Monday, August 06, 2007

Berwick St James and other places

SATURDAY 28th July

I had a chocolate pastry twist for breakfast today. It was very yummy. The Builder had a raisin pastry. He seemed to enjoy that too. We were waiting at the East Midlands Airport for Lindsey and Ian to arrive back from Paris. Eventually they turned up and we ever so, ever so carefully packed the car and took ourselves off to Berwick St John near Shaftesbury.

It was not raining!

You could see the remnants of the flooding around Oxford, but the run down was undramatic, unremarkable and quite speedy.

We saw two parachutists floating down to earth as we passed Oxford.

We stopped in Salisbury, seeking somewhere for lunch. It was just after two, but most of the pubs in the market square had stopped serving. This seemed remarkably short sighted to me. It was a Saturday afternoon during the summer (allegedly!) in a major tourist area, and the pubs were not serving food. We saw several people turned away. We went to a French café and had Italian Panini and a bottle of wine instead! Then we went to the market and bought salad and cherries and things for dinner. Then we called in on The Builder’s parents briefly to drop off potatoes, shallots, broad beans and peas from the garden and the allotment. We are seeing them for lunch on Friday.

And then we drove to Berwick St John, past the regimental badges cut into the chalk in a hillside, past Wotsit St Martin, down along a twisty road and into the village. The cottage is one of three in restored cow and calf sheds, a short walk from the village pub and really rather nice. Lindsey, The Builder and I went to find a way up onto the iron age hill fort which looks down upon us. Ian did not come, having buggered his back using a Parisian loo (dangerous folks, those Parisians; designing loos that sneakily attack you and render you hors de combat!) We eventually found the way up to the access stile, but decided that a clamber up it might be better done with plenty of time in hand and not at gin and tonic time in the evening! Perhaps on Thursday when Ian has to go to Gloucester. Assuming it is no longer under water. Back to the cottage, collect Ian and we made a reconnaissance visit to the pub, purely for investigative purposes you understand. All the tables were booked for dinner. Seems it’s quite popular. And I am happy to report that Mr and Mrs Awkward are not booked in for Sunday lunch – at least, according to what the landlord was saying to one of his regulars!! Nice to know that other villages have their awkward squad as well :-)

Sausage and mash for dinner.

SUNDAY 29th July

Poor Ian is poorly sick. His back is still knackered and he was up all night with diarrhoea :-( After breakfast, Lindsey, The Builder and I made a mercy dash into Salisbury for emergency supplies of Imodium, paracetemol, heat pillows and things. Picked up most of what we needed, including extra wine, mushrooms and yummy, munchy things in Waitrose but had to take a stroll along the river in the sunshine into town to visit Culpeppers for the heat pillow. Sadly, also emerged with lavender socks, ginger syrup and foot balm :-S Back to BSJ along a wee, winding, back road. Lots of fun – but a bit longer in terms of time. And found Ian looking a bit brighter and a bit sad that we were proposing to disappear off to Lymington at the seaside for Sunday lunch, without him.

He came too.

All was going well until we were trundling through the New Forest and The Builder randomly turned off to Lyndhurst. Why, I asked, are we going to Lyndhurst? Because that’s the way to Lymington! Oh. Except, that it’s the way to Lymington if you are going from Salisbury and not if you are in the southern part of the New Forest. We sorted ourselves out and went round in a huge near circle. Came to a road. Go straight over, said I. Ooooo. No. The sign says to go that way. We did, The Builder protesting mightily that we were going the Wrong Way. He was right. Someone had turned the sign around :-S We got there eventually. Ian pointed out that he had offered to bring Katy who wouldn’t have let us make such mistakes. Had I trusted the map, neither would I!!!!

We have discovered that Ian gets car sick. He was a very fetching shade of green when we got out the car. I don’t think he enjoyed the twisty roads at all. Though we did see lots of New Forest ponies and their foals on the way through the forest.

