Tag Archives: brixham

Brixham: the next big thing?

When we first chose to move to Brixham, almost four years ago now, it struck us as a place with so much potential. That has only been confirmed by the people that we’ve met since, and the exciting businesses and events that we have watched grow out of the community. I’m only just beginning to work out ways in which I can contribute to this, but I still felt a swell of pride when I read the feature on the ten best up-and-coming seaside towns in this month’s Coast magazine which put Brixham at number one.

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As part of Leigh’s birthday celebrations last weekend we were able to treat ourselves with meals at not one but two of the brilliant new restaurants that have opened up in the town.

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First, Bistro 1909. Up until the end of last year this was Brixham Deli – it was the only place to get a decent coffee when we first moved here, and a real sign that there was maybe more to this sleepy little seaside town than met the eye. When its owners, Roy and Gill, decided it was time for a change it was hard to hide my disappointment at first… But the restaurant they’ve created in its place makes it more than worth it.

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Delicious locally sourced food cooked to perfection – Leigh declared the pate the best he’d ever had, the steak and mussels were seriously good, and the chips are, I have decided, the best in Brixham. The setting is classic and cosy: custom made leather banquettes, industrial chic lighting and old Brixham photographs. With their own twist on a traditional formula they have hit upon something that works very well indeed. We’re already trying to work out when we can go back…

The other place we had to try – this time with Arthur in tow – was the latest addition to Mitch Tonks’ Rockfish chain, right above Brixham fish market.

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There’s been an understandable buzz about this place – it has after all been a long time coming. Mitch Tonks lives in Brixham, and has had his eye on this site since it first went out to tender. Unfortunately Torbay Council had other ideas, and we ended up with a really disappointing restaurant in there for a while – all style over substance, with no attempt to make the most of its unique location. Every time I looked at it across the harbour I grumbled with a sense of missed opportunity, so it was brilliant to see the site finally occupied by a restaurant that does it justice.

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It looked great, the fish was (of course) supremely fresh, and the atmosphere was buzzing. We shared a fruits de mer starter which was a real treat (it was Leigh’s birthday after all) and then went for classic fish and chips to follow. I’m very glad they offer the option of replacing batter and chips with grilled fish and salad as again this is somewhere I imagine we will revisit often!

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In conversation over both of these meals the subject of how our town is changing was never far away. It is one that is naturally taking on increasing significance with the possibility that I will soon have a role on the local council and actually be able to play an active part in the decisions that shape Brixham’s ongoing regeneration.

There will definitely be some difficult decisions to be made.

Brixham is regularly compared to nearby Devon towns like Dartmouth and Salcombe. In a lot of ways it has much more in common with them than it does with the other two towns in Torbay. But when we chose to move here, it was precisely because it wasn’t like them: it has a thriving, year-round community, fed to a large extent by its fishing industry. It attracts a diverse range of tourists, not only those with huge amounts of money to spend. And it is still reasonably affordable as a place for young families to bring up their kids.

Lots of the changes that we’ve already seen have been incredibly positive: the new selection of local eateries, the coffee shops like The Bay Coffee & Cake Company and Millie & Me that mean I no longer need to wait until I’m in London for my flat white fix, tired drinking establishments transformed into inviting pubs like New Quay Inn and The Manor. Shoalstone Pool is going from strength to strength, our theatre is full of ambition and ideas for the future, and Brixham YES is doing increasingly impressive work with young people and their families.

But there have been conflicts too, particularly around proposed developments which appear to meet the needs of some but for others cut right through what they perceive as the heart of our community.

As Brixham rises to the challenge of becoming the next big thing, we must remember that it’s not just its physical heritage and charm that needs to be protected. It is the local community that gives our town its soul, and as we continue to move forward we can only do so together.

The campaign continues

This week, I have mostly been writing tweets. Facebook posts too. I have been working on how to convey my message as clearly and succinctly as possible to support and promote the #StandUp4Brixham campaign – and generally it’s working pretty well.

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There’s been lots of work on the ground as well – since my leaflets were completed last Wednesday  afternoon my iPhone estimates I’ve covered about 30km going door to door with Arthur in the sling. There was a meeting last Tuesday evening that Arthur also had to come to, and on Saturday we had a hustings event to talk to members of the public. It’s been nerve-wracking getting out there and speaking up, but I’ve enjoyed it too.

