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Happy New Year!

Yesterday Nick & I toasted goodbye to a crummy 2012 with a very uncrummy New Years Eve. We were home alone (rare and precious in itself) and the night consisted of the deepest bath with Matey pirate bubbles, a huge bowl of nachos with my homemade green chilli salsa, a Moon & Moonrise kingdom double bill and Moscow gin mules that turned into whiskey mules when we discovered we’d finished off the gin ages ago and it was an empty giant Gordons bottle I’d been too lazy/ashamed to recycle. I woke up this morning to the sun streaming in and pulled on my leopard print Pat Butcher coat and tottered off across North London to be reunited with my magic third Ali (dedicated blog readers may remember her from adventures such as this & this), who has abandoned me and Craig to live in Winnipeg, Canada where she is taking the art world by storm. It’s great for her but less great for us, as Magic 2 just doesn’t have the same ring to it however hard we try. So far 2013 is already massively telling 2012 to jog on!

Anyway where was I..? I can’t really get on with this year before finishing off my big re-cap of the past year, and talking of magic 3 day trips, that segues nicely into summer…

July

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As all UK-dwellers know, the summer was absolutely rubbish weather-wise. I heaved out all my garish printed sun dresses and strappy tops, only to shiver away in anything less than at least a cardi and jeans combo and eventually admit defeat and sullenly packing them all away again in October mostly unworn. However in true magical style Craig & I plucked a day at random and got super lucky as the storm clouds dissolved and gave us a jolly seaside jaunt. This year we headed to escaped to Reculver. In classic us-style (eg similar scrape to getting stuck on the London eye) our hire car was great on the motorway, but less great at er, reversing. In fact it could NOT reverse. We didn’t imagine this to be a problem as we figured we could just park in spaces you could pull forward out of etc. Then we arrived somewhere near Reculver, near enough to see the famous fort mocking us from a distance, so came off the motorway and  started driving along winding rural roads and narrowing paths. Eventually we drove down a dirt farm path for about quarter of a mile before hitting a locked gate. On one side of the path was a sheer drop and the other… the motorway hidden by a few brambles. We had no phone signal, it was pouring with rain and we honestly thought we were going to have to abandon the car and spend the day grovelling to Zipcar. Luckily though with a huge tug the car eventually played nicely and went into reverse so we could gingerly inch back to a main road and back on adventure-track. It never would reverse again afterwards though so it was a miracle!

We pulled into Reculver, which was a lot smaller than we expected, and the rain was hammering down. Rushing into the local pub for shelter, we experienced one of the scariest welcoming committees ever. It was a bit like being in the League of Gentleman, as silence and staring descended amongst the ferocious locals propping the bar up and we were greeted by a waiter who would only sit us at a tiny table hidden in the back and kept rushing us to finish our cup of tea as the “lunchtime rush” was about to start (it was 2pm and there was about 30 tables reserved for this phantom rush already). The only inhabited table was being used by a woman so old that her wrinkles covered up most of her facial features and she spent the entire 20 terrified minutes we were in there glowering at me whilst drinking 2 large glasses of red wine. SO! Safe to say we scuttled out of there very quickly but luckily the storm had moved out to sea which looked phenomenal from dry land. The fort ruins are said to be haunted by the waling of a crying baby (despite reading endless Susan Hill this somehow still appealed to me!) but all we heard was the whistling wind that day. We strolled the beach and didn’t see a single other person, which was lovely and meant we could take some unashamed jumping photos with only a ghost baby to worry about looking silly in front of.

July

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After a few hours we decided to drive down the coast to Herne Bay where the sun blazed, the sea roared and we ate salt soaked chips on the pebbles. I would highly recommend a day trip there, as even the slightly ramshackle bandstand, ‘Eels on Wheels’ seafood stand and peeling pastel painted houses are very charming. We were sorry not to be staying overnight to take in the sights & sounds of the New York New York nightclub…! Added to the gorgeous stealth sunshine, another delight was catching a brass band on the bandstand. We were sat in candy striped deck chairs as they played classic numbers, eyes shut and dozey from the sea air, when all of a sudden they burst into the Jurassic Park theme! That was definitely one of my best moments of 2012.