We parked up in the town centre car park and had a remarkably nice roast beef lunch in The Angel (Ian had chicken pie) then we drove down to the harbour car park, planted Ian on a bench overlooking the boats with the Sunday papers, and went off for a mooch about and to find ice cream. Then we drove to Milford on Sea, where we planted Ian with the papers but without ice cream, on another bench and we walked along the shingle spit which protects The Solent (is it artificial? Must find out when we are once again connected to the internet – there is no phone signal and no random wireless access at the farm) towards Hurst castle which is clearly military. It is possible to get in; we saw people at the top. But we couldn’t find the entrance until we were on or way back and saw people emerging down on the river beach. No time to amble down there. Poor Ian is stuck on a seaside bench with nothing but the papers for company. Then, fortified with restorative fizzy water, we drove home along main roads through Bournemouth, Poole and Blandford back to BSJ, in the hope that Ian would not be quite so green when we got back.

Was a lovely day. The sun shone. It was pleasantly warm. We went to the seaside. Anyone would think it was summer!

I made a “pizza” for dinner, using sliced potatoes for the base. I rather liked it. I think the others did too. Certainly there was nothing left!

MONDAY 30th July

We were off to Lyme Regis to meet Farishta for lunch. The Builder and I had decided to go via Sherbourne and Yeovil. Katie, Ian’s GPS, was determined that we should go via Dorchester. There was a prodigious struggle between The Builder and Katie as we progressed towards Sherbourne. At every opportunity she tried to divert us back down to Dorchester. Eventually Ian took pity on her and reprogrammed her to take us via Yeovil. Peace reigned.

Actually, it’s quite fun having a GPS in the car. And it would have been mighty useful when I went to collect Lindsey from Manchester and found the Snake closed. We might have to look at saving up to buy one.

We arrived in Lyme Regis in good time to meet Farishta. The sun was shining. It was a lovely afternoon. We ambled down to what Farishta says is the best fish and chip shop in Lyme (and where I have previously been, many years ago, with Simon and an infant Yvette) to acquire haddock, chips and fizzy drinks, then we went and sat in the churchyard, overlooking Lyme Bay in the sunshine to eat them – unmolested by marauding seagulls. And very nice they were too. Right. Time for a walk. We made our way through the crowds (although, it wasn’t really as crowded as I would have expected it to be, given that it was the seaside in the summer holidays and it wasn’t raining. You’d have expected ravaging hordes!) to the Cob where we went for a stroll along. We decided not to attempt the grannie’s teeth steps back down. I have been down them before and they’re OK once you get onto them. It’s the launch into space to get onto them that is a stumbling block (pun intended :-) ) We made our way up through the top of the Jane Austen Garden’s (the lower part is blocked off for some sort of shoring up maintenance) and parted company with Farishta at the little, single screen cinema where she works. Then we went for an amble through the shops. We’ve bought a birthday present for The Builder’s son in law Matt. We bought a quiche for dinner. We found a camel in a circus trailer for Lindsey. We even found an internet point for Ian. Then we leaped back in the car and took ourselves towards Weymouth to look at Chesil beach.

I found a little road running down to the beach at West Bexington. We drove down it. That really, really upset Katie, going down a dead end street towards the sea when we were supposed to be going to Weymouth. She made several attempts to get us to turn around, before giving up and sulking mightily. Abandoning Ian at the car (his health is better today but his back is not up to shingle scrambling) we took my froggie kite for a walk along the beach and I went for a paddle in the sea. Lindsey and The Builder declined the invitation to join me – although the sea wasn’t cold really. Then we collected Ian from his shingle patch of sunshine and went for an exploratory visit into Weymouth and onto Portland. Well, far enough onto Portland so they could say they have been and so we could stop in the car park for a not very exciting cup of coffee for Ian and The Builder and for peppermint ice cream with flakes for Lindsey and me.

The Cerne Giant, who could really do to have his chalk cleaned, for he is a bit grubby, has acquired a friend. Somebody has painted a large Homer Simpson in the field next to him. For some reason Mr Simpson is wearing a nappy and brandishing a sombrero. I assume this has something to do with the Simpsons film which has recently come out. However, since I am entirely unlikely ever to see this film, the significance of the sombrero and the nappy is likely to remain a mystery to me for ever!

