MONDAY, SEPTEMBER 14
Meet our apartment proprietors this morning after their weekend London trip to see modern version of Hamlet at The Barbican – directed by Lindsay Turner. Head into Devon, and make two lovely Teign Valley walks on Dartmoor National Park. Lunch at Cromwell Arms, Bovey Stacey, where a patron, a fellow Australian, who has been living in the UK for nine years, tell us we have a new Prime Minister – Malcolm Turnbull, who has toppled Tony Abbott.
Our ‘home’ for the next five nights is the lovely Shell Seekers cottage in the delightful coastal town of Salcombe, ‘Chelsea by the Sea’, some people call it. Young people fishing (and drinking Coronas) from a jetty catch a small crab and keep it!! Drinks at the Victoria and Fortescue before having pork sausages (four for two pounds 30 pence) from Lloyd Maunder’s butchers.
TUESDAY, SEPTEMBER 15
After bacon and eggs (the latter from Blackacre Farm in Somerset, where the chooks are protected by alpacas) we get the small passenger ferry from Salcombe to East Portlemouth, then walk along the broad sands of Mill Bay, before entering National Trust woodland at Rickham Common, and then following the Devon Coast north, returning through farms and woodland. Such a lovely circuit. There are surf board riders at the mouth of Salcombe Harbour, and they get the odd wave. We see two peregrine falcons during our walk. So many people with dogs. Even the ferryman has one – a black cockerspaniel, who knows all the tricks of sailing. We have one drink in the beer garden of the disappointing Ferry Inn. Lovely location. We’ll leave it at that. Steak (from traditional butchers P J Coleman) for dinner is tough.
WEDNESDAY, SEPTEMBER 16
To Kingsbridge, where we buy wild sea bass and scallops for dinner. Also look at photographic display (Images of Devon) by Mick Allen, in the market hall. Lunch (carrot/coriander soup) at ‘Globe Inn’, Frogmore, where bar manager, Claire Horsley, looks after us. She was born at Sunnybank in Brisbane (to English parents) and went to St Pious School, Salisbury. She says Sunnybank is the most Taiwanese place in the world, outside Taiwan itself. Back at Salcombe, I try a new Cornish lager (Korev) at Victoria pub. Bland. I go back to Otter Ale.
THURSDAY, SEPTEMBER 17
Sunday-Mail columnist, Peter Cameron phones from Brisbane, wanting any gossip on the Wallabies World Cup campaign. I’m not much help in Salcombe. Negotiate impossibly narrow lanes on our way to Bantham, on the River Avon. (One of eight River Avons in the UK). Pay six pounds to park our car, then explore the beautiful coastline. Life Guards are having a training run on the main beach and there are stacks of board riders near Burgh Island. The surf is good too. Crab sandwiches at busy ‘Sloop’ pub.
Tonight we dine at Boatswain Restaurant in Salcombe. I have turbot, while Marie tucks into a seafood linguine. All good, despite a degree of panic in the kitchen. Before dinner we had watched several rowing crews on the harbour and Marie reminded me she had rowed when a student at Richmond River High in Lismore.
FRIDAY, SEPTEMBER 18
A beautiful walk south along the coast, past Starehold Cove and Bolt Head, walking back through Tor Woods. Marie has an ice cream at ‘Winking Prawn’, while I refresh with a Czech Budweiser.
Tonight we watch England beat Fiji in the rugby union World Cup, and former South Sydney league star, Sam Burgess (a Dewsbury boy) makes an impact, in more ways than one.
SATURDAY, SEPTEMBER 19
To Plymouth today, and we return our hire car. At Europcar office chat to a Kiwi lady who is related to former New Zealand rugby league forward, John Ackland, a good mate of mine. She is getting a train to London, then a train to Paris. Marie and I have fish and chips and mushy peas at ‘The Ship’ pub in the Barbican area of Plymouth. French guy near us does not eat his batter. Sacre bleu. Plymouth Argyle soccer fans walk by on their way to the match against Bristol Rovers. Students are out in force ‘celebrating’ start of term, so between the soccer and the students, there is an increased police presence in town. In 1990 my Kangaroo Supporters Group stayed a night in Plymouth, and a few us finished up at the Queens Arms pub in the Barbican, where a local was celebrating his 70th birthday. He took a few liberties with some of our ladies, pinching them on the bottom as they kissed him for his birthday. In those days the pub was lined with 999 pigs (fluffy ones, china ones, all sorts), so we referred to the licensee as Miss Piggy. The pigs are not there any more, nor is Miss Piggy.
An Italian near me (at ‘The Ship’) tell his kids the difference between pappa and PaPa. What is the difference? Marie and I chat to a big group of people, including Ted and Doreen; their daughter, Kelly and her partner, Dean. Kelly, who is legally blind, is a chef at the local university. Ted used to work for Bass Breweries, while Doreen was employed by Nat West.
Our cabbie to the ferry terminal is Romanian, an ex oil pipeline worker. He says Europe should be worried by the influx of immigrants.
A ‘Dartmouth Crab’ company truck drives on to the ferry as I sip on a warm Fosters from the bar. Goodbye England.
On the ferry we have one drink at the bar before retiring.
SUNDAY, SEPTEMBER 20
Hello France, more particularly, Brittany, and the lovely port of Roscoff, where there is a Celtic festival on this warm, autumn day. We walk the streets, listening to music and enjoying the sight of people in period costume. In the Eglise Notre Dame de Croaz-Batz a local elder returns a crucifix and banner, which had been used in a parade. Quite moving. At a market I have six, big, lovely, juicy oysters from Brest and a Roscoff beer. Brewer is an ex-flower gardener, who imports some of his hops from New Zealand. He describes France as “a small country between Brittany and Germany”. We lunch in the sun at crowded Chez Janie Bistro (mussel fritters). Later we walk along the coast and talk to a spear fisherman about his catch. Also walk the long jetty where hundreds of tourists are returning from Batz Island. Dinner at small creperie in the back streets. Our room at the Central Hotel has sea views. Bliss.