Wednesday, April 28, 2010

'Scribblings from the Surf' - Devon Life 5/10: Political passions

The eleventh in a series entitled 'Scribblings from the Surf'. For more information on Devon Life, click here. To read the article, see the text below or click to enlarge the pictures of the original article below that. To see the whole series, click here.


Barrister and writer Tim Kevan talks to three political candidates about anything other than politics

Mention MPs’ passions and you might find an eyebrow being raised, particularly when you add that Crumpet is involved. All the more so when it comes to the former constituency of ex-Liberal leader Jeremy Thorpe. But it’s often easy to forget the human side of an election battle and with this in mind I tracked down three of the general election candidates for North Devon.

Nick Harvey MP - Liberal Democrats
I first got the idea for the article when I saw a picture of sitting MP Nick Harvey with his six year old golden retriever Crumpet outside the Houses of Parliament. They’d just won third prize in the Westminster Dog of the Year competition and Nick’s comment was, “Crumpet and I are very pleased to be on the podium, but used to coming third in Westminster!” I mean, what’s not to like? Talking to Nick, it’s clear that Crumpet is an integral part of his family and not only keeps his wife Kate company during his four days a week away in Westminster but has also grown up alongside his two young children.

With such a busy life, it is a particular pleasure for Nick to get out into the beautiful North Devon countryside with Crumpet and the rest of the family. His favourite place is Instow which is only three miles from his home. Further afield, he enjoys Baggy Point and the area which runs from Lynton via Woody Bay over to Combe Martin with its breath-taking scenery of hills, cliffs and the ocean beyond. Then there are two other particular interests. The first is football and specifically Southampton who whilst not the club they were in the days of the great Lawrie McMenemy still keep him optimistic of great things to come for the future (which reminded me of the Lib Dems!) Then, best of all, there is a subject close to the heart of many of us in North Devon: beer. As vice-chairman of the all party group on beer he’s clearly living the dream and names Exmoor Gold as his favourite light ale and for a Winter’s evening a thicker, browner ale which is my own personal favourite, the legendary Doom Bar, named after the hazardous sand bank at the estuary of the river Camel in Cornwall.

Philip Milton – Conservatives
Philip Milton is a man who doesn’t need an introduction to many people in North Devon. Whether it’s through his financial advisory business, Doves Christian Bookshop, the Custom House Restaurant or the Trimstone Hotel. Then again, you might have known him whilst he was growing up in Georgeham or maybe even you saw him playing the Dame in the Croyde pantomime. The point is not only that he is North Devon through and through but also that he is a man whose interests are many and varied. But with all this going on there is also a very settled core based around his Christian faith, his wife Helen and their four children and a passionate love of the countryside.

His faith was inspired by Rev Dave Rudman, the former vicar of Georgeham who set up the Christian outdoor centre of St. George’s House. These days Philip is an active member of Croyde Baptist Church where he is a youth leader and also a lay preacher. He also has a deep fascination with nature. One particular interest within that is a specialist knowledge of moths and he can name numerous varieties you might find around the area. He also has a moth trap which on a reasonably warm night can collect over 120 moths. Though none of these compare to the Convolvulos Hawk Moth which once came to his office window in Georgeham which he describes as like a mouse. Philip also has a strong sense of history and connection with the past and has a specific interest in North Devon postal history, having over the years collected an extensive range of letters dating back as far as the late seventeenth century. It has to be said, with all that he does, Philip is the epitome of that saying that ‘If you need something doing, ask a busy man.’

Mark Cann - Labour
Mark Cann is an altogether different candidate again. He is the uncle of well-known local singer Amy Newton and he has retired to Braunton after a career teaching politics and government at The Blue School in Wells to live with Val who he first met in 1991. He’s been a political activist since his student days and it was his involvement with CND in the early 1980s which led to an association which in many ways would help to transform the live music scene throughout the country. Simply put, back in 1981, he met up with a farmer called Michael Eavis with whom he teamed up and helped to organize that year's Glastonbury Music Festival for the benefit of CND and by 1983 he was the production manager for the main stage. Since then, as the festival has grown into a global brand so has Mark’s role. So much so that by the 1990s Michael Eavis described him as his deputy although Mark is always keen to emphasise the work of others. It’s certainly led to some interesting times hanging out with the likes of Lou Reed, Peter Gabriel, the Happy Mondays and Robbie Williams though it’s the money raised for charities such as Oxfam, Greenpeace and Water Aid which has really satisfied him, something which can only be enhanced with the 40th anniversary festival this year and U2 headlining.