August

August

The Olympics fortnight was the most exciting time I have ever experienced living in London. Living here is electric and exciting most of the time, but for the 2012 Olympic games it just crackled with energy and colour and positivity and everything you would wish for (and more!). I had tried and failed to get tickets for any sporting event, but to be honest without even stepping foot in the Olympic village I still feel like I had the best experience possible. For working days we had a huge TV set up with everyone gathered round shouting and clutching each other and bellowing when medals were won. For the rest, Hyde Park became my second home. I watched so many events on the huge screen there, including the photo above where Andy Murray won gold. The atmosphere was so happy and welcoming, even if the woodchip flooring did not agree with bare legs and long periods of sitting. I also attended the spine tingling closing ceremony where the sun shone and The Specials played, followed by a killer (could be their last ever) set by Blur and all day I was surrounded by my second family (Lol and her parents and her parents friends) plus Nick, plus Craig, as we pulled MoBots in every photograph. I went to see the torch be carried down Regents Street, I drank cider and cried my way during the opening ceremony, I wore official 2012 games sweatbands, I got ahead of the games and walked to work every day and I spotted athletes from almost every country. I’ll never regret living in London at that time, and how truly privileged I was to be a tiny part of it all. I’ve never been prouder to be British… or from Yorkshire as we clambered up the medals table.

September

September

In September I packed up my long abandoned wellies and headed to the  Larmer Tree Gardens in North Dorset for End of the Road festival. I haven’t been to a festival in the UK since the apocalyptic Worstival (Bestival) of 2008, instead opting for weather foolproof options such as Sonar. Nick and his family/friends are annual End of the Road attendees however and not wanting to miss out/be parted I decided to take the plunge and go. Luckily the weather was pretty solid, just a few splatters of rain and one unseasonally freezing chattery teeth tent nights sleep. I have been to lots of festivals (Leeds, Reading, V, Bestival, ATPx3, Latitude, Field Day, Wireless and loads more I probably drank too much smuggled in gin to remember) as I have been going to UK summer festivals since I was 14. However End of the Road definitely wins my prize for best fest. It was the perfect number of people,so felt intimate and you never had to queue for a (very clean) portaloo. The festival is set in beautiful woodlands, and has a real enchanted fairytale vibe. My favourite memories were dancing until 2am in the light-up dancefloor disco deep in the forest, eating the best pulled pork burrito of my life (actually 3 over the course of the festival), kissing Nick under the swaying fairylights, dressing as a cowgirl, the amazing line up with highlights of Grizzly Bear, The Antlers, Beach House, John Grant & First Aid Kit. Oh and the secret Futureheads a cappella gig.

October

October

Short & sweet as October basically didn’t happen for me, as I covered here in rubbishtober. If it wasn’t happening in a hospital, doctors surgery, operating theatre or my bedroom prison, then I wasn’t there. I still dressed up for Halloween though…

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November

November

I saw this on the day before I left my re-cooperating parents house in Yorkshire to head back to London and real post-op life. We were on our way to watch Skyfall, which was amazing, and for me to treat them to their first ever Nandos. I took it as a sign of great things to come and a fresh start, although to be honest I haven’t recovered as quickly as I expected. My operation was complicated and long and I still have struggles if I do quite standard things like lift a heavy bag or stand up too long or push myself too far too fast. My doctors think realistically it will be January 22nd before I am ‘recovered’ and realistically later until I am a robo-fixed-better version of myself. So November was a month of frustratingly taking it slow and steady to win the race.

December

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In December I could finally step up my game and enjoy some London festivities, such as Winter Wonderland where Nick & I supped mulled cider and scampered around the Magical Ice Kingdom of ice sculptures where they even had an ice SLIDE and an ice unicorn. We drank in the carousel bar, and ate piping hot churros, and above all – despite our final destination health year – we risked a go on the ice skating and didn’t fall over once! In fact we helped other people to not fall over.

