Cutting it Short

After a couple of days at the Emsworth site [as described in last week’s post], we’ve determined there’s not too much left to see and it’s time to move on, this time to Littlehampton. Somewhere deep in the recesses of my [admittedly defective] memory, I seem to recall that we were despatched there from London as students in the fine art department of my college, in order to produce some work of a seaside nature. Other than this I remember nothing, so presumably the results were under-whelming and unlikely to set the art world on fire.

I’ve booked tickets to see The Weald and Downland Living Museum, an open-air attraction covering a large area and celebrating South Downs life with constructions of homes and businesses from days gone by. It’s also the home of ‘The Repair Shop’- a hit British TV series where expert restorers of every skill revive items that are brought in by members of the public. The objects chosen need to have an emotive back story, such as having been used by a beloved, now deceased parent or grandparent, which precludes Husband or me submitting ourselves for repair or any of the rubbish we have cluttering up our house.

We’ve been given a time-slot for revival and since we’re taking in the museum en route to our next site at Littlehampton we park and have lunch first. In the enclosure, some of the installations are set up as working premises, manned by volunteers who are eager to impart their knowledge and undertake demonstrations. We go first to the potter, who stands behind his wheel clearly gagging for the punters to stop and listen, which we obligingly do. And it’s here I hit my first snag with the museum: about half the items on display are things we had in our household when I was a child. Here in the potter’s shelter lies a ceramic mixing bowl- two of which we have in our kitchen cupboard right now, as I write. The potter imparts some interesting facts, although there’s little new in his exposure of all things pottery. I used to teach a pottery evening class myself, many moons ago and know about pug mills, kiln explosions etc.

I’m aware that we’re trapped by the ‘expert’ but then we’re rescued by some fresh victims visitors, allowing us to move on to the blacksmith’s shack. The expert here is an ex-volunteer but seems to know how to make a curly piece of iron. From here we can see the venue for The Repair Shop TV programme, although we’re not allowed too close due to it’s being a film set. A scaffold to the side of the thatched building indicates it is being repaired…

We continue to the mill, nipping away before we’re caught again then leave via the bakery, which is flogging yummy little oat cakes, still warm from the big, wood-fired wall oven. We’re getting the hang of avoiding the ‘guides’ and stick to visiting the unmanned houses. There’s a mixture of eras from medieval to Victorian. As before, many of the homes are furnished with items I remember my mother using: a ‘copper’ and a mangle for laundry, a range, chamber pots in the bedrooms. There are some glaring omissions though. We’d no bathroom before I was five and we were bathed in a tin bath by the fire. Also our toilet resided in a wooden shack towards the back of the garden and was furnished with a wide, wooden plank into which two holes were carved- one large and one smaller. A child could sit and cogitate alongside an adult there- although I don’t remember sharing with either of my parents! Under the seats was a long drop down into a cess pit. There are no outside toilets at the museum as far as I can see…

There’s a small farm area and a charcoal burners camp in the woods, then we’ve done it, neatly dodging the well-meaning volunteers.

We head off to Littlehampton and park up in our pitch. I still have a sore throat. The site is quite different from Emsworth, with more caravans, but it’s quiet and we’ve found a sunny spot. There’s next to no internet signal here for our little mobile pebble hub, but we pass a peaceful evening.

I wake feeling achey and unrested. After a while I decide a Covid lateral flow test is in order and Lo and Behold…there is the second red line. There’s not much deliberation and we’re not far from home so the second night gets scrapped as we pack up and take to the road home. Next morning it’s raining…