The social media side of things is an attempt to engage with people who might not normally be interested in local politics. The campaign has a growing Facebook page and twitter account with nearly 200 local followers between them. I’ve appreciated the support of local businesses with more established accounts sharing and retweeting my posts. And one of my tweets attracted the attention of my local MP and ended up in the paper. So far so good as far as profile-raising goes.

But there has, perhaps predictably, been a less pleasant side to putting myself out there.

It started with the comments at the end of articles on the local paper’s website, where amongst other things I was labelled a ‘rather sad individual who spends all of her waking hours gratuitously criticising [the leader of the Abolish Brixham Council group]’. Other commenters leapt to my defence, but it was a strange feeling to be insulted and accused of something I haven’t done by a total stranger.

Twitter has been even more intimidating. There are four accounts that have repeatedly targeted me through replies to my tweets, with exchanges like this one:

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(BRATS, incidentally, is a group of local residents who campaigned against a Tesco development in the town centre. I have had no involvement with them despite numerous suggestions to the contrary.)

The tweet which sparked all this off  – and more besides – was a link to a letter which had been published on a local news website. I really wasn’t expecting it to be so controversial.

There’s a lot that is strange about the accounts in question – the similarity between their names and the lack of followers for example. Were these exchanges happening on my personal account then I would not hesitate to block and report them. But I’m not sure exactly how I’m supposed to respond in my current role as council candidate – I am obviously very keen to engage with interested Brixham residents, but I have to admit that these communications are beginning to make me feel uncomfortable.

I realise as well though that, on the grand scale of things, there’s not really anything desperately offensive going on here. Twitter does seem to be a place where some people hide behind a mask of anonymity to behave in a way that they never would face to face.

So I will soldier on, draw on my years of experience working with challenging teenagers, and try not to take it too personally. One of the things it is clear could be improved about our local council is the quality of its communications and its transparency in working with people in its community. And I refuse to be intimidated out of my attempts to do just that.

 

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Home Sweet Home

This time last week, I was feeling a little sad to be home. We’d had a wonderful holiday with some much-needed quality family time, and I had once again been infected with the wanderlust that makes me want to see all of the corners of the world that I can.

This week, though, we have accidentally had the most wonderful time in our little town, and it has left me wondering why we need to travel at all when we have such a glorious place to call home.

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There is Berry Head, where we went last Sunday with my parents, my brother and his fiancee. Arthur was thrilled to see everyone after our trip away, and he had great fun flying his kite, doing impromptu yoga with Uncle Ash, and just enjoying the view.

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Then there is Breakwater beach. Our local beach. I honestly never thought I’d be able to say that! With the spectacular weather we’ve had this week it’s felt a little like a corner of the Caribbean at times. Arthur has continued on his mission to get every single stone from the beach into the sea, and we’ve enjoyed a picnic with friends as well as a sneaky takeaway, just the two of us.

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I’ve really become aware this week how many lovely people we’ve met in this town. It’s taken a while for us to really feel like we belong here: the first 18 months when both Leigh and I were working in Plymouth didn’t help, and even once Arthur had arrived and I began to spend a lot more time in Brixham settling in to a new town wasn’t easy. But this week both Arthur and I have had social calendars almost full to bursting, and I have realised that we both have genuine friends here now. Which is nice.

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Of course my latest venture – standing for election to Brixham Town Council – has made me feel even more as though I belong. It’s been brilliant getting out and about seeing people and places that are new to me, and so far the reception to my election campaign has been really positive. Mostly anyway – but that’s a topic for another post.

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For this one suffice to say that I have had a week which has left me loving Brixham even more than usual. Ten days post-holiday when I still lived in London I would have been yearning for escape, but right now nothing would pull me away from the place I am proud to call home.

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My word of the week this week is home.

The Reading Residence

Also linking up with this week’s prompt of ‘travel’.

mumturnedmom

Standing up for my community

With the London Book Fair this week the latest draft of my novel is, I imagine, languishing somewhere near the bottom of my agent’s to do list. Which is fine by me – having been so deeply embroiled in the edit since the beginning of this year I’m happy to allow my brain to wander elsewhere.

It has been dancing around the edges of my next project, one which I’m really excited about but can’t quite face throwing myself into when I don’t know where I’m at with the current one. It has also enjoyed a bit of a break, getting lost in other peoples’ novels with the gentle sound of waves lapping against a Cretan beach. But it is now time for some action – and what better than the adventure of standing as a candidate in my local town council elections?

