Exploring Puglia by rail and coach in glorious September sunshine is a hard act to follow. With hundreds of photos and many exciting sights to choose from it’s simply difficult to condense them into a smart phone kindle download. Sorting the wood from the trees has always been my problem. Distractions are popping up from nowhere e.g. St Mawes Celebration Day on November 18th. I can’t be there so I have made four of my local Kindle books free for the occasion. I’m hoping that some other village afficionadas will have a look at them and write back with some memories of their visits or childhood. I’m trying to get back into writing Auntie Esther’s biography ‘Esther’s Century’. My grandparents fourth child, she was born in November 1900 in the row of cottages replaced by the Rising Sun and village hall, moving into Hillside Cottage later after Gran swopped houses with her childless sister. Nine children made the small cottage impossible! Esther had a very eventful 97 years living in the village until she needed to be cared for at Escholl House in Portscatho. I want to encapsulate the changes she saw through the eyes of other members of the family in a multi-voice narrative. Quite honestly I’m doubting any ability to do this but taking the opportunity to tweet and ask for help outside my family who still live there. I recorded Auntie Thora’s memories in August. Now 97, she is the oldest resident, still living independently in Tredenham Road. Ever a dreamer, I can visualise it as Raymond Briggs graphic novel ‘Ethel and Ernest’ which has just been made into a film! If Caroline could be persuaded to illustrate it for me! But it would need to be completed first and its already been thought about since my Creative Writing degree 8 years ago. So I must settle back into remembering Puglia and wait to see if anyone sends me some info to add to my St Mawes research. I always wish it was possible to visit the village school myself and ask the children to collect family memories. Perhaps the Heritage Society is doing that now as they did for the Tea Treat project video in which Thora appeared. That would be splendid.


mackerel fishing in Falmouth bay yesterday in brilliant sun with a force 4/5 wind.

We kept inshore from the north westerly blowing over Stack Point and caught 9 mackerel after chugging slowly between there and the mouth of the Helford river several times. Peter proved the flood tide is best for catching the hungry ones.  Apparently they have been almost beaching themselves recently at Gyllingvase following shoals of whitebait. They often seen to slip off the glittering spinner hooks unless pulled in smartish or is it just easy to imagine those sudden bites? and how many are from drifting lines of seaweed?  Anyway it was just glorious with several speed boats/water skiers or excited children bumping over the wake in tiny inflatables,  huge double decker ‘gin palaces’, parent/child sailing lessons in 10foot gaff rigged open dinghies, Helford river ferries,  loads of kayakers, ocean-going yachts with liveried crew, a few returning commercial fishing boats, sailing boats of every shape and size, some switching to power down the river with sails furled, proud owner at the helm, a double masted foreign training yacht with boys on the yard arms, a family crammed into an outboard powered punt, paddle boarders beside sheltered beaches along the river, boys fishing from a tiny rowing boat downriver and hundreds of swimmers/sunbathers filling the beaches above the high water mark.  We went right up to Porth Navas past hundred of mooring buoys, several with yachts or cruisers which might never reach the open sea except for ‘booze cruises’ with their second-home owners (if St Mawes is anything to go by).  Many isolated riverside houses are sumptuous and will perhaps be even more expensive than in St Mawes and Feock but it must drive you crazy accessing them down single-width country lanes miles from Helston supermarkets or Falmouth shop-till-you-drop territory.

My aunt Trevithick had a 1970’s/80’s  milk round right along the banks of the Helford from Mawnan Smith to Gweek taking newspapers, eggs, cream to the very best hotels, private houses, caravans, holiday lets and the flats behind the Ferry Boat Inn, starting out from Falmouth at 5am summer and winter.  A gruelling grind but so very rewarding for customers and deliverers alike!  Service with a smile in the ‘old’ days.

This short blog to restart my wordpress blog is already far too long but I am taking a month away from doing my ‘Picture Walking’ travel tips Kindle books at kdp.amazon.com/vivienuff while staying in Falmouth this summer.  I have to say that St Mawes is still my ideal Cornish yachting/beaching/eating-out village  but the whole river Helford scenario runs it a close second.  If only the beaches had more sand!

I shall tweet some photos of a liner crossing our bow at Pendennis Point @BVUff


Brighton’s best free-bee

The whole world always seems to be enjoying the flat, wide, street level promenades stretching for miles to Worthing in the west and Saltdean in the east, especially close to the fabulous pier, aquarium and lido.  The beach level walk with its many amenities is currently buzzing with Olympic fans being treated to a mega-screen treat but how many know about the relatively quiet undercliff walk past the Marina Village?  The village centre has shops and restaurants for every purse and taste but the board walk along the dual yacht basins is stunning.  Leaving the double-decker be-terraced Wetherspoons (they know how to do it!) pedestrians pass rival tempting outdoor/indoor restaurants leading between exclusive apartment blocks and hundreds of motor or sailing boats.  South-facing seats stud the walk allowing space to stop and stare or plan how to raise the asking price for those for sale (£4000 to £600,000 yesterday).  Fishing boats dominate the second basin.  There is always plenty happening: maintenance, comings and goings of boats and crew.  Visitors can park free and buses come every few minutes to central Brighton or towards Eastbourne. The board walk is an all-age treat, a living ‘museum’ which is free and away from the usual ice-cream etc seaside temptations.  Continuing the walk to Saltdean under the white chalk cliffs with tea shops enroute makes a perfect day-out in any weather. 

