A Quick-ish Review: Topsham, Exeter (Devon)

Speedy Summary

The website says:

Topsham is an attractive town on the Exe estuary, Devon, in England’s Westcountry. Now part of Exeter, it nevertheless maintains a distinctive identity. Loved by its locals, and savoured by those who visit, Topsham offers river walks; wildlife; a Saturday morning market; many characterful shops, restaurants and inns; and quiet space to sit and watch the sailing boats go by.

I say:

A former town now Exeter suburb, Topsham is a quaint little place to visit. Boasting independent retailers and several side streets, you are never more than a few steps away from undisturbed views of the quay. Be prepared to spend £15+ a head if you’re planning to stay for ‘proper’ food and arrive early to secure car parking in high season. Small, pretty and close to the buzz of Exeter city life, there’s a reason why it’s one of the more expensive places to buy/rent in the region.

Top Sights

If you’re a typical tourist looking to cover the main elements of the town in a short space of time plan your visit well in advance. Although the town has several car parks Topsham is notorious for its summer crowds as visitors flock to see a ‘quaint Devonshire community’. Even if you plan to visit outside of school summer holidays, then aim to visit on a weekday and early-ish in the morning to secure the best parking. It’s also best advised if you want the luxury of being able to stroll up the relatively car-free one way high street.

As a small town things to do are limited, but a must are the shops. Most of these are independently run and stocking a range of pretty items from interiors to clothing, wine to flowers. Just don’t expect to walk in and find a multitude of pocket buys. These traders operate in a well-established town with the clientele to boot. You won’t find sniff of a Poundland or Card Factory here.

If you’re like me however then you’ll find great joy rummaging through the multiple charity shops dotted up the high street. The wealthy resident effect, the keen eyed bargain hunter can pick up a number of star buys from high-value items donated by former owners. On this visitation alone I bought a beautiful 1960s retro tea pot to compliment my own property and a pair of mint condition retro curtains to be either reused or turned into cushions (I’ve yet to decide). Total spend: £7. My sister, a devil for vintage books, made a couple of sound purchases also alongside my cheeky purchase of a 1949 Ladybird book, all for £1 a pop. I’ve seen similar books retail for eye wateringly high prices. The money also goes to charity which is never a bad thing.

Also worth a look in is the Topsham Quay Antiques Centre, located right on the quayside at the far end of the town. Three floors of antiques, vintage and retro memorabilia gives much for the curious collector to look at and if nothing else is great for starting conversation. “What was this used for?”, “Did people find that fashionable back then?”, “Where could we put this?”, “Can you even legally display that nowadays?” etc.

Walk up the side streets to be filled with envy at the delightful houses of various periods before grabbing the chance to take in visually (and photographically) the quayside. This part of the river Exe is dotted with sailing boats yet has remained undeveloped on the opposite side, giving a pleasing vision out across the landscape whilst sitting down with a pint on a pub bench.

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A Note on Food

It’s not the cheapest place to eat. If you want coffee and a piece of cake then the choice is endless, however if you’re looking for a light lunch the cheapest you’ll be looking to spend is around £12 and upwards. This is based on looking at a range of menu boards placed outside various eateries in the town. As a result we unfortunately found ourselves looking elsewhere to satisfy our rumbling stomachs. That said, I am aware that for some people this might not be an issue and for others the price tag marks the sign of a carefully and well made meal, but when there are four mouths to feed it may be something to take into account.

Three Word Conclusion

Unique little shops.

A Quick-ish Review: Brixham (Devon)

Speedy Summary

Wikipedia says:

Brixham is a small fishing town and civil parish in the district of Torbay in the county of Devon, in the south-west of England. Brixham is at the southern end of Torbay, across the bay from Torquay, and fishing and tourism are the major industries. At the time of the 2011 census it had a population of 16,693.

I say:

A lovely working harbour located on the English Riviera, Brixham serves both the historic local fishing trade and the busy tourist season. This creates a unique Devonshire window into the lives of those working a thriving traditional trade, without overkilling it on tourist shops and greasy spoon joints. If you have time try out some of the freshly caught fish, if not grab or a coffee from one of the numerous independent shops. Just be aware of the sea gulls.

Top Sights

Top of the agenda when visiting Brixham has to be a stroll around the harbour. One of the older parts of the town, the historic working marina has remained largely unchanged for

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If you want to be suitably impressed by more modern-day acquatics, the boating club marina is located a via a 10 minute walk around the promenade. The spectacle of hundreds of boats lined up neatly along numerous jetties will keep even the most obsessive of boat fans happy.