We called into Shaftesbury for salad supplies to supplement the quiche and returned home to Berwick St John for a rather pleasant supper. It was a good day.

Ian doesn’t get quite as car sick if he sits in the middle seat in the back. He can see where we’re going if he does that. He can’t sit in the front. If Katie and The Builder are to continue their gargantuan route battle, The Builder needs his navigator (ie, me!) with him!!!

TUESDAY 31st July

It’s a miracle!! Katie and The Builder agreed which way to go this morning. Well, mostly they agreed. We’d been into Shaftesbury to see if there is an internet café (there isn’t, but there is always the library) and we were off to the New Forest for lunch, en route to Lepe. And Katie and The Builder agreed! Was quite astonishing. At least, they agreed until Katie wanted to take us down a narrow, perilous, unmade road. We found an alternative route to that!

There are some fantastic views on the road between Shaftesbury and Sixpenny Handley. We stopped to admire Wiltshire and Dorset, laid out before us, glistening in the sunshine.

Lunch in the Red Shoot was very pleasant (though not the steak and stilton I was expecting – grilled rump, chips, mushrooms and salad. No need to book for the Talbot in BSJ for this evening, then!

We stopped at the deer watching platform. Just as the deer were being fed their lunch. Very clever of The Builder! Then on through The Forest to Lepe.

I had told Lindsey that Lepe is a sandy beach. And it is. But not when the tide is right up high and all you can see is the top of the beach shingle. A chocolate milkshake before proceeding (Ian has been yearning for an iced coffee, which you can’t get at the beach side cafes. He has fixed this problem by buying a chocolate milkshake and a short black coffee and adding them together. Not quite iced mocha! Then we went for a meander along the beach. And a soft whipped ice cream with flake before Lepe-ing back in the car and heading back.

The Builder and Katie more or less agreed about the way back as well. IT has to be said that The Builder wouldn’t have headed back into the Forest from Southampton, but it was a pretty drive. And Katie wanted to take us along some weird little tiny roads as we approached Salisbury. But more or less they were in agreement.

Our New Forest haul today was: horses and foals, cows, highland cows, deer and A PIG!!!! Mostly the pigs are released at the very end of summer to eat the acorns. I think this pig must have been an escapee from last summer. And it was Katie who found it for us. The pig was just into the Forest after Katie had turned is un there from Southampton.

So, it was a good day. Nice and sunny. Lots of animals. A pub. A beach. Lovely.

Or – it was a lovely day if you were Lindsey, Ian or me. The poor Builder didn’t have quite such a good time. We were sitting in the Vixen at Lepe beach, eating our ice creams when a small boy approached the car next to us and SCREAMED at the top of his voice for the rest of his people to hurry up. Yelled and screamed. “WHY CAN’T ANYONE HEAR ME?!?!?!?!?!?!?!?” The Builder retorted that he could hear him quite adequately. And the little boy turned round and told him to f*** off. I turned round to look at him – and found him looking quite abashed. A bit astonished that he’d actually said it. Then he looked around to see if his mum had heard. Fortunately for him, she hadn’t!

Then we took Ian to Waitrose. Lost him. Found him again. Lost him again. Eventually gathered him up and approached a checkout till. The Builder had put down his basket and was watching Ian make another escape attempt when a tall, elegant looking lady backed into him, towing her very full trolley backwards. Properly ran him over, she did. And rather than apologising, which is what normal people do, she shouted at him – because she had been intending to use that checkout. Now why she couldn’t wait is a mystery to me. WE only had a basket so weren’t going to be very long. But no. When The Builder (who had, after all ,been there first) refused to move she stormed off swearing at him. Never been sworn at in Waitrose before. And you don’t expect elegant, grey haired ladies to swear at you for getting to the checkout first! You’d think people would have better things to worry about!! After avoiding being run into by two other grey haired ladies who tried to drive into him while we were attempting to get out of the supermarket (we’d recaptured Ian) we headed directly home before anyone else could swear at or try to break The Builder. Plied him with vodka and wine and stir fired beef and he was happy!

