Wednesday, 30 November 2011

Christmas Charity Ball

So, this Christmas we are going to be hosting our first charity ball. Our little book group has been quite stirred up over the issue of human trafficking (slavery) after a few books we have read around the subject. We decided to get together with more of our good local mates and do something about it. Sadly, this is not the whole group. Some had to work and some well, lets be honest, told me where to go when i asked them to come round at 9.15am looking gorgeous for a photo to go in the local press! This one is just us messing around, but is my personal favourite.
We are holding our ball on Monday 19th December. It is £25 a ticket which includes a three-course canape supper, some fantastic music from our resident DJ (that'll be Steve then) and all sorts of special 'sideshows' which altogether will be everything a person needs to get into the Christmas swing! The planning has been great fun - especially when cake is involved.
It is all in aid of the 'purple teardrop campaign' which is a national organisation dedicated to raising awareness about human trafficking. It is hard to believe that even in beautiful and quaint Devon, this is still a live issue and one we need to educate ourselves to recognise.
Thank you to Theo, whose role is entertainment at each meeting . The first meeting we had he awoke from his sleep wearing a witches hat, and at this one he made use of the tea-cosy..never a dull moment... x

Monday, 28 November 2011

Surfers Against Sewage

After the Social Enterprise week, we then had an amazing mediation course through an organisation called Peaceworks. Pickwell Richard actually went on the course himself, and the feedback was outstanding as the 'best course ever been on'. Thank you to Chris Seaton who ran the course and who is responsible for a lot more constructive conversations across the country as a result! Rich may be adding something about this on our Pickwell Manor Facebook Page.
On the same day Chris and the guys left, Surfers against Sewage (SAS) arrived! Or as our good friend Eils has now named them..Smurfs against Sewage...
We knew they had arrived by the wonderful car stickers that appeared in our car park...
I realised it had been years since I'd thought about car stickers
and yet here they were...loads of them!
and this is only a small sample
I think it definitely talks of the passion each car owner has for the surf!
A few guys arrived early to set up, putting news cuttings about the beach and environment and press releases about themselves all over the Ballroom.
Peter came from The Museum of British Surfing, based up the road in Braunton. The board on the right is 100 years old!
The atmosphere was very relaxed as people arrived,
grabbed themselves a glass of Barefoot Wine... (fascinating story behind 'Barefoot' but will save for another occasion).
and ate some extremely dodgy looking pizza! They had to repeat this pizza meal the next day for lunch too, as one of the team who was sent out to buy lunch for the 30ish people there, came back with 8 pasties and wondered why everyone was so aghast! Apparently that's all the shop had left. Ha! The good news is, all prospective Pickwell Brides, these are not our chosen wedding catering team.
This is What SAS had to say in their newsletter following the weekend:
"The SAS team has just returned from our annual SAS Regional Reps training weekend. It is always inspiring to bring our regional leaders together to hear about the SAS campaign actions and projects they’ve been active on for their respective stretch of coastline".
"They bring their local knowledge, local connections, motivations and ideas to help create an increasingly strong national SAS movement tackling coastal pollution."
"The weekend included classroom sessions, interactive presentations and activities, and beach-based exercises. We included a beach clean and, using the collected marine litter, implemented lots of Return To Offender (RTO) activity."
"In just an hour of beach cleaning our team removed 78kgs of litter and then sent over 50 items back to manufacturers through the RTO campaign!"
"We’d like to thank LUSH and the Patagonia Tides Foundation who have been hugely supportive of our Regional Reps in 2011 and of our work tackling marine litter this year."
"We’d like to thank Pickwell Manor for their donation to make the event possible  Thanks to SAS Directors Ben Hewitt, Richard Gregory and Jim Gorrod for all their help with the event."
Tracey and the girls, all fired up over keeping our beaches clean, went to join the group litter picking on Saunton beach.
The only slight problem was the surf was up so the whole group had all gone to surf at Putsborough beach instead!
The good news is folks, it wasn't all work, work, work! x

