Posts Tagged ‘snow’

The sea. Without me.

Saturday, March 17th, 2018

I am on holiday. Only for about four minutes, but it’s still a holiday. This tiny getaway was designed to satiate the longings of a madman who wanted to surf in North Devon for the weekend. That’s right, surfing. In Devon. In March. I don’t even want to think about the temperature of the sea, it’s truly for the die-hards and I am definitely not one of those.

We are in a gorgeous little holiday apartment right on the beach which means that we don’t have to mess around carting surfboards back and forth on the car, we can wreck our forearms by carrying them to the water. It’s out of season, there’s loads of parking right next to the apartment and it’s literally seconds from the sea. Perfect! Except things haven’t gone exactly smoothly since we arrived.

The first thing we did wrong was to not actually arrive. I thought I was fairly safe by following directions to this specific, tailored-for-surfing beach but we left the main roads for these tiny, little lanes and after twenty minutes the sea was nowhere in sight. But that wasn’t too much trouble – nothing was in sight. Because of the fog. And there was not another car on the road, unless you count the one with the faulty headlight following very closely behind us (Wolf Creek, need I say more). Then we saw a sign for some military thing ahead but we persevered down the lane anyway and quickly came to a gate. I did a 93 point turn and suggested that while we were here we should probably let the dogs out for a quick wee, seeing as they’d been in the car for about three hours.

“Come on,” I say to my eldest daughter, “let’s just walk them quickly.”

“Mummy! No! Didn’t you see the signs?!”

“Yes…..but so what?”

“It said there were troops training, it had a little picture of shotguns and unexploded bombs! I am not getting out here!”

Oh. OK, maybe it’s best if we don’t go for a wander here, alone, in the dark then.

When we arrived at our destination, it was pitch black and all we had were vague instructions which alluded to a reception hut, a key safe and the details of our apartment. ‘Next to the restaurant’ it said. All that was next to the restaurant was their bin area, which seemed improbable for hosting a reception, we did actually check, albeit doubtfully and trying not to breathe. ‘Next to the restaurant’ happened to be about half a mile away along cold, windy, sandy footpaths with no lights, it turns out. But we found it eventually and began the gargantuan task of locating the actual apartment. The place was literally deserted, with no signs whatsoever. There’s a row of apartments called ‘The Burrows’ and our burrow was allegedly number 5. The problem was that there were no actual numbers, or indeed any indication, to clarify which one was which. Some had lights on and some were in the dark, so we hedged our bets and stole up to one of the dark ones. This is worse than it sounds because in order to do this we had to open their private garden gate and trespass across their land, sneaking up to the front door to see if we could spy a number. I hoped fervently that there was no farmer with a shotgun, ready to take us out if we started worrying the residents.

For the first couple, nope, there was nothing. We were reduced to burglar status, trying each door until we found one that our key fitted, which it eventually did. In a bid to recover from our journey I, quite reasonably and immediately sought sustenance in the form of wine, but the only glasses that are here are the smallest, meanest little wine glasses that I’ve ever seen. It’s like drinking from a thimble. But desperate times, desperate measures and all that.

This morning it was snowing. Undeterred, my crazy family donned their wetsuits, waxed their boards and headed off determinedly to submerge themselves into the sea under the blanket of the howling winds and blizzard. I honestly feared for their poor little hearts, being goaded into sudden arrest by the sub-zero temperature of the water. I, myself, stayed in bed with tea and a book. As anyone who knows me will testify, I’m more likely to fly through the air than I am to get into the English seas in March. And it seems that I was right, about ten minutes later the intrepid explorers were back, blue of lips and chattering of teeth. “Nice time?” I called out.

“Can’t. Feel. My. Hands.” But their hearts were still beating so we must be thankful for small mercies.

And then this afternoon, it was my turn to venture out to the sand dunes with my newly-arrived-back-from-work partner. We’re still at the stage where spending a second apart seems completely unreasonable. We were hoping for a nice walk. We didn’t mind the chilly weather (although we were freezing), we didn’t mind the biting wind that attacked us as we walked along the top of the dunes. Well, I say we didn’t mind – it was enough to drive us elsewhere. So, we made our way further down into the dunes, off piste – off the beaten track, if you will. And we found brambles, vicious brambles, that were growing over every single path we went down and were determined to rip my leggings, and Dubarrys, to shreds. We came across a sign telling us to beware of the sheep, dogs must be kept on leads, that kind of thing, but other than that, we were alone.

Walking in the sand dunes is like entering an alternate universe. Everything looks the same, all the paths are identical, winding up and down around the dunes and all routes lead to the same place. Almost literally. You quickly become disorientated, lose track of which direction you’re facing and have no idea where the beach is and much less your apartment. It was freezing cold, the sea winds whipped around us and chilled our very bones. After about fifteen minutes, I looked around me and realised two things:

a)       We were lost

b)      There was a bull bellowing at us and preparing to charge

Yep. I kid you not. As we clambered up onto a dune which dipped sharply downwards, we were suddenly confronted by at least four cows and a bull. Sheep! Where were the sheep??? We signed up for sheep! We both froze, unwillingly to attract any attention to ourselves, but as luck would have it, we had the dogs to do that for us. Off they bombed towards the bovines, happily anticipating a nice chase. I don’t think for one second that they appreciated they might be the chasees. We glanced at each other, “They can run faster than we can,” we reasoned, and we climbed swiftly up onto the next dune. In our hurry to get away, I fell once, sustaining bramble injuries to my frozen hands and knees, but we had to scrabble hastily onwards in order to escape the bull. It didn’t work. Every time we peered over a peak, that bloody bull was there, surrounded by an increasing number of acolyte cows. Watching us with his black, beady eyes, bellowing and planning his next mode of attack.

