Thursday, 21 June 2018

Military Might and Orchids

We thought we should learn more aboutWWII The twins still have nightmares from an earlier visit to La Vallee Museum, based in a German Underground Hospital excavated by slave labour. So instead we cycled the German Occupation Museum and then to Pleinmont Observation Tower.

The man who admitted us to Pleinmont Observation Tower was the same person who had taken our money only hours earlier at the German Occupation Museum so I imagine WWII heritage is preserved by a small and dedicated band of people.  Locally this man was a star having produced the introduction to the Guernsey Literary and Potato Peel Pie film which was out this year.  However, he did admit that it was only the Channel Islands version of the film which had his introduction.   

The tower itself had the purpose of monitoring plane and ship movements out to sea, although thrown up in a matter of months by the Germans and with an emphasis on being secure, even against gas attack, it was still an elegant example of brutalist architecture.  However, whether this souvenir of the Nazi occupation will ever be admired more than it is hated is hard to imagine.

In complete contrast to all this history of ruthless military aggression, there was something else I very much wanted to see.  Googling, Pascoe and I had discovered by chance that 1)There was a spectacular wild Guernsey orchid.  2) It was in bloom now, 3) There were some fields near the coast where it thrived.
It sounded like a potential wild goose chase to Nigel but I was determined, and we pedalled to the right area.
I eventually spotted the exotic purple flowers over a hedge and slammed my brakes on to much swearing behind me.  
The loveliness of these lush, flower-tapestry water meadows  was beyond me to describe.  Suffice it to say that there were four types of orchid including the loose-flowered Guernsey orchid, and also delicate ragged robin, yellow bartsia and yellow flag irises.  It is not promoted to tourists so, apart from one other equally astounded couple, we had the meadows to ourselves. Maybe Heaven will be a bit like that.

We ended the day by playing Frisbee on the beach then had a glass of Prosecco while the sun sank behind a rocky island.

At sunset, the tide had dropped enough to allow us to clamber across to the island, just in time to see the sea flush rose.


Saturday, 16 June 2018

Dolphins and Sea shells

We cycled to St Peter Port and caught the ferry to Herm.  Many people are drawn to Herm because it is the picture postcard ideal of an island.  Above the white sand beaches, brightly coloured flowers and tall New Zealand flax make it look tropical.  But I had another goal in mind. 
On the ferry trip over, more gleeful dolphins accompanied us, although Perran and Carenza and Will, sitting inside the boat, missed them.  Once on Herm, there was little consultation as to what we should do.  I set off marching purposefully and the others fell in line behind me. We were heading to the north east of the island, to Shell Bay where there was rumoured to be an extraordinary and compulsive array of shells.  
When we got there, we did indeed find everything from massive common "otters" through to the tiniest cowries.  Plus many shells which I had not seen before. Ever since childhood, I have had a weird compulsion to collect shells, without any thought of how to make use of them.  They seem to me exquisitely beautiful and I derive visual pleasure from picking them out, then enjoy sorting and categorising them.  
I have a tradition with Carenza that the first one of us to find a cowry on holiday gives it as a gift to the other.  Today, our hands were overflowing with them.
Too soon, it was time for the last ferry and home.  On the way back, Perran and Carenza who had previously missed the dolphins sat on the top deck in order to be sure of not missing them.  Naturally, there were no dolphins this time.

Thursday, 14 June 2018

Chapel & Chips - Family Holiday, Guernsey

Cycled to the charming Little Chapel, hand mosaicked in multi-coloured china and tile by a monk about 100 years ago.  Nigel remembered visiting here on a childhood holiday.  We came again when our own children were tiny and I remembered accidentally leaving my copy of Vera Brittain’s Testament of Youth here.  I had a quick look round but it seemed to have vanished during the intervening eighteen years. 

The ceramic decoration was mesmerising - themes and patterns would emerge over certain sections, but would then meld into the general melee of varied fragments.  There was a pattern of ormer shells on the vaulting above the Virgin Mary.  And what I didn’t expect, the Chapel took the visitor on a journey through to a further two tiny chapels at lower levels.  

Nearby were Guernsey clockmakers, inventive and imaginative yet tacky at the same time – segments of each clockface split, unfurled and twirled in time to Swan Lake or The Waltz of the Flowers, accompanied by motifs of tutu-ed ballet dancers or tulips, and regrettably studded with Swarovski.
Then north west on our bikes again, along lanes lined with a braid of red campion and wild sorrel.

