We have just returned from a jaunt to Dorset and even found some sunshine. We went to Weymouth as I like the harbour and the sun was shining. Traffic was mad so G said we should park and ride. We parked up and there wasn't a bus in sight. Last time we were here was the sailing week of the Olympics and we parked and rode then but now you have to follow signs to wherever the bus stop is. Could be miles away as a way of encouraging the public to take more exercise.
We set off with G grumbling about his mutilated toenail playing up a bit and I pointed out a young boy leading a goat, a real billy goat with horns, on a lead and the goat kept stopping and sulking. I asked G to take a photo but the boy and goat ran off. He said never mind, I’ll take a photo of the sculptures. They were like giant metal dragons on a hill, but I hadn't even noticed them as was too busy looking at the boy and the goat. Better go to Specsavers.
The bus was supposed to run every ten minutes and we waited with some miserable pensioners for twenty minutes then two buses came at once, annoying. It was £3.30 each but as G had our bus passes in his pocket it was free. One of the miserable passengers had left her card at home and refused to pay. She said ‘can’t you see I am over 60? Look at my wrinkles’ and the bus driver said ‘can't scan your wrinkles into my scanner, can I? That'll be £3.30 or you can walk.’ I think driver had had enough for the day.
Weymouth was lovely. Beach was packed, there was Punch and Judy, donkeys and loads of people in the sea. We walked right along the front to the harbour. Lots of people eating chips and fishing for crabs with their feet dangling over the harbour wall. G asked a little lad how long it had taken to catch the three crabs in his bucket and he said he’d only been there for ten minutes. Surprised there are any crabs left.
On the way back we waited in a long queue for the Park and Ride bus, all piled on and just as the driver started the engine a little girl at the back was sick. The driver shouted ‘everybody off’ and we had to wait twenty minutes for another bus. Can understand now why the pensioners were so cross as this probably happens a lot. Not a big fan of Weymouth Park and Ride service.
We stayed overnight in Dorchester in a lovely B and B. Fabulous Victorian pile, stuffed with all sorts to the gunnels, which G insists is spelt gunwales, and we slept under a four poster. The owner used to back all the heavy rock groups and his dead brother used to be in the theatre and looked nutty on the pictures scattered about the house. One of Jimmy Page’s old guitars on the wall, but the owner may have nicked that. So, yes, interesting. We could walk to town and did, got lost and ended up in a scruffy pub and drank their beer of the week, called smelly bottoms or something similar.
G will tell you more, but we went back to an ancient burial site that we walked around donkeys’ years ago and it was wonderful. I wanted to buy a metal detector, but as the Detectorists on TV never seem to find anything, maybe not.
I ought to mention where we stopped at a lovely arty farty town called Topsham, not in Dorset, and I bought a pottery figure of a mad looking woman, which G said looked like me, and now I have it back home have gone off it a bit. Felt a bit intimidated by the bossy woman who owned the shop. When we went in she was shouting "stop it Willerby you will bite the other leg off". Willerby was a dachshund playing with a plastic chicken. The woman was very posh and said, ‘we in Topsham’ quite a lot for some reason. She pronounced it as it's spelt, Topsham, but everybody else we met said Topsem like they say everywhere different from how it is spelt in Devon and Cornwall. G always says the local version but I pretend I am Angela Rippon and say Words as they are spelt. Yes, it does annoy him which is probably why I do it.
We had lunch in a really lovely place, all glass and steel. The Salutation Inn was a restaurant with rooms, it said, but looked like a hotel to me. They asked us if we wanted chocolates with the coffee. Said of course. They bought out eight different ones. There was a gorgeous lounge where we went to drink our coffees in comfort and ate the chocolates. I went to sleep in a huge fat settee, but started to snore so we had to leave. When we got the bill the chocolates were 50p each. They shouldn't encourage gluttony and should only give you two.
Our waitress told us that Sir Trevor McDonald and Bill Pertwee used to live in Topsham. No suggestion they were an item.
G just told me, as he is better at geography and never gets lost while I get lost in my own house sometimes, that Topsham is an ancient port, since the Vikings and the Romans were here, on the estuary of the River Exe, so you can probably guess it is quite near to Exeter.
L’Estuaire Restaurant on the quayside car park, next to an antique warehouse, looks lovely but they weren't open at the time so we went elsewhere. Next time, perhaps? Over to G for geography and history lessons. Yawn.
