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A Trip to…Paignton Zoo, Newquay Zoo & Living Coasts

I decided to buy an annual membership for Paignton Zoo. This allows me to pay them a visit any time I want to for a year.

Not a bad plan as Paignton Zoo is my favourite Zoo of all. The bonus is that it means I also get unlimited visits to Newquay Zoo in Cornwall and Living Coasts in Torquay. I’m also allowed one visit to Chester Zoo as well! What a bargain – less than £50 for all that.

So armed with a new camera, I decided that I would try and combine a trip to both Paignton Zoo and Newquay Zoo. (It didn’t quite work as there is so much to see at Paignton that I had to go to Newquay the next day.)

Now as Living Coasts and Newquay Zoo are smaller it was possible to combine both so the camera got a good workout.

Living Coasts is a coastal zoo and aquarium in Torquay and has Sea Lions, Otters, lots of seabirds and an aquarium.

Newquay Zoo has a pride of lions who you can get really close to.

 

It’s just as well there was some armoured glass, she didn’t like the camera very much!

 

Newquay Zoo is much more compact than Paignton but nonetheless a lovely afternoon out.

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Brexit

So, here we are, a couple or three months away from the ‘Brexit’  (I so hate that word!) deadline.

What do we know for sure?

  • We were lied to on a grand scale

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  • The far right of the Conservative party are desperate for us to leave without a deal ( what the newspapers are calling a ‘hard brexit’).

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  • The Labour leadership have been less than dynamic over the whole thing.
  • The UK is split more than ever
  • Theresa May has proved to be a ‘uniter’ – Pretty much everyone is united in their dislike of her!

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  • Only 70% of the electorate voted in the referendum
  • Of the 43,000,000 entitled to vote, just 17,410,742 voted to leave (40%)
  • 25,589,258 people did not vote to leave the EU.
  • The consistency for a ‘peoples vote’ – or in other words, a second referendum has been with the Green Party and the Liberal Democrats.

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Given the importance of this issue to the UK in general, would it be right to have another vote?

A trip to… Camden Market

When I visited London Zoo a while back, the waterbus went to Camden Market and also Little Venice. I caught the Little Venice one but decided that when I had more time, I would come back and visit Camden Market.

So, yet another great deal on GWR from South Devon to Paddington (£30 return, what’s not to like!) and a good deal on a Premier Inn at Euston I set off.

When I got to Paddington, I caught the tube to Euston and then on to Camden Town. When I got to Camden Town, I noticed a sign that said that I couldn’t catch a return tube to Euston on a Sunday due to the volume of people wanting to leave Camden Market. There was a clue if ever I saw one! When you come out of Camden Town Station, you need to head for Camden Lock which meant a right turn from the station. A short stroll later and the market came into view.

 

As it was a very hot day and also a Sunday, there were huge crowds at the market (which is massive). I wasn’t too worried as I knew I would be back the following day. I spent ages watching an impromptu magic show from a stall holder who was selling the tricks and made a mental note to return the following day – I had already agreed to do a magic show for my grandchildren at Christmas and I needed some new tricks!

I spent the rest of the afternoon at the market and then wandered up to Chalk Farm station past the famous Roundhouse which has seen performances from pretty much all the major bands of the 70’s, the train back to Euston was quick and I walked over to the hotel just a couple of minutes from the station. Now I have to say, I do like Premier Inns, the staff are always friendly and helpful, the rooms are, in my experience always clean and the food is usually ok.

This time was no different and I had booked a ‘meal deal’ which  gave me a two course evening meal, a drink and breakfast all for less than £25, which for central London is a bargain.

After a huge breakfast (well it is help yourself!), I staggered walked to Euston station and caught the tube back to Camden Town.

As my train didn’t leave until after 7:00pm I was able to spend all day at the market. I had a good look at the various food offerings – Mexican, American, Indian, Chinese, Korean, Hungarian, Italian and loads more, the clothing and the jewellery and then went back to the magic stall for my own private magic show. I did buy quite a few tricks for my Christmas magic show and I had a few months to learn how to do them. I had a truly magical time at the market and then headed for something to eat (well you have to keep your strength up don’t you!). I chose to sit in a Mexican eatery and I’m glad I did, the food was spectacular!

Time for another stroll around the market and then I made my way to the waterbus and back to Little Venice. Time for a light meal at Paddington station along with a glass or two of vino and then on to the train and back home just before midnight. Would I go to Camden Market again? You bet!

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A trip to…Weston-Super-Mare

I got another good deal on the train to I looked around online for a hotel. After about an hour without success, I was beginning to wonder if I would find one. Eventually I got the last available room at the Royal hotel – ok but expensive!

How come it was so busy? I know it was peak season but there are usually more vacancies than that!

I found out why when I arrived at W.S.M. – The annual air show coincided with my trip. Now I’m not usually a lover of things that get hordes of people in a smallish space at once and I had avoided the air show in Torbay by going to Bournemouth (more about that in the future).

It was very hot but I thought I would watch bits of it from the pier.