We visited the tiny ancient chapel of St Apolline, the patron saint of toothache (following a  gruesome martyrdom which I'll leave to your imagination), and appreciated the exquisite mediaeval wall-painting of the Last Supper.

Then back in time for the Fleetwood Mac Tribute balcony concert at Cobo Bay Hotel.  Thousands of people thronged the coast road and beach to chill out  to the music, but I had something else on my mind: there was a chippie very close to the concert.
So last time we went on holiday en famille, I had brought with us salt, white pepper, malt vinegar and ketchup, all in anticipation of fish and chips.  However, Nigel had discovered that the chips that time were fried in beef dripping, thus putting them off-limits to four family members.  I had sadly taken home my condiments unused. 
This time however, Nigel solved the problem by not asking what their chips were fried in and I colluded by not questioning him.  Instead, I opened the fragrant paper parcel he had purchased, pulled the Sarsons malt vinegar from my ruck sack and drenched the delicious fish and chips.  They were so good that I barely remembered to feel guilty.  And as if fish and chips were not enough to make the Halleluiah Chorus play spontaneously in my head, we were eating them perched on a sea wall, my favourite spot for making any food taste twice as good.  Plus, the Fleetwood Mac Tribute was playing in the background.
After the chips, we lolled on the beach like seals, happy in our own blubber and decided we would wait on the beach for the sunset, even in spite of the fact that some local twenty-somethings came and began to hurl a rugby ball around far too close to us. 
One dropped the ball:  “You’re so gay!”  “I may be gay, but at least my dick’s bigger than yours.”  An object lesson in witty banter to be treasured by each one of us.

Tuesday, 12 June 2018

Family Holiday - Guernsey - Day 1

In the morning, mist and “why didn’t I bring a jumper” were the order of the day.
We cycled over to St Peter Port, along narrow, high-hedged lanes bright with red campions, three cornered leek and pennywort.

In the town, Carenza and I spied beautiful shops and became unpleasant and haughty until the guys eventually shouldered the massive hint and left us alone to browse and drool.  Although, as Nigel said,
“You’ll want us again when there’s shopping to carry.”

Carenza bought a gold and green necklace and I bought a pink and orange dress.  She carried them.

We went en famille and explored the Castle (Castle Cornet) with an amazing tour from the Norm, an islander who recalled the WWII occupation and disliked anybody from Germany.  But not as much as he disliked anybody from Jersey.

After he finished, we enjoyed a scented garden with a chamomile lawn, followed by a dressing up room.  However, some of the historic costumes were too small.  It was almost as if they had been made for children.

By the time we pedalled for home, the sun had finally broken through.
That evening we set off south along the coast beside the drifts of wild gladioli, pink thrift and yellow mustard and dined at the Rocks Restaurant overlooking Cobo Bay, its picturesque rocks and romantic sunset.  The restaurant coped well with both vegetarians and vegans, although they did accidentally serve Nigel The Wrong Pie.

Best of all though was the thunderstorm that broke on our way home in the dark.  We were arrested by the spectacle out to sea and stood watching from the dunes near our house.  Sheets flashed and forks writhed across the sky, turning the whole sea into a mirror.  We oohed and aahed as if it were November 5th.  
In the electrified blackness, plastic glowed weirdly.  Nigel scooped up in his palms what he thought was a glow worm but turned out to be a plastic sweet wrapper.  Hahaha.