Had a lovely walk this morning. Lindsey, The Builder and I went down to the pub to see what time it serves food in the evenings (we’ve decided to go on Thursday) and to see if there’s a bus (there is) and went for an amble down a little lane near the farm gate and found lots of lovely houses. It’s a beautiful village, is Berwick St John. Seems odd that there’s no shop, though. I’d have thought it was big enough to support a shop.

WEDNESDAY 1st August (How did that happen? What happened to June?)

I’ve been stroking cows!! Well, calves. Big calves. Ian was stood out on the steps to the barn this morning (only place you can reliably get mobile phone signals here). I took his coffee out to him. And a whole load of calves came over to the fence to see what we were doing. I stroked one on its nose and scratched it behind its ears and it licked me :-) I like cows!

We took ourselves off to Shaftesbury this morning with a view to visiting the library so we could reconnect Ian to the internet. Alas – the library is closed on Wednesdays!!! Ian is suffering technology withdrawal. We shall have to go to Salisbury and plonk him in Starbucks.

But first, I want a mooch about Shaftesbury. There are many interesting shops. There are nooks and crannies. And there is a pub where, quite some time ago, while in there for a mid afternoon pint I saw people eating prawns out of pint pots. I want to eat prawns out of pint pots! So we did. We sat outside on one of the terraced deckings in the sunshine and Lindsey, The Builder and I had pint sized beer glasses (with handle) filled with prawns on trenchers with slabs of brown bread and seafood sauce, accompanied by salad, washed down with a glass each of dry white wine. Was fantastic. Ian was there but, no doubt influenced by his technology withdrawal, had a burger with chips instead of a pint of prawns. It must be said, it really was lovely. The view from the terrace wasn’t bad either.

When I was packing to come away, my hand hovered over my pair of shorts. Don’t be ridiculous, thought I. It hasn’t stopped raining for weeks. You won’t need shorts. Then we got here, the sun came out, it’s been warm and bright, and we’ve been visiting beaches. I now have two new pairs of shorts and a pair of three quarter length trousers.

So. A(nother) mercy dash to Salisbury and Ian safely ensconced in Starbucks, Lindsey, The Builder and I went off to inspect the cathedral. Then we dragged Ian away from ether-space and removed to Whiteley where Jeanette, Matthew and Rebecca were expecting us for an evening barbecue. A very pleasant evening outside in the sunshine dDeating toasted pita bread and dips. Then more pita bread and dips while Ian and Matthew rushed off to B&Q to get more gas for the dying barbecue. I fear by the time the sausages and kebabs were ready, I was too full of pita and dips to do them justice. Mind you - Matthew does a fine toasted pita and dip selection. I was not unhappy :-)

We are now back in Berwick St John. My phone remains in Whiteley. I left it in the pocket of a cardie I borrowed from Jeanette as the temperature fell when the sun went down. Wednesday is my night for talking to Tony over the net. In the absence of a handy messenger, we rang him on my mobile phone. Then I automatically put it in the cardie pocket without particularly noticing. Poor phone. Abandoned in a cardie pocket :-(

I have a hippo. Jeanette, Matthew and Rebecca found it and bought it for me. It’s a large money box. Freyja’s hippo collection appears to be developing a colony in Tupton!

THURSDAY 2nd August

Ian disappeared off to Gloucester this morning, in the Vixen, leaving Lindsey, The Builder and me imprisoned in Swallow Cottage in the rain. No food or drink. Intolerable conditions. Nothing for it, then, but to wait patiently until 12:00 when the local pub opened and to repair there for a small spot of lunch. Luckily, the rain lifted at about that time too! It’s a nice pub is The Talbot. And the food is lovely. But it’s open funny hours (12-2, 6-11 and not on Sunday evenings or at all on Mondays). I very much enjoyed my salmon in prawn sauce. The Builder and Lindsey appeared to relish their steak and ale pies just as much.

