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Sunday, 2nd May 2010
Virginia and I had our holiday in Devon in the first week in May.

Our trusty steed (car) struggled up the steep hills, and flinched at the narrow roads, but brought us safely to the Sidholme Hotel in Sidmouth on the South Coast. it was a fun hotel, full of nooks and crannies and architectural mistakes. It had sections of oak panelling, and a majestic music room with a one-manual organ. We first had room 7 but that proved to be over the TV lounge, and also to have a continuously flushing toilet. Room 6 was next offered which had the too interesting feature of a window overlooking the entrance hall. Apparently when the hotel was a private home the lady of the house checked out the female visitors to make sure her dress didn't clash. So we settled for room 34 which was fine.

We went during what was a walking week in the hotel activities. Felt ashamed we didn't go on any of the walks, particularly as the hosts were so good. Christian Guild Holidays which runs the hotel gets people to act as hosts for each week, to organise daily activities and facilitate friendship. We had gone planning on using our National Trust membership to see stately homes in the area.
We went to see on the Monday Killerton House, an estate which was notable for its owner (a Sir Acland) voluntarily giving it away because he believed such places should be owned communally. Good for him - wouldn't expect that kind of behaviour from even Britain's most socialist MPs. Killerton had a fashion through the ages display upstairs in addition to the usual old books and furniture and pictures.

On Monday we also dropped on to see Bicton Park Gardens (busy as it was a Bank Holiday,) and Budleigh Salterton (another seaside town on retirement coast.) Shingle beaches here so don't bother bringing spades and buckets. I do like the patterns randomly made by fishing boats and nets when drawn up out of the sea.
Tuesday took us to Forde Abbey, quite a long drive through the country lanes of Devon. Forde Abbey is another stately home, but unlike Killerton still owned by the upper classes. Gardens were purposeful, a builder's van spoiled the front view of the house a bit. They lined up old cars on the lawn as another expression of their nature.

I had more fun riding the tram from Seaton to Colyton and back. The tram followed the sharp angles in the track like a cartoon train. The tram track went over a level crossing and the cars had to stop for us. We had good views of rabbits along the estuary, the driver said he had spotted deer but I couldn't see where he meant. The far end was an old railway station, and we had a tea in the shop there before returning to Seaton.
Wednesday we drove down to the Torquay area to see Greenway, Agatha Christie's holiday home with splendid views over the Dart estuary. The National Trust have spent over £5 million doing the place up. Agatha Christie and her family were great collectors, she was into boxes I noticed but without being sure that cast any insight into her as a writer. A recording played in the house of Christie saying that she just wrote her books by writing them.

Greenaway was requisitioned during the war for the American coastguard (Killerton housed a school in passing.) One American drew a frieze round the walls of one of the rooms which is now part of the attractions of the place. At the time was it just graffiti? Perhaps cave art was graffiti? We now ride on steam trains and trams for enjoyment, but in their day trains and trams were probably resented.

On the way back from Greenaway we dropped in on Kent's Caverns, or down would be more apt. Limestone caves, rock formations which with imagination are faces and organs and churches. Giant bears used to hibernate deep in the caves, in the true darkness one finds deep underground. But they were vegetarian happily. We also saw Babbacombe Model Village which was interesting as a snapshot of popular culture it miniaturized. So we had Fawlty Towers (based on a hotel in Torquay.) I had recently seen "Pitch Black" so I recognised a miniature of Riddick in a model exhibition. A tad well worn.
Thursday we restricted ourselves to wandering round Sidmouth itself in the rain. Sidmouth had plenty of polling stations, and even UKIP candidates out and about. The Sid river flows through a pleasant park on its way to the sea. Some large established hotels, buildings perched precariously on shored up cliffs, olde worlde tea rooms.

The hosts for the week organised a variety of evening events. Silly games along the lines of pass the parcel - I noted that games are more much fun if you don't mind losing. A waltz or two which Virginia dragged me up out of my seat - easier than I thought to shuffle round in an approximation to the desired dance steps. A dingbat game which I'm no good at really - I might remember that "ON" is "NO GOING BACK" next time. The Sidmouth Songsters sang old-fashioned medleys to us.

We met some good people. A couple on their way back from the Baptist Assembly who knew my sister (my sister knows far too many people.) An elderly lady who was able to advise me on a walk I plan to do in New Zealand late this year. An old gent who could play the organ skilfully even with dementia. Our bodies wear out like trams and houses.