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And if you’re looking for the authentic Brixham experience, then a sampling of the local cuisine is a must. Freshly caught fish pass through the market sellers of Brixham in their millions every day, with buyers coming from across the country to source the best produce for their eateries. However local restaurants will often pass good deals secured by fewer road miles and differing clientele to their customers, which means you can secure fresh, high quality, fish at a vastly cheaper price. The most popular dish for passing tourists is the classic fish and chips combination, a meal that can be obtained from any number of dining or take away establishments.

If fish isn’t you bag there are also several bakeries in the town selling traditional pasties and rolls, alongside a couple of small supermarkets. Want the marine experience without the price tag? Grab a pasty and sit on one of the many promenade benches for an alfresco lunch with a view.

With all things food and coastal related just be sure to watch out for pesky gulls. While they are not as troublesome as in other destinations, locals and other tourists will not thank you for encouraging them. If finishing an outdoor meal do the right thing and remain seated until the waiter clears the table or take your rubbish with you. Seagulls will not think twice about swooping in on your leftovers (trust me, I’ve seen it).

 

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You don’t necessarily need a formal backdrop to have a pleasant dining experience. Close up shot from a public bench.

 

Recent regeneration in the town centre has seen a vastly increased improvement in the number and quality of coffee shops, including the prominent Old Market House. Located next to the old covered fish market, the coffee shop-come bar-come classy eatery is now the site for a many a people watcher.

The harbour and town is also home to many shops from stylish interiors, to typical tourist souvenirs to high street favourites including Boots, Costa and Tesco. Something for everyone.

 

What Else is There?

Check out the well kept little volunteer-created gardens along the promenade which cleverly make use of the rock face and what was a redundant open space.

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You can also board the Golden Hind Museum Ship, a full size replica of the famous galleon sailed by Elizabethan explorer Sir Francis Drake. More information on the attraction can be found here.

Head up the road a little further (towards the Berry Head Hotel) and you’ll stumble upon the self proclaimed ‘hidden gem’ of this South Devon town, the Shoalstone Pool. A free-to-use outdoor salt water swimming pool, it stands as a Victorian creation and one of only a few remaining UK examples. A must for anyone wanting to prove their ability to brave the elements and thus their Britishness. More information can be found here.

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Three Word Conclusion

Lots to see.

A Quick-ish Review: Canonteign Falls, Dartmoor

Speedy Summary

The website says:

A hidden gem: Situated within Dartmoor National Park in the heart of Devon’s Teign Valley, natural and manmade waterfalls tumble down ancient rock formations to meet the tranquil lakes below, offering some of the most spectacular waterfall and woodland scenery in Devon.

I say:

A very tall waterfall, featuring a lot of climbing and (on occasion) some surreal looking wooden men. Nice views at the top as long as you don’t freak Mumma Bennett out by leaning over the edge. Plenty of old school Victorian folly lols. Not suitable for wheelchair users or those suffering with aquaphobia.

 

Top Sights

I like a sign me, especially if it’s one that covers the three important bases: 1) why am I here? 2) What are the things to keep me here? And 3) where can I go if the excitement of points one and two get to be too much.

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The estate is comprised of multiple lakes and two waterfalls; one natural, one man made and although the park is named Canonteign Falls, the star feature is the 70m drop Lady Exmouth waterfall which was built in 1890. The result is a very pretty cultivated area of land that would otherwise have been overlooked.

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And the views from the top are stunning:

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Here’s an India scale to show the enormity of view-to-human at the top of the waterfall:

 

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Looking for a bit of hands on History? Well look no further than a merry little climb of the original 90 rock steps constructed by the Victorian creators over a hundred years ago. Just be aware that they will kill either your soul or your knee joints, just a little.

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In short, it’s a rather nice Victorian folly (something created for no purpose other than to show off to your mates and say “oh how romantic!”) Lady Ex also used unemployed miners to create the Fall, so in many ways she was a real life Ross Poldark/goody two-shoes.

 

What Else is There?

As well as the tumbling cascades of water, Canonteign Falls also has a couple of other quaint features. For one it makes a real point of reaching out to far-right groups who have been feeling left out since Brexit. It is nice to see a tourist attraction throwing them a bone.

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There are also these funny little wooden people dotted about the site. A fair bit of thought has gone into these and their positioning, this one being a personal fave:

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A couple of others are a little more amusing to any grown up kids. E.g. there is the sad/possible suicidal figure about to jump into the mini waterfall with her wilted roses.

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And lets spare a thought for Hobo Harry…

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The guy has it tough (especially when people come along and take his booze)

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If wooden men aren’t your boat then there’s a great children’s play area full of lots of outdoor climbing frames. Not that India and I stuck to the rules, we had a go on all the cool stuff. It makes for a great thirty minutes, even if Mumma Bennett does cut off your  head in every seesaw shot.

