This post features some of my North Devon friends and acquaintances. I'm going to be careful with how I show them, and what I say about them, but I do want to parade them, so to speak. So that when I mention 'my North Devon friends' it will be appreciated that (a) they really exist, and (b) so far as a photo can show it, they are most definitely lively, interesting and switched-on persons!
If I ever left Sussex and moved to North Devon, I would want these people in my local circle of friends. As it is, I think that - for only a twice-a-year visitor - I've already got together a viable nucleus of people to share some time with. I definitely wouldn't end up as one of those lonely incomers who never properly connect with the local area. Can you in fact doubt that this would always be the case, even if it weren't North Devon but another area entirely? I'd still be my usual self, and get to know a cluster of like-minded people. That's why a plan to travel to distant parts, such as Shetland, holds no fears for me. I know that I'll make connections.
So how do I present my friends and acquaintances? I want to avoid grading them in any kind of 'best friend' league table. I'll simply to show them in the order I photographed them this year. In some cases it would be the renewal of a friendship already established. In others, would be a first meeting that can be taken further.
First, my hosts at Higher Darracott Farm, Ann and Phil. Taken in the chilly Spring, when I had dragged myself westward to convalesce after a dreadful cold, and wasn't doing any other meeting-up - regarding myself in quarantine, so to speak:
You'll recognise Ann's multicoloured handknitted jacket. I bought one myself. They were both dismantling an old chicken house at the time. Did I say chilly? There was a searing breeze, and I was heartily glad to scurry back into my nearby caravan after these shots, to warm up again.
Now to this Autumn, and much nicer weather. Here's Sara with her friend Sue in Irsha, an old part of Appledore, doing their stuff as stewards at a Book Festival historical walk:
Next, Lily, talking to her daughter over the phone across the water at Instow. We kept bumping into each other, a sure sign that Fate wills a more permanent connection:
Now Paul and Rachel, seen here left edge - looking intently at David Carter, the local historian - on another Book Festival historical walk around Instow. Plus one of Rachel peering up at me at Instow signal box. I met them four times altogether.
Next, Jayne, Sue and Sara at a Girls' Lunch we had in Appledore, at Susie's Tea Rooms:
As before, Jayne took me home to collect her labrador dog Callie, whom I think I can reckon as a friend, too. What a gorgeous dog.
During our walk around Appledore, we met Andrea, surely the town's most avid volunteer, at the Lifeboat Station:
I tower over her, even though I'm 'only' five foot eight. Callie, as you can see, is easy and friendly and very patient where photocalls are concerned. She wears that red handkerchief around her neck in case she needs to rob a bank.
At the Seagate Hotel now in Appledore, and it's the Book Relief Quiz Night. Book Relief is a local charity which funds literacy projects abroad. I was in a team composed of Brenda Evetts, the widow of Barry Evetts (who founded the charity and died recently) and these two lively ladies, Jill and Noelle (known as Nolly) who knew their stuff (the quiz was all about books and authors):
Another day, and here's Ken and Vicky. I'd met Vicky before, but it was later in the Festival when we actually had a photo session:
This was the same day that I daringly took the mike to ask a question at a talk. Sitting next to me was a lady named Mavis, and we had quite a chat. Here she is (left) in the church hall afterwards, with her friend Rosemary (right):
Note the two ladies in the background. It was local author Pixie Renshaw and Brenda Evetts of Book Relief:
Unknown to me at the time, I encountered Pixie again. It was at the Burton Art Gallery and Museum in Bideford. I was there as the Preview of their latest exhibition was launched.
A group of local artists had been commissioned to produce work celebrating Bideford Black, a locally-occurring coal-like mineral with various uses, including as a smooth black pigment for artists. I have to say, a difficult subject to present in an inspired way! I mean, it's just like a charcoal briquette...
They made it as much fun as they could. There was a big white sheet on a wall, and children were invited to daub drawings on it, using this black pigment (a recipe for ruined clothes?). Next day, reviewing my shots of the occasion, I saw that Pixie (half-hidden, right centre) had been admiring the children's efforts - the jacket gives her away. It's the same one she was wearing in the photo with Brenda:
The same evening, a Girls' Evening Meal with Jayne's friend Berwyne joining us:
Well, that's all surely enough to demonstrate that I don't simply tow the caravan down to North Devon and sit there alone at the farm, consuming endless cups of tea, and wondering why the world is so empty and indifferent. I get around and see people. Some of those met for the first time this year might well be established friends by next Autumn. And so the circle grows.
What happens if the number of North Devon friends overwhelms the number of Sussex friends?