovely and plentiful; they really do know how to eat in the UK. People who say they can't make good food are just sourpusses. We ate, and then I wrote a while and we played more of hannah's little quiz game, and then more writing and then an old X-Files before bed.

Thursday, 19 february

I woke and got 'round slowly, had a good breakfast, and then peter and hannah and I headed out driving, East this time instead of West. We basically just followed the coast, slowly, through the small towns that dot the coastline. We drove through Salcombe Regis (the town next to the place on the cliffs where I'd wandered to yesterday) and then got to Branscombe, where we visited a very old church (12th century I believe) and it wasn't very cold but the damp was thick in the church. It was beautiful and I could feel its oldness. I like old places. Then on to Beer, where we stopped for lunch — sandwiches by the sea. The cliffs there are a different colour than here, more white and chalky. Beer's river went alongside the street through the town, down to the sea; it was only enough water to fill a gutter-sized trench along the road, but they still call it a river. The Sid is tiny as well (only about as wide as I am high down most of it), but it's a river to the folk here. I don't think that they call anything creeks or streams — just rivers.

Then we went on further, to Lyme Regis, where several fossils have been found and where Jane Austen stayed once. It was a holiday town like most of these directly-on-the-coast towns are, and due to the balmy weather there were actually a good number of holiday-makers there. a lot of these places would probably be no fun in summer, just warmer. We went on from there to the next opportunity to get close to the water, so that we could hunt for fossils; hannah and peter did a lot of that but I just stared in awe at the ocean and the (now deep grey) cliffs. The cliffs seem to change colour every few miles, and they all have bits of green spilling over their tops.

We drove back through the very thick mist in the tops of the hills, 'til hannah and I got dropped off at home. I made a bunch of phone calls to BritRail and others regarding how I'm getting to Cork in a few days. I talked to Doug Hefferman, with whom I'll be staying in Cork, and he seemed amazingly easygoing, just told me to show up whenever and they'd be ready to put me up for however long. Wow. We eventually had Tea, and then chatted and watched telly for much of the rest of the evening.

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