Of course, 1000’s of others had the same idea and it was packed. These shots were taken earlier in the morning before the crowds arrived! I can’t tell you how welcome this pint of cider was later on…

 

Given the state this country is in and the problem town centres are having all over the country, Weston is clean, not a huge amount of empty shops and there didn’t seem to be too many beggars on the streets.

Every place I went into, I was welcomed with a smile and given how busy they all were it did make me feel good.

I managed to choose the hotel (I didn’t get much choice!) that the Red Arrows support guys were staying in so there was quite a lot going on.

 

Day 2 was very similar to day one – but even busier. By lunchtime, it was heaving and so I headed for the back streets and lo and behold a restaurant that was quiet. I did worry that there was a reason for this, but no, friendly staff and a nice roast dinner – made my day! Eventually I headed back to the sea front just in time to catch the Red Arrows. Then, back to the station for my train home!

 

My tiny part in the music business

It started with a harmonica

1966 – 1968

The lovely melody of “Pretty Flamingo” sung by Paul Jones, was the very first song I performed in public. Well, I didn’t sing it, I was far too nervous to do that, no, I played it on the harmonica – I even got a solo!

I remember being really nervous beforehand, and I wasn’t even sure that I would do it, but I did and that was the start of it all for me.

This all happened at a youth club in Paignton, Devon, in May 1966 – I was just 15 at the time and a few of us decided we would form a group. Actually they did that, I just played harmonica on that one song.

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l-r – Phil, Ray, Joe, Graham, Paul and Grumpy (Ray & Joe were the roadies)

It must have been OK though as they asked me if I could sing afterwards. I said that I could (and then panicked as I had no real idea if I could sing or not!).

It turned out I could sing in tune, so I became the singer in the band. I can’t remember the name but we did have some fun.

We became the resident band at Paignton’s YMCA, based at that time in Palace Avenue, Paignton. We used to play at a regular monthly dance in the main hall.

The other members of the band were Graham on drums, Phil on rhythm  guitar and bass, and Paul on lead guitar.

After a while, a new YMCA was built at Clennon Valley in Paignton and we were asked to perform at the opening – in the evening. It was formally opened by Queen Elizabeth the Queen Mother during the morning.

When we turned up to set up, the queue went right back to the car park (around a quarter of a mile!), we thought we had arrived!

We carried on the monthly dances for a while, and then I met a guy called Steve……….

1968 – 1970

Steve was to become one of my dearest friends, but at the time it was all new.

Steve had a band, with him on lead guitar, Jim on drums and Kim on bass. They had apparently seen me singing with the other band and wanted me to sing with them. I much preferred the sounds they were making so I left the others and joined up with Steve and crew.

We used to rehearse in Jims parents house which eventually was put up for sale. Jim has become attached to a girl by then and decided he would give the idea of being a rock star up. So the rest of us had to find a new (and free!) place to rehearse preferably that included a drummer! Unlikely you say, but that’s how we found Pete….

So the new band was Pete on drums, Kim on bass, Steve on guitar and there was also a keyboard player who stayed for a while. We were known as ‘Everything’ and everything was fine for a while and then Kim decided that he needed to focus on his job and so he left. Steve said to me “you could play bass if you tried”, and so I tried and found that I could. The first gig was in Plymouth Guildhall and I knew the set we played and that was it so when we got an encore we had to play one of the earlier songs again!

After a while, Pete left and Nick joined us…….

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          A really blurred photo of Ezra Pound in action c.1970

1970 – 1974

By the time Nick joined us, we were rehearsing at Swan St. studios in Torquay. The studios were owned by Tony, himself an accomplished musician who wanted to manage us.

Around that time, we also signed up with an agent in Cornwall which meant travelling to Cornwall every weekend – lots of late nights! Occasionally, we would get two nights on the trot and so Steves Mum would pack us up a big box of food to take with us.

We had a roadie by the name of Ant who was always hungry. After the gig we would pack the van so that we could sleep in it and I will always remember waking up at about 5 o’clock one morning to the sound of Ant munching away on a huge pork pie Steves Mum had packed for us. He became known as ‘Pig Pie’ ever since!

One of the benefits of regular gigs is that your profile is higher and because of that, we met some people who presented a television show on Westward TV. The upshot of this was that we were invited to perform on the show. We had been toying with the idea of changing our name and so “Ezra Pound” was born.

We even got paid, and I remember sitting down and negotiating with Angela Rippon who was working at Westward TV at the time!

One thing led to another and we were invited to top the bill at a Cornish festival at Watergate Bay which involved us sleeping on the beach after the gig!

As our profile grew, so did the size of the gigs. The youth clubs went and in their place came concerts. We were asked to play some larger venues as well, and we turned up to one of them in Penzance to see a ten ton truck and a Bentley parked outside! We established we were in the right place and found we were there to support Status Quo! We even shared the same dressing room – what a night!

The following year we supported Status Quo again, this time in Torquay and according to Francis Rossi, we were the only support on the tour that got an encore.

By 1974 I had begun to get disillusioned with rock music and started listening to folk music. Coincidentally, our manager Tony, also managed a professional folk group by the name of ‘The Faraway Folk’. I did a couple of local gigs with them and was hooked.

