The year got off to a terrible start for UKIP, the country’s official party for racists and bigots, when their leader’s (inappropriately young) girlfriend got him the sack with some slightly KKKesque comments about the quality and colour that Meghan Markle would be bringing to the Royal Family. Then they elected a new leader who has himself gone full-on white supremicist batshit crazy. Could things get worse?
Shift work is not everyone’s cup of tea. I, however, quite like variety. Which is fortunate, given the nature of my role. If I were to brainstorm words associated with my job, variety would be the first I’d come out with. There are early shifts, late shifts, a few middle shifts and weekends too. But the variety doesn’t stop there. I’m a relief clerk, so I have no fixed place of work. When other clerks along the stretch of line are on holiday, sick or otherwise indisposed, I step in to fill their shoes. This week, I’ve been to several stations along a stretch in the New Forest.
Bournemouth is a popular seaside town. Very popular, even. If I had to liken it to a Mexican resort, then Bournemouth is our version of Acapulco. Is the sea as warm or the tacos as good as those on the Pacific coast? No, of course not. But the outrageous traffic jams of visitors from the capital city at the beginning of a holiday weekend, and back out at the end, are very similar. Bournemouth is one of three prime coastal hotspots for Londoners fleeing the smoke.
Would you just have a look at that! Have you ever seen something so fabulous in your life? A beautiful blue sky. My scepticism was, happily, unfounded. Fair weather has arrived and the temperature soared into the mid 20s. In the space of just a few days, barren wintry branches have sprung to life. Hesistant cherry blossom has decided now is the time to turn our dreary streets into a kaleidescope of colour. The sound of the lawnmower has returned, bringing with it one of my favourite smells – freshly cut grass. It’s almost enough to make you sing out loud Lennon and McCartney’s famous ode to our solar friend.
This is a special beach, an hour or so down the road from us. It’s a beach that has been 6,000 years in the making, and like most beaches it’s still ‘in the making’. The pebbles may appear to be a uniform size, but as you go up or down the beach they become larger or smaller. And every century, the storms that batter this part of the coast push the beach five metres back. There’s plenty about this 29km long stretch of beach to interest the geologically minded. But for those of us who are less scientifically inclined, it’s simply a Continue reading
It’s been a while since I’ve had a ‘Meet the Author’ post. For the avoidance of doubt that’s me in the foreground. I currently hold multiple roles at the Mexile, including writer, web developer, photographer and teaboy. I have a few more grey hairs than last time you saw me. But only a few. More importantly, I do still have a full head of hair. Continue reading
The mass commute must be a relatively modern creation. I suspect that few people will refer to its invention in the same breath as sliced bread or the wheel. By all accounts, most people seem to loathe their daily commute. But not me. I love my commute. I always have done, whether I was living in London or Mexico Ciy or here in Bournemouth. It’s a bit of me time.
These days I have a fairly varied commute. One of the joys of being a relief clerk, is that my place of work can change on a daily basis. The times change too. Sometimes I need to drive to work, setting out from home at 5am. The streets are all mine, other than the occasional fox slinking from driveway to driveway in urban areas.
Once I hit the countryside, I am more likely to see deer or rabbits grazing at the roadside. Some of them get closer to the roadside than is wise, and they become road rugs, until they are eventually squished into oblivion over a period of days or weeks. This is the only form I’ve seen a badger. Which is a shame.
Most of the time, though, I take the train to work. I might turn east out of my home station and travel into the heart of the New Forest. More usually I turn west, into deepest, darkest Dorset. Let’s take that journey today. Through picturesque woodlands, well groomed farmlands, past one of the worlds largest natural harbours, across flooded plains and the rivers responsible for all that excess water.
From my little office on the train, from where I write this very post, I can gaze out at the scenery. It changes every day. Today the sun is up and the sky is blue, but the grass and hedgerows are still glistening white from last nights heavy frost. The smooth undisturbed waters of the bay have a surreal glow in the early morning sun. Trees and pylons cast long, monstrous shadows across wild, untended heathland.
The train stops nine times along the way. But today I am on board for the full duration. My final destination , an hour after I set out, will be in a seaside town which gained temporary fame as the home of sailing in the 2012 Olympics. Locally, the place has become more famous, infamous even, for crime.
If the prowling chavs don’t manage to slip your lunch money out of your back pocket for their heroin fix, then a seagull will rob you of your lunch. British seagulls are big ballsy birds and will have your fish n chips away from your grasp in an instant.
A few months back, I wrote about my efforts at digitising a few dozen of my grandfathers ancient photos using little more than a cardboard box, some sticky tape and my mobile phone. A lot of the photos taken on his holidays in Europe. Others were from his home in London and around the UK. One batch were from some unknown gardens.