Beyond Glastonbury, Mark is a supporter of Crystal Palace, goes scuba diving most years and is also a regular in the choir every Tuesday at the White Lion in Braunton. Oh, and don’t let me forget, Mark likes his golf and is a proud member of Saunton Golf Club which he describes as the “most beautiful course in the world”. He also says that it is the best course not to have held the British Open and would love to see that happen some time.
So, with the reputation of politicians at an all time low, it’s refreshing to meet candidates with such a colourful and varied hinterland as these.

Sadly, when I conducted the interview with Nick Harvey, Crumpet was extremely ill and my thoughts and prayers go out to him and his family in the hope that Crumpet will recover.

Tim Kevan is the author of the comic novel ‘BabyBarista and the Art of War’ (Bloomsbury) and the co-author of ‘Why Lawyers Should Surf’ (with Dr Michelle Tempest).

Tuesday, April 27, 2010

Art recommendation: North Devon's Conor Wilson

If you're looking to brighten up your walls with some new art then look no further than North Devon's very own Conor Wilson. You can see some of his recent work on his blog and you can view the picture opposite among others at the excellent JC Gallery in Braunton. For more information on Conor, click here.

Thursday, April 22, 2010

Ama Dablam

Sponsored blog post: The relationship between speed and road accidents

The relationship between the relative speeds of vehicles in a road traffic accident has long been known about, but until recently, little analysis of the probability of being killed. In 2009 the Department for Transport released a report looking at the relationship between speed and the severity of injuries suffered by car drivers. This report used data collected by two-long running studies in the UK covering accidents in the period from 1983 to the present day. After analysing the data and calculating the delta-v (a measurement of the change in speed of a vehicle immediately before and just after a crash) the results were grouped according to the seriousness of the injuries suffered by the driver. From this data, the report revealed some shocking statistics relating to the likelihood of being killed in a collision at speed.
It was estimated that in a frontal impact with a delta-v of 30mph, 3% of drivers would be killed. Increasing the delta-v increased the percentage of drivers likely to be killed, with a shocking 92% of drivers being killed, when in a head-on collision where their vehicle slows by 60 mph. In side on collisions the statistics were even more dramatic at comparatively moderate speeds, although the number of side impact crashes reported in the survey was much lower than the number of head-on collisions. The graph for side impact crashes revealed that around 90% of drivers would lose their lives if involved in a side-impact crash where the delta-v was 40 mph. This is probably due to the much reduced impact protection in the sides of modern vehicles when compared with protection from head on and rear end crashes.
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Author: Neil Worrall

Review of BabyBarista at The Planet Harris Book Blog

"Expanded from his BabyBarista Times blog, this first novel from Tim Kevan is an uproarious diary of intrigue, backstabbing and dubious moral attitudes, set in the allegedly morally upstanding world of law courts and Chambers. BabyBarista himself is a Machiavellian young pupil barrister whose early claims of naivety are quickly rubbished when it becomes clear that he will stop at nothing to ensure he, and not one of the other four pupils in his chambers, is granted tenancy at the end of the year.

BabyBarista’s first pupilmaster, known simply as TheBoss, hands him a copy of ‘The Art of War’ by Sun Tzu on his first day but it is clear from the off that nobody is going to put Baby in a corner anyway. Without the ancient strategic text, Kevan’s narrator would have been a formidable enough proposition; armed with it he acts out ever-darker and underhand schemes to achieve his ends. Nonetheless, BabyBarista remains charming and entertaining enough throughout to guarantee we’re still rooting for him come the denouement. This is, in part, due to his wry observations on the pomp and circumstance which lays like a veil over British legal proceedings. Why wear 200 year out of date wigs and gowns in court, he wonders, when modern defendants might have more faith in somebody wearing a superhero outfit? Why should prosecution and defence counsels spend hours arguing to and fro to reach an out-of-court settlement when they can decide the matter with a quick game of Battleships and spend the rest of the day drinking champagne?

There are shades of Francis Urquhart, echoes of Yes Minister’s Sir Humphrey and a degree of Iago to this would-be-Rumpole, but many of the external cultural references are actually drawn from television comedy. One of the most entertaining scenes consists of BabyBarista’s pre-courtroom war of words with a more experienced counsel he refers to as TheCreep. TheCreep attempts to undermine Baby’s confidence by haranguing him on the train heading for their court appearance, but is rebuffed at every turn by the Catherine Tate catchphrase ‘Bothered.’ Worryingly, this episode and many others are told so convincingly that I began to pray I never need defending by a junior, or even senior barrister. Some of Kevan’s counsels do not appear to come armed to the battle of wits that is crosscourt debate.

