A Knight’s Tale (108: Instow Part 2)

It was probably in August 1998 that Jessica bought a secondhand outboard motor in Newark and used for one day in Instow in Devon. She left her recently acquired dinghy in the bay facing our holiday house. In the morning the motor was gone. As was every other similar item from other boats. This was apparently the first time such a theft had ever occurred at that location.

It was that year, the one after my then wife had received her diagnosis of multiple myeloma, that she paddled on Instow beach with Emily.

The following year was the one of the beach fortress.

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Sam, Louisa, James, Gemma, Lucy, and Nick start on a pile of sand on the beautiful beach of Instow, where boats ply the channel between this and the former fishing village of Appledore,

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and Canon Henry Pearson leans against a moored boat surveying the scene.

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At this early stage it is possible for passers-by, like this mother pushing a pram, to be unaware of what is happening.

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Gradually, however, the young of Instow gather round.

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Louisa and Lucy smooth the surfaces,

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and Lucy employs the services of a little local helper.

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Bigger lads look on.

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Jim shares a joke with Lucy, whose assistant has wandered off

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to see if Louisa has any requirements, whilst his sister examines the footings.

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Sometimes it’s not exactly clear who is in charge.

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By the time the sun begins to sink below the horizon, the crew are able to position the flambeaus, and delight in their creation.

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Jessica and Judith prepare refreshments, evening wear is donned,

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and the village begins to assemble.

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Jessica sports her trademark Monsoon skirt.

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‘David Robert Shepherd MBE (27 December 1940 – 27 October 2009)[1] was a first-class cricketer who played county cricket for Gloucestershire, and later became one of the cricket world’s best-known umpires. He stood in 92 Test matches, the last of them in June 2005, the most for any English umpire. He also umpired 172 ODIs [One Day Internationals], including three consecutive World Cup, finals in 1996, 1999 and 2003′ (Wikipedia).

He has observed the proceedings from very early on.

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As night closes in, the torches are lit, and the crowd dwindles away,

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eventually leaving the field to three proud mothers: from left to right, Ali, of James; Jessica, of Sam and Louisa; and Judith, of Lucy and Nick.


  1. Wasn’t David Robert Shepherd the umpire who used to hop from one foot to the other when the score was 111 or maybe even 87 ? He was quite a character!

  2. What a grand project! And what a day that must have been. But, oh, it gave me a pang to read about Jessica and multiple myloma. On the other hand, it looks as though Jessica lived live to the fullest, and although I’m teary eyed as I write this, I’m also filled with admiration.

  3. I echo all of what Laurie wrote about Jessica.
    What a magnificent sand castle, and what a lovely day it must have been. It’s wonderful that you have all these photos to chronicle the memories of those days.

  4. What a fabulous fort! I am so glad my daughter Elinor wasn’t on that beach with you as her favourite occupation at the age of 18 months to 3 years was jumping on sand-pies and sand-castles. Oh, the trouble she caused! I also echo Laurie’s comments.

  5. Fantastic photos what a lot of happy memories Derrick, for Christmas my Mum bought me some plastic scoops she’d seen on Pinterest and they make penguins, hearts and ducks from sand or snow lol. I can’t wait to get to the beach to try them out.

  6. Isn’t it wonderful the way photographs can bring the past back to life. There is so much energy, so much love and joy in these pictures wrapped up with nostalgia. I feel privileged to share in them.

  7. The sandcastle, built by so many cooperative hands, is quite impressive! I am glad you have many photos to remember these precious years. It sounds like Jessica fought the cancer as best she could.

      1. I will add more flowers for her to the garden around your Michael’s tree. The daffodils did survive the cold snap and are coming into bloom now. I will take a new picture send you the photo.

  8. Derrick, I am often gobsmacked by the things you have been through, and even though I had sort of heard before, today is another one of those times. To hear that Jessica had multiple myeloma was such a sad reminder of your past. THis day seemed like a celebration, however, and the photos tell a wonderful story. hugs to you.

  9. The maddening thing being nobody knows why people get multiple myeloma still. I had no Fotos as a kid nor adult and I just love that you have this beautiful document of time alongside your recollections that are far richer than mere memory.

      1. Exactly. I got a lump in my throat looking at those photos – for that exact reason. I know it must be very hard to go through these, recall that, and many would just put them aside. It is another reason I admire you deeply, because you value memories, even the painful ones, and honestly I believe whilst we must do what is right for ourselves individually, if we possibly can avoid running from pain and painful memories and share them, maybe we won’t all be isolated in that pain behind closed doors. After all, as you said in a comment earlier to someone else, it’s not just pain at all but happy, happy memories too and those are forgotten if we don’t have your courage to share (both the joyous and painful) memories. This is why I have (admittedly sporadically but only because I’m never online) read A Knight’s Tale for many years, it’s the feeling of a human beings full life, as you once explained to me, you were creating this for your children and children’s children and children’s children to know about your family. There is no better reason. Many of us have precious few ‘memories’ from those before us, and this is a treasure-trove. Moreover, a brave one. Oh and with horses! (I had to).

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