Part 1 of 2 is a continuation of “Broomfield Moments” from earlier blogs and will fill in a bit of background before trying a chronological attempt at some sort of story. Because there are other bits, too.
Nick Broomfield is a documentary film maker. His magnum opus, from my perspective, was a feature length account of an interview with Eugène Terre’blanche (the South African white supremacist politician) that never took place. I’m not suggesting the subjects of my moments in any way resemble, or have ever resembled, the leader of the AWB, an organisation with a logo that looks like a swastika with a leg missing. It’s merely the principle of setting out on an endeavour with a goal in mind and in which stuff happens but the goal doesn’t, if you know what I mean?
These moments could equally be described as “Burns Moments” in celebration of the lines in To a Mouse: “The best laid schemes o' mice an' men Gang aft a-gley.“
Examples of Broomfield/Burns moments include:
A primary goal of the trip we’re currently on was to meet two friends I’d admired on social media, and by reputation, and had bought wine from them. The first of these was Mike from BinTwo in Padstow, who’d won all kinds of awards as an inventive independent wine shop and was latterly proving to be an emerging winemaker himself. The second was Ben Prior in St Ives (latterly of Marazion) and we haven’t got there yet.
According to Mike, I was holding the last remaining bottle (No 148) of his Fizzy Bum Bum, a Pet Nat sparkling wine. I’d also admired what he and his partner Mary had achieved in redesigning their place to protect patrons from COVID-19. If you’ve been following these blogs, you may recall that another Mike, winemaker at Dalwood, had also given me a bottle of his wine to share with BinTwo Mike. This was nestled up to the Fizzy Bum Bum in a wine box in Campy.
This strand of the saga will continue in Part 2 after the break:
En route to Cornwall
I’ve related most of our adventures through Eastern Wessex (if that’s not an oxymoron) including duelling with satnav in various guises, including Jane and Niamh, who had commanded us to “turn around when possible” or demanded that we “make the U turn” followed by “turn left and then left again” when we demurred at these unsubtle attempts to dupe us into submission.
Even The Leader and The Driver chorussing “S.T.F.U. Niamh” did nothing to diminish her ardour.
Some light relief was in stall when we disobeyed her the whole way around to our hippy dippy campsite to find the picture repeated on the left below, suggesting a new nom de guerre for The Leader. You’d think Niamh, being Irish would be more understanding of the challenges of steering a behemoth around lanes with 2mm clearance on either side of the wing mirrors.
Our story now finds us making our first attempt at a hairpin just short of our designated camp site in Lynmouth. Campy didn’t have the momentum nor the torque to negotiate the damp surface of the tarmac. An attempt by The Driver to stop and attempt to pull off after engaging first gear provoked the dreaded wheelspin. If you measured the traction of a front-wheel-drive motorhome on a scale of 1 to 100, I doubt you’d get into double figures.
“I’m going to have to roll back and have a run at it in first gear,” thought The Driver.
“You’re going to have to reverse and take a run at it,” said The Leader.
“I need to check if something’s behind,” thought The Driver.
“You’ll need to check if there’s anything behind,” said The Leader.
The second attempt failed. TOO SHARP. TOO STEEP. TOO SLIPPERY.
“I’ll need to have another go and take it wider,” thought The Driver recognising that this would require an incursion into the oncoming lane.
“You’ll need to have another go but take it wider,” said The Leader.
A few minutes later we drew up outside reception at the campsite. The Driver donned his COVID-19 mask and entered the office. Outlining the attractions the most friendly and helpful manager explained how to get into actual Lynmouth.
“It’s about a mile and a half along the footpath,” she explained. “Takes about 45 minutes to an hour.”
“Blimey,” thought The Driver, “should only take half of that.”
But the driver kept his counsel.
We did get a great pitch though, alongside Silvia, pictured on the right above.
The next day it soon became clear why we’d take an hour to walk a mile and a half. Just have a look at the walk profile below (top left). Actually, descending was more difficult.
Pasty (had to be done) alongside the little inner harbour (top right) and then beginning the trudge back home past Shelley’s underwriting (bottom left) and nearly home (bottom right).
Lovely tea and cake as a reward at Neil and Mandy’s cottage (which we hadn’t seen before) in Lynbridge and Neil inspired us with a new walk for the next day in which The Leader may have discovered a new nom de guerre.