“Get down!” was hissed at me. “Get down here, quickly!”

It soon became clear that he was pursuing us. I have no idea what for, or how long we traversed the dunes, shivering, frantically searching for the path that led to home. I didn’t care how cold I was. It may not be my idea of fun, but I will say that I’d rather dive into the sub-zero seas than I would be gored by an angry bull.

Happily, we made it back eventually, the dogs had re-joined us just as we emerged from the dunes, wondering if we were in fact walking into 2055. We stumbled down towards the safety of the beach in blinding snow and freezing temperatures and I realised something. I may not be a die-hard, but I was a hair’s breadth away from becoming a die-cold.

Snow? Let it go, let it go, let it go

Friday, December 3rd, 2010

Because I wear a lot of Jack Wills and queue superbly I’m going to start this blog in a very British way. By talking about the weather  – in particular the SNOW. I’m surrounded by the stuff. There’s a foot of it outside and then I’m having photos emailed to me, every status on facebook is either about how wonderful it is to make snowmen or photos of said snowmen and I know I must be the most miserable person on the planet but I don’t like it; it’s a nuisance and very cold. Plus I can’t see why the country has to grind to a halt the minute the flakes begin falling. You can count one finger the number of people who went to work this morning from our road; and this is despite the fact that I know the snowploughs and gritters were on the roads around us at 5am this morning. By all accounts the motorway is mostly clear and running well – probably due to the fact that not many people have bothered to venture onto it.  Already I have read one irate facebook status relating to snow and school closure and severe risk aversion and just having to get on with it. Or words to that effect. Clearly I understand that snow can make travel difficult, clearly I understand that roads and pavements are icy and care must be taken. But when it gets to the point that everyone shuts their doors and stays at home the minute the snow clouds begin to gather I think it’s time that we question what we are doing. A few adjustments – hats, scarves, winter tyres, that sort of thing – I think we’d find the country can probably operate pretty much as normal.

With that rant over, I’m pleased that the snow held off for long enough to allow me to do what I needed to this week or my blog would have been more of a diatribe. As you will all know I braved the tube strike ( successfully! Ha!) and went to London on Monday to Ali McNamara’s launch of her book, “From Notting Hill with Love…..Actually”. I confess that I haven’t read it yet because I’m still buried deep in Jojo Moyes’ “Night Music” which is brilliant, but I am so looking forward to it. I have a signed copy sitting right next to me on my desk, the reviews are fantastic and I’ve read so many positive comments. It was great to meet Ali, she’s absolutely lovely, as are her children and husband. The launch party was a lot of fun, it was held in the Travel Bookshop in Notting Hill which I understand features in the film of the same name? It’s a long time since I watched it. I didn’t know many people there but everyone I spoke to was very friendly and didn’t mind at all that I looked like a complete idiot for failing to guess at even one question in the movie quiz that Ali had organised. Clearly I am not up to speed with my films; it was quite embarrassing how obvious it was when you thought about it. But no matter, I had a lovely time and drank 1 ½ glasses of wine. Sedate, by my standards. Or even positively stationary now that I think about it. Ali gave a lovely, heartfelt speech, read an extract from her book and generally hosted the whole thing very well. In fact, the only bad thing I have to say about the party is that it was dangerously close to the Jack Wills shop on the Portobello Road. Which I stupidly ventured into. And then I even more stupidly tried a dress on. The Ellenthorpe dress. It is GORGEOUS. I love it. And from that you will guess that I stupidly bought it. I couldn’t not, I loved it so much. It’s a size 8 though and a pretty small 8 at that so if I put on even 1lb in weight I won’t be able to wear it, which is alarming. Now I just have to find all the right occasions to wear it to, as its exorbitant price demands that I should.

And last, but by absolutely no means least, the other very exciting thing to happen in my week was my husband being made a magistrate. And because he is only just twenty-seven, that makes him the youngest magistrate in Hampshire, which I have already mentioned several thousand times. It is very impressive though and means that he is already a bit of a star among the new magistrate intake, in fact he was interviewed by the producer for a Radio 4 programme, due to be broadcast in March. He sounded very knowledgeable and coherent – then she moved on to me and I was definitely less so. Sadly. My husband obviously heard this tremendously exciting news a while back, but his actual swearing-in ceremony was on Wednesday in Winchester and happily the 1cm of snow that had fallen then did not prevent us going.

And on the note of Winchester I shall be back there tomorrow signing copies of Things He Never Knew. The signing is being held in Waterstones in The Brooks from 11am-4pm and I am very much looking forward to it. Of course this is subject to me being able to get through the snow. But after all my complaints about lack of effort in the snow I suspect I shall have to walk there if necessary – but not in this dress……..



My dress :)