Back to the cottage. We are, actually, quite short of milk and perhaps wine. Look at map. It is quite a step to Ludwell. I wonder what time the little bus goes? Amble down to the bus shelter to find out. Eeeek. 7 minutes before it’s due. Rush up to the cottage, grab The Builder and Lindsey, run back to the bus shelter. Wait for bus. Even then we nearly missed it – a van pulled up and was asking where he was on the map and the bus stuck its nose around the corner to see if anyone wanted it. We abandoned the misplaced van driver and waved the bus down.

We didn’t go to Ludwell, in the end. We decided to go right into Shaftesbury where we had a couple of hours before the next bus back. We ambled around and looked at the shops and some of the town. We went into the little museum. Our ticket allowed us into the Abbey gardens as well so we went to investigate. It was created by King Alfred for women; it’s first abbess was his daughter. There’s not much left of the abbey, but there is a rather nice herb garden. Then we realised that our couple of hours was nearly up and we still hadn’t got the milk or the wine. Acquired both and wandered back to the bus stop.

And so back to the cottage. Sat about for a bit, then I decided that there was an iron age hill fort behind us (not that I decided that – there was an iron age hill fort behind us; Winklebury camp) and that we should go up it. Off we went. Up we went. Slowly. Doing a Margaret quite frequently (stopping to look at the view, take photos etc, so called because Margaret used to stop to take photos of flowers for her flower census but which also allowed her to catch her breath). Nearly at the top. Oh no – there’s more beyond that apparent brow. Up we went. Up and up. OH NO -- this hill never ends. Now there’s an earth rampart to scale. But we made it. Feeling very glad that we hadn’t been the people who had to build the ramparts and defences. Fantastic views from the top though.

And back down. Plenty of nice exercise. I even got a bit of stitching done in the morning. Ian came back before 8pm and we had little tiny steaks with boiled potatoes and salad to use up as much of the food we had left. For we are moving on on Friday and I don’t want to bwe carrying food with us unnecessarily. The Vixen is not absolutely elastic when it comes to luggage space.

FRIDAY 3rd August

And it was a lovely morning. We were up and moving around reasonably early. Although we can stay in the cottage until 10:00 on Saturday morning, we are off to Cambridge this afternoon to see Taffa and Gaz and, we hope, Peter and Joan. In the meantime, we need to tidy the cottage, pack the car and take ourselves off to Salisbury. We finished all the fruit we had lying about for breakfast, said goodbye to the calves, packed the car and left shortly before the planned departure time. We were off to visit Old Sarum Castle and cathedral where Salisbury really began a very long time ago. I’m not sure really quite why the early Kings of England decided that Sarum Castle wasn’t after all sufficient for their needs and abandoned it, but the cathedral lying below the motte and bailey (and which was struck by lightning 5 days after it was first consecrated and had to be more or less rebuilt) was the victim of a battle between church and state and the self aggrandisement of the then bishop who thought it was Too Small. Certainly the “new” cathedral is very, very much bigger!

Ian found a cappuccino machine loitering in the car park on the way back to the car!

The intention had been then to do a drive by of Stonehenge with a quick dash into the shop to buy Stonehenge socks. Alas, the traffic was horrendous and the car park was virtually full – and we were due at The Builder’s parents place by 12:30. We drove by rather more quickly than we had intended, abandoned the sock idea and drove back into Salisbury by another way.

The Builder dropped us at the Yew Tree pub in the next village along from his parents and went to collect them. We’ve never been in – and it’s really lovely. And the food is magnificent. Really magnificent. I had sausages!!!!!!!!!!! They were on the board as award winning, specialty sausages and there was a choice of flavours. I had lamb and mint, pork and leek, and old Charlie (I didn’t enquire who Charlie had been!) with an enormous mountain of mashed potatoes and onion gravy. Lindsey had lasagne. Everyone else had steak, kidney and guinness pies. And very yummy it was too. Then The Builder took his folks home and Lindsey, Ian and I walked back in the sunshine. We must go there again – I would be interested to know what their Sunday lunches are like.