As the novel rattles towards deadline day pretty much every character either falls apart, usually as a result of BabyBarista’s machinations, or reveals themselves to be even more loathsome than they first appeared. With one notable exception. OldRuin is unmistakably the conscience of the piece, full of avuncular advice and driven by an awareness that life is not about avoiding mistakes or behaving perfectly, it is about what we learn from our errors of judgement, morally as well as practically. Without this virtually lone advocate of human decency the novel would be less effective and our sympathies for BabyBarista himself might falter, the more he becomes embroiled in smearing his rivals. What OldRuin allows the reader to understand, however, is that Baby might not need throwing out with the bath water; he just might realise that skulduggery can only get him so far. Is he redeemable? Quite possibly, but then, a rehabilitated BabyBarista would rule out any possibility of a sequel, wouldn’t he?

Tightly written, interspersed with enough out-of-chambers action to keep the layman riveted, peppered with keenly-observed, if rarely likeable characters, and genuinely laugh-out-loud funny in places, Tim Kevan’s debut is an absolute delight."

Wednesday, April 21, 2010

Review of BabyBarista in 'Pit Pilot Surf Magazine'

"Tim Kevan is a testimony to the importance of surfing in life. He gave up a lucrative job as a barrister to move to the coast, surf and write this novel. Babybarista is a scandalous story of a trainee at the Bar. It’s full of naughty storylines and rips the law trade to pieces. You can fully see why you would want to jack it all in for a few waves, and it’s great fun reading such a damning indictment of the class-riddled world of the Bar. Hilarious and addictive."

Wednesday, April 14, 2010

'Scribblings from the Surf' - Devon Life 4/10: Surfing in the Professions

The tenth in a series entitled 'Scribblings from the Surf' for Devon Life. To read the article see the text below or click to enlarge the pictures of the original article below that. To see the whole series, click here.


Barrister and writer Tim Kevan meets a surfing dentist, vet and architect

Many people don’t see the laid back image of surfing necessarily fitting with that of a traditional profession. Yet paddle out in North Devon and you may well find yourself bumping into dentist Chris Preston, vet Rachel Kyle or architect Jim Gardner.

Chris Preston – Riverside Dental Practice
For Chris Preston, his love of surfing grew out of an early passion for skateboarding and later snowboarding. But eventually surfing took over and in 2001 he moved from Bristol to Braunton and then a few years later took over the
Riverside Dental Practice in the village with his wife Rachel (a snowboarder and surfer as well as the practice’s hygienist). He’s now one of the most stylish longboarders in the area and can often be seen hanging ten at Saunton. But variety is definitely the spice for Chris and you’ll not only find him riding a huge variety of boards but also getting stuck in to whatever new activity is taking his fancy at the time. Yet he seems to excel at them all, from stand-up paddle boarding to photography for his surf blog ( Or for that matter writing about surfing through Drift Magazine and where he has become a thoughtful and discerning voice within the surfing world. Oh, and then there’s the little matter of his surf movies. The first, Long Way Round which he filmed himself was critically acclaimed, The second State of Play for which he edited film mostly taken by Ross Johns was described as “the best British longboard movie to date”. This he did in spare moments at work such as when patients didn’t turn up. As for what it is about surfing that so captivates him he talks about it being a great stress relief where you “focus so much on the act itself that the rest gets forgotten.” Then he adds, “It speaks to the soul if you want to get cheesy” and gives a wry smile as if that’s just a bit uncool for him to say but hey, he’s gonna say it just anyway.

Rachel Kyle – Argyll Vets
Rachel Kyle is another of those people who is not only multi-talented but has also followed her heart in ending up down by the sea. She’d always wanted to be a vet and qualified at Cambridge University where she gained half blues (represented the university against Oxford) at both lacrosse and football. After cutting her teeth in mixed and then small animal practice in the Cotswolds and Maidenhead, she realised she then had the time and the opportunity to pursue her other passions of skiing and surfing. Supporting herself working as a locum vet around the country, she spent the next two Winters in the Alps (Val d’Isere, then Verbier) working as a chalet girl, skiing constantly and getting cooking skills thrown in for good measure. After that she spent over two months in Sri Lanka working for the first half for an animal charity in a tsunami torn village called Hambantota on the South coast treating, neutering and vaccinating the stray dogs. This helped save the population from getting rabies and the dogs from getting shot by the army. Following that she spent the rest of her trip surfing on the East coast at the world class spot in Aragum Bay.

On return to the UK, Rachel could think of no better place to settle than Braunton in North Devon with its local surf and friendly community and in 2006 she took at job at
Argyll Vets which covers not only Braunton but also Barnstaple and Ilfracombe. She says that living in the mountains, every day she would look at the beauty and majesty around her and be reminded how insignificant we all are. Now she says she “experiences the same thing looking at the ever changing sea – with it’s vastness”, a place where you can find “serenity or wildness”. She adds, “I always think, ‘It’s hard to have a worry in the world if you are on top of a mountain or out back on a board.’” Though she’s at pains to emphasise that her love of surfing far outweighs her ability (definitely her words not mine!) she says that the freedom and thrill found in surfing and skiing far surpass anything else. “They make me feel glad to be alive…and that’s not a bad way to spend your Sunday afternoon!”