Writing this has made me realise that there were hundreds of tiny glimmers of hope and fun this/last year even if it was tough going. I can’t even begin to write about them all or mention all the sparkly people involved, but I am a very lucky girl and cannot wait to get stuck into 2013. (And write about it more)

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I can’t believe how quickly this year has sped by. My new year’s resolution was to take a photo every day and I stuck to it, which has made it so much easier when trying to cast my mulled-wine pickled brain back over the year to recap what I got up to; as I certainly wasn’t blogging about it. Sorry! It’s been a pretty grim year, one that makes you grit your teeth and fear answering the phone as you know it will be another piece of bad news. Sadly this has continued right into the festive season and so I’ll be very relieved tonight to toast the end of a rotten apple year and the start of 2013 which can surely only be better. That said though, I think it’s all too easy to write off a bad year and in fact there have been some sparkly moments of wonderful wanderings, experiences and memories that I wouldn’t swap for anything.

This turned into such an epic beast that I am blogging it in two parts, the first being January – June.

January

January

This was a walk that Nick & I took up Malham Cove with my parents. If you ever find yourself in Yorkshire then Malham is my absolute favourite place to visit and my top recommendation. Looking up at the cove itself  will leave you breathless and feeling very tiny indeed. We were so fortunate with the weather, as despite deep snow for miles around, the treacherous 400 stone steps that take you up to the top of the 260 foot cliff face were clear and could still be climbed in my £6 Primark brogues with no grips.

 February

February

One of the “how is this happening to me” moments that have peppered the most successful professional year in my career. Considering I still speak with such a broad Yorkshire accent I basically need subtitles, get ID’d every single time I purchase alcohol and still constantly get comments on my “quirky” fashion sense, I still struggle to remember I am actually a head of my own department and seem to be doing pretty well at this whole work thing. It feels like the 12 hour days are finally paying off (although maybe not for my health; see October) In February I was still working for a children’s media company and was invited to the Houses of Parliament to take part in a seminar on children’s welfare and charity work. It was such a privilege and something I know not many people will experience. I just wish I’d had more time to poke my nose around the incredible wooden chambers and rooms with vast ceilings and chandeliers. Instead I was ushered in for breakfast, where they had the most tempting looking Danish pastries but my stupid etiquette meant I was too embarrassed to eat one as they were too far for me to easily reach, so instead I just had to make do with a few bits of (extra posh) fruit salad and a super strong coffee.

 March

March

I didn’t go to many gigs this year because my main entertainment-indulgence money went on my monthly Cineworld card and spending hour after hour in the various West End cinemas (in total I saw 34 films this year!) Luckily it was quality over quantity and this gig, Future Islands at Scala, was my favourite. If you aren’t familiar with the band you should definitely download some, I’d recommend Before The Bridge, Inch of Dust and Balance. What I love about them is that the singer has this incredible theatrical voice but looks NOTHING like what you expect him to. He is probably the best showman I have ever encountered, as despite being at the end of a lengthy European tour he seemed to adore every moment, resulting in the audience storming the stage for the encore.

 April

April

The image sort of sums it up, but after 5 years working for the same company, I took a new job in April. It was scary as I had always worked in the same office, with the same people, for my whole London life but it was definitely what I needed and I haven’t regretted the decision once. The fact that regular trips to New York and Los Angeles are now part of my job kinda helps too!

 May

May

After a tequila-fuelled London celebration, Nick & I went to Dorset for an extended Birthday spoiling. There were so many highlights, but I think Swanage remains one of my favourite places in the UK. For many reasons (the beautiful twinkling lights as the sun sets, the boats in the harbour, the road into the sea, the ice cream and the beautiful Jurassic coastline) but mainly because we discovered Jurassic Park crazy golf there! Wildly flaunting a million copyright infringements this combination of two of my all-time favourite things (crazy golf + dinosaurs) was the perfect birthday present. We also went on a huge walk and spotted my first ever slow worm, which it turns out isn’t a snake but it still has a cool fork-y tongue.

