I spent last summer almost entirely away from home. It all began with our wedding at St Abbs, took in our honeymoon on the Isle of Lewis and two family get togethers in the south of England, before concluding with a three week house-sit in London. That was a great summer, probably our best yet. And I thought there wasn’t a spud in a chip shop’s chance of this one getting close. I had hoped to get some funding for a visit to a small Scottish island to do the research my novel needs, but that was as far as my hopes went, then our children jumped in.
First up, a package arrived from my son, Bob, in the US. Inside was an apron and two notes, one on a vintage looking postcard from Glacier National Park, the other on a slip of paper. The postcard note wished me happy birthday and explained the apron. It’s from Bob and his wife Reg’s favourite breakfast spot, where they go most weekends with a group of friends they met on a trip to a comedy festival in Canada. The note said that they all have the aprons, and now I can be part of the gang. You’d think it couldn’t get better, but the second note said that as this was the year of our ‘Paper’ anniversary they thought they’d get us paper tickets to visit. Thus, at the end of August, Dave and I are going to America for three weeks!
Secondly, Dave’s daughter, Jo, won a weekend glamping trip to Weymouth, but with two small children – one just over a year old – couldn’t go. Actually, she hoped to be able to go with Dave, but couldn’t get that particular weekend off work. So she asked Badger Beer (the prize givers) if it could be transferred to us, and it could! So at the end of July we are off to stay in a bell tent at a place called Rosewall.
The things I always want to do when I go somewhere new are: eat good, local food; find out a little bit about the culture and history; see as much art as possible; and experience the landscape and its nature (Dave tells me Dorset’s a good place for butterflies, and this is a good butterfly year). I like to just absorb a place, feel it, smell it, taste it, walk, clamber, and sit perfectly still in it.
I’ll be googling like mad over the next few weeks, especially for America, a country I know only from movies and books, but a little bit about Weymouth too. For instance I’m anxious to find out where I can get a cup of good coffee in the morning, and the best place for an authentic Dorset Cream Tea.
Mostly I want to spend my time there pootling around rock-pools and staring out to sea, though I do want to visit Hardy’s cottage. Thomas Hardy was the writer who opened the door to classic English Literature for me, I read everything of his I could get my hands on in my late teens, and I still love him. It will be marvellous to be in the place he wrote Far From the Madding Crowd, and, possibly, return imbued with some of his inspirations.
When it comes to food, apart from the iconic Cream Tea, I’m hoping for the freshest, tastiest fish. So if anyone can recommend a good fish restaurant in the Weymouth area, please do. And a farmers’ market, I don’t plan to do any cooking, no camping stove, but browsing food stalls is one of my favourite activities, so if you know of a good one…
Part of our prize is a voucher (£50) to spend in the Smugglers’ Arms which, the literature says, is a short walk from the campsite. It looks pretty gorgeous, but I’ll let you know once we’ve been. I expect we’ll want to eat there on our first night.
Now, when it comes to America I hope to try both traditional regional dishes, and updated ones. Bob has already promised to take us to Vatan where, he says, they keep bringing you food until you tell them to stop. Dave loves Indian food, and is a vegetarian (or flexitarian, he’ll eat the odd sausage or haggis), so this will be a big treat for him. I’ll be interested to see if the food is as good as my mother’s (she grew up in Burma with Indian cooks), and to taste what they say is authentic Gujarati fare. But what else?
I want to try authentic New York Jewish food, and to eat in the kind of Italian restaurant Serpico would have. And New York isn’t the only place we’re going, and I haven’t even started on all the other things I want to explore; I need to make a list…
Header image granddaughter, Charlotte, and me in St Abbs: Dave Dick (otherwise known as Husband)