A Damp Weekend In Dorset

A bit of a spur of the moment thing, but this weekend my wife and I decided to have a short break in the neighbouring county of Dorset.

The weekend started on Friday evening. Many do. Straight from work we dropped off work-related stuff, grabbed a bag full of clean clothes and toiletries, and set off westwards down the A27 towards Bournemouth where a hotel was booked. It rained on the journey. Rain, actually, may not be accurate enough to describe what the car had to travel through in its passage from Hampshire to Dorset. Quite frankly, if you’d been a passenger in the car and I’d turned around to comment that I was sorry for having driven into the sea but with luck we’d make it to a distant shore before the seals around the window gave way and heralded our drowning doom you wouldn’t have had cause to disbelieve me. It was wet. The speed was slow, the concentration was high, but eventually we reached the hotel.

Hotel room of the Wessex hotel in Bournemouth.

Hotel room of the Wessex hotel in Bournemouth.

That evening we had a quick walk around the area near the hotel but it was dark and raining – of course – and we were hungry so after a quick perusal at what was on offer we decided to eat at a place called Cristallo. As we arrived a couple were just leaving and decided to recommend the steak. I followed their advice and it was one of the best peppercorn fillet steaks I’ve had. Nice. Also consumed: garlic bread, tiger prawns, desserts, and a bottle of chianti. Very nice.

Friday finished with a couple of stops in two nearby pubs. The first was busy and noisy and… odd. Everything seemed geared for young people but there were precious few of them. We actually constituted some of the younger members and that’s wrong. The second pub, right next door, was a pub that couldn’t decide if it wanted to be a sports bar or an Irish bar and so settled on both at the same time.

We sat next to a framed picture of the Southampton 1990/91 team.

We sat next to a framed picture of the Southampton 1990/91 team.

Sitting next to a photo of the Southampton 1990/91 football team encouraged us to drink up fast and vacate the premises. That and the pub calling time at eleven. Eleven. On a Friday. To go with the photo it was like drinking in the nineties too.

Saturday! After getting some inspiration from the literature left in our hotel room for tourists we decided to head for Dorchester. There now follows a message to Dorset:

Dear Dorset,

Please consider relocating some of the revenue from the three point eight million speed cameras in your county towards repairing the potholes in your roads.

I mean it.

In Dorchester we took advantage of a deal that allowed us to visit a dinosaur exhibition, teddy bear exhibition, terracotta warriors exhibition, mummy exhibition, and Tutankhamun exhibition. It was an exhbitionorama.

Taken in one of the exhibitions but I forget which one exactly.

Taken in one of the exhibitions but I forget which one exactly.

The exhibitions were indoors and dry but outside it was decidedly damp you won’t be surprised to hear. We didn’t get a chance to really look around the town so instead hopped in the car and headed towards Swanage…

…except I decided to divert down towards Lulworth as there was a shocking break in the rain. Lulworth cove is somewhere that my wife had been before but I hadn’t. It was set at the base of a steep path which, when accompanied by the strong offshore gusts and the soggy footing made the descent an interesting one. Also interesting was Durdle Door, the natural rock formation in the cove.

I imagine that Durdle Door at dawn looks wonderful.

It's a door called Durdle.

It’s a door called Durdle.

Early afternoon on an overcast day it’s not quite as good but still impressive. But it was also cold. And our shoes weren’t suitable for much exploring. And we were riding our luck with not getting drenched as it was. So we headed back to the car with just a few stops to pretend to take photos when we were really catching our respective breaths. Did I mention it was steep?

From there to Swanage which wasn’t a bad little place and did provide us with a very nice lunch in a café. That café also provided shelter because it was absolutely tipping down outside.

At some point around Swanage I also managed to knock the dial on my camera which ensured I underexposed shots by one and two thirds stops; this is a full stop lower than I normally shoot and makes for dark photos and puzzled expressions on my face because it never occurred to me to check that setting as I never usually touch it.

One of a series of murals on some walls in Swanage.

One of a series of murals on some walls in Swanage.

From Swanage thence to Studland for a quick nose around. A quick, damp nose around. It was raining, you see.

This took us to the early evening and with light – not that there was much of it anyway – failing we headed back to Bournemouth so that some Saturday night drinking could take place. The journey back took place in rain interspersed with hailstones so large and cold that they coated the pothole-ridden roads with an inch-thick layer of white ice. Cars suddenly took on the appearance of having been snowed on. It was quite weird.

So, to drinking! Only, there was still some light and the rain had vanished again so it didn’t seem right to hit the pub straightaway; that led to us taking a wander from the hotel near the cliff top down to the end of the pier.

View from the end of Bournemouth pier.

View from the end of Bournemouth pier.

Not that great as piers go, to be fair; neither long nor very interesting, other than the art deco architecture. Importantly, though, once we reached the end of the structure, numb from the biting wind, we were provided with a nice view of Bournemouth beach and the vast, low, obviously raining cloud rushing in. This caused us to hurry along off the pier and seek shelter in a cocktail bar. What a pity. While there it started pouring down outside and – since we’d already had hail – the weather decided to treat us to a thunder and lightning spectacle too.

The sun set and the rain mostly satisfied itself with occasional drizzling just to mix things up a bit and we commenced a miniature pub crawl of Bournemouth. This included the world’s noisiest Wetherspoons and the world’s hottest, crowdediest (er?) bar but culminated in an enjoyable couple of pints in a pub with comfy chairs and good music at a volume that allowed you to talk. It also had a barman who referred to his fellow barman as “darling” which made me look around and perform some calculations: two men there, two men there, three men there, a foursome of men there, two men there, two very close men there, a rainbow poster behind where my wife was sitting… I… I think it was a gay pub. There was, in fact, just one other heterosexual couple in the place and they were staggeringly drunk; heads lolling, dropping things, etc. Naturally, they were refused service, albeit politely.

Poster in the toilets of the pub that might just have been a gay one.

Poster in the toilets of the pub that might just have been a gay one.

Whilst I was at the bar getting a second drink the drunk couple dropped their bag of shopping on the floor. I am nothing if not a gentleman and so picked everything up for them; had they bent down I doubt they’d have got up again. Amongst the items retrieved was a double-headed, purple dildo. Still in its packaging, thankfully. By way of thanks I was asked if I was a postman or a letterbox. Indeed.

Dorset in a nutshell: Dorchester, Durdle Door, decidedly damp, and mistaken for a homosexual in a gay pub. Would visit again. A+++++++

Author: Mark

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1 Comment

  1. I gather Lulworth is a favourite spot for amateur artists wanting to capture the crashing waves in winter. But given the weather, I can understand why you didn’t dawdle to doodle the gurgle at Durdle.

    Duh… (or door, even).

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