But first we must go down the hill, a drop of some 1,000 feet into the gorge at Riversmeet. An intensely beautiful place but quite a rough descent. Not sure whether the steps helped or not although they probably prevented some nasty soil erosion. Some bum~clenching drops off the side of the path once you get into trees and the gorge proper.
I’ll come back to the bit in the middle (between going up and down) because I need to make my excuses NOW for going up to Lynton in the water powered funicular. There is an improbably even incline for a walker at the end of the profile depicted below (top left). Yes, we also got a taxi back to the campsite.
OK. We all know that the Leader. Does. Not. Like. Being. Called. Shirley. After all, it is a suburb of Birmingham. But we don’t think Solihull would be any better, do we? Doesn’t sound too Leaderish! A bit bulky for an essentially feminine Leader. An attractive one at that.
In between going down the hill on foot, and going back up again by funicular, we came upon the answer. Nom de guerre? Probably not aggressive enough.
After a moment of quiet reflection (below left), The Leader came upon the answer herself. There it is, right there (below right) complete with Leaderish accommodation. And a pink throne for when one is caught short after a bit of Chardonnay at the pub bench.
Battered haddock and chips to celebrate in Lynmouth. The seagulls didn’t dare.
Coming some time very soonish: Part 2 of this saga hits Padstow.
 Shut on Wednesdays
When did wine shops become bars and possibly even restaurants. And who did it first? We’ll never know.
But first Crapstone and bargs
Why. Because I am sitting in Campy near Okehampton remembering my first visit to Devon. This involved a trip to visit Bob, a journo friend, and his wife Carol. Back in the 70s he was a jolly decent cove as was his wonderful partner, Carol. I‘m sure they still are. Their address was: Bob and Carol Crampton, Windy Ridge, Crapstone, nr Yelverton. You couldn’t make it up. From memory, Bob was generally pretty taciturn, except when the Durban newsroom raconteurs exercised their great wit by repeating the refrain:
“Bob Crampton, son of the famous cricketer, Denis Crampton,” This caused him some irritation.
“His name is Denis Compton,” he would retort.
Ironically, Denis Compton’s sons, Patrick and Richard, fetched up in our newsroom soon after Bob had returned to the outskirts of Plymouth.
I stayed one night with the Cramptons and their baby son. Shortly after I had arrived, Carol shoo’d us out of Windy Ridge while she prepared a roast in my honour.
“I think Bob wants to introduce you to the local scrumpy. Careful how you go,” Carol warned.
“We’ll pop down to the Who’d Have Thought It, kind of appropriate for two reporters,” he nodded.
I had been warned that scrumpy played havoc with one’s legs before it disabled one’s brain but, hey ho, we were young then.
The incline from Windy Ridge down to the pub was as formidable as one would expect in Devon but we were full of reminiscences and I was eager to sample the fabled brew.
We sat at the bar on traditional high stools while we continued recalling newsroom characters and escapades, many of them regarding cricket. Respectful of the fact that Carol was roasting our dinner, I don’t think we had that many pints before we decided we’d better go. I slid off my stool as one would normally do but carried on sliding as my knees buckled and I crumpled on the floor.
Bob and the publican eyed me knowingly but my memory insists that he had just as much difficulty making the ascent back to Crapstone as I did. I’m pretty sure that, at least at one point, hands and knees were involved.
But, as is the way in one’s 20s, we seem to have recovered quickly and very much enjoyed our roast dinner with Carol.
When they were heading off to bed and I was being shown to their spare, Carol warned me that Bob had to be at work early and would stick his head around the door to say goodbye. I was heading back to London after lunch and wouldn’t see him again. I don’t believe I ever did.
“I just have to warn you that he does wear a traditional long night shirt,” she grinned, “just in case you think you are seeing a ghost or something.”
The plan was that Carol and the infant Crampton would be my guides for a whistle-stop tour of North Devon until I had to depart.
I remember being entranced by Clovelly and moving on to a traditional pub for victuals.
“Don’t mention the sign above the door ... let me do the talking,” Carol warned.
“What are Grockles?” I whispered after we’d successfully passed under the “No Grockles Allowed” sign and Carol had placed our order, I thought exaggerating her burr a little while doing so.
“This landlord is fabled for turning people away who ask that question,” she whispered back.
“If you don’t know then you are one,” she intoned, imitating the landlord with as much of a burr as her need to keep her voice down would allow.
