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Monday, 19 October 2015


As I recover in depression, under influence of a daily injection of antibiotics for my latest old age malady, I take solace in memories from my childhood in Devon.

Life on the Yealm
by  Thomas Hoskyns Leonard
The jagged Mewstone,
Its restless seagulls,
And solitary hermit’s hut
Languished to the larboard
While the Jurassic Cliffs by Silver Cove
Veered skywards to the starboard.
We sat huddled in the fourteen foot Yvonne
For ever and anon
Tossing in the sickly green swell
To the sound of the Grim Reaper’s bell
Fishing for pollock
And the occasional haddock
While Mummy hit rock bottom
And got brassed off
With a thick-skinned wrasse.
When Brod peed copiously over the side
A conger from Neptune’s Hell took him for a ride.
When Daddy landed the eel
His toes began to peel.
But smart-arsed Tommy surpassed them all
With a Portuguese man of war
That made us all sting
With a ding and a ping.
When Dad revved up the ancient outboard motor
Wembury Beach was a safe haven in reach
But our wooden klinker-built skiff,
Designed in Devonport for a sniff,
Turned ever so abruptly,
Stern following helm,
Up the River Yealm,
And sped like a vole
Leaping out of a hole
Towards the heaven-sent niche
Of Old Cellars Beach.
Ginger Rogers overtook us
With a face like a porpoise,
Looking quite staunch
In his seaworthy launch,
Hauling several basking sharks
He’d caught for a fark and a lark
By the Eddystone light.
He was always good for a fight

And quickly left us out of sight.
As we crossed the fertile sandbar
On the Noss Mayo side,
The mackerel took us in their stride.
Tommy grabbed Brod’s fishing rod,
Kicked his skinny shins,
And tried to catch cod.
But Granny Flo was as good as a nanny
And tanned wicked Tommy’s spotty hide.
I began to feel squirmy inside.
When I tried to row,
I cried ‘Bollocks!’
As the oars got stuck in the rollocks.
I caught a crab,
My head felt bad,
And I was ever so sad.
Thereupon Brod teased me,
His little, put-upon sister,
With a gurk and a prod,
And said ‘Thank goodness the seagull missed her.’
Ned Charon the Ferryman approached us,
Carrying six pompous goats
In his sleek riverboat
Towards the mudflats up the creek
Where we play hide and seek.
‘Newton Ferrers next stop,’ he cried,
with a keen gaze which put me in a faze.
As Ned steered to the port side,
Tommy fired his catapult
And hit the fattest old goat with a bolt.
‘I’m sorry, Your Worship,’ yelled Daddy,
Twisting Tommy’s fearful ear.
‘That was entirely my fault.’
The magnificent mansion,
Where the reclusive sanitary engineer hid,
Heralded Newton Pool
Where the swans nested on a wooden raft
And the jet set were ever so daft.
We floated through the snotty kids
Relaxing on the topnotch yachts
Until we reached Captain Quacky Drake’s imperious craft.
But we poured onto the crestfallen Wanderlust
That was fit to disintegrate in the next hefty gust.
Once aboard, Granny brewed us
A piping hot pot of peppermint tea
And played fiddledee dee
While we hung Tommy’s ankles from the mast,
And everybody laughed when they sailed past.
Tom (right) with his brother and mother on the "Wanderlust" on the Yealm Pool about 1961

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