Nazi graffiti, Castle Cornet

Sunday, 10 June 2018

Family Holiday - Guernsey - setting off

We never know when it'll be the last holiday when we succeed in enticing all the children with us, but we managed it this year.
Got up at 5.15am, rolled out of the house into the heavily laden car.
There were the usual holiday happenings – Five of us had to fit in the car so I  had weighed up carefully my choice of clothes and laid out my outfit so I didn’t have to take any decisions while befuddled in the early morning.  I got dressed but left my jumper, intending to put it on just as I exited the house.  At the point of departure, it was nowhere to be found.  Five adults searched every room.  Clearly aliens had abducted my pullover.
Nigel had allowed loads of time for the drive and we arrived in plenty of time. But parked tightly on the ferry we had the usual scramble to prize ourselves out of the car with our bulky daysacks, plus phones, books, computers and not quite enough hands.  It was as if, even after queuing on the tarmac for half an hour, we had never guessed this moment would come.  We Hobbas are also the people in supermarket queues who look surprised when asked to pay for our goods and spend a long time looking for our wallets.
As we boarded, I said to Perran, “Really feels like we’re on holiday now.  Wouldn’t it be amazing if we saw dolphins?”
On the ferry, mist closed in and there was an announcement not to worry as the ferry foghorn sounded.  I began to hum the Titanic theme.  Hackneyed, I know but worth it for a view of the occasional truly worried rolling-eyed passenger.
But then, a miracle, on the way into St Peterport harbour.
Six to eight dolphins accompanied the ferry in, riding in the bow wave and the wake, leaping completely out of the water.
This was going to be a great holiday. 
Later, from our holiday cottage, we wandered along the sand of Cobo Bay.  West-facing, the sunsets are legendary, but not when the sea mist rolls in.
But that didn’t stop the beach art.  Nigel and Pascoe made a henge.  Perran inscribed a huge organic pattern in the sand with his feet.  I made a watercolour of Cobo Bay in the mist and Carenza took photos.

Thursday, 7 June 2018

The Tummy Machine

Since January I've been going to the gym a couple of times a week. 
It was grim at first and only the prospect of watching an episode of Frasier on the gym TV took my mind off the fact I was pedalling furiously.

But lately I've been feeling proud of myself. I'm a smidgeon fitter, a soupcon trimmer. I occasionally allow myself a peek in the floor-to-ceiling mirrors nowadays.

On Tuesday I was pedalling up an imaginary hill, with only minimal wheezing, when a woman I hadn't seen before came in. Of medium height and build, there was little remarkable about her, except her manner. She paced rapidly around the gym as if looking for somebody or something. 

I was the only person there and she began to approach me between the rows of machines, but then as she drew close seemed to change her mind. Instead she retreated and went on looking around the gym. 
Eventually a lovely young woman entered, all swinging ponytail and pert lycra, and stepped up to the cross-trainer. Immediately my searching lady approached her. 

"Excuse me, love, where's the tummy machine? "
“The tummy machine - for giving you a nice flat stomach."
"Um...I don't think there is one."
"But I've got a wedding to go to on Saturday. There has to be a tummy machine!"

Eventually she took herself off to search for her miracle cure elsewhere. 
I was chuckling to myself, but then I stopped. 
A thought had occurred to me - 
What exactly was it about my appearance that made her think I wouldn't know where the flat tummy machine was?

Thursday, 31 May 2018

Car Share

Our little Ford Fiesta did umpteen years of school and supermarket runs . All three children learnt to drive in it . There were still claw marks on the sides of the passenger seat where I had hung on in terror during sorties onto the dual carriageway. Scrapes on the wing showed where one of the kids found the garden wall before the steering wheel.  Dents along one side show where Perran used to rest his bike while preparing for his paper round.  Until one morning I got up very early and discovered him doing it.

The Fiesta had even once taken me and three fully grown children on a camping trip all the way to Cornwall. The boot was so full I had to remove the cherry tomatoes from their punnet and insert them individually amongst the other luggage. 

Now however Nigel commutes by train. I drive the daddy car as it is more fuel efficient. The Fiesta has faded gradually, moss growing on it, its various mechanical failures totting up.

Why did we go on taxing and MOTing it?  Because we thought one of the children might want it. However since they live in Edinburgh and London a car can be more of a liability than an asset and none of them is interested. 

Couldn't we buy a paddock and put it out to grass? I ask Nigel.

I am out on the day that the scrap merchant takes it away.*

Sometimes I look at the space on the drive and sigh.  I feel somehow I let the Fiesta down. If we'd sold it on sooner it might still be alive now.
Did I just say alive?

But then good news.
Some friends from church are taking the opportunity to work in Australia for a year. Their car needs a foster home.  Nigel is mystified as I volunteer our drive enthusiastically.

When the car arrives it looks as if not merely three children but possibly the Waltons or Von Trapps had learnt to drive in it. That's great. 

I pat its bonnet each time I pass by to the carriage. It fits right in. 

*Nigel tells me it was an end of life vehicle dismantler