I have to say we have only encountered loveliness from the locals since we’ve been in Devon, especially from the retired farmer, Gilbert, who owns our current campsite. He did have some cautionary tales, though:
“When you can see them hills on Dartmoor over there, you know it’s gonna rain,” he smiled, “and when you can’t see them, it’s arlready rainin’,” he grinned.
“And when it’s rainin’ you got to watch out for them bargs. Them bargs will suck you right in before you know. Never stop if you step in a barg without expectin’, you needs to keep walking smooth and careful, like.”
There were so many examples that they would occupy a whole new blog. I’ll have to return to that when I have a suitable interlude to research the WWII plane what disappeared on Dartmoor.
Dino and I often ate lunch in a modest fiaschetteria close to our office in (if I remember correctly) the Via Sallustiana in Rome. Dino is a long time friend and colleague who headed up the multi-year project we were working on. As his name suggests, he is a native Italian who loves food and sharing it with his amici. He is also as thin as a rake. He uses a lot of energy. More often than not lunch consisted of fagioli a la Nonna in a generous bowl. Most likely they were topped with salsicce, our favourite. Always at least one glass of vino rosso.
“La Nonna Mia says it aids digestion and is therefore essential,” he explained, adding: “E vero.” 
According to my friend the fiaschetterie had started out as wine merchants but many Italians liked to buy wine during their lunch breaks and there was no time for food while they made their choices. Someone saw an opportunity for them to do precisely that, eat while choosing.
During my time in Rome the menu was kept very simple, perhaps just one option ... you guessed it, sausages and beans washed down with a glass of everyday red.
Fiaschetterie started to become popular in the evening, too. A certain Madonna Louise Ciccone saw to that when it became known that she liked to frequent the Fiaschetteria Beltramme near the Spanish Steps. The menu became a little more sophisticated but not OTT. Shan and I went there a few times and loved it. A feature of fiaschetterie was that they didn’t take bookings but we soon learned that Italians can be quite rigid in their evening routines and passeggiata takes place every day between 7 and 8 PM. Get to your fave fiaschetteria at 7:55 you could always get a table. At 8:05 no chance at the Beltramme, given its provenance and its proximity to Via dei Condotti.
So did wine shops that serve food start with the Italians or with the Spanish. Rumour has it that tapas started with a slice of stale bread placed over a wine glass to keep the flies out. A Spaniard got hungry and ...
Answers on a postcard to this blog? If you can bear the occasional formalities when posting a comment, I’d love to hear your theory.
In the mean time I’ll be happy to pay some sort of service charge while drinking “in” at BinTwo.
Coming up some time soon: Cornish fiaschetterie. Do you pay “corkage” on a carafe? Can you pay “corkage” in kind? Will we be in a position to even order wine without getting Raabies. Why does it take twice as long to type a blog on an iPad because of Apple’s sheer obstinacy over cursor back and forward arrows.
 Grandma’s beans
 It’s true?
When the weather closes in on a Devon day, what better way to bring back the sunshine than to recall our visit to Mike Huskins at Dalwood Vineyards. So now for Part 2. The aperitif has been sampled ...
For us, travel becomes a proper adventure when we have memories to recall of real tales delivered by real people. Enthusiasm is uplifting but recollections often need the frisson of sorry tales, too, as a backdrop to the brightness. Happily, this tale is all about enthusiasm.
So, on this Blog Day Afternoon, I’ll take a leaf out out of Prince Hal’s book, if only to justify fulfilling Shan’s lack of confidence in my ability to negotiate Campy through the narrow lanes of the West Country;
And, like bright metal on a sullen ground,
My reformation, glittering o'er my fault,
Shall show more goodly, and attract more eyes,
Than that which hath no foil to set it off.
I will therefore sneak my confession of additional Campy damage under the radar of Hal’s “loose behaviour” before returning to Mike’s “bright metal”. I am using this metaphor in honour of the Dalwood bard’s love of the metaphor, especially those involving English Rugby.
OK, so a couple of days after Mike steered us up a more tolerable return route to the A35, and my brain slowing down in the balmy glow above Lyme Regis, I judged it possible to execute what was effectively a u-turn in a 7.2M motor home in a 5M wide lane. In mitigation, there were a few misaligned field openings that might have provided some refuge had my driving been 100% accurate but in the end probably only 85% was achieved. As is always the case in situations like these, a small crowd of experts gathered, our campsite owner, James, included.