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Reminds me of something…

 

There’s also a Victorian fern garden. I unfortunately took no photos of this so use this clip art image and your imagination.

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Three Word Conclusion

Dramatic and pretty

 

 

Why The Word ‘Commit’ Makes Me Yawn

When people talk of commitment they’re usually referring to an attachment to a person, goal or foodstuff. All well and good but incredibly predictable. So what you can commit to your job, guess what? The rest of the employed world already does that. You’re committed to your partner? I should darn well hope so! It’s just so predictable and, well, boring.

On the flipside I often feel the word “commit” can also come off as a bit strong, for me it casts images of stone handcuffs imprisoning you forever to an assertion. So you say you’re committed to a food brand? Uh huh, lets see what happens when I double its price and halve that of its rival.

Take this hypothetical example…

Me: “I want to eat a banana.”

Internal Devil Voice: “NO! You must eat chocolate. You said you’re committed to it!”

Me: “But that was one time when was single and having a binge day.”

Devil: “You can’t just drop a commitment because it suits you. You said it then, deal with the consequences of your actions.”

Me: “But…but…”

Devil: “No buts, now eat fatty, eat!”

And this is why I can only eat chocolate. Damn you Devil voice, you and your forcing me to eat unhealthily! *shakes fist in the air

However to prove that I’m not some kind of free spirited hippie that can’t bind herself to anything more than breathing, here is a list of things I can at least half-commit to (without lying or making you want to throw up).

These things are:

  • Tea
  • Coffee
  • Spilling both on frequent occasion
  • Vintage-style dresses
  • The memory of Heath Ledger in Ten Things I Hate About You
  • Mika’s first album
  • Chocolate (see above conversation)
  • New pillows
  • Phil Collins…just Phil Collins
  • The 2016/17 TV adaptation of The Handmaid’s Tale (thou shalt not talk about the 1990 film)
  • My writing

There you go, all the things I can reasonably commit to and make me happy. You now know a lot more about compared to a post writing a soppy love story about how committed I am to my family. I bet as a reader you preferred it too. Please feel free to send me any combination of these things to my door, although FYI chocolate covered Phil Collins is a definite no. Lets get that idea nipped in the bud.

 

Oddly enough this post was written in response to the word prompt of the day Commit

Five Minute Review: What the F*** is Normal?! By Francesca Martinez

Do you like the cushion? Yeah, me too. I thought that when it came to summing up this book it struck the right balance between deep and pretentious. Okay, so five minutes to review a recent read. Lets go.

What The F*** is Normal?! is an autobiographic affair by the comedian Francesca Martinez. Born with cerebral palsy, but waging a one-woman campaign to rename it to simply “wobbly”, Martinez gives a first-hand perspective of growing up with a disability in 1980s/90s Britain. Making light out of what are often very bitter or bleak encounters, Martinez takes us through the various stages of her life that have shaped her into the woman she is today. In one instance Martinez describes with mild humour an experience with a GP who doesn’t know how to handle the author’s disability. Reading the account for first time you feel frustrated and even a bit angry that this scene could have possibly played out so recently over something so small as a sore ankle. This is an author that has been through a lot at every stage of her life. It made me wonder whether society’s attitudes towards disability is much improved now, or whether as an able-bodied person I’m just unaware of the difficulties faced by millions each day.

Martinez also devotes a portion of her autobiography to re-educating Western culture. Never shy of a challenge, Martinez addresses the very real issue of consumerism and how it can damage our own self-respect. Simply put, depression of the masses fuels the yachts of the few. Despite being bullied by similar types in Secondary School, the author reaches out to the popular teenagers of today to stop worrying about appearances and embrace body confidence instead.

What The F*** Is Normal?! is an autobiography that ticks all the boxes; easy to read, humorous but also a fascinating study. All by a comedian who is not afraid to challenge disability stereotypes and poke fun at one of the great taboo subjects of modern culture. In the subtly of a true comedian, Martinez points out that ultimately life could be worse. After all, one could be starving in Africa, aborted in the womb…or even a pot of hummus.

There’s a Reason Why I Unfriended You

If very recent events have taught me anything, it’s this shocking revelation: Not everyone in the world wants to know me.

Facebook in all its wonderfully pointless nature drives us to want lots of ‘friends’, but everyone from CEO Mark Zuckerberg to ‘it’s a waste of time’ Mumma Bennett knows that’s the concept of friends on social media is a load of baloney.

Putting one’s metaphoric geek chic glasses on, Google search (because I invest that much time into blog research), defines ‘friend’ as…

“A person with whom one has a bond of mutual affection, typically one exclusive of sexual or family relations.”