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Regular readers of this blog will know that I love my town. Brixham has been my home for the past four years, the culmination of a lifelong dream to live by the sea. It is a vibrant, creative, complex and inspiring place to live, and the more people I get to know here the more happy I am that this is where we ended up.

There is a huge swathe of positivity at the moment, lots of people keen to make the most of the town with independent shops and new restaurants opening up and a real buzz from locals and tourists alike. But beneath this there is something more sinister simmering – a spat between longstanding members of the town council that threatens to undermine the sense of community and the growth that Brixham has enjoyed in the past few years.

A group has been set up with the sole purpose of abolishing Brixham Council. They claim it is a waste of money, that it doesn’t get anything done. But my experience of living in this town says different. I don’t believe that we can rely on Torbay Council to stand up for Brixham. We are smaller than Paignton and Torquay, and very different in character. Historically there have been issues with withheld funding and a lack of understanding of the needs of our town. I believe we need our own voice.

It is against this background that I have decided to stand with a group of independents as a candidate in the upcoming council elections. And with that decision has come a new type of writing for me – my election campaign leaflet.

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It is hard to convey on a single side of A5 everything that I would like to achieve for Brixham, let alone knowing how to present myself in a way that will persuade people I have never met that I am worth voting for. I am not an expert in local politics. I have had a keen interest for years in what it is that makes a community great, but I do not pretend to know the ins and outs of exactly what has gone on in the Brixham Council chambers that has led to such disgruntlement.

What I do know is that people find it tough to engage with democracy, and with every layer of that democracy that is stripped away they will find it even tougher. I would love the opportunity to speak up for the people of Brixham, to give them a voice within the town council and further afield, and to work to grow and celebrate everything that is great about our town.

So I may be a little preoccupied between now and May 7th. No doubt there will be updates here, and if you’re interested you can follow the Stand Up For Brixham election campaign on Twitter too. Wish me luck!

 

Writing Bubble

 

Encouraging creativity

One of my goals at the beginning of this year was to try to carve out the time and space in Arthur’s routine for him get creative – and for me to work out how to give him more opportunities to enjoy arts and crafts. My mum was brilliant at all that when I was growing up. She is an artist, so I suppose on one level it came naturally to her, but I remember always being surrounded by interesting ideas and projects and materials to just have a go.

This week, I’ve finally got round to setting up a corner of the kitchen as a dedicated space for him to unleash his creativity – and to store the various bits and pieces I’ve been accumulating. My parents bought him an easel for Christmas which has centre stage, and with a bit of reorganising I’ve freed up a shelving unit. I’m certainly inspired – though I doubt I’ll be able to keep it looking this tidy!

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We’ve been making some tentative steps into exploring different materials over the past month or so. Stickers and glitter are definitely Arthur’s favourites, but I think he’s gradually starting to get over his fear of paint.

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As he creates his little masterpieces, we’re adding them to a gallery in the hallway. He’s really enjoying seeing his creations on display, and he loves putting new pieces up when he finishes them!

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I’ve had the niggling feeling, though, that we’re only just scratching the surface of what we could be doing. I’ve been seeking out inspiration online and in a couple of great books I’ve found, but what I’ve really been hankering after is somewhere Arthur can go and get involved in creative play with other kids, where I can see some new ideas in action and discuss logistics with other mums, and where I don’t need to worry quite so much about the mess!

So when I heard a local mummy friend of mine was setting up science-inspired arts and craft workshops for toddlers and preschoolers in Brixham I couldn’t wait to go and have a look.

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Our first visit to Craftivity Lab was on Wednesday, and we loved it. The workshop was held in a lovely bright, airy space split into different zones for exploring, experimenting and getting messy. Whilst everything had clearly been very carefully planned (this week around the theme of weather), Amanda was keen to let the children take the lead and interpret her activities as they saw fit – with guidance if they needed it of course.

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Arthur loved the sensory tray, and was especially keen on throwing the cotton ball clouds (or were they snowballs?) up into the air. I made a mental note to get some extra ones for home to satisfy his urge to throw – even he can’t cause any damage with cotton wool…

He was soon drawn towards the painting, and although he’s still not utterly convinced he hasn’t stopped talking about rainbows since.

