a weekend in the country

On Friday morning, Rich and I bid adieu to Thomas, Christopher and Napoleon (I may have shed a tear or two) and our East London abode and trudged off along Commercial Road, with our cases in tow, towards Aldgate East tube. At times I struggle with my new wheely suitcase. My shoe fell off not once, but three times between the flat and the tube.

After a pleasant (read: pretty dull) trip on the tube, we arrived at Goldhawk Road (kukaw, kukaw!), met Sarah, had a quick squiz at her flat, then jumped into the Ford Fiesta she and Ben had hired for the weekend and headed off to… CAMP BESTIVAL. In Dorset. Which is on the Jurassic Coast. Because of its location, I obviously envisaged there would be loads of dinosaurs STILL IN EXISTENCE, or a ton of fossils at the very least. There are plenty of fossils around (none of the dinosaur variety – none that I saw, anyway), but alas, no dinos, monsters, or creatures of the deep…

We arrived at our hotel in Wareham about 5 hours after we left London. It felt closer to 17 million hours, due to all the flipping traffic, but fortunately we had plenty of toffee popcorn and ol’ timey music to keep our spirits up.

Naturally, the first thing we did when we got to our hotel was head straight to the bar for some ales and some jukebox programming. Elvis, Buddy Holly and a bit of “Once…. Twice…. Three tiiii-iiimes a lady” – which we inadvertently heard twice. Jukeboxes are cool – especially Wurlitzers in gran-filled country guesthouses.

Following our musical interlude and brown ales, we set off for Camp Bestival. Camp Bestival is an all-ages camping show, geared towards parents with young-ish kids. It’s at a castle. Everyone dresses up. There is a Pimms double-decker bus bar. And more food than you can poke a stick at. I was more interested in food than music; my highlights were the chorizo paella and the mutton burger. And definitely the lemon and sugar crepe.

Everyone at CP hauls around carts with them – WITH PILLOWS AND TOYS AND DOONAS IN THEM!!! Some of the carts had rooves and lights!!! Amazing… When the behbehs get tired their parents just tuck them up in their trolleys, keep watching music or drinking Pimms until they get tired, then wheel them back to their tents. How good??!

Another amazing thing I saw at CP was a FIELD FULL OF BEDS!!!! Four poster beds, lined with bunting, each bed full of behbehs and kidlets… Too cute…

It’s funny being at a festival where the least common demographic is the 18-30 bracket.

On Saturday we walked part of the Jurassic coastline from Lulworth Cove to Durdle Door (durdle means ‘piercing a hole’), then strolled back along the pebbly beach to the car. Again, I got a little misty-eyed being at the seaside… sigh….

Sunday was a day for epic adventure. After taking a few wrong turns and getting lost on our way to have breakfast Weymouth (which we gave up on and had a fairly revolteh sandwich in Dorchester instead), it was back to Lulworth Cove for ADVENTURE SEA KAYAKING!!! Woot!

Donned in wetsuits (yes), lifejackets, helmets and rubber shoes (very attractive look – unfortunately there are no pictures…), we made our way past hordes of tourists to the pebbly beach where we had a quick lesson in steering and safety. And then, into the kayaks we got. I was paired with Sarah, and what a team were we.

We managed to get out of the cove fairly well, but once we were in the open seas we panicked a little and found ourselves being hurtled towards a rocky cliff. OK, we weren’t quite hurtling along, but it was fast and seemed wrought with danger. Rather than paddle (first mistake) we both thought that if we let the boat drift, the tide would take us back out to sea (second mistake). We found ourselves wedged on a rock, which is the best way to get yourselves tipped out of the boat. Our instructor sat on the sidelines yelling ‘IF YOU DO NOTHING, NOTHING WILL HAPPEN!!!’ which sounded fine by me; ‘if we do nothing, nothing BAD will happen’ was how I interpreted it, but he of course meant that if we do nothing, we will stay wedged on a rock until barnacles make homes on our wetsuits and/or get tipped from our boat.

‘PADDLEPADDLEPADDLEPADDLE’ our instructor shouted at us, and paddle we did. Not well, but well enough to get us away from the rocks and without tumbling from the boat into the icy sea. The rest of the group (several of which were children) was waiting for us a few hundred metres away, and it was clear when we returned that we had been labelled the Group Nuffies.

Story of my life!!

Following on, we actually did a pretty good job of staying afloat/on track. We kayaked through Durdle Door, had a picnic of cordial and home-brand Kit Kats on the beach, slid down a pebbly bank in our boats, kayaked through a cave, and espied an ancient fossil forest on the cliffs…

Clearly, things were going too well, especially for the Nuffies, so our instructors decided to spice up the journey.

“Everyone steer your kayaks towards the beach and paddle alongside the shore; the closer you get to the beach, the funner it is!!” they cried from the distant safety of their boats. Sarah and I had really been doing a great job, and we felt fired up to prove to the group that we were actually brilliant sportswomen.