It turns out that Unknown Gardens is also known by the name of Compton Acres. Which happens to be just a stroll away from my home here in Bournemouth. I’d never been, so I didn’t recognise it. Yes, of course I have now paid the place a visit. It would be silly not to. It was a great chance to do a ‘then and now’ comparison.
I must admit, I’m a little jealous of the greens in my grandfather’s shot. And also a little envious of the fact that he obviously knew the best time to visit. His photos were graced with a substantially more colourful array of flowers. But he, in turn, would have been rather jealous of my iPhone, I dare say he might have found even the very existence of such a device as likely as aliens landing.
All good photos need a good model. Allow me to present, on the left, Mrs P senior, and on the right, Mrs P junior. Ironically, Mrs P junior is substantially older than senior. In the photos, anyway. Not so in real life. Although you cannot see the spot I am standing on, it is, thanks to shrubbery and a single paving stone in the middle of a stream, the only spot to take this shot. That is the case today and it was the case 50 or so years ago when my grandfather took his photo. I will admit, it was a little strange taking this shot, knowing that he had stood on exactly the same stone nearly half a century earlier to create his photo.
Compton Acres is a pleasant way to spend a couple of hours in the afternoon. You can see the rest of my photos on Flickr by clicking here. And who knows, maybe in another half century or so, Mexile Junior will be able to turn this photography theme into a trilogy.
The world famous Jurassic Coast stretches along a 95 mile length of Dorset and Devon coastline and makes a mighty fine day trip from Bournemouth. It’s not even a long day, if you’re pushed for time. Old Harry Rocks marks the eastern most point of the Jurassic Coach and is only a few miles from Bournemouth as the crow flies. Indeed, if the weather is fine, or at least not too bad, you can clearly see the rocks from Bournemouth’s beaches. Getting there is a 45 minute drive or bus ride – the Purbeck Breezer leaves Bournemouth hourly.
The trip itself is quite pleasant, winding through the millionaires playground of Sandbanks, across Poole Harbour on the chain ferry and onwards through the Purbeck countryside until you reach the little town of Studland. From there, your journey makes use of your legs rather than the internal combustion engine. The rocks are a 3/4 mile stroll up and down rough tracks and across grasslands to the top of the cliffs.
Why the name Old Harry Rocks? No one knows for sure. One theory is that the devil, referred to locally as Old Harry, took a nap here once upon a time. It seems an unlikely tale to me. Another story holds that a local pirate, Harry Paye, used to keep his loot in the area. This strikes me a being a little more plausible. Whatever the case, the Rocks have been attracting visitors for a long time, although these days you’re more likely to find that they are happy day trippers, coming to admire the view.
Or else, rather unfortunately, unhappy souls who plan on making this view their last. It’s a long drop to the rocks on the bottom. It’s a popular spot for that sort of thing. Even more unfortunately, it is not unknown for visitors to slip and fall accidentally. The vase of flowers are there for a young woman who took an unplanned tumble the week before my visit. Suffice it to say, one should mind one’s step and tread carefully. And if you’re walking the dog, make sure you throw the stick in the right direction.
The walk and fresh sea air will make you hungry. There are three dining options available to you. The Pig is a rather posh hotel serving fine cuisine with a price tag to match. Mains will set you back from £16 to £20 per head. Or there is the Bankes Arms, a pub that dates back to 1549, or so they say. Alternatively, if the weather is nice, bring your own grub. There’s plenty of space on the cliff tops for a picnic.
We chose to splash out and have something fancy at the Pig. We’d checked the menu out on our way there and I simply needed to choose between the liver and bacon or the veal. It’s a very cosy little place. Warm and a little worn, which just adds to the character. Alas, lunch service ends at 2.30 pm and we didn’t have time to wait for dinner service. We headed back down the road to the Bankes Arms. Which is very worn, to the point that one wouldn’t feel out of place spitting on the splintered floorboards. But I didn’t. I’m pretty sure that is frowned upon.
Pubs in the UK are pretty hit and miss. With the chains, such as Wetherspoons, the food is cheap but consistent. You know what you’ll get. Otherwise, you could end up with either a feast or a plate of gristle and fat. And a bill which will sometimes make you wonder if you couldn’t have lasted a little longer till you get to Claridge’s. I always play it safe in these sorts of establishments. Most of them will do a reasonable fish and chips. A cheese ploughmans is also hard to screw up. On this occasion I was a little more daring and plumped for the faggots. The chalkboard told me that they are locally made. One hopes that anything locally made will be reasonably edible. And faggots aren’t hard to cook. As it turned out they were very good. A little overdone, but perfectly satisfying and pretty tasty.
I took more than these three photos. To see the full set of my snaps from our trip to Old Harry Rocks, click here and you will soon find yourself at the right place for the photo tour.
