Saturday, August 12, 2006

Politics and cream teas

We have had a wonderful fortnight on Downhouse Farm, on the National Trust’s Golden Cap estate in Dorset.

We stayed in a National Trust cottage just off the South West Coastal footpath, in Higher Eype.

Six memorable things about the holiday were:

• The view from the cottage garden over the fields sloping down to the sea. We could see chesil beach sweeping round and the whole of the Isle of Portland stuck on the end of it like a big football boot

• Looking out of the window at night and seeing the lighthouse light twenty miles away on Portland Bill appear, disappear then re-appear half a minute later. Just like in Edward Ardizzone's Ginger and Tim book, where the children make friends with the lighthouse keeper. One stormy night Tim couldn’t sleep, so he lay awake watching the lighthouse light come and go. Then he noticed a long gap without the light coming back. He knew something was up so he woke up his dad (who told him to get back to bed) and then put on his rainmac and secretly crept outside and went to the boatman's house. Together they rowed over to the lighthouse just in time to surprise some robbers who had kidnapped the lighthouse keeper and switched the light off so they could steal its cargo when it crashed into the rocks. I had my waterproof at the ready, but the light kept coming back.

• Playing epic games of football in the garden with Dougie the farm sheepdog. We gave ourselves a point everytime we scored a goal against the little wall in front of the front door. Dougie got a point every time he intercepted a pass or blocked a shot. First to ten won. Once Dougie learned to read our tactics he won every single game. When I went out wide he would come out to block the cross, if I chipped it over him he would leap like a salmon to catch it, if I pulled it back behind him to Andrew he would turn quickly to get in front of his goal to block the shot. Even with the help of star players like Jack, Charlie and Kotalo (campers in the field opposite) we couldn’t beat Dougs. We got to 9-9 one game and Andrew’s shot agonisingly hit the post. From the restart Andrew tried to pass me, Dougie was there, business as usual, the chance had gone.

• Having bats fly so close to the house after dusk that we could make out the brown of their bodies as they rushed past.

• Going to Leakers the bakers in Bridport which does three varieties of flapjack (pecan and maple, cherry and coconut, almond and apricot.) Unless any of my readers can nominate an alternative these three will sweep the board at this years World flapjack award ceremony. If there was a world bread pudding award they would surely win that too, for their innovative Bread pudding cube, the size of half a housebrick. The other distinctive thing about Leaker’s is its social conscience. It had made a mural on the wall opposite the serving counter: someone had written Peace in big green letters with a dove next to it, and there was a chubby marker for you to sign your name on the wall. The lady behind the counter was bemoaning to me that their hadn’t been a 'Ceasefire now' demonstration in Bridport. (they had a notice up for the national march in London). It was heartening to see that this bakery was bravely going against the advice given to me by my friend James’s dad Don, when I started working at La Boulangerie bakers in Guildford in 1990. His tip for me on dealing with the customers was:
‘remember they want bread. Not Lenin, not Marx, just bread’

• Having the farm café next door to our cottage. Downhouse Farm is run as an organic farm by Nikki and Dean, and between mid march and mid October they open up the garden of their house as a café (it has plenty of shelter and shade). They do sublime ploughmans lunches and cream teas. Many was the time we popped next door for two big slabs of dorset apple cake to share between us while we watched Anna and Andrew’s favourite programme: the very wonderful Raven (set in the Scottish Highlands, combinoing celtic mythology with a kind of Krypton factor for kids). Disclosure: When I was eight I played football, in Guildford, with the son (or it might have been the nephew) of George Burns, who presented the Krypton Factor.

1 comment:

Anonymous said...

Sounds like a very nice place. And what a perfect way to spend a family vacation! I love farm houses.