Not really yawning as G tells you all the stuff I can't be bothered with. A few days ago I had been gassing away to a woman in a cafe about a place we’d been and she said ‘where was this? Is it somewhere near Bristol?’ And I had to say you’ll have to wait until G gets here as I had no idea.
No yawning at the back, please. Trip to Dorset was great as we had good weather. We walked around Dorchester in the evening and Marigold decided she wanted to look in a shop window we had passed ten minutes ago. She insisted we would get back to it if we went up an alley, even though it led us in the opposite direction, but it was a nice evening so I said okay. This took us past a house claiming to have been lived in by The Mayor of Casterbridge. I ‘did’ Thomas Hardy at A level and, along with Chaucer and A. E. Houseman don't care if I never heard mention of him again, but Dorchester is packed with Thomas Hardy references.
Hardy based the fictional town of Casterbridge on Dorchester, and his best known novel, the Mayor of Casterbridge is set there. His town house, Max Gate, is owned by the National Trust and open to the public. We didn't go in. That’s more than enough about Thomas Hardy, but On a plaque it said that Hardy is buried in Westminster Abbey, but his heart was removed and buried in Slingford which is both interesting and slightly gruesome.
Earlier we had been to Weymouth which was lovely. A packed beach, like a postcard of an English summer day out in 1959.
In the Park and Ridecar park we parked alongside a gleaming Bentley Bentayga. A 4x4 with every conceivable luxury. I’d read about it, never seen one up close before. A couple of young lads were talking to the owner. ‘’Ow much that set you back then?’ one asked. Crass? Yes. Insensitive to the point of rudeness? Definitely. But, I hung around as it's exactly what I’d have asked if I weren't so well mannered.
‘Oh, you know, with the extras, just under two hundred thousand,’ came the answer.
‘Cool,’ said the lad.
A couple of miles outside Dorchester is an Iron Age hill fort that we had visited once many years ago and still talk about. Maiden Castle is wonderful. We’ve been to a fair few prehistoric sites, there's one almost on our doorstep, but this place is vast. Obviously important in those tribal days before the Romans arrived, recovered artefacts date back 4,000 years or so.
When the Romans came, in 43 AD, they set about subduing the locals, but it took 27 years of fighting before the new invaders took control and set up a permanent garrison in what is now Dorchester. The Roman name for Dorchester was Durnovaria which, like most Roman names, makes me wonder why they ever changed it. Think Londinium for London or Corinium instead of Cirencester, they just roll off the tongue better. On the other hand, the Romans called Southern Britain ‘Brittania Superior’ and the North ‘Brittania Inferior’ and I’m not having that!
Daniel Defoe’s Robinson Cruso is second only to the bible in the number of translations made of the original, but he wrote a notable book about travelling through England as well. About Dorchester he wrote, “The town is populous, tho' not large, the streets broad, but the buildings old, and low; however, there is good company and a good deal of it; and a man that coveted a retreat in this world might as agreeably spend his time, and as well in Dorchester, as in any town I know in England".
Not bad, then. Other claims to fame: in the 17th century Dorchester was the centre of the Puritan emigration to America and pilgrims set out from here and established a settlement in what is now Salem. Also, in 1685 Judge Jeffries presided here over the ‘Bloody Assizes’ following Monmouth’s rebellion and eventual defeat at Sedgemoor. He ordered the hanging of 74 men. A small village just up the road entered trades union folklore in 1834 when a group who became known as the Tolpuddle Martyrs were deported from Dorchester to Australia in 1834 following their attempts to form a trade union.
One more thing. Marigold likes a good B and B for an overnight stop as we feel part of the house itself, for one night, but in one respect an impersonal hotel wins hands down. In a hotel we go down to breakfast, find a spare table and eat our breakfast. In a B and B the rules are different. We both love talking, but not when trying to eat breakfast. So many hosts feel the need to chat about random trivia instead of leaving us alone to eat the food. Even worse, Marigold’s bête noire (which actually translates as ‘black beast’) is the large communal table where we have to share with other guests, several of whom will turn out to be crashing bores intent in demanding conversation when all we want to do is concentrate on what we're there to do: eat our breakfast. Sometimes, politeness is a chore. After breakfast, we will, and frequently do, talk to complete strangers about any topic under the sun. Just, not while we're eating, okay?