I’ve had a whole week off work, with no where specific to go and nothing written in stone to do. Which is why I’ve had time to write so many posts this week. It’s nice to just have time off to do with what you will. I’ve explored my neighbourhood a little, as per yesterdays post. And I’ve had the chance to get on my bike and do some exploring a little further a field.
Well, quite a lot further a field. As the graphic below shows. A round trip of 30 kilometres along roads, along promendades, across a harbour and over rough tracks and fields. With a very specific destination in mind. Isn’t it marvellous what you can do with a mobile phone these days. Track your route with GPS (I use Runkeeper, although there are many fine alternatives), take photos and videos and even earn a new badge on Foursquare. I am now the proud owner of the Great Outdoors badge. Is there a badge for tying knots? It’s like being in the Scouts all over again.
So, the destination. Old Harry Rocks. It marks the beginning of the Jurassic Coast, a World Heritage site stretching along a fair old portion of Dorset’s rather rugged coastline. The rocks are so named because, according to local lore, the Devil once slept on them. Alternatively, according to another story, a local pirate called Harry Paye used to store his booty nearby.
Maybe Harry was the devil and there is truth in both tales? Who knows for sure. The rocks make an impressive spectacle, folklore or no folklore. But anyway, come for a ride with me and enjoy the view.
You can have a look at all the photos I took on Flickr by clicking here. The snaps were all taken with my HTC One, which performs pretty admirably for a camera mounted on a phone. It takes videos too. I stuck a few clips together, overlaid a relaxing tune and posted it here to help you get a bit more of a feel for our coastline here. I thought about allowing the natural sound to play instead of music. But it was windy. Very windy.
Once upon a time, a long time ago, I was born in a big city called London. I grew up there, and even though it’s cracking on for 20 years since I left, I can still say that I’ve spent more than half my life in that huge metropolis. I am a city person. It’s where I prefer to be. Where I belong. It’s what I still call home. And if I can’t be in London, then any other city will do. Ok, well almost any other city. Maybe not Glasgow. Or Detroit. Or Belfast. Baghdad isn’t too hot at the moment. Perhaps, after giving this a little thought, there may be quite a few cities I’d rather not be. But you should have gotten the idea by now. I’m a city slicker, not a country bumpkin.
Having said that, I do like the countryside. I’m surrounded by heathlands, woodlands and other areas of relative wilderness. The New Forest, the UK’s biggest National Park, is but a short drive/long walk/pleasant bike ride away. The coast is not much further in the opposite direction. The world famous Jurassic Coast of Dorset isn’t terribly far away either. We have deer, woodpeckers, badgers, foxes, squirrels, slow worms, vipers and countless species of birds that pass through our garden from time to time. On a sunny afternoon, buzzards can be seen soaring and circling over head, their screeching cries piercing the calm and tranquil rural life we live.
I got a reasonable shot of one of the buzzards yesterday. I got some nice shots of Ashley Heath, just a five minute walk from home. It is a pleasant place to live. The air is clean, the grass is green and the roads sparsely populated by cars. But best of all, it’s right on a main artery into London. Just an hour or so up the motorway and you’re there. I’m never far away from home, where I can leave all the rural tranquility for someone else to enjoy, and get back to all the smoke, dust and noise I love. Click here to see the set of photos up close.
The English countryside is littered with fine castles, some dating back almost 1,000 years. Corfe, in Dorset, has something of a rarity though. A ruined castle. The French have plenty of these types of castle, seeing as how most major armed conflict of the last millennium have involved armies crossing the Channel from England to France, and not the other way round. No wonder the French hate us. Although not as much as we thought. Perhaps 400,000 of them have settles in London, which would make it the 5th most populous French city were it located a couple of hundred miles due south.
But anyway, I digress. Corfe Castle. A thousand years of history. Ruined. The Parliamentarians lay siege to it twice in the last Civil War in the 1600’s, eventually taking possession of it with some tricky and betrayal. And, as one of the most important Royal castles, it was undermined and blown up with gunpowder. For fear of it being retaken and used once again as a fortress. And so it remains to this day, a glorious stone skeleton sat atop a hill overlooking the surrounding area. It is still stormed by armies today however. Armies of tourists, making their way up to see if they can get a sense of the history of the place. Nearly two hundred thousand of them annually. That’s quite some army.
Neither Parliamentarians nor Cavaliers possess the castle today. That honour was bestowed upon the National Trust, a charity that looks after a huge portfolio of buildings, forests and other national treasures. It’s truly a national treasure unto itself, and with annual membership for a couple being just £85.50, I might well sign on the dotted line once Paola has come ashore, and we both have a source of income. Photos? Of course. Click here.