He was quick to point out that I had been attempting the impossible and apologised to Shan for surreptitiously glancing to see if there’d been any damage to his gatepost. Happily, another member of the small crowd was more sympathetic to my predicament and exhibited the knowledge, probably gained from having been a similar seemingly deadly embrace before. He calmly guided me to a safer position. The only damage in rugby metaphor parlance was a few grass burns to Campy’s nearside rear flank.
Yesterday was taken up getting from there to here and scandalising Niamh only a tiny bit and the patrons of Waitrose a little more by having the temerity to shop there in a battle scarred motorhome. The last part of the day was taken up with a very short bike ride from here on a beautiful evening and attacking some challenging gradients on my wife’s e-bike after being warned by the locals that the route “were a bit lumpy”.
And so the state of the weather today declared that it was to be a Blog Day Afternoon to let me return to my Dalwood #Roaminations.
By the time Mike had conveyed us up to the top of the Dalwood vineyard, showed due care and attention with liberal use of gin-based disinfectant and given us each a glass untouched by Covid-19, my dearly beloved was into the swing of things. Our host proffered a tasting sample of his award-winning bubbly - the appropriate amount for me to spit out and a bit more for Shan to calm her nerves - and late afternoon Nirvana commenced. Surrounded by the scenery one would expect in Devon and bathed in softening sunlight Mike demonstrated the deep knowledge of viticulture that is borne from a life on the land and an enthusiasm for the project in hand.
The closest winemaker to showing us similar love for his vines had been Richard Kershaw MW, at his home in the Western Cape of South Africa. Richard’s wine has attracted many accolades and was described by John Platter, founder of the annual bible of SA wines, Platter’s Wine Guide, as “boffin juice”. Nothing is left to chance. Given the emerging status of English wine, Mike follows a similar pattern of matching grape varieties to the terroir.
Dalwood is every armchair winelover’s dream. Six mates having a pint in the local confess to a yen for making their own wine. Enough of a yen to chuck in enough £000s each to allocate 3 acres of farmland and plant 3,000 vines. Enough of a yen to take a vine growing course at Plumpton College. Enough of a yen to work their way up the ladder of Decanter awards to silver medals for both their offerings within 10 years of planting their first vines. Enough of a yen to plant 3 out of 4 varieties most people have never heard of, i.e. seyval blanc, solaris, madeleine angevine and clearly sufficiently risk-seeking to plant the pinot noir that graces the Dalwood fizz. Mike and Jo (Huskins) aim to repeat something similar IN AN ORGANIC VINEYARD.
But the Huskins’ family collie is named Pinot, isn’t she. She has even more energy than Mike.
The rugby metaphors came thick and fast. Growing quality wines took the dedication of a Jonny Wilkinson. Bucking the trend took the belligerence of a Martin Johnson.
“And pulling brilliance out of the hat, Ben Stokes,” I ventured.
“Probably, but he’s a bit of a maverick,” Mike conceded. “I don’t follow cricket to the same extent.”
These are early days for Dalwood. I was encouraged to contact him by Lee Isaacs, a guitar playing punster who adds a dimension of daring fun to the wine scene. Mike’s zeal includes extending this work to others who are hankering after the same thing. I followed Lee’s suggestion with a message to Mike. He responded By phoning me just before lockdown, with evangelistic zeal.
“Edge of the Costwolds, don’t see why not,” he enthused. “First you should get a soil sample, I’ll give you the contact details of John Buchan.”
John Buchan is an agronomist. I haven’t contacted him yet because lockdown has stalled my efforts to build a co-op.
I believe it will take a force majeure to prevent Dalwood from exponentiating. The yen and the spirit of enterprise is all there and the proof of results is emerging.
This year’s harvest began on Saturday and the smiles on the faces of the pickers are the evidence ...
“You’re going to BinTwo in Pastow?” Mike exclaimed when Shan and I were taking our leave. “I’ll give you a bottle of our white blend to share with THAT Mike.”
I thought this was a lovely idea and a perfect introduction to MikeBinTwo (MBT), with whom I’d corresponded but never met.
I mentioned this in a thank you to Mike (Dalwood) out of courtesy, copying in Lee and MBT, as well as Lisa, a fan of of all of theirs. Lee immediately started stirring and suggested a bottle each. It all escalated from there. All players feigned offence at not being invited to the “party”.
MBT was even moved to exclaim: “Just gimme my wine basically.”
The offending bottle is in MY possession (see below, MBT) consider my half the corkage/delivery charge.