 June


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I had been promising to go on holiday with my oldest school friend for about a decade but we’ve never had time or holiday budget that matched up. This year we finally got it together and after a few vetoed suggestions of destinations (Benidorm being one…) we settled on Ibiza. Given that I’m not exactly a clubber at the best of times, and that the music isn’t my cup of tea, I was a bit eye-rolly about the whole thing. The flight from Bradford to Ibiza isn’t one I’d want to repeat (just an aeroplane FULL of hammered northern men, 5 of whom were arrested before even leaving the airport!) but I enjoyed every second after that. We were away for the Jubilee weekend so decked our hotel balcony with chintzy union jack bunting and celebrated with carton after carton of 70cent Sangria.

June

We stayed in Bossa Park which is the ‘up and coming’ area according to our hotel manager and I definitely felt like it had a cooler vibe than the hen/stag saturated San Antonio side of the island. It was fun to chat to the people selling tickets on the street and haggling deals. On our first night we ended up buying from a Scottish guy who kept flipping between heavy Glaswegian accented English into perfectly fluent Spanish and who led us through a quiet civilised fancy restaurant down some stairs into the most heaving secret basement bar I’ve ever seen where everything glowed UV, we drank free cocktails and danced to Rihanna with the locals. I can’t remember the last time I felt so young, and so free. It was such a glorious four days with tons of sun lounger reading, playing beach ball in the pool and stocking up on our grimy B&B breakfast to make it last the whole day.

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6th June 7th June

The daytime highlight was definitely an afternoon at Café Mambo watching the sunset which is as phenomenal as everyone says and is definitely something everyone should see once in their life. The night-time highlight was seeing Tiesto at Pacha (still can’t believe those words are coming out of my mouth, in the same way I can’t believe I since downloaded that Tonight We Are Youuuung song as it was played every third song anywhere we went). The clubbing was so easy to throw yourself in to, and I barely drank (mainly because even a bottle of water is 8 euros) but you don’t need to as the atmosphere itself is contagious and totally electric. It was like being at a really good music festival as everyone is so happy and just enjoying the experience. It wasn’t at all what I expected and we ended up making tons of friends with waifs and strays from all over Europe. My favourite clubs were definitely Pacha, Ibiza Rocks (for the pool alone, which everyone was drunkenly chucking each other into – it reminded me of the bad donkey island in Pinocchio!) and Es Paradis which has a stunning interior and played my kind of music rather than the mwam mwam mwam of everywhere else. I definitely have the fabled Ibiza-bug and would go back in a heartbeat.

June 2

I couldn’t re-cap this year without featuring this image that will forever be burnt into my retina! This view from the heady heights of the London Eye, where myself and my dear Craig got stuck for nearly an hour! The jaunt started happily enough, with my ticket being a generous birthday gift and thoughtfully planned to take in the sunset on the longest day of the year. We scuttled down to South Bank, devoured a pizza and a bottle of rose wine and were actually a bit tipsy as we boarded the Eye. As our little pod climbed towards the sky, we shoved our noses up against the glass and oohed and ahhed and it was brilliant. Then, at the just-before-the-top slot, we stopped. After 20 minutes a few people started asking why we were stopped and I reassured them that it was totally normal and just to give us a ‘good view’ (! which actually on reflection makes no sense as then the wheel would never move) after 30 minutes I started to feel a bit antsy with that sinking feeling that something’s gone array and I am stuck 135 metres in the sky in a glass capsule.

I only have one fear, and its claustrophobia, so the next half an hour were a massive test of my ability to keep a gigantic panic attack at bay. It helped that I had Craig at my side so we just spotted landmarks and took in the incredible view and laughed about the fact that a) this type of this ALWAYS happens to us and b) at least we got our moneys worth. An unhelpful recorded message reassured us that “due to unforeseen circumstances your rotation had been terminated, do not panic & do not be alarmed” (!) and they cranked up the air con so much I had to huddle with the rest of the tourists in a borrowed woolly hat for warmth. Eventually we got moving again and we never did find out why we got stuck but I was certainly relieved to get my feet back on solid London ground again as I had been envisioning helicopter rescues.  I have definitely had my fill of the London Eye for life now. Never again! Not even in one of the swish champagne VIP pods.