Nearing the beach, the waves were a little choppy but it WAS fun! We were doing so well! We were laughing and paddling and showing the group that we were brilliant! Until… We hit the beach. As the waves came in, so did the boat. Sarah got out to drag us back into the water, while I stayed in the back, ready to paddle furiously (ish). The sight of Sarah attempting to get back into the boat once she was knee-deep had me in hysterics; the bobbing kayak, freezing cold water, and lapping waves made it pretty tricky to keep your balance AND get into a floating vessel.

Just as Sarah got back into the boat, I somehow tipped out. I don’t know how it happened. Sarah didn’t notice it had happened either and started paddling away, as I rolled around in the water, unable to balance, and laughing so hard “I could have drowned-ed” (hats off to you, GIlbert Grape).

A man in flippers and snorkel came to our rescue (as our instructors shouted “No no, they can do it, don’t help them!!!” – nasty!!!) and pushed us back out to sea. We were grateful he’d helped, and thanked him when we were on our way, to which he replied (quite hoighty-toighty-ly) “Stay away from the shore – the closer you get to the beach, the more likely you are to fall out!!!”.

Duped by our guides!!!! Oooh, I’d shake my fist if it wasn’t so sore from all the upper body exercise!!!

Three hours later, back on dry land, we peeled our wetsuits from our aching bodies, removed the hideous footwear we’d been forced to wear, and re-dressed in our civvies. God bless loose clothing!!!

Back in the car, back towards London, back towards an exciting new adventure – Iceland!

london : berry nice

Breakfast at Thomas & Christopher's

Twas nice to spend the first major chunk of le world tour somewhere familiar, with friends, with a public transport system that is easy to navigate (seriously, how does Myki get it so flipping wrong??!), with fresh berries & cereal for breakfast every day and with good, cheap beer (I put in that bit about the berries so the above pic would be more relevant – although they are amazing at this time of year!!). With the exception of Canada and New York, everywhere else on le world tour is completely unknown to us…

So a wrap-up on my favourite things in London (that I haven’t already mentioned – I could devote MULTIPLE posts to the brilliance of Napoleon, if you like?):

  • Catching up with Fiona & Jerome at The Jolly Butcher in Stoke Newington, in a pub where dogs were welcome (hello, big, grey weimaraner), followed by a trip to their flat to meet the lovely Kashi and walk through the park in Seven Sisters. Coincidently, Seven Sisters is right near Walthamstow, home to East 17. As we strolled through the park, I had ‘House of Love’ barrelling through my head).
  • Cycling through Oxford with Brad, alongside double decker buses and beautiful old sandstone buildings, and past Harry Potter walking tours – never have I seen so many bookworms donned in pointy hats with magic wands. We rode through Radcliffe Square (obviously named after Daniel), ambled alongside the canal, cycled through a paddock with horses, and finished up with a pub lunch at The Punter (also boasting a ‘pub’ dog).

    Staring forlornly at an empty plate...

  • Getting lost on my way to Shoreditch via housing estates, witnessing a car accident, trying desperately not to look like a tourist (in the ghetto) but checking the A to Z like a madwoman, stumbling across the Tatty Devine store in Brick Lane and declaring ‘THIS IS FATE, I JUST TWEETED YOU!!! HELP I’M LOST!!!’ and then feeling like a moron (but they were SUPER helpful and pointed me in the direction of Old Street). By the way – how nice are their spectacle necklaces?? Want!!! 
  • Running into an old workmate in Whitechapel, while in search of a Wagamama that didn’t actually exist. He walked us to Tyabbs, which was unfortunately too full with too much of a line for us… Majeur de bummer, we strolled to a weird Pakistani place near our house and had curry instead… The curry wasn’t a highlight, but running into John was!
  • Dinner with Rich, Sarah & Tamara at a Vietnamese place in Old Street, followed by dessert and ‘Martinis’ (not the shaken variety, but the aperitif – not what I was expecting, but still great) at a crazy rockabilly-Euro-YeOldeFashioned cake shop across the road. The decor was BANANAS – old prints in gilt frames on all the walls, a black & white TV above the door playing a boxing match from the 60s, a dial up telephone (wha??), and a cake cabinet like you would not believe…
  • AND! Heading to Wareham/Lulworth with Rich, Sarah and Ben for Camp Bestival, massive walks, and sea kayaking. This is another post (with pictures!! And stories!! Of falling into the freezing cold ocean on the Jurassic Coast!!!) – to come!

Rich and I spent quite a lot of time on our own while in London; he, in meetings; me, wandering around, cuddling Napoleon, and researching adventures to come. Weirdly though, we ran into each other on the street, totally by accident, on three separate occasions. I think we’re meant to be doing this together…