During the interregnum between that conversation and Blog Day Afternoon, the clown who should be obeyed has declared a Covid-19 Curfew of 10PM with the threat of a £10K fine for loiterers who exceed that limit. MBT reckons this effectively means half an hour before that, given the time it takes to clear up and bugger off. Mike and his partner, Mary, have spent a fortune in time and money to transform BinTwo to comply with previous lockdown guidelines so THEY ARE DEFINITELY RESPONSIBLE vendors!
So it looks like we’ll have to start drinking early given what we understand to be a 9:30PM curfew ....
Coming some time later next week: feud over bottle of Devon white wine curtailed by Cummings curfew ...
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.
Could Trainspotting be a new fetish for me? Like most things, a fetish has to start somewhere, making me suspect that yesterday’s activities may have had a tenuous link to having been restrained the evening before, strapped to an ice block.
In my previous blog, I described grumping my way up a bit of a tortuous hill having developed a sexagenarian pain in the foot. My life’s partner, Shan, always ready with some patent cure to prevent me becoming a complete pain in the arse, declared that the solution lay in cooling the injury down. I’d like to report that a small crowd of campers gathered to witness my ritual humiliation but it would be a lie.
Instead, I was strapped unceremoniously to a small plastic ice pack, more properly used in a miniature cool bag, using the strap that, in normal life, keeps Campy’s awning from blowing away. In order to complete the humiliation, the above photo was taken as evidence to be used for future blackmail. OK, so it was me who had been rabbiting on about getting a steam train from Corfe Castle to Swanage to meet The Queen in the morning. I believe this was to ensure that I wasn’t going to be able to get out of it when I was sober the next morning. A further bribe of fish and chips had induced me into this predicament in the first place.
All so that I could hobble my way down the rough-hewn byway to Corfe Castle to take up our assignation with steam and, unbeknownst to me, also with The Queen.
During one of those often tedious moments while waiting for a delayed train, serendipity took over when I confessed to a couple of charming steam train volunteers that I wished to take some photos of the steam locomotive to send to a friend. Expecting the normal knowing nudge and wink when using the “asking for a friend” explanation, I incurred genuine interest of the kind that turns bucket list tourism into genuine travellers’ experiences. I could easily have dug my hole a bit deeper when “confessing” that my friend was South African.
“Which part,” one of the volunteers asked. He was manning the Corfe Castle railway museum.
“Durban,” I replied. “East Coast.”
“He’s not part of the Umgeni Steam Railway, is he?”
This was too detailed for me. I’ll have to verify with Jeremy Hathorn (Jem) when we’re next in contact. I believe it to be true though.
Turns out this gentleman from Corfe Castle knew, and had traveled on, just about every steam railway in South Africa that had been extant in 1987 ... this last time he had visited the country. He’d also traversed many of the spectacular mountain road passes while on his railway quest (just like Jem, too). Apologising for gaps in his memory, he proceeded to reel off the names of all the passes between the Little and Great Karoo.
I also learned about the “Ficksburg line” and the last train that tried to traverse it in its neglected, dilapidated state. Beats Last Train to Clarksville any day. I was beginning to find out why people become trainspotters, many of whom lined the track between Corfe Castle and Swanage. There’s a visceral source of excitement when these iron beasts chug across spectacular countryside puffing steam from giant pistons and using it to toot a deafening whistle.
With all of my newfound excitement you may be justified in asking why I haven’t provided pukka illustrations ... I will, just as soon as I work out how to get them off my pukka camera while out in the bundu.
In the meantime, as soon as we arrived in Swanage we discovered that the iron roads had been central to the seaside town’s former glory. There must’ve once been a tram that skirted the bay, at least as far as the genteel pier. Swanage still has its attractions but the fine old buildings that cascade down the hill to the sea have been diluted by the more modern temples to fast food. As fish and chips may have delighted Victorian visitors to the seaside, perhaps while they rode the tram, it is possible that the older buildings remain behind some of the once-were-modern facades.
Covid-19 did bring a treble highlight to our brief sojourn in Swanage. We had to sit outside for our own interpretation of lockdown and spotted a brand new facade sporting fresh seating overlooking the fine bay. It was our first restaurant/bar/cafe meal since our tedious social distancing had begun.
A car drew up on the esplanade opposite and we were rewarded for our adventures by a wave from this fine lady smiling from the rear window of her chauffeur-driven Ford Fiesta.
Seemed apt somehow.