Amazingly warm Emley walk

don’t miss Emley Show on August 4th

The full 6 mile walk was written by John Lieberg and Douglas Cossar but it felt much longer because of the numerous stiles and huge clods of dried earth needing negotiating near many gates.  However all 17 of us agreed it was well worth the effort.  Starting from Church Street (free) car park behind the Post Office it leads across many fields of crops and cows to the bottom of the West Yorkshire Sculpture Park at Bretton and back again via Thorncliffe Grange Farm into Emley again. You could have a really quick look at the glorious countryside from either the starting or finishing points on Church Street.  Take School Lane, a track and footpath (newly strimmed) into a road, turning right along it to find a path opposite behind some cottages.  Just walk straight ahead keeping the hedge on your left until you reach the first stile, surrounded by open countryside.  That’s where the fun begins if the mixed herd of curious calves decides to stalk you!  Alternatively walk down Church Street past School Lane following your nose or asking someone for directions to the narrow road leading downhill  to the farmyard.  Go through it and over the first stile to see more open country with fields of barley, wheat and what looked like corn without any cobs.  Don’t forget to pop into Emley Farm Shop afterwards for their renowned meat pies and freshest of vegetables.

agonising contrasts from Aleppo

It’s shocking to see it being wilfully destroyed by Assad’s military might on TV every day.  It was such a vibrant city when we visited in 2000, borrowing a British Council flat in a newish block for a few days.  We followed T.E. Lawrence’s footsteps into the Baron Hotel and enjoyed the old bar with its photographs telling the story of how he earned his ‘Lawrence of Arabia’ title.  He even looked like Omar Sharif who played him in the beautifully shot film.  Our stony desert surroundings in Deir Ezzour did not have the same glamour as its dunes and whenever we travelled through sand we were forced to stop by ‘whirling dirvishes’ which were distinctly unglamorous.  Aleppo’s souks were the same madhouse as ever but we made friends with a local family and were priviledged to see something of their home life including their Turkish origins on a wonderful trip into a hill village.  The strength of middle eastern tribal backgrounds is hard to grasp for ‘westerners’ like ourselves in 2012  but the current BBC ‘Hollow Crown’ Shakespeare History Plays reminds us of similar power struggles between the English aristocracy and their private armies in the Middle Ages. How Syrians must all be suffering now, whichever side they are on of the civil war.  Every day brings fresh news of regime defectors and speculation that the government will crumble but what will replace it? And how long will it take to rebuild homes, livelihoods and grieving families?   

more rock carving at Pennine vantage point

Parking in the popular Lower Royal George pub on the A640 just past Outlane village we crossed over to the Colne Valley viewpoints via Pole Moor and Pole Hill onto Rocking Stones, passing the 1302 brewery, now a private house.  There are many paths around here so you can easily vary the route but ours began at 7.15pm after fairly continuous rain so every field was really sodden as hay-making hadn’t started.  The views more than made up for that as we climbed Rocking Stone Hill to Wholestone Moor where the whole of the Pennines towards Ripponden and Halifax were laid out beneath us, just as sun set in a patchy blue sky to the West.  The huge stone on top was donated and engraved ‘I will raise up mine eyes unto the sky’ by Johnson’s Quarry in 2003.  Some say you can see the Ural mountains in Russia on rare days from here!  Returning downhill couldn’t be easier as the pub lies just underneath here.  A lovely walk in any weather with several well-placed isolated seats.

Damascus on the day Assad’s father died

We were excited about seeing city life, staying in a teaching colleague’s flat until our flight home, and had been to a hillside cafe for lunch to catch a glimpse of the Golan heights.  Returning via a bus we walked past the eerily quiet Government HQ and noticed that shops were pulling down their shutters just when they should have been reopening.  I remember hearing bells but T. disagrees and thinks the Mosques were calling Muslims to prayer.  Taxis started flying past in all directions, one with a giant photo of the President draped over its bonnet.  Someone told us the President had died so we walked back to the flat as quickly as possible.  Luckily we had visited the Omayyad Mosque that morning and had met colleagues at the British Council  ‘pub’ the night before because we were telephoned and ordered to stay indoors until the driver collected us for the airport early the following day.  Officials were worried that riots might break out but civil unrest was nowhere near being sufficiently well organised in 2000.  All we can recall is some groups gathering underneath the flat in a popular shopping area, nothing to stop us from venturing out but we still obeyed because our 10 week contract with the oil technicians at Deir Ezzour had convinced us that Syrians were right to remember the 10-2000 dissenters killed for opposing the regime.  You can imagine our family’s relief when we touched down at Heathrow the next day but now we can see the tragic cost of the Syrian people’s silence on the day when they might have managed to stage a coup and avoid the dictatorship of the next 12 years.