15 August 1985 – The hillside was a patchwork quilt

Images from Strawbs songs surround us while Jim stalks Dave Cousins…

8/15 Thursday, Sidmouth
Ate a better breakfast than that last place.  Waited around ’till 11 and walked down (partially – the last part – in the pouring rain).  Made it to the infor-beater and picked up map.  When we walked outside the sky was almost completely clear and the sun was shining.  We walked about 1-1/2 [miles?] West down the coast and back before tide came in.  The red cliffs were magnificent; red cliffs surfaced with green.  It’s a pebble beach which was hard to walk on.  Picked up 4 stones on way back.   We got back about 4:00.  At 6:00 I walked down to phone booth and called Dave’s house.  I talked to his wife, she said he was still at work and would be home at 7:30.  I went home and at 7:45 we left to eat.  Called again, talked to his daughter who said he’d be out until 10:00.  Well, we walked up to pub Red Lion Inn across from his house and had great supper (although the bar suddenly got extremely crowded just as we started eating)  After we got home I talked to the owners about staying another night, etc. and went for a walk to a clearing with no street lights — could see milkyway and jupiter so so clearly.

“The rustle of the pebbles on the shoreline, reminds me that my time is close at hand”.  The lines from the Strawbs song, “You Keep Going Your Way” suddenly made perfect sense while we were on that pebble beach.  It was such an unusual and intricate sound.  And we really did make it back just in time – if the tide had come all the way in we could have been in trouble.  And then “The hillside was a patchwork quilt. Neatly stitched with tidy hedge. And crumbling grey stone wall” from Glimpse of Heaven. You could see that patchwork everywhere.  We were in Strawbs country.  Can you blame a guy for trying to contact the writer of these songs, who lived right up the street?  The whole reason for trying was the last time the Strawbs played a few small clubs in Philly, Dave explicitly said that “if you are ever in Devonshire, stop by and we’ll grab a pint”.  He may have even mentioned the Red Lion pub were we ate dinner that night.  It was an open invitation I tell you!  But I was so freakin nervous calling his house — honestly I don’t know how I ever got the nerve at all.  I remember saying things like “Hello, is Mr. David Cousins at home?”.  I don’t think I even said who I was, why was I calling, that we were fans from the US, etc.  Oh, and the other backstory is that all over Europe I was carrying a cassette tape of the latest Joe songs — “Joe” being the band name that my songwriting partner, Jim Esch, and I gave ourselves.   I bet I was carrying that tape with me in my pocket everywhere we went.  It was all unnecessary angst.  But I still believe he would have happily met us for a pint if we had connected.  

We’ve seen Dave in concert many many times since then, in smaller and smaller venues, and Frank and I have both had the chance to say hello.  Here’ a picture my wife, Patti, took of Dave and I in 2003 at a school auditorium in Hightstown NJ.  

Anyway, the dinner at the Red Lion Inn was really incredible -Oxtail pie!  It was here I decided that English food is the best food in the world.  On our windy walk home, I’m pretty sure we saw, “the devil in the branches of a tree”.

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