What fun we had! A goodly band of friends turned up to arrange the hall. Judie's tablecloths, balloons and table arrangements in Macmillan colours brightened the scene. I wish I'd had a camera when she emerged from the back seat of the car with a dozen or so helium-filled balloons threatening to whisk her off like Mary Poppins!

  71 tickets were sold and 69 people turned up - quite a squeeze! It was exciting watching folk turn up with their packages and bundles for valuation - just like the genuine BBC Roadshow. The items were displayed on tables in front of the Valuer and everyone sat around enjoying excellent 'nibbles' generously provided by our shop suppliers and friends, washed down with a glass of wine. Janet, Vi and Margaret performed miracles in the kitchen, working like beavers and presenting a superb spread.

Some people brought various items for a table auction where bids were placed and the highest bidder won. This added £177 to the kitty.

The raffle, all prizes donated, raised £106, whilst Fenella's 'Guess the Age of the Chair' caused some interest and raised a bit more cash. 1815 was the date and Jill Massey won a gorgeous bouquet of flowers arranged by Sue Wright [now an area floral art demonstrator - congratulations, Sue].

  Everyone agreed that Christopher Hampton [of Hampton and Littlewood, Auctioneers and Valuers, Exeter] made the evening. He handled, spoke about and valued each of the many items brought, in two one-hour sessions during which you could hear a pin drop! And generously, he would accept neither a fee nor travel expenses so that we would maximise funds. In the interval, Janet and helpers served coffee, tea and delicious biscuits from the Fudge Tree Company and everyone tucked in to the remaining nibbles.

  The evening raised a total of £740 with all expenses paid, so that Macmillan Cancer Support and our new Community Shop are richer by £370 each. We were very grateful to all who contributed in whatever way - including those who turned up and then generously supported the various money raising events.  Thanks, everyone!

PP of DC



Early in November, the lofts and wardrobes of Berrynarbor were scoured for items to help with Rotary's appeal through the North Devon Journal for blankets, warm bedcovers and warm clothes to send to Pakistan. And what a magnificent turnout! Fenella and John kindly provided the use of the barn at Sloley Farm and trestles were appropriately laid out in front of our award-winning carnival float, depicting HMS Victory.

Between Saturday and Monday people brought 20 black bags of blankets, 13 of duvets, sleeping bags and eiderdowns and nearly 50 bags of clothing ranging from sheepskin jackets, Barbour's, anoraks and fleeces to woolly hats, gloves, scarves and socks. On the Tuesday, a further 8 duvets were taken separately to Barnstaple. Although there were few children's and baby clothes, on the whole they were well catered for by other areas.

What happened next? All the items were taken to Tiverton where they were sorted and loaded into 15kg bags. North Devon produced about 10 tons of aid and Devon as a whole generated enough items to fill 4 articulated trucks! Later, I spoke to George Kempton, the local organiser, who proclaimed the collection a 'phenomenal success'. By then, two trucks had been driven to Aid International in Perth, one about to go and the last would leave on Monday, 14th - in time for the deadline for goods to arrive before the winter freeze. Each truck took just 2 hours to empty - blankets and bedcovers were put on pallets and within 24 hours were in Pakistan. The clothing went into shipping containers to arrive at their destination within ten days. Lessons in Logistics could be learnt from both local and national organisers.

Many thanks to all who so generously contributed and to those who not only delivered the goods but also stayed on to help sort.

PP of DC



The little melon plant nestles innocently amongst the courgettes and cucumbers in the garden centre. It conjures up memories of a friend's conservatory, a hammock swung below the ripening melons, waiting to catch the luscious fruits. I buy it.

Arriving home I read the label, 'fertilise by hand'. Visions of wielding a paintbrush sweep before my eyes. I reach for the gardening compendium [which I've had longer than I've had Alex!].

From there I learn that once there are 6 female flowers on the plant [identified by the tiny embryo melons at the base of the flower], I must peel back the petals of the same number of male flowers and without disturbing the pollen, introduce them to the female flowers. What is more, the operation is best carried out at mid-day when the female flowers are most receptive. I shall be taking their temperatures next!

As I'm working most days, I try not to pander to their own timetable, but to no avail. In the mornings they haven't woken up and by evening they've all modestly closed their little petals or withered.

On Sunday, however, I catch just 3 of them! Surely there is more to life than stuffing a melon, I say to myself as I peel back the petals of the male flowers and do as I'm told to the females. I leave the 6 flowers entwined. They might as well enjoy the experience. A few days later, to my immense surprise, the flower bases start to swell. Within two weeks I have 3 baby melons the size of (i) a ping-pong ball (ii) a tennis ball and (iii) a small grapefruit. If these grow to maturity, I shan't dare to eat them I'll take them to the taxidermist!

Ideas of triumphantly carrying off the Derrick Kingdon Cup in the Horticultural Show for 'Any other fruit' swim before my eyes. Who said it was difficult to grow melons?

Pride comes before a fall, they say. By early august the melons haven't put on any weight. By mid-August the leaves start to wither. In spite of all the loving care and attention, the melons are by now rock hard and very, very dead.