Jim Gardner – David Wilson Partnership Architects
It’s that same pull of the ocean which has drawn Jim Gardner back to North Devon. Brought up mostly in Barnstaple, it wasn’t until he was studying architecture at university in Plymouth that he started surfing. Actually it was during a Summer holiday whilst working at the Ruda holiday camp in Croyde. He remembers his first board was a 1973 Tiki single fin and it was perhaps that classic board which sparked what has become an enduring interest in older boards and led him to build up somewhat of a collection of around 15-16 boards. After post-graduate study in architecture and landscape design and seven years in a commercial practice in Exeter he was having to do a lot of driving to get to the surf. So it was a real pleasure for both him and his wife Kath to move to Braunton in 2005. Since then he’s become a partner at the
David Wilson Partnership in Barnstaple. Being local, he’s clearly proud of the fact that his firm specialises in community projects from the renovation of housing stock to community centres, village halls and schools. So too with his work on listed buildings and conservation work which has ranged from historic barn conversions to public buildings such as the recent Albert Clock renovations in Barnstaple funded by the Heritage Lottery Fund. He’s also learnt to make his own boards as well as re-shaping older ones which are beyond repair. As for surfing, he describes the freedom it gives you and the fact that when you’re doing it, it’s the only thing that matters. He also very much enjoys the community side, describing it “like a youth club for grumpy old men”. Or, he goes on, “just sitting in the sea in the line-up is like having a garden shed for a retreat. You don't necessarily have to dig the garden but sometimes just to sit and take in the environment is enough - if I had a paper, beer and a pair of wellies it would be no different.” Oh, and he enjoys pointing out that you don’t have to go to the golf course to do business as he’s even met clients and made contacts through the surf.

So whether it’s an escape from the stresses and strains of the day or simply a way of feeding the soul, Chris, Rachel and Jim provide good examples of surfers working at the very heart of our community.

Tim Kevan is the author of the comic novel ‘BabyBarista and the Art of War’ (Bloomsbury) and the co-author of ‘Why Lawyers Should Surf’ (with Dr Michelle Tempest).

'Why Lawyers Should Surf' mentioned at

Nice plug for Why Lawyers Should Surf which I co-authored with Dr Michelle Tempest at which says among other things the following:

Fortunately for young lawyers they can adapt rather more quickly than evolution normally caters for. And the improving (lets be optimistic here) economy will provide plenty of new opportunities. Whether those will be in a new area of law or something else altogether is up to the individual.
No going back – here’s some inspiration:
1. Tim Kevan, author of Why Lawyers Should Surf.
2. Brian Moore, rugby player, manicurist and commentator/columnist.
3. Bob Mortimer, comedian.
4. Barack Obama, American President.
5. Alex Wade, beach bum. Formerly a lawyer with Carter-Ruck. He authored Wrecking Machine, which he followed with another book, called Surf Nation.
6. Oona O’Connell, Playboy Model. (pictured)
7. Tony Blair. Former lawyer, Prime Minister and band member. Now jet-setting statesman. Loaded. With great prospects for becoming really loaded.

'Paper Surfer' by Penfold Crockett

Heads up for a new book about surfing entitled Paper Surfer by Penfold Crockett which is described in the following terms:

"The diary of a middle aged surfer aged 38 and a half. You will not learn any radical manoeuvres or how to ‘charge Pipe’ from within these pages. However, I can give you clues as to which way round you should wear your wetsuit and how not to get a thorough beating from the locals. May the swell be with you."

It's a fun introduction to a sport which has taken hold of so many of us at different ages. Also, a percentage of proceeds to go to the forgotten victims of the Tsunami in Sri Lanka through To buy a copy of the book, click here.

Wednesday, April 7, 2010

Sponsored Guest Post: Motorcycle accidents – getting what you deserve

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Come off your bike, and most of the time all you’ve got between you and the road are your leathers. A good quality set of leathers or man-made bike gear can save you from some cuts, grazes and friction burns, but nothing is going to stop more serious soft tissue injuries and broken bones. Relatively speaking, bikers are far more likely to suffer a serious injury or even to be killed in a road traffic accident.
A crash by itself is bad enough, but if that accident is someone else’s fault, it’s only going to feel worse. A car driver who pulled out from a side road without checking or a lorry that changed lanes and didn’t see you in the rear view mirror can all lead to nasty accidents for even the most careful and conscientious biker. In these circumstances, somehow the old excuse of “Sorry, I didn’t see you there” doesn’t quite cut it. Fortunately, a new service from Merseyside-based Camps Solicitors is bringing a no-nonsense approach to motorbike accident claims for bikers injured in accidents where they were not to blame.
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Author: Neil Worrall