Their bass player decided to leave and so following an audition, I got myself a full time music job.

1975 – 1979 The Faraway Folk years

My first year with The Faraway Folk was in 1975 and we did a summer season at the ‘Spanish Barn’ in Torquay (It was called the Spanish Barn because it housed prisoners from the Spanish Armada so you can see how old it was!)

Three completely different shows each week needed lots of rehearsal beforehand!

During the run at the ‘Barn’ we got to meet and work with many household names at the time – Eric Sykes, Hattie Jaques, Derek Guyler, Larry Grayson to name a few!

We also did a TV show with Larry Grayson (hilarious!)

At the end of the first season we were straight in the studio to record a series of Christmas carols For a TV special we were doing that year.

The filming for the TV show took place at Cockington, and the BBC were given the whole place to use for a maximum of three days before the public were allowed back in.

We managed to complete the filming in one (very long) day so everyone was pleased.

The show was transmitted at 8:00pm on Christmas evening on BBC2.

That first year involved numerous radio shows, two TV shows and a busy summer season, and on top of this I was helping to plan a wedding!

The following year was also manic as we were doing six nights at the Spanish Barn each week. So lots of rehearsal and we took a week off before the season started. My girlfriend and I decided to go camping in Cornwall. It blew a gale and pissed down with rain on the first night, so that was that! From the next day onwards it was hot and sunny – that was the beginning of the long hot summer of 1976. All the theatres had to work really hard to encourage people to come in because of the heat. Fortunately due to the thick walls, the barn remained cooler but by the end of each evening we were dripping so we spent an hour each night having a swim in the sea to cool off!

I got married in September, we played at the reception and we had to leave early the next morning as we had a live radio show to do in Plymouth so no honeymoon for us!

The last year of the Faraway Folk was 1979. Half of the band didn’t want to tour anymore and so long term expectations of major success were limited. We did a summer season at Paigntons Festival Theatre (now a cinema) in an unusual format. An early show starring the wonderful Norman Wisdom (which we were in), and a later one starring Des O’Connor. It was a really lovely season and we had a ball.

I seem to remember also doing a short Sunday season with the Wurzels at the Princess Theatre in Torquay (3 or 4 I think) as well.

There were a number of parties that used to start at about midnight and go on most of the night. We got to meet such a lot of household names (at the time) some of them were really lovely and some………

Here’s a list of some of the people we met and worked with that year:

Norman Wisdom, Terry Hall & Lennie the Lion, Des O’Connor, Roger De Courcey Peters and Lee, Jim Davidson, The Wurzels, plus loads more who I can’t think of!

At the end of 1979 we decided to go our separate ways. John and Shirley formed Cream County and played country music, whilst Adrian and I formed Sharp Practice and played mainly folk music.

 

A trip to…London Zoo & British Museum

So another away day!

I promised myself that I would come and visit the British Museum in London and I thought that I should be able to combine this with a trip to London Zoo. Now I love Zoos and I particularly love the work they do to breed endangered species. The last time I visited London Zoo though was over 30 years ago so I was looking forward to seeing the changes.

So I managed to find a great return deal on GWR (£30 Paignton – Paddington return – can you believe it??) and a good deal on a Travelodge in Kings Cross and off I went.

I decided to walk to the museum from the station as it was a beautiful day – I think you get to see more when you walk!

It was uncomfortably hot in the museum and filled with foreign students and so I cut my visit short and walked on to Kings Cross to the hotel.

Despite some of the reviews, I was pleasantly surprised and had a coffee after checking in.

I had decided to eat out as there was so much choice and walked across the road to this place.

The following day I had breakfast in a local McDonalds and caught a train to Camden Town and wandered up to the Zoo.

Later in the afternoon, I was thinking about catching a train back to Paddington when I came across a sign for the London Waterbus. You can catch it from the zoo and it goes either on to Camden Lock or back to Little Venice. The one I caught went back to Little Venice (which is very close to Paddington!) idyllic!

A gentle stroll back to Paddington for a bite to eat and watch the commuters rushing around to catch their trains and I wandered in to the station in time to catch my return train back to Devon – Lovely!

Eden Project, Cornwall 2018

So, another away day, this time to Cornwall. Both hotel and first class rail fare (both ways!) for less than £50 – bargain!

Went on one of the new trains, first class isn’t as comfortable as the old ones, but for the price and the complimentary coffee and cake? #stillgreatvalue

 

I stayed at the Travelodge where I stayed the last time which is ok and the staff are really nice.

I got given a disabled room for some reason so it was close to the bar (but not too close!) with a wet room, nice!

Cheap drinks between 4 & 6 too.

 

I took advantage of the cheap drinks and the food promotion and enjoyed a long sleep before heading up to Eden the next day.

Now it has to be said – The Eden Project is simply amazing – if you like finding out what grows where in the world, and the autumn colours……. There are three main areas – the outdoor gardens, the Mediterranean biome and the rainforest biome. Rather than go on too long, I’ve let the pictures do the talking!

 

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I took hundreds of photos and I will change the images in the slideshow from time to time so check back to see if there are new ones!

First class train home and an early night!

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