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He wasn’t so interested in the chromatography, but it took me right back to early science experiments at school! I reckon it’s definitely one to try again when he’s a bit older…

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What I think is particularly exciting about Craftivity Lab is how closely Amanda is observing the children playing and learning and creating to inform her planning for future sessions. She couldn’t help but notice Arthur’s love of throwing (to be fair, he wasn’t the only one…), and is going to build that in with some more physical activities next week. I’m already looking forward to it!

I feel like I’m finally making headway with encouraging Arthur’s creativity, and now that we’re a bit more organised I think there should be plenty more opportunities for arts and crafts fun. I’m definitely still on the look out for more ideas though – so if you can think of anything Arthur might enjoy then please let me know!

 

My word of the week this week is creativity.

The Reading Residence

Simple pleasures

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It’s been a tricky couple of weeks for getting out and about. The weather’s not been great, and with Arthur recovering from the croup which struck him down just after his birthday I have been reluctant to take him out in the cold and the damp without good reason.

But this week has been all about getting back into normal routine. His classes have started up again, and although he’s still a bit sniffly we’ve both had enough of being stuck indoors.

On Thursday morning I awoke to torrential rain, with a sleeping toddler snuggled up beside me. It was still dark outside, and I really doubted whether we were going to get it together to make it to music. But we did, wrapped up in the sling and our trusty babywearing coat. It was lovely to see friends again, and by the time we were ready to head home the sun had appeared.

It was still cold, but as we passed our local beach Arthur began to bounce in the sling, asking excitedly if he could throw stones in the sea. And so I let him down, and watched as the smile spread across his face, filled with joy at this simple and familiar pleasure. It reminded me how very lucky we are to live where we do, and how much I’m looking forward to making the most of that over the months to come.

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Linking up with Fiona at Coombe Mill for Country Kids. 

Signing out for Christmas

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The Christmas spirit has definitely been been hotting up in our house this week. After a gorgeous winter wedding in Ireland last weekend, I’ve come back to a whirlwind of last-minute card writing and continued present making and general festive preparations.

We made it to see Santa on Wednesday, having been invited to the opening of the incredible grotto at The Edge in Brixham. Arthur is beginning to be aware of this mysterious man who he refers to as ‘Christmas time’, and knows that he has something to do with reindeer and presents. But he was very sceptical when I explained over our early dinner that we would be going to meet the man himself.

The Edge was a warm and welcoming bustle of mince pies and mulled wine when we arrived, and when it was our turn to go through we were all a little serious about what we would find. I don’t want to give too much away to those of you who are planning a visit (and if you’re anywhere near Brixham, I very much recommend you do), but the grotto involved trains, hardworking elves and a very impressive Christmas tree – and that was even before being taken through to Santa’s inner chamber.

Though Arthur had been excited, his nerves overcame him when he actually saw that red coat and white beard. He tried to scramble out of the door at one point, but managed to settle enough to come and cosy up on Santa’s sleigh and get his present. And though he didn’t say a word whilst we were in there, it was all he could talk about from the moment he left until he finally gave into sleep.

We’re going to have a very special family Christmas this year I think, and not just because Arthur is so much more conscious this year that something special is happening.

Leigh’s family are coming to stay with my parents in Devon next week, as well as my youngest brother and his fiancee who are over from New York and our Grampa, visiting from Wales. Then over new year my other two brothers are coming to stay with their partners. And in between of course we have Arthur’s second birthday.

There is still an awful lot to be done, but it is going to be so lovely to see everyone and to get to spend time with Leigh as well: he’s finally finished the toughest term yet in his medical school adventure, so whilst he still has a bit of work to do before January he will mainly be enjoying a well-earned break.

And I think I need a bit of a break from the blog too. This time last year it was nothing more than a twinkle in my eye. Now, 250 posts later, it has become a wonderful outlet for ideas and creativity, and a precious record of Arthur as he grows. It has at times been a little all-consuming too, so downing tools over the Christmas period seems like a very sensible idea.

Besides, I have a new novel to work on. The ideas are all there, but I could do with a bit of headspace to formulate them into something a bit more cohesive so I can make a start on the first draft in January.

I’ll be back on the blog then too, with festive tales and crafting delights to share. In the meantime I have no doubt I’ll still be popping in to twitter and instagram from time to time. But for now, have a wonderful Christmas and a very happy new year. See you in 2015!

 

My word of the week is ‘Christmas’ and I am also liking up with Sara at Mum turned Mom for her prompt of the same.

 

The Reading Residence
mumturnedmom