Being on holiday with my family , and trying to be Buddhist Luckily we picked the third week in July for a family holiday Kindly arranged by daughter-in-law using some of the compensation money that I received from the cycle accident. So my number two son and daughter in law and 2 1/2 year old grandchild came in their recently acquired second hand Nissan Leaf and me and my first son who has just returned from wine making or the vintage in New Zealand in his equally frugal Fiat 500 .
And where was this expedition making for?Swanage Dorset , where my parents moved to in 1948 from war torn Sidcup to set up a vegetarian guest house in this quintessential seaside town. We’re residing in a three storey town house beautifully furnished with a bedroom for everyone. Being without the Brompton feels a bit of a handicap. and posting a Zycling piece not quite genuine, but I shall try to keep to the precepts anyhow.
Swanage has a steam railway to Corfe Castle – a medieval structure that’s seen better days as it suffered in the civil war, but it makes a nice day out. The next day we did our own thing so with the magical bus pass I went via Poole to Sandbanks some of the most expensive real estate in the world and found amongst the mansions a run down bungalow with an elderly chap tending his small garden; the remnants of a bygone age .
Returned befriending a couple who came out on the same bus; that made over four hours travel because the ferry that the bus takes over to Sandbanks needed fixing. Number one son stayed at home as he was into a book and was making supper .
Boat trip comes next , around Old Harry Rocks passing by Brownsea island where I cracked a word joke when number two son asked if that was Brownsea island and I answered yes but there is a bouncy castle there. I’m afraid they don’t find my humour funny though Daughter-in-law laughs but I just love word play; which they take as laughing at them I think. I blame it on my urge to lighten things up , which does get me into trouble.
Another incident worth noting. When we bought our boat tickets at the beginning of the pier, as the departure was imminent, we asked the clerk to inform the crew that we were coming . But I noticed that the gang plank had been withdrawn so in my most assertive voice explained that a family was slightly delayed but wanting to board . So the gangway was replaced. Interestingly , none of this was recognised or commented on by my family!
? Just to dip into the past , I seem to have left out my younger brother Laurence In this family saga, a multi- talented thespian,teacher, candle maker, creator of a fabulous group walking experience, called Head for the Hills . He ran it for 20years attracting people from all over the world . Gentle hiking through England’s most magical areas , camping , vegetarian food , campfire singing. But to dig up a childhood memory, I think we only did it once , we sneaked aboard the Bournemouth paddle steamer by saying we were with those adults . People were much more trusting in the 50s
Back in Swanage we had a wonderful meal below the Grand Hotel or what’s left of it as over the years it lost its neon sign as letters came off and smashed through the conservatory. And owners converted the rooms into flats leaving a diminished but the only surviving hotel , there used to be ten in the fifties.
The lovely old Catholic convent is now a hotel, possibly a cheap way to wake up in heaven. Then into the water , the first time since the accident and carried out a funny chat with my daughter in law including talking about Positive Parenting whilst treading water. I’ve got the book to read tonight , and they’ve gone out to dinner. My goodness I haven’t lived this bourgeois life for a long time.
Up my usually early hour to empty the dishwasher, but it hadn’t been started, so I attempted to work it but ended up with a flood of soapy water on the floor. How I hate these.machines , to try to save my marriage I bought one in this tinycottage another attempt to keep the family together. It was opposite the 17century Quaker house I just sold which is now on the market for a million.
The parenting book is amazing it’s taking child centring to another level as there are comprehensive instructions on how to get yourself together! Lying on the couch tuned in to the Today program which is forecasting the hottest day on record. For some people it must feel as if the end of the world is approaching . But I’m optimistic as this little corner of England is open to the cool channel breezes .
At the Beach. Studland
I wasn’t far off with the weather, cloudy with a sea breeze , warm sea and a sandy beach perfect for pulling the recently acquired tractor . The beach came into the hands of the National Trust in the 80s bequeathed by the last of the same family who lived in Corfe Castle before it was knocked around by Cromwell as they were Cavaliers they decamped to Kingston Lacy . The family also owned Studland and stipulated in the bequest that the nudist beach was protected. Not that it has always been a smooth ride , the naked truth was that the trust wanted to move them . But the sun worshipers had many powers and an agreement was come to. The last owner John Banks was offered a large amount by Billy Butlin which he turned down .. https://en.m.wikipedia.org/wiki/Bankes
The Knoll House Hotel,
is basically unchanged except for the clientele. In the Thirties it was the holiday destination for the British Upper Classes , and Enid Blighton was a visitor who featured the local beauty spots in her books. My first job at 15 years 66 years ago was in the kitchen . Most of the staff were made up of smart young girls who wore a flowery sort of house coat. My first passionate encounter was unfulfilled I hasten to add . Now it felt very empty and neglected except for the wonderful Pirates Playground which was as I remember. I enquired about having afternoon tea and the unfriendly youth replied that they stopped serving at 430!!! As I staggered away in disbelief I got into conversation with a guest who came from East London , so the upper-classes have found somewhere else to terrorise, I suspect it’s Monaco .ps the new owner has ambitious plans to modernise.