No trip to the seaside in England is complete without a walk on a pier and an ice cream. Swanage’s Wooden pier is sufficiently restrained to make it a peaceful haven and provide an opportunity to enter into dialogue with the local people fishing. Shan was particularly taken with a young woman’s minuscule fishing rod and asked her about it.
“It’s a Kayak fishing rod,” she responded, seemingly delighted that a fellow human being had taken an interest. My dear wife was delighted that she would have something to tell her sister, Kerry, about. Kerry is a world class fisherperson who has represented her country and lives in Hermanus in the Western Cape, a province of South Africa. Maybe it was ESP but Kerry phoned Shan and a typically raucous sisterly conversation took place between the three of them overheard by most of Swanage pier. I say three, because their 91-year-old Mum was there too and would, these days, rather be a sister.
And so it was we returned to the antique splendour of our steam railway. After our sumptuous lunch it was no disappointment that the buffet was closed. We’d learned a little more about how wonderful it is to have the time to stop and talk to people. The natural instinct seems to be that questions will not be welcome. How wrong an instinct this is. Show an interest and I’m prepared to wager the vast majority will be touched and delighted.
Shan tolerated my hobbling the mile back up to Campy, all revved up to complete this chapter by the time I went to bed yesterday evening.
I tolerated the interruption to despatch the “biggest hornet ever known to man, must be a super Vespa.”
Shan very seldom interrupts her teeth-cleaning for such trivia and so I’m completing these roaminations this afternoon from a completely different location. C’est la vie.
It is so peaceful now after yesterday’s excitement that it’s hard to imagine anything other than the lone Robin twittering away in the tree beside Campy.
Having endured unsilenced, high-revving two-stroke everything all Sunday as neighbours and allotment holders set about their autumn chores at home, we were relishing the prospect of peace in the sylvan delights of our wooded campsite near the South Coast of England.
“KABOOM 💥” a massive bang rent the air, at what seemed like dawn. Campy shuddered and assembled dogs began yapping. As if to provide the rhythm accompaniment to this awful symphony some petrol powered piece of equipment burst into life close by.
Admittedly the equipment operator was showing the consideration of using a silenced 4-stroke piece of kit ... something that is mandatory in France but not here yet. Also, the second explosion that vibrated through our bones suggested the lawn mower driver was being doubly considerate under covering fire. Although this only became obvious a while later where the staccato of machine gun fire became audible. It was too much to hope that we were witnessing Jimi’s resurrection at the nearby Isle of Wight as these were the real deal and we realised that military manoeuvres are not uncommon with the firing ranges nearby.
Battle sounds were omnipresent throughout the day, providing an awful authenticity to our visit to Corfe Castle
No wonder that bits have kept falling off this fabulous pile of rocks.
Bits started falling off me, too, although metaphorically rather than physically.
They felt physical, though, as the precipitous rough-hewn descent pounded away at the ball of my left foot.
During the castle visit, while moaning away and taking inconsequential snaps of its innards,
my observant wife was taking in the model village scene below.
I grumped my way back up the hill and requested leave to have an afternoon nap.
“Will you be able to sleep with all the explosions?” Shan asked. They had continued throughout the day.
I was convinced I was able and was soon snoring, blissfully unaware that she’d taken herself off to investigate the possibilities of evening victuals. The first I knew about this was when she roused me with: “It’s nearly six o’ clock and I’ve had a bit of an adventure.”
”Tell me about it,” I replied groggily.
”You need to get up so I can tell you properly’,” Shan responded. She likes her dramatic effects.
The story goes that she was walking down the road when a fellow camper alerted her, entirely through eye movements, that there was a deer that had wandered into the camp to enjoy the plentiful acorns. The camper then tried to be helpful by handing the hungry beast some more of these delicacies
This peaceful scene was promptly disrupted by the ungrateful animal’s aberrant behaviour. First it attacked the original giver and then her partner, seen here with a similar gesture.
As can be seen from the lack of photographic evidence, Shan retreated to get help before it could attack her and the man in the picture had to be rescued by another man with a stick.
It is not clear whether the continuing loud explosions, that carried on until well after sunset, set the poor deer off.
We ended our evening with the thing that “had to be done”.
Delicious battered cod avec chips and mushy peas, all ordered and delivered according to social distancing rules dictated by COVID-19 rules.
Oh and the pic on the banner of this series of blogs is a clumsy attempt to capture a kiss in a kissing gate. Evidence on my selfie ineptitude.
Lying on my back in Campy, gazing through the sky light I was astonished to see a bright, clear vista of a starry sky, the likes of which I’d normally only witnessed in places such as Calvinia in the South African Karoo.