Will anyone notice if I put them in the Handicraft Section - No. 21 Any handcrafted item not covered under Classes 15-20 inc. - as pottery melons [various sizes]? I could perhaps win the Watermouth Cup!

PP of DC



[Part 2 - again with apologies to Rudyard Kipling]

If you can keep your cool when anger flares up
And not apportion blame nor blow your top
If you can put your trust in those who're working
To motivate us all to keep our village shop
Who willingly give time to rattle cages
Check grants, make plans and survey sites to choose
Then instigate a meeting for us sages [dubious, but it rhymes!]
To bring us up to date - then air our views
If our postmaster's into golf and surfing
And tired of daily chores - no blame for that
Remember Nora's care for sick and aged
And Alan's help when we have lost the cat
They've passed on news, sold tickets, survived flooding
And opened shop next day we saw no tears
Can we not make allowance for their closing
Then wish them health and many happy years?
If you can help with time, or good ideas or cash
Or think up ways to make our own shop pay
 if you will shun the supermarket's trash
And wine shops where the booze is cheap, you may
Then buy your stamps, cooked meat and luscious veggies
And other needs, like pensions, cards and pop
Come have a chat, fund raise, provide the goodies
Then what is more - we'll keep our village shop!

Although the deadline has passed, IF you've not yet filled in the survey, please, please do so without delay. To parody the words of John Kennedy: "Ask not what your village shop can do for you, but what you can do for your village shop"!

PP of DC



Not Just an Event an Experience

It was a gloriously balmy evening after yet another day of sunshine. We followed the clearly lit trail past the agreeable sounds of willow on leather at the cricket match and 'trad jazz', through stone portals topped with beautiful flowers towards the magnificently floodlit Castle Hill.

From there the vista stretched down into the valley and up the opposite hillside to a skyline temple from which laser lighting was streaking across the heavens. Moving to the end of the terrace, we watched a croquet same 'a la Cluedo', where Miss Scarlett on the lawn with a croquet mallet - was giving her all! Passing the millennium gardens -a delight of pinks and mauves our attention was drawn to a distant hillside folly from where drifted operatic excerpts from an unaccompanied soprano. Within minutes we were wafted to Bonnie Scotland by the dirge of bagpipes which failed to 'cheer us down'!

As the skies darkened and the lights shone brighter, we wound our way along lantern or lamplit paths for over three hours of utter pleasure, meeting old and new friends on the way. We cheered as the 'goody' won the fair maiden in a medieval challenge at the castle, marvelled at the daring firewalkers, lingered on the memorable 'Ugly Bridge' with its far from ugly harpist, and left the country market refreshed. These were just some of the highlights - there were many, many more.

However, all good things come to an end and what a spectacular end! We had lingered so long that we missed the beginning of the grand finale [repeated at regular intervals during the evening]. The most lasting and poignant memory is of the water fountain cleverly used as a video screen to remind us all of the reason for the event raising funds for our local hospice. Although we found the accompanying music incredibly loud, we had nothing but praise for the organisers and volunteers who managed to park, entertain, feed, water and send home, without delay, 11 ,000 happy people on that evening.

pp Of DC

"Write something about Dreamwalk," mum said. Where do I start to describe such a magical and unique evening? Not sure what to expect, we arrived at our allocated car park to be greeted by a fairground of entertainment. A quick look at the map and we opted for the easier family trek. "That way we can see the house" was our excuse! Off we set at a gentle pace and before long we had met a jazz band, an old-fashioned cricket match and a river masked in softly scented incense. The house looked magnificent all lit up and the gardens were truly beautiful. I fell in love with the spherical water feature which we stopped to admire whilst listening to the Torridge Male Voice Choir. It was a steep climb to the castle and by this time the crowds had gathered and we gave the fire and drama there a miss. Hog roast sandwiches and we continued our magic journey through the grounds. I was especially taken with the river fairies and most impressed by the standard of the home-grown 'Make Me Smile Band', who were causing quite a crowd to gather on the river's edge. I was anxious to find the grand finale field. I had spotted some interesting looking lighting equipment when we arrived and heard snatches of a soundscape reminiscent of Jean Michel Jarre. Finally, we reached the end and what a treat! A massive wall of water with fire, lights, motorbikes, explosions and live music; the house formed a stunning natural backcloth to a unique mirage of images, poetry and dreams projected on to the water screen. I was enthralled. "Please, let's stay and see it again from the very best position," I virtually demanded the rest of our party. They were not disappointed second time around it was even more poignant. I'd have happily stayed until the sun came up to watch the spectacle, but the others were tired and concerned about getting out again.

I am now settling into my new job as Ans Officer for Swindon Borough Council and quietly scheming a way to organise my own Dreamwalk adventure!


On arriving at the fairground, a decision had to be made and we chose to take the Discovery Trail. We proceeded towards the house and so began an enchanting evening of entertainment ending with the moving and spectacular son et lumiere. I look forward eagerly to next year's event!