Going Local

Home from our two week dash to Brittany we unload, deal with domestics, undertake some garden rescue [drought had been threatening to murder many plants], clean the van and make another, impromtu dash; this time to the New Forest, which is on our doorstep and to a favourite spot- Holland’s Wood at Brockenhurst.

We choose midweek, calculating that the weekend will elicit throngs of campers into the Forest and it’s certainly quiet as we arrive in the early afternoon. Husband is keen to try out a plan he had devised to manage for longer without electric hook-up [Holland’s Wood has none]. Our ancient camping gas/electric fridge has been resurrected for use outside, now that there is an external gas outlet on the van, freeing up solar power for other devices.

In the old, tent camping days the gas fridge was a boon and much used on trips. Subsequently it has been used as an extra fridge at parties or during the freezer defrosting process.

For the uninitiated, the New Forest National Park covers app 150 square miles of land in the south of England and is home to a vast variety of wildlife as well as livestock- pigs, cattle, donkeys and ponies that roam unrestricted throughout the park. The animals, in particular the ponies have adapted to visitors and developed skills in stalking and mugging and anyone sitting down to enjoy an innocent picnic can expect to be gatecrashed by a couple of hungry, marauding ponies.

Ponies, donkeys and cows also wander into the campsites, weaving expertly through and around tents, vans and motorhomes and helping themselves to anything vaguely food related. It’s mid-morning when a tribe meanders into Hollands Wood, one of the mares accompanied by a young foal, all legs and eyelashes. He’s curious, sniffing and nibbling a campervan. Camera at the ready, I go to watch, although not so close as to upset his protective mum. He spots me and walks towards me and I can’t help stretching out a hand, at which he puts his soft nose into it. The mare continues to graze, unperturbed. It’s a wonderful moment.

One reason for choosing Holland’s Wood site is proximity to Brockenhurst village, with its shops, cafes, pubs and restaurants, although walking there and back involves trudging along by the busy main road for some of it. It’s a cute place though, with a parade of shops and a railway station, making it just about possible to go camping by train.

Due to wrist surgery I’ve not cycled for about a year and this is the occasion for trying it out- first around the relatively flat campsite a few times, during which my legs begin to hurt already, then for a short ride on a forest track. The gravelly track is bumpy and I’ve not brought my support straps, so post-cycle my wrist is not too happy!

We BBQ on our new gas, outdoor cooker then the evening closes in with some magnificent thunder and lightning plus a few showers and we sit outside under the awning to enjoy the spectacle.

Next day is a rest for wrists and we walk. We go through the village and up to picturesque St Nicholas church, which we weren’t able to see inside the last time we looked as its roof had collapsed. It’s a tiny and beautiful church and has a special stained glass window donated by New Zealand, in recognition of the health care given to their war veterans in the First World War.

Walking in the New Forest is always rewarding and I feel we’ve earned the meal we have in The Huntsman, just along the road. We leave on Friday, just as others are streaming in to the site, encampments of tents springing up and it’s looking much busier. Goodbye for now but we’ll be back again soon…

Grace is also known as the novelist, Jane Deans. Her new novel, The Conways at Earthsend is now out and available from Amazon, Waterstones, Goodreads, W H Smith, Pegasus Publishing and many more sites. Visit my website: janedeans.com or my author page on Facebook: (1) Jane Deans, Novellist, Short Fiction and Blog | Facebook.

Que Sera Sera [and era era]

This time last year I posted a rambling, meandering piece about regret. Once you get into what I shall call somewhat older age the achievements you have not made may have begun to assemble into a substantial and growing heap. They may even have become a mountain. Ambition and regret are linked together like health and sickness.
As children we might begin with some outlandish and bizarre ideas about what we would like to do as adults. I still remember the cruel taunts and guffaws of laughter from my family that met my announcement at the supper table that I would become a missionary. I would have been about six years old at this point. There followed a series of ambitious plans for my adult occupation: ballet dancer, show jumping champion, vet, model, make-up artist, graphic designer. These aspirations followed my childhood devotions, each being thwarted by the arrival of the next love-of-my-life. It seemed as if I went from worshipping Margot Fonteyn one week to reading every book penned by Josephine Pullein-Thompson the next. ‘Wish for a Pony’ was one of my favourites.
After we’d moved to the flat, bleak, backward countryside of the fens my mother was fond of saying I could have had a pony if we’d stayed within the environs of the New Forest, from whence we’d come. This was small comfort to my pining, desperate, pony-mad self. Four years later, once we’d moved again [to the horse-friendly environment of Kent], I was able to indulge my passion by saving up two weeks of pocket money to buy one hour of horse riding every fortnight. My mother advised that my ballet dancing legs would be ‘ruined’. During one thrilling ride involving leaping ditches and straddling an unreliable steed I was thrown, resulting in a broken arm and three months of being encased in plaster of Paris from finger to shoulder. During this enforced separation from the realms of horsedom I underwent a metamorphosis and became interested in the mysterious creatures that were boys.
In a simultaneous bid to influence my career choice, my father, frustrated musician that he was, foisted a clarinet upon me [plus an abusive teacher-but that is another story] in hopes that I, the last of his three children might become a maestro. Sometimes it is possible to influence or shape your child’s destiny. More often it is not. Tennis players often come from a fanatically tennis-mad background, but to me it seems a selfish and egocentric policy to expect your child to achieve what you could not; better to support them in whatever pursuit they show aptitude or interest in. For me, this was not the clarinet, or any other instrument.
Ultimately I did what the vast majority of people do and drifted into a career that would do. In fact teaching did serve very well. I was able to do it adequately, but to ‘job’ rather than career level. It allowed me to spend the holiday periods with my own children and eventually paid out a reasonable pension; therefore no complaints. Career options shrink with age. I shall not, now be winning Wimbledon, dancing the lead in Swan Lake or painting any masterpieces. Still-if dementia can hold off for a bit there is an outside chance I may get a novel published. Just published will do; it doesn’t have to top the Waterstone’s chart-don’t want to be too ambitious at my age!