Friday, 23 September 2011


On my evening walk tonight I was lucky enough to see the Estuary's only living monster, Marmaduke, our 69 foot sea serpent, swimming down river with the falling tide, his coils clearly visible above the surface of the Exe. Luckily I had my camera with me. Otherwise I dare say nobody would believe me.

Monday, 19 September 2011




I am wrapped in you and your jacket
and the sound of the tide running out.
A flow along the harbour wall
pulls at buoys, sweeps the eroding rock.
There is the slapping stay,
A squabble of ducks, the suck
of mud on hull. Far is the city
and its cathedral tower, far off its roar
as dusk settles across a big sky.

Wrapped in you and your jacket,
we are somewhere between
our first meeting and what might be;
somewhere in the order of things.
Reflections shatter and remake.
In the wispy breeze the image of a boat,
mirrored exactly, can break at a whim.
We watch the swans pair, glide
and preen, group. They may part,

- but for now we weave our way
Between life’s events, the turn
of tides, the incessant roll of hours
measured out by the harbour bell
Now, to the north, the night
takes its ease over the hills,
while up and down the estuary
the port lights begin to mark
the channel through the dark waters


Thursday, 15 September 2011


This weekend the Sydney Smith Association will hold their AGM in Sidmouth, choosing this 'little marine paradise' as Sydney called it because the great man brought his family to holiday here year after year from about 1830 to about 1845. This seems a good excuse to quote from his pro Reform Bill speech at Taunton in 1831 in which he remembered the great floods of 1824 that brought that stalwalt Sidmothian, Mrs Partington, to the nation's attention. He said:

"I do not mean to be disrespectful but the attempt of the Lords to stop the progress of reform reminds me very forcibly of the great storm of Sidmouth and of the conduct of the excellent Mrs Partington on that occasion.

"In the winter of 1824, there set in a great flood upon that town - the tide rose to an incredible height - the waves rushed in upon the houses, and everything was threatened with destruction. In the midst of this sublime and terrible storm, Dame Partington, who lived upon the beach, was seen at the door of her house with mop and pattens, trundling her mop, squeezing out the sea water and vigorously punching away the Atlantic Ocean. The Atlantic was roused.

"Mrs Partington's spirit was up; but I need not tell you that the contest was unequal. The Atlantic Ocean beat Mrs Partington. She was excellent with a slop or a puddle , but she should not have meddled with a tempest."