We've been to Devon - "God's wonderful country" according to the locals. And it is certainly beautiful. The warm Gulf Stream air sweeps in off the Atlantic and turns the fertile red soil into lush pastures for dairy cattle. Devon is famous for its cream and here is Sheila enjoying a real Devon tea of scone with clotted cream and strawberry jam in a Tiverton Tea Shoppe, circa 1678.
But we were not in Tiverton to enjoy ourselves. The ancient country town is the childhood home of actor/director Antony Holland, so we were meeting people from his past, including Dorothy, a delightful 92 year-old who played opposite Antony in a 1940 production of Emlyn Williams' "Night Must Fall." Such a meeting would have made our trip worthwhile in itself, but there was more - much more. In the annals of unforgettable moments it might not come close to having a baby or winning the lottery, but we had tea with a Tiller Girl and lunch with a lord.
This is Irene , together with Antony Holland’s youngest brother, Kaye, her husband of 58 years. Irene used to be a Tiller Girl … and she made us some very tasty cheese on toast. For our Canuck friends: The Tiller Girls were a glamorous troupe of dancing girls who dominated British variety shows in the 50s and 60s. Their home was the giant stage at the London Palladium but television regularly brought them into every living room in the country. They could have been the girls next door … only with much longer legs, figures of angels and looks to die for … and they set millions of pulses racing as they high-kicked their way across the nation’s TVs week after week.
So, we had tea with a Tiller Girl in Tiverton. And, if that wasn’t enough, it was followed the next day by lunch with a real English Lord. This is his splendid stately home…
This manorial mansion was built in 1420 and it is reputed that Henry VIII and Anne Boleyn watched bowls being played on this lawn…
… while William Tyndale translated parts of the Latin bible into English here in the early 1500s.
Many of England’s great country estates are open to the public, but don’t expect a welcome if you turn up here without a gilt-edged invitation. However, Sir Victor, Baronet Killearn, son of the British Ambassador in Cairo during the war, rolled out the red carpet for us. He gave us the grand tour – here’s the splendid great hall…
…and showed us around the extensive grounds.
Then his staff served us a wonderful lunch of pork in mustard sauce with fresh garden vegetables, plum crumble and cream, and a decanter of vintage wine. What a day!!
Thank you Victor, (we’re on first name terms now we’ve been to lunch).