It was Sunday. S’s parents are both Anglican priests and had to take service. So we were on our own as regards transportation. We decided to buy two Sunday Explorer Tickets which enabled us to take any bus we needed for the day.
We first took the bus to Dawlish Warren, from where we walked southwest along the coast to Dawlish. The footpath was about three meters wide, made of stones, with the train track on one side and the sand beach on the other. Even though the path was mostly five meters above the beach, there were no railings to protect people from falling off, and the “traffic” was often heavy in both directions. “Isn’t that dangerous? They would never do that in Canada, not to mention in US.” “Well, they expect people to be careful, I guess.” S replied. It was true that in general people in England were quite aware of others around them. They were usually considerate in giving other people space in public areas and not getting in others’ way. This habit was cultivated, I believed, more out of pragmatism due to high population density than politeness, because I had noticed the same phenomenon in Shanghai where people would be cooperative in a crowd but not necessarily polite. In contrast, when you walk on Rue Ste-Catherine in Montreal, it is not uncommon to see two slow walking pedestrians blocking the sidewalk completely, so you have to get off the sidewalk in order to pass around them.
We reached Dawlish around lunch time. The streets were crowded with people, probably because it was Sunday. We walked up the streets to visit the mud house built in 1539, which I forgot to take photos during our previous visit two days earlier. Afterwards, we sat in the park by the river, eating a smoked meat sandwich and a beef-potato pasty we bought from a sandwich store. To my surprise, they were both quite tasty, much better than Subway, not to mention Burger King or McDonald’s. People always said that England had the worst food in the world. Maybe it wasn’t true any more, because North Americans had caught up.
After lunch, we walked more along the coast. Every once in a while, there would be a little hill protruding out into the sea, at the tip of which there would be a huge rock looking exactly like the Old Man Rock I had seen along the coast of Gaspésie. Such handicraft must be a hobby of the sea. We climbed up such a little hill and enjoyed a very nice view.
We took the bus to Teignmouth, a big town further southwest at the mouth of River Teign. We crossed River Teign to Shaldon, a village on the other side, by ferry, which was actually a small engine boat holding a dozen passengers. Looking back from Shaldon, the whole of Teignmouth lay right in front of your eyes. What really amazed me was the clouds in the sky. English clouds had a lot of depths. They felt so close as if you could touch them and at the same time so far away. They triggered your imagination and made you dream. Climbing up the Ness at Shaldon, we had a good view of the sea. We came down the Ness to the bus stop. The landscape shifted from the blue sea to the green fields.
We took the bus back to Teignmouth and strolled around the town while waiting for the next bus. Teignmouth had a unique fountain, reminding me of the one in my story where the statue lived. We walked around little streets with boutiques. I tried to make pictures out of shop window exhibitions and glass reflections.
We visited St. James’ Church, and were welcomed by the ugliest dog I had ever seen. The church was locked, but I discovered vivid pictures of people, animals, houses and mountains emerging from the texture of its walls. These pictures told me a short story, a story of imagination, which I will recount to you next time.
We arrived at Cockwood at sunset and found the harbor lying quietly in the rose-color of the dusk.
[Photography © August 7th 2005 Les Nuages unless marked]