 

 

 

 

 

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Me and my day trip buddies had planned this trip months in advance, picking a day at random and scribbling in our diaries on the train home from the seaside in April. This time we wanted to take our day-trip relationship to the next level. We were ready to commit, we were ready to invest seriously. We were ready for… BENSON! (our street car hire car) We made a shortlist of potential locations and after lots of umming and aahing, Ali came through with Isle of Purbeck in Dorset. As the day approached, England was in a pretty good state of affairs. Blistering heat and glorious sunshine and not a cloud in the sky. Until you reached our day-trip day on the five day forecast for Dorset and the summary was “Chilly, with beefy rainclouds“. Luckily, like with many things (eg. the time bbc weather told me Bestival would have a mini-heatwave. In reality there was a freak storm, followed by a typhoon, followed by people being airlifted to safety from the knee-deep mud…) they were wrong. And thus followed… the day of perfect.

 

 

 

 

 

 After a 3 hour drive and listening to Go West a few more times than necessary, we boarded the ferry that took us from mainland Dorset onto the peninsular . Our first stop was Corfe Castle which is a quaint little chocolate box village with a beautiful ruined old castle sat overlooking it. It’s apparently what Kirrin Island in the Enid Blyton books is based on, which made the fact we climbed up to the top for some jolly wholesome exploring and picnicking even better. Ali had made the most amazing picnic – to make sandwich bread you buy a Tiger loaf, empty out the middle and then fill it with your favourite fillings (more the merrier, I think we had cheese, ham, pickle, tomato, black olive spread & hard boiled egg!) then when you arrive at your munching location you can just slice it and ta-da instant, perfect sandwiches. We had a flask of ice tea and punnets of huge strawberries and raspberries. We met some mountain beasts (ok, brown sheep) and moseyed around the village shops before getting scared because it appears their thing is scarecrows and pretty sinister looking ones at that, with pipe-cleaner glasses. I have an irrational fear of scarecrows and it was beginning to feel like we were in the Wickerman, so made a hasty exit.

 

Isle of Purbeck was enchanting because we kept stumbling across incredible things when we least expected it. For example we pulled into a standard looking Co-op to use the cash point and behind it we found this vintage steam railway that looked straight out of a film set. By now we were getting itchy beach feet and the sun was like nothing else. Total Hawaii weather. We pulled up at a random path that looked sandy and started trekking towards what we hoped was a beach. 20 minutes of walking barefoot on scorching sand, through ferns & forests and past lakes and not seeing a soul… we spotted the sea! And white sands! And… a large angry looking naked man! 

We had managed to locate the ‘famous’ (apparently) nudest beach, and boy was it busy. We had no option really but to skulk along the dunes, trying to keep our eyes on the horizon, but the naked people seemed very keen to run past/towards us and I definitely saw more wobbling male genitalia in that 30 minutes than my entire life up to that point. We paddled past the nakeds and towards a more clothes-friendly part called Shell Bay.

 

 

 

 

 

 

The main aim of daytrips is always to sample the local fish and chips, and we found a place in Swannage that definitely fitted all my requirements called ‘The Fish Plaice” and with a surly 12 year old looking waitress who we had to practically use brute force to get to actually acknowledge our presence and take our order! The fish was lovely but the batter was greas-ee. A chocolate milkshake and OD on tartare sauce helped. Also +points for the 20p bread and butter slices on the side. For pudding? A polystyrene pot of shrimps from a kiosk on the pier, that scared Craig so much that if I chased him with them he screamed a bit.

 

The sun finally set and on route home we stopped at a pub in Wareham to laze in their beer garden and eat homemade Dorset apple pie with cornish clotted cream. Even the 4 hour journey home (big bad motorway accident, boo) and then the fact I missed my last tube and had to stomp my sandy feet through the mean streets of Bow at 11.30pm couldn’t wipe the fresh-air smile off my face. The phrase ‘staycation’ used to filll me uncertainty, but I really doubt you could find prettier places across the whole of Europe as the Isle of Purbeck. I’m sure we only scraped the surface and I’m already plotting my return.

We only have one more day-trip of the summer left, before Ali abandons us for a life of Fika and Ikea homeware in Sweden in August, so any location recommendations welcome.

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