Which was weird because a few hours earlier I’d been watching in awe as an intrepid cyclist climbed an incline on the Jurassic Way that was challenging for a person on foot. Not to mention the loose chalk and flint surface!
And then up pops a deer as if to say, “Oi, you taking my picture or what?
Kinda strange being in a campsite for the first time after lockdown ... this one more locked down than most with just about all facilities closed so the unpleasantness of chemical lavvies WILL be involved.
We got here despite duelling Satnavs, TomTom, Google and Shan’s paper map ensemble but I’m going have to do some homework to figure out how to prevent TomTom from taking us down the shortest route imaginable. We haven’t quite traversed a ploughed field yet but we did manage to terrify an old dear by attempting a postage stamp 75-point turn to extract ourselves from an impossibly narrow lane. I would’ve gone for it but my traveling companion has witnessed me removing bits from Campy’s exterior before and vetoed that suggestion.
Also, WTF is Shan able to access Instagram from her iPhone while mine keeps stubbornly saying “NO INTERNET CONNECTION “. The wonders of technology not being helped, either, by Apple’s perverse insistence on only moving one’s cursor with “haptics” when simple back and forward keys would maker everyone’s life easier.
It’s all fab in theory but try posting to a blog when lying on your bed in a motorhome in a forest on the side of a hill.
It really is all lovely really. Really.
hopefully more tomorrow once we’ve been out and about a bit. Love y’all.
In the beginning, firewalls, and their stricter twins, De-Militarised Zones (DMZs), protected normal people from various forms of attack. What has happened to turn a relatively sensible idea on its head so that, nowadays, these devices exist to protect online vendors from their customers?
What are firewalls and DMZs - historical tableau
I'll explain. The very first firewalls probably came about to prevent human beings and their livestock from being burned to death. Fair enough you say, unless you're a firebug (hold this thought). Then some wise-guy came along and burned some fire-breaks. Smart person, playing the fire at its own game. If the breaks were wide enough (and didn't run out of control during the creation process), they provided a cost effective way of achieving the same effect as an expensive wall.
Of course, someone's life partner was going to question the logic of this, probably centuries, if not millennia, ago:
"Are our lives a matter of cost benefit analysis? Is that all you think of me, Value for Money (VFM)?"
With one eye on keeping the peace and the other on doing penance the other partner says: "We'll do both. We'll have two fireproof walls with a firebreak in between. Then it will be impossible to burn us alive!"
If it had been my own partner, the next question would have already been in the chamber: "But what if we were not being threatened by a forest fire? What if we were being attacked by baddies?"
And I would've had the perfect answer: "We'll surround our home with a deep trench and fill it with water. There will be stone walls on either side of the trench and we'll call it a moat."
Not so easily satisfied with the logic of this, my partner's armoury would never be depleted this easily: "But what if the baddies had trained seagulls who could fly over and drop exploding coconuts into our castle?"
"We'd shoot the seagulls with our bows and arrows and they'd fall into the moat. We'd call the wall/moat/arrow combo a DMZ."
"But what if the baddies could swim across our moat and we wouldn't notice them because we would be looking into the sky, aiming at the seagulls ... ?"
"I would already have finished you off with my sword and run off with the lesser danger, i.e. the baddies."
"Well that's not playing the game, I don't like you any more."
Your customers have faith in you
You may remember that, in the second paragraph, I asked you to hold a thought : perhaps "you're a firebug"? Keep holding on.
By the way, your name is Henley and you are the proprietor of a much-loved High Street cycle shop where your customers come in in a steady stream to choose a bundle of your excellent bikes and accessories. One day a new customer comes through the door.
"I've been recommended to come here by one of your loyal fans. My name is Devon, by the way," the newbie greets you. "I must say I'm impressed. May I call you Henley?"
"Of course," you reply. You love welcoming people to the store and have dedicated staff who enjoy similar interactions.
"I say, Henley, this frame is really gorgeous," Devon exclaims. "Do you have any others like it?"
You beckon one of your assistants and explain that you are about to show Devon some other frames and would your colleague assemble some of the other bits your new customer will need to make up a complete bicycle.
Devon picks out a frame and the required components to make up a dream machine and asks one last question:
"Would you be able to assemble it for me, Henley?"
"Of course," you reply. "It'll be ready the day after tomorrow and then we'll service it for free after you've ridden it for a while. Make some final adjustments."