So. Now we need to make a dash to Portsmouth to collect my poor, abandoned phone. But no. First we need to go into Salisbury town so Ian can sort his tax out by Starbuck’s wifi and the post office. This involved The Builder in trying to keep out of the clutches of the parking inspectors as he loitered in no parking areas in the town centre. Eventually Ian’s communication with the Australian Tax Office was accomplished and we trundled to Portsmouth, collected my phone and turned around to head to Cambridge.

Have now spoken to Peter and Joan. We are visiting them tomorrow evening for dinner before heading home.

The most direct way to Cambridge was long the M3 and the M11. These, unfortunately, are connected by the M25 which no sensible person would use if there were choices. There wasn’t really any viable alternative. We decided to risk it. And it was very, very slow around Heathrow. But apart from that it wasn’t too bad really. At least it was moving! We got to Taffa and Gaz’s place almost exactly as they did, coming back from Taffa’s workplace.

Dinner in the Boathouse, sat outside overlooking the river. Another excellent pub experience. Lindsey, Tabitha and I had beef in Yorkshire wraps – flat Yorkshire puddings used as wraps around the roast beef. We had asked to have them with mashed potato rather than chips. The chef forgot. The manager came and apologised and said the matter was being rectified but that it meant our dinner would be a few minutes late. No worries. We were quite happy. The food when it did arrive was great. I could only eat half of my wrap. Very, very filling. Happily, The Builder managed to polish it off for me.

We’ve had lovely experiences in the pubs this week. Finger bowls when we’ve ordered seafood, apologies when things have gone slightly awry, chefs ambling around and seeing if we were happy. That chap in the Now Not Famous Red Lion could learn quite a lot from them. I wonder if he ever does go out and see what other pubs do?

Back to T and G’s place, where we found their pal Batch waiting for us. Inside for a nightcap or two, and so to bed. The poor Builder must have been knackered. He’s driven miles and miles and miles and miles today.

We noticed, as we were heading into Cambridge, that there were notices on the road announcing that some Agricultural Fair had been cancelled. Wondered, briefly, why that would be. There’s foot and mouth on a farm near Guildford. That would do it!

SATURDAY 4th August

We had a lovely day in Cambridge. It was sunny and shiny and warm and we sat outside in Tabitha and Gareth’s garden and ate sticky buns and played with the rabbits and pondered whether Batch had died overnight since he was sleeping soundly while all around him was chaos and mess and confusion.

Happily, he hadn’t.

So we wandered into town and pottered in the market and inspected the outside of the colleges and pottered about and walked around the back of Clare’s and down onto the Backs and ambled along the river and played by the canals and had wine in the Anchor and watched the punts playing dodgems and ate souvlaki on Jesus Green and walked some more and chatted and pottered and played. And the sun shone on us cheerily.

Then we went back to Tabitha and Gareth’s and they went to the pub to meet a pal and we sat outside in the garden in the sunshine until it was time to remove to Girton, leaving Tabitha, Gareth, Batch and the pal behind for Taffa and Gaz were having a party.

We were off to meet Joan and Peter for dinner at the Old Crown. They were in good health and spirits and seemed quite chirpy. Also pleased to see Lindsey and Ian. I think they thought we might not go and visit them. Unlikely, but there you go. And Peter hadn’t picked up his emails so hadn’t read the one from me asking if they would be At Home for a visit today. At least, he didn’t read it until Wednesday. Dinner in the Old Crown was fantastic. Ian says that his was possibly the best duck he had ever tasted. I have to say that my salmon salad wasn’t at all bad, either.

Then we left Joan and Peter and made our way back through the twilight to Tupton, where we found Marlo seriously lamenting. Tammy had been feeding him until Thursday afternoon when she went on holiday with her parents. Daniel was supposed to be taking over – but I’m fairly certain he hadn’t. There were too many sachets of food left if he had been fed on Friday or Saturday morning. And he gobbled up what I put down for him in no time flat.

Then he purred a lot!!!

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