Saturday, 19 November 2011

social enterprise

So, this month, we are at last (after 3 years) getting to fulfil our hope of trying to change the world (a bit). Its the thing that brought us to Pickwell and the thing we find ourselves dreaming about more than anything else.
So the first week of November we had a group who came to dialogue all about social enterprise. Its a subject close to Steve's heart so he had quite a lot to do with the hosting and facilitating through the week, along with his brother Jonny (who put the course together) and Shannon (who has a social enterprise herself and made the week happen).
The group came from London, the Midlands, Kent and Tunisia! Their ideas for social change were as wide ranging as someone wanting to mentor disillusioned young people into a career that will last, through to a very dynamic woman whose mission is to end female genital mutilation in 26 countries!!! Having met her, i actually believe she could do it too.
Through the week they had some general teaching and split into groups to focus on one particular enterprise, examine its mission, vision and values and come up with a short and medium term strategy for its launch.
They had rest time too and really enjoyed our beaches. I joined them for a couple of these times and the conversations simply continued. It was inspiring to be around them.
Steve invited up a couple of local friends on different evenings to share with the group about their own social enterprises. This is Brendan. Brendan and his wife Sarah run Sandleigh Tea Rooms on Baggy Point in Croyde (5 minutes from here). I have blogged about Sandleigh before as its one of our favourite places for a cream tea. It was fascinating to hear about their vision behind their business.
When Brendan was a child he lived in a rural village near Oxford. He spent his childhood playing outside with all the local children, swimming in the streams and generally not being home from dawn to dusk. It sounded idyllic. He left the village and returned when he was in his 20's. When he went back he was shocked to find there were literally no children there. The play park had been dismantled and the areas they had played in had fallen into disrepair. It was as if the soul had been ripped out of the place.
Years later, after much hard work and patience, Brendan and Sarah were given Sandleigh. They run it as a community garden and tea room. The plots they gave away for free to local families with a caveat that if they get a bumper crop of something that they give some to the cafe.
Sarah is the brains behind the cafe and she has made it so atmospheric and the locally sourced food is delicious. They have only been running it for two years but already they have managed to employ a full-time baker for their bread. Their sudden success has taken them by surprise.
They are passionate about community and passionate about raising their children to experience the type of childhood they remember for themselves. Well, they are doing it, and doing it extremely well.

We hope that all those who came on the course can go home and put to good use all that they have learnt here. We very much look forward to hearing their stories as they unfold x

Monday, 14 November 2011

A party to remember

So, I decided to celebrate my birthday on Saturday night, about 2 weeks after my actual birthday, as half term was not a good time to get everyone together. We hired out Putsborough beach cafe for the night and oh, what a night.
We put candle lanterns on the steps to come down, the floodlights lit up the sea, beautiful music was coming out of both the inside and outside speakers, you could see Woolacombe all lit up in the distance. Magical. It reminded me of Cafe Del Mar in Ibiza (yes i did go once when i was 18, that's a WHOLE other story and a WHOLE different blog!).
We went down early in the evening to set up the bunting, the decks, the candles and the drinks.
Steve very kindly agreed to DJ and we'd spent a wonderful hour in the day going through the play list and hunting out some treasured memories on vinyl.
We spent the first hour chatting, telling stories, loving the view and appreciating how great we all look when we're not in jeans and hoody's!
The coloured lights and candles and ambient music all felt lush. It was exactly what i had imagined, actually no, it was better. Surrounded by most of my very special mates, it was perfect.
Tony runs the cafe and as a complete surprise handed Tracey a cake to give to me... yes you are seeing correctly. It was a pair of boobs in a glittery purple bra. Turns out Tony won it in a competition in the Kings Arms pub the other night, it was 'guess the weight of the cake'! So, stick a couple of candles in the nipples and hey presto! Sus has a cake!
As the lights went out and the volume of the music went up, so the dancing kicked off. We had to be careful with certain dance moves not to keep hitting the buckets hanging above our heads!
No party would be complete with Mrs P. I think she was going for the biggest bucket count...
By the end of the night, things were getting a little silly.

This was Tony's 8th event in the cafe in the evening. I think he is just starting to market it now. I cannot recommend a better place to have an event.

Buckets + Tony + postcards + great music + sea + great mates = magic.

