I blog today from the top of Hengistbury head, Dorset.
We are here on our holiday; a one week break away from it all in a caravan on the site my girlfriend frequented yearly as a child (and her parents still do). We drove just over 4 and a half hours down on Saturday and will do the same next Saturday despite warnings from my Dad that it’d take upwards of 8 hours. Sam’s Dad helpfully provided directions which we stuck to my dashboard and used the satnav anyway. For the first time ever we arrived without a wrong turn, flat tyre, breakdown or shortage of fuel. The journey was quite unremarkable and the company was wonderful.
Now, I’m not an outdoorsy girl so I was eased into caravaning with a Chinese takeaway and pottery painting. By the way, I love the caravan. It’s like camping but with a real bed and hot running water and Freeview and wifi. We painted coasters to behold on our new IKEA coffee table at home, the theme being “things we will do this week”. So I painted Monkey World and the aquarium and a caravan and Sam expertly decorated her coasters with scenes of where we’d sit; we’d already sat for an hour the evening before and enjoyed watching fisherman by the Priory. I enjoyed it mostly up until the part that one of the fisherman bashed a fish to death with something that sounded heavy, shortly after that we left.
What I would have painted had we done so today would be a wasp and a gull on at least one of the coasters.
Allow me to set the scene. Sam’s Dad knows how not-outdoorsy I am and had recommended a pub for Sunday lunch. He had given us directions (also stuck to my dashboard) on how to get there along the river and instructed us to “stagger back mid afternoon being careful to avoid ducks, swans etc” (this was an actual quote, the latter part being a joke at my phobia of birds.)
By way of further scene-setting let me take you back to 1995, another caravaning trip this time nearer to home in Hornsea. I was the chubby, bowl cut youngster you’ve heard a lot about and armed with a secret diary, complete with lock and keys and I think a kitten on the squishy cover, and clear-sparkly jelly sandals. We- my Mum, Dad, tot of a brother and Nanna- had gone to feed geese. Not happy that one large, noisy creature was getting all the bread while I hand fed the gaggle of geese and sat on the bonnet of my Dad’s Vauxhall Cavalier, I carefully put the bread behind my back. I’d won; the greedy goose moved off and I continued to feed the geese by taking smaller pieces of bread from behind my back. It was then that disaster struck and the greedy (and intelligent) creature located the bread and snatched it from me, pecking my bottom in the process. I sat locked into the Cavalier for the rest of the afternoon and have hated birds ever since. In fact, as I’ve grown it’s grown into a wholly illogical phobia that results in me crying more often than an adult should.
So, on Sunday we set off out of the caravan car-less and ready for a glass of wine. Sam remembered a shortcut and I topped up my lipstick and off we went. We weren’t even off of the caravan site when I noticed a huge wasp on my arm and froze. I called for Sam who told me “not to panic“. At that point I thought there was a small creature near my foot; a rat or a vole or whatever. Turns out that what I could feel was a hive of wasps swarming up my leg. Sam notified me that I had stepped on a wasp’s nest. I panicked. The thing on my arm (something over an inch in length) must have been the Queen and they hadn’t taken kindly to the disturbance. Sam told me to move but I just froze and screamed. Then a fellow caravanner, clearly concerned, came out and the stinging started. Fortunately I had a skirt on that meant that the wasps had excellent access to my legs and bottom. Brilliant.
When I eventually moved, the wasps swarmed after me. The previously concerned caravanner was back in his safe metal-box quicker than I could say skedaddle, windows shut and all. In all the who-har I’d managed to drop my bag which meant that we couldn’t get back into the caravan because the bag (containing the key) was now surrounded by about five hundred angry wasps. After a while a member of staff with a huge pole (cue that’s what she said jokes) rescued my bag and I went to apply sting soothing lotion to the 12 or so stings I had all over my body. Sam had managed to be stung 5 or 6 times too and an hour after originally setting off we hadn’t even made it out of the site.
My hand was like a boxing glove the next day but we headed to local seaside Bournemouth anyway, a ten minute drive from where we are staying. We were off to the Oceanarium and for a picnic on the beach. That is until we set up our picnic and about 30 birds ranging from pigeons to a Gull bigger than our cat started surrounding us. Now, given my experience with birds I wasn’t happy with this either. I tried to think logically but couldn’t breathe or see through the tears. I ran off sobbing while Sam re-packed up our lunch. We’ve decided the seaside really isn’t for me- good job we haven’t already booked our honeymoon for Hawaii. Oh wait. Although I’m assured by Sam that there’ll be no seagulls there and I’m choosing to trust her. Or attend some kind of horrific phobia therapy that’ll entail forms of falconry and mean that I no longer hyperventilate at the sight of a feathered creature within 5 feet of me, in a bid to avoid completely ruining our honeymoon and holiday of a lifetime.
So today we are relaxing. The view and this silence up here is astounding. It’s hot and, even though I am once again dressed Inappropriately with a scarf on (a fancy one, not a wooly one), I feel completely relaxed. I like this feeling; I’m tightly wound and it’s alien to me as someone who usually worries about not having anything to worry about. As for Sam, I think she’s just happy I’ve stopped moaning for long enough to jot this down.
I hope, at least, that my company makes up for the drama I seem to drag along with me wherever I go. And anyway, I think that’s one of the things she might like about me. And by think, I of course mean hope.