In the first blog in this series, I had a bit of a rant about TomTom, guarantor of added stress to a journey. From Johannesburg to Eden to Dalwood. Thank heavens for the serenity of our hippy camp and to winemaker, Mike Huskins, for restoring our sanity.
Johannesburg is a bit of a red herring for this bit of the TomTom saga. Thankfully that episode was behind me when we set off from Corfe Castle But the bit about avoiding unsuitable roads was certainly not. Now, Shan had looked at a real map and worked out the route we needed to follow to our next destination, Camp Eden. The very name promised a peaceful haven. Actually, her route had drawn heavily on the site’s recommended directions and a knowledge that West Country roads can be very narrow and travel between high walls and/or hedges.
All that having been established, I confessed that I’d also entered the coordinates of Camp Eden into our TomTom. You see, I know she likes to sit and admire the view while I steer the beast. I had also chosen the Voice of Jane to add the required calm note.
We hadn’t gone very far when my human navigator noticed that Jane was about to disobey her.
“Follow the A35 all the way to Bridport,” my wife instructed.
“Turn around when possible,” Jane commanded.
“S.T.F.U. Jane,” Shan exclaimed.
What one has to realise is that Dorset, Devon and Cornwall are notorious for their network of narrow lanes that go off in all directions, some of which could reduce the length of one’s journey by a few hundred metres while ramping up stress by several orders of magnitude.
I can’t tell you how many sequences of,
Jane: “In 400 metres, turn right ... take the right ... turn around when possible ... make the u-turn.”
Shan: “S.T.F.U. , Jane!”
we had over the 40 miles to Bridport. I lost count. Eventually Shan gave up admiring the view and buried her nose in the site’s written recommendations.
We did eventually arrive safely, you’ll be relieved to hear and, after a multiple-point turn, had Campy facing in the correct direction in the pitch reserved for Shirley. Shan. Does. Not. Like. Being. Called. Shirley.
YES. I had to cackle and sent a WhatsApp message to Roger (see a bit Further below).
Eden ticked all the boxes: gorgeous outlook, hippy-dippy spiritual aura and a proper lav for a brief respite from Chemilavia.
We also had a slow start the next morning and were able the relax for coffee a few hours in the dappled sunshine.
I had programmed the next bit of the route into our TomTom and changed the person delivering the directions to Niamh. We’d had enough of Jane.
I’m not quite sure which was the more death-defying: continually referring to my bride as Shirley or my decision to follow TomTom (Niamh) instructions down the narrowest possible lane to the village of Dalwood. To be honest, probably neither, particularly the road, but Shelley-ann Harrison, (nee Deale) a.k.a. Shan/Shazam/Mumbly, hates being referred to by my mother’s second first name. Mum didn’t like it either but she liked her first name, Edith, even less. To the extent that she persuaded her parents, Cecil and Beryl, to change her moniker officially to Shirley Edith Rogers. No one admitted to choosing “Shirley”, possibly it was Mum, but the choice of names can be a dangerous thing, especially when it is identical to the child star of the day, Shirley Temple. Mum went to boarding school a lot and fellow pupils can be merciless. In latter years she seemed to prefer to be called “Shirl” or, of course, Mum.
When I was born, my parents were determined to give me a name that was impossible to shorten. Unfortunately they decided to throw in my maternal grandmother’s maiden name and I became Mark Foggitt Harrison. How naïve could they have been? Don’t even try to imagine what my contemporaries made of that. I’m sure it is a cardinal rule to call one’s mates anything but their given first names. Some of my kinder ones include Banjo, Harry, Harri, Banj and others were things like Spook and, of course, Foggitt. My brother-in-law, Martin, calls me “Henry”, which he thinks annoys me but I actually quite like it.
So, back to Shelley-ann, Shan, Sheila, Shazam, Shirley.
Most of our friends are childlike and fancy themselves as windup merchants and will choose the one they gets them the biggest rise. John R once had a place setting made in the name of Shazam Harrison for a charity ball in Oxford’s Randolph Hotel. That didn’t work because my dearly beloved still keeps the name card as a souvenir.
But Starry has fastened on to “Shirley” and it does seem to work as a pistache. Sadly, I was unable to resist when the proprietor of our campsite mistakenly heard the name my wife proffered for the booking. I am, of course, more infantile than most.
Heading down to Dalwood
Back to the main purpose of this blog episode, the visit to Dalwood to meet Mike and to admire his wines and vineyard.
“What are the arrangements,“ Shan quizzed me upon leaving Camp Eden, having replaced the thoughtful Shirley sign in its rightful place on our, now-ex, pitch.
“Mike suggested we meet him there at 4,” was my unsatisfactory response.
After successfully negotiating the single-track lane back the way we had come and having agreed that we would turn right back towards Bridport when we reached the main road, Niamh suddenly interrupted our self-congratulatory reverie:
“Turn right on to the main road and then immediately left,” her dulcet tones commanded.
“S.T.F.U.!” We chorused in reply while turning left in defiance and glancing to the right to see where Niamh would’ve take us. A large blue sign counter-commanded, “unsuitable for large goods vehicles!”
Once again we ignored repeated TomTom instructions to “turn around when possible!”
On safely regaining the A35 and correctly turning West, Shan resumed her interrogation as to my “arrangements” with Mike.
“Where is ‘there’,” she responded.
“How long will it take?”
“About 35 minutes.”
“Where did you arrange to meet Mike in Dalwood?”
“It’s a small place. We’ll just get there and I’ll contact him.”
This continued for a while. We had plenty of time despite a massive tailback before Chideock.
About 15 minutes after we had cleared the snarlup, Niamh, seemingly suddenly, urged us to bear right on to a side lane.
To Shan’s horror, it was barely wider than Campy and within a few hundred metres a huge tractor-trailer combo was coming the other way. I prepared to reverse but he expertly found somewhere to let us past. Despite occasionally hearing the tick-tick-tick of the mirrors interfering with the hedges on either side simultaneously for the next few miles, we parked outside the church, about the only place in the village wide enough to do such a thing.
At this point I need to point out that one of the attractions Mike and Dalwood had for me was the romantic notion that Everyman could grow grapes and make wine. On a previous phone call, Mike told me that he and a few mates had had that notion over a few pints after a darts tournament in the local pub. Being a small village, the local was visible from where we had parked and I popped in to work out the lie of the land and was soon in touch with Mike.
Shan is always graceful when meeting new people and allowed a few pleasantries to pass before the inevitable question arose:
“Mike, please tell me there’s an easier way out of Dalwood to the A35?”
“Did you come off the A35 at Studhayes Road and come along Lower Lane?” he asked knowingly.
“Yes,” she responded eagerly.
“Well done. That’s a bit tight for a large vehicle, yes there is definitely a much easier way but first I’ll show you the vineyard ...“
I’m going to leave you with this picture of Mike standing in front of his own Eden but the story does not stop here ...
Coming next : The second half of the inspiring Dalwood story and Mike’s enthusiasm, together with a connection to BinTwo in Padstow. The knowledge and rugby metaphors are too precious not to devote time to our time spent in the vineyard and beyond.
 TomTom diverted me off the main freeway to OR Tambo airport through an extremely dodgy area. Proper scary.
 For those unaccustomed to TomTom it is a company dispensing Satnav devices.