Thursday, 10 November 2011

Surf Mamas

So I have joined a group of us mums from Georgeham school, who have been going out surfing every Thursday after school drop off. I have never surfed before and this is now my 5th week. Sadly I have only progressed to being on my feet for 3 seconds, but I'm getting there....slowly. There is nothing like the thrill of catching a wave and speeding down the front of it, even if it is mostly with me gripping the side of the board with slightly white knuckles. However my fellow 'surfing mamas' are doing amazingly and 'popping up' with great sprightliness. Well done girls!!

With our surf leader Rachel (who has wonderfully taken it upon herself to count us regularly to make sure that none of us novices have drowned, thanx rach!), we have been in the water wet suited up come rain or shine. Only 3 of us were out today, but here we are...... what vacuum packed beauties!

Today was the most amazing day, the sun was shining making the most gorgeous haze over the sea at Saunton. It was completely magical going out. I could not believe how warm it was in the water (after the initial shock of it nipping into my wetsuit of course), I never would have thought I would be in the water in NOVEMBER!!!! I think I have got the bug and I completely love it despite not being very good. I think it is testament that you are never too old to play in the sea!

To quote Mrs Percival 'to be out here really makes you feel alive'.

Sunday, 6 November 2011

Bonfire night

Steve's favourite night of the year is bonfire night. Steve, Tracey and I grew up in Sussex, not far from the town of Lewes.
Lewes, and its surrounding villages are world-renowned for their huge bonfire celebrations. Although Tracey and I (and Rich) really enjoy a good bonfire and firework display, our enjoyment is not even on the scale of Steve's.
For the last three years we have tried to bring a taste of a Sussex bonfire night to Devon.
It starts with preparing the torches. Each piece of branch has felt wired round its top and on the night they are dipped in paraffin.
Then we build the bonfire. We ensure there are four tunnels going through which create the draft needed to give the fire the draw it needs.
There are things to do for all of us leading up to the night..
The kids love writing their welcome messages on the slates.
We knew people were bringing rockets so Molly made this wonderful slate to signpost the box they were going in.
Like in Sussex, we chose a few 'responsible' boys and girls to dress in smugglers outfits and generally make sure the whole event was safe and ran smoothly.
Tracey was responsible for the food and drink and she did an amazing job. The kids had hot dogs and the adults had butternut squash & sweet potato soup, bean and chorizo cassolet, a cheese board, dips, rum hot chocolate, mulled cider and...
everyone bought cakes!
Many with a fab bonfire theme. These were some of my favourites
baby sweet!
Anda made this wonderful bonfire creation which must have taken hours!
a bonfire 'matchstick' cake!
Many local friends packed into our Snug and Ballroom and the atmosphere was cosy and warm and very exciting..especially with the background noise of Steve and his mischievous mates letting off 'rook scarers' outside!
After sparklers out on the terrace,
we had fountains of fire coming from the pillars in the Italian garden, to start the display.
Followed by our girls' favourites..the Catherine wheels..
The sky was filled with noise and colour
I just love this picture of Zac as he watches the fireworks with his friends.
Each year we have made more of these lanterns. They are made with bamboo, tissue paper and hold a candle inside. It is really good fun making them and well worth the time because the effect at night is wonderful.
We line everybody up, hand out torches and lanterns and
process through the garden, weaving through the trees in the woods..
and arrive at the bonfire where we throw the torches on.
It burned hot and bright
as friends basked in the warmth.
Charlie, our no.1 bonfire boy
The atmosphere was...magical and
Steve clearly loved it!
The carnage of the morning after! The kids loved collecting in all the empty cardboard tubes
which we put in the trailor and took round to the bonfire
Zac recovered a torch from the ashes and re-lived the night before
while the girls had rides amongst the debris..can you spot Liza?
A beautiful sunny day made the clear-up fun.

I think it will take a few days for the smile to fade from Steve's (aka Gandalf's) face! x

PS I just found this piece of paper scrumpled up on the floor. Hilariously, it shows Steve's plan for each firework - where it is situated and who is going to light it. This is completely unseen and unknown footage showing quite how much he loves it. Is his name by every one? Sorry Steve, had to expose x