Bear with me, just trying to read between the lines here. Does it say “someone who posts ‘happy birthday’ on your profile”? Or, “the cute guy in class whose photos you stalk in an affectionate, totally not creepy, way”? No, no it certainly does not. I mean, who seriously wants even fifty friends nowadays? Imagine all the birthday cards to send, you’d never stop! Therefore around 95% of the people you, I and the butcher’s dog have on Facebook are, within reason, no more than acquaintances. They could be either on the cusp of friendship or a guy you met once in Freshman year. If any of this so far is an utter shock to you then you need to undergo the same experiment/evening wasting activity I conducted a short while ago.

Because I’m a shameless sell out, I’ve been trying to promote my writing/the blog through means of a Facebook page. (Oh, what was that? You didn’t quite catch the link? Here you go: https://www.facebook.com/MyHousematesAMermaid/) In the process I openly went out and messaged every single one of the contacts on my Facebook friend list. For each message I carefully thought about what to write, racking my brains for a shared connection or memory that brought us together in the first place.

Was it a cheap ploy to up likes? Yes. Was I curious to hear what people were up to? Yes, very much so. In a world of enhanced imagery and like-baiting statuses, I’ll take what comes from the horse’s mouth.

Most of the people I messaged did respond positively. I was dead chuffed at that. A fair few commented that they liked my work and they liked the page in turn (thanks guys, big up to your love and support). I got reacquainted with old ties, I told them about my life, they told me about theirs, it was great. Admittedly with 100 odd people messaging me at the same time (for one evening I felt like Beyoncé) most of the conversations tailed off after a couple of exchanges, but nonetheless they were pleasant and interesting. It’s funny to hear what the girl sat three seats down in Year Nine Science is up to now, and amazing to hear tales of Chemistry flatmates saving the world with new research in California.

On the flipside there were those who didn’t respond. Some of which were the people I thought I’d hear back from, even if it was just a quick “sure, done!” Or “no thanks”. A sizeable chunk of the no responders I expected, but for some there was no rhyme or reason. Other than they hate my work, that’s very much possible (and accepted – you can’t please everyone).

The whole experience has lead me to undergo a Facebook ‘friend’ clear out. Man, it feels good to do a social media cull every so often. So, if you’re wondering why I’ve unfriended you, here is a comprehensive list of reasons why:

 

  • We met once and haven’t spoken since
  • You were unpleasant to me at school but 16 year old me felt obliged to have you there
  • I genuinely don’t know who you are
  • You’re my friend’s ex (and we barely spoke when you two were a thing)
  • I don’t like you
  • You don’t like me
  • We wrote a group essay together. That’s not friendship, that’s me wanting to chase you for references at 2am
  • Too many statuses
  • I don’t want you near my holiday snaps
  • I don’t want you near me when I become a super, mega, sensation
  • You won’t even realise that I’ve unfriended you
  • You would have unfriended me yourself if I didn’t do it first
  • When I look at your profile, your photos, job, statuses, partner etc. only three words spring to mind: I don’t care

 

Reasons why you’re still my friend on Facebook:

  • You’re a decent person
  • I could engage in semi-awkward small talk with you (think the conversations you have in hairdressers)
  • You’re family
  • You’re my amazing friends
  • The stuff you post is interesting and/or informative
  • I’m scared for my own safety if I unfriend you
  • I’m on the fence and don’t want to have to awkwardly add you as a friend later on

 

There you have it. I may add to this after a bit more friend culling, wherein I may accidentally delete family members, close friends or quite possibly even unfriend myself in my frenzied state to clear out the baggage.

Five Minute Review: The Classic Cocktail Bible

How do I sum up this book? Alcohol, that’s how. Lots and lots of alcohol.

Amusingly you open the cover and see not a Drink Aware message, but instead a warning against consuming raw eggs (a foodstuff that features in some of the recipes.) Sandwiched between the hard covers of this recipe book are some very attractive looking images and nice little introductions to each drink (where their name comes from, the type of ingredients in the drink etc.). You’ve got the classics, your Mojitos, Bloody Marys Martinis, but you’re also got the different, for example Kinky Witch, Rusty Nail and Bobby Burns. In many ways there is something for everyone here* (unless you’re teetotal or under eighteen, in which case no, there isn’t).

All this however doesn’t detract from the simple truth that, as with all cocktails, you need about 100 different spirits and mixers tucked away in the cupboard to make them. The Classic Cocktail Bible is a classic by name and a classic of its genre; it is a book which sits on one’s shelf for many months/years until one day you think “oh, I really fancy a Cosmopolitan right now, I’m sure I can make that”. You open this book to mild disappointment when realise you can’t so instead you reach for a can of cider and consume that instead.

The Classic Cocktail Bible is a must have for the coffee table of the young professional or the kitchen cupboard for the impulsive buyer but be warned, it takes more than vodka and coke to make a good cocktail.