Thursday, 15 October 2009

PHILLPOTTS AND PHILISTINES


I had meant to leave Eden Phillpotts and Dawlish Warren well alone for the time being. We have had more than enough of both of them. But then I discovered that there is a new (Copyright 2008) book, “From an Obtuse Angle, the Life and Work of Eden Phillpotts.” written by David Needham and available from Lulu Publishing, http://www.lulu.com/ . It is by far the best account of Phillpott’s life and work available.

David Needham lived in Devon until 1972 when he moved to Tasmania. By coincidence he quotes the same passage that I quoted in my blog of 8th October but I am going to let him quote it again because of the wonderful comment that he subscribes to it:

“Many years later Phillpotts would recall these halcyon childhood days in one of his essays in My Devon Year (Methuen 1904 ) after he had revisited Dawlish Warren following an absence of over thirty years. Like many children his imagination was vivid: “these by sand hills were a procession of lion-coloured monsters, wandering in awful company by the waters and I imagined these gigantic and sinister things as leaping into the narrow channel where Exe flows to the sea, and crossing over it that they might devour a little town upon the other side”. The monsters that finally devoured the little town of Exmouth were not, however, the monsters of Phillpotts’ imagination but developers and contemporary town planners.” (my italics)

Which brings us neatly to the subject of Exmouth philistinism. There cannot be another place in the kingdom that is surrounded by so much natural beauty and yet has so little integrity or charm. To consider Exmouth’s relationship with the Estuary alone is to review a history of disasters. What a wonder the land between the railway and the beaches of the Estuary might be. Where now there are dismal carparks, coachparks, boatparks and general squalour there could have been tree lined avenues and promenades where lovers could walk; there could have been waterside inns where one could watch the sun go down in a blaze of glory over Haldon and a foaming pint; there could have been caf├ęs and restaurants with glorious estuary views. There could have been boat shelters and quays and quiet places where small boat owners might tie up and come ashore.

As for that monstrous development of today's tackiness and tomorrow’s slums where once were the docks, with the myriad signs of ‘bugger off this is private!” , "park and be clamped! & co. … but enough! ....I must consider my blood pressure.


Next: 'Lammies'

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