Bright Star

I’ve blogged about Teignmouth before but am going to do it again. The town is a pretty cool place to live with its natural beauty, seafront with pier, and river beach with painted huts. It has part of Brunel’s atmospheric railway (what was) and the strip of railway line between Teignmouth and Dawlish is supposed to be the most repaired in the country due to winter tides that wash over the seawall where the track runs close. The town still has a working port which largely handles clay and timber. The town retains some Georgian grandeur and fishermen’s cottages, despite what the town planners did back in the day.

And some famous people have connections with the town. Donald Crowhurst set out on his doomed voyage from here. The band members of Muse met at school here. Fanny Burney stayed and wrote her diaries here. But the man I am interested in right now is Keats.

One of the prettier houses in town is known as Keats House. The young poet stayed there in 1818 and completed his epic poem Endymion. Now here I get to the point of this blog. I was listening to a radio programme yesterday which touched on Keats and his theory and practice of negative capability.  ‘When man is capable of being in uncertainties. Mysteries, doubts, without any irritable reaching after fact and reason.’

Despite being so young, Keats grasped a concept that is nowadays known as Mindfulness and is used by therapists to help their clients to learn to live in the moment. It’s not a new idea. Jesus said in the Bible not to worry as tomorrow has enough worries of its own.

I thought you had to be older to have something to say. But by the age of 26 Keats had lived a life that gave him great insight and wisdom. He had to face separation, grief, loss, a broken heart, his mortality.

I love that he walked the same streets I walk everyday.


Lamenting Woolies

Just got back from town, daring to feel slightly excited by what is a big happening in Teignmouth. Forget Muse playing our seafront backalong, what really concerns us Teignmothians is the collapse of Woolworth’s. It was a tragic day its doors closed forever. A friend of my eldest somehow managed to blag the ‘W’ from the workmen deconstructing our favourite shop as a memento. She has it in her bedroom, I believe, and I am very envious.

What could ever replace Woolworth’s, we wondered and discussed in those bleak winter months of 2008/09. We allowed ourselves some wayout daydreams. Maybe it would be a decent clothes shop, or a gaming/music/DVD store. A toyshop. A specialist shop like Milletts which we also lost many moons ago. Something for the kids, the young people, those of us who feel we have enough pound shops.

What did we get? Carpet Right. Despite already having at least  three independent carpet shops in our town,  the councillors seemed to think a Carpet Right would enocurage visitors, even though there are several Carpet Rights in the area, some of which have free parking. (Free parking barely exists in our town, and the lack of day trippers reflects this.) And has it been a success? Well, whenever I’ve walked past, the manager is all alone surrounded by his cheap carpet, playing what I can only presume is Solitaire on his computer.

Carpet Right has gone. And there are rumours as to what will replace it. The one I favour is Wilkinson’s as that is the closest to Woolies we can get. We just walked past the shop and it is being totally gutted and the space looks huge. I really really hope that the council will have got it right this time and had a bit of vision for our fantastic town.

I love my town. I grew up here, moved away at 18 and hankered after it for the following twenty years until I moved back here, dragging my family with me. The best move we ever made. But this lovely, proper Devon town, with its lack of second homes and money, with its down-to-earth people and beautiful beaches, with Brunel’s stunning railway that crashes along the red coast, and renowned jazz and folk festivals, artists, musicans and of course its fab cafes where you can get anything from builders tea to a skinny splitshot latte, … well, we could do even better.

Let’s just hope that whatever the shop, it will have pick’n’mix.

I’ll keep you posted.