Devon leaves your shop after shelling out a few thousand and returns at the appointed time two days later.
Avarice sets in
"Wow," Devon exclaims when clocking the new steed with an acquisitive grin before uttering: "Say, Henley, ever thought of upscaling your operation?"
"Not really," you reply, "my staff and family have everything we need. We enjoy our quality of life."
You glance over to one of your assistants who nods assent.
"Fair enough," Devon smiles, obviously dying to try the new velo.
"Don't think we've heard the last of Devon," the assistant mutters after our new customer has left. "That's one guy with an eye on owning a bike emporium."
How perceptive your staff member turned out to be. Devon doesn't give up. If anything, the zeal glows more brightly every day and there are many visits to the shop for new accessories like expensive clothing. Every objection you have to "upscaling your operation" is answered persuasively.
Devon has access to venture capital and the workings of a "Ponzi" model together with all the business structures required.
Anxiety gnaws at your gut. You'll lose touch with your precious customers, many of them friends in the cycling community.
"Don't you think it's you that's being selfish, Dude," Devon is irritated. "What about your staff, Henley, don't they deserve a bigger pie." There are allusions to staff partnerships and share schemes.
"But what about our customers?" you demand.
"Don't be a baby, Henley," Devon exclaims, "they'll love the bigger range and the lower prices available from a virtual shop. Anyway you can always see them at that bike club of yours if you really want to."
"And the lower prices, how will we pay for those?"
"Offshore the whole operation. It'll be a natural DMZ between you and your customers. The call centre will be the outer firewall and an experienced outsourcer will provide an inner firewall between you and its operational staff.
"Now, come on, take a look at this sponsorship model. We can use venture capital to get a team up for le Tour. That'll elevate you above your lycra-clad club mates, especially when we bring home the maillot jaune. You'll be too wealthy and important to talk to them then. Your new club will be business execs and fellow sponsors. The movers and shakers of world cycling."
The rot sets in
See if you can spot the firebug.
For a while everything seems to go as Devon said it would. You appear to have gained some respect, rather than lost it, even though you knew the TdF team and the maillot jaune were always pie in the sky. You were aware that teams are invited to the TdF - it generally takes many seasons to gain their confidence.
Then venture capital starts to dry up and Devon is nowhere to be found. The team hasn't been paid the next instalment of the sponsorship and customers are giving VERY bad reviews to the outsourcing company.
You, Henley, are now in deep depression and decide to go out on a bike ride to try to blow away a few cobwebs. You foolishly follow one of your favourite routes. Foolishly because you are overtaken by a peloton from your old club.
"Hi guys," you wave hopefully.
"Who the hell are you?" one of them retorts.
"It's that Henley," someone you used to cycle with responds. "You know the one who had that brilliant high street bike shop some years back. And then Henley became too important and no longer associated with us. Worst of all, a few mates carried on buying from the multinational operation out of some misplaced loyalty. They were treated pretty badly."
With that, the peloton accelerates, leaving Henley in the dust, contemplating the unfairness of it all.
The final analysis
"But we have online customer surveys," you protest into thin air before the realisation dawns that all the surveys were designed with binary questions that only ask what your marketing team wishes to hear. Usually in order to justify the fee it pays to an external survey company to design and collate.
Clearly this story is somewhat allegorical, in that I haven't exactly witnessed each step in the yarn, but this kind of stuff is happening all over the place and has been for some time. They didn't have online operations in Ponzi's time but I feel sure there was some similar form of obfuscation.
I did say I'd name and shame one or two of the ones I've had the worst experiences with. Those who are completely uncontactable (and DELIBERATELY SO) when things go wrong and you need them most. Taking care to be mindful of the extra strictures that COVID-19 puts on most vendors, I have omitted a few candidates but here is my top 5 inexcusable stress-mongers
TomTom - The story is so long, I can only believe deliberately on the company's part, that I can't face recalling it again.
Hertz - as guilty as most car rental operations of taking your card up front and then making it almost impossible to rectify errors in their favour.
Lloyds Bank - For never being there when you most need them.
"Logistics" firms - those who take advantage of the pandemic and are impossible to contact when things go wrong ... I'm still trying to figure out who the worst is from my own experience.
Oxfordshire County Council - masters of obfuscation when it comes to highway planning.
Coming soon: I'll follow up this blog when and/or if something is amusing or annoying enough for me to repeat
 Pyramid selling
 Tour de France (TdF)
 NB: there are some good ones