Tonight is barbecue time at this well appointed Air B&B
It’s our last day in my old home town, my parents started one of the first vegetarian guest houses, and as my mum was such a good cook their reputation spread and as vegetarian equals kosher we attracted many liberal Jews . The parents of the playwright Harold Pinter were regular visitors. Dad who was also a musician,he played gigs in the town, and had musical evenings for the guest.Mustn’t get too nostalgic about the past but people had simple pleasures. The newspaper The News Chronicle sent Lobby Lud to Swanage one summer , the game was to see through his disguise and declare “your Lobby Lud and I claim the prize”. Can’t remember what it was , but as rationing still prevailed it couldn’t have been much . The Viking ship also visited us once , and the paddle steamer made trips to Bournemouth and Lulworth Cove. As cars were a rarity most people arrived by train. Perhaps with climate change and Brexit the spring and summer crowds could return!
Took a chance on a visit to the modern circus . The trend is to have very loud music and very skilful balancing acts with plenty of audience participation. Many years ago i took my two boys to the French Anarky circus , not really for children as this one was. The toddler was frightened at first by the loud music but settled down and every so often we went outside and performed our own acts.
One morning out on one of my own terrorising walks I visited the newsagent by the station , introducing myself as a returning hero the lovely proprietor came back with wonderful witty repartee. So I had to buy a magazine and my eye alighted on the Scooterist with a piece about the heyday of the Lambretta factory. My dad had one and I rode a Vespa , these were very happy days as I felt very continental in the drab British climate, is Brexit going to take us back there? Better not go there either
lFrom my wavering memory there are only two surviving shops in the high street , Boots the chemist and Haymans the baker who at the end of the day sold at half price some of the goods. I remember sneaking away with Bath buns and meringues. Both of the cinemas have gone , as a film buff I could gain admission to an A film , that’s adult as in language not sex as we were still very British , by going down the queue, and enquiring “can you take me in please” I discovered film noir by this approach
. So how cycle friendly is Swanage
Well there are wonderful cycle routes through the heather to Wareham from Studland , but as far as shops like many retailers life is hard and the cycle shop closed recently.
To top this fabulous holiday my daughter-in-law has arranged a meal for number one and myself at the Pig on the Beach .
At the Pig
It would take a complete blog to tell you all about this amazing place . The setting is on the cliffs in a Manor House with lawns and gardens sloping down to display the Old Harry family on the right and Bouncy Island and the distant lights of Bournemouth on the left. What about the food you say: Hock eggs and Coleman’s dressing 10/10 salted and marinated sardines 6/10 James Golding’s home smoked Loch Duart Salmon 9/10 spiced mutton sausage from our flock 10/10 Poole Bay Mackerel Tartare 9/10 Isle of White Tomatoes 10/10 Tobacco Onions 10/10 ( we order small portions, as in Spanish Tapas .) Puddings : Dark Chocolate Mousse 10/10 Andrew Carlyle’s Blackcurrant Pavlova 10/10 De-caffeinated coffee all for just over £100 for two. Oh yes my son had a couple of glasses of wine and I had a iced spiced drink. When asked about getting a Michelin rating the chef replied that he considered them too rubbery to chew. I ought to add that the young staff are as much of an experience as the food . They all seemed so comfortable in their skin, nothing was too much . As an ex chef I would have loved to have taken the pulse of the kitchen. Ah I nearly forgot My son The Wine Maker spotted that the New Zealand wine and the Sussex one that was on the wine list he had helped make . I’m afraid it all taste the same to me , though I can detect the scent of a visiting dog sometimes especially with the English varieties .
Before I leave I must tell you a war story. Apparently we were on the beach in Bournemouth during Dunkirk (my dad had a band and played in night clubs and later was in the pay corps ) and some of the rescued soldiers played with the two year old version of me. Incidentally four years later my dad signed up as a regular and was sent to India and had a wonderful war . He sent interesting letters but mum never forgave him for leaving her to bring up two boys . But when he returned and excited me with his stories of the mysterious East it probably started me on my quest for enlightenment. I shall never forgive him.
So I bid a-due to Dorset and return to my current home in West Sussex.
A final word , after much family discussion we decided to offer you kind readers who have gone all this way a family favourite.
Equal quantity of strong grated cheddar to Quaker Oats Lots of sliced onions, sweated and cooled with a spoonful of marmite add Beaton eggs to a moulding consistency Mix it all up and form patties ( wet hands to make shape) Put on a greased tray and in a hot oven until brown We made lots and took some to studland for a packed lunch” They are very nice with a tomato sauce Chopped onions and garlic plus herbs Sweat until soft add a tin of chopped tomatoes and reduce Flavour with Vecon , soya sauce , or whatever